Category Archives: Comfort Zone

Walking the Camino de Santiago

This walk is coming up in the top of my interest again lately. The Camino de Santiago, or “The Way of Saint James” is a network of pilgrim’s ways, or pilgrimages, which lead to the shrine of Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. There are many routes that pilgrims walk. I am interested in one of the most popular, the Frances, where one starts in France, and ends in Spain.

The Frances

https://thecaminoprovides.com/routes/frances2017/

Image from https://thecaminoprovides.com/routes/frances2017/

Albergues

Albergues are hostels located in about every little town. Multi bunk rooms, you have a place to shower, sleep, perhaps cook a meal. This way you don’t have to carry a tent and camp gear, maybe not even a sleeping bag in the summer months. There are also private rooms available in most towns if you want to spend money for privacy.

Credential

https://www.caminosantiagodecompostela.com/pilgrims-credential-el-camino-de-santiago/

Image from https://www.caminosantiagodecompostela.com/pilgrims-credential-el-camino-de-santiago/

Camino credential-passport. You need one of these for your walk. It establishes you as a pilgrim, where you are allowed to sleep in an albergue and qualify you for a (cheaper) pilgrim’s meal. You have to have your credential stamped at least daily to show that you have walked (or cycled) the route.

Popularity

I became aware of the Camino de Santiago a few years ago during a random internet search that brought up the movie “The Way” with Martin Sheen from 2010.

In researching it, I was intrigued by having albergues and bars so close together, you don’t really have to carry food, water, gear on your walk.

At the Adventure Summit in Dayton earlier this year, a couple gave a lecture on their pilgrimage-to a packed house! It’s evident that people are interested in “The Way”.

Coleman presentation at Adventure Summit

Have you walked el Camino de Santiago? Would you go on a pilgrimage?

 

 

 

Hike to Seven Sisters Waterfalls Grenada

Hike to Seven Sisters Waterfalls

On this trip to Grenada, my husband announced he wanted to go hike to a waterfalls with me! (We’re not getting any younger.) As I am NOT in the same shape I was on previous hiking expeditions, we chose the easy Seven Sisters Falls hike.

Seven Sisters or St Margaret’s Falls

The hike to St Margaret’s or Seven Sisters as it is locally known is not bad, just a bit muddy. You climb down two big sets of wooden stairs, so keep in mind coming back you have a bit of a climb! Then it is rocky, muddy a bit overgrown.

Tropical Adventures

We hire a guide when I go hiking. We’ve been using Tropical Adventures with Vaughan Francis for over eighteen years now! Vaughan has taken me on my epic hikes in Grenada: summiting Mt Qua Qua, Mt St Catherine, and the long distance Cross Country Trail. Vaughan is a great  hiker AND a birder, keep that in mind if you want to see certain birds of Grenada.

Vaughan Francis Tropical Adventures

 

Honeymoon Falls

We were almost to Seven Sisters when Vaughan called out for me to take a right on the trail instead of crossing the river over to the falls. He had been evaluating how we hopped and balanced over the rocks, and judged we were fit enough to visit Honeymoon Falls.

Waterfall Climb

The Climb

In order to access Honeymoon Falls, one must walk UP this set of rocks. It doesn’t look like much, but there is a roaring current! Vaughan went first, showing me a rock with a hole in it, to avoid it.

Comfort Zone

I wasn’t quite sure about this.  It was NOT a big climb, but plenty of rushing water. You had to lift each foot carefully so you weren’t dashed off your feet. I was already thinking, how am I going to get down this? I contemplated shaking my head and saying no.

I did it

I stopped whining in my head and carefully placed my feet and climbed up to Vaughan. My husband followed. THEN we had another short climb thru more water, to reach the falls!

No pics!

I did not bring a waterproof bag for my camera! My husband had his phone in a baggie, which died on this vacation. If I can recover any pics, I will post them. So no pics of this wonderful thunderous waterfall.

NOW I had to descend in the river. I almost got swept off my feet on the first climb, but luckily got out of the current. How did I get down the second part? I turned around and climbed down the same way I went up!

Seven Sisters

There are two pools here at the base of each waterfall that you can swim in! There are no changing rooms, so either wear your bathing suit under your hiking clothes, or prepare to get wet! There was only one other group of about eight folks when we arrived-this was a Wednesday off season. Vaughan mentioned that there can be as many as 250 people here when a cruise ship docks! Yikes! Another reason to travel off peak season!

