Career Break Month 2 Recap

September is always my favorite month to travel, and this year was obviously no exception! September was my first full month on the road, too! Last month I said I was looking forward to slowing down and that definitely did not happen! The most time I spent in any one place was 3 nights, but more often it was two nights and I had more one-nighters than I would have liked! I tried to cover a lot of ground, which I won’t be doing going forward!

Great Sand Dunes National Park

I started the month in Colorado with 3 nights of camping near Salida. Bailey and I took a day trip down to Great Sand Dunes National Park, and my friend Deborah joined me for a dayhike to Waterdog Lake near Salida.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Starting out for new (to me) territory, I moved on to Ouray, taking the long way through Pagosa Springs and Durango. Ouray may be my new favorite mountain town. I loved it!! We spent two nights at the KOA, and because of the heat, did a lot of scenic driving. I also took a Jeep tour, which was really fun. There were teeny tiny splashes of fall color and I can only imagine how spectacular it was a few weeks later. I loved the contrast of the Red Mountains and the other Rocky Mountains. (After 1 day, smoke blew in from the PNW fires and everything got a bit hazy)

Red Mountains

Downtown Ouray

Colorado West Jeep TourImogene Pass

After two nights in Ouray, I moved to a hotel in Grand Junction for one night so that I could visit the Black Canyon National Park and Colorado Monument. These are both really cool spots worth exploring, and Grand Junction (or Montrose) would make a good base for a few days.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Colorado National Monument

After Grand Junction, I moved on to Salt Lake City and spent 3 nights at a TownePlace Suites in Layton. SLC was a bit of a bust for me, in part due to poor planning. (I’m struggling with trying to be flexible but that backfires on me a bit as I get lazy if I don’t have a specific plan.) Aside from a short side trip to Park City and a quick drive through Antelope Island State Park, I spent most of my time taking advantage of the wifi and catching up on blogging and photo editing. Basically the same thing I did in Denver. So I need to avoid cities. Or hotels.

Antelope Island State Park

After hibernating in SLC for 3 days, I moved on to Bend, Oregon, where I camped at Tumalo State Park (no wifi) which forced me to get out and about to enjoy nature and stuff. I loved the campground and was super relaxed here, even if I did sneak a little wifi from parking lots! On my birthday, B and I hiked at Smith Rock State Park, and I had a marvelous birthday dinner at Currents restaurant at the Riverhouse hotel, which I will be writing about soon!

Smith Rock State Park

Birthday Dinner at Currents at the Riverhouse

The next day, I made a side trip (2 hours each way) to the Painted Hills National Monument. It’s a long drive for a day trip, but I’m glad I went as I don’t know when I’ll ever be in that area again!

Painted Hills - John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

From Bend, it was time to head south towards Crater Lake. Unfortunately, the fires were not 100% contained, so the views were hazy and the main roads through the park were closed. I visited the Rim Visitor’s area twice, but really want to return and stay at the lodge, which isn’t pet-friendly.

Crater Lake National Park

We spent 2 nights at the Klamath Falls KOA (terrible!) basically killing time until I was due in Medford for a hosted stay with the tourism board. The campground was swarming with midges, and in a sketchy neighborhood, but I had wifi in my tent so I basically hunkered down and tried to get more work done.

I spent two nights in Medford, exploring the dog-friendly options in town, which I’ll also be writing about soon! The highlight of my stay, though, was visiting Harry & David for a factory tour!

Harry & David Store in Medford

After 2 nights in Medford, it was time to take B to a kennel and get ready for my whitewater rafting trip on the Rogue River. I spent the night before the trip at the Grant’s Pass KOA, and met up with the group on Monday morning. We had 3 nights and 4 days that were cold and rainy. At one point, I had 7 tops and 4 bottoms on – basically, everything I owned! But we still had fun, and enjoyed lots of great scenery!

After the raft trip, I spent one night drying out at the Courtyard Inn in Medford, before springing B from doggy jail and heading to Northern California. I polled all the California folks on the raft trip and everyone recommended Lassen Volcanic National Park as a good midway stop on the way to Lake Tahoe. It was described to me as a mini-Yellowstone, which I think was pretty accurate (scenery-wise, minus the wildlife) There was even fresh snow to play in!

