For those of us fueled by that almost-unquenchable love of the great outdoors but who paradoxically spend most of our lives locked in the city or the suburbs, mountain towns become more than just vacation destinations.
These places—with their rarified, high-elevation air; neck-craning alpine views; and easy access to trails for hiking, biking, climbing and fishing and damn near every other outdoor sport you’re itching to try—become our refuge, the places we escape to in our heads when the dogged days of mid-week reality starts to smother us. When weekend warrior outings aren’t feeding the urge to really get outside.
But mountain towns also give us sea-level residents one other very important thing: an excuse. An excuse to plan trips, to train, to try things, and to escape to the mountains. But also the excuse we all sometimes need when we’re trying new stuff (or trying stuff we’ve done many times) and we can’t exactly make it all work.
See, unless you’re some über-athlete superhero, us mortal adventurers have a glorious 48- to 72-hour window when our lungs and legs and arms haven’t acclimated to the higher elevation. When we find ourselves gasping for air at a point in a hike, ride, or run when we’re typically hitting our stride back on our local trail.
At first, frustration and confusion floods our senses as we gasp for breath.
“I’m not that out of shape. I mean, I skipped a few days leading up to this trip. But…come…on.…”
At that point we should all try to remember the unavoidable realities of traveling to mountain towns. Remember the time difference between your home and this outdoor paradise. Remember the lost sleep to make that pre-dawn flight and the two connecting flights (because reaching most mountain towns always seem to require at least one connection). And, after you arrive, the lost sleep due to being at a higher elevation. (Some hotels, like The Peaks Resort (thepeaksresort.com) stock oxygen bottles in the rooms, mini-versions of those used on 8,000 meter peaks. They cost about $20 and help combat the effects of altitude). Remember that, at elevation, how you performed at home and how you’re performing in those hallowed mountains won’t be the same until you’ve acclimatized.
So when you hit that inevitable wall, try to shrug, look at your local guide, try to catch your breath, and blame the altitude. At least until that excuse no longer applies.
Oh, and one other slight advantage (or disadvantage, depending on your viewpoint): the high altitude also makes you a cheap date; alcohol impacts your system more quickly at elevation than at sea level. Maybe the intoxicating mountain air will be enough.
Immerse yourself in Bedouin culture. Where you choose to stay while traveling largely dictates your personal relationship with that country.
And while we appreciate the logical necessity and assumed ease of bedding down in a chain hotel, stepping out of the ordinary makes for a life-changing experience. Take Jordan’s Feynan Ecolodge. This 26-room property sits at the southwestern border of Dana Biosphere nature reserve, the country’s largest—boasting 703 plant species, 215 species of birds, and 38 mammal species.
The hotel is largely off the grid, generating most of its energy from solar panels on the roof and lighting its rooms and hallways by a network of candles each night (though “off the grid” doesn’t exclude the Wi-Fi in the main lobby). The hotel employees are all from the local Bedouin community, water comes from a nearby spring, the bread that’s served in the all-vegetarian restaurant is made daily by a local Bedouin woman, and the gift shop sells handicrafts sourced from local artisans and farmers. Despite this near-obsessive locavore focus, you feel fully embraced, whether you’re lying on the expansive roof deck, observing the panoply of stars stretched out across a night sky unblemished by light pollution, or playing soccer with the local Bedouin children as you watch the sun turn the rocky, mountainous landscape stirring shades of orange and gold.
From Feynan you’re within striking distance of a variety of outdoor activities. Go on an exhilarating, full-day hike through the slot canyons of Wadi Ghwayr, spend the day with a Bedouin shepherd, take cooking classes to learn the local cuisine, or find a breezy spot to…do nothing at all. Whatever the choice, you win. And you’ll remember Feynan far more fondly than whatever chain hotel you last stayed.
Myth: Bananas bring bad luck to any fishing endeavor.
Fact: Although this one is technically a superstition, you will be hard pressed to find any angler who does not believe wholeheartedly that bananas bring bad mojo to a boat. Spend more than a few days aboard any fishing vessel, and you will quickly understand that there’s an omnipresent library of elements that dictate the luck associated with catching streaks and fishing slumps.
The exact origin of this centuries-old banana superstition remains unknown, but many theories abound. One version dates back to the Jack Sparrow age of tall ships and pirates, where fresh fruit was brought along on lengthy voyages to fight off scurvy and other maladies. When bananas were stored with other produce in the cargo, they rapidly rotted everything in their wake.
Another theory dates back to the Caribbean trade of the 1700s, where wooden sailing boats had to move quickly to deliver bananas before they spoiled. Fishermen on board found it impossible to troll for fish with such fast-moving boats.
Could the aversion against the yellow fruit come from the spiders and snakes that stowaway amongst the bananas. Or that the crescent moon-shaped fruit was the only thing left floating after a shipwreck? We may never know.
Regardless, keep in mind that bananas don’t have to be in the standard fruit form to invite bad luck. Banana muffins, daiquiris, dancing banana tattoos, and sunscreen or clothes bearing the name banana are also a no go in most serious anglers’ opinion.
So although we could technically debunk this myth if we really tried, we don’t recommend bringing a banana for a snack on your next fishing trip. You may just find yourself as fish bait instead.