After you climb up the steps, Mitchell’s Bar might be open! This would be a good place to get a cold Carib beer or soda after the climb!

Seven Sisters is a very popular hiking destination. Remember it is private property so there is a fee-US $2 per person. It’s a pretty easy hike. You will get muddy and probably wet, so wear shoes (not flip flops or sandals). Bug spray and sun screen highly recommended, you do come out of the jungle into the sun in parts.

  Why not visit a waterfall on your Grenada trip?

Snorkeling the Underwater Sculpture Park in Grenada

I have wanted to visit the Underwater Sculpture Park in Grenada for years! At first I thought you had to scuba dive to get to see the sculptures. Then I found out you could snorkel. I don’t snorkel often, so I let my lack of confidence get in my way for years.

Grenada SeaFaris

Due to social media, I read about Grenada SeaFaris. They take you out on a powerboat, and provide instruction and the gear to snorkel. They advertise that you don’t have to snorkel if you don’t want to, you could just enjoy the boat ride. TripAdvisor reviews assured me that even with my somewhat newby status, I should be able to snorkel to see the sculptures.

Grenada SeaFaris

Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park

The sculptures were created by Jason deCaires Taylor in 2006 which acts as an artificial reef to attract fish and take pressure off the nearby Flamingo Bay which was the most snorkeled location on Grenada. There has been more statues added to the park.

Strong Current

There was a strong current running when we arrived in the bay. Kimmy, our guide, was very good at pointing out where to swim to, to start seeing the sculptures. He also was bringing along a life preserver ring in case you wanted to stop for a moment and rest.

Off Season

It’s good to be in the off season. There was only two of us snorkeling from Grenada SeaFaris. Only one other boat arrived while we were there, with about fifteen or so people. I could see this being a very busy dive site in season!

One of the most recognized sculpture is called “Vicissitudes” consisting of a circle of children holding hands. I was very excited to spot this on my swim!

Picture from the Pure Grenada Website pure.grenada.com

A Great Tour

My favorite sculpture was one of a woman on a bench taking a selfie!

Besides the snorkeling, we got a great tour of the west side of Grenada. We stopped several times and Kimmy gave us an educational overview of the fish, the history, and the beaches around us.

Grenada Seafaris

Check Them Out!

 

It really was an unique adventure. My next trip to Grenada-I’ll be snorkeling again!

BHAG Bike Tour Announcement

BHAG Bike Tour Announcement

I finally have a BHAG about biking. This post was first penned as “Dream Bike Tour Announcement” but it’s not going to be a dream it’s going to be a GOAL.

goal

This bike route has intrigued me from my first reading of Jill Homer’s book “Be Brave Be Strong” when I didn’t know anything about biking. I thought it was just a good epic read of an adventure.

Accounts of the route would drop into my reading space every now and then, they would always be interesting for the huge suffer fest that the riders experienced. A friend just rode it this summer, and I followed along via FB posts.

Great Divide Mountain Route

I have decided I want to ride the Tour Divide.

The Great Divide Route is the world’s longest off-pavement cycling route. It travels through Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, and the United States of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico (map). By route’s end a thru-rider will climb nearly 200,000 feet of vertical.

It’s Not Happening Anytime Soon

The goal is to do this in my 60th year or sooner. That gives me seven years to get in some sort of buff biking shape. Hey, I dreamed about running the Hardrock 100 for years before I actually got to do it.

It Sets Me up with More Short Term Goals

I have much to do and learn before attempting. Let alone figure out how to get that much vacation time off.

Learn all those parts on the bike and how they work

Yes, I finally am going to get interested in my bike and figure out how the parts work together.

Learn how to fix my bike

The only reason to learn all those bike parts is to be able to FIX my bike when it breaks down. This is a good goal to have regardless of where you are biking.

bike stencil

Become a better Biker

I’m now interested in becoming a better biker. I need to learn how to ride hills, gravel, dirt roads..which is good, because I have all of that available to me! I ventured out of my comfort zone just Thursday. Instead of riding my local seven mile flat asphalt trail out and back, I chose a route which turned that ride into a loop. Unknown to me, that meant taking a road so steep I had to walk the bike in two spots. But I did it, instead of turning around back to flat land!