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Up next is Lake Tahoe, where we spent two nights at the Basecamp Hotel. I had no idea how large Lake Tahoe was, and it’s certainly a beautiful area! The overnight lows were already dipping below 30, though, so I’m glad I had a hotel room! On a hike along the lakeshore, we apparently just missed a bear feeding on salmon!

Basecamp Tahoe South

Now it was time to head south for the desert. I decided to take the long way and drive down the Sierra’s and through Death Valley National Park. Such a cool park that definitely deserves a special trip. I’ll definitely be back sometime, preferably for spring wildflower season.

Death Valley National Park

I reserved 1 night at the Holiday Inn Express in Pahrump, Nevada just on the East side of the park. After 1 night, I didn’t feel like leaving, so I decided to just stay another night and have a rest day. I actually even used the hotel pool! A first for this trip!

Next, I rolled into St George, Utah with no reservations and couldn’t find a campsite for two nights. Silly me. I didn’t feel like setting up my tent for just one night so we found an $89 room at the Crystal Inn. (Actually way better than I expected for that price!) This still left me with a Friday night before my cabin reservation at the Grand Canyon and St George is pretty pricey on the weekends, apparently. Like over $200 for a Holiday Inn Express! Our room at the Crystal Inn was jumping by $50 for Friday night so after much online searching, I decided to say screw it and booked at room at the Red Mountain Resort. I have been eyeing this place for years and always wanted to plan a visit, but 1 quick night would have to do for now. As long as I was there, I managed to squeeze in a pedicure and a yoga class, which all just left me wanting a longer stay. I’ll be back for sure!

I closed out the month near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but I’ll include that in my October recap!

Here’s my month in numbers:

  • Miles Driven: 4,614
  • States Visited: 7 (Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona)
  • National Parks Visited: 5 (Great Sand Dunes, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Crater Lake, Lassen Volcanic, Death Valley)
  • Hotel Nights: 14
    • Candlewood Suites, Grand Junction, CO (1)
    • TownPlace Suites, Layton, Utah (3)
    • Rogue Regency, Medford (2)
    • Courtyard Inn, Medford (1)
    • Basecamp Tahoe South (2)
    • Holiday Inn Express, Pahrump, NV (2)
    • Crystal Inn, St George, UT (1)
    • Red Mountain Resort, St George, UT (1)
    • Jacob Lake Inn, Grand Canyon, Arizona (1)
  • Tent Nights: 16
    • Heart of the Rockies Campground, Salida, CO (3)
    • Ouray KOA (2)
    • Tumalo State Park (3)
    • Klamath Falls KOA (2)
    • Grants Pass KOA (1)
    • Rogue River Trip (3)
    • Lassen KOA (2)
  • Expenses: $4757
    • Lodging: $1620 (way too many hotels!)
    • Gas: $487
    • Food: $451
    • Bailey: $339
    • Other: $1860 (this includes fun stuff like Jeep Tours and bills like cell phone, health insurance, etc)

In October, I swear I am implementing a 3-night minimum at each stop, and hopefully 5 nights at most stops. I had this vision of waking up each morning, going for a hike, working or reading through the heat of the day, another evening hike, etc and it’s not really working out that way because we’re moving too much! So, I guess you can say I haven’t found my groove yet. Maybe I need a job, lol!

My biggest plan for October is meeting my hometown girls in Albuquerque for the balloon festival, and then spending a couple of nights in Santa Fe before they all fly home. Aside from that, I think I’ll spend 2 weeks in the Flagstaff/Sedona area, 1 week in Southern New Mexico and 1 week in West Texas. (I’m hoping to spend the entire month of November in Tucson, maybe even in an apartment, but I need to get through October first)

How was your September?

For all of my pictures from September, click here!

Share This:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

Switzerland Hiking: The Walker’s Haute Route

The Walker’s Haute Route through Switzerland’s Alps

I can’t even say how many years the Walker’s Haute Route has been on my bucket list. My grandma loved Switzerland, so it’s always been a place of interest for me! The Chamonix to Zermatt Walker’s Haute Route is a 187 km trail through the Swiss Alps. After some research, I decided to use Utah-based Alpenwild to handle my travel arrangements, and they did a fantastic job with amazing attention to detail! While basically following their Walker’s Haute Route itinerary, I decided to make my own route, the Slacker’s Haute Route! I used a combination of hiking and transit options, because my mind is adventurous, but my body is lazy! (Even after a rigorous training program!) 

