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Lake Tahoe, CA

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Our route from Yosemite to Lake Tahoe took approximately 4 hours. We passed Mono Lake near the park exit. At the end, we crossed over some mountains before passing Heavenly ski resort on the way down to South Lake Tahoe.

In Lake Tahoe we stayed at Camp Richardson Historic Resort in a “summer cabin”. The campgrounds were right on the lake so we had nice views. Our cabin had a bed, bathroom, kitchenette, and picnic table out front. The summer cabins aren’t insulated and the September nights were getting chilly. Ezra slept in a pack-and-play that we borrowed from the resort.

Lodging: Camp Richardson

Friday, September 14, 2012

In the morning I watched the sun rise over the lake from a dock near the beach. I made the acquaintance of a talkative Scottish man who was finishing up a 3-week whirlwind tour of Arizona, Nevada, and California.

During the day we hiked Mt Tallac which is just south of Lake Tahoe. This was a strenuous 9.5 mi hike with 3500 ft of elevation gain, bringing our week long hiking total to approximately 55 miles. Even with Ezra we maintained a decent pace, although at one point we were passed by a very fit Swiss couple that appeared to be racewalking. At the summit we were treated to magnificent views of the lake and the surrounding wilderness. We were also accosted by tenacious, human-food-eating chipmunks.

In the evening we strolled along the beach and visited several summer estates that have been preserved as historic sites. Ezra was fascinated by the large sugar pine cones. Back at our cabin we cooked dinner and relaxed.

Lodging: Camp Richardson

Saturday, September 15, 2012

On Saturday I drove to Donner Lake State Park and met up with Mike and his friend Jeanie. From the park we headed through Truckee to the Indian Chief climbing area. We spent the day climbing some fun lead routes which weren’t graded nearly as difficult as back east at Rumney Rocks. For instance, we easily sent some 5.9s and came close to sending a 5.10a.

Back at the campground, we discovered a group of climbers who had set up a slackline. Mike tried a few times. Beth Ann gave it a go but went flying into the dirt, causing us all some consternation (since she was 3 months pregnant). I was able to take a few steps, and even Ezra got in on the act. After slacklining we ate dinner at our picnic table, then said goodbye to Mike and Jeanie.

Lodging: Camp Richardson

Sunday, September 16, 2012

On Sunday we hit up a bunch of Lake Tahoe sites before heading back west. We stopped by the Taylor Creek nature walk area near the campground and the Emerald Bay scenic overlook before stopping for lunch at the Meeks Bay Campground. Here we went for a stroll by the water and Ezra enjoyed dipping his feet into the lake. Continuing on through Truckee we stopped for a bit at Donner Memorial State Park, the site of the infamous Donner Party tragedy. Here we took a look at Donner Lake and toured the antiquated Donner Museum. We also viewed the large boulder which formed one wall of the Donner cabin during the fateful winter of 1846-1847.

Finally, we headed up over Donner Pass and drove a few hours back to San Jose. We got in late to a Comfort Suites near the airport and crashed before our early flight back to Boston the next morning.

Lodging: Comfort Suites

Yosemite National Park, CA

Saturday, September 8, 2012

   On Saturday we left the Vasona Lake County Park and headed east toward Yosemite, passing through areas of farmland and citrus groves. Along the way we stocked up on supplies at a supermarket and a Walmart. We also stopped to grab lunch at an In-N-Out. As early evening approached we entered the park and got our first glimpse of the valley, El Capitan, and Half Dome. We stopped at Tunnel View to catch the sunset before heading over to find the Cozy Bear Cottages in Yosemite West.

At our cottage, we unpacked the food and put Ezra to bed. After checking in with Carol and Neal (Cozy Bear owners), we planned the next day’s hike and learned that all three of us had received Half Dome climbing permits.

