Sunday, March 25, 2018

How to make chupe de centolla - Seafood dish from southern Patagonia

In March 2016 following our Patagonia hiking trip we were treated to a Patagonia seafood specialty called, "chupe de centolla." "Centolla" is the southern hemisphere equivalent of the northern hemisphere's king crab. "Chupe" is a "stew" or "casserole." Upon returning to Oregon, I was inspired to see if I could duplicate this dish using Pacfific Northwest Dungeness crab. Here's the ingredient list, I just "guesstimated" the quantities. About 3 Dungeness crabs, picked 1/2 to 1 onion diced 1 sweet red pepper, diced Diced bread (I used sourdough) soaked in milk to make it soggy About 1 cup of heavy cream Shredded cheese for topping before baking (I used Tillamook Monterrey Jack + cheddar) Salt, pepper to taste Try it. Experiment. Hard to go wrong!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

It's Summer Now in Patagonia!

It's February! For many of you, winter rules the month. February signals cold temperatures and long dark nights. About 88% of the world's population lives north of the equator. Bill Rankin's blog Radical Cartography has two great visual maps of the population of our planet that clearly illustrate this congregation of people north of the equator.

However, south of the equator, February is summer! Think of your favorite holiday in December, January, and February. Now picture your gathering with summer temperatures!

For three decades, we have flown south, across the equator, and experienced the joy of flipping seasons down under! A wonderful swim on New Year's Day at Wilson's Promontory National Park in Australia. Wearing winter coats in August in Santiago, Chile gazing up at the snow-clad Andes mountains. Hiking to the brink to watch the Zambezi River plunge over the precipice at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. And departing our home in Portland, Oregon nearly every year since 2008 to lead our hiking trip in Patagonia.

February is, in our opinion, one of the best months to hike in Patagonia. Fly into Buenos Aires, Argentina where the average monthly temperature in February is 81 degrees Fahrenheit (with a low of 68 degrees). Your day is illuminated with more than thirteen hours of daylight. Another flight, from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, Argentina, takes you nearly 3,000 miles further south, close to the tip of South America. Here at the foot of the mountains in Patagonia the average monthly temperature in February is 65°F for a high, and 46°F for a low. The summer crowds in the national parks of Patagonia peak in December and January, so now in February you'll have arrived at the shoulder season with the weather is showing hints of the transition from summer to fall.

Hiking in Patagonia in February does however remind you that regardless of the season, mountains create their own weather. Positioned at the southern end of South America, the mountains of Patagonia in Chile and Argentina bear the brunt of the weather fronts that arrive from the Pacific Ocean to the west and sweep across the continent to the Atlantic Ocean in the east. The skies above Patagonia are a great place to see lenticular clouds—those lens-shaped clouds formed when high winds aloft and the moisture they carry meet the Patagonian mountain barrier. Officially known as Altocumulus Standing Lenticular (ACSL) clouds, they are spectacular! Paolo and others trying to stand up in the wind.

Lenticular clouds at the Brazo Rico, Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina.

Braced against the winds of Patagonia in Torres del Paine National Park.

However, unlike the northern Andes in Peru and Colombia (where hikes may be at elevations of over 10,000 feet) in southern Patagonia you are frequently sleeping closer to sea level and hiking at elevations of about 3,000 feet. For example, El Chalten (Argentina's "trekking capital") sits at 1,350 feet above sea level. A favorite hike to view nearby Monte Fitzroy brings you to the shores of a mountain lake (Laguna de los Tres) nestled at an altitude of 3,800 feet. Across the border in Chile, at the the Mirador las Torres (where you can enjoy and spectacular and iconic view of the Torres del Paine) you are standing at a mere 2,800 feet above sea level!

Laguna de los Tres, Los Glaciares National Park, Argenitna.
Elevation at this viewpoint: 3,900 feet.

Mirador las Torres, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.
Elevation at this viewpoint: 2,800 feet.

The same wind that forms the lenticular clouds may bring rain that may come at you horizontally rather than falling gently on your head. Bringing good rain gear (coat, pants, hat) and layers to stay warm is very important for summer hiking in Patagonia. An excerpt from the Mountain Hiking Holidays Patagonia Trip Book puts it this way:
It is imperative that you be fully prepared to meet Patagonia’s weather on its own terms particularly since you will be spending so much time out of doors. In order for you to be warm, comfortable, and safe please assure that your outdoor wear is of high quality, in good repair, and up to the task of fending off the region’s unpredictable weather. Be particularly attentive to preparing yourself for wind—even on sunny days, strong, steady winds are characteristic. In general, you can expect summer weather in the Patagonian mountains to be “unsettled” with cool temperatures and ever-present wind. Chance of rainfall generally increases the closer you are to the mountains. By contrast, towns built on the Patagonian steppes (like El Calafate) enjoy generally drier weather. Clouds can be persistent over the high peaks obscuring views. At the same time, massive lenticular clouds (common in the area) are a visual delight in themselves! The average summertime temperature in the Los Glaciares (Argentina) and Torres del Paine (Chile) National Parks is about 69°F with lows averaging about 40°F.
Whether you join us on the trail in Patagonia in February, or pick another destination south of the Equator, we hope you go and enjoy the pleasure of experiencing life "down under"! Happy travels and happy hiking!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Gear Up!

