We stayed in the Wuyuan County for a couple of days, known as the most beautiful countryside in China. Located northeast of Jiangxi Province and near Mount Huangshan that we just visited a couple of days ago. We were ending our China trip that started in Shanghai a week ago. My wife Linna Wei put together the perfect itinerary for twelve days.The beautiful drying racks in the ancient village of Wuyuan.
Immense sea of golden rape flowers.
We are enjoying a wonderful lunch.
We stayed in the Hongcun village before and after hiking Mount Huangshan. The 900 year old village is located in the historical region of southern Anhui Province near the southwest slope of Mount Huangshan.
We stopped here twice for breakfast inside the Hongcun village.
After a couple of days of playing around skyscrapers and dinning at fine restaurants in Shanghai we took a G series bullet train 417 miles southwest to Huangshan National Park. This was a relaxing 4 1/2 hour train ride. Also called the Yellow Mountains, not because they are yellow in color but the area renamed after the legendary Yellow Emperor (Huang Di) in 747 AD.
Linna chose November to avoid the tourist crowds, but beware it’s colder and you just might be hiking in snow. We had a bit more clouds then we wanted on this two day mountain visit, so Linna and I already decided to come back. Next time we will probably take the cable car up for a head start.
By the way, on your way up the mountain, don’t ask how much farther….because you will receive inconsistency replies from one hour to three hours.Huangshan is most well known for its remarkable pines and probably has inspired most Chinese paintings and drawings. Matt Kerby took most of these remarkable pictures.
Stairway to heaven.
The most famous pine in the Yellow Mountains and probably all of China, the Greeting Guest Pine….maybe 1,000 years old.
Huangshan is known for its 60,000 stone steps, carved in the mountain. We might have hiked up 30,000 to 35,000 steps our first day. We didn’t utilize any cable cars like most people, but we started hiking from the bottom.
One of Huangshan’s wild monkeys.
After 35,000 steps we reached our Huangshan Baiyun Hotel, yes…there are hotels on top of Mt. Huangshan. I headed to the bar area and sipped on a cold beer as Linna checked us in. After climbing all those steps, the private cozy room with shower was the perfect way to end the day.
Fall is a good time to visit China, weather is cool and a few less tourists to deal with. We asked our good friends Matt and Shelly Kerby to join us in China for some site seeing and indulging in wonderful food and drink. We spent two days in Shanghai before moving onto Huangshan Mountain.
The Freeman Move on top of the Shanghai Tower, currently the second largest building in the world. Shanghai Tower is 2,073 feet / 632 meters tall.
Linna Freeman lighting things up in front of the Pudong skyline. I started traveling to China back in 2000 and at the time there were only two tall buildings in Pudong.
Looking down at the Pearl Tower and the famous Bund Street from the Shanghai Tower.
Looking down on the World Financial Center from Shanghai Tower in the Pudong district. At this posting date, WFC is the 11th tallest building in the world at 1,614 feet / 492 meters.
Sitting comfortably on the G series bullet train heading to Huangshan Mountain. G is short for Gaosu Dongche meaning high-speed in Chinese. China has the world’s longest high speed railway network at 17,000 miles heading to 24,000 miles by 2025.
Matt Kerby munching on Yodi’s hand from Star Wars.
The fabulous Pudong skyline with the the Pearl and Shanghai Tower standing tall.
Our traveling partners, Shelly and Matt Kerby. Matt is also my professional photographer.
Having cocktails from the Jinmao Tower looking down on the beautiful Bund Street.
Linna and I were fortunate to be asked to come a long on a two night backpacking trip in the Enchantments, near Leavenworth, Washington. Linna’s Chinese friends were lucky enough to win the lottery for overnight camping in the upper Snow Lakes near the core of the Enchantments. We met up with the other 6 Chinese friends at the Snow Lakes trail-head on Friday morning and started around 8:00 a.m. on a cool sunny day.
Our group chose the very South end of upper Snow Lakes, which was 8.2 miles from the trail-head with 4,700 feet gain. We were completely surprised how low the lake was, it was difficult scurrying down the lake bank for water especially after carrying a 40 lb. pack all day.
One of the Chinese guys brought a liter of Bai Jiu liquor and Linna brought a pint of Scotch, which encourage a lot of loud obnoxious singing that I am sure the other backpackers around the lake could hear but not understand.
