Friday, June 28, 2019

Day 10: The hottest day of the year

March 10: We woke up to another beautiful morning. Clear, blue sky... but unusually warm. We had our normal breakfast at 7:00am and hit the trail at 8:00am.

The terrain today was mostly uphill. Not a steep uphill, though, just a steady and relentless climb upward made more difficult with the sandy terrain.

And the heat! It was starting to feel more like a traditional desert with each passing day. My little mini thermometer showed a high of 90 degrees Fahrenheit (about 32 Celsius), although I have to admit it didn't feel that hot to me. I didn't have a lot of confidence in the precision of my little thermometer (which I could only read to the nearest 5 degrees), but it was definitely the hottest temperature it had recorded on the trail so far and it was definitely the hottest day of the trail so far. Definitely in the 80s at the very least.

The scenery continued to surprise and delight us, however. Just beautiful. Maybe not Wadi Rum beautiful, but amazing in its own right.

Fortunately, it was a relatively short day of hiking, however, and we made it to camp relatively early in the afternoon so I lounged around in the shade of my tent and later in the common area to beat the heat. I wrote in my journal, read my Kindle and socialized with the other hikers. Nothing particularly noteworthy, but still fun.

After dinner, I headed into the hills to do my poop which was where the biggest adventure of the day occurred. Not the poop itself, but the batteries in my headlamp died halfway through the process. But I knew that was a possibility and came prepared with extra batteries, but I ended up fumbling one, dropping it in the dirt. And without a working light, I couldn't find it. Argh! I just want to poop! Why is everything so hard?!

I finished up my business in the dark and hoped it all worked out well despite not being able to see much of what I was doing. I could see the lights from camp in the distance and slowly walked back in the dark. Next time, I'd bring two lights with me when I went out in the dark: my headlamp and my black light. They were the only two lights I had.

The evening was warm, which was a nice change from the bitterly cold and nearly-freezing temperatures we had early in the hike, but that was the only perk to the otherwise miserably hot day.

Karolina was brushing her teeth when I shined my black light her on and woah! It looked a little scary! So I had her make her best monster face and took a photo of it. =)

To make sure we hadn't lost anyone, we would sometimes get in a giant circle and do a count of all the hikers. This circle... somehow got a little out of control!

Lama translates the story of this watering hole.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Day 9: A day of ups and downs

March 9: We had a relatively short 16 kilometer day today so returned to our usual 7:00am breakfast with an 8:00am departure. It was another beautiful day of hiking with clear, blue skies.

Eating breakfast in the morning!

Most of the day it seemed like we steadily but slowly rose in elevation, through colorful canyons. But we didn't follow the canyon bottom all day long. A few times, we'd climb out from it just to descend into another canyon which we'd follow a ways. I tried to keep visual sight of someone ahead of me as well because there were branches in the canyon and sometimes it wasn't entirely clear exactly which was the correct way to go. I knew if I really became stumped, I could always wait for the guide in the back to catch up and lead me the correct way so it was never a concern, but I didn't necessarily want to sit around waiting either.

The support crew, again, would not be able to come out and meet us during the day because there was nowhere that vehicles could access the trail until we reached camp at the end of the day, so once again I didn't bother picking up trash until after lunch.

But there really wasn't very much trash to pick up and when I reached camp, my trash bag wasn't even full.

At one point, we reached a sand dune and Karolina chose to roll down it which was popular with everyone who witnessed the event. I could tell others wanted to do the same, but nobody else did. Probably because they had packs on and didn't want to climb back up the sand dune to retrieve it. I volunteered to carry Karolina's down the dune to her so she didn't have to worry about that.

At the end of the day, ten hikers left our group. Seven of them were weekenders who had only hiked with us for the last two days and I didn't really know them very well, but three of them had been hikers who started the trail with us in Aqaba such as our resident photographer, Ali, and our new ambassador to Japan, Lina. Both of them would be returning again in a few days, but it was a little sad to see them go.

