I think March is a wonderful month to visit Japan….perfect temperature for a big boy like myself. I flew to Narita and then onto Osaka where my good friend Moto Tanaka was waiting for me.
Nashville is a great city for music, restaurants and bar hopping, it has that feel of Biehl Street but a bit cleaner and safer. Not only is Nashville the Capital of Tennessee, but home to Country Music Hall of Fame, Johnny Cash Museum, Grand Ole Opry House and the historic Ryman Auditorium. We also celebrated Linna’s 47th birthday in Nashville and attending a Fleetwood Mac concert.
Our good friend Jim Darmiento was celebrating his 50th birthday in Winthrop, Washington and asked a few friends to come along. He rented Hazel’s Overnight rental right across the street from Copper Glance restaurant in the heart of Winthrop. In fact our first night we had dinner and drinks at the Copper Glance. Due to a late night, we headed out snowshoeing Patterson Lake next day, followed with drinks and appetizers at the Sun Mountain Lodge.
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.
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.
My good friend Jim Darmiento ask me to join him and two other friends on a four day/three night backpacking trip that actually turned into a three day/two night backpacking trip.
We started that the Dosewallips trail-head via the River Road…also known as the gateway to the eastern Olympic Mountains. The River Road is wide gravel road good for bikes and horses and it was a great way to warm the legs up with 38 lb. pack before picking up elevation gain. After walking pass the Elkhorn campground we finally started to ascend upon the river valley.
After about 9 miles or so the first day we made camp at the Dose Forks camp. The camp was pretty full, but a couple who was only having lunch gave up a nice spot so we sit-up our single man tents. AJ brought along some whisky, but it didn’t take long for the four of us to finish it off. We all slept pretty well the first night.Our before picture at Dosewallips River Road, only 40 miles to go. Paul Shinners, AJ Soule, Jim Darmiento and Rick Freeman
We set up our single man tents at the Dose Forks camp. When our group first got here, there was no tent spots open. Luckily, an young couple were sitting on the log (in background) having lunch and asked if we were looking for a spot to pitch our tent and it was like “oh hell yes”.
Jim and I in the hut at Camp Siberia. It down poured through-out the night….we stayed dry under the shelter.
Third day at Anderson Pass.
We finished our third day and last day with 19 miles with wet backpacks at Graves Creek Campground. Total trip was 40 miles! I want to thank Paul for carrying my .45 caliber Kimber gun on the last long leg.
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.
Mt. Whitney Summit (one day)
Date: September 22, 2017
Difficulty: 9 out of 10
Distance: 23 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 6,500 Feet
Time: 13 to 16 hours
Location: Near Lone Pine, California
Users Group: Hikers Only
Permits: Day Permit Required
Hiking with: Matt Kerby
This will be my fourth time to summit Mt. Whitney in one day. Matt Kerby from Bellevue, Washington joined me for this ever so long 22 mile merciless one day trek. This will be Matt’s first journey on the highest mountain in the lower 48 states.
Matt’s wife Shelly and my wife Linna flew down with us from Seattle to Las Vegas on a direct Delta flight. After we landed we dropped the ladies off at the Vegas hotel so they could wine/dine and shop while Matt and I brutality abused our bodies for over 15 hours. The drive from Vegas to the Whitney Portal is 4 hours and you have to drive right through Death Valley National Park. In one day you can be at the lowest elevation of 279 feet below sea-level to the highest elevation of 14,505 feet above sea-level in the lower 48 states. But to reach that 14,505 altitude you will need summit Mt. Whitney by foot.
We got to Lone Pine, California around 5:00 p.m. and picked up our day only permits (yellow tag) to summit Whitney the next day. When the Park Ranger asked if we are acclimated for tomorrow’s summit bid, we stated that we just flew in from Seattle, he definitely had that “oh shit” look. I assured him we would be fine and went on to tell him I have done this three times already.
Before heading up to the Whitney Portal (trailhead) we scarfed down a pasta dish and a few beers at the local Lone Pine Restaurant. I rented a Suburban so we just put the back seats down and slept in the back, legally we were supposed to pay for a campsite at the Whitney Portal which is at 8,500 feet.
