Tag Archives: hiking

Exploring Sort, Catalonia (Spain)

Sort, Catalonia (Spain) was the site of the 2019 International Canoe Federation Freestyle Worldchampionships – the reason for our travels.

We arrived two weeks before the competition began to give Hunter ample time to acclimate to the area, the food, the timezone and the whitewater feature. Sort held the World Championships in 2004 and has built a great kayaking culture and legacy from that event.

Sort is the capital of the comarca of Pallars Sobirà, in the province of Lleida, Catalonia, in the country of Spain. It is located in the Pyrenees, sits at 692 metres above the sea, and the river Noguera Pallaresa runs through the region. It is a small traditional Catalan town where the shops close for siesta from 2 – 5pm every day, lunch is the significant meal of the day and very little is open on Sunday. It was a significant change from the hustle and bustle of Barcelona.

We stayed in the Hotel Pessets Apartments, which were a block away from the river feature. It was a popular place for competitors and the entire 4 floors of apartments units were filled with kayakers from end to end. It was like having one big sleepover with all your friends there for a week. Apartment doors were left open, people flowed naturally through the spaces and the little kids could be found gathered in the hallways playing games together. There was also a large pool in a wonderful courtyard that was well used, especially once the heat wave hit and temps were above 35c every day.

Hiking was available right out the door of the apartment building. Over a ten day period before the competition started I was able to fit in five long exploration hikes and a number of shorter walks around the area. The trails were similar to Italy where they are a combination of grass and rock trails, rock walled pathways and cobblestones. At times you are walking along a trail and pop out in a village in what feels like someone’s side yard. The vistas were outstanding and it was fun to experience a different style of life. I loved imagining people coming and going on these trails 100 years ago when they were trading routes before roads were built.

The other fun thing about Sort was the Tuesday farmers market. It happened on the street right outside our hotel, which was also right below our bedroom window. While the market didn’t actually open until 9, things started with garbage collection around 6 am and then the vendors starting to show up at 7:00 to set up. I would look out the window at 8:00 to see how close they were to set up so I could head out and pick up some fresh fruit since I had been up for 2 hours by then!

This was our first international competition and it was fun to meet so many new people and participate in all the events that surround the actual competition. Things got kicked off with an opening ceremonies and it was really neat to feel the pride of representing your country…

Canada was well recognized for our overall team spirit at the event – both the athletes and friends/family fans. We held a Canada Day party on July 1st and opened it up to others to join us, which was another way to really come together as a team and feel proud to be there.

Check out our next post to learn more about the actual competition…

Valley of Fire National Recreation Area

valley of fire landscape


After spending the night at a rest stop in Socorro, New Mexico we headed east on highway 380 towards Roswell. It was mid morning and we hadn’t had breakfast yet and needed a stop. Just around the corner we saw the sign for Valley of Fires National Recreation Area so we pulled in. What a pleasant surprise!!!

valley of fire fordo


It is a small campground and recreation area at the side of the Malpais Lava Flow. The boys enjoyed the flat asphalt with their skateboards and we took the time to do the interpretive trail as well.

Approximately 5,000 years ago, Little Black Peak erupted and flowed 44 miles into the Tularosa Basin, filling the basin with molten rock. The resulting lava flow is four to six miles wide, 160 feet thick and covers 125 square miles. The lava flow is considered to be one of the youngest lava flows in the continental United States.

From a distance, Valley of Fires appears as barren rock but when you walk through the nature trail there are many varieties of flowers, cactus, trees and bushes typical of the Chihuahuan desert. Animals include bats, roadrunners, quail, cottontails, mule deer, barberry sheep, and lizards. It’s also a virtual birdwatcher’s paradise with great horned owls, burrowing owls, turkey vultures, hawks, gnat catchers, cactus wrens, sparrows and golden eagles.

Canyoneering – Peekaboo & Spooky Slot Canyons, Escalante Utah

lee hunter in peekaboo


We came canyoneering in the Grande Escalante region 3 years ago and had the misfortune of arriving days after a major flood, which washed out a number of the key access roads. Top of our list that trip was the Peekaboo / Spooky canyons, which are a set of family friendly canyons that run parallel to each other.

We stopped into the National Park Visitor Centre and chatted with the local guide shop to get the scoop on the roads and the trails. While the road was not in great shape, everyone said it was passable so we decided we had to at least try.

peekaboo spooky canyon vista

The canyons are located 26 miles down Hole in the Rock road, a gravel washboard road that takes about an hour to drive. You then travel 1.5 miles on a true sand side road with washouts and gulleys throughout. Four wheel drive and high clearance are 2 important features to have in a vehicle in Utah. We had left the trailer at the campground so just had “Fordo” who performed extremely well under Tim’s careful driving. We knock on wood on a daily basis as Fordo is running better than he has in years!

Peekaboo and Spooky are full length canyons of their own right. The family friendly route is a 5 mile loop that starts at the trailhead, goes down into the valley, up Peekaboo about 1/3 of the way then exits out of the top of the canyon and goes cross country until you drop into Spooky and go down the bottom 1/3 of that canyon and then back to the trailhead. The guidebooks and people we spoke with all agreed that it was about a 3 hour hike.

tim hunter entrance to peekaboo


We successfully made it down the trail into the valley (following the cairns) and found the entrance to the canyon (no signs anywhere out here…). In order to access Peekaboo canyon, you have to make it up the 20 foot wall at the entrance. As always, we sent Tim up first and then used a rope belt to support Hunter and I up for safety.

lee hunter peekaboo slots


Once you make it over the wall you are immediately in a series of bowls and slots that are perfectly kid sized!  Lots of over and under and wind our way through as we made our way up to the exit point. Nothing but giggles and smiles all around – this was exactly what we had been hoping for and it made the 1 hour washboard drive well worth it!