Haute Route Day -1 Arrival in Geneva

I flew in a day early so that I had room for any flight or luggage delays. All went well and I arrived in Geneva (via London) on Wednesday afternoon. I blew all of my IHG points to stay at the Intercontinental Geneva and I felt pretty fancy! However, I didn’t do much in Geneva besides rest. I did enjoy a nice sidewalk dinner and strolled along the lakefront where my vacation brain OK’d a $10 purchase of churros. This sweet tooth is strong, I tell ya! (Monopoly money gets me every time!)

Geneva

Haute Route Day 0 – Geneva to Chamonix

After sleeping too late, I was so hungry I *almost* paid the $45 for the breakfast buffet at my hotel. Yikes! Instead, I grabbed a $4 croissant and a coke from the gas station next door. I took a short stroll around the neighborhood, which included the United Nations, and then jumped on the city bus to the airport (free with a guest card you get from the hotel – these cards were pretty common throughout Switzerland)

United Nations, Geneva

At the airport, I checked in at the AlpyBus desk for my van shuttle to Chamonix. There were two other hikers for the 2 hour trip and I slept most of the way! Chamonix is a chic little ski town just over the French border. I stayed at the Hotel Gourmets Italy, which was super cute and my room had a small balcony overlooking the glacial river running through town. I strolled around, had a nice dinner and spend a lot of time re-packing my backpack and throwing out items at the last minute. Anything I don’t carry in my pack will be shuttled to meet me on Day 12 in Zermatt, for a mere $250! (Many people have their luggage shuttled each day, reducing the need to carry a large pack – I am not that smart. Or rich.)

Chamonix

Haute Route Day 1 – Chamonix to Trient

The forecast called for 100% chance of snow, and a high of 49 degrees for my first day of hiking. After breakfast at my hotel, I purchased some lunch supplies and caught the Chamonix bus (free with a hotel guess pass, 3 Euros without) to Le Tour. At Le Tour, I took the gondola ($28) up to the Col de Balme (2204 meters) At the top, it was cold and spitting snow, but I started hiking right away and I had the right clothes to keep me warm.

Every intersection is very well marked

After 3 hours of steep, muddy downhill hiking*, I arrived in the small village of Trient and my lodging for the evening, Hotel La Grand Ourse. I had a lovely private room with a great view of the pink chapel in town. The hotel is a combo hostel / hotel with some shared rooms and shared bathrooms. There is only wifi on the ground floor, and it frequently cuts out as guests congregate in the lobby and flood the network. Dinner was served at 7:00 and they did a nice job of grouping us by language. I had great dinner conversation with a family from England and a retired couple from Milwaukee who were on the “Deluxe Haute Route” also booked through Alpenwild.

Trient - view from my hotel room

*Hiking downhill doesn’t sound too bad, but this was the beginning of a toe problem that plagued me for the rest of my trip. Boots that fit just fine on flat land don’t allow room for toes on steep descents. I thought at one point I would lose my toenail, but 4 weeks later, it’s still just bruised.

Haute Route Day 2 – Trient to Champex-Lac

In keeping with my slacker schedule, today I planned to take the bus from Trient to Champex, as the hike is 16km with a steep hike out of the valley. The bus didn’t leave until 11:00 but I knew our Alpenwild rep would be transferring the Milwaukee couples luggage so I grabbed a ride with her instead! I also relinquished my laptop as I knew I should lighten my pack as much as possible. We arrived in Champex-Lac around 11 am and I checked into my room at the Hotel Splendide, a gorgeous property hanging off the valley wall. I now had the whole day ahead of me, so I purchased a tourist card from the hotel ($9) and walked through town to the chairlift and took that up high for phenomenal views all the way to Geneva Lake! Afterwards I strolled leisurely through town, enjoying ice cream while watching paddle boards, pedal boats and a RC-sailboat regatta. Dinner at the hotel was included and delicious, with a great view!

Day 4: Champex Lac, Hotel Splendide

Haute Route Day 3 – Champex-Lac to Verbier

After a rest day, I was ready to hike again. I started with a scenic breakfast at Hotel Splendide, and set out for another mostly downhill hike to Sembrancher. This path took me through lots of fields and farms, always with gorgeous mountain views. After about 3 hours of walking, I arrived in Sembrancher and luckily caught a train just departing for Le Chable. (There was much language confusion between the conductor and I, and I ended up not paying for this ride) From Le Chable, I hopped on the gondola to Verbier. (10CHF) In Verbier, I quickly found my hotel and after depositing my pack, set off to explore the town.