We spent all day Saturday exploring the core of the Enchantments and taking a zillion pictures of the beautiful lakes and Larches. After a long day of accent and decent from the core, we were in our warm sleeping bags right after a hot bag of Mountain House Chili Mac.
Sunday was another long day with heavy packs on the decent back to the cars, but cold beers and hot bratwursts awaited in Leavenworth for us.Our home for two nights, my 10 year old REI Half-Dome tent.
We hit the fall colors at the right time.
The larches in peak season.
Rick Freeman standing tall in the core of the Enchantments.
Linna wanted to complete another fall color hike before the season was over and from the WTA trip reports, Granite Mountain was reaching full peak. We met up with Mike Curry at the trail-head at sunrise and got an early start on the hike knowing that it was going to be a busy day on the mountain…especially on a beautiful fall sunny day.
The reports were accurate, vibrant fall colors decorated the mountain. Near the pond area and the back side were abundant with thick flamboyant fall leaves. We had lunch near the look-out tower huddle by some of rocks to protect us from the chilly wind.
On the decent we ran into hordes of hikers seeking the same pictures we took. Chloe Wei, Rick Freeman and Mike Curry enjoying another hiking day.
Rick Freeman & Mike Curry
The colors we were seeking…..near the pond.
Mike Curry, Linna Freeman and Rick Freeman loving Granite Mountain
My first time in Scotland was 3 years ago when I completed the 3 Peak Challenge with friends and we started near Fort Williams hiking Ben Nevus for our first peak. It was my wife Linna that wanted to make her first trip to Scotland with a focus on the Skye area.
The best way to get away from the crowds in the Seattle area during Labor Day is to fly to another country. We had a direct Delta flight to Paris where we disembarked and went through French Customs. The last time Linna and I went through Paris customs back in May it was a major cluster fuck, we spent over two hours in line and missed our next flight. This time there was potential of the same shit, but this time we just left the roped off area and went for a line that was 5 people deep versus 300 deep. So, now we are thinking we out smarted the Paris airport but only to get delayed in baggage claim for over an hour. What is going on with Charles De Gull airport…I have flown into this airport over 20 times and it was always smooth sailing.
After checking into our next flight for Budapest, we found the nearest Skyteam lounge and found refuge. Linna convinced me to take a shower at the lounge, I blamed my body odor on my favorite hiking shirt I was wearing, I think it carries many sweaty hikes with it. After our easy two hour flight from Paris, the Budapest airport was clean and easy to navigate. I picked up an Avis rental from the airport and drove about 20 minutes to our hotel which was located in city center. We decided to shower and get out, if we napped we risked the chance of not getting up at all and waste the evening.
We headed out around 5:30 p.m. and walked toward the Danube River. We stopped and took a few picture of the Shoes of Danube and kept walking toward Chain Bridge for some night shots. It started to rain on our way back to the hotel, which we had planned for with rain jackets. It was a nice easy rain and not so cold….in fact I was wearing my go to flip flops. We got lucky and found ourselves on a street filled with restaurants and picked out a busy traditional restaurant.
Our friend Catherine Howe is currently living in the flat state of Texas and she decided to come back to her previous living area of beautiful Seattle area to visit friends over a long weekend. She stayed with Linna and I in our recently new address of Fall City after living in Seattle proper for 21 years.
She asked if she could fly us from the Renton Airport to Friday Harbor for lunch in her Cessna 172 Skyhawk. The Cessna 172 is the most produced plane in the world with over 43,000 assembled and is still in production today. Her plane is hangered at the Renton Municipal Airport about 12 miles southeast of downtown Seattle near the south end of Lake Washington. The Renton airport is where all new Boeing 737’s take off for the very first time after assembly, the Boeing plant is right next to the runaway.
It was a perfect day for flying, it was sunny and warm with a light breeze. We flew off towards the North and headed in the general direction of our house, in ten minutes we were circling our Fall City compound of 4.5 acres. After a few photos, Catherine put the heading towards Friday Harbor.
Friday Harbor is part of the San Juan Islands and is the only island that is incorporated. There are over 400 islands that are part of the San Juan chain. Friday Harbor is a small town of 2,500 people and mainly caters to tourist people like us. Catherine smoothly landed the plane at the small Friday airport and taxied to a visitor parking lot for small planes. After securing the plane to the ground, we walked just 10 minutes to the quaint little town of restaurants and boutique shops.