I am now interested in different types of bike rides instead of looking for easy flat tours. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a focus in training. This is a good goal for me.

Day Two North Bend Rail Trail Wolf Summit to Pennsboro

 

Day Two Change of Direction

Not my elevation profile, from Ride With GPS https://ridewithgps.com/routes/9893679

That evening I do some elevation checking. Wolf Summit 1297 feet. It’s a gradual uphill from Pennsboro, 866 feet. Oh yeah, I’m going to start at Wolf Summit and go west to Pennsboro! The hubs has agreed. It’s not that far driving.

Wolf Summit Harrison County

It’s fairly easy to find the trail. The North Bend Rail Trail is VERY undermarked. I start down the trail and then find the official “mileage” start. 

The first miles west are a bit rough, then the surface becomes packed dirt, grass, single track. The first tunnel is very soon.

Brandy Gap Tunnel 1086 Feet Long

 

Salem

The town of Salem is a full service town-IGA grocery right on the trail, followed by a Dairy Queen, a bike repair station.

Salem North Bend Rail Trail

I stop for water right outside of Salem and talk to the only biker I see on the trail. He advises me a way to avoid the boggy section right outside of town.

 

I’ve outlined this on the map above. I doubt this wet section ever dries out. Ride the street-Long Run-parallel to the trail. The trail then intersects with the trail and pick up the trail and head west again.

The trail runs a bit parallel to Route 50, then veers off. The next big landmark is the Mark West Energy Sherwood Complex. It has been open since 2012.  

The trail is asphalt for about 1/10 of a mile as it passes by the plant.


The signage is the best on the trail! Then it was back to a grassy trail.

I pass by another pipeline being built. As of July 18, 2018, this area of the trail either had the pipeline laid, or was just getting ready. I  had no problem biking across the area.

Sherwood Tunnel 846 feet long

Sherwood Tunnel North Bend Rail Trail

 

Smithburg 

I am approaching civilization again. This tiny town is Smithburg. There is a bike repair station here. There is a general store across the road.

 

The sky is looking a bit omnimous as I bike through Smithburg. I start to turn on my phone to see what the weather will be like, but it won’t change anything. I bike on.

West Union

It is not long at all until the next town of West Union. Due to time constraints, I keep on biking.

I know I would be encountering the longest tunnel on the trail next, Central Station Tunnel.

It’s funny how some tunnels look. You can see to the other side-it must be about 350 feet long. Wrong! It’s the longest tunnel.

I get my big light out, turn on the two small bike lights, and ride the tunnel. I again forget to look at my watch to see how long it takes.

Okay, after Central Station I have one more tunnel and I should be very close to Pennsboro and the end of my ride! Which is good, because my rear is getting a bit sore on the bike. I should have changed saddles, but ran out of time pre-ride. Now I’m paying for it.

Ritchie County Again

Contrast the two photos, the one above in Doddridge County, and crossing the line back into Ritchie County-that’s a big change! I heard via the interwebs that Doddridge County had gotten a million dollar grant, hence the nicely new gravel and limestone trail I had been riding on.

Biggest bank heist

The trail through here is impressive. It’s been rebuilt sometime recently, you can tell.  

Only loose dogs

In this area, the trail makes an annoying habit of crossing roads in a curve. I had hopped off the bike to walk it across a busy road, when I looked left, and then heard the barking-three small dogs out in the road barking at me! Thankfully a car stopped and didn’t hit the dogs. The dogs were all friendly, in fact one small one followed me down the trail-I had to bike quickly to finally get the little guy to stop!

No more Pics

The rain is coming down heavily. There is thunder, but no lightning. I blow through Toll Gate (I only know it’s Toll Gate due to the wooden sign). Now I’m on an incline up heading toward my last tunnel.  The rain is turning the trail treads into little rivers. Where is that last tunnel? I have to rest twice on the way up. Finally! The last tunnel!

Now I’ve maybe a mile to go. I call the hubs to tell him to meet me at the Crossroads Cafe for lunch and order me a BLT and fries. I start biking-and drop the chain. Argh. I wipe the condensation from my glasses and behave nicer to Helga-just less than one mile, girl! I get to the Pennsboro Depot and every vehicle in the area seems to go down the street before I can cross. I snap a pic of the depot and triumphantly end my ride at the Crossroads Cafe.

 

Day Two Conclusions

The North Bend Rail Trail in 2018, is fine to ride. PROVIDED you ride the correct bike. A road bike won’t work. A loaded tour bike would be miserable. A bike with big tires, a mountain bike can handle this just fine.

Weather conditions will also temper your trip. I planned for mid summer or late summer. I got lucky and West Virignia had little rain before my trip.

This would be good for a two day journey with possible bike camping or treat yourself to the hotel in Elleboro mid way.

Come visit West Virginia and ride the North Bend Trail!

Day One Link

Bike Report Success on the North Bend Rail Trail

Bike Report North Bend Rail Trail WV

I did it! I biked the North Bend Rail Trail in northern West Virginia over two days. The shape of the trail is NOT as bad as advertised. In fact, this is why this ride report is rather long and full of pictures of empty trail-I wanted to get the word out in 2018, you CAN ride the NBRT!

Trailhead Parkersburg North Bend Rail Trail

We missed the trailhead driving down the road on Happy Valley. Heads up, it is next to a big blue farm. Soon as you see “Miller’s Landing” on your left, you will see the trailhead sign. Off I go. It’s a dry day, going to get hot soon. The trail is fine. It’s compacted dirt, sometimes grassed over, often just a single track-similar to the C&O Towpath Trail.North Bend Rail Trail

The first six miles the trail runs along the Little Kanawha River. There are houses and summer cabins along the trail.  I encounter no loose dogs and only two people walking their dog along the trail this morning. It’s just a nice green tunnel with occasional glimpses of the water.

It gets very quiet once the trail leaves the river. It’s remote and quiet…and remote and quiet. I wonder where my first tunnel is, thinking it’s about mile 11. I keep planning on stopping and taking a break, then decide to do so at the tunnel.

I pass the town of Walker on the backside. I can see there is a post office there. I wonder how far it would be from the highway in case one wanted to drive into Walker and cache water on the trail…and where is this tunnel anyways?  I consult my little list I made of major locations. Okay, tunnel isn’t until Mile 15! Time for a break!

Helga on the North Bend Rail Trail

 

 Eaton Tunnel 1840 feet long

North Bend Rail TrailThis tunnel is near a road and hence, graffitied. I was happy to see this was the only tunnel with graffiti. I turned on my two little bike lights. They were sufficient but I should have had them turned more toward the ground.Once through the tunnel, it’s some gradual downhill-whee! Biking is fun again!!

 Ritchie County

The trail conditions do not change as I enter Ritchie County (there is a small sign announcing the change.) I stop at mile eighteen, which is Petroleum. There is a nice gazebo with seat and a pit toilet.

Petroleum West Virginia

I have a snack and water and chat with a NBSP worker. He told me he and the other mower (that I had just passed) were responsible for  mowing the entire trail. Once they got to one end, it was time to start mowing again.

Bike Tool Kit North Bend Rail Trail

There are four bike repair stations along the trail! 

 Silver Run Tunnel 1376 feet long

North Bend Rail Trail

This is the haunted tunnel!

North Bend Rail Trail

Silver Run is reported to be haunted. I turn on both lights, and bring out my big headlamp. I see no haunts in the tunnel. It is pleasantly nice and cool in the tunnel.

Cairo

North Bend Rail Trail

I come to the town of Cairo, which looks kind of deserted. Shemp’s ice cream store is closed and for sale. (I find them again operating a food truck in Ellenboro-far more profitable.) Ice cream hopes dashed, I decide not to go into the restaurant next door.

Cairo West Virginia

I just want some water and Gatorade. I find that at Country Trails Bikes. I rehydrate, call the hubs and tell him where I am, and back into the green tunnel.

Bonds Creek

About two miles later,  I come to Bonds Creek Bridge, which was the sight of a huge derailment and fatalities. The trail to North Bend State Park is at this intersection.

 The Bonds Tunnel is the next tunnel to traverse.

Bonds Tunnel

North Bend Rail Trail

On the other side of the Bonds Tunnel is the Matt Turner Gazebo, a large shelter.

Matt Turner Gazebo

Tunnel 12   577 feet

The next tunnel is not too far from the Bonds Creek Tunnel, Tunnel 12

Tunnel 12

Patterson’s or  Dick Bias Tunnel

North Bend Rail Trail

North Bend Rail Trail

 

The next tunnel is not too far down the trail. This tunnel is called Patterson’s  but renamed in honor of  Dick Bias. The late Dick Bias played a key role in getting a trail established, forming the North Bend Rails to Trails Foundation and leading the negotiations with CSX. He personally directed the initial fundraising to acquire the old rail line for $350,000. Tunnel No. 10 is named after Bias, who died in 1995.

