I keep a travel spreadsheet. I’m orderly like that and I enjoy recording interesting places that I learn about in the hope that I can get there someday. Fundamentally, it feels optimistic, which is nice.
Some of my entries are on the vague side, “Morocco” for instance, while others specify an exact museum, restaurant, or some other locale.
Here are some of my favorite, most highly anticipated, and specific choices.
I love Tolkien. I’ve read nearly everything published from Smith of Wooten Major to the The Book of Unfinished Tales to The Silmarillion, and of course The Hobbit and the trilogy. The trilogy movies had some good moments (let’s not even talk about The Hobbit films), and getting to see the Hobbiton set would be some serious childhood wish fulfillment.
I love to read and this place doubles as a bookstore, with books lining the walls throughout. They also offer some literary-themed programs and a bar with drinks named after authors. It’s just an environment I know I will like.
Fundamentally because it seems a neat place to have a drink. Giger is probably most well known for his work on Alien and the look of this bar has a similar feel. I want to visit Switzerland for the mountains and stunning vistas, so why not have a beer here as well.
Why, indeed. This is a gas station in California, but by all reports, it’s as much gathering place for outdoor adventurers as it is gas station. There’s also live music and a deli, making it much more than your average gas station.
I love traveling in non-motorized ways, so the notion of backpacking through Scotland is exactly my type of thing. Plus, it looks at though there are options to stay under a roof certain nights, which will appeal to my husband. In general, I need to explore Europe’s hut-to-hut backpacking system more. I’m happy to start here.
Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it and I’m pretty concerned that a repeat may be imminent. For all I know, it’s being repeated in my own country as I type this. The situation is sobering.
So, that’s my current 10. It’s a list I’m sure will change.
Scotland and Switzerland are repeated, so I guess that means one of those places needs to be our next destination. It also means that I need to research some other areas more thoroughly.
Take a ski trip to Valle Nevado in Chile for gorgeous scenery and excellent skiing.
As the ski season comes to a close in the northern hemisphere, it’s just getting ready to begin for our neighbors to the south. The ski season at Valle Nevado typically runs from approximately June to October, depending on snowfall. Located in the Andes, east of Santiago, the resort is pretty accessible from the airport via one of the many transport services available. I got a great deal through Turistik, a company I would highly recommend over the much more expensive Ski Total.
The road to the resort is narrow and twisting and is limited to one-way traffic at certain times, so be prepared. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for livestock because they can access the road, so watch your speed lest you hit a stray cow or horse.
Why Valle Nevado?
In my case, it’s easy – I won my trip. As in, I filled out a form on the internet, and the contest was actually real and not just data mining. Yeah, I was shocked, too. The prize did not include airfare, but it did include 6 days of hotel, breakfast & dinner, and lift tickets, all for two people. It was pretty sweet.
The prize was only for late season – I went in September – and the conditions were appropriately slick for late season skiing. However, I had a lot of the mountain to myself. There were days that I was pretty much the only person skiing the backside and all of the lifts back there were open. It was like having my own private mountain.
I do think I was lucky to have the coverage I did. Even though it was icy, the vast majority of the runs were open. One worker I talked to told me that the prior year there had been almost no snow left that late. If you plan a late season trip to Valle Nevado:
Don’t count on powder
Don’t even count on snow.
Just research conditions before you book anything.
Where to stay?
There are three hotels of varying price range at the resort. The Hotel Valle Nevado is the most expensive, followed by the Puerta del Sol, and then the Tres Puntas. There are also condos (the Mirador del Inca being one), that our driver told us can sometimes be rented. A quick search on Airbnb brought up some possibilities, so I’d consider trying there and comparing prices to the hotels. My prize included lodging at the mid-range hotel – the Puerta del Sol. The view from the room was stellar, with a little patio overlooking the Andes, but the room was average. It was older and a bit small, with two little twin beds and not very many outlets. The hotel did provide a little set of outlet adaptors, but you’ll likely want to bring your own so that you have more than one.
In short, you might do better in an Airbnb. I wasn’t overly concerned, I was simply excited to get to ski, but it’s worth noting and likely worth a bit of research.
The Tres Valles System
Valle Nevado is part of the Tres Valles system of Chilean ski resorts, which also include La Parva and El Colorado to the north and west. Both of those other resorts are visible from various parts of the mountain and are accessible by skis if you can afford the lift tickets to them. Actually, in the case of La Parva, it’s possible to accidentally ski down the mountain to it. In this case, you would be stuck buying a lift ticket to get back to Valle Nevado on skis. Caution is advised in this regard. I caught myself just time – take note that any unmarked lifts on your Valle Nevado map may not be Valle Nevado lifts at all.
