LAZAROW WORLD HIKE-ABOUT
New Zealand: Along the Ben Lomond Trail.
'LAZAROW WORLD HIKE-ABOUT: WHAT IN THE WORLD IS HIKE-ABOUT?'
Hike-about is an adventure that commenced June 2010. After storing our household movables, ridding ourselves of a house but retaining our 'home' together, we set off with the purpose of hiking in different parts of the world, not forgetting the home country, the USA.
Our primary focus is hiking to mountain peaks but any challenging hike will do just fine. Extended stays enable us to enjoy and experience living in various places amongst differing cultures. Hike-about has evolved into a way of life. It's also a process of discovery, both the world and ourselves.
We work and live 'on the road' but return to the city in which our grandchildren reside, every couple of months. This provides us the wonderful opportunity to be with them as well as a child or two, even three and of course, friends.
By the end of 2022, the blog contained over 1,470 hikes, each a set of pictures with stories and anecdotes from the trails. An index to the right allows the viewer to identify earlier experiences.
Finally, we are often asked about the journey's end. Our reply, as accurate as we can state, is: "When we are either forced to cease through health issues or the enjoyment level no longer reaches our aspirations, we will hang up the boots."
"A Life Experience As No Other: Dare to Seize the Day Together", published by Fulton Books, depicts our life on the road and mountains until the beginning of 2017. It has developed 'exponentially' since then.
Jenni and Jeffrey Lazarow
Whereas we continue to update the blog regularly, we no longer circulate email notifications.
Friday, November 29, 2019
Taking the gap.
As we came over the ridge, the scene stunned us. We did not realize a lake existed as it had been under cloud and mist cover moments before.
Clouds dissipate for a moment.
...and then return just as quickly at Sinanishko Lake.
While walking down a steep slope in a forest on a wet day, having just put on our distinctive blue ponchos, I paused to think for a moment. Some might say: 'Nice change'. I suppose so.
What were we doing mid-afternoon on an early winter afternoon, off-trail, slippery underfoot, about to be rained upon and straining to find a reasonable path which would take us home. I mentioned this to Jen, one of those no-nonsense types, who make life a lot easier for themselves. She does not concern herself with things she cannot change. She has other issues. For example: Me.
Her reply was straight forward. "Are you enjoying yourself?"
"I'm loving it," I replied. Bear in mind we were stuck in our apartment until 2pm earlier that day while we waited for the rain to abate. The weather can be difficult at times. Whether it will deteriorate into the final weeks of our trip is anyone's guess but thus far we have been, relatively speaking, most fortunate.
"There you are," she answered, "what more could you wish."
Of course, she was correct again. I really find I'm quite well house-trained although Jenni would disagree. She's very 'argumentative' as is common knowledge.
However, what was on my mind was how frequently we find ourselves in risky or otherwise situations. Is it just us or is this common to others? Who knows? Truth be told, it provides a lot of adventure and excitement, a little anxiety at times, and real adrenaline highs. Overall, wouldn't change it for anything.
In addition, we find it creates opportunities to see so much more than the typical guidebook suggestions, especially in regions not well documented. We love being in Bulgaria, our second occasion within a year. However, outside the very popular attractions, the trails, paths or land are not signed particularly well. We can understand this as the country probably doesn't have the funds. It looks like a struggling nation fighting to cope with the changes and adapt to a modern world.
Sometimes, one will find a marker in red, then the next in blue and maybe a yellow thereafter. Should a person be on a supposedly red-marked trail, what do you do about the frequent color changes and the lack of the original color marker. Sometimes we just accept that someone must have been here (presence of a marker) so we are not completely lost—perhaps, just not on the path we commenced.
A big help are the cigarette butts. Most people seem to smoke in this region. Eastern Europe has a different attitude from some western countries, it seems. The upside is that when you don't see cigarettes on the 'track' or land, you know you are lost. By the way, maybe because it's the season, but outside the very well frequented parks, we have seen very few hikers--lots of butts but mostly, those not attached to humans.
The correction of dumb acts on the trails often brings about great rewards and sometimes, even a nice story. There's something special in recovering from a certain situation. Often, it creates opportunities that otherwise would not be available. Hopefully, 70 is less than three years away and so we should mature by then. On second thoughts, we welcome the seventies, but perhaps we can extend the immaturity a bit. Sometimes though, acting dumb has its upside. We hope it's only an 'act'.