We attempted to follow the cairns and footsteps out of Peekaboo Canyon and through the sand and slickrock to the Peekaboo drop in point. We, and another set of hikers, ended up at the top of a sandy wash that led down into a canyon so we had fun running down the sand and made our way through the canyon brush to a salt flat area. We could see some canyons to our left so we chose to check them out and ended up in some portion of the Spooky Canyon…

tim hunter spooky slots


These were full length SLOTS from floor to ceiling with many places so narrow that you had to carry your backpack vs wear it. We meandered our way up for about 20 minutes as the slots wound their way up the canyon and started to get tighter and tighter. Eventually we hit an end where even Hunter had trouble getting through so we decided to turn back to the salt flat.

lee spooky slots


We hit the salt flat at around the 2 1/2 hour mark. Walking past the flats there was a washed out area that ran perpendicular and you could go left or right. We got out the map and the trail instructions and neither mentioned a turn or trail junction, just “exit down through the bottom of Spooky Canyon to the trailhead”… I ran ahead and checked out the right hand turn and found it entering into a slot canyon about 1/2 mile down the wash. This didn’t seem to match any information so we chose to go left and followed it for about 30 minutes until it ended up in another slot canyon full of sucky mud. We had been told that Brimstone Canyon was full of sucky mud so we figured we must have gone the wrong direction and turned back. Mid way back to the other canyon, we found what looked like a fairly heavily used trail off to the left.

At this point we were at about 3 1/2 hours and Hunter was fading. We had said that we would rather climb back up the sand hill and go down Peekaboo than go cross country in the desert BUT between the look of the short cut and the look of Hunter, we decided to go for it (yet another Parental mistake ala the EPIC bike trail).

Needless to say, this path did not pop us out nicely at the trailhead. As always happens when you are going cross country, you swear that the trail will turn the correct direction right around the next corner, and it rarely does! We opted to climb out of the river valley and up onto the mesa so we could get a better view. At this point we could orient ourselves to the mountain range that ran parallel to the Hole in the Rock road and off we went in that direction. We eventually reached a point where we thought we could see the truck and camper off in the distance AND we could see the access road. Tim ran for the truck and Hunter and I continued cross country towards the access road.

We ended the day at a total of 5 hours (approx 8 miles) – happy but weary and proud of ourselves for getting ourselves “found” safely 🙂  We treated ourselves to cold beer and yummy pizza at Escalante Outfitters after making it an hour back down the road and stopping to wash all the dust off the truck. Another successful adventure!

Hog Spring Trail, Utah – In search of a waterfall…

lee hunter hog spring sign


After our 2 1/2 hour wandering at Leprechaun Canyon, we decided to check out swimming hole at Hog Spring Recreation Area. In the guide book it was written up as an easy 30 minute hike along a stream to a waterfall and swimming hole – perfect for Hunter’s tired legs and our sweaty selves…

lee hunter hog spring walk

The “quick hike” and the “easy trail” parts didn’t quite pan out – we were 2 1/2 hours round trip with alot of bush wacking and wrong turns through some beautiful scenery.

hunter wading hog spring water







hunter hog spring pour overWe also decided that the water was a little to green and cold to swim in! Oh well – it was a good idea 🙂

Back to the truck for a well needed late lunch and cool drinks for everyone.



Canyoneering at Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah

lee hunter bell canyon slot

After spending the afternoon at Goblin Valley State Park, we headed over to the  trailhead for Little Wild Canyon. Most of the crowds were gone and we found a quiet spot at the end of the overflow parking lot and set up camp for the night. With about an hour of sunshine left we enjoyed sitting outside in our chairs reading in the setting sun while Hunter played lego in the trailer. It was close to a full moon that evening and the skies were amazing to see – so clear with no lights around.

camper little wildhorse

Our original plan had been to have a slight sleep in and then hit the trails by around 10 am, thinking that it would be a 4 hour hike. Just past 9am, Tim announced that cars were starting to stream into the parking lot and that we needed to move up our timeline to avoid hiking with the masses. Turns out this was the equivalent of a “PD day” so all the kids were out of school for a long weekend…We managed to hit the trailhead by 9:30 and unfortunately this was about the same time as a group of 13 year old boyscouts, whom we leapfrogged the entire day.

Little Wild Horse Canyon is an in/out canyon that can be turned into an 8 mile loop when you match it up with a BLM trail section and then return on Bell Canyon. We boldly chose to do that, knowing we were pushing our limits with Hunter… with no where to go, and no time limit we thought “why not”???

lee hunter bell slot

Both Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyon are family friendly slot canyons, which means that you don’t need ropes to get around features and with a little creativity, you can make it up (or down) all the features on the trails. Hunter enjoyed putting his new “climbing” skills to good use and could often be convinced to not take the easy path.

little wild horse, utah

The BLM connector section was the hardest part of the trail as it was pure hiking with not alot of distractions. We played a number of games of 20 questions and then moved onto verbal games related to school work, managing to cover off Geography (Canadian Provinces & Capitals) AND the Human Body (bones & digestive system). It made the time go faster and we had lots of laughs 🙂

tim hunter lwh canyon 1

After all was said and done, we made it the full 8 miles. It took us 5 1/2 hours and Hunter was very tired by the end. We were so proud of him as there was little to no moaning or complaining and he kept his feet moving most of the time. Definitely the longest he has ever hiked – woo hoo! (the $100 we spent on hiking boots at MEC is sure paying off!).