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Rocky Mountain National Park is a United States national park located approximately 76 miles northwest of Denver International Airport in north-central Colorado, within the front range of the rocky mountains. The park is situated between the town of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west. The eastern and western slopes of the continental divide run directly through the center of the park with the headwaters of the colorado river located in the parks northwestern region. The main features of the park include mountains, alpine lakes, and a wide variety of wildlife within various climates and environments, from wooded forests to mountain tundra. 

Here are 5 days worth of day hikes that I easily did while staying in Estes Park where there is plenty of lodging options, restaurants, and entertainment available.  

Day 1- Land above the trees

I took the famous Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the US to the Ute Trail trailhead.  A stop at the alpine visitor center was a great idea for a restroom break and to buy souvenirs.  The Ute trail is an important travel and trade route over the continental divide for native peoples. I saw evidence of volcanoes and glaciers, and kept my eyes peeled for elk, bighorn sheep, and maybe even the elusive wolverine, which is slowly returning to remote areas within Colorado.  The trail is all above treeline, so I was glad I brought warm layers.  The trail began at the headwaters of the Colorado River, and offered beautiful views of Mt. Ida, the Medicine Bow, Stormy Peaks, and Never Summer mountain ranges that surrounded me.  I saw marmots playing around on the side of the trail in the rocks. 

Day 2- Alpine rivers, waterfalls, and lakes

Today I found the pleasures and power of mountain water: from rushing rivers and waterfalls, to high mountain lakes. My hike took me through the reaches of Wild Basin, a wildlife and flower strewn region of the park. I saw a momma and baby moose!

  I hiked along the South Saint Vrain River, past Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls to Ouzel lake and the mountain cirque that envelopes it.  

Day 3- Mountain Cirques and High Peaks:

This hike headed into the land of glaciers, past and present. The route took me past Alberta Falls into the sub-alpine forest, and to an emerald string of mountain lakes, from Mills to Jewel, and at last to Black Lake, which sits in a silent and imposing mountain cirque, a testament to the power of glacial ice.  The granite crags above me had names like Spearhead and Keyboard of the Winds. *Please note if you plan to do this hike, the trailhead fills up very early but there is a free park and ride hiker shuttle that the park offers for free.* 

Day 4- Chasm lake and longs peak 

I actually had to cut this hike short due to 40 mph winds that were literally knocking me over.  Hitting your shins, and maybe your head, on rocks is no fun.  Here’s a nice shot of Long’s Peak I was able to get before I..

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Want to trek in Nepal?  Did you know that there are short trek options?  I have always dreamed of trekking in Nepal. It’s on every hiker’s bucket list. But when you have a full time job, it’s just not feasible to get away for 20 days to trek to Everest or Annapurna base camp.  I was so happy to find Outfitter Nepal and the large quantity of trekking options they offer.

The Ghorepani Poon Hill trek takes you to one of the most popular view points (Poon Hill) in Nepal within the world famous Annapurna region.  It’s a thrilling introduction to the wonders of the Nepal teahouse trekking experience, and it’s a more relaxed journey compared to other options in the Annapurna area.  It’s specifically designed for people with less holiday time who want something special and a taste of trekking in Nepal’s Himalaya.  It includes the astonishing scenery of traditional villages, lush forests, fertile fields, and up close views of some of the highest peaks on the planet. It’s ideal for a honeymoon, a trek with children, and for students.

The Annapurna region has long been a favorite place for visitors to Nepal, with good reason. Trekking there is full of excitement and surprises and an array of natural beauty and variety, with dense forests of rhododendron, Nepal’s national flower. The highlight of the Ghorepani Poon Hill trek is the sunrise from Poon Hill where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Himalayan mountains including Dhaulagiri, Tukuche Peak, Nilgiri, BarahaShikhar, the Annapurna range and numerous other giants. The magic of the morning light on the peaks seems to reveal heaven itself.

Day 1- Nayapul to Tikhedunga

After having breakfast at our hotel in Pokhara, we took a short drive to Nayapul ,then started our trekking to Tikhedhunga via Birethanti. It was easy trekking passing through several villages and settlements. Afterwards we ascended gently to the final destination of the day, Tikhedunga guest house. It was about 5 hours of walking, max altitude 1577 meters.