Speaking of weekends, the "weekend" in Jordan is Friday and Saturday, a fact that always confused and surprised me every time because I'd forget. So weekend hikers who joined us would arrived Thursday night or Friday morning then leave at the end of the day on Saturday. It's the weekend. For Muslims, Friday is a holy day. For Jewish people, it's Saturday. And for Christians, it's Sunday. Wouldn't it be awesome if we all come together and just celebrated a three-day weekend every week? =) Anyhow, with Jordan being a Muslim-dominated country, the weekend starts on Friday and ends on Saturday which was why all of the weekend hikers who came out were leaving today.

And thus ends another beautiful and relatively uneventful day on the Jordan Trail!

There were definitely a number of scenic sand dunes along the route!

Karolina rolls down a sand dune

Monday, June 24, 2019

Day 8: Slot Canyon Explorations

March 8: Today would be our longest day on the trail to date and to work around that, the time for breakfast was adjusted. The night before it was announced that breakfast would be served at 6:45am, 15 minutes earlier than usual, so I was taken by surprise when they started calling that breakfast was ready at 6:30. I didn't mind the earlier breakfast--the sooner we ate, the sooner we could hit the trail and start hiking! But it took me by surprise so I needed a few extra minutes to finish changing into my day's hiking clothes and get my scarf on.

The pile of luggage that would be transported ahead to our next campsite. (My bag is the yellow one in the back.)
After breakfast, a lunch table was set up where we threw everything we wanted into a paper sack. We were warned that there was nowhere during the day that the support crew could come out so everything we needed for lunch today we had to pack in.

From camp, we walked maybe a mile or so past a mosque seemingly in the middle of nowhere along with several donkeys before descending into a narrow canyon.

We'd follow the bottom of this narrow canyon the entire day--about 15 miles in all. It was a beautiful canyon, turning into slot canyons at places where sheer cliffs towered high above. I was glad there was no rain in the forecast nor had it rained recently because flash floods could certainly be an issue here. The evidence of them was everywhere we looked.

Gorgeous patterns showed in sections where the sandstone rock had been smoothed by erosion.

Karolina admires the beautiful patterns in the rock.

Overall, the day's hiking wasn't especially difficult. All downhill, but a barely perceptible downhill. The biggest difficulty, once again, was the sandy ground that grew tiring. There were a couple of small drops in the canyon bottom when the trail went over a rock and continued several feet down which required a bit of a scramble, but those sections never slowed us down more than a minute or so and I could count on one hand the number of scrambles that were required.

Deep in the canyon, we were in shade most of the day which provided a comfortable retreat from the burning sun and kept the air temperatures cool.

Late in the afternoon, we finally arrived in camp. We camped in the canyon itself where the canyon walls widened into rugged terrain on both sides. The support vehicles were able to drive up the sandy bottom from the other direction.

The slot canyons were amazing!

Today was the last day of hiking with our camel. He had other arrangements, I guess, and I was a little sad to see him go.

Although we covered a longer distance today than yesterday (24 km vs. 22km), I actually took more steps yesterday (39,500) than today (35,672). Several thousand more! I attributed that to all the trash I picked up yesterday, zigzagging through the desert to pick up items.

I picked up trash today as well, but was confined in the narrow canyon which prevented unnecessary zigzagging. And because I knew there would be no support vehicles meeting up with us along the way to take the trash bags, I didn't start picking up trash until late in the day. No reason to pick up trash early in the day, fill up my trash bags, then carry it all day without the ability to pick up more.

And! There wasn't as much trash to pick up in the first place. So I spent a lot less time picking up trash, and zigzagged around much less. I was pretty shocked at how many thousands of steps my picking up trash generated, though! It was the only reason I could think of for all the extra steps I took yesterday.

Today was also Thomas's birthday and the support crew brought out a birthday cake to celebrate. I hoped a lot of people on our trip would be having birthdays during the hike. It would be nice, I thought, if someone had a birthday every single evening of the trip! =)

After dark, I went out again to search for scorpions. I hunted around for nearly a half hour but came up empty-handed. The scorpions just weren't running around at the moment.

But all-in-all, a very satisfying day on the trail.

There were quite a few donkeys we passed near our campsite in the morning.

Here we're descending into the canyon that we'd be following for pretty much the entire day.

Such beautiful formations! Who knew there was so much beautiful scenery in Jordan?!

Today, Lina got to ride our camel for a bit. It was the last day we would have a camel hiking with us.