Jen stands above the lake; she's on the right.
Various reflections at the first lake, Okoto.
Rocky lake: Where do the rocks end and the water surface begins?
A great shot of my old 'bag'. (This is a repeat photo which was lost after the deletion of the original posting.)
and a single husband. Is that an oxymoron (single husband) or is he just a moron or even an ox?
Unusual boulders and reflections.
Approaching the trailhead at the end of the day.
A day of surprises, the pleasant kinds.
Jenni and Jeffrey
Sunday, November 24, 2019
43.12 Bulgaria: Blezbog on a cloudy, foggy and interesting day: A steep climb through the forest plus a love affair with...a mountain.
Each pattern of weather brings its own perspective of nature. Jen returning down the second last ski slope having carelessly lost her skis.
'Haunting' in a sense but for us, special on the day.
We feel so fortunate regarding the weather in Eastern Europe over the period of our visit, certainly the latter month. Because we changed our plans by reducing our stay in the southern hemisphere, it meant that most of November, including September and October, would be on this continent. The last fifty days were spent in Bulgaria, a country we only read of very briefly in our youth. In the latter years, because of the vast changes of the ‘nineties’, we took a keener interest although more focused on some of the larger neighboring countries. A funny thing is that a day before departing Poland for Ukraine, we decided to skip over that country knowing full well we’d learn all about it during the ‘impeachment hearings’. Naturally, we forego all hiking activities during the hearings, preferring to absorb the ‘ball-by-ball’ excitement, together with advertisements. (Do they have adverts on the televised broadcasts?). Who would consider trying to reach spectacular peaks when there's more meaningful 'passitivities' to observe? ‘Okay, okay,’ you might retort, ‘you’ve made the point. Move forward.’
The weather, relatively speaking, has been superb. We have had quite a bit of rain during November but that’s to be expected. We had to remain indoors on about 4 occasions but we always tried to plan our hikes based upon forecasts so that by the arrival of rainy days, we would be exhausted. One period, we had 5 tough ones in a row followed by relief rain. It happened often, the exhausting part, and the weather forecasts were mostly accurate. We did get caught in rain a few times but that’s okay, too. It always reminds me of my Dad (I miss him so much; he died nearly thirty years ago). He would say to me on rainy days when I did not venture out.
“Butch,” he would begin, “the rain makes everything beautiful. Perhaps you should spend some time outside.”
It never got stale nor did the rain improve my looks. My father wasn’t a remarkable person by standards of measure that so many people use nowadays as we tend to deify ‘celebrities’, whatever the latter term means.
As I mentioned earlier, ‘I miss you, Dad.” I’d also like to add, “I know you wouldn’t do it unless I asked but Jenni and I would have loved to stand on Vihren Peak with you. In fact, anywhere on the planet would be equally fantastic.”
I understand the sentiment and emotion behind these feelings but as our son Gavin would typically say, “What can you do?”
Part of the Pirin range viewed from our balcony, as mentioned in the text below. Last month, we reached the two high peaks. This month: Looks like we'll observe.
Arguably, an amazing backpack on Kutelo Peak. Providing perspective to above photo.
We've found the forests in Bulgaria to be attractive and airy.
Color our world in hues of beauty. The slopes always seem 'gentle' to the lens of the camera. Obviously, the camera is carried rather than having to make the effort itself.
Tranquil scene with a hint of color hits the right spot.
So we are grateful for the weather being amenable, allowing us to discover and return to some old haunts in Bulgaria, hike frequently as well as explore the Rhodopes in some depth. The land is covered in hidden gems, the history, especially in the south, is mythical although there’s nothing fanciful about the trails. As one fellow at an information booth told us, ‘The trails are hard to find and many are not marked well.' Da! Fortunately, we found most we sought although maybe we’re sorry about that. Not really. Weather is such a vital aspect in what we do. We have a personal wish list: 'Please don’t let it snow while we’re out on the trails; secondly, try not to rain and a third preference, holdoff the heavy winds and gusts.' When we really act spoiled, we always hope there’s someone serving hot beverages on the peaks or close by them. The latter is our least granted request but one can wish, especially in Europe.
