Hiking in Peru


When people think of Peru the first thing that comes to people’s minds is Machu Picchu; some might know about the Inca Trail but beyond this Peru’s hiking routes are almost completely unknown. Just in the Cusco area alone there are a wide variety of routes that can easily be hiked without much pre-planning or preparation. To give you a taster here are some of the more common routes that are hiked by tourists.

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The Inca Trail

This is Peru’s most famous hike and combines a wide mix of stunning scenery, visits to Inca archeological sites and the opportunity to see a variety of flora and fauna including many species of orchids that flourish in the Machu Picchu National Park.

Starting out from the Sacred Valley of the Incas and finishing at the Inca sanctuary of Machu Picchu this hike covers 41.5km / 26 miles of intact Inca Trail over a period of 4 days; the route passes by high mountains and through the enigmatic cloud forest that surrounds Machu Picchu eventually bringing you directly in to the city itself via the Sun Gate (Inti Punku). There is a limit of about 180 people (500 people in total including support staff) who are allowed to hike each day so Inca Trail permits need to be booked several months in advance to guarantee a place. Hikers need to book with either a licensed tour operator or guide to be permitted to enter the route.

The Salkantay Trek

If you missed out on booking a spot on the Inca Trail then the Salkantay Trek is the most recommended alternative route to bring you to Machu Picchu. Starting from the small village of Mollepata the path slowly works its way up to the base of Salkantay (The Savage) mountain before crossing the high pass (4621m / 15160ft) and heading down in to the lush valleys that surround Machu Picchu.

The route is considered to be one of the most spectacular on offer in the region passing beneath several peaks that tower over 5300m / 17388ft each. The highest peak is Salkantay itself which at 6271m / 20574ft is the highest peak in the region and the 38th highest peak in the Andes. In contrast to the high peaks, the route also passes through an area of verdant highland jungle in which a wide variety of birdlife can be spotted.

Covering a distance of  82.5km / 51 miles over a period of 4 days and with a 5th day to visit Machu Picchu this is quite a demanding route, especially considering it is undertaken at altitude. The path itself is very easy to follow and with obvious camping spots. Many people opt to hire local arrieros (mule drivers) in Mollepata to carry their gear as they not only ease the load but also serve as a guide to show you the way.

The Lares Trek

The Lares Trek is one of the most interesting of the routes on offer in the region as it allows you to immerse yourself in the culture of the Andes. There are a variety of routes that can be undertaken in the area, all of which pass through Andean villages where they maintain the customs and traditions of centuries past. The area around Lares is very attractive with highland meadows, glacial lakes and high peaks dotted throughout. Although it does not offer the dramatic scenery of Salkantay or the archeological interest of the Inca Trail, the fact that there are so many routes to be done and so few people who do them means that the chances of running in to other hikers are slim.

The difficulty of the routes and the length of time to do them vary, the shorter routes can be done in 2 to 3 days without difficulty with the longer ones taking between 5 to 6 days. All the routes have high passes to cross with the lowest pass being 4450m / 14599ft on the route between Lares and Patacancha.

The Choquequirao Trek

Few people have ever heard of Choquequirao which is a real shame. The sister city to Machu Picchu, this vast complex dwarfs Machu Picchu in size and scale and shows the ingenuity of the Inca people to construct their cities in seemingly impossible locations.

The reason the Choquequirao trek is undertaken by so few people is due to its remote location. Just to get to the trailhead requires a 4 hour drive from Cusco; it’s then a 2 day hike to get to the city and a 2 day hike the way you came to get back. The trail is hard (probably the hardest in the region) as you are walking in direct sunlight for long periods and with descents of well over 1000m / 3280ft as you make your way down to the base of the Apurimac Valley and the same again back up the far side to reach the city. The trail is well worth it though; the Apurimac Valley is stunningly beautiful and with a good chance that you will see Condors soaring on the thermals produced in the valley, the difficulties of the hike are quickly forgotten.