Here is a map of the park.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

                               On Sunday we headed down into the Yosemite Valley and parked at the Camp 4 camping/climbing area. Along the way, we noticed a few signs regarding the Huntavirus outbreak that had been in the news the previous week. In the parking lot we saw a “bear trap” – a metal cylinder with a door, presumably for capturing problem bears. Camp 4 is a well-known staging area for climbers preparing to ascend various routes on El Capitan and the surrounding big walls.

Yosemite Falls is supposed to be spectacular when the Yosemite Creek is running. Unfortunately, the water level was very low while we were in the park, and Yosemite Falls weren’t running at all. The hike was very strenuous and hot, and featured many switchbacks on the lower section. After eating lunch near an overlook over the valley, we continued further up to a second overlook with a great view of Half Dome. Back at Camp 4, we checked out the famous Camp 4 Boulder.  On the way back to the cottages, we stopped in a field across the road from El Capitan.  Here we found several visitors hanging out in lawn chairs using telescopes or binoculars to watch big wall climbers ascending El Cap.  Big wall climbers take 3-5 days to ascend the giant 3000ft walls, depending on the route.  They sleep on portaledges, essentially hanging tents that can be secured to the wall.

In the afternoon, we stopped at the Yosemite Valley Supermarket to pick up a few supplies. We cooked dinner back at the cottage, Tom checked out sunset at Inspiration Point, and we all turned in early for our Half Dome hike the next day.

Lodging: Cozy Bear Cottages (Yosemite West)

Monday, September 10, 2012

On Monday we got an early start (approx 5:00am) in anticipation of a long day hiking Half Dome. We were on the trail – with plenty of other hikers – by 6:30am. The first section of the trail passes the “staircase” waterfalls of XXX and XXX. Here we were lucky that the Merced river levels were high enough to form the waterfalls, although not at their peak magnitude. Along the way we climbed several long staircases that seemed to never end, especially with Ezra on my back. Eventually we gained some elevation and ended up hiking around the back side of Half Dome through the Little Yosemite Valley. The terrain involved pines and firs, along with some open fields. Soon we arrived at a checkpoint where an iPad-equipped ranger verified that our climbing permits were in order. We continued on and up through denser forest, gaining additional elevation. Finally, we arrived at the base of the Subdome, where we ate lunch. The hike up to the Saddle was rocky and exposed but offered expansive and impressive views. As the Saddle approached we started to make out climbers the size of ants, inching their way up the fixed cables to the broad summit. At the Saddle, Beth Ann determined that the climb was probably not for her given the exposure and height, and Ezra would be safer waiting it out, too. Tom and I put on our gardening gloves, I put on my climbing harness and sling, we snapped a few photos, and off we went. The climb itself involves gripping metal cables while lunging between horizontal 2x4s that offer relative stability and safety. I used my sling to clip into the fixed cable, but I had to unclip (and thus become briefly unprotected) at each fixed vertical support. In hindsight, it would have been safer to use two slings to ensure 100% protection. We passed a bunch of people and eventually topped out. On the summit, we took in the views of the valley and surrounding peaks, including Cloud’s Rest to the northeast. On the way down, we got stuck behind two women who were moving glacially slow. Back at the Saddle, we rejoined Beth Ann and Ezra, who was having a fantastic time interacting with other hikers (except when he had to get a big poopy diaper changed). At the base of the Subdome, we said our goodbyes to Tom, who headed off at a quick clip to grab his rental car and cross the park to Lee Vining in anticipation of hiking Cloud’s Rest the next day. Beth Ann, Ezra, and I got back to the car around 6:30pm after a long, hot 14 mile slog. Ezra had been a trooper and never complained. Back at Cozy Bear Cottages, we switched over to a 1BR condo underneath the main house, since we had adjusted our travel plans at the last minute to skip Curry Village camping.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tom hiked Cloud’s Rest and drove back to San Francisco for his flight home. Marc, BA, and Ezra woke up early and drove to Glacier Point. Here, we were treated to beautiful views of the sunrise over Yosemite Valley. BA snapped photos while Marc attempted to cook breakfast and coffee using the whisperlite. After Glacier Point, we headed south to Mariposa Sequoia Grove. The grove was crowded. We hiked for several hours on meandering trails between giant, towering trees, including the Twins, Fallen Grove, and the Grizzly Giant. We ate lunch in a peaceful part of the grove. Beth Ann carried Ezra for a while to give Marc a break. After leaving the grove we drove back to Glacier Point to view the sunset. First we hiked 15 minutes to take in dusk views looking west toward El Capitan. Then we returned to join the crowds at Glacier Point. Marc tried and failed to cook dinner; he made hot cocoa instead. Ezra ran around energetically screaming. Beth Ann snapped lots of photos of the sun setting over Half Dome and the valley.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

