We planned for about three days in the Colorado portion of the four corners exploration, specifically to visit Mesa Verde. We knew conditions might be a bit dicey given the high elevation, and as the date got closer we knew it might be best to have a plan be. Still plenty of snow up there and very cold days, so we camped at and focused on Canyons of the Ancients.
The visitor center is outstanding, especially for a national monument. Good film and very good artifact displays. It also goes into depth on the methods used to dig and conduct the research in the area.
Lowry Pueblo was a nice and easy visit with a nice selection of original and restored Puebloan ruins.
One big highlight was our camping spot by a big cliff overlooking canyons (ruins down there too!) and Sleeping Ute mountain.
We made a lot of changes to our camping rig this year. On these extended trips we do a mix of car camping (setting up camp adjacent to or a short walk from the car) and backpacking (one or more nights miles from the car in the back country). Last season (2018) we used mostly the same gear for both. We had some chairs and extra blankets that were car camping only, but that was mostly it. The photo above is from Bryce Canyon campground.
We love our Big Agnes backpacking tent. But it is small. And I’m not very flexible. It is good for sleeping but not much else. So with colder weather, or even warm weather with higher, dusty winds, we would retreat to the tent and just read and sleep.
We also exclusively cooked with our Jetboil, which is a great piece of technology but (at least our version) is mostly only good for boiling water. I remember making a Thai curry last year in stages that required we cook about 5 different segments independently.
We began to covet the neighboring RVs and trailers we saw while car camping. As we returned to Oregon in May after five weeks on the road we started to research trailers that would be both towable by our Subaru Crosstrek and fit in our garage. We notionally settled on a custom teardrop trailer made by a local shop near Portland. We started setting aside funds and were ready to consider putting an order in last fall.
I started to have second thoughts when researching hitch options by talking to local installers. My belief was that we should get electronic braking installed based on the areas we like to go (bad roads and steep hills). Julie and I discussed this concern and I mentioned that maybe we should just trade in our Crosstrek and getting a Forester. Julie’s eyes got wide and she countered with an alternate idea: maybe we should just upgrade our car camping rig. We are fans of low risk, low cost experiments so figured we could try it for the 2019 season.
Step one was to increase our carrying capacity on the Crosstrek. We installed a roof cage and bought a weatherproof carry bag. So far both work great.
Julie did most of the tent research. Our goal was to be able to fit two cots plus a small table inside. Both REI and Cabela’s had reasonable options, but we settled on the REI Kingdom 6 because the side walls were more vertical. Plus… Big bonus here… It has an optional garage that works as a storage and cooking area. We purchased two telescoping fly poles that allow us to open up one side of the garage with an awning.
The three photos above show different angles from inside the tent, with the final one showing our garage. We use an extra Tyvek ground cover we fashioned for long backpacking trip in New Mexico back in 2013. That stuff is durable.
We also picked up a single burner propane / butane stove which has worked very well, though the propane hose and regulator failed after about five uses so we’ve been using just butane ever since. We can actually make larger single pot dishes now, saving leftovers for a future night. You’ll also see in the photo above our upgrade cooler. I got an incredible deal on an Otter Box 45 L cooler for just $110 at REI. It just works. Also, use ice blocks not cubes.
The extra cargo space also allowed us to bring our Dutch oven and make goodies like you see above.
So, we still have the full backpacking rig which we used on Cedar Mesa and will use in about a week when we do five days in Grand Canyon. Sleeping on the ground is ok. But, we love our new gear and it has dramatically reduced our hotel stays compared last year. We strive for three consecutive nights with the car camping rig because setup and teardown take 90-120 minutes.
This is part 11 of my sailing in Greece series. You can find part 10 here.
Our July 4th started very early as we prepared for our 55nm journey to the island of Poros, by far our longest single day passage. We awoke at 5:30am to close hatches and cast off, though we all alternated napping and reading throughout the 7-8 hour journey.
Poros was a pleasant surprise with a notable contrast in architecture to the Cyclades islands. Here we found mostly red tiled roofs and it felt more Italian than Greek.
