Category Archives: Travel

UK Walking Book — and a Pub Pint

I’ve always admired the way people on the other side of the pond manage to combine walking with other good things in life. In the Alpine countries, for instance, people walk along beautiful mountain walking paths from village to village, from valley to valley, or just down the road at whatever pace they choose. Some amble, some move with sporty speed. Somewhere along the way, they might stop at a mountain farm for fresh milk, rustic bread and farmstead cheese, or in a village afe or inn for a glass of wine, a mug of beer, a bowl of soup, a cup of coffee, or a sinful pastry — or some combination. Refreshed, the continue on their way.

The Brits also like to ramble or stride through the countryside, seeking sustenance here and there. A new book, Good Walk, Good Pub (South Lakes) by Meg Brady will lead you on the right paths. Priced at £11.99, this 136 page guide features 20 circular walks of different levels of challenge, each with a quality inn en route. It includes full-color maps, pictures and easy-to-follow directions. It is ideal, says Footstep Publishing, for “a walker who likes beer or a beer drinker who likes to walk. Check out UK bookstores or go to www.goodwalkgoodpub.co.uk.

Nordic Walking in Switzerland

My introduction to Nordic Walking came in Switzerland, in the mountain resort of Mürren where instruction and rental poles were available back in 2004. I’ve hiked in the Swiss Alps and skied in the Swiss Alps, and someday, I’d like to return for a Nordic Walking vacation in these magnificent mountains. And when it’s time to plan a trip, I know where I’ll start my research. The orderly Swiss have a Nordic Walking section on their incredibly informative website. It identifies nearly three dozen communities from Aegerital to Zuoz — and yes, also some mountain resort towns that you have actually heard of. All have excellent Nordic Walking trails and programs. The website also pinpoints Nordic Walking courses and hotels with Nordic Walking programs throughout the country.

Nordic Walking in the California Desert

Palm Springs and such nearby communities as Rancho Mirage have made their reputations from celebrities, golf, shopping and well-heeled retirees, snowbirds and people who just love living in a greened-up place in the middle of the California desert. Now, according a recent article in The Desert Sun, Nordic Walking has taken hold there too. Even as Colorado continues to wallow in white, walkable and hikable trails are bare in southern California, and summer’s searing temperatures have given way to benign winter weather.

According to the paper, Rose Kauffman, the area’s only certified Nordic Walking instructor, has been leading classes most Saturdays from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m., with an optional additional hour immediately following. The first hour is $10 for basic instruction and use of poles. The second hour, which she calls a “practice walk,” is also $10, with pole rentals $5 more. Ten dollars for the basics of a new activity is a pretty good deal by any measure.

When I look at the Sun’s photo (right), taken by Maggie Downs, of one of these classes, I am mindful of the contrast been walking with poles in winter there and walking with poles in winter here, where snowshoeing has become the pole-walking version of choice. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a winter critter and love the snow, but many people do prefer sun shining on naked ground instead of snow.

Kauffman is a personal trainer specializing in fitness for people over 55. In the class that the reporter visited, participants ranged in age from a 56-year-old “kid” to an 85-year-old, a senior by anyone’s measure. If you find yourself in the area this winter and want to connect with Kauffman or, through her, to other Nordic Walking enthusiasts, E-mail her at fiftyplusfit@aol.com or phone 760-340-5571.

The Trails of Park City

I was in Park City, Utah, last week, just before the mega-snowstorms, and I saw a few people walking on the town’s low-elevation recreation trails that by now are buried too deep to be walkable — snowshoeable or skiable, yes; but plain walkable, probably not for a while.

Still, I was impressed by the 350 miles of trails around this mountain resort town. In summer, some are shared with mountain bikers, while others are only for wheel-less activities. The Park City Trails Foundation, which masterminded the trail system, advocates effectively for it. Anyone heading for the greater Salt Lake City area needs to check out this exceptional system.

White Pine Touring, which runs the local cross-country center and grooms its ski trails, rents Nordic Walking poles and puts on Nordic Walking tours in summer. Their year-round retail store is at 1790 Bonanza Drive, so do check with them if you are visit and need gear or companionship.