While getting ready in the morning Ezra knocked over a bar stool, separating the seat from the legs. We felt terrible about it and left a note for Carol and Neal to bill us; we never heard from them, though. Then we packed up and drove up Big Oak Flat Rd to Tioga Rd. Tioga Rd traverses the park from west to east and is often closed into the summer depending on snow levels. The road was windy with beautiful views.

We hiked out to Cloud’s Rest (9926 ft), which is 1000 ft higher than Half Dome. This is a classic 14.4 mile round-trip hike that includes a narrow traverse between relatively steep drop-offs that reaches 5 ft across. At the Cloud’s Rest summit, we took in beautiful panaramic views of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley, as well as the Sawtooth Ridge and Matterhorn Peak in the north to Mt Ritter and Banner Peak in the southeast. Climbers were visible ascending Half Dome like ants. On the way back we ran into a group of backpackers doing a 5-day 55-mile loop in the Cathedral Range area – a great idea for a future trip.

After completing the hike, we drove through Tuolumne Meadows and exited the park at Lee Vining. Lee Vining is the eastern entry point for Yosemite. It also overlooks Mono Lake, a large, shallow desert lake. The lack of an outlet causes high levels of salt to accumulate in the lake. In addition, the lake is notable for its exposed tufa formations. In Lee Vining we had dinner at Bodie Mike’s – a mediocre BBQ restaurant – and crashed at the Lake View motor lodge. Ezra slept in his peapod tent.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

We spent our final day in Yosemite exploring the Tuolumne Meadows area. I had toyed with hiking up to Cathedral Lakes but given our long trek to Cloud’s Rest we opted for a less rigorous day. We cooked breakfast near Lembert Dome (John Baptiste Lembert was a homesteader in Tuolumne Meadows in 1865). Ezra and I walked up a broad ramp in front of the dome to get our bearings. Afterward we headed to the Visitor Center to grab a Ranger Tour of the Tuolumne Meadows. We learned about the flora, fauna, geology, and history of the Meadows area. Following the walk we banged out a short hike to the summit of Lembert Dome. Getting to the true summit required a bit of scrambling on steep rock, so BA and Ezra waited just below while I ascended. Great views of Cathedral Range and surrounding peaks. Finally, we said goodbye to Yosemite and headed back out through Lee Vining toward Lake Tahoe. Not before stopping to fill up the rental car with $5.00/gallon gas!

Our drive north and west to Lake Tahoe was uneventful. We crossed into Nevada and approached Lake Tahoe from the east. We drove up and over a mountain pass on Rt 207, passed the Heavenly ski resort, and came down into Stateline. Stateline is interesting because there are casinos lining the road right up to the California border. Back in California we drove through touristy, resorty South Lake Tahoe before arriving at Camp Richardson. Camp Richardson is a laidback family resort and campground surrounded by tall trees on the lakefront. Here we checked into our rustic cabin, complete with a pack-and-play for Ezra and a small kitchenette.