Looking for gear for your next mountain hiking trip? Here are some of our favorites. After two decades of leading mountain hiking trips on four continents, these are the items we turn to again and again. In 2017, John traveled for 22 of the 52 weeks of the year, and logged 110 hiking days involving over 1,100 miles and 220,000 feet of elevation gain and loss for the year! 

Boots: We hike in leather Asolo boots. These boots provide great ankle support (they come above the ankle), traction with Vibram soles, and protection with a sturdy leather body that protects from rocks and uneven terrain. We have logged many miles on rough mountain trails with these boots. The TPS 520 GV EVO (Women's Chestnut) retails for about $315; there is a version for men, as well. Be sure to allow two to four months to break in these boots, and include at least 6 weeks of long day hikes in the mountains (five hours or more with 2,000 feet of elevation gain) to be sure these boots are really comfortable before setting off on a MHH trip. Alternatively, Merrell has an above the ankle waterproof boot that will break in much more quickly. The style is Merrell Moab 2, Mother of All Boots Mid. There is a version for men, as well. Go for a boot that supports your ankle and provides good traction. You can consider water-proof or resistant boots, but be aware that even these will lose that capability with time and use.

Socks: Wearing wool socks provides cushion for your feet, and adds a layer of warmth in case your feet do get wet. We wear Smart Wool socks (Hike Medium Crew).

Osprey 34 liter Stratos packed for five days on the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage.

Pack: On the trail with Mountain Hiking Holidays you'll need to carry a day pack containing your rain jacket, rain pants, fleece coat, warm hat, warm gloves, water, lunch (and other personal items). A day pack with a 20 or 30 liter capacity is great. We both carry 34 or 36 liter Osprey packs (for extra safety gear).

Hat: Keeping your head dry and your face protected from the sun is a priority. We like the Seattle Sombrero by Outdoor ResearchWe find this hat to works well for us under most conditions except on the hottest days in the Sahara desert!

Please let us know what your favorite gear choices are, and we look forward to seeing you on the trail soon.

Written by Amy Boyce Osaki

Thursday, November 5, 2015

High airfares to Europe in summer 2016 getting you down?

Yup, it's true. At this moment, round trip airfares to Europe from the U.S. West Coast are pricing in the $1,850 to $2,000 range on the major U.S. carriers. (This was actually the case in the summer of 2015 when one of our travelers paid better than $2,000 for a one-stop routing from Portland, OR to Munich with a return to Portland from Lisbon.)

Options? As of now the best deals to Europe from the U.S. West Coast appear to be on Icelandair. Icelandair's routings are showing up about $300 cheaper than the big U.S. carriers (United, Delta, American).

For example as of today:

  • Portland-Seattle-Reykjavik-Munich RT on Icelandair for June 14 departure and July 21 return in 2016 is pricing at $1,582
  • Portland-Reykjavik-Munich RT on Icelandair is $1,655 (using June 15 departure from Portland since Icelandair doesn't serve Portland everyday).
  • United Airlines for the routing Portland-Houston-Munich RT is pricing at $1,872
Icelandair serves the following U.S. cities with non-stop flights to Keflavik Airport (Reykjavik) from where connections are available to many European destinations:

You can check out options are Icelandair's website at

Or use the ITA Matrix (Google-owned) at

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Icelandair Starts Seasonal Service to Europe from Portland, OR (PDX)

Good news for Portlanders (Oregon) planning to travel to Europe in summer 2015. Icelandair will be initiating seasonal service from Portland, OR starting on May 20, 2015 running through October 21, 2015. During this period flights will depart Portland on Wednesdays and Fridays at 3:40 PM and proceed non-stop to Reykjavik, Iceland arriving there at 6:15 AM the next day. In Reykjavik, connections can be made to a host of destinations in Europe. (Return service from Reykjavik to Portland operates on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Flights depart Reykjavik at 5:15 PM and arrive the same day in Portland at 6:15 PM.)

On Saturday, December 13, 2015, I did a quick check on airfares and discovered the following prices for a one-stop itinerary Portland to Munich departing Portland on July 1 and returning from Munich on July 14.