On our return to the apartment after the hike, the clouds lifted in places and some of the Pirin Mountains revealed themselves. We understand many will not get excited in seeing mountains. After all the world's covered in them, except for Florida. Anyway, they have a very powerful effect on us. I don't know how to express this feeling and thought without appearing to give the impression of being 'proud or haughty'. But here goes: When we see these amazing peaks (see earlier blog for another view from distance), there is a feeling of accomplishment knowing that we reached and stood at those amazing positions, some seeming impossible to reach. Now I've said it.
In closing, today's hike, took us to Bezbog above Dobrinishte, close to the town of Bansko, before we head to the capital to catch a plane next week. The weather was foggy, clouds were so low that the mountains appeared to have disappeared in our absence (we spent 11 days here during October), visibility poor, trails as usual, deserted, a little rain wet us and the upper path was covered in ice, the dangerous black type, too. The outward journey took us up 2,800 feet over a short distance, making it steep. We walked at times below the stationary ski lift, always appreciating the engineering accomplishments on the ski slopes throughout the world.
And yet, as always, despite the less than ideal weather, each day the world reveals its charm, beauty, mystery and variation to whomever wishes to observe and immerse themselves in such wonders. On our way down, after not seeing much, certainly little in the distance, we found a place to take brunch—the mid-ski lift station. A cat joined us, making a change from the many dogs we've befriended in this country, and ate and watched as the clouds enveloped our world. Yet, as we continued down, we had views that were so superb that on a day our cameras appeared superfluous, one became useful and busy. Each day is unique, each one of them presents both challenges and opportunities. The trick, we think, and which we struggle to accomplish, is not to waste the moments.
A scene in Bansko, facing part of the Pirin range. Fortunate to have sunshine, even for a short while.
The reverse scene (at the top) in great weather.
Absorbing the surroundings.
Always fascinated by Bezbog hut...on a day when the weather was good.
Day 4: A breakthrough: Visibility: A corner of the Pirin range, a (great) favorite climb and position.
Jenni and Jeffrey
'Remind me why (WE) love this mountain so much?'
To view the strange and funny sights at the top: That's why. (Kutelo, 2018.)
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
43.11 Bulgaria. One last day's fling in the Rhodopes: A hike, a vertical climb and reflections of life through water. It does not get better.
I've made the comment from time-to-time: Who likes a showoff? Of course, if I'm the showman, then that's obviously different. Here I was preparing for a 3rd climb on the rungs, via ferrata, steadying myself and arguing internally with my cautious, negative id(iot)—Be a man, Jeffrey...well, at least try. Stop shaking and get on with it. I had a feeling, this being the 3rd time over the last ten days of undertaking the vertical climb (on our way home from a formal hike), maybe I'm pushing my luck. Then I had a better thought: 'Cut out the superstitious nonsense'. In fact, there is an old Jewish concept that when a person does something for a 3rd time, it becomes a habit. (Unfortunately, it works on negative behavior as well. Got a few of those, too.)
Lo and behold, my photographer had not taken her position at the mound opposite the cliff. Instead, I found her climbing the rungs, upstaging me. Heck, what's the world coming to? Can't a fellah have a bit of time on his own to put on a show. Apparently, not. Fortunately, after she had finished her upstage routine, she beckoned me to take over and continue. Obviously (rightfully) miffed, I resumed my routine of preparing for this exciting climb by brushing my hair, straightening my clothes, dusting off where my trousers had scraped a rock earlier, put some of Jenni's blush on my cheeks and set off to the reach the top. I needed to show my beloved how a real showoff operates. There are times when Jenni, as courageous and daring as she is, should stand aside and allow a master showoff to perform. Thank you!
'Fortunately', we are departing this location and so we will be taking a break from the cliff. Unfortunately, we'll miss Pamporovo and the Rhodopes, including our apartment, more than we ever envisaged. I can't believe how enjoyable the stay was. Perhaps this comment will explain it more effectively. We booked an initial stay in Devin for 7 days and extended for another three. We arrived in Pamporovo for 8 days and ended staying seventeen.