Walking from Champex to Sembrancher

Haute Route Day 4 – Verbier to Cabane de Louvie

This was the toughest day so far. I took the 8:30 chairlift to La Chaux and started my hike to the tune of cowbells. After quite a bit of climbing, and several chamois sightings, I reached the Col Termin at 1:30. Frankly, the uphill was a relief on my feet and my quads, although my lungs and calves were protesting a bit! From the Col, we could see Lac Louvie and had a choice of two descents – fast and steep, or slow and steady. I foolishly chose the fast and steep route, which took me over two hours due to the pain in my feet! Once the Cabane de Louvie came into view, I quickly hobbled my way up to the deck and ordered a Coke. I was shown to the sleeping quarters and purchased a 5CHF token for a 2-minute shower. (Worth it!)

Cabane de Louvie

Sleeping room at Cabane de Louvie

My only injury today? Tripping on the deck in my rush to get dinner!

Haute Route Day 5 – Cabane de Louvie to Arolla via Fionnay

This day is where I completely differentiated from my Alpenwild itinerary and incurred the expense of an additional hotel night. The itinerary called for a fairly long hike to Cabane de Prafleuri, followed by another strenuous hike to Arolla. I wasn’t feeling up to two more strenuous days, and the idea of staying in the same place for 2 nights was too tempting. Rather than continue on to Prafleuri, I hiked down to Fionnay, where I caught a bus to Le Chable, train to Martigny, train to Sion, bus to Les Hauderes and then a bus to Arolla. Whew!

Hotel du Glacier, Arolla

Fortunately, I got the international phone package for the first time and was able to call ahead to the Hotel de Glacier in Arolla to confirm I could arrive 1 night early. Unfortunately, this was the worst food of the trip and I had it all twice! 

Haute Route Day 6 – Arolla Rest Day

With no plans in this small mountain town, I enjoyed some downtime and basked in this amazing view from my balcony. I had a lot of great views, but this was one of the best! I also did some laundry and finally treated myself to a $20 cheeseburger. The summer festival in this valley was winding down, and it was the last night of daily entertainment on the stage right outside the hotel. We enjoyed a dance group from India before another bad dinner at the hotel.

Balcony at Arolla Hotel

Haute Route Day 7 – Arolla to Les Hauderes

In the itinerary, this day was mentioned as a good rest day since Les Hauderes is just down the hill from Arolla, and serviced by the PostBus 3 times a day. I didn’t really need another rest day, so I ended up walking as it was just 7km and downhill. Of course, it wasn’t without incident as I managed to roll my ankle somewhere along the way. I gimped into Les Hauderes and easily found Hotel Les Melezes. I loved my cozy room and was possibly the only person at the inn that night.

Hotel Les Melezes - Les Hauderes

Haute Route Day 8 – Les Hauderes to Grimentz

A tender ankle was all the excuse I needed to take the Slacker’s Route today! I really love how easy these options are in Switzerland. I caught the morning bus to Sion, where I took a train to Sierre and then a bus to Vissoie, and another bus to the ski town of Grimentz. The bus ride was harrowing, made all the more interesting by all of the school kids riding the bus home, complete with 7-year-old boys making farting noises in their armpits and giggling hysterically.

Day 10: Les Hauderes to Grimentz

Grimentz is described as a medieval village, and much of the history has been preserved, but it is also a ski village with plenty of modern amenities.

Haute Route Day 9 – Grimentz to Zinal

Today I strayed again from the itinerary, but I wouldn’t call it a rest day. Rather than hike from Grimentz to Zinal, I instead spent most of the day hiking around Lac Moiry, and then took a bus to Zinal. I missed out on some close-up glacier viewing and icefalls by doing this, but the photos I took at the lake were some of my favorites from the trip.

Haute Route Day 10 – Zinal to Gruben

Finally, a day where there are no shortcuts or public transit. The day called for a steep hike over the Col de la Forcletta, then a descent into Gruben, which is so remote it’s only open in the summer. I started early (8am) and quickly joined up with a group from Denver. Several guys in their 70’s joined by a few of their daughters who were about my age. They were a fun group and I was glad to have company for this tough day. As we neared the pass, I urged them to go on and I’d catch up, but they refused to leave me behind.