The resort is situated in a high mountain bowl and is known for its excellent powder in peak season, but spring visitors to all resorts in the area should be prepared to ski ice and crud. The mountain groomers did an excellent job with what was available and only one of the six days I skied was icy enough that I quit the mountain early for the bar. However, spring conditions are spring conditions, and visitors should be prepared for them.
Visitors should also be prepared to get to watch an incredible array of ski racers train in the mornings. One of my favorite activities was to sit on the patio outside the gondola unloading area and admire the skills of the racers after I had myself completed my morning runs.
Skiing aside, the resort has other offerings for non-skiers or skiers taking a break from the slopes. There’s a hot tub, outdoor fire place, and several shops, restaurants, and bars. It’s best to purchase a food package, as it’s particularly expensive to eat if you don’t. One can save a bit of money by filling up on soup and hot cocoa at the daily apres ski event before dinner. Also, there’s a little grocery a short walk from the Puerta del Sol and Tres Puntas which can be used for food to save you from having to eat at the expensive restaurants. If you do visit the restaurants, tipping is expected and will be added to your bill at the end of your stay if you don’t tip along the way. When we visited, there were three restaurant options – Chilean, French, and Italian. They were all excellent, but the Italian place offered a free glass of wine if you booked early.
We ate Italian all but two nights.
The treacherous class VI drive up the mountain is far enough from Santiago that transport will need to be arranged in advance and if you choose to not rent a car, it can be difficult to get to other areas. A shuttle is available from the hotel area to the base of the gondola and non-skiers are allowed to ride that gondola up to its end at mid mountain if they have a lift ticket. Some other shops are available at the gondola base, and food and drink are available mid mountain for skiers who do not pack snacks.
A Note on the Lifts
The majority of the lifts at Valle Nevado are surface lifts, which is to say they are mostly J-bars (Poma lifts) with at least one T-bar. There is a gondola and a high speed 6 pack up front as well as few others chairs, but every lift on the backside is a surface lift except one. That includes the Tres Puntas Poma which is like riding a bucking bronco. It throws you up into the air at the start, so be ready. It’s fun once you get used to it, but it handed me my only fall of the trip. Beware of Tres Puntas lift.
This is all fine, really. It just gets a little tiring, so it’s good to know. I’m told it can get pretty windy, so this is probably part of the reason for the abundance of surface lifts.
If you can afford to ski Valle Nevado, do it. It’s a beautiful place with excellent skiing, even in late season. I will say that if you are into steeps or trees, this isn’t your mountain. The runs labeled as steep here really aren’t and everything is above tree line. There is some nice looking skiing out of bounds here so, if it’s a good snow year, consider the resort’s heli skiing services or a reputable backcountry guide service such as Powderquest. If you want powder, don’t come late season, though that goes without saying. The reason I enjoyed myself was:
I got to ski. Anytime I get to ski, I’m a happy human.
There were almost no lines. This is likely the best perk of skiing late season here.
It was free, or nearly so (I bought snacks, plane tickets, transport via Turistik, and I tipped).
I got to ski.
The Andes are spectacularly beautiful.
I love to travel.
I got to ski.
If you want a cheaper way to ski in Chile, I’ve heard that it is more affordable to stay in Farrelones. This is a small mountain village from which El Colorado can be accessed. Since Valle Nevado is accessible via El Colorado, this is one way to ski that resort without staying there. Unfortunately, this option would require lift tickets for both El Colorado and Valle Nevado since, to the best of my knowledge, the resorts do not co-operate in an fashion in regards to lift tickets.
Regardless of all of this, Valle Nevado is worth your time if you can manage it. Not only because the skiing is excellent, but the staff are lovely and very forgiving of those with poor Spanish language skills, as personal experience attests.
The eclectic little town of Nederland is a great addition to your Colorado vacation.
Tucked into the mountains above Boulder, at the edge of the Indian Peaks Wilderness and in the shadow of the Continental Divide, is the little town of Nederland. It’s an eclectic place, having evolved from mining town to hippie enclave to it’s modern state. In the 70’s, it was known for it’s vibrant music scene, enhanced by its location near the now defunct recording studio at Caribou Ranch. The town continues to evolve, but has maintained some of its unique character in the face of changing demographics.
Gateway to Adventure
The town is easily accessible from Boulder via Boulder Canyon. Although the distance is only about 16.7 miles, there is an elevation gain of 2900 feet (883.92 meters), so the temperature and weather differences are often significant. Dress and choose your vehicle accordingly. It’s actually possible to take the RTD city bus from Boulder to Ned, which is a great option if you aren’t sure about driving. The bus makes stops throughout the canyon, including at Boulder Falls. This short hike can be crowded, but is quick and pleasant. If you do choose to get off here, know the bus schedule ahead of time so you aren’t stuck there for a long period.
Once you do get to Nederland, you have several options depending on your adventure of choice and the time of year.
In the summer, the Nederland RTD Park & Ride lot is the pickup location for the Hessie Trailheadshuttle. You can drive or take the RTD city bus up and then catch the shuttle in for a hike. If you don’t take the shuttle, be aware that parking is limited and fills up early, so be prepared. There’s a reason the shuttle exists, so take advantage of it. The shuttle only services the Hessie Trailhead, so if it’s the Fourth of July Trailhead that interests you, you’ll have to drive to that. Leave early so you can get a parking space. The shuttle is seasonal, so check out the website to make sure it is running if you plan on using it.
Stay in Town
The little town of Nederland is worth exploring. The Barker Reservoir allows fishing (no swimming or boating, however!) and there is a little trail than runs along the northern bank that offers nice views of the town and reservoir.
If you head south on the Peak-to-Peak Highway, you’ll pass by West Magnolia, a popular mountain biking area. If you don’t have a bike, you can rent one in town at Tin Shed. These trails can also be hiked.
Continuing on past West Magnolia, you’ll hit the town of Rollinsville wherein, if you take the Tolland Road to the west, you can reach the East Portal Trailhead. If you are headed here, you’ll pass Rollins Pass Road, a popular place for ATV riders and mountain bikers. Due to the collapse of the Needle’s Eye Tunnel, you can no longer drive over the continental divide at this point, so don’t plan on it. I am told that it is possible to port your bike around the collapse, but the bike ride up is strenuous. Do not try to drive this road without the appropriate skill and vehicle.
It’s important to plan ahead for your safety and others. Fire risk is high in these areas, so look up the current conditions and obey all fire bans. This frequently means that NO CAMPFIREs are allowed, so plan ahead with a legal camp stove if you are staying overnight. If you head south of Nederland to trails at the East Portal, you’ll be in Gilpin County, an area that has separate fire ban information from the trails in Boulder County.
Weather can change quickly and is usually much colder at altitude than down below. Wear proper footwear, carry a fleece, rain gear, snacks, and plenty of water. It’s best to understand how to use a map and compass, but at a minimum, stay on the trails. If you see bad weather rolling in, get below tree line. If you plan on camping overnight, permits are required for the Indian Peaks Wilderness. They can be purchased the day of your trip at Indian Peaks Ace Hardware store. Remember to keep your pets on leashes and obey Leave-No-Trace principles. Be aware that it’s always wise to treat your water before you drink it due to the high traffic these areas experience.
Finally, if you are visiting the Nederland area from a low altitude location, be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness and act accordingly if needed. Be sure to consult a medical professional if you experience issues. Some people will experience sickness even if they are coming from somewhere relatively high like Denver, so keep that in mind.
This area is spectacular and I’ve only covered the basics of what is available. I feel like I could spend my entire life exploring Colorado and I still haven’t even explored all the trails near Nederland. The town itself and the surrounding natural resources are well worth your time. Stay safe, be respectful, and have fun.
It feels like an odd time to write this blog as I’m not traveling right now. I dream of it, read of it, make lists of places to visit and sites to see, and now write of it, but I’m broke. It’s been this way for 10 years – my salary goes up, but the cost of living also increases and boom – I’ve gone nowhere.
I am fortunate to live in a place where people vacation, hence the cost of living issues, so I can take “trips” in what is essentially my backyard. Early on, this will be a lot of my content. Also, I was lucky to get to travel a bit with my family when I was growing up, so some of my pieces will be retrospectives. I’ve always been a photographer, so I have lots of photo evidence of those times.
A lot of what I read and part of what I’m trying to write is science fiction and fantasy. I also game and take a weird sort of inspiration from those worlds, especially when trail running and backpacking. Colorado looks a lot like Skyrim and parts of Norrath, minus the overabundance of curiously aggressive wildlife. It’s probably good we don’t have owlbears here and it’s definitely good we don’t have orcs.
However, jokes aside, it’s easy to imagine that I’m running through Hyrule, Rohan, or Skyrim when I’m out on a trail run and that’s probably the thing that inspires me the most. There’s a good chance that my propensity for escapist fantasy is a big part of my lack success in real life, so I’ll be taking those frustrations out in this blog by writing about adventure, travel, and fitness from the perspective of a introverted, over-read, underachieving, sort of scientist, who is a part time ski instructor and former roller derby athlete that is attempting to be a film maker. Not sure how valuable that background is, but it might be at least a little unique.
Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Gaming inspired travel
Trail Running inspiration (and running in general)
Reality vs. Escapism and finding a healthy balance between the two.
Avoiding a life of quiet desperation
Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Gaming inspired workout ideas (non running)
I’ll come up with more and I also welcome any suggestions. I’m going to start out with monthly posts and see how that goes.
Welcome to my wannabe travel blog written by a depressingly infrequent traveler with a weird background and a terrible commute.