Sunday, September 19, 2010

Derrick-Highline-Horton Creek Loop Trail near Payson

I decided to escape the Phoenix heat and head up to Payson with the hiking group for a day hike near Horton Creek. Instead of coming back the same way we went in, we decided to do this as a loop trail.
Here's the group all together and happy before we started.

The trail started with a steep incline - a few people were less happy and it started to spread out the group.

Enjoying the beautiful views.
Crossing Horton Creek was the one part of this trail that I didn't like. It took me forever to walk across these logs.

The rest of the trail followed the water on the way back. It was a great hike.

Trail stats:

Distance Round Trip 8 miles

Trailhead Elevation 5460 feet

Elevation Gain 1600 feet

Avg Time Round Trip 4-5 hours

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Kota Kinabalu

Borneo Adventure (August 24-September 7, 2010)

After about a day of long flights, I arrived in Kota Kinabalu, just in time to explore the night markets and have dinner. There were so many choices and the food was so cheap, that I had to try several dishes.

Yummy pickled vegetables

Puteri mandi cakes (steamed rice desserts filled with brown sugar and covered with coconut)
Spicy noodles and other assorted goodies. Total dinner bill was 5 RM ($1 USD = 3 RM)
After eating dinner, I took a walk to the ocean front, and arrived just as the sun was going down.
I was still tired from my flight, so headed back to my hotel for an early bed time and to double check my rafting plans for the next day.

Rafting (sort of) the Kiulu River

I had initially booked a rafting trip on the Padas River (class IV and V rapids). Unfortunately, the train that takes you to the set in spot broke down and the company needed to cancel the trip. They offered me a choice to get all my money back and to cancel completely, or to get half my money back and raft the Kiulu River instead.
I opted to go to the Kiulu River - even though it was family friendly with only class I and II rapids.

I decided a scenic float down the river would be more fun than hanging out in Kota Kinabalu all day.
After inflating the raft and getting a safety briefing, we were off. Because I was the tallest one on the raft, I got to sit up front.
For the most part, the water was fairly calm, with just a few little rapids. There was one exception where the raft headed straight towards a big rock on the bank. We weren't able to paddle away quick enough, the raft slid up the rock, and I flipped out of the raft and into the water. Part of me suspects that the guide did it on purpose to give me a little taste of adventure.

I had a great group for the trip. In my raft was a father and son from Taiwan and a couple from ShangHi. The other raft held 3 Chinese girls. We spent most of the time having water fights with them.

It wasn't what I originally hoped for, but nonetheless, it was a fun way to spend the day.

Kota Kinabalu Wetlands Center

The Kota Kinabalu Wetlands Center is just a few km from the city. I heard good things about it, so decided to venture out to find it. After very heavy negotiations with several taxi drivers, I found one that gave me a reasonable quote for the ride out of town (and a pick up a few hours later).

It was very quiet - I think I was the only visitor the entire time I was there. This allowed me to see quite a bit of wildlife.

After exploring all the pathways, I still had about an hour before my taxi was scheduled to come pick me up. I decided to climb up in the observation tower to check out the view. I'm glad I did! Not only was there a nice view, but there was also a cool breeze - a nice change from the muggy tropical temperatures at ground level.
While hanging out in the observation tower, I heard loud scuttling noises. I looked down, and saw two huge monitor lizards wrestling with each other and then jumping into a muddy pond. The wrestled around for a while and then each went their separate ways. I had hoped to see a monitor lizard, so this really made the trip worth it!

Heading to Mount Kinabalu

Today I met up with my hiking group and we took a 5 hour bus ride from KK to Mount Kinabalu park headquarters. About halfway there, the road became really curvy and the weather turned to fog and then pouring rain. All I could do was hope for clear weather by tomorrow, since I really didn't want to hike in the rain. By late afternoon, we arrived at the park headquarters and got a good look at the mountain. What did I get myself into?

We arrived at the dorms by the Mesilau trailhead and had to walk up a steep slippery hill to get to our rooms. Right then, I started to question whether I would be able to make the climb. I was already cold - and this was the section where you supposedly could wear shorts!!
The group had dinner together at the Mesilau Nature Resort where we were briefed for tomorrow's climb. One couple had taken a short stroll on the trail before dinner and said it was too hard. The tour leader made alternate arrangements for them to spend the night near park headquarters and hike the flat trails at the bottom of the mountain. Three others also decided that the Mesilau Trail was too hard and asked to start at the Timpohan Gate. Now there were 3 of us - a German couple, me, and our guide Neils.

The dorm rooms were freezing (I wore all the clothes I had to bed). After a cold, shivering night, morning finally arrived and it was time to start the hike.

Mesilau Trail

After breakfast, we started the Mesilau Trail to cloudy skies but not rain. The trail started with a steady climb up wood ladders, steps, and large rocks. Because of yesterday's rain, the trail was slippery and muddy in spots.
The German couple and I kept a similar pace, but our guide Neils seemed to be nursing a hangover and quickly disappeared behind us.

After climbing about 1.5 km, the trail descended again. The Germans pulled ahead of me, but having learned my lesson about rushing my pace downhill, I took my time. I eventually caught up to them when the trail started ascending again.

Along the way, we passed several waterfalls, crossed several swing bridges, and climbed and climbed. The trail was very scenic - mostly plants.

Other than a few birds and squirrels, there really wasn't any wildlife to see.
Around Km 4, it started to mist and then rain.

It rained hard for the next hour, and then we were back in just fog. By this time, the elevation was high enough that the plants changed to evergreen trees with moss hanging from them.

About 1 km from reaching the junction with the Timpohon Trail, I finally spotted pitcher plants!
Shortly after reaching the much less scenic Timpohon Trail, the mist started, and then the rain.
Rivers of water started running over the bare rock, making it slippery. About 1 km after the junction, we caught up with the group that took the shorter Timpohan Trail, and then passed them as they huddled under a shelter, trying to stay dry.
We resigned to the fact that staying dry wasn't an option, and forged forward, up and up and up.
It continued to rain the rest of the way to the Laban Rata Guest House. Once there, I changed into dry clothes, and paid to have my shoes put in a dryer - so hopefully they won't be wet in a few hours when I approach the summit.

Unfortunately, because of a generator problem, there was no heat or hot water. After dinner, I stole the blankets from the unused bunks in my room and hunkered down for a few hours of sleep. I was just falling into a deep sleep when 2:30 arrived - time to get up, eat a bit of breakfast, and tackle the rest of the mountain.