Hiking to Peguche Waterfall

Welcome to the first Wellness Weekend link-up in 2020! I hope the first eighteen days of January have gone well for everyone and you’ve got some time to warm up before tackling your New Year’s plans with gusto. I’ve posted the full list of Wellness Weekend link-up dates and optional prompts here for future reference.

Why Warm Up?

A warm-up is helpful at the beginning of a fitness session to get our mind and body ready for subsequent and more intense activities. In my previous post, I shared that one of my ten favourite experiences in Ecuador is hiking. The first hike that my sister and I did is an easy hike to Peguche waterfall near Otavalo. It’s our warm-up hike to prepare us for more strenuous hikes later on.

About Peguche Waterfall

Peguche waterfall is 5 minutes northwest of the city of Otavalo which is located 110 km north of Quito and 2530 meters above sea level. Peguche waterfall is a sacred place in the culture of the indigenous peoples of Otavalo.

I categorize this hike as Easy because the trail is flat and well-defined. The length of the trail is just right (about 3 km return). There are a few points of interest along the way, and the highlight is a beautiful waterfall. Otavalo’s spring-like climate in December also makes it ideal for hiking. So we headed to Peguche trail.

Welcome sign to Peguche waterfall

Once we entered the Peguche trail, we were surrounded by beautiful tall trees and lush green shrubs. The winding path was easy to walk on. Mosses and lichen covered the low rock walls that protect the trees from foot traffic.

Trail to Peguche waterfall

The trail is about 1.5 km long. It took us about twenty minutes to reach the bridge that faces the waterfall. Peguche waterfall is a beautiful waterfall of 18 m in height, formed by the river of the same name, which starts at Lake San Pablo. The lush green vegetation embraces the waterfall. The clouds moved in and out to give us some sun.

Peguche Waterfall

We stood on the bridge for a while to enjoy the views before walking up the paths along both sides of the falls to reach the Lookout platform (Mirador), and onto some big rocks to get closer to the waterfall. We could feel great volumes of mist from the powerful waterfall.

Peguche waterfall

The local people name Peguche waterfall Forest Protector (Bosque Protector), because all of the trees get their water from the waterfall’s mists and the downstream gushing water. On the night of the summer solstice, the waterfall becomes the privileged place for community ritual bath, as a first step to celebrate the Festival of the Sun (Inti Raymi).

Peguche waterfall downstream

As we walked along the trail, I could hear bird songs and spotted a number of plants with pretty flowers. There were also lots of ferns and orchid plants that cohabit with tall eucalyptus trees. The sun came out and everything glowed.

Peguche trail

Outside the Peguche trail, to the left is the Sun Dial (Inti Watana) site, also known as the Solar Calendar. The site includes a round adobe wall with a sun dial in the centre. People from different communities come together to offer their crops to the Sun god (Inti), and celebrate the summer solstice here.

Inti Watana in Peguche
Sun dial in Peguche

It was a nice short hike on a beautiful morning in Peguche. Altogether we did about 3 km return trip (about 2 miles). We learned something new about Peguche waterfall. The warm-up hike and nature gave me new energy. I looked forward to more hiking in Ecuador. Happy trails!

Trail from Peguche waterfall

Click here to join in the Wellness Weekend 2020 link-up and share your wellness-related post. As your host, I will read your blog and leave a comment 🙂

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

2019 Wrap-Up

Holiday greetings to you all from Natalie the Explorer! I took the above photo at the Winter Flower show where the poinsettias were bright and beautiful. Today I’m wrapping up 2019 and reflecting on the highlights of my year.