$1,305 on Icelandair via Reykjavik (booked on Expedia).
$1,860 on Delta via Atlanta on the outbound and via Amsterdam on the inbound (booked at
$1,880 on American via Philadelphia (booked at
$1,890 on United via Washington Dulles (booked at

As you can see, the Icelandair flights are quite a deal when compared against Delta, American, and United!

When I first flew Icelandair to Europe back in 2003, I was underwhelmed with the service and stunned at the mass confusion and lack of organization at Keflavik Airport in Iceland. The last time I flew Icelandair to Reykjavik in July 2014, it felt like a different airline. Great service, on-demand seat-back entertainment in economy class and wonderful efficiency at Keflavik Airport.

Will be interesting to see how long this great fare on Icelandair lasts, or how long it will take the other airlines to match this deal (if ever).

Helpful Flight Booking Tools (especially for United frequent fliers)

Discovered some great flight booking tools recently. I was searching for a way to make sure that itineraries using Star Alliance airlines (other than United) ended up getting ticketed by United Airlines (i.e. ticket number beginning with "016"). United is now requiring that a certain amount of "Premier Qualifying Dollars" (PQD) be spent in order to achieve Premier status and you can accumulate PQD on Star Alliance flights only if the ticket is issued by United Airlines. I normally prefer to fly international routes on Star Alliance airlines other than United and found that some of these itineraries cannot be generated easily on the United website. I needed a way for Star Alliance itineraries NOT using United on any leg to show up on the United website. In that way I could have United issue the ticket on their ticket stock to make sure that the flights on Star Alliance carriers other than United qualified for PQD accumulation. Following?

So, for example, I wanted to have United Airlines ticket the following routing from Portland, OR to Tokushima, Japan;

  • Portland (PDX) to San Jose, CA (SJC) on Alaska Airlines (non-Star Alliance carrier)
  • SJC to Tokyo Narita (NRT) on ANA (Star Alliance carrier)
  • Tokyo Haneda (HND) to Tokushima (TKS) on ANA (Star Alliance carrier)
  • TKS to HND on ANA (Star Alliance carrier)
  • NRT to SJC on ANA (Star Alliance carrier)
  • SJC to PDX on Alaska Airlines (non-Star Alliance carrier)

You can't get this routing to show up by just using the United Airlines website. So, it you want United to ticket this itinerary (using the United website), how do you do this? Here's how:

Option 1

1. Use Hipmunk (
2. On Hipmunk, create a "multi-city" itinerary using the following specifications:


[This means From Portland, OR (PDX) to San Jose, CA (SJC) on Alaska Airlines (AS), then one leg on ANA (NH) to Tokyo, Narita (NRT).]




Select the appropriate flights from the results. When the itinerary is assembled, hit the "Book" button and Hipmunk will normally send you to the United website where the itinerary will be generated. You can then can book the ticket directly with United.

Hipmunk will not always send you to the United website for booking; it might send you instead to other booking sites such as Orbitz or Expedia. Where you get sent depends on the specific itinerary that you've built.

Option 2

If Hipmunk doesn't do it for you, you can also follow the instructions at the following webpage to generate an itinerary on the United website for booking.

Though it's a little more complex, this option works well.

Happy booking!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Day 9: Mountain Hiking Holidays Shikoku Pilgrimage Group

A beautiful morning to start our hike from Nagaoji (Temple 87) to Ookuboji (Temple 88). The hondo (left) and Daishi-do (right) at Nagaoji.
Beautiful old tree in the temple compound at Nagaoji.
En route from Nagaoji to Ookuboji, we passed this stone monument along the pilgrimage route.
The pilgrimage route in the Kurusu Valley en route to Ookuboji.
Gentians blooming along the trail to Nyotai-san.
"This way to Ookuboji!" At stone marker (hyoseki) point the way up to the summit of Nyotai-san and Ookuboji (Temple 88).
The trail ascending to the summit of Nyotai-san.
Violets blooming on a sunny slope below Nyotai-san.
Almost there! The final pitch to the top of Nyotai-san. From there it will be virtually downhill all the way to Ookuboji.
Descending from the summit of Nyotai-san. You can see the henro shelter on the summit of the peak in the right background.
A well-maintained, stepped path descends to Ookuboji from Nyotai-san.
The hondo at Ookuboji. Temple 88! We made it!
Statues at Ookuboji.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Day 8: Mountain Hiking Holidays Shikoku Pilgrimage Group

A statue of the boddhisattva Jizo (Jizo bosatsu) marks the path to Yokomineji (Temple 60). Jizo is the guardian deity of children and travelers.
The descent from Yokomineji en route to Temple 61 (Kouonji).
The steepest part of the descent from Yokomineji ends here. Notice the walking staffs that others have left leaning against the signpost.
The stark, modern facade of the main building at Kouonji (Temple 61). This concrete and tile structure dates from the 1970s although the temple was founded in the 6th century.This modern building stands in marked contrast with the hondo we have seen at other temples.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Day 7: Mountain Hiking Holidays Shikoku PIlgrimage Group