San Jose, CA

The Hoshikos              The Hoshikos Friday, September 7, 2012

We arrived in San Jose on Friday afternoon after successfully completing another flight with Ezra.  We dragged our luggage, car seat, and Ezra to the car rental agency and settled in to a midsized Hyundai.  We drove to our hotel during which time I determined I was driving in 2nd gear, which I quickly rectified.  In the evening we stayed at a Sheraton near downtown San Jose.  After Beth Ann and Ezra turned in, I went for a stroll to the nearby supermarket.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

In the morning, we returned to the supermarket to pick up food and some supplies.  Then we packed up the car and headed to the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad and W.E. “Bill” Mason Carousel park where we rendezvoused with Tom.  While crossing the street to retrieve something from our car, Beth Ann’s glasses (in their case) fell out of her back pocket.  An SUV drove over the case, but when BA retrieved them they were still intact, albeit with a visible crack in one temple.  In the park, we met up with Brandon, Liz, Sam, and Isaac for a picnic lunch.  It was fun to reunite and share parenthood stories.  Tom, Brandon, Ezra, Sam, and I then took a ride around the park on the train (Ezra had not yet entered his “choo-choo” period, otherwise he would have been even more ecstatic).  After the train ride we headed over to the playground for more shenanigans.  Finally, we packed up said our goodbyes.  The Hoshikos headed south to Los Angeles for Brandon’s sister’s wedding while we headed east for Yosemite.

Lodging: Four Points by Sheraton San Jose Downtown

Presidential Traverse

Northern Presidential Range

We completed the Presidential Traverse, approximately 19.5 mi, in 13:37. We spotted a car at Highland Center the previous evening.  We started at 5:15am at Appalachia TH and finished at 6:52pm at Highland Center. We filled up on water at Madison Hut, Washington Observatory, and Lake of the Clouds Hut. We each carried 3-4 sandwiches along with a variety of granola bars, trail mix, and fruit; this was more than sufficient. Weather was spotty; sunny in the morning and cloudy/stormy in the afternoon. We got caught in a hailstorm and a rainstorm.


                               Monday was a hectic return travel day and a bit of an experiment. Rather than flying back to Istanbul Sunday evening, we had booked our Antalya-Istanbul flight for Monday morning. This was a calculated risk as any delay could have caused us to miss our 1:00pm flight from Istanbul to Munich. Luckily, everything went according to plan, more or less. The White Garden Pansiyon arranged an early morning shuttle to the airport for us. From Antalya we took a short flight to Istanbul, where we killed a few hours. Passing through the passport control gate, we had a bit of a scare when the transit officer refused to let Ezra through. It turned out that his boarding pass said “Marc Krull” rather than “Ezra Fricker-Krull”. He held Beth Ann and Ezra in limbo while I returned to the Lufthansa ticketing desk. The agent simply wrote “Ezra Fricker-Krull” on the boarding pass and handed it back. Of course, back at passport control, this did not satisfy the transit officer, who complained to his partner. After making a phone call he finally decided we weren’t terrorists and let us pass. Once inside the terminal we conducted a fruitless search for souvenir t-shirts and settled on a box of Turkish delight, instead. While Beth Ann and Ezra waited at the gate I suffered through a painfully slow line at the currency exchange counter to avoid getting stuck with my remaining Turkish Lira. Ezra did great on the flight to Munich and equally well on the long haul back to Boston. He slept for a while and even allowed Beth Ann and I to each watch a movie. Once again the Lufthansa service was excellent and the food was not bad. On arriving at Logan we realized that bringing a smartphone would have been useful as we had no way to contact Mike. Beth Ann improvised by approaching a random young man and borrowing his phone to send a text message. It all worked out and Mike transported us back home where Ezra didn’t sleep very much we began the jetlag recovery process.