(The toughness of this day is obvious by the very few pics I took!)

Finally the pass! The fun was just beginning...

After clearing the pass (6 hours uphill!) we started our descent and arrived at Chalte Berg, a dairy farm at 8200′ elevation. After a rest, we started to leave and one of the Denver guys quickly fell very ill. Ultimately, they decided to call in a helicopter rescue. He turned out to have low blood pressure and was severely dehydrated, so fortunately it wasn’t life threatening, but serious and scary nonetheless. After spending at least an hour dealing with that situation, it was now approaching 5pm and we still had a good 2 hours of downhill hiking. Most of us set out for Gruben, while a few stayed back to see the helicopter off.

Hotel Schwarzhorn - Gruben

I arrived at Hotel Schwarzhorn just as the sun went down at 7pm. It was an 11 hour day. I took a hot shower and went straight to dinner, knowing if I so much as touched my bed, I’d never get up again! Throughout dinner, we received updates from the daughter of the man who was now in the hospital in Visp. As the group came up with a game plan for their hike, I knew I was done with my Haute Route.

Haute Route Day 11 – Gruben to Zermatt

I waved off the hearty Colorado folks as they set out for another tough hike the next morning. Meanwhile, I took a van to the chairlift which took me down to Turtmann, where I caught the train to Visp and another to Zermatt. I arrived at the Hotel La Ginabelle, eager to stay in the same place for 2 nights! I also had a spa treatment booked for the evening, and a gourmet 4-course dinner as part of my half-board package. I enjoyed a nice walk around Zermatt and spent some time researching my options for the following day.

ZermattView of Matterhorn from my hotel room balcony

Haute Route Day 12 – Zermatt

I spent the morning catching up on email and blog stuff, while enjoying the phenomenal Matterhorn view from my balcony. I decided to hike the “5 Lakes Walk” which offered several Matterhorn views. Of course, my “hike” involved a funicular to a chairlift, and then a bit of alpine hiking. I couldn’t take my eye off the Matterhorn, it’s just surreal to see it in person!

My first funicular - from Zermatt

Post Haute Route – Zurich

After two nights in Zermatt, it was time to head to Zurich for my flight home. After 12 hotels in 14 nights, I was pretty beat. When I arrived at the Movenpick Zurich Regensdorf, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere. Sorry, Zurich, maybe next time! After a quick night in Zurich, it was time to head home. But not without a 24-hour layover in Reykjavik, thanks to Iceland Air! You can read about the Iceland food tour I took here.

Haute Route Reflection

In hindsight, I wish I’d spent more time reviewing and customizing the itinerary that Alpenwild provided, and taking a more realistic approach to how much hiking I wanted to do. The public transit worked out really well and I enjoyed it, although had I planned it ahead of time, I think I would have saved some money with a SwissPass. By paying as I went, I undoubtedly spent more money than I needed to.

At some point, I realized this was the longest amount of time I’d ever spent in one country before, and that was incredible! I highly recommend this kind of trip to anyone interested in combining outdoor adventure travel with a unique cultural experience!

This post contains affiliate links for Amazon. Buying through these links will not cost you extra, but I will earn a small commission to keep this site running.

Haute Route Planning

The Bible of the Haute Route is Cicerone Press’s Trekking Chamonix to Zermatt: The Walker’s Haute Route by Kev Reynolds. This book was invaluable for planning and information. Down to the directions like “turn left at the water trough in town.” Start here and adjust your plan as needed.

Walker’s Haute Route Cost

My Alpenwild package included lodging and most breakfasts and dinners (called half-board or demi-pension) In total, I spent just over $5000 on this 18-day trip.

  • Alpenwild Trip Cost: $2884 (including 1 luggage transfer for $250)
  • Flights: $600 (I used American miles to get to Geneva)
  • Lodging: $380 (Arolla extra night + Reykjavik)
  • Transportation: $215
  • Food: $450
  • Souvenirs & Attractions: $525
Love hiking? Check out this 12-day trek through the Swiss Alps! #outdooradventure #hauteroute Click To Tweet

PIN IT:

Share This:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather