Jebel Shams plus goodbye Oman

Jebel Shams coffee shop

I apologize in advance for the long post. I know its long but I just wanted to sum up the end of my trip to Oman in one more post. I am very glad I made the time to visit.


We start the morning with breakfast then a morning walk around the town of Nizwa. We learn the history of the town and we admire the architecture which is a mix of old abandoned buildings, some made of mud and such, and the nicely restored historic buildings.

We head to the souq and are given a tour of the different parts of the souq. We have free time to shop afterwards. I only buy a couple things but I do taste many different types of dates at the date souq. I eye the tahini making machine and a gentleman working the shop gives me a warm sample of the freshly made tahini. Being so very good I am tempted to buy a jar to take with me but I still have a couple weeks left for my travels so it is not a practical idea. I go into an air conditioned building with the upstairs “antique market”. I am disappointed because there are no antiques here, just junk I can get in the USA or other countries. I do enjoy a pistachio coffee from the shop upstairs though.

I ate camel

We stop at the home of a bee farmer where we are fed a nice home cooked meal. We actually get to try camel today. It is quite good, especially how it is seasoned with a beef like flavor. It’s funny how I will no longer ride animals like camels but I am still eating them. I keep saying one day I will break down and become a vegetarian – but today is not that day. We are also taught how to eat like an Omani – on the floor, with our right hand.

We are then served coffee, thyme tea with honey, more dates and fruit. I am very full after this meal. I try a date covered in tahini and sesame.

We head to town to visit his honey shop but only after having a nice nice nature walk.

Jebel Shams

We make our way to Jebel Shams where we are staying the night. This area is known for its Grand Canyon. Impressive on its own, it isn’t as big as the Grand Canyon in the USA, but still very nice to look at. We head from there to watch the sunset over some mountains. It is noticeably cooler here. In the evening a jacket is needed. I even stole the comforter to use off the other bed in my room to stay warm in the evening.

Lodging in Jebel Shams

After dinner most of us call it an early night.

The next morning we meet for a hike along the side of the canyon. We only go a small portion of the 7 km trail but it is nice and we see great views.

We then take a very rocky road down into a valley that tests the limits of our 4×4 automobiles. Amazing views appear around every corner. We eventually get to the bottom and visit another small town. We take a short walk around. This area is called Wadi Bani Awf.

We have bought another picnic lunch and head outside a nearby snake gorge to eat. We have a few minutes to explore the path before we leave. We don’t have too much time so we don’t go very far ahead. I have of course seen things like this before but it doesn’t make these canyons less fascinating to me. I wish we had more time here.

We head back to muscat where many of us say goodbye. Some of us have one last dinner. I make my final goodbyes and go back to prepare for my 2:00 AM pickup for the airport. I am off to another country. My last before returning to the USA soon.

I couldn’t resist a Zatar croissant at the airport

Bali really does hate me

Starting to slowly get my stamina back so I enjoy some things around town.

Hotel breakfast

I book a lovely massage at the spa across the street (and a hair treatment a couple days prior).

Found a pretty great local ice cream chain.

One of the things I failed to do my last visit due to being sick is the Campuhan Ridge Walk (Bukit Campuhan). It is a short path so I figure it would be something nice to do this morning prior to breakfast. After the short trail you end up in a quiet town. I walk by the spa someone recommend earlier in my travels. I want to visit but I probably won’t because it will be a little farther from my hotel than I desire. It is still early so not much in the town is open. I turn around and head back toward my hotel.

I try the pancakes for breakfast today.

I relax and later head back out for a burger since its what I am craving. I am enjoying being able to eat foods again.

My time of normalcy is short lived….

I am sick again. I thought because I was so ill a week prior and almost fully recovered that I had built some sort of immunity to Bali. I was wrong. Luckily it is not as bad as before but I am drained of energy and have little motivation and big fear of being too far from my hotel. This is supposed to be a relaxing place that everyone loves. Why am I always so miserable here?

Mount Batur

It is 1:30 in the morning and my alarm goes off. I went to bed early as I could ~ 9:00 PM but it is sure to not be enough sleep. I’m in such a deep sleep that I am not really registering what the alarm is for. I decide to blow off whatever plan I had because I am not ready to wake up. Luckily I only press snooze (three times total). Eventually I remember that I have a driver coming for me at 2:15 to take me to Mount Batur. I am to do a sunrise hike.

I get myself ready quickly, luckily everything laid out the night before. I am outside a minute early and my van is already there. There is one other sleepy guy inside. He’s had an even earlier pickup than I. I try to sleep on the hour or so ride, eventually doing so. Awakened by the arrival at a resort where we are given tea and wait to meet our guide. It is chilly but I refuse the large jacket they offer because I have my own and I rarely get cold.