North Bend Rail Trail

This tunnel is different. It was never lined with wood or bricks, just left as is.

All tunnel-ness aside, I’m getting pretty tired of riding my bike and happy to be getting close to Ellenboro.  I know I am getting near when I pedal under Route 50.North Bend Rail Trail I know about the little incline up to the bridge-it’s fine.  I phone my hubs to bring me water so I don’t have to top at the very busy gas station in Ellenboro. I continue to pedal down on my way to Pennsboro.

Pennsboro

 

Finally! I see the Pennsboro Depot, but more importantly I see the sign for Crossroads Cafe, where I am meeting the hubs and hopefully eating dinner! They have great food-I had a burger and scrumptious fried green tomatoes-I definitely recommend them!

Day One Conclusion

Tunnels-Five tunnels to travel through. Do Bring a light

Bridges-Lots of bridges, I was counting, but then lost count

Water Supply-town of Cairo, Ellenboro, Pennsboro;  ride to the Lodge at North Bend State Park

Food-town of Cairo, Ellenboro, Pennsboro, ide to the Lodge at North Bend State Park

Trail Condition-being mid July and a dry month for the state of West Virginia, trails in good condition. Your ride may vary! I would not bring a road bike on this trail, or a loaded down tour bike. I think you would be miserable. There are some gravel, dirt, cinders, grass to ride on. A mountain bike or a bike with nice wide tires would be appropriate for this trail.

Trail markings-the North Bend Rail Trail is pretty much unmarked. BUT it’s kind of hard to miss this big flat surface that resembles a jeep road. You have to use common sense. This is about the only type of marker you will see:

Accommodations-you could camp pretty much anywhere on this trail. I might not camp in the next six miles around Parkersburg, as there are still houses along that section. But other than that, look at my pictures-no houses in sight, you could plop your tent right down on the trail. Other than that, North Bend State Park is on the trail, you could follow the side trail to the campground OR the lodge.

If you would rather stay inside halfway through your trip in either direction, I recommend the Sleep Inn in Ellenboro. It’s on the south side of Route 50, maybe 1/10 mile from the trail.  It’s a new hotel, indoor pool, great rooms. The included breakfast starts at 430 am!  That turned into a great halfway point for me to rest and fuel up.

Stay Tuned for Day Two of my North Bend Rail Trail Adventure! Thanks for reading, leave me comments or questions, I would be happy to answer!

 

Time for my North Bend Trail Bike Adventure

It’s time for my North Bend Trail Adventure!

helga

The North Bend Rail Trail project, begun in 1991, was formally a spur off the CSX system. The trail project began from four “model sections” which were then connected to form the current trail, which accounts for the change of trail conditions from county to county.

Limited Info

Finding current information on the NBT has been limited. Trail reports from 2009 or 2012 does not give you good beta on what you will find in 2018.

North bend map

My best source was Traillink. I  got some better idea of what to find by Googling North Bend railroad tunnels. There are 13 tunnels on the NBT, 10 passable. 

Water Sources

My main concern for my two day trip would be for water source. This is a very remote trail-albeit running parallel to Route 50, there are not many towns along the trail. Once I started drilling down, my fears were allied-it looks like 26 miles would be the longest stretch between water stops. Food I wasn’t concerned about, I can carry plenty of food!

helga fat bike

West to East

My trip runs west to east for logistical purposes. We have a family reunion in West Virginia a day after my trip.  It would be an easy hour drive on the highway from Clarksburg to Sutton. My reward after my bike ride is going to be a world class meal at the Cafe Cimino Inn in Sutton West Virginia.

Weather

Since this was a plan for August, it doesn’t concern me that it will be hot and uncomfortable in July. With the hot weather, I am hoping lots of the alleged muddy areas will be dried out.

Trail Conditions

The official Rails-to-Trails Conversvancy Guidebook comes right out and says the NBT is best enjoyed by hiking it.

Hike it

I am hoping by riding a fat bike-which can handle lots of conditions-it will be an enjoyable trip.

Get ready for Day One Report!