Saturday, March 28, 2015

I can camp -Grand Marais

After our partial success with the I-can-Camp! Program, we were hungry for more. Partial I say because in the program not everything was done by us right from the beginning –like finding the right spot to setup our tent or lighting up the fire pit. We had some kind of guidance available at Sibley State Park when we attended the program. However we were confident that we should be able to pull off our next camping experience all by ourselves and so we selecting Grand Marais for one reason –its proximity to the town. Worst come worst, if nothing worked for us we could still find food from the local restaurants; which we did just because we wanted to. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ice Caves at Apostle Island

A couple of weeks back we heard from a friend of ours about an interesting place which can be wrapped in a one day trip from Minneapolis –Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. A lakeshore consisting of over 20 little islands in the southern bay of Lake Superior, we were there to visit the ice caves along the mainland and not in any of the islands. During winter when the lake has frozen, the place opens up to a different kind of adventure to be experienced –not on kayak or canoe but on foot over more than 12 inches of ice. The National Park authorities make sure that ice formed on Lake Superior is strong enough to bear the weight of people walking on them.
It’s for a short time [maybe a few weeks or less] when walking on ice is safe and hence we were expecting a lot of visitors like us from far and wide. We were also informed that since there isn’t enough parking spots available [for the # of visitors that come] it’s a good idea to arrive and park as close so that we save time on reaching the starting point of our trail. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

I can camp -Sibley State Park

This is part one of a two part article on what I would want to describe as our journey from I-can-Camp! to I-did-Camp!

Camping and fishing seem to be popular outdoor activities that Minnesotans involve themselves in during the summers. You may add cycling, trekking, canoeing to that list as well; basically everything outdoorsy. I guess it has to do with the fact that for 6 months or so, people in this part of the world are pretty much holed up in their warm homes. Of course there are the brave-hearts who find fun outdoor activities like skiing and ice fishing during the winters to keep themselves busy. However for someone like me and my buddy who had never camped on our own, we were missing out on this fun activity and thanks to Minnesota DNR’s I-can-camp program we were able to do that as well this last summer.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Las Vegas to Springdale

From Lake Mead Marina we got back onto Lakeshore Road and were on our way towards Springdale, UT. We bypassed the northern part of Las Vegas and were on I-15N. This was a long drive of more than 3 hours through arid land. The few trees that I remember seeing were date palm or cactus, or something that looked pretty similar. However the drive was not bad at all. The route was through huge rocky formations on either side which left us feeling not only speechless but also insignificant. These structures have stayed still and witnessed so much around them through the ages. After passing Mesquite our drive was through plains –I mean these rocky structures were at some great distance. This route was pretty much through the dessert and hence there weren't a lot of people staying outside the small satellite towns that we passed on our way. However once we crossed Beaver Dam we were in for something interesting –the road was leading us into a solid rocky hill. I could not see further, just that there was a slight bend at the far end, right at the point where the road vanished into the base of the hill; there wasn't any tunnel too. As I kept driving on I saw that what appeared as one solid wall from the distance were actually two hills with a narrow opening at their base… and we were being led there.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Lake Mead and Hoover Dam

Each year we plan to cover a few trails, see some part of this beautiful world of ours and create ever lasting memory. I guess sometimes it’s more to unwind from the daily grind and recharge ourselves. Last summer we zeroed in onto Zion National Park, Bryce National Park and maybe a short peek at Grand Canyon National Park.

The nearest [and cheapest] airport to fly in was Las Vegas and visit Hoover Dam and Lake Mead before driving towards Zion National Park. On our way to Las Vegas the flight did cover a pretty large water body surrounded by sandy/rocky hills. I did not know then that I was looking down at Lake Mead. The surrounding land was devoid of any vegetation and the blue color of the Lake created a nice color combination. Lake Mead is the largest water reservoir in US in terms of volume and was formed due to the construction of Hoover Dam. I hope the picture below helps. It was maybe around 2 PM or so with a clear cloudless sky when we were there and the temperature was north of 100 F. Though it was too hot for us [thanks to Minnesota] we found people enjoying the sun. Lake Mead offered a lot of water sports right from jet skis to speedboats. The shoreline was like the hills surrounding it – devoid of any vegetation. The water was cool but we didn’t find a beach area and hence kept pretty much inland. We found a lot of shells along the shore which was quite surprising to me –I thought we found these on seashores only. But these were really tinny ones not even ½ an inch in size. Lake Mead does come under National Park Service and it is here that we bought our National Park one year permit which served us at Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon NP as well.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Devi Mandir, Napa Valley