It is still pitch black when we start walking up toward the summit. The guide and the much younger guy start ahead and it becomes apparent there is no way I can continue at the pace they are going. It is 5 minutes in and I am exhausted. They put me in the front to set the pace and I trek up for a little more and realize even though my stomach has almost fully recovered from my recent sickness, my body has not. I have an embarrassing lack of stamina. Eventually I tell the guide I am going back to the parking lot because I don’t want to ruin the morning for the other guy. The guide tells me if walk another 15 minutes there is a motorbike I can hire to take me the majority of the way. It is an embarrassing option but at least I don’t lose out on the entire sunrise experience.

I put on the helmet provided and then wrap my arms around him to hang on for my dear life. It is a 30 minute scary and bumpy ride in the dark, maneuvering around hikers. As scary as the ride is, I know I have made the correct choice. Today would not have worked out the way I wanted it to. On a good day I do well with self-paced or at least a companion who can deal with my pace (I always say I am slow but I will get there) but today there was no way I am getting to the top with those legs and body and definitely not with the defeatist attitude of feeling like holding up a healthy 20 something on their journey. This is another reminder I can never do group hikes. It is never a pleasant activity for me.

We stop along the way for a picture. It is still sort of dark out but you can make out the lake and the mountain in the distance.

My bike drops me off on the last point that bikes can go and from there I have to hike the rest. This is supposed to be the most challenging portion but short. There is a guide helping me and a couple other “bike people”. They keep telling me its ten minutes to the top. I NEVER believe the timing in foreign countries because it is almost never representative of the time it would take ME. I assume it could take me up to thirty minutes to climb and I am ok with that but I am being chaperoned and constantly asked if I am ok and hands given to me to help. Please let me take the journey at my pace, alone. I actually feel better climbing this portion because even though I am weak, this is the part of climbing that always gives me a bit of a rush: uneven rocky surfaces with a bit of scrambling. If I wasn’t annoyed by the constant attention I might actually like this part. My original guide catches up with me with the other guy and I join them again. We are going to the summit and the guide is going to cook us an egg in volcanic steam while we wait. There is another “just another 5 minutes to the top”, all lies of course. At the top I am warm from the hike up but it is noticeably cool. I am still wearing my short sleeves because I love the feeling. We still have an hour to wait for sunrise. I eventually put all my layers on too because it gets windy and we are just standing still at this point. We eat breakfast and it is becoming obvious that the previously clear morning is now very overcast with strong winds. We remain hopeful but as sunrise comes and passes we have no view of the mountain. A thick fog covers the sky. So disappointing, but it would be even more disappointing if I actually hiked the entire way.

The last part of the climb during the daytime

Our guide shows us the volcanic steam area and shortly after we start back down. As we drop in altitude the view becomes clearer and we actually get some good shots of the mountain.

Some artsy stuff

I meet back with my motorcycle because I decide a round-trip is a good idea. It is still a scary ride down but I also see people slipping and sliding on the trails as we pass them. Maybe I am smarter than I think.

I’m back quick so I rest in the car waiting for the tour guide and the other guy. Eventually they make it back and we head off to visit a coffee farm. The coffee farms are much smaller here. The talk about the Luwak coffee that I have heard mentioned before. Luwak coffee is a rare coffee that is made with beans that are from the poop of the Luwak (or a civet). Civets only eat the best coffee berries and then subsequently poop out the beans whole. They are cleaned up and roasted into an expensive coffee. They didn’t have the coffee to sample but they did have some to buy so I bought some to take home along with another tea and coffee. After my visit I read about the conditions that the Luwak are kept in and I am not happy. When the guide told me about the coffee though he told me that the beans here are collected from the wild so perhaps not all farms use terrible practices for harvesting this rare coffee? After our tour we are able to try a good number of coffee and tea combinations. This is a nice stop on the way back.

After I go back to my hotel I clean up and rest a little and head out to lunch nearby (remember we left at 2:15 am this morning so it is still early in the day). After lunch I am done for the day. I spend the day napping and relaxing by the pool.

Georgia Road Trip: Springer Mountain

It is early in the morning and I hear a drum beat outside my room. We must be expecting a great sunrise this morning. I go to the kitchen to get some coffee and walk down to the sunrise observation area.

The sunrise is amazing this morning. I feel very lucky. The lodge at Hike Inn is mostly quiet but some guests play Here Comes the Sun from their phone and the sunrise group sings along.

After sunrise it is time for breakfast. It is very filling and I am offered extra servings of bacon. I would never pass up extra bacon.

grits, bacon, eggs, peach spoonbread

I talk to the front desk staff about how long today’s hike should take. There are two dinner times scheduled this evening and I am assigned to the early one. I know I am a slow hiker so I ask if I can be moved to the later dinner. I never know how long a hike will take me and I want to be safe. Luckily they can move me.

I ordered a trail lunch yesterday and pick it up at the front desk while I get ready for my hike today ($8 three sandwich choices ~meat, veggie, peanut butter; plus trail mix, and a large cookie).

My cookie. I end up eating it later after my hike.

I start my hike today at 9:20 am. I am hoping that gives me enough time for the return trip.

The hike today is to Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, a 4.4-mile hike (8.8 miles round trip) from the Hike Inn.

The first part of the hike is mostly downhill which is nice but I am warned to save energy for this part on the return trip.

I reach a gap where there is an open area. I cross this area to continue my hike. It is here that I start the hike uphill. Luckily the climb is pretty gradual.

There are a couple springs where I can refill my water bottle with fresh water but my camelback is still 3/4 full and already heavy enough. Good to know that on a hot day there are options for refills.

I finally get to the top. I stop to take some pictures then sit down to enjoy my sandwich. I chat with other hikers.

Sandwich time

There are ladies from the lodge up here who brought their own wine in a water bottle. What a fun idea!

I try not to rest too long because I want to allow enough time to get back in time for my late dinner. While hiking back I meet a barefoot hiker from Florida. It takes a brave person to hike barefoot in the woods.

I love the fall colors and slightly barren trees.

The last couple miles on the way back is hard because there is about a mile of inclines to hike toward the end. I need to stop frequently.

I eventually arrive back at the inn. I am not as late as I anticipated. In fact, I could have made it in time for the early dinner. I decide to take advantage of this extra time and shower so I am cleaned up for dinner. I can go to sleep soon after eating. I am so tired I forget to photograph my dinner.

My body is sore so I proactively take pain relief so I get a good night sleep. I despise being woke up by aching muscles.

Next Morning

I do wake up a few times during the night but I otherwise am well rested. We are woken up for sunrise but it isn’t as lovely as the day before. Fortunately I scheduled two nights at the inn and had at least one full sunrise.

After sunrise I take one last look around the grounds.

Since I burned so many calories yesterday I am excited about breakfast this morning. No bacon today but I enjoy the sausage and biscuits and gravy. After breakfast I get ready to checkout.

After I pay my bill I sit at the front entrance tightening my shoes and such getting ready for hike back. There are a group of ladies getting ready to hike back to the parking lot “the long way” (all the way to Springer mountain and then to the parking lot for a total of about 12 miles). One in the group is not up for the long hike (nor would I be) and asks if she can walk back with me. Its been a long while since I’ve had a hiking companion. We have a nice hike back and talk about lots of different things. We make it back to the parking lot safe!

Never been so happy to see a sign that I have reached the parking lot. I have another smaller hike scheduled for later in the trip but for now I am heading to Helen to relax.

Georgia Road Trip: Hiking to Len Foote Inn

Amicalola Falls waterfall

I am checking out of the beautiful Limelight Inn and making a short stop at a waterfall before I start a 5 mile hike to an inn where I will spend the next two nights. While planning my trip to Georgia my aunt mentioned Springer Mountain as a multi-day hike. She has fond memories of hiking to this inn that can only be accessed by foot. The inn is also a starting point to hiking Springer Mountain, the start of the Appalachian trail in the south. The inn, Len Foote Hike Inn (named after Leonard E. Foote, a local conservationist), has limited capacity but luckily I am able to get a reservation for two nights. Most hike in for the day, stay one night, and hike out the next. I will stay for two nights so I can spend a complete day hiking to the summit of Springer Mountain. Some do this as very long hike to Springer Mountain to and from the parking lot but that is way too ambitious for me.

The check in for the hike is at the Visitors Center inside the Amicalola Falls State Park. They instruct hikers to start no later than 2:00 PM for the 5 mile hike to the inn. The check in deadline is to ensure all hikers arrive early enough for dinner and lodge check in. I plan start at about 11:00 am this morning after my visit to the Amicalola waterfall. Hopefully I have more than enough time, given how slow I am.

I stop at the first parking lot for viewing the waterfall. It is a short walk to the observation point. I notice a staircase to get different views for the waterfall. If I had more time I would go to different levels but I want to get my hike started. I take a couple photos and head back to my car.

