Category Archives: Outdoors

Hiking Cape Town: Table Mountain’s India Venster

1-signCape Town, South Africa is a great place for hiking because several classic peaks–such as Lions Head and Table Mountain–sit in close proximity to the city, so it’s possible to access them easily for quick day hikes. And the trails up these peaks also provide stunning views of the city and sea. I recently spent two weeks in Cape Town visiting family, and I got the chance to get out with Antony to hike the India Venster route up Table Mountain, which is one of the few trails he hadn’t taken to the summit.

For my first hike the summit of Table Mountain, India Venster provided some adventurous moments and challenges, for sure. The sign at the trailhead warns that ladders, chains, and stapels are a part of the route, and we also knew that the route requires some exposed scrambling with the potential for serious fall danger.


The route begins in a straightforward manner from the contour trail, but then it eventually winds up through a steep rocky section below the top of the cable car.


The rock scrambling began in this section, which required hand-and-foot climbing on mostly low-angle rock. Depending on experience and comfort level, some hikers might want to have a rope to help them through this section…or even a guide.

Traci J Macnamara India Venster 1

While the scrambling in some sections wasn’t very exposed…

Traci J Macnamara on India Venster

…other sections involved exposure and sharp drop-offs, and also jaw-dropping views of the city and sea.


The word “venster” means “window” in Afrikaans, and the route gets its name from a rock window along the route. We’re not sure if this window is THE window for which the route is named, but it offered a pretty cool portal for seeing the side of Table Mountain.


The view of Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain was certainly worth the effort involved! The India Venster route, especially, and most other routes to the summit of Table Mountain should only be hiked in good weather, and hikers should carry emergency gear, as the weather rolls in quickly up here. We only had a short time to make this hike happen, so we opted to take the cable car down, but Platteklip Gorge offers a safer descent than the India Venster downclimb.

Want to know more about hiking in Cape Town?
Check out this Learnist board I created to profile six classic Cape Town hikes, including India Venster:

“Cape Town’s Classic Day Hikes”

Cape Town Day Hikes

And…if you want to explore more of my Learnist boards focused on adventure, outdoors, nature, and sports, click here.


Spring Skiing Tips and Party Locator

The weather here in Vail has been simply amazing, and I’m happy to say that the spring skiing season has arrived. No more of those freezing December temperatures…it’s all blue skies with warm Colorado sun shining down. Only one thing…does this mean that the ski season will soon be over?

Either way, I’m determined to enjoy the ski season, one day at a time, until the very end. I know that spring skiing can be challenging, so I wanted to share some “Tips for Spring Skiing” here on this Learnist board:

Tips for Spring Skiing

Spring is also a time in Colorado when you can find a good party or concert at just about any ski area. But if you want to hone in on the best of the spring break fun, then check out the “Colorado: Spring Skiing Party Central” board in order to determine which events you won’t want to miss:

Colorado Spring Skiing Party Central

Enjoy the spring skiing, wherever you are. Glide on!

Adventure Dogs and Winter Walking Tips

Since I’m on a quest to ski triple digits this season, I’ve obviously been skiing a lot. But I’ve been writing a lot, too. And one of my favorite things about having a home office is that I get to hang out with my love-dog, Kai. He’s a supercool boxer-lab mix with amazing brindle tiger stripes:


He naps on the floor while I get my writing work done, and then when I get freaked out about sitting at my desk for long stretches, we go outside and go on walks together in the snow. I also take him cross-country skiing with me on the railroad tracks just across the street.

These adventures have inspired two Learnist boards I created with other dog lovers in mind. First of all, going on dog walks in the cold weather is better if you have good gear, so check out this board to learn more:

“Winter Dog Walking Tips and Gear”

dog walk

Finally, if you’ve been wanting to get an adventurous four-legged friend, then you’ll want to check out which types of dogs are good outdoor companions. I’m super happy having Kai around, and even though he’s not the best in deep backcountry powder, he’s still pretty cool sleeping on my office floor while I write.

“Adventure Pups: Dog Breeds for Outdoors Lovers”

adventure pups

To see more of my Learnist boards focused on adventure, outdoors, nature, and sports, click here.

Skiing Triple Digits: Vail Training, Days 10-15

Day 10: Sunday, December 1
Vail Mountain New Hire Training

Day 10

I began this season working as a part-time ski instructor at Vail. Day 10 was my frist day of new hire training. On this day, I met my new crew and trained with The Chief, a great skier, a motivational instructor, and a good lift conversationalist.

Day 11: Monday, December 2
Vail Mountain New Hire Training

Day 11

I continued new hire training on Vail Mountain today and learned how dorky skiing really can be. With The Chief as our fearless trainer and guide, we re-learned the proper way to ski a wedge.

Day 12: Tuesday, December 3
Vail Mountain New Hire Training

Day 12

Another day of new hire training on Vail Mountain. The very fun Max joined us from Golden Peak for a superstar day full of of blended skills practice (basic parallel skiing, basic parallel skiing with short-radius turns, and–again–the Wedge Christie).

Day 13: Wednesday, December 4
Ski on Vail Mountain

Day 13

Finally, a day off of training. It was a beautiful outside, so I charged out to ski something more advanced than the wedge. Enjoyed a solo blue-sky bumps day!

Day 14: Friday, December 6
Vail Mountain New Hire Training

Day 14

Back to training, now with a different group of folks, including Sheila, a woman who has decided to be a ski instructor in her retirement, and the most excellent Mike Evans, trainer, skier, watcher of Hunger Games films.

Day 15: Saturday, December 7
Vail Mountain New Hire Training

Day 15

Back to the basics, again. Another day spent training on Vail Mountain with M.E. Working on basic parallel skills. Trying to carve not just any turn–but the perfect turn.

Want more backstory?
Read about the quest here:
Skiing Triple Digits: The Quest

Recipes for the Gourmet Camper

Ever been starving-hungry on a backpacking trip and stuck with a bowl full of mushy yuck? Yeah, that sucks. In order to avoid such a fate, check out the Learnist board I just created: Recipes for the Gourmet Camper.”

recipes for the gourmet camper

When you’re roughing it on a camping trip, you don’t have to skimp on mealtime pleasure. This collection of gourmet recipes will keep all of your campers happyclick here to continue exploring

Skiing Triple Digits: Days 6-9, Backcountry Beginnings

Day 8-crestonDays 6-9 of the triple digits skiing quest involved two backcountry days, one slack-country day, and one resort opening. These have been my best ski days so far…for the friends I shared them with and, of course, for the fresh Thanksgiving powder.

Day 6: Skin up Paulie’s Plunge, ski down Cinch at Beaver Creek

I met up with my gal-pal Tarrie for this evening skin up to Beaver Creek from the Eagle-Vail trail, and Kai came along for some off-leash adventure. We skied from the top of Paulie’s down Cinch  into Beaver Creek village on some really rough track pack and then had drinks at the Coyote Cafe. Great vibe–World Cup crowd all packed in, gearing up for Raptor and Birds of Prey.

Day 7: Opening Day at Beaver Creek

I took a writing break to ski for a few hours with Antony at Beaver Creek for the season opener. Early-season-excellent snow in Rose Bowl, blue skies, light-fluffy stuff up high. Yee-haw! Happy day.

Day 8: Thanksgiving skiing on Uneva Peak (12,552)

Set off early on Thanksgiving morning with Bill, Kelly, and Kreston (above) to ski Uneva Peak. We parked at Vail Pass (10,662) and started skinning up the nearest trailhead on the north/east side of I-70. Kelly and Kreston brought along two dogs, including Otto, a gorgeous Malamute who belongs to a friend of theirs:

Day 8-otto

We skinned up to the summit of Uneva and checked things out. We decided to ski the east-facing bowl down to the lake, which was surprisingly good skiing! Kelly’s on her way down here:

Day 8-uneeva lines

We then skinned all the way back up to the summit ridge in order to ski back to our car, but because we felt some settling as we were skinning back up the bowl we skied down, we quickly changed our course and chose instead to ascend up a steep ridge, slick with sugary snow and icy rocks. We then had a little Thanksgiving celebration with sausage, cheese, crackers, and champagne. I like how this crew gets after it and knows how to celebrate, too!

Day 9: Resolution Mountain (11,911) and the Fowler-Hilliard Hut

The next morning, Tammy, Kai, and I set off from the freezing-cold Pando parking area (9,200) near Camp Hale in order to visit my friends from Boulder who had rented out the Fowler-Hilliard hut for a Thanksgiving hut trip. The adventure began pretty quickly out of the parking lot, as we needed to find a good place to cross the river in order to avoid adding an extra mile to our trip. We decided to trust a solid-looking beaver dam, but the crossing was delicate, and Kai (poor dog) was shaking as he followed us across. After a physical ascent, we stood on the summit of Resolution Mountain, Tammy here enjoying the blue skies:

Day 9-tammy on resolution

We took in the gorgeous mountain views and looked down on the hut where my friends were staying:

Day 9-view from resolution

Before we went over to the hut, however, we skied down a soft, buttery meadow until we hit treeline, and then we put back on our skins and hiked over to the hut. Some of the hut-trippers were on their way out for an exploratory hike:

day 9-hut hikers

Luckily, when we arrived, my friend Cathy was just heating up Thanksgiving dinner leftovers, so Tammy and I got to share in the lunchtime feast!

With full bellies, we hung out on the porch of the hut with everyone…

Day 9-hut hanging out

…until it was finally time for us to hike back up to the ridge and then rip off our skins for a full-on rodeo ski back out to the car. The beaver dam was much more tenuous this time, as the sun had softened the snow and ice–I think I was shaking as much as Kai was when I delicately slid my skis across. So…that’s it for Days 6-9!

Want more backstory? Read about the quest here:
Skiing Triple Digits: The Quest

Life-long Love and Good Snacks

A lot of things contribute to a good outdoor adventure, but two big things–LIFE-LONG LOVE and GOOD SNACKS help.

Life-long Love. By life-long love, I mean committing to something for the longterm. I’ve been thinking about that one a lot on my Skiing Triple Digits quest. I mean, this is only one season in my life. Sure, skiing a lot is the idea now, but I still want to be skiing when I’m a (really) old lady!

Snacks. Everything tastes better in the backcountry, especially when you’re starving and dehydrated, right? I’ve been trying not to get to the starving and dehydrated phase, though occasionally it still happens. My favorite backcountry skiing snacks include nuts (cashew and almonds mixed together) and nutty bars. Real food options are the best, and I like mixed nuts because they don’t seem to freeze as quickly as other things (like Cliff Bars).

I created the following Learnist boards to help inspire my life-long love of skiing and to help me get some better snack ideas. Leave comments to share your own! Click on the links (not the images) to access the boards:

“How to Ski for Your Entire Life”

Ski for Your Entire Life

“Energy-Packed Snacks for Winter Athletes”

Snacks for Winter Athletes