bGT PEAK TRAVEL BLOGS
After spending almost a month in the Republic of Georgia scouting trails, I quite enjoyed my initial return in the DC area by taking a group of DC area outdoor lovers to a hidden gem in Pennsylvania - Rickett's Glen State Park in Benton, Pennsylvania.
What is special about it? The park has 22 waterfalls and you can easily do a loop hike to see all of them on a 7 mile trail. Of all the camping trips I have organized for my outdoor groups in the DC area, this particular trip remains a regular and a highlight. This year, 25 campers joined me. Perfect weather, company and campsite. No shower for the entire time as we stayed at the rustic group camp but the experience made the lack of shower worth it. Check out the photos and enjoy! If you're in the DC area, subscribe to Peak Explorations so you can join us next time!
Photos by Adalberto P. & Sayuj M.
When we talk about trekking, it is critical to be prepared as much as possible. Bringing maps and preparing our gear all come to mind as means of preparation. But do you ever think about finding out your blood type? It came to my attention recently from a fellow blogger that this is something very important to consider. Anyone who is active in the outdoors should know there are inherent risks associated with hiking, trekking and climbing which can lead us, on rare occasions, to sustain injuries that may require blood transfusion. This is when knowing your blood type becomes critical and even more so knowing where to find blood when you have a rare blood type becomes a matter of life and death. For instance, for people who are RH negative, some countries have very limited supply of such blood type. The good news is there are organizations worldwide that work on ensuring there is a supply for those who have a rare blood type.
Mike Dammann, who is a passionate advocate on this topic, explains in the video below why it matters to know your blood type. Needless to say, Mike is a great resource to have for those of us who travel and trek globally. Further information including a list of organizations that can help in such a dire situation are noted in his website, Firetown.
I hope this convinces you to take the next steps - (1) talk to your doctor to find out your blood type, (2) if you have a rare blood type, find out about the organizations available in your country of destination that will be of resource to you, and (3) bring a card with all the aforementioned information noted. This is a small series of steps that can save your life.
Tsitsikama National Park is located along the famous Garden Route of South Africa. It provides an opportunity to hike along the coast with a great bird's eye view along the trail. It is a protected area and a major tourist stop in the Southern Cape. For hikers, there are a couple of short trails to explore. One takes you to the hanging bridge and then up to the ridge line where you view the coastline from the top. The other is a rocky trail that takes you to a waterfall next to the ocean. When in Cape Town, it is an easy couple of hours drive or less away. Accommodations are available inside the park via tenting or cabins and there is a restaurant within the park that serves seafood and other decent meals. Outside the park, you can choose from a few small guesthouses/lodges in the village. It's a pleasure to visit this part of the Garden Route which is in many ways the highlight. For more details, click HERE.
In April, 2016, Peak Explorations founder, Brown Gal Trekker, organized a group of hikers from the Washington, DC area to do 2-3 week hiking/sightseeing trip in South Africa. Below is a trip report on the Table Mountains portion of the trip.
The day after arriving in Capetown, we were set to do a day hike up Table Mountain which stands at about 3550 feet. Locals say that the top of the mountain is prone to cloudy skies and wind. Checking the forecast revealed that the later we went, the better the weather. So we took our time waking up and getting breakfast. Conveniently, our hostel, Never@home had breakfast in their own restaurant so we didn't have to go so far for that portion of the day.
We took a cab to the start of the trail at Platteklip Gorge and started hiking up a little past 11 am. The hike up is expected to take 1.5 to 3 hours. The trail up is only 2.5 to 3 kilometers but with 3400 feet elevation gain, it is a decent work out. Once on top, you can walk to the summit for another 45 minutes which is more or less flat.
The weather was a little cloudy but without rain. The trail is rocky all the way up and with rain it would have been a challenge to hike up safely. The higher we got, the steeper we climbed but the views do get better as you get higher. All in all, the views at the end were great rewards for the strenuous hike up. We saw a number of people both tourists and locals who were descending, and not many ascending like us. Cool beans. It is always nice when the crowd flows the other direction - at least that is the preference. I can understand why people would rather go down although I can imagine that to be much harder with the knees. With my short height, it would be a struggle as some of the rocks or boulders are almost my height the higher we got.
At the summit, you can see 360 degree views of Capetown, the mountain range, and the shoreline. After the summit walk, we then proceeded to go towards the direction of the cable car. Along the way one can see more spectacular views of the ocean next to the cliffs. Further towards the cable car you then enjoy the views of Lion's Head which is also a peak that can be hiked; however, we didn't have any extra day for that so we just enjoyed the view of it from Table Mountain. At the top, one can stand on a number of platforms to see the city and the ocean with the mountains in the background. From there, you can easily take the cable car down and hop on a taxi to get you back to the city center. Interestingly enough, most tourists see Table Mountain by taking the cable car up even though it takes over an hour of wait to ride it. Hiking up is a way better option because not only do you get a workout but it is also faster most often especially at peak season.
After thoroughly enjoying the summit views, we then descended via cable car and made it back to the city center to do a walking tour of the Bo Kaap section of the city. A presumed cloudy day turned out to be gorgeous weather for us. Can't beat that.
Brown Gal Trekker wrote an article on how best to prepare for a solo adventure. You can check out her article HERE.
I am (Brown Gal Trekker) quite excited for my upcoming trek in the Republic of Georgia! There lies the range of the Caucasus Mountains and to explore these peaks, one must travel to Svaneti, Kagbezi and Tusheti regions of the country. I hope to meet local guides/operators to explore the possibility of supporting their local tourism and promoting it when I return to the U.S. The region is still very much at the infancy stage of tourism and the trails themselves have yet to be built at a level that is friendly to beginner hikers.
In my research on this trip, there are a few websites that have been quite helpful in planning the trip. It is worth mentioning that the Transcaucasian Trail is a non-profit organization that is working on developing a world class long distance trail in Georgia with the hopes of promoting tourism in the region.
Helpful websites for Georgia and the Caucasus: