"Does everyone in Star Valley fly or do I just only know pilots in Star Valley because you are all friends?"

"Well, it might be your circle of friends, but there are quite a few pilots in the Valley too"

When I went up to visit some friends in Star Valley a couple of weekends ago, I was excited because my Wingman had, well....gotten his wings. I was so hoping I could talk him into going flying and it turns out that is an easy one!

On the ground selfies

Time got away from us and we were nearly late for our overnight horseback camping trip departure. Luckily our crew waited for us!

Looking over into Grey's River

Life at 10,000 feet

wingman

by on 5:00 AM
"Does everyone in Star Valley fly or do I just only know pilots in Star Valley because you are all friends?" "Well, it migh...
Rock Springs and Green River have a summer run series each year, every Monday evening. And since Colorado Transplant Friend is in charge of half of those races, I go.....and for Popsicles. ok, ok I go for Popsicles. They usually have a 5K route and a mini mile route. Of course, each run has a theme because themes are just more fun than running with no theme.

This year's series was:

  • Storybook Run (no pictures taken)
  • Zombie Run (didn't attend)
  • Mustache Dash (didn't attend)
  • Color Run
  • Twinkie Trot
  • Slip N' Slide Run (no pictures taken)
  • Watermelon Walk
  • Poker Run (didn't attend)
  • Glow Run (didn't attend)
I didn't get to attend as many this year as I have in the past because this is what my summer life looks like
every month ends up looking like this

Little Boys showing off their muscles after the Color Run
Watermelon Walk 5K
Little Boy and I after the Twinkie Trot Mini Mile. He ran the whole thing in 12:50.





One of my goals for 2016 was to get more involved in my community. A new friend from spin class had been bugging me about coming to the mountain bike club meetings for a while and I finally caved. And I'm glad that I did. The Sweetwater Mountain Bike Association (SMBA) is a great bunch of guys and a hidden gem of a trail system in Green River, WY. Wilkins Peak was even voted on the 2016 Best Mountain Bike Trails by Singletracks.com.

Trail maintenance on Brent and Mike's
Each year the club puts on a Trail Days to introduce people to the Wilkins Peak Trail System and mountain biking. The club, along with sponsors, offers a free pancake breakfast, guided rides on the trail system, night ride and raffles/giveaways. This year we were even able to raffle off a brand new Trek mountain bike with the support of Bike & Trike in Rock Springs. The event was attended by approximately 100 people, the most we've ever had.


Trek bike raffle winner Logan (L) with President Brent (R)

Raffle winner, Logan (L) with Bike & Trike owner, Jason (R)
If you are in the area, make sure to stop by and check out our trail system in Green River, you won't regret it! And make sure to like us on Facebook, we'll keep you up to date on happenings, trail conditions, plus lots of beautiful trail photos!

Pedal therapy, its better than drugs!

Coming up Draino

Quito is a diamond in the rough, a pleasant surprise. I'll be honest after Peru, Inca Trail, Machu Picchu and the Galapagos, I really wasn't overflowing with excitement about Quito. I mean a city is a city right? Wrong. I loved Quito and was left wanting more days in Ecuador!


Quito is the capital city, high in the Andes mountains at an elevation of 9,350 feet. Quito is home to approximately 2.7 million people and is known as the cultural capital of Latin America. It's mix of colonial and modern architecture. Its also home to the newest international airport in Latin America. Ecuador is known for its rose exports, which I was very disappointed to not visit a rose farm. A dozen "reject" roses can be bought for a couple of bucks around the city. Other exports include petroleum, bananas, shrimp, coffee, cocoa and fish. The American dollar is the official currency so that was nice! I know how much those are worth!

Overlooking Quito from Panecillo Mirador
While Quito is not short on sights to see, we were short on time. We opted for the City Tour where we took a quick tour through La Mariscal financial neighborhood, which was also where our hotel was located. This area is very safe and has many markets, hotels, restaurants and bars. We also visited Independence Plaza where there is a symbolic statue to Ecuador's independence.

Independence statue in Independence Plaza

We were also able to visit the Presidential Palace and watch the changing of the guards. Security at the Palace is much different than the White House, we were ushered right up onto the front porch!


We also made quick stops that La Basilica and San Fransisco churches. The attention to detail and symbology built into churches is nothing short of amazing.


La Basilica

Panecillo Mirador offers views overlooking Quito and an impressive statue of the Virgin Mary with wings.

The thing I wanted to do most while in Ecuador was stand in the southern and northern hemisphere at the same time. We had crossed the Equator a couple of time while cruising the Galapagos Islands, but it just wasn't quite the same. While at the Equator, we also were lucky enough to experience a typical Ecuador rain....and boy oh boy did it rain! But we documented standing on the Equator and didn't wash away, plus it gave us a great excuse to buy some of the best hot chocolate I've ever tasted!


Ecuador is on the list of places to visit again, there is so much more that the country has to offer!

quito, ecuador

by on 5:00 AM
Quito is a diamond in the rough, a pleasant surprise. I'll be honest after Peru, Inca Trail, Machu Picchu and the Galapagos, I really wa...
I'm not sure that they call the Galapagos Islands a wonder of the world, but to this girl well, I think I'll refer to them as a wonder of the world.



Day 1 was clear full of anticipation. If you don't know what anticipation really feels like google Galapagos Island pictures. Anticipation grew (or turned to anxiety) as we stood in line to board our ship, the Galapagos Legend, and realized that we were the youngest people on our ship.....by 20+ years. Note to self....ask your travel agent the average age of travelers on your ship. I was shocked by the vegetation of the islands....or should I say lack of vegetation. I didn't realize how dry and deserty most of the Galapagos really is. The afternoon we took an introductory dinghy ride to view wildlife in the mangroves on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island. We saw lots of blue footed boobies and other sea birds. A few turtles and stingrays.

Galapagos Legend, largest ship in the Galapagos fleet


Infamous Blue-footed Booby
Figurite, our dinghy driver
Day 2 brought hiking on the lava island of Santiago Island along with some deep sea snorkeling. Nothing like the first dip in the ocean and seeing a shark...eeeekkkkk! And don't be fooled by the words equator, island, tropical etc....that water is COLD, thanks to the Humboldt current bringing water from the Antarctic! In the afternoon we had another wet landing with more snorkeling. The water was kinda cloudy and hard to see here, but did see several stingrays and lots of species of fish. The famous Darwin finches were all over the island on our hike as well.


Snorkeling every.single.day.
Day 3 was one of the prettiest landings in my opinion. I loved the beautiful black volcanic beach of Isabela Islands' Urbina Bay. Here we saw turtle nests on the beach and land iguanas on the hike. It was also the death of a bee in our group, much to the horror of our guide! Afternoon excursions included the longest hike of the trip to Darwin's salt water crater lake looking out into the ocean, it sure was a sight to see. The island was decorated with graffiti believed to have been penned by 19th century pirates.

Urbania Bay - Isabela Island

Land Iguanas

View of the Legend from Darwin's salt lake

Day 4 was filled with creepy crawlies which of course was my least favorite. Espinosa Point on Fernandina Island we saw thousands of marine iguanas which are creepy, primitive looking on land and then they get in the water and take off swimming to really top out the creepy factor. When we found out we would be snorkeling with these freaks of nature we opted to suntan on the deck of the ship instead. The deep water snorkeling in the afternoon was amazing. We saw so much wildlife including fish, eels, stingrays, sharks, sea lions and my favorite.....sea turtles. We got into a real turtle house and there was 10-20 turtles swimming around underneath us!

Marine Iguanas - all the lighter spots are alive, gross

Creepy Crawlies that are out for marine iguana eggs...grosser


Sea turtles everywhere!
snorkeling

 Day 5 we stayed dry. Dry landing on Santa Cruz where our luggage was transferred to the airport for us while we jumped on a bus to the highlands. We drove through what I thought the islands would looks like...green and jungley. We went to a natural reserve for the giant land tortoises. And were they ever slow and huge! They can weigh up to 550 - 660 lbs and live for 200 years! And i can fit into their shell. We then returned to the airport and back to the mainland.

Don't touch the tortoises!


Overall, the Galapagos Islands was interesting and awesome. Due to cost, I probably won't return there, but couldn't be happier about choosing to add it to our South American Itinerary. While we were worried about the age difference between us and the rest of the clientele....we met some really great people and had a blast. Those old folks know how to cut loose!
Because I can't pronounce most of the names that I learned nor even begin to retain all the information that I learned on my hike, I'll likely be letting the pictures do the talking for me. The hike to Machu Picchu was amazing, with a capital A! I often found myself thinking that if people don't believe there is a God, then they should come here! And I love our porters, I thought that a lot too!

We opted for the 4-day Classic Inca Trail hike. All hikers are required to be guided by a professional company. We chose to hike with Condor Travel and Paul. Paul gave us the advice of not focusing on the destination, but to instead enjoy the journey. He couldn't have been more right.  I can't give a higher recommendation to both Paul and the company. Paul was friendly, knowledgeable, patient, funny and spoke very good English.