Highlights of 2019

Blogging
Health
  • I reached all my health goals as written here. I feel healthy and happy. Thankfully, my family members are in good health, too. I channel some of my positive energy and stamina into leisure activities and travels.
Leisure
  • Lots of enriching leisure activities! I keep track of the numbers which add up to 50 art exhibits seen, 62 books read (see the lists here and here), 48 concerts heard, 44 movies watched, and daily French and Spanish lessons done on Duolingo. I’ve also enjoyed taking photos and I’ve shared some of them on my blog.
Travel
  • Lots of travels in Canada and abroad! Some trips were with my family, some were to visit family and friends, and some were solo adventures. I wrote about them on my blog so feel free to check out my Travel page. All of them are amazing destinations to explore.
  • I marveled again and again at Canada’s beauty during my family trips to Kingston, Regina, Sault Ste. Marie, and solo trip to Vancouver Island.
  • My sister and I took two trips together. We had a fantastic time exploring Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovenia in March and Ecuador in December.
  • I enjoyed visiting my cousins and met up with one of my longtime friends in June in Germany. We did sightseeing in and around Munich, visited the beautiful Heidelberg Castle, and took a day trip to Salzburg, Austria.
  • I traveled solo to Guatemala in January, Malta in June, and Vancouver Island, BC in September. At each destination, I met new friends, saw beautiful sights, and learned something new.

So those are my 2019 highlights. I’m thankful for an incredible year with good health, many enriching cultural experiences, fun travel adventures, and happy times with my family and friends.

I’m looking forward to a new year just as amazing as this year and continuing my blogging connections with you all. Wishing you good health, joy, and peace in 2020!

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Reviewing Health Goals: What Went Well?

At the beginning of 2019, my overall plan for the year is to create nice memories with my family and friends, to stay healthy, and to enjoy life. I have nineteen specific goals and group them in three categories: Family & Friends (five goals), Health (six goals), and Leisure (eight goals).

We’re now in the second week of December. I’m gently wrapping up the year 2019, starting with a review of my six Health goals in this post. They were on my Blogger blog so I’m copying them over in a table format and adding my results next to each goal.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Health Goals in 2019

GoalResults
Meditate 15 minutes dailyDone daily. Meditation clears my mind and sets a positive tone for the day.
Find humour to smile or laugh dailyDone daily. 2019 has been an amazing year for me and I find it easy to smile or laugh.
Walk 6x/ week, 45 minutes each timeDone and some more. I continue to live a car-free lifestyle. I’ve been walking longer distance in the Fall.
Strength workouts 3x/ week, 1 hour each timeDone consistently. I feel fit and healthy. The exercises improve my balance, focus, stamina, and strength.
Yoga 2x/ week, 1 hour each timeDone consistently. My body is flexible and I can do a range of motions without pain or difficulty. The deep breathing practice helps me sleep well.
Swim 1x/ week, 1 hourDone consistently. Swimming relaxes me and builds endurance at the same time.

What Went Well?

Photo by Ryan Baker on Pexels.com

I’m committed to maintaining good health and as such I’ve designed my health routine to suit me. Here’s what went well:

1) Enjoyment: I choose activities that I like and that I can do year-round. This increases the chance that I look forward to doing them, and I can do them regularly without any significant gap.

2) Variety: I have six activities and goals for each. I do a different set of activities each day and make changes to keep the routine fresh and engaging. My yoga instructor also delivers a unique class every time.

3) A mix of structure and flexibility: The structured activities are my yoga class which is on Tuesday and Thursday, from 9 to 10 AM. The remaining activities are on my own time although I usually complete them in the morning.

4) A mix of group and solo activities: In my yoga class, we have anywhere from 12 to 22 participants in each class. My other health activities are solo although I do work out in the gym with one of my friends every few weeks and I do see other people in the gym and at the pool.

5) Self-care time: Some of my walks are with my family or friends. The rest of my health activities are by myself (gym, meditate, swim, walk) or in a class (yoga) so I have that time just for me.

Where does all this lead?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Life Quality: I’d say my life quality is excellent this year. I’ve enjoyed several health activities, a variety of leisure pursuits, and frequent travels. I’ve made new friends from my yoga class, as well as through blogging, and travelling.

Gratitude: I’m very thankful for having my good health. It enables me to enjoy life with my family and friends. I can be of help to them when needed.

My thank-you to everyone who has participated and/ or supported the Wellness Wednesday link-up with your comments. I also want to thank Leslie for joining me on this journey and for setting up the monthly link-up codes.

Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

What went well health-wise in 2019 for you? Would you do anything differently in the New Year? I’d love to hear your comments.

Click here to join in the last Wellness Wednesday link-up of 2019. I look forward to continuing our blogging connections with you all.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

7 Tidbits about Chrysanthemums

As soon as November starts, the temperatures dip where I live. This means part of my regular walks is done indoor and I intentionally look for colours, the brighter the better.

One recent walk is to see the indoor Chrysanthemum Show at Toronto’s Allan Gardens. The gardeners do a fantastic job of putting on wonderful displays of a wide variety of chrysanthemums. I love the beautiful flowers and learn several fun tidbits about them.

7 Fun Tidbits about Chrysanthemums

1) Popularity: Chrysanthemum flower is one of the most popular flower in the world, 2nd place to be exact, next only to Rose.

Red chrysanthemums

2) Special Status: Chrysanthemums are the November birth flower, the 13th wedding anniversary flower, and the official flower of the city of Chicago. Japan also has a National Chrysanthemum Day, which is called the Festival of Happiness.

Pink and yellow chrysanthemums

3) Name and Location Origins: The name “chrysanthemum” is derived from the Greek words chrysos (gold) and anthemon (flower). Chrysanthemums are tropical flowers. They are native to Asia and northeastern Europe.

Basket display of chrysanthemums

4) Sizes, Shapes, Colours, and Varieties: Chrysanthemum stem can reach 5 to 15 centimeters (2 to 6 inches) in height. Flower can have 1 to 25 centimeters (0.4 to 10 inches) in diameter. Other than its traditional yellow colour, there are also other colours such as purple, lavender, pink, burgundy, bronze, white and red. There are 40 wild species of chrysanthemum and thousands of varieties created via selective breeding.

Gold and yellow chrysanthemums

5) Cultural Meanings: Chrysanthemum flowers have different meanings in different cultures. For instance, in Asia, Chrysanthemum is a symbol of friendship, luck, joy, optimism, and happiness. While in Europe, white Chrysanthemum is associated with funerals.

White chrysanthemums

6) A Good Indoor Houseplant: Chrysanthemum flowers contain a chemical called pyrethrum which is a natural bug repellent. These blooms also remove toxins from the air and are thus considered a good indoor houseplant as well.

Mums at Lena and the Swan pond

7) A Great Landscaping Plant: As a landscaping plant, the chrysanthemum makes a beautiful Fall display for the home garden. Chrysanthemums can dominate a growing area with the many varied shapes, sizes, and colors. I’m totally convinced when I see the display below.

Peacock-shaped display of chrysanthemums

I think chrysanthemums provide an outstanding climax to the season before the colds of winter arrive. I enjoy a wonderful walk to Allan Gardens. The greenery and flowers in the garden pavilions brighten my day.

How well do you know about chrysanthemums? Is any of the above tidbits new to you?

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Agawa Canyon: From Rail to Trail

After enjoying a nice family hike along the Attikamek Trail in Sault Ste. Marie, the next day we took a rail excursion from Sault Ste. Marie to Agawa Canyon Park. Agawa Canyon has been on our list of destinations to visit for a while. We were so glad to make it happen.

Getting There

The Agawa Canyon Park is only accessible by hiking trail or the Algoma Central Railway, and is located 186 km or 114 rail miles north west of Sault Ste. Marie. We take the Agawa Canyon tour train that departs from Sault Ste. Marie at 8 am and arrives back in Sault Ste. Marie around 6 pm.

Agawa Canyon Park location
Agawa Canyon Park location (red marker)

About Agawa Canyon

Agawa Canyon was created more than 1.2 billion years ago by faulting along the Canadian Shield. A series of ice ages subsequently widened and reshaped the Canyon over a period of 1.5 million years with the last ice age retreating about 10,000 years ago. The word Agawa is native Ojibway for “shelter”.