My visit to Shree Maa’s Devi Mandir at Napa Valley, California was a long awaited one. Finally it was in June 2011 that I called up Maa when she asked me to come in and spend a weekend in the Ashram. A 90 minute bus journey from San Francisco Intl. Airport through the city, hills, coastline and countryside brought me to the Napa Valley bus stop. I loved the journey… and for a moment it felt as though I was in some city in India… the streets, the houses, the architecture and the vegetation everything looked so familiar. And all along the way I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to meet Maa after about 10 years or so.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Weekend at Siddapur

A short weekend trip to Siddapur [Karnataka] was a perfect retreat from the busy life that we have got so used to being in a city like Bangalore. Krishna, my friend and colleague, calls Siddapur his hometown. It was his idea to spend the weekend there. After having known me and my preferences of spending time in peace, he was quite sure that I would find his place and the stay quite interesting. I couldn’t have agreed any less. The time spent was not only relaxing but a lot rewarding as well… Krishna’s parents are true gems and I was glad that I was able to know more about them.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Stay at Dharamkot, Dharamshala

An overnight bus from ISBT Delhi was the start of our short trip to Dharamshala, McLeodgunj, Bagsu, and Dharamkot. We tried to catch up small naps now and then which might be a good idea considering the fact that early in the morning there would be amazing sights to see prior to reaching Dharamshala. The bus took us through rivulets, valleys, mountains and bridges. A few mountain tops were lost in the clouds –this was just the beginning of what we were to see in the rest of the week.

Monday, October 17, 2011

In and Around Minneapolis

You can guesstimate the number of lakes you’ll find in Minnesota when the car registration number plate says –“Minnesota, Land of 10000 Lakes”. Yes, Lakes are something that you absolutely cannot miss if you come to the state capital –Minneapolis. Quite prominent among all the lakes are the Chain of Lakes consisting of Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet, Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles. Out of these four, Lake Calhoun falls on an important bus route 6 which connects the suburb of Edina to downtown Minneapolis via Uptown station. And due to the same reason, attracts a lot of people during the summers. Apart from the Lakes, you’ve got a couple of important shopping arenas in the form of The Great Mall of America and Albert Lea which calls Minneapolis home. The weather in this part of the country hovers from one extreme to the other… during summers we have almost 35 degrees centigrade which goes down to -35 degrees in the winters... and when it rains, its as if the world is coming to an end. However having stayed in Minneapolis, I've got fond memories of the place. I'd like to write a little bit about what I've been through in the 18 months that I've spent in this wonderful city.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Trek to Triund

Having stayed in Dharamkot, Dharamashala for a day though was not enough to acclimatize me with 1800 meters of altitude (having arrived from zero MSL) but that was the most I could have afforded in the short vacation that I was able to squeeze out from my routine job.

Triund is about 2875 meters above MSL and 9 kms from Bagsu. This is the site from where the Dhauladhar Range of the Himalayas is visible –provided the weather allows. This is an important piece of advice I’d have for anyone who has plans of visiting Triund –please do not visit during the monsoon, you would be just wasting your efforts, time and money. The best time is October when the trek is comfortable and you find no fogs or clouds to block the sight. I’ve heard from people that the sight of the range is so majestic and so huge from Triund that you would sometimes feel that it’s so close you can almost touch it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Jump!

Those of us who know me well know how crazy I am about flying and the closest I’ve ever come [apart from the regular travel via airplanes] is the paragliding experience in 2008 at Interlaken, Switzerland. And well ever since then I’ve always nurtured a secret desire of jumping off an airplane –of course in tandem and with an extra parachute. So it was no surprise when I readily agreed to skydive when Nupur informed me of a chance to do so not very far away from where I stayed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

South Dakota Trip

A few weeks before the Memorial Day weekend we had a couple of travel plans laid out in front of us. The one that we finalized was to visit Mt. Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, Devil’s Tower, Needles and Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park… not in the above sequence though.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands National Park, South Dakota is one of those unique landscapes that still exists and date back to about 75 million years! We’re not talk about centuries but million years… Apparently as per geologists (mentioned in the Badlands National Park information guide) the earth’s climate at that time was warmer than it is now and a shallow sea abundant with life covered the region we call the Great Plains -stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada and from western Iowa to western Wyoming.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Needles Highway and Wildlife Loop, Black Hills

Located along SD-87 as part as of Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, Needles Highway is a 14 mi driveway through pine and spruce forest with sharp bends, tunnels and granite structures in the form of “Needles”. Please do not visit this route if you want to speed your way all along. With more than a dozen pullover sights, the Highway offers enough to the visitors to capture the beauty of the place in their cameras. We were fortunate enough to see two rock climbers trying to scale the heights of these structures. The tunnels were so narrow that only one car could pass through it. This trail took us about 90 odd minutes with the halts and photo shoot outs.

Crazy Horse, Black Hills

While you are in the Black Hills, South Dakota, Crazy Horse is one memorial which offers a lot of cultural insight to the lives of the native Americans. Do visit the museum.