Day 2- Tikhedunga to Ghorepani

After having breakfast at the lodge, we started the trek and ascended steeply (3000 stairs!) for the first 2 hours then ascended gently passing through Ulleri and Banthanti.  We shared the trail with villagers going about their daily lives- working, going to school, and farming.  It is possible to see good views of Machhapuchhare (AKA Fish Tail mountain), Hiunchuli, and Annapurna south on the way, but it was very cloudy and overcast for us on this day, with some rain in the afternoon. After all the stairs the trail became much easier, and passed through rhododendron and shadowy trees. We ascended gently up to the final destination, our teahouse lodge for the night in Ghorepani. Today was about 6 hours of walking with a maximum altitude of 2800 meters.

Day 3- Sunrise hike to Poon Hill, and then trek to Tadapani

We woke up very early to enjoy the sunrise view over Mt. Dhaulagiri, Tukuche Peak, Nilgiri, Varaha Shikhar, Mt. Annapurna I, Annapurna South, Annapurna III, Machhapuchhare, Annapurna IV, Annapurna II, Lamjung Himal, and other numerous snowcapped mountains of the Himalaya.

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On my first day in Kathmandu I had a flashback to when I was 19 years old and was out of the country for the first time. It was one of those days that I wanted to capture, to hold on to, and to stare into it like a snow globe. I was completely bewildered, confused, and with my senses overwhelmed, but loving every second. This country was already so completely different from anything I have ever experienced, and it was just day one.

Nepal is a small landlocked country in south Asia between China (Tibet) in the north and India in the east, south, and west. It is known for its beautiful scenery, culture, and people. It is the birthplace of Buddha and the home of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Adventures lovers and non-trekkers both are equally fond of the Himalayas and its culture, architecture, temples, shrines, glorious history, people, lakes, rivers, jungles, and much more. There is something about a trek in the Himalaya that is addictive and brings people back again and again. Nepal has a population of about 30 million and is a mix of Hindu, Buddhist, animist religion, with some Muslims and Christians also. It is a fascinating mosaic of cultures, ethnic groups, and languages. It is amazing that in a country of this size that there are over 125 different ethnic groups and more than 123 spoken languages!

On May 28, 2008, the constituent assembly voted in overwhelming favor of abolishing the monarchy in Nepal and declared it as the democratic republic of Nepal. This historic development followed a cease fire agreement between the government and the Maoists signed in November 2006, putting an end to 10 years of instability and violence in the country. The announcement of the abolishment of the monarchy also brought and end to 240 years of Royal rule in the country. Today the general feeling among Nepalese is a positive one and many believe that Nepal is now finally moving forward with a new identity as a democratic country.

The country is also recovering from a 7.8 earthquake in 2015 that killed 9000 people and injured 22000.

Nepalese people are very welcoming of tourists and travelers and now is a great time to visit!

My first day in Nepal was a full one of seeing the sights in Kathmandu valley including Durbar Square, Monkey temple, Pashupatinath temple, and Boudhanath stupa.

Kathmandu Durbar Square in front of the old royal palace of the former Kathmandu kingdom is one of three Durbar (royal palace) squares in the Kathmandu valley in Nepal, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Several buildings in the square collapsed due to the major earthquake on April 25, 2015.  Many of the famous structures here that I had seen in the guidebooks prior to my visit were under reconstruction. I found it interesting that they do not “retrofit” these structures. They reconstruct all with the original design and materials.

I was lucky enough to see the Kumari, or Living Goddess, make an appearance! Nepal has the tradition of worshipping young pre-pubescent girls as manifestations of the divine female energy or devi in Hindu religious traditions. She lives in the Kumari Ghar, a palace in the center of the city. We were not allowed to take pictures of her, so the below photo of her is from welcomenepal.com.

Swayambhunath is an ancient religious architecture atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, west of Kathmandu city.  The Tibetan name for the site means “sublime trees” for the many varieties of trees found on the hill.  Swayambhunath is also known as the Monkey Temple as there are holy monkeys living in the north west parts of the temple.  They are holy because Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom and learning was raising the hill which the stupa stands on. He was supposed to leave his hair short but he made it grow long and head lice grew.  It is said that the head lice transformed into these monkeys! Today these monkeys are hilarious to watch- they jump in the water for fun and steal visitors’ ice cream and popsicles!

The Pashupatinath Temple is a famous and sacred Hindu temple complex that is located on the banks of the Bagmati River.  The temple serves as the seat of Nepal’s national deity, Lord Pashupatinath.  Public cremations are performed river side.

A stupa is a dome shaped structure erected as a Buddhist shrine or place of meditation. Boudhanath stupa dominates the skyline; it is one of the largest stupas in the world.

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