There is a vibrant marina scene here with many tavernas, markets, and gift shops along the harbor. The primary strip is on a narrow channel with the Peloponnese staring back at us about 200m away. The flat water with the tall wooded bluffs opposite reminded us of Keuka Lake. Greeting us upon arrival was Michael, a tall swarthy Greek that helps run the nearby Oasis Taverna. He immediately shared with us a Wifi access code as well as a plate of watermelon to cool us off. This is clearly a sales demand generation scheme for his business, but we applaud his gumption and generosity and suspect we may make a visit to the Oasis later.
The marina strip where we moored is at the bottom of a steep slope where you can climb up and over to experience a very different side of the island. Julie and I did just that in the afternoon and found ourselves at a beach resort where we rented two chairs and enjoyed a cold beverage. The swimming was quite nice.
While Julie and I were out hiking, our anchor came free and the rest of our crew helped Vassilis relocate our boat to a side mooring.
After some afternoon napping, Matthew and I sat down at the Oasis for a drink and a game of Lost Cities. Without the sun bearing down (it was hot earlier) this marina is delightfully cool and breezy. The whole crew then decided to take a pre-dinner hike up to the clock tower for a nice panorama view of the entire channel.
Dinner at the Oasis is above average and it was especially nice to have Vassilis join us. We are all slightly depressed as we know our adventure is nearly at an end.
The next morning we left Poros at about 8am to sail to Aigina, a resort town within a short distance of Athens so popular for Greeks. We anchored in the harbor and five us swam in about 300m and found some tide pools and cliffs.
The water was deep, clear and perfect for cliff jumping. We took turns leaping off the cliff then climbing back up for a repeat.
Above you can see a rare photo of me doing something interesting.
We had our last meal on our boat and got very creative in an attempt to finish off our leftovers. We made pasta with a variety of cheeses, Vassilis’ chicken dish, and being short on beer we got creative with whiskey cocktails.
In the photo above you can see the cabin that Julie and I share. It had an attached head that doubled as a shower (the whole toilet area doubled as the shower). Not really a living space but more than sufficient for sleeping and storing our gear.
After a two hour sail we were back in Alimos to “check out” with Alice. We had to return the boat full of fuel and had a fuel supplier try to swindle us by running the meter longer than they were actually filling our tanks. Fortunately Vassilis has a keen eye for this and called them on it, saving us some €.
I’ll conclude this Greek travel series in my next post with some summary information and tips on how to arrange an adventure like this.
This is part 10 of my sailing in Greece series. You can find part 9 here.
After a long but productive day exploring the treasures of Delos, we set sail from Mykonos for the adjacent island and small bay of Rineia. Here we taught our skipper the addictive social game Werewolf) and had quite a few laughs.
We arrived at the sleepy harbor town of Finikas, island of Syros, just before lunch the next day. Our plan was to re-provision and explore the town briefly. Finikas feels like a local Greek resort town, with many Greek families playing on the beach. There were two young boys playing “tennis” with paddles in a marked out court on the sand, even grunting emphatically with each serve.
We found two nice supermarkets and a bakery and we split up to explore in smaller groups. Business seemed slow at the row of tavernas along the beach – is this slow season for them? Perhaps if this is primarily where Greeks go this is a sign of the economic downturn there or maybe high season kicks in later in August.
Vassilis understandably suggested that we spend the night at Finikas, but we were eager to unwind our bad karma from our first night on the west side of Kythnos where just about everything that could break did. We had some serious anchor line un-fouling to do before leaving Finikas, but once underway it was a short two hour sail to Ag. Stefanou on the eastern side of Kythnos.
Two other boats are running lines onto shore to tie off on trees, but we stick to traditional anchoring though it takes two attempts to get our anchor to take.
Most of us decide to hang out on the boat for a while, but Andrew opted to swim to shore and explore. He took a stroll up the access road leading into the hills beyond our eventual dinner location, even finding a nice bottle of thyme-honey wine for later sharing as a reward for his adventurous spirit.
The panga actually worked for our journey to shore and in about 5 minutes we had explored the village. There was a single snack shop on the east end of the bay and a nicer taverna at the other end, about 100m off the beach (on the road Andrew hiked out of town). The meal was fantastic in presentation and taste. We had some Kythnos specialities such as fried cheese balls, Greek salad, spicy pork, lamb with lemon, and meatballs. A few of us finished the meal with a chilled grappa, a perfect end to another fantastic Greek island day. Oh, and the panga motor held up for our return ride to the boat.
Our next and final stop before returning to Athens will be Poros, an island unlike any we have visited so far in the Cyclades.