As you enter the Visitor’s Center there’s a nice 15-20 minute video which gives a history of how and why the Crazy Horse Memorial is being created… apparently to honor one of the greatest Native American –Crazy Horse. The monument is that of a Native American Lakota warrior [Thašúŋke Witkó] riding a horse and pointing to a distant land which he called his –“My lands are where my dead lie buried”.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Devil’s Tower, Black Hills

Devil’s Tower is a little less than a couple of hours drive away from Rapid City, SD, USA. The route is through the Black Hills National Forest and as picturesque as can be… plain grasslands on either side of the road I-90; something like the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park. We left the Interstate at exit 199 for County Road 86 [instead of exit 185 as being suggested by the GPS] which promised to be scenic and longer.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lake Superior and nearby places

We rented out a Mitsubishi Gallant for our 150 minutes drive to Duluth from Minneapolis via I-35. The weather was warm and sunny and every second or third automobile on the freeway had a trailer or speed boats hiked on the rear. The route for anyone who’s driven along I-35 is nothing remarkable… I do not remember having seen something of worth. Our plan was to visit Lake Superior, Split Rock lighthouse and wrap it with a hiking trail along Gooseberry Falls. Nature had one more addition to make to the list.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I'm Learning to Fly...

Well I started out down a dirty road
Started out all alone
And the sun went down as I crossed the hill
The town lit up the world got still

I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

In and Around Zürich

There are a few places in Zürich that I found interesting from an outdoor activity point of view… and it doesn't take more than half a day for each of these. When you’re in Zurich you cannot miss the Lake. It’s the single largest attraction of the City… and I’ve covered my tryst with the Lake in another blog of mine, except for the cycling part that I will cover in this small write-up.

To start with, about an hour or so from Zürich Hauptbahnhof via rail is Rheinfall –the largest waterfall in Europe. I do not remember the route we took but if I remember correctly, we took a train to Winterthur and from there we hopped onto another one for Schaffhausen. The Rheinfall is about a few minutes from there along a zigzag pathway near the shoreline. In fact as soon as you get out of the train you can hear the mighty Rheinfall… and when I saw it for the first time… it was incredible, tons of water just kept flowing and there’s just one thing I could think of… no wonders it’s the largest in Europe. You simply have to be there to realize the magnitude of power that the waterfall yields.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Chateau de Chillon

A visit to Montreux[near the southern border of Switzerland] is incomplete without a walk along Lake Geneva and a tour of Chillon Castle a.k.a. Chateau de Chillon. The castle stands on a rocky extension in the lake from the eastern edge. Surrounded by a moat –with the water from the lake, Chateau de Chillon would pass as an impregnable enclosure which has stood the test of time having several centuries of different construction and alterations. In fact the excavations carried out indicate that the site of Chillon has been occupied since the Bronze Age.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Montreux Trip

A weekend stretched in both the sides to include a Thursday and a Monday and just two weeks into client location, that too in a place like Switzerland. I had a whole new country to explore and had already started pushing my boss to find a place to holiday at. Any place was fine as long as it was outside Zurich. With very less planners in the panel, it was not too difficult to zero in to the destination: Montreux.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lake Zurich

One of the major attractions of the city of Zurich is the vast lake that lies at the south eastern part of the city and the best time to visit the lake would be when the sun is out and the weather is warmer. In the last one month or so I’ve visited the lake thrice… Once when it was cold and drizzling and next time when though it was not cold, the wind made it so. The third day was sunny and people were seen picnicking near the lake.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Zurich, The first impression

True to the subject line, I’ll only mention about the first few things that had hit me about this place.

The temperature difference inside a building and out in the open can be huge depending on how cold it’s outside. Believe me inside the bus, tram, train, shopping malls, office and houses the temperatures are maintained at a healthy 20 degree celsius. It’s only when we’re out… either walking on the pavement or waiting for the bus, train, tram in an open stand [you also have closed glass entrapments where commuters can wait with controlled heating] that you’d feel cold. Obviously the time in the year when you arrive into this part of the world also matters, for me it was early March.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Weekend trip to Mullayangiri Hills

It was quite sometime now that we were planning for a trek out side but near Bangalore. A bit of web-search and we zeroed in to Mullayangiri hills. In fact Mullayangiri was on our radar for quite sometime; this time, we finally agreed to make it. Mullayangiri Hills best suited our requirements: overnight from Bangalore, great scenery and treks galore. Mullayangiri, the highest peak of Karnataka, is one among the range of hills around the scenic Chikmangalur district. The town is about 220 Kilometers from Bangalore. The foothills of Mullayangiri have dense coffee plantations with little human activity. The peak is a little over 1800 meters above sea level, with a small, thousand year old ancient Shiva temple at the top. The temple has a fort-like surrounding wall, which we guessed could be due to the harsh winds near the peak. The hill sports a lush-green outlook with rocks barely visible.