THE COOLER temperatures have brought back a memory for me that I can’t help but think about every time the cold moves in. When I was courting Mimi, I used to tell her stories about that crazy trip to northern India. We went on lots of hikes in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and a 110-mile loop around Banff and Canada. Mimi was definitely ready fitness wise to get into the 8,000 m club which is trekking in the mountains that reach above 20,000 feet above sea level. We knew the civil unrest in northern India would not allow for us to safely hike around that area. We looked into another way to get around the Mount Everest area. Nepal is the mountain kingdom that had less danger as far as bumping into civil unrest. We learned that there are some Maoist rebels who were causing a little trouble at some of the bor- der crossings in Nepal. We decided to go for it and stay away from those areas.
We had our three-year-old daughter Mia who loved spending time with her grand- mother and grandfather in the Ozarks. They were overjoyed at the idea of getting her for two weeks. They weren’t overjoyed that we were headed somewhere so foreign and the desolate area that we planned to trek. They were mainly not overjoyed that Mimi was about two months pregnant with Max. They knew when we got something in our heads there wasn’t much that could be done to stop us.
The flight to Kathmandu would take us to Bangkok and Hong Kong for a night. We had to think fast to spend one night in Hong Kong and get something out of it. We went out to get some Chinese food and took a ride on a beautiful boat with sails called a junk into the Hong Kong Harbor. From the sea the lights of Hong Kong were incredible, as you would expect from the city of seven million people. We enjoyed our brief stay there, but we were packed to be in the Himalaya not in a city, we were ready for the next morning's flight which would take us over China into Nepal.
I couldn’t stop looking down at the vastness of China. It went on for 10 hours. We would go an hour and suddenly in the middle of nowhere a small city could be seen squeezed between some mountains usually with water nearby. Then we fly another hour or so with no sign of humans. I daydream about what it must be like in those villages so cut off from the “progress” of the rest of the world. There is no telling what cultural and farming practices go on that must be thousands of years old. By the time we could see the beginnings of the foothills of the Himalaya it was still daylight. But now we were pretty jetlagged and lethargic.
The captain of the plane came over the intercom to tell the passengers that Mount Everest could be seen from the right side of the plane. I tried to wake up Mimi to come see. This is the closest we would ever get to Everest. We have no desire to get anywhere close to Mount Everest, but it is a sight to see. All of the passengers scrambled to get to the side of the plane the great mountain could get viewed from. I think the pilot must’ve had to compensate for the shift in weight. All but one person, Mimi, did not lift her head; she was so jetlagged. I still give her trouble for that. Whenever she’s running late, I’ll tell her if she hurries, she might get a second chance to see the tallest mountain on earth. We were close now.
WE MADE AN EASY landing in Kathmandu, gathered our backpacks, and mingled into the circus. When I say circus, I mean circus, but there were sounds and smells and sites that were mind blowing. Everywhere we looked was a double take sight such as a Hindu sage with painted face and robes and hair down below his knees, or a group of Buddhist monks play- ing instruments, monkeys were everywhere causing mischief, all of this against that azure blue January sky underlined with the snowcapped Himalaya.
We decided to go in January for a few reasons. The views are at the very best with the clear, crisp air. It rarely rains in January and once we get up high enough the ice would be ice which makes for better climbing. January is typically a good month for two nursery people to get away for a while since there's not much going on at the nursery. One of the reasons we chose to go in January was our plan A which was to find a helicopter that would take us into the Mustang region. Not many outsiders have made it into the untouched, untraveled Mustang so of course we had to try.
We had two days to get into the region or we would have to abandon plan A and go to Plan B which was a 110-mile loop around Annapurna 1 which is over 26,000 feet. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t plan to climb her, we would walk a circle around her staying in her shadow and only high enough to where we wouldn’t need supplemental oxygen. We only had so many days to complete the circuit so if the Mustang region plan didn’t work pretty quick, we’d have to get started on this trek.
We waited around the heli-pad at the airport the first day for enough people to make the flight, I think we needed eight people. There were five so far including us. We hoped three more people would show up the next day by noon or we would have to abandon that dream. Mimi and I and the three other people wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for the three empty seats, so we gave up and got our flight to Pokhara which is the starting point for many treks into the Himalaya. When we arrived in Pokhara, the news was all over that a heli- copter headed into the Mustang region that day got caught up in some serious winds and went down somewhere on the way. Looks like the other three people showed up after we gave up. We got lucky, those people's search for Shangri-La ended in the ultimate Shangri-La for eternity.
We would begin our trek in the morning. We had to find some camp fuel for cooking as those canisters are not allowed on flights. Pokhara is well equipped for any type of climb or adventure. The streets are full of discarded hiking gear for sale, left behind by travelers to their Sherpas after a trip was completed, gear they’d rather not fool with as they moved on to their next adventure. We found some cooking gas that night and found a good hot meal before resting up for the next day's upward adventure. We could barely sleep from our excitement and fear of the unknown.
Next week I will start right here at the trail heads into the great mountains with my pregnant wife who could still out hike me. From what I can tell in the international news Nepal didn’t fare very well during the pandemic in the congested cities but the people living in the gorgeous mountain villages didn’t get hit too badly as they mainly spend their days outside doing what it takes to survive and thrive at these high altitudes.
IT’S OFFICIALLY TIME for plans to come together in preparation for festivities around our house coming up for Christmas. We normally have 40 or so Martinsons on Christmas Eve and Mimi’s family comes in for two or three days to celebrate with us. The yard will be looking good with rye grass sprouted in all the right places and our hollies and pyracanthas cov- ered in red berries. The sasanquas are in full bloom near the front door and some pansies have been planted inside the fenced area.
The inside of the house already looks great from Mimi’s decorating and she’s already made it pretty far with gathering gifts for family, friends and employees. Thank goodness Mimi gets a lot of joy from carefully finding just the perfect gift for each individual on the list. I don’t know where she finds the time or the patience to give so much thoughtfulness. The minute I step foot into a shopping situation my eyes get red and I begin to grow fangs so I’m not the guy for that but I do love to watch our people open their gifts perfectly suited just for them.
Our kids will be coming home for Christmas to spend a little time off from their incredibly busy schedules to relax and have a little family time with us and all their cousins. We enjoy this time and spend time together doing things we only do once a year. It will offer an opportunity to thank my lucky stars for so many things includ- ing not getting on that helicopter that day.