After a restless night of tossing and turning, we woke up at 2:00 a.m. and started hiking around 2:45 a.m. The first mile I was already yawning, which told me we should have acclimated a day or two before we started this monstrous hike…I was already seeking more oxygen. Our bodies literally started from sea level because we flew from Seattle on Thursday and started hiking early Friday which is almost irresponsible and unwise (did I just say that).
After hiking up 6,500 feet elevation gain we finally made the summit. We were a bit slow, but we accomplished something enormous in one day and we have our yellow tag to show for it!
We didn’t have great weather on this five country European adventure, but we did have eleven rewarding days of wining, dining and some culture gathering. This was a true plane, train and automobiles adventure with four planes, five trains and three rented automobiles to conquer five countries in a very short period. Our Seattle group consisted of Jim & Ione Darmiento, Emelie & Erik Espling and my lovely wife Linna Freeman. This trip came together for various reasons…Emelie wanted to spend her 50th birthday in Nice or Monaco and Jim and Ione wanted to explore Europe for their first time and Linna and I just love to travel.
Our vacation excursion started and ended in Amsterdam mainly because of the direct flight from Seattle. We all had the same Delta flight into Schiphol except for Emelie, she skipped Amsterdam and flew to London to run the renowned London Marathon for her first time and would meet us in Paris later.
We rented a 3 series BMW for the five of us (tight) and headed to our first Airbnb two day rental. Our home away from home was a cute farmhouse few minutes from the airport in the countryside. The ride should have only took us ten minutes, but we managed to double it because of the challenging navigation system we had.
After a speedy luggage dump and fresh jet-lag bodies we drove through heavy Amsterdam traffic to walk around in a daze and stupor among the other tourists for a couple of hours. One needs to be mindful of all the bike riders that goes zooming by you in this concentrated bike filled city, one wrong misstep and you are damaged goods. It didn’t take too long until the nap syndrome came on, so we headed back for a siesta. The problem with naps during the jet-lag stage…you tend to sleep much longer then you should. I was able to pull myself from a death sleep to wake everyone else for a much needed dinner…especially before everything closed for the evening. We found this great Italian restaurant very close to our farm house, the Bistro Nice bistronice.com.
Our second day in Amsterdam we explored the Red Light district (of course) and spent the evening on a private boat ride rentaboatamsterdam.com cruising the numerous canals with Captain Mark aboard the Admiral Heijin. I did this same boat tour three years ago with some highschool buddies and we had identical weather…damp and cold. I totally recommend a private boat tour…it’s personal, romantic, entertaining and makes site seeing stress-free.
We had first class train seats from Amsterdam to Paris…speedy, peaceful and quiet. We met up with Emelie, she just ran the London marathon and her train came in 5 minutes after ours. Our Paris apartment rental was close enough to walk from the Gare du Nord train station, we had a great location but a shitty apartment. This Airbnb was probably the worst vacation rental I have stayed in with all my travels, only one bath, sluggish internet and beds sized for children.
We only spent one full day in Paris and of course it wasn’t enough time to see much, but we did make sure Jim and Ione went up the Eiffel tower to see the city. We didn’t have rental cars with us in Paris, but shuffled ourselves around using Uber Van, this became an economical way of transport…averaging 4 to 5 euros per person.
Paris was mainly cold and wet but we succeeded to find a warm spot to spend a couple of entertaining nights. Our first night we met Nicholas Darde, the owner of Café Bar 21, he was just closing his establishment when we walked by after dinner out and he invited our group in for a personal festivity. We might have had a little too much celebration, we didn’t leave our dreadful apartment until the afternoon the next day. For an encore, Nicholas invited us back for a personal chef fixed menu feast. We were totally overwhelmed with his creativity and presentation of dishes coming from his petite kitchen.
From Paris we all booked the same Air France flight down to Nice and took Uber to our hotel for only one night stay. For being the fifth largest city in France, it seemed really small to me, but we only walked around our neighborhood and down to beautiful Mediterranean coast. I fell in love with a pair of eye glass frames along our walk to the water and became the only large purchase I made for the entire journey.
