Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Hike From H-E-Double Toothpicks

a view of Muscat, Oman at the beginning of our hike

We are fairly experienced hikers, our family is.  We know better than to go thoughtlessly rambling through the wilderness, and we have learned the hard way not to tromp off on a hike without knowing where we are and where we want to end up.  We bring food, water, extra layers, emergency supplies, etc., just in case.  The only time I can recall ever being genuinely lost was one time in Forest Park about 20 years ago.  Craig and I had no idea where we were, and tried various trails until we found our way out.  Forest Park in Portland covers hundreds of square miles with scores of trails, and the sweet truth is, you're never going to spend the night there, unwillingly.  If you walk long enough you'll find your way out.  Not every trail system is that forgiving.

In January we went on several hikes in Oman.  Oman is a wonderful place for those who love exploring the outdoors.  Trails are rocky and rugged, and it's worth climbing high for the stunning views of mountain ridges, oceans, villages, and wadis.

We explored the paved corniche area of Muscat harbor, and rather than trudging back through the city to our car, we opted to take this several-mile hike over the mountains.  It would take us from the corniche area up and over the mountain to the colonial-era Portuguese fort that dominates the city.  Our car was parked below the fort.

The trail started out steep, going straight up the mountain.  We noted that the route was marked with Omani flags painted onto large rocks.  All good.

view of Muscat harbor behind us as we ascended the mountain

Omani flag marker

From the top of the mountain we had a breathtaking view of the harbor behind us, craggy peaks all around and the old fort ahead, which was our goal.

In retrospect, I think we were so enthralled with the panorama around us, that we didn't carefully examine the directions for proceeding down the mountain.  I recall that there were no more painted flags in view to direct us, and that we just assumed that the ravine heading down toward the fort was where we should go.

We weren't too far down the ravine when we questioned the trail.  Scree made our footing precarious.  Going back up would have been too hazardous.  Our progress was measured in inches as we strove to keep our balance and our footing.  Barking dogs on the bluff above yapped relentlessly at us.

serenaded by barking dogs

It was reassuring to see the view shown in the photo below.  There was our destination dead-ahead, the old Portuguese fort!  And we wondered out loud what that "thing" was.  The "thing" that looks like a wall across our gully.  It closely resembled a dam.  And yup, it was a dam.  Blocking our hiking path.

the old fort and the "dam" barrier

Mmmm.  We clambered up the side of the dam--that was not too hard.  The difficulty was coming down the other side which is pictured below.  It was slick and steep.  Below you can see me hanging on to the meager vegetation to prevent myself hurtling to the bottom.  I shortly gave that up and instead, cautiously scooted the rest of the way down on my rear end.

That hurdle behind us, we looked ahead to see an entire Omani family perched on their balcony watching us, taking great interest in our escapade.  Slow day in Muscat??  Apparently so.  Or, perhaps we were the first people to ever make this error and come down the gully, up and over the flood control dam, and then hike through the city dump.  That's right.  They had a front row view of the dump, and the wacky Americans gingerly picking their way through it.

Back at the car we puzzled out our mistake at the top of the mountain.  We obviously erred in our decision to follow a non-trail down the mountain.  Next time we'll look diligently for an Omani flag painted on a rock!

a happier hike in Oman on Jebel Akhdar, 2014

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