Before setting off on our hike from Temple 44 (Daihoji) to Temple 45 (Iwayaji) today, we stopped for a visit at Ishiteji (Temple 51) since some of the group didn't have a chance to visit it yesterday. Here is part of our group at Ishiteji's main hall (hondo).
After our visit to Ishiteji, we drove to the Kuma Kogen ("Bear Plateau") area south and east of Matsuyama. We started our day's hike at this beautiful forest temple called Daihoji (Temple 44). It was lightly raining for most of the day, but the mist and drizzle added a lot of atmosphere to the walk.
From Daihoji, the route led us over a forested ridge before dropping to a small village in the Kuma Kogen where we stopped for lunch (out of the drizzle) in this thoughtfully placed henro shelter.
A soft, leaf-cushioned path leads through stately woods of Japanese cedars en route from Daihoji to Temple 45 (Iwayaji).
A section of the henro trail between Daihoji and Iwayaji passes through misty woods.
A particularly lovely stretch of trail atop the forested ridge-top between Daihoji and Iwayaji.
This sign reminds walkers to persevere. Ganbatte!
Giant Japanese cedars in the woods just before reaching Temple 45 (Iwayaji). You could almost sense the presence of the old forest kami (gods). Miyazaki's film Spirited Away came to mind...
Suddenly, the temple gate for Iwayaji appears!
The hondo (main hall) at Iwayaji is built against a towering cliff face.
Moss-covered statues at Iwayaji.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Day 6: Mountain Hiking Holidays Shikoku Pilgrimage Group

Today, we hiked from Temple 46 (Joruriji) in the south of Matsuyama City to Temple 51 (Ishiteji).
The group hiking through the rural landscapes between Joruriji (Temple 46) and Yasakaji (Temple 47).
At Temple 47 (Yasakaji). 
Henro John at the main gate of Yasakaji.
Our group arrives at Monjuin temple (also known as Tokuseiji), one of the twenty numbered bangai temples. The bangai are sacred temples that are not officially part of the 88 temple pilgrimage route. (Monjuin is bangai #9.) It is said that Monjuin is at or near the site where the merchant Emon Saburo refused to give alms to a monk whom he later realized was Kukai (Kobo Daishi). Following the deaths of his eight sons, Emon Saburo set off on foot circling Shikoku several times in search of Kukai in order to ask forgiveness for refusing to give alms. This is one of the stories that explains the origins of the Shikoku Pilgrimage.
The main gate at Temple 48 (Sairinji).
The main hall (hondo) of Temple 49 (Jodoji) seen through the main gate.
Lovely Hantaji (Temple 50) in later afternoon light.
Pagoda the Temple 51 (Ishiteji), the "Stone Hand Temple."

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Day 5: Mountain Hiking Holidays Shikoku Pilgrimage Group

Today we left the official 88 Temple Pilgrimage route for a hike in the mountains of the Tsurugi-san Quasi National Park in central Shikoku. Our hike started at this Shinto shrine at Minokoshi Pass.
The trail ascended steadily toward the summit of Tsurugi-san. The snow-flecked peak of Miune is in the left background.
Approaching the summit of Tsurugi-san.
This torii marks the final set of steps to the summit area.
The view from the summit of Tsurugi-san looking toward the east.
A series of wooden "terraces" wind across the broad summit area of Tsurugi-san. A sunny, cool and beautiful day...perfect!
From the summit of Tsurugi-san looking toward the west. The peak on the left is called Jirogyu.
Beginning the descent from Tsurugi-san along the ridge-top trail that leads to the neighboring peak of Jirogyu (at the left in this photo).
The trail from Tsurugi-san to Jirogyu. 
The joy of the mountains on the trail between Tsurugi-san and Jirogyu.
Contemplating the view from Jirogyu. We met no other hikers today once we left the summit of Tsurugi-san! Solitude in the mountains of Shikoku!
Following the ridge-top trail as it descends from the summit of Jirogyu.
Our group descending from Jirogyu.
The trail between Jirogyu and the peak of Maruishi.
The trail leading through a field of dwarf bamboo toward Maruishi (the small peak to the left in this photo).
From Maruishi peak, a long descent through the woods brought us eventually to the double vine bridges Okuiya Nijyu Kazurabashi. One of the bridges is considereg "male" and the other "female." This is the "female" bridge.
Vicki and Gail crossing the "male" bridge at Okuiya Nijyu Kazurabashi.