Antalya, Turkey

From Fethiye we headed to Antalya by bus. We were able to eat a leisurely Turkish breakfast on the patio of Villa Daffodil, stuff our gear into a dolmus, and show up at the otogar (bus station). Again, given that it was the shoulder season, we found a bus with space leaving for Antalya immediately. Back through the mountains and scenic countryside we went, stopping at a roadside cafe for a coffee break. Ezra did great, by now a seasoned bus traveler. As usual Brown Bear, Brown Bear and cheerios figured prominently. Check out BA making Ezra work for his cheerios:

Antalya is the largest Turkish city on the western Mediterranean coast. Its highlights are the old district of Kaleici (literally, “within the castle”), a Roman-era harbor and a good archaeology museum. After arriving at the bus station I changed some money and bought some snacks. Then we jumped in a taxi and headed to the White Garden Pansiyon in Kaleici. Kaleici is unique in that it is preserved as a historical district. Entry and exit is controlled via gates and the only inhabitants seem to be tourists, hotel employees, and shop owners. After checking in and dropping off our gear, we headed out to explore the city.

                               From a small square near the hotel, we enjoyed a beautiful view of the Roman harbor. The harbor was Antalya’s lifeline from teh 2nd century BC until the late 20th century. It is now a marina for yachts and excursion boats. While descending from the park I encountered a candied nut vendor. Intending to purchase a small serving of nuts, I asked him how much. “3TL per 100 grams” was his hurried answer, as he started scooping nuts from different containers into a large bag. Again, I asked him how much, and, pointing to his scale, he replied, “Don’t worry, automatic, 3TL per 100 grams”, and continued scooping. Finally, I told him to stop. He threw the bag on the scale, announcing, “700 grams, 19TL”, and before the realization could set in, he threw in a final scoop “for free”. I had already handed him a 10TL note by the time the realization set in that I had been “duped”. I was pretty annoyed and tempted to walk away. “Already mixed” he pointed out slyly, as I realized that the last scoop wasn’t for free at all. I forked over another 9TL and took my large bag of nuts, which I now expected to be snacking on for weeks to come. “I am not thief!” exclaimed the vendor as I shot angry looks at him.

                               From the harbor we meandered through the narrow streets to the main square called Kale Kapisi. Here we stopped to admire the clock tower (saat kalesi) and statue of Attalus II of Pergamum, the city’s founder. We strolled north through the strolling Sunday afternoon crowds in search of a bus which might transport us to the Antalya Museum. Eventually we boarded a bus that dropped us near where we had started. We grabbed chicken doner kebabs at a cafe and then started walking. At the museum Ezra was showered with attention by the welcome desk employees. Once inside, Ezra spent his time making loud baby noises and crawling around the statues. We visited the Hall of Regional Excavations with artifacts from Pantara and Xanthos. I enjoyed the Hall of the Gods where we viewed 2nd century AD statues of Zeus, Apollo, Athena, Artemis, and the rest of the Olympian gods. Most of the statues were found at Perge. Also interesting were the large, intricately carved sarcophagi, especially one which told the story of the twelve labors of Hercules.

After the museum we caught a bus back to Kaleici. We strolled the narrow streets for a bit before stopping for dinner at Villa Perla, an Ottoman building with a beautiful courtyard surrounding a pool. Mama Perla spent plenty of time cooing over Ezra and laughing with him. The meal was fantastic – I got a chicken and steak dish while Beth Ann had pasta.

Lodging: White Garden Pansiyon

Fethiye, Turkey, Day 3

                               On our last day in Fethiye, we set out to explore the Yedi Burun (Seven Capes) coast south of Oludeniz. We were aiming for the village of Faralya and its Butterfly Valley. Ultimately, our dolmus wound its way around steep cliffs and corners before depositing us at the last stop – Kabak. We paused for a lunch of gozlemes at a peaceful cafe where we met several hikers starting out on the Lycian Way. Then we hiked 30 minutes down the valley to the Gemile Beach. We noticed quite a bit of construction of bungalow-based retreats. At the beach we discovered an inviting recreational camp with bungalows, a tree house, a pool, and a restaurant.