We found a perfect spot for lunch over-looking the ferry boats coming in and the many tourists walking by. After lunch we departed and headed straight for the Renton airport…what a fabulous day.
Enchantment Thru Hike Date: August 19, 2017 Difficulty: 9 out of 10 Distance: 20 miles / 32 Kilometers round-trip Elevation Gain: 5,200 feet / 1,585 meters (total gain) Time: 12 to 15 hours Location: Near Leavenworth, Washington Users Group: Hikers & Permits: Discovery Pass Trail Conditions: Dry Hiking With: Linna Freeman, Matt Kerby, Tao Song & Craig Schilling
Last Of The Snow
Kerby, Schilling & Freeman
Linna Freeman On Chulchuck
Matt Kerby, Professional Photographer
The Enchantment Basin
Enchantment Basin Route
Linna Freeman On Assgard
Freeman In The Enchantments
Enchantment Basin Route
Freeman Near Dragontail Peak
I trekked this brutal 20 mile loop last year, so I have a full understanding of the physical requirements and mental determination to complete it. So…to do again this year makes me a glutton for punishment. Team Punishment consisted of my lovely wife Linna, Matt Kerby, Craig Schilling and Tao Song.
We dropped off Matt’s vehicle at the Snow Lakes trailhead and the five of us drove Craig’s vehicle to Colchuck trailhead where we started our torturous journey at 5:00 a.m. I was totally surprised how both parking lots were completely full. Of course we didn’t see much in the dark, but by the time we got to Colchuck Lake it was all blue skies. We stopped at the first big slab of granite opening which was directly across the famous Aasgard Pass for the initial bombardment of photos and selfies. We also took this time to scarf down some energy food before heading up to the pass which was nearly ½ mile away around the lake. You start to notice the cairns around the lake and soon you realize how important they are and become later in the hike. Somehow Tao didn’t pay attention to the cairns and found herself lost for about 15 minutes before we started up the pass.
What can I say about Aasgard Pass that you don’t already know…2,000 feet elevation gain in 0.75 miles is cruel and unusual punishment to your mind, body and soul. I am sure I was having Mailbox Peak flashbacks. Some sections you need to be careful you don’t dislodge rocks…especially when your wife is below you! We took a long break at the summit in a low spot on large boulders to stretch out our tired legs. During lunch, Matt had a photo shoot with us and a few goats. Matt Kerby is a professional photographer so you will see a lot of his photos on my blog.
The trail continues through the Enchantment basin / Upper Enchantments with numerous lakes and photo opportunities everywhere. We stopped and soaked our feet in the icy cold Leprechaun Lake before heading down to the Snow Lakes. Once you see the lakes at a distance, you realize that you still have a brutal descent down. For me, this is the most grueling section…but once you get down to the upper Snow Lakes it’s back on a half-way normal trail. Once you see the parking lot, you might think you only have 15 minutes left, but it’s a full hour yet.
Mailbox Peak Date: July 30, 2017 Difficulty: 9 out of 10 Distance: 5.3 miles / 8.4 Kilometers round-trip Elevation Gain: 4,000 feet / 1,219 meters Time: 4 to 5 hours Location: Near North Bend, Washington Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only Permits: Discovery Pass Trail Conditions: Dry Hiking With: Linna Freeman, Matt Kerby, Craig Schilling and my Wonderdog Macho
Mailbox Peak Glow
Schilling & Freeman
My third trip to the famous Mailbox Peak and my fourth sunrise hike this year. Linna and I woke up at 1:15 a.m. this morning to meet Matt Kerby and Craig Schilling at the Mailbox Peak lower parking lot at 2:45 a.m. and started hiking the old trail at 3:04 a.m.
If you think it’s tough staying on the trail during the day, it’s worse in middle of night. Craig got a little behind in the group and found himself off-trail so he started hiking straight up to our lights that was illuminating from our headlamps. The white diamonds sporadically located in the trees came in useful…they would shine like stars once your headlamp hit them.
We made it up in 2 1/2 hours and even had to wait for the sun to show it’s face. We had the summit, sunrise and the mailbox to ourselves until we had our fill. We headed back the same way as we came up…old trail baby. I have descended the new longer trail and it just feels forever and I rather get the pain over with on the shorter steep old trail.