We include a handful of photographs from a day that proved quite spectacular in the sense we experienced some incredible scenes and reached a few highs. Here are a handful:
Showoff in training, obviously has a long way to go. Step 1: She needs to get rid of that charming disposition on the rungs.
A revisit to Canyon of Waterfalls after heavy rains.
One of the Smolyan lakes.
In the preceding blog posting, we mentioned the number of positions from which we observed Snezhanka Tower in Pamporovo. We even got a reflection on this one.
We interrupt the beauty of Bulgaria to bring some harsh reality, the less attractive specimens of life.
'Life is very narrow bridge...and slippery, too...but the main thing is not to fear.'
A golden nugget and a hint of a prism.
On the waterfalls' hike but preparing to ask the 'boss' about returning to 'via ferrata' for one last treat.
'Okay, if you must, then take a bow'. ('I hate this ongoing mid-life crisis,' remarked Jen.)
A gentle scene to restore tranquility.
And the end of autumn is nigh, if not already passed.
The large town of Smolyan from one our positions. (The autumn colors are fading quickly.)
Jenni and Jeffrey
'Please don't fence me in.'
Sunday, November 17, 2019
We've observed Snezhanka Tower, perched at the peak, from at least 8 different places, including our apartment and as far away as fifteen miles or so.
Perspective is a wonderful concept. It applies in many different contexts. Today, we gained physical perspective as we hiked to a viewpoint some 1,300 feet above our commencement, from the apartment, to the Three Mountains view. Actually, it really is ranges rather than single mountains. From the viewpoint, we saw the local Rhodopes close to us, relatively speaking, although we were actually on one of the peaks forming part of that range—Snezhanka. The other two ranges in the distance, recently snow-covered, are Rila and Perin. It was a wow. What was particularly special is that we had stood on at least four of the peaks a couple of weeks back and could now gain perspective of how the mountain system fits together. Add in the fact that having climbed 3,300 feet each for Vihren and Kutelo, it made us feel really good to see them again, albeit from a new position.
It's very difficult to explain the feeling that one derives each time we return from a peak. Suffice to say, without applying too much science to the equation, we find, at least until the day following, one feels on a high after most reasonably challenging hikes. It's a satisfying feeling but fortunately dissipates quickly, pushing a person to seek and reach the next peak or challenge to try to maintain the upbeat feeling.
Within the hiking experience, there are a number of spinoffs, a few being: seeing different lands, people, facing the unknown, reaching the trailhead with the many obstacles presented, observing and dealing with the animals and birds, understanding the natural phenomena including the terrain, weather and other risks, sometimes the history of the region and country. Of course, there is the challenge of the hike/climb itself. And most important of all, is testing oneself against the elements; perhaps even greater, the internal test, dealing with the negative part of self.
The Rila Mountains, probably four hours by car, ten minutes by plane. The view is from Snezhanka Peak in the Rhodopes.
One of our favorite places, of anywhere, Pirin Mountains. Notice the 2 similar peaks, Vihren and Kutelo, and saddle, with the ridge to the right of the latter.
A few weeks ago, Jen reached the peak of Vihren (above picture, left peak). Behind her is Kutelo Peak and ridge.
Jen stands on peak of Kutelo. A week after the hike to Vihren, the snow had melted.... 😀. Apparently, in our absence, it has returned.
Jen begins the final climb of Kutelo. Vihren is behind with the saddle between. This last part is about 30-40 minutes.
A last look at the spectacular Kutelo ridge.
At the viewpoint, we look at Vihren and Kutelo and smile. ("Did I mention how much I love those two?")
On the way to Peak Orpheus, above town of Gela, we notice the tower again.
After forty minutes from our apartment and up 2 ski slopes, still a long way to go-3 more ski slopes. We thought we only had to reach the top of this slope. Ha! It's a good lesson in deceptive vision, Gary S.
On our return, through the village ahead and down to the tree-enclosed area on the left.
One more of what we consider a spectacular range, Pirin.
Jenni and Jeffrey
From our apartment. For the record, we are not living in those trees although one of us has been 'threatened' with it.
Unbeknown to me, Jen decides to hitch through the south-western exit of Bulgaria and slip in(to) Greece. (The sign has to be even older than Jen—it's not metric.)