Erik booked a Michelin restaurant for Emelie’s 50th birthday, it was fantastic food and presentation but the tone was more on the stuffy side compared to the night before in Paris where the venue was more stimulating and buzzing. It became a leisurely night especially after two late nights in Paris and flying during the day, I suppose our minds, bodies and souls were exhausted. We rented two cars the next day and headed for the most densely populated country in the world…Monaco.
MONTE CARLO, MONACO
Driving twenty minutes to get to Monto Carlo, Monaco was easy, but driving around one way streets, tight turns and finding parking the next twenty minutes wasn’t easy. At this time, Jim opted out of the fun and headed for our next destination…Cinque Terre, Italy. Too bad for him and Ione though, they missed out on one of best lunches we had on this European journey…the Beefbar monaco.beefbar.com.
CINQUE TERRE, ITALY
It’s not recommended to drive to or within Cinque Terre, but our group did anyway and it’s probably a good thing our Airbnb house was located at the westernmost village Monterosso al Mare because some of the roads to the other villages were closed to rock slides. We found out the hard way, we drove over thirty minutes on our third day heading to Riomaggiore when we came to a closed road and had to turn around. We decided to take the train instead which was dirt cheap anyway…in fact free if you don’t buy any tickets and just hop on.
We spent three nights in Monterosso and was able to catch up on our laundry, our house was located on the old side of town away from the noisy tourist area. We hiked over to the next village of Vernazza on our first full day and I was surprised by the steepness in some areas, but totally worth the sweat and highly recommended the hike for the views and photo ops. After a few cold beers and a pizza we took a 30 euro personal water taxi back, I wouldn’t recommend this especially when you could train back for free.
We ended our last night stay with a two hour boat tour of all five Cinque Terre villages. I truly enjoyed this and highly recommend this to get a full perspective from the water and provides abundant photo ops too.
LAKE COMO, ITALY
We had a three hour drive to our next destination, Lake Como for two nights. Like Paris our Airbnb in Como was in a wonderful location, we had shopping, restaurants and the lake within walking distance. Unlike the Paris apartment, this apartment was magnificent with large comfortable bedrooms with your own balcony, two bathrooms, new appliances and fast internet. Linna and I wasn’t a fan of Lake Como, but we really didn’t adventure out much either. We did have a splendid dinner our first night at Osteria, just a ten minute walk from our apartment.
We dropped Eric and Emelie at the Milan airport and the rest of us headed towards Chamonix, France hoping to take the tram up to view Mont Blanc up close, but just like last year’s visit for Linna and I…it was covered in dense cloud cover. No worries though, we had an enjoyable lunch along with some shopping in the quaint ski town of Chamonix.
We continued onto Geneva, Switzerland to catch our flight to Amsterdam. We spent the night at the Hilton airport and flew direct to Seattle the next day.
Overall it was an exceptional trip with good friends, lovely dinners and cool cities.
Little Saint Helen’s
Date: January 5, 2014
Difficulty: 5 out of 10
Distance: 7 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Location: Exit 47, I-90
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Discovery Pass Required
Trail Conditions: Packed Snow
Hiking With: Mike Curry, Dr. Robert McElroy, Rick Massie & Macho my dog wonder.
A good friend of mine, Robert McElroy asked me to hike Little Saint Helen’s off of exit 47 on 1-90 near Snoqualmie Pass in Washington with a few of his friends. I have never done this hike….actually I have never heard of it either. Maybe because it doesn’t have a lot of elevation and during the summer there are horses and mountain bikes on the trail. I would never hike this trail during the busy summer, but with snow on it, it keeps all the bikers and horses off.
I asked Mike Curry and Rick Massie to come along too; this was my 5th hike in 2 weeks with Rick Massie. We didn’t quite make it to the trailhead due to snow, so we had to hike an extra mile to where we wanted to start. Due to the numerous logging roads and the snow we were never sure if we were actually on Little Saint Helen trail, it really didn’t matter what road or trail we were on, it was a gorgeous sunny day for a snow hike.