The Sault Ste. Marie visitor guide provides a map of three nature trails in the Agawa Canyon Park. They are the Lookout Trail, River Trail, and Talus Trail. We hike the River Trail and the Talus Trail for the three waterfalls in the park. The Lookout Trail is closed on the day of our visit. The trails are well maintained and are covered in fine gravel.

The Train Ride

Rarely is the journey as rewarding as the destination, but the Agawa Canyon train ride is truly an exception. The train is outfitted with large tinted windows and comfortable seats to watch the ever-changing and breathtaking Northern Ontario landscapes. The train ticket includes a $10 voucher that we can use for food and drinks in the dining car.

Spruce Lake
Spruce Lake

We drink in the beautiful scenery as the train hugs the shores of northern lakes and rivers, crosses towering trestles, and passes by mixed forests that turn red, purple, gold and yellow in the fall.

Autumn foliage
Autumn foliage towards Lake Superior

We also listen to a GPS-triggered audio commentary about key points of interest and the rich history of the region. When we can peel our eyes away from the window, the train has locomotive-mounted cameras that provide an engineer’s “eye-view” via flat screen monitors installed throughout the coaches.

A view from our window on the Agawa Canyon train
A view from our window on the Agawa Canyon train

The Weather

The weather changes frequently during our train ride, from overcast, to partly cloudy, to light snow flurries at high elevation, to partly sunny as the train starts its descent into the canyon at Mile 102 and full sunshine by the time we reach the canyon floor at Mile 114.

Light dusting of snow
Light dusting of snow at high elevation
Train arrival at Agawa Canyon Park
Full sunshine upon train arrival at Agawa Canyon Park

The River Trail

Upon arriving at the Agawa Canyon Park, we start our hike on the River Trail which gently rolls along the banks of the Agawa River. The strong sunlight quickly melts the thin layer of snow. The trail glows and smells fresh as if it just received a spa treatment.

Autumn colours by the Agawa River
Autumn colours by the Agawa River

We walk about twenty minutes, enjoy the trail and the vibrant autumn colours along the river before reaching the beautiful Bridal Veils Falls, the tallest waterfall in the park.

View along the River Trail
View along the River Trail

We see many white birch trees with their golden leaves and mountain ash trees with their red fruits that accentuate the landscape.

Mountain ash
Mountain ash

The water flow at all the falls in the canyon is contingent on runoff from snow and rainfall. We luck out that Bridal Veil Falls at 68.5m (225 ft.) are running strong. The Agawa River is the calm and reflective barrier that holds us back from getting closer to the falls.

Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls at 68.5 m (225 ft)

The Talus Trail

From the River Trail, we walk about fifteen minutes to reach the Talus Trail which follows along the base of the west canyon wall. This trail leads us past lichen covered talus slopes to the viewing platforms at North and South Black Beaver Falls.

The Talus Trail
The Talus Trail

We can hear the rushing sounds of water before reaching the viewing platforms. Black Beaver Falls at 53.3 m (175 ft) are also running strong and look so beautiful with the surrounding autumn foliage. We respect the Caution sign to keep off the rocks.

North Black Beaver Falls
North Black Beaver Falls
South Black Beaver Falls
South Black Beaver Falls

Clouds roll in and out while we pass bridges, creeks and waterfalls to return to the train. Altogether we walk 5 km and enjoy every minute of the hike in Agawa Canyon Park.

On our way back to Sault Ste. Marie, we get to see the spectacular landscapes again from our train windows. Everyone is wide-eyed to take in as much as possible the pristine beauty of Canada’s rugged wilderness.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Hiking the Attikamek Trail

I’m co-hosting the Wellness Wednesday November 13th link up with my blogger friend, Leslie. The optional prompt is Healthy Holidays so in this post I’m sharing a hike that my family and I did during our mini-vacation in Sault Ste. Marie, a city on the shore of the St Marys River connecting Lake Huron and Lake Superior.

Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario (green marker)

About the Attikamek Trail

The Attikamek Trail is located at the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site of Canada, easily reached from the city centre. It’s 2.2 km long (1.4 miles) on flat terrain. Attikamek means white fish.