                               We spent the afternoon lounging in the sun where Ezra was particular fascinated with the pebbly beach. I took a quick dip in the water but it was too cold for me. Ezra wanted nothing to do with the sea and screamed when we tried to dunk his feet. At the restaurant we ran into Burt and April from the previous day. They had taken a big jeep/truck down the hillside. Around 5:30pm we headed back up the trail and grabbed the last dolmus to Oludeniz, where we transferred to a second dolmus to Fethiye. After a short visit to the harbor we made our way to the fish market. Here we discovered a central fish market surrounded by restaurants. After selecting a a sea bass, the fish seller fileted it for us (35TL). We then took our fish to one of the restaurants, where it was cooked up, along with bread and salad, for 6TL each. Once again, the meal was very tasty and a unique way to enjoy the region’s seafood.

Lodging: Villa Daffodil

Fethiye, Turkey, Day 2

After a leisurely Turkish breakfast at Villa Daffodil, we departed to Oludeniz (“Dead Sea” in Turkish) via dolmus (shared van). After expending copious amounts of energy sitting on the bus for 40 minutes I arrived in Oludeniz famished and the first order of business was to eat lunch in order to avoid another low-glucose situation. Fortunately for us near the bus stop was a donor kebab establishment which ended up being my favorite of the trip. I even convinced Marc to split a third wrap between the two of us.

With full bellies we continued on to the beach where we decided to walk to the Blue Lagoon nearby. We soon learned that it would cost us another $10/person to enter the lagoon area so we decided to stay put on the public beach which was deserted due to the shoulder season. We splurged for an umbrella and two chairs and spent most of the time talking with an American couple and a British family that were seated near us. Marc attempted to swim in the sea but the cold water kept him from taking more than a quick dip. Ezra, who loves taking a bath at home, screamed bloody murder when we tried to put his toes in the waves.

The American couple, Burt and April, was from Portland, Oregon and the wife was actually on the nearby mountaintop waiting to parasail when we arrived. We spent a lot of time looking at the sky with Burt waiting for a blue sail to emerge. They actually had done quite a bit of traveling so we traded stories and advice about new destinations. The British family had a 15 month old son named Oscar. Ezra and Oscar hit if off since Ezra was a rock eater and Oscar kept eating the sand.

By 5pm the sun was obscured in the clouds and it seemed like a good time to head back. Once back in Fethiye we of course looked for food and arrived a local restaurant where we tried pide for the first time. Pide is referred to as “Turkish pizza”. Marc was disappointed that we were going to miss the sunset on the Tombs of Amyntas but we managed to fit in all in. On the way we passed several Lycian sarcophagi in a small park and one in the middle of the street. These sarcophagi have distinctive shapes and design patterns and are found in various places along the coast. The Tombs of Amyntas are Lycian burial vaults carved into the rock and were very beautiful with the warm glow from the sunset. At the tombs we ran into our South Korean friends and watched the sunset over the mountains and Calis Bay.

Lodging: Villa Daffodil

Fethiye, Turkey, Day 1

After a relaxing morning at Melrose Hotel to counter the hectic previous day, we continued on with our journey by picking up a 12:30pm bus to Fethiye on the Mediterranean coast. While waiting for the bus we spent some time talking with two friendly solo South Korean travelers. The bus took us through beautiful, mountainous countryside. The scenery was breathtaking in places and Marc and I both wondered when we would actually hit the coast. Much to our surprise we could still see the mountains when we arrived in Fethiye; the merger of water and mountains created a spectacular coast line.

While checking in to the Villa Daffodil we conversed with the animated former Colonel who owns the hotel; with his two employees standing behind him we felt like were addressing the captain of a ship! Later we discovered that we were one of only seven guests. After getting settled we put Ezra into the stroller and took a walk on the board walk. Near the marina Marc noticed increased security, catering, and people walking around with 007 badges. Putting two and two together, we figured out that the next James Bond installment – Skyfall – was filming in Fethiye! Unfortunately, we didn’t run into Daniel Craig or Rachel Weisz but it added some excitement to the trip.

