Category Archives: adventures

Winter hike of Mt Mansfield via Hellbrook Trail

In the parking lot about to head up Route 108 Scenic to the trailhead for our ascent of Mt Mansfield
About to begin hiking Mt Mansfield, with Route 108 Scenic in the background, and Mt Mansfield behind that. L to R: Mark, Sebastien, Vince, Ryan

I recently embarked on my second winter hiking expedition: a tour of Mt Mansfield, the highest mountain in Vermont, via Hellbrook Trail. This post will focus on trail conditions and required footwear since this was the major challenge of the hike.  If you would like to learn more and be informed about other helpful gear and food preparations, you may find it useful to read an earlier blog post about Ryan’s first-ever winter hike – a lovely experience exploring Cascade and Porter Mountain in the Adirondacks. Continue reading Winter hike of Mt Mansfield via Hellbrook Trail

First solo winter hike in the Adirondacks: Cascade and Porter

There is a sign in the parking lot off of Route 9N indicating which marks the trailhead and provides basic information for visitors to Cascade and Porter Mountains. This is the starting point.
Mountains hiked: Cascade Mountain and Porter Mountain, New York, USA
Elevation: 1290m (4232 feet) and 1237m (4058 feet), respectively
Hiking time: 4 hours (round-trip)
Hiking distance: 5.6 miles or 9.0km (round-trip)

Greetings! I am sitting here with a hot tea thinking about how to begin describing my recent winter adventure hiking in the Adirondacks last weekend. The purpose of the trip was to make my first attempt at winter hiking with the objective of having fun :), being healthy, and building up my skills and knowledge for a much more difficult eventual winter-time summit of Mt Washington later this season. So let me give you my trip report: the background, my preparation, my experience, and some photos.  I hope this information can help someone else with their first winter hike! Continue reading First solo winter hike in the Adirondacks: Cascade and Porter

Solo hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc

A male ibex and the Mont Blanc massif in cloud. Photo by Alamy @ The Guardian
A male ibex and the Mont Blanc massif in cloud. Photo by Alamy @ The Guardian

A few days ago I posted a National Geographic article about great long distance hiking trails in different parts of the world. The first one on the list – hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc – caught my eye and I decided to book the trip! Continue reading Solo hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc

Midnight sun in Antarctica

Antarctic sun over sea ice.
Antarctic sun over sea ice. © Ryan Rowe /

In spring, the Antarctic sun lays low in the sky over the Southern Ocean. The sea ice is breaking up with the arrival of warmer temperatures. At this time of year in Antarctica the sun never really sets so there is about 23 hours of daylight and 1 hour of twilight. It makes it difficult to sleep, but who would want to with views like this?

Day safari at Nairobi National Park, Kenya

Giraffe crossing the safari trail in front of our van

We just got back from a day safari (a morning and an afternoon game drive) to Nairobi National Park and are absolutely thrilled about our experience. It blew all our expectations out of the water. We went hoping to see a lion and came away having seen almost an entire pride (8 cubs and 3 adult females but no males) at a single site – park officials later told us that pride has a total of 11 cubs. We also saw a wide array of other wildlife: serval cat, giraffes, rhinos (black & white), ostrich, impala, guinea fowl and other birds, turtle, a dead black mamba, hippopotamus, cape buffalo, water buffalo, warthog, and hart beast. We were particularly pleased about the rhinos and the serval cat. We even saw a dung beetle at work – pretty cool!

Total cost for the day for both of us was US$200, which got us park entry, our own 4×4 safari van with an open top roof (basically a converted matatu-style van) and a driver/guide and two game drives. We capped off our day with a visit to the Nairobi Animal Orphanage – a zoo located right after the park entrance (note: there is a separate fee for this attraction). If you have kids, a visit to the orphanage before or after your safari would give them a chance to get up close to the animals they are seeing.

Park officials were professional and well-organised, and there are three restaurant facilities available, including a gift shop. The park land itself was very clean, good signage/directions throughout, and a well-maintained network of roads.