We followed the same itinerary shown in the picture above, even though yours truly didn't make the picture above....that credit goes to  Adventure Life.

Day 1(7.5mi) started out early with a long van ride from Cusco to KM 82, where the Inca Trail begins. At KM 82 the porters packed and weighed our bags that they would be carrying and we all got through the first check station. Only 500 people are allowed on the Inca Trial per day, 200 hikers and 300 porters and guides. We did have a short stop in Ollantaytambo for any last minute things you might need such as a second breakfast, toilets that flush and a 15 soles aluminum walking stick. All of which I highly recommend. After going down in elevation and back up slightly which helps hikers acclimate to the elevation and seeing several Incan ruins sights we stopped for the night in Wayllabamba at 9840 feet. Wayllabamba has a fish hatchery that was built by the government for the locals. Nearly all of the touring companies purchase fish raised in the hatchery for dinner on the first night.
Porters packing at KM 82
Let's get this party started

The official start of the Inca Trail

Day 2(9.5mi) was advertised to be the hardest day of the trek due to the elevation gain going to Dead Woman Pass also known as Abra de Huarmihuañusca, topping out at 13,780 feet. It took us about 5 hours to summit. We hiked through very hot sun to be greeted by cold, windy conditions at the top of the pass.....and a sandwich. I love our porters! Paul led us up the mountain slow and steady and I didn't really struggle with the altitude. I had much more problems coming down the millions of stone steps. Did I mention buy that sissy walking stick in Ollantaytambo? Just do it, your knees will thank you. Trust me. We ended our day at Pacamayo (11,900 feet).

Our group, ready to tackle Dead Woman Pass

Almost to the top with a view of Mt. Veronica in the background



Highest point on the Inca Trail, Dead Woman Pass
Day 3(9.5mi) was the longest day of hiking. We summitted two more passes, saw many Inca ruins. By the end of the day I was so over hiking. I was TIRED! The Second Pass, Abra de Runkuracay (13,035 feet) was absolutely stunning. The Third Pass, Phuyupatamarca, tops out at 11,975 feet. We took a quick break at Intipata with time to explore the ruins. By this time my exploring pretty much consisted of sitting on the edge of the ruins admiring the scenery overlooking the Urubamba River. as we still had about 1/2 hour walk to our camping spot at Wiñay Wayna. HIKU! (Let's go!). Wiñay Wayna Inca ruins is a short 15 minute walk from the campground and despite being exhausted was one of the coolest ruins that we saw. Historians speculate that Wiñay Wayna may have been the main provider of agricultural products to Machu Picchu. They believe that food produced at Machu Picchu may have been offered for sacrifice along with human and animal sacrifice.

Waking up to the Inca Trail

Buy the sissy walking stick....you're welcome.
Second Pass, Runkuracay

Intipata


Winyawayna Inca Ruins, overlooking the Urubamba River
Day 4(3.5mi) brings the destination of the whole journey. We got up super early to a) make it to Machu Picchu early so we could spend the day at the ruins and b) so our porters could pack up our camp and meet the train after breakfast. Around sunrise we arrived at the Sun Gate also known as Intipunku, where we were lucky enough to get the elusive sunny Machu Picchu pictures. Many are greeted with fog, but we were some of the lucky ones. Intipunku served as a guardhouse for one of the main entrances to Machu Picchu. Elevation at the Sun Gate is about 8,924 feet.

Machu Picchu means "old peak" in Quechua. Historians don't know for sure, but believe that Machu Picchu was an estate built for the Inca Emperor, Pachacuti around 1450. It was abandoned around 1572 as a result of smallpox and the Spanish Conquest. The Spanish never found Machu Picchu so it was preserved.

Sun Gate with Machu Picchu in the sunny background

Made it! and we have sunny Machu Picchu pictures, mission accomplished.

My dream picture....remember to take these on your phone for Facebook and your camera so its good enough for everything else. Yep, I'm that girl that has only the low resolution cell phone picture.

8 am celebratory beers before the official Machu Picchu tour

My highest recommendation goes to hiking the Inca Trail. It was the experience of a lifetime and it couldn't have been more perfect. Condor Travel, Paul and our Porters were amazing! The Inca Trail was amazing!

Condor's team of hikers, porters and guides
Since its been a while since I've visited with you, my dear, dear, lovely readers....you might want to check out my packing list and what I would have packed differently because let's face it,  you are ready to pack your bags and head to Peru!

Cheers to our team! Pisco Sours in Aguas Calientes