Hiking the Attikamek Trail

We started from the Sault Ste. Marie Canal gate, crossed the lock, and followed an accessible pathway onto south St. Marys Island. The weather was overcast, cool, and calm without any wind so it felt quite comfortable for an outdoor hike.

Looking towards the International Bridge
The Attikamek trail is on the left in this photo.

We soon entered the packed gravel trail path, surrounded by autumn foliage, from green to various shades of yellow and red. Part of the trail let us walk under the International Bridge, built in 1962.

Attikamek Trail

The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge spans the St. Marys River between the United States and Canada, connecting the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie

We stopped by St. Marys Rapids to listen to the sounds of the water and watched a few dedicated fishermen patiently waiting for a good catch. The packed gravel and leaf-laden trail then turned into a wide wooden boardwalk with lovely views on both sides.

Boardwalk

A flock of small birds happily greeted us at the boardwalk. They had light yellow and some black feathers. I think they’re warblers. Can you see a bird blended in with the berries in the centre of the photo below?

We enjoyed the calm reflection of autumn foliage, woods, and wetlands in the river. A family of ducks lazily swam along while other ducks were just watching us.

Autumn reflections
Ducks

Further along the trail, we found a few beaver dams but no beaver in sight since they usually work at night. What looks like a heap of branches is protection against their predators and gives them access to food during winter.

A beaver dam
A beaver dam

At the end of the Attikamek trail we reached the Sault Ste. Marie lock and walked around to examine how it works. The lock operation to raise or lower vessels that go from Lake Huron to Lake Superior is fascinating and deserves a separate blog post.

Looking towards the Locks
The lock is behind the white bridge at the end of the photo.

It was a nice short hike on a calm afternoon in Sault Ste. Marie. Altogether we walked about 3 km (1.8 miles) and experienced the wonder of quiet woods and wetlands. Happy trails!

Click here to join the Wellness Wednesday link-up and share your health goal updates or healthy holiday ideas.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Hiking the Tonquin Trail

One afternoon during my stay in Tofino, a solo traveller named Anna from Chicago, approached me to ask if I knew of any nearby hiking trail. It so happened that I was heading out to explore the Tonquin Trail myself so we went together.

From Tofino village centre, we followed the sign to the Tonquin Trail Connector, and walked about 1.2 km before reaching the Tonquin Trail trailhead. We passed by old growth forest, a small wetland, and a few small creeks.

Tonquin Trail Network

Once we entered the Tonquin Trail, we were surrounded with beautiful tall trees and shrubs. It was September and after the recent rainfall, the forest was lush, looking fresh, and smelling fresh. The trail path was sand mixed with gravel, fairly easy to walk on.

Tonquin Trail outbound

Amid the greenery, I spotted some Canadian bunchberry plants, native to this part of Canada. Their bright red fruits are edible to humans.

The Tonquin Trail is about 1.2 km long. It took us about twenty minutes to reach the wooden staircase that leads to Tonquin Beach. We could hear the soft sounds of the ocean before reaching the end of the staircase.

A wide sandy beach with islands in the horizon greeted us. The expansive views were incredible. The sea water was shimmering in the sunlight. The natural thing to do was to inhale deeply and exhale slowly and savour this beautiful environment.

Tonquin Beach to the north
Tonquin Beach to the north

We sat on the rocks and basked in the warm sunshine for a while before walking along the beach to check out the driftwood and look for seashells. There were a handful of other people at the beach, quietly enjoyed the moment.

Tonquin Beach to the south
Tonquin Beach to the south

Although the trail signage warned us about wildlife such as bears, cougars and wolves, the only wildlife we saw on our way back were a few Pacific banana slugs. They looked long and healthy with brown blotches all over their yellow body.

It was a nice short hike on a beautiful afternoon in Tofino. Altogether we did about 5 km return trip (just over 3 miles). Nature recharged me and gave me new energy. I looked forward to exploring other trails in the area. Happy trails!

Tonquin Trail

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