Quick tips:

– If you hire a taxi driver to take you on the safari, it will be cheaper but you will probably lose out on the conversations and valuable insight shared between guides about where all the animals are.

– In the wet season, the grasses are long and can obscure the view from a small car, such as a sedan. Roads can be wet and there were a few paths where a 4×4 was necessary. So we suggest you hire a 4×4 with an open roof top. This will allow you to stick your head out and scan the landscape for animals instead of craning your neck out a window. Remember that half the fun of a safari is just looking for the animals!

-We are told the best times to see lions are in the early morning and the late afternoon when the temperature is much cooler and they are likely to be walking around, hunting. But on our trip, we saw the lions at about 10:30am/11:00am.

– Park entry fees (currently US$40 each for adult tourists) are valid for only one entry to the park. But if you park your car just inside the entrance, you can go for lunch for an hour and then continue your game drive in the afternoon. Your guide may tell you parking is not allowed. But the park warden said we were welcome to go ahead and do that. Definitely try to do two game drives if you have time – this is great if you missed things in the morning and want to try again in the afternoon. You’re also sure to get more great photos ops the second time around!

Having been on two amazing weekend safaris before (Masai Mara, Kenya and Liwonde National Park, Malawi), I had kept my expectations low for this day safari but I can say this is a definite must if you have time in Nairobi. This was a fantastic experience and well worth the money and much more affordable than doing a weekend trip to a more far-flung safari destination that requires plane, hotel, etc.

This review is also published on Trip Advisor.

Safari in Liwonde National Park, Malawi

Liwonde National Park, Malawi

I am on safari in Liwonde National Park, Malawi. The park is one of the country’s national treasures. It is rainy season now in Malawi and although the wildlife is not as teeming as in the Southern Hemisphere winter (June to November), elephants, hippos, birds, warthogs, bush bucks, water bucks, porcupines, antelopes should still be in abundance. The park is situated around the banks of the Shire River, a major waterway in the south of the country.

Malawi is a land-locked country of 14 million people located in Southern Africa. It is bordered on the south and the east by Mozambique, on the north by Tanzania and on the west by Zambia. The country’s most significant geographic feature is Lake Malawi, the third largest freshwater lake in Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Sun beams on ice floes

Antarctica in late spring. The sea ice is slowly breaking up into pieces as the temperature warms to a balmy 32 deg F, 0 deg C or higher during the day (saltwater freezes at a slightly lower temperature). This creates ideal conditions for killer whales to hunt seals by wave-washing them from their perch on an ice floe into the water where they are quickly gobbled up. During this time of year, the sun “sets” at about 11pm at night and rises again at 2:30am. But it never really goes away and darkness never really sets in – instead you’ll have a glow of pink and orange light cast over magnificent seascapes.

Sun beams over ice floes near Lemaire Channel, Antarctica

A magical penguin moment

My magical penguin moment on the sea ice

I was out on the sea ice yesterday, enjoying an incredibly warm morning, taking in the sun. I dozed off for a while. I was woken up by mother calling me… “Ryan…. Ryan…!” When I opened my eyes, she told me to look around. Several penguins were within feet of me, looking at me curiously. I had lain so still that they felt comfortable enough to approach. This is what experienced Antarctica travelers call a magical penguin moment… AWESOME. :)

The power of the cold and the wind

Holding on to the railing of the National Geographic Explorer, as gale-force winds whip against my body, in Lindblad Cove (Antarctica)

Last night, we cruised into Lindblad Cove, an inlet about 5km across which is named for a Swedish adventurer Lars-Erik Lindblad in honour of all that he did to promote awareness and conservation of Antarctica. Its about 10pm in this photo and still fairly light out. I could barely withstand the gale-force winds, among the strongest winds I have ever felt in my life. In front of is a massive glacier which is (slowly) sliding into the Southern Ocean and has a mountain on either side of it. As we watched, a huge section of the glacier calved off and slipped into the ocean in front of us, generating huge waves and creating new icebergs. The cold, the wind, the sheer power of it all is absolutely terrifying and thrilling at the same time. This is Antarctica!