Parking for the Hike Inn

There is limited parking nearby the trail. I’ve read I may have to park at the overflow lot at the nearby lodge. When I arrive at the turn the road for the parking lot it is blocked by service vehicles. I talk to the person at the parking entrance and tell them that I am trying to park for the hike (the same parking lot is used for viewing the waterfall from the top). They think the lot is full but let me in anyway. To my disapointment the lot is full. I park illegally for the time being and run over to use the nearby bathroom. I sit in my car and wait to think of what to do next. Luckily while I wait people return to their cars from viewing the waterfall and I am able secure a space right at the trailhead! This is where my car will live for the next 48 hours or so.

Parking lot for Hike Inn

I gather everything I think I might need for two nights into a smaller daypack and my hiking poles. I don’t want to carry extra weight but I kind of wish I had a bigger pack to bring more comforts with me. I’ve hiked the Inca Trail so two nights in semi-discomfort in a cabin should be a breeze to me at this point.

After the trail starts hikers have to cross a paved road which confuses some day hikers I run into. Eventually the trail splits in two: one heading to the Hike Inn (where I am going) and one heading directly to Springer Mountain (Blue trail, 7.3 miles one way). Some do the Springer mountain hike as an out and back day hike and some hike directly to Springer Mountain to start their Appalachian trail hike from the south.

The trail starts out relatively flat then is continuous inclines and declines. It can be quite tiring to an out of shape hiker. I stop along the way to rest and enjoy beautiful views. I feel blessed that I am able to enjoy fall foliage and have cooler air to hike in. I am warm but not overheated; I love hiking in this type of weather.

At one point I stop to watch the wind blow colorful leaves down all around me. It is magical.

I notice a skunk-like smell. I think some people are smoking pot on the trail. It isn’t until later that evening that I discover it is the plant called Galax that grows along the trail.

Most of the trail is flat but there are some rocky parts. There is a fun section with some bare trees that look like they are out of a horror movie. I am sure they look eerie at night.

I am also enjoying the signs that tell me how far I have gone. It is helpful to know when I should stop and take a break along the way.

Fun trees

I finally get to an area of flat paths at the last part of the trail. Wooden planks are elevated side by side to make a wooded trail. I assume this area must get wet at times. My legs are about to give up but I am just happy it is cool and flat here. I think I am getting close to the end.

Finally the trail leads me to the lodge where I am spending the next two nights. I catch my breath then head up the stairs to check in. My room is ready but my linens are not yet ready. The accommodations are minimal but they do provide bedding, towel, and wash cloth to use during your stay.

My room is a bunk bed room. I have the room to myself and no single supplement is required!

One of the main buildings houses individual odorless composting toilet stalls. Instructions say to only drop compostable items in the toilets and keep the lid closed when they are not in use. They are interesting to use since you feel air flowing below you; I almost thought it might suck me in. It is weird but you get used to it.

Nearby the toilets is a separate women’s and men’s washroom with sinks and two shower stalls. I thought it would be busy with only two showers but I really only had to wait once for a little bit for my shower opportunity. The water was warm which is nice.

I arrive early enough for the tour of the grounds at 5 pm. We learn the history of the lodge and all the efforts they put into reducing their carbon footprint – composting worms, reduced use of electricity and use of solar panels. There is no WIFI on site and although I could get a cell phone signal at the inn, they discourage phone and computer use.

Recreation room. During normal times this is full of games and books. They removed them temporarily due to covid.

Nice porch to read and waste the evening away.

view from the lodge
View of the lodge

There is a outdoor sitting area with a nice view of the range in the distance. It is a great place to watch the sunrise in the morning. If they expect a good sunrise, staff members will beat a drum gently to alert lodgers who want to see the sunrise.

They are all about conservation so you are encouraged to use the same mug for beverages during your stay. They have coffee, tea, water and juice available at all times. Food is only served at breakfast and dinner. You can plan for separate paid bag lunch ahead of time if you want something to take along for a day hike. Meals are typically served family style but due to covid they currently sit parties with only people they traveled with. I like my alone time but I need things like forced group activities to get me out of my shell. I guess for this trip I’ll do lots of reflection.

The food is plentiful and tasty. They are big fans of no waste so we are encouraged strongly to take seconds and even thirds. They even reuse some of the foods for the next day’s meals (i.e. extra ham is served at breakfast or as part of a lunch sandwich). Lets just say I did not go hungry during my entire stay.

After dinner it is pretty much almost dark (fall time). I go straight back to my room to unwind for the evening. Time to get rested up for my long hike tomorrow. I am doing the hike up to Springer Mountain.