Since it was getting late our search for a restaurant was on, especially since I was approaching a critical “food mood”. For the uninitiated, this is a low-glucose condition where if I don’t eat I end up enraged at my travel partner. Some might call it a “Code Red” situation. We were on the search for a restaurant listed in the Lonely Planet guide. I was a little on edge at this point since my last meal was hours ago and I wanted to stop at just about any place. Marc reminded about our quest for good food and we finally found our destination, Deniz Restaurant (Deniz means sea in Turkish). It was almost 8pm and there were no customers so I was a bit skeptical, especially since we were about to eat seafood. Marc asked for a menu. No menu. Instead they showed us the mezes we could choose from and then peeled back a blanket on a large ice chest that revealed the freshly-caught fish we could choose from. After some discussion, we selected a red snapper and waited for our meal. We were not disappointed. Our waiter, a Jude Law look-alike, was very kind to us and even took Ezra for a few minutes when he became fussy so I could enjoy my dinner.

Not a bad way to end the day.

Lodging: Villa Daffodil

Pamukkale, Turkey

Parasailer over the travertine terraces

Parasailer over the travertine terraces

The three hour bus ride from Selcuk to Denizli went surprisingly well. As usual, Ezra made friends with two women who were happy to hold him for a bit. Near the end of the ride he started to get antsy and we kept him occupied with the secret weapons – Brown Bear, Brown Bear and cheerios. In Denizli we switched to a dolmus for the 45 minute ride to Pamukkale. As we meandered through town picking up passengers the dolmus started to get crowded, and Ezra started to get unhappy. By the time we hit the highway he was screaming and BA was at a loss. We were getting various suggestions from all sides – He’s hot; Here’s some water; He wants to be by the open window; Give him to me, I’ll hold him. Finally, we yanked him out of the ergo and pulled his pants off. The rapid cooling seemed to calm him down.

In Pamukkale we found the Melrose Hotel, dropped our stuff, enjoyed our customary post bus ride drinks, and got a shuttle ride to the South Entrance of the Hierapolis complex. Hierapolis was founded around 190 BC by Eumenes II, king of Pergamum. It evolved into a medicinal center that prospered under the Romans and the Byzantines. Recurrent earthquakes affected the city and it was abandoned after a major tremor in 1334. Highlights included the Roman theatre, Temple of Apollo, and Antique Pool. The theatre was built in two stages between 60 AD and 352 AD by emperors Hadrian and Septimius Severus. It had seating for 15,000 and featured an imperial (VIP) box, which is where I imagine Joaquin Phoenix giving a thumbs down to a defeated gladiator. The Temple of Apollo had an oracle tended by eunuch priests. The source of inspiration was an adjoining spring called the Plutonium, dedicated to Pluto, god of the underworld. The spring released poisonous gas, seen as a direct line to Hades. Temples dedicated to Apollo were often built over sites with geological activity, such as at Delphi. The focus of Hierapolis was its sacred pool, which is now a swimming pool. Visitors can still swim amid submerged sections of original fluted marble columns (as I did). The pool was shaped by a 7th century AD earthquake. The water temperature is warm (96.8F).

Antique Pool

Antique Pool

The highlight of Pamukkale is the network of white travertines that wind down the mountain. Travertines are terraces of carbonate material deposited by mineral springs. Pamukkale means “cotton castle” in Turkish. Hierapolis was built on top of the white mountain which can be seen from Denizli, 20 km away. From a distance, it looks like an otherworldly ski resort. People have bathed in these pools for thousands of years. In the mid-twentieth century, hotels were built over the ruins of Hierapolis, causing significant damage to the travertines. An approach road was even paved over the terraces. When the site was adopted by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1988, the hotels were dismantled and the road was removed and replaced with artificial pools. Other travertine terraces include Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone NP, Badab-e Surt in Iran, and Huanglong in China

Although initially reluctant, BA, Ezra, and I ended up walking down the dedicated path over the travertines. Wearing shoes in the water is strictly prohibited to protect the mineral deposits. Watchful guards angrily blow their whistles at unsuspecting tourists who ignore the rules.

Lodging: Melrose Hotel