Most people choose to spend a full day at Choquequirao to explore the site to their heart’s desire and to enjoy just being in such a magical place without any disturbances or distractions. For the really adventurous there is the option to continue the hike on to Machu Picchu. Typically done over a period of 8 days the route eventually connects with the last section of the Salkantay Trek.

Many people choose to do the Choquequirao Trek by themselves; arrieros (mule drivers) can be hired at the village of Cachora where the trail begins and provisions can be bought at various points along the route from entrepreneurial locals.

All the above hikes (barring the Inca Trail) can be undertaken independently however if you prefer to go on an organized hike then you can find details of local trekking companies and guides at IncaTrailz.

Choquequirao

Choquequirao


Review of Watson’s Insulated Double Layer Top

I was given an insulated double layer long sleeve crew top from Watson’s to test.  I have several thermal tops and bottoms and each have pros and cons.  I’ve experienced the good and bad with each so I know what I like.  When I first put on the top it was comfortable.  It wasn’t constricting like some thermal tops and stretched over my body to fit well as a first layer.  What I noticed and liked the most was the length of the torso.  It was long enough to tuck into my pants, or to let hang over my pants, thus keeping me warm.  I’ve had a few tops that were too short and left a small area around my waste exposed and cold.  Other tops bunched up or rose during hikes leaving exposed areas.  With this Watson’s top this wasn’t a problem.

The top is made of 60% cotton and 40% polyester and is soft and doesn’t seem to hold body odors after wearing on a long hike or after a couple of days.  It was designed for outdoor activities and I found it moved well enough to play baseball on a cold and windy day with my son’s team.  The two-layer design is meant to trap and heat air to keep you warm.  I don’t understand the science beyond the obvious, but it does work and kept me warm but not hot.

The top cost about twenty bucks online and that’s a good deal for something this durable and cozy.  I hate being cold, especially on multi-day outings, but this winter wear kept me warm.  If you get the top you should consider the double layer long johns too.  Watson’s is based in Canada so they have the perfect testing grounds for their products.

Indiana Park Trail Review: Turkey Run State Park

When you think of Indiana, you probably think of corn and cows, not hiking. You are mainly right, many Hoosiers are involved in farming, with livestock, corn and soybeans near most urban areas. But hidden within all the agriculture is a real gem.  You could drive by, and not realize what’s actually within Turkey Run State Park.  It’s located in western Indiana near Bloomingdale, and I have spent numerous weekends there hiking the trails, enjoying the scenery, and enjoying friends and family.

The park itself is humongous, with 11 separate hiking trails to go on, canoeing, fishing, tennis courts and a swimming pool. Typically my family would go there on a Sunday afternoon, stay until the sun started to set and then head home. I would say that 90% of that time I would pass out on the way home from exhaustion after an action packed day. The entire park is wonderful, but I’ll stick to hiking and detail some of the trails that the park offers.

We aren’t going to consider trail number 11 a trail; it’s more of a hike from the parking lot to the huge wooden bridge that extends over Sugar Creek. The other side of that bridge is where many of the trails (and the fun) all start. As a kid I always loved that huge wooden bridge. It’s wide enough to have a line of people going each way, and it’s thin enough that if you jump up and down, and shake it side to side like crazy, you can scare the heck out of your parents and make them yell at you.  Pictured below is that bridge, although it’s really not a great shot to show how historical and grand looking the bridge looks from the ground.

So that leaves us with 10 total trails. I’m not writing a novel, so I will probably just touch on trails numbered 3, 9, and 10 which are my favorites. I’ll start with the best trail, which is trail 3. If you are a fan of rugged and hard hiking, this one is for you. It’s slippery, muddy, about 1.7 miles long, uphill, downhill, and it’s quite the hike. Number 3 is laid out in a way that makes you repeatedly cross and walk through a small shallow stream. If you are on this trail you basically stay on one side of the water until you run out of ground to walk on, and then you cross over to the other side and repeat the process. My favorite part about this trail is that there really is no set way to traverse it. You kind of make your own path. Should I cross the stream now over this log, or should I try and hop across 30 yards ahead. It’s just an interesting trail that’s sort of like “a choose your own adventure” book. At one point during the trail you have to climb up a ladder, cross over on another ladder, and then climb back down a ladder on the other side (sort of in the shape of an “n” if you can’t imagine it). This trail is not for the faint of heart, but rather for those who enjoy a great challenge.

Trail 9 starts out as an average hiking trail, but the end is where the real treat is. It’s a little less than a full mile, and it’s fairly rugged. Most of the trail has you in between two large walls of rock, where you would think a creek or would exist. However, this trail actually keeps you dry, and you mostly have to navigate rocks and logs. For most of the trail you walk with a hand on the rocks to keep your balance, but at the end the trail opens up and turns into what is called “boulder canyon.” At this point the trail is basically rock, and you have to take your time and be careful to choose the right rocks to step on. I love this trail because of the change of pace that it throws at you midway through.

The last trail that I will talk about in detail is trail 10. This is a great starter trail, because at its midpoint it brings you up to the top of “Camel’s Back,” which is basically an overlook to the entire park. As a child I remember collecting rocks and seeing if I could throw them from this vantage point all the way down to Sugar Creek. Looking back, I probably could have killed people who were canoeing, so that probably wasn’t the best idea in the world. This trail is a mile and a half long, but besides a lot of stairs, it’s a pretty straight forward hike.

This covers only three of the trails at Turkey Run State Park. All of the trails are really well kept, and clean. I highly recommend this park in western Indiana to anyone near the area who loves hiking. It’s a well kept secret of Indiana, shrouded by corn and cattle.  The park is $7.00 to get into and considering all the park holds, that’s quite the bargain. I hope that you consider Turkey Run the next time you visit the state of Indiana!

Author: Mark Clements of www.rainponchosonline.com

Rapid Response 3.00 Knife Gear Review

I recently tested a Rapid Response knife from Coast Products.  This is another small, but highly innovative company, producing high-quality headlamps, multi tools, lanterns, and knives.  The knife I tested was the Rapid Response 3.0 knife.  The first thing I noticed about this knife is the quality.  This is a knife you can drop down a big rock and it will still be fine.  The second feature I appreciated was the locking button on the handle that keeps the blade from closing on you while working.  As a kid I had a few folding knives close on my fingers that caused gushing cuts and since then I’ve been overly cautious with folding knives.  Thanks to Coast’s MAX-LOCK™ technology this isn’t a problem.   Now I can use a folding knife without fear of it closing over my fingers while performing a hard cut.

This knife also has a clip on the side that makes it easy to clip to your belt or gear so you don’t have to put it in your pocket.  I’ve found this better than using a sheath because it means less weight and bulk.  The clip also keeps me from having to bury the knife in a pocket on my pack when hiking. This is important to me as I don’t like bulk in my pockets or on my belt.   It’s great being able to quickly access the knife when needed.

All of these extra features are nice to have, but the most important part of a knife is the blade.  Since my first knife I’ve done the arm hair shave test (Is the knife sharp enough to shave arm hairs?), and this knife performed so well I probably could shave my face with the clean and sharp blade, although this isn’t recommended :)

Coast has other knives that are worth checking out like their hunting and outdoor use knives.  The outdoor use knives page has some cutting tools that will be of value to hikers and campers like the folding saw.

Paracord Gear Review – Cobrabraid

My test of Cobrabraid 550 paracord bracelets and other items was as much fun as popping air bubbles in plastic bubble wrap.  I say this because in the testing I had to unravel a couple of the bracelets to see how easy they are to unravel and how strong the cord is once unraveled.  It took me a minute to find where to unravel, and I thought I would need to cut the end to release the braid, but soon I figured it out and had a useful cord.  I didn’t look online, or read any instructions, because I wanted to use the product without any aid, as you might have to do in the wild.

Paracord Bracelet Unravelled

The Cobrabraid company is family owned – a huge plus for me – and a supplier to the U.S. military, another plus for me because the military buys only the best and strongest gear.  The prices are affordable so any outdoorsy person can afford cords, keychains, and lanyards as needed.  They even make dog collars and leashes.

I’ve been in the outdoors a few times and had a shoelace break, a buckle bust, or something rip and had to make do with whatever was around.  Even when I was prepared I was carrying the weight of extra cord that was nothing more than weight until I needed it.  For hiking, the keychain on a carabiner is especially useful because it can be used to secure gear.  Then when and if it’s needed you’ll have it without having carry needless weight.  Check out the Cobrabraid website and look at their products.

 

Review of Teva Sandals

A few months ago The Nature Shop, in the UK, sent me a pair of Teva sandals to test.  Accepting these fine shoes was a no-brainer for me, and I’m sure anyone that knows anything about Teva would jump on the opportunity to review them.  I selected a pair of Toachi 2 sandals from the Nature Shop and was happy as a camper when they arrived.  This is my second pair of Tevas.  The first pair I bought over ten years ago, and other than being dirty my decade old Teva sandals are as solid as the day I bought them.  So, in a way I have been testing the shoes for a while now.

I once reviewed a Leatherman tool and found that such an easy review that it was hardly needed thanks to the company’s fine reputation.  This is the same with Teva, they have a reputation that’s as good as the earth they carry their owners through.

My experience with the website and ordering process through the Nature Shop was a good one and I will consider them again.  This is one of the best outdoor stores in the UK for your online purchases of outdoor clothing and footwear.

My New Book is Now Available

I haven’t posted much in the last six months because I’ve been busy wrapping up a novel.  What time I did have I spent with my kids.  Most of it was outside, but I know readers can only deal with so many posts about kids in the outdoors (unless that’s the theme of the blog).  If you’re interested in checking out my book you can find it on Amazon.

Thank you so much for your support.  I hope to post more gear reviews and trail reports soon.  And, as always, I will post your quality trail and gear reviews when possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Hiking in the South of England!

Hiking just about anywhere in the UK makes for a great activity, but Devon and Cornwall are the best places in the whole country to explore by foot. Camping in Devon and Cornwall while hiking can be tremendous fun, and there are many different places to go wander, whether it’s along the coastline, through quaint market towns and villages or in the heart of Dartmoor National Park. Here are some of the best places to go hiking:

Padstow

This Cornish fishing village is home to a number of gastronomic delights courtesy of its pubs, cafes and restaurants, but it’s also the starting point of a magnificent eight mile-long walk. Starting at the harbour, your route takes you through places such as Gun Point and Trevone, as well as Daymark Tower, a lighthouse built in the 1500’s to look out for the Spanish Armada.

Daymark image courtesy of Lawrie Cate via Flickr creative commons

You’re rewarded with unspoilt views from the Cornish Coast. There are camping sites aplenty round here, all within a short walking distance of Padstow.

St. Ives

Situated near Land’s End, the westernmost point of England, it’s one of the best places to camp and hike. Facilities such as shops and cafes are available in the village, as well as on Land’s End itself. This part of the county is ideal for hiking throughout all seasons, and is perfect for beginners. Views of Land’s End, as well as the Irish Sea take the breath away, and despite the 24-mile distance, it’s a pleasant stroll which won’t tire you out.

Dartmoor and Exmoor

Dartmoor image courtesy of TJ Morris via Flickr creative commons

Devon is one of very few counties that have two national parks within its boundaries. Both Dartmoor and Exmoor have plenty of challenging walking routes which hikers can enjoy. Dartmoor is the larger of the two, and is blessed with wild moorland and high granite tors. Among other things, Exmoor has spectacular views of the cliffs which meet the sea on the Bristol Channel. The Two Moors Way is a must for hikers who want to explore both parks.

 

 

 

 

Banner Image: St. Ives hiking image courtesy of Boobooo via Flickr creative commons

Motorcycle Adventures : Another Way to Explore

When I was younger I dreamed of vacationing in romantic countries around the globe and visiting islands in the South Seas. Once I learned to ride I realized that you never have to leave the United States to enjoy beautiful views and amazing places. The Appalachian Mountain range is a perfect place to plan rides and take in some of the most beautiful scenery in the eastern United States. Remember when traveling to other states to know the laws of the roads you will be riding. You can always check with MotorcycleInsurance.com for helmet laws, checkpoints and legislation you may need to know about before hitting the road.

  1. One of the prettiest rides you can find in the autumn months is along the range from Virginia to North Carolina. Taking the Skyline Drive from the Shenandoah Valley in the state of Virginia all the way up through the Blue Ridge Parkway in Cherokee, North Carolina, will leave you breathless. The ride is incredible any time of year but the fall foliage is an added attraction to the scenery and photo ops.

     

  2. Another amazing section of the Appalachians is the Cherohala Skyway extending from Robinsville, North Carolina, to the backcountry of Tennessee. It is a thirty six mile ride that starts at an elevation of 2,660 feet, crosses the highest overlook at 5,390 feet and ends in Tellico Plains along the Tellico River. If at all possible, try to take a detour to Bald River Falls via Forest Service Road 210 to catch a view of the water cascades that drop over one hundred feet.

     

  3. The Saint Lawrence River Valley runs approximately 300 miles through northern New York State to the Canadian Border. This route provides consistent views of the river from both sides and will take you across several large bridges; North Channel and South Channel Bridge, Ogdensburg–Prescott International Bridge and Thousand Islands Bridge which connects New York to Ontario, Canada.

     

  4. While riding in the northeast and staying on tour with our Canadian neighbors, the Maritime Plain is the northern tip of and my absolute favorite part of the Appalachians. You can ride the Adirondack Mountains, also a part of the Appalachians through northeastern New York going into Vermont and up to Maine. Eventually you will take the ferry across the Bay of Fundy and over to the beautiful land of Nova Scotia, Canada. The Maritime Plain encircles the coast of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. This trip should be planned as a vacation rather than a day or weekend tour as you will want to stay and enjoy some of the lobster hunting. I personally recommend a ride to Halifax and Peggy’s Cove.


Review of the Boreal Sleeping Bag from EMS

As a regular hiker and outdoorsman I’ve spent what adds up to about six months under the stars.  During that time I’ve slept in just about every type of sleeping bag you can imagine from my first Star Wars sleeping bag when I was eight to sophisticated mummy bags meant for extreme cold conditions.  When Eastern Mountain Sports© sent me the Boreal 20 degree sleeping bag to test I was interested to see where it was better than my current down bag.

I haven’t used a lot of synthetics because they don’t pack as well as down bags, but after using this bag on a cold 23 degree night in North Georgia on the A.T. I was glad I carried it because I was warm and comfortable all night.  This is saying a lot because I don’t sleep well, even at home in my bed.  The issue of the extra bulk didn’t turn out to be a problem when I used the compression sack that came with the bag.

This is a good bag for wet conditions like we often have in the South and in places like the Northwest where it’s wet most of the year.  When down gets wet it doesn’t keep you warm, but the Boreal sleeping bag is filled with polyester that does well in wet conditions.

For the price I don’t think you’ll find a better sleeping bag.  If you’re the type of person that doesn’t want, or can’t, spend hundreds of dollars on a mummy bag this is a great option.  I am right at six feet and the bag was perfect for me, but anyone taller will want to select the long version of this sleeping bag.  Boreal is a trusted brand and Eastern Mountain Sports© is one of the leading outdoor gear companies, and have been in business since 1967, so you can’t go wrong with this cozy sleeping bag.

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