Top Trails of Germany

I am often reminded of what newcomers we North Americans are to experiencing the joy of walking — not gonzo hiking, not high-mountain trekking, certainly not backpacking, but simply walking, with or without poles — through beautiful countryside. Many of us practically wear grooves in our favorite paths near our homes, the ones that we use to get some exercise and fresh air. Still, we don’t always think of walking away from home as part of our travel experiences. But in many European countries, taking long walks at a travel destination is a healthy and invigorating part of visiting and exploring new places. The Brits call it tramping, and the Germans refer to it as wandern.
The Top Trails of Germany present an example of a well developed, meticulously mapped and signed group of premier long-distance trails. An yes, they are clean and safe too. Any Nordic Walking enthusiast planning to visit Europe, especially with the Euro so strong against the ailing dollar, should check out this economical way of sightseeing — and working off all that beer, bratwurst and Black Forest Cake as well. You can do day hikes or multi-day outings, staying in lovely villages and inns along the way. You’ll also find benches — usually intact and not graffiti-ed — along the way, as well as scenic overlooks when there is a particularly enjoyable panorama. Some portions of the routes are a bit narrow for comfortable pole walking, but mostly, you can stride along as the Germans themselves do.

The Westweg through the Black Forest, most famous for its cuckoo clock-making, is a 260-kilometer north-south route that passes through only 12 villages. The rest is beautiful countryside. The six-stage, 111-kilometer Eselweg through the Spessart Forest, Germany’s largest contiguous forest area, is partly in the state of Hessen and partly in Bavaria, is mostly level and occupies consistent elevations between 400 and 500 meters — roughly 1,300 t0 1,750 feet above sea level. The 23-stage, 320-kilometer Rheinsteig (photo above) is newest, following the beautiful banks of the Rhine River past fabled castles, two wine-growing areas and storybook villages.
When you begin to plan your spring summer travels, consider experiencing Europe one step at a time rather than through the windows of a tour bus.

It’s Not Ideal Walking Weather…

…in Colorado right now, though I did go for my 7:00 a.m. daily two-miler with a neighbor. No NW poles this morning, though, because there was a nearly foot of snow on the sidewalks, and it was still coming down hard. With no ice under the snow, nothing underfoot was slick — just powder on top of concrete. Some people probably prefer poles under such conditions, but not I. In my world, Nordic Walking is a dry-ground activity. I’ll put baskets on my new Exels when I want to take them snowshoeing, but instead of being roused for this kind of in-town walk, the poles got to sleep in.

In a related issue regarding what kind of with-poles activity a Nordic Walking aficionado should be enthusiastic about, I was intrigued by a current flap at Nordic Walking News. British blogster and Nordic Walking instructor, David Downer, has organized a cross-country ski trip to Norway from the UK this February, and some of his readers seem to be wondering why.

He blogged, “Some people have asked me why I have started to promote ‘cross-country skiing’ on a ‘Nordic Walking’ website? The answer is that although until recently my own focus has been Nordic Walking, the fact of the matter is that Nordic Walking is just ‘one’ discipline under the bigger ‘umbrella’ of ‘Nordic Fitness’. Nordic Fitness includes: Nordic Blading (‘inline’ skating with poles), Nordic Hill Walking (or Nordic Off-Road Walking), Snowshoeing (with poles), Nordic Winter Walking and last but not least ‘Nordic Skiing’ (Cross-country skiing or XC-Skiing).”

He explained to his mystified and perhaps disgruntled Nordic Walking purists that there is logical cross-over between Nordic Walking and cross-country skiing. My first reaction was the the disconnect in that thinking, since the sport of Nordic Walking grew from a summer training program for cross-country ski racers in Scandinavia. In truth, the connection is tighter and more logical than the skeptics seem to realize.

If you have any interest in joining such a trip to Sjusjøen (right), go to http://www.nordicfitnessonline.com/blue/nordicskiing/nordicskiing.htm
and click on “Holiday Information,” “Holiday Terms & Conditions” and
“Holiday Booking Form.” XCUK, a British tour operator specializing in Nordic skiing and Nordic Walking trips, is handling the arrangements.

I don’t know anything about Sjusjøen, and in fact, I’ve never even been to Norway, but I am captivated by the picture of those neat tracks etched into the clean snow and see a group enjoying the frosty forest, and I hope Downer’s trip fills up.

Picturing Palm Trees

If winter has set in where you are, this might seem like fantasy island. I have no idea where this might be. It looks like ship port, or perhaps an airport, or…. can you identify the place?

I know it’s not where I live, which is Colorado’s Front Range, just slightly higher in elevation than Denver. But it’s a Nordic Walking fantasy that I don’t need to indulge in right now. With the exception of one snowfall last month at this elevation, it’s still shirtsleeve warm during the day –perfect Nordic Walking weather. But the mountains are blanketed with snow, early-season conditions are great, and it’s only a matter of time before we see snow here too. I love the snow and the cold (and the fact that my poles have snap-on baskets for snowshoeing) and perhaps you do too. Or perhaps you’re in a part of the contintinent where winter has settled in or where the rain has been relentless. If you need a little light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel spirit-lifter, take a look at this Exel photo (used here with permission) at a quartet of Nordic Walkers striding among the palms.