Chris Christensen Host of The Amateur Traveler – Episode 6 Marion Vermazen Podcast

Chris Christensen, host of the Amateur Traveler Podcast is my guest for episode 6 of the Marion Vermazen Podcast. The Amateur Traveler is an iTunes featured travel podcast and it is one of my favorites.

In our conversation Chris and I discuss travel, podcasting, and how he creates the show. We also discussed his approach to traveling, podcasts he listens to and studying languages.

If you would like to listen to the interview you can click on the following link. When you run your mouse over the gray bar below you will see a play button to click on.


Chris Christensen headshot

Links to things we discussed 

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Silver Peak Mount Rose Hike

For ten years the Silver Peak Brewery which has two great restaurants in Reno has sponsored a hike to the top of Mount Rose. For a donation you get a t-shirt and beer at the top. The hike benefits the Nevada Land Conservancy. Their web site says that they have been so successful that because of over use this is the last year that the hike will be on Mount Rose.


Mount Rose overlooks Reno and at 10,775 ft high is the highest peak around Reno.


We did the Silver Peak Mount Rose Hike one other time two years ago.  I blogged about it here. It was cold, there was snow at the top, and it was VERY windy but still fun. This time the weather was unseasonably warm. Getting to the top was relatively easy. I’m sure that was because Duke and I hiked 32.5 miles with packs on our backs on the Tahoe Rim Trail about a week ago. Saturday afternoon it was wonderful to sit on top with all the people and dogs and enjoy the views and a beer.



From the top we saw a helicopter land in the meadow way below. Apparently they were there to evacuate someone who was having heart problems. We started down and about an hour from the top came upon two guys who had just found a guy collapsed and unconscious on the trail. As we approached he started vomiting and they turned him on his side.  I called 911 and explained that we were were about half a mile above the helicopter that was already there. The man was coming around by this point. He said he was 75 and didn’t have a  history of heart problems. He had already been to the top.

We think it was probably the altitude and the heat that got to him. The paramedics hiked up from the meadow and reached in about ten minutes. Apparently in addition to the helicopter guys some more paramedics had hiked in to help with the first guy. We hiked on down and watched the LifeCare helicopter lift of with the first guy who they had carried down the trail and loaded on the helicopter. Another helicopter came in and circled but I don’t think it landed so I am guessing that the guy we helped hiked out after he felt better.



If you would like to see all the pictures from this hike they are available on Google here.

Two more Books

I recently finished reading Sense and Sensability by Jane Austin and Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. I have seen and enjoyed movies made from both of these books.

I like to read Jane Austin books. Having seen the movie of Sense and Sensability made reading the book even more fun than it would have been otherwise. There are differences between the book and the movie which allowed the book to surprise me and I was able to visualize Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant and Kate Winslet as Elinor, Marianne, and Edward.

While I enjoyed both the movie and the book of Julie and Julia I thought the movie was wonderful and book just OK. In the book  Julie often seemed silly and annoying but in the movie she is likable. In both movie and book Julia Child is awesome. Meryl Steep IS Julia Child. I greatly admire her passion, hard work and dedication. Over a year ago I read My Life in France, Julia Child's memoir. I highly recommend it.

I've added these two books to my list of books read this year.

Tahoe Rim Trail – Barker Pass to Echo Lake – We did it!

Duke and I just finished the section of the Tahoe Rim Trail from Barker Pass to Echo Lake. We did it as a four day backpacking trip. Several of our friends from the Sierra Canyon Hiking Group did it in two days of hiking. The hike is a total of 32.5 miles. Four days was hard. I can't imagine doing it in two.

Day 1 – Barker Pass to Richardson Lake

We started the hike last Friday.  We picked up our Desolation Wilderness camping permits in Tahoe City then drove two vehicles to Echo Lake which is just off of highway 50 at the south end of Lake Tahoe. We left the truck parked at Echo Lake and drove the car north to our starting point at Barker Pass. What with stopping for lunch and all the driving back and forth we didn't get on the trail until about 2. Our first night was at Richardson Lake which is just north of the start of the Desolation Wilderness.By the time we got there it was around 7 and we didn't have a lot of time to get our camp set up. Duke does all the cooking when we camp. The red beans and rice were really good.

This is a picture of our camp site at Richardson Lake.


Richardson Lake


Day 2 – Richardson Lake to Fontanallis Lake 

Our first day of hiking was only about 7 miles so we needed to do more on day 2 if we wanted to average 8 miles a day. We ended up camping at Fontanallis Lake which was one of the prettiest lakes we saw. It was overcast and cool most of the day, perfect weather for hiking. The evening and first part of the night were very windy. The tent even blew away and we had to catch it before we could stake it down.

The battery on  my small camera died  on Saturday (day 2) and I discovered that my back-up battery wasn't charged so these are my last pictures from the trip.

This picture is of Fontanallis Lake.


This picture is of our camp site at Fontanallis Lake.


Day 3 – Fontanallis Lake to Aloha Lake

This was by far the hardest day of the hike. We climbed over 1000 feet up to Dick's Pass. From the top which is at 9,380 feet we hiked down 1,700 feet and then back up about 500 feet to Lake Aloha. It sounds like a very welcoming lake doesn't it? Wrong! In my opinion this is the moist inappropriately named lake ever. It should be named Desolation Lake, or Moon Scape Lake, or even Granite Lake. There are very few trees and we had to walk aver a mile along the shore of the lake to find an OK camp site. Lake Aloha is part of the Sacramento water system and the water level was way down. I think where we camped is usually under water. The vast amount of granite and very few trees did make for one of the most memorable experiences of the trip. As it got dark we lay on a big slab of granite and watched the millions of stars and the milky way come out. We even saw a meteor!

Day 4 – Lake Aloha to Echo Lake

The hike out on Monday was relatively easy. During the summer there is a water taxi on Echo Lake which allows you to avoid the last 2.5 miles of the hike. It was closed for the season so we got to admire all the cabins along the shore of Echo Lake as we hiked out. The Desolation Wilderness ends about 3 miles before the end of the hike. Soon after we started hiking Monday morning a ranger checked our wilderness permit. We also had a ranger check the permit while we were camped at Fontanillis Lake. I wonder what happens if you don't have a permit.


Backpacking is hard work. The scenery was wonderful and the weather was great, but I must admit I am glad to be done.

We have now hiked the whole Tahoe Rim Trail all 165 miles of it! We did it in 10 hikes:

How to be a Better Amateur Historian

Hackett Fischer

Last Monday I listened to a online lecture by Professor David Hackett Fischer of Brandeis University. He has written several books of history including Washington’s Crossing, Paul Revere’s Ride and Champlain’s dream. He was also my daughter’s adviser at Brandeis. Professor Fischer’s lecture was great. One of the things he talked about was how interest in History is growing among college students and among older people who are coming to History having studied and had careers in unrelated areas. That’s me.

I consider myself an amateur historian. I have always loved History. My college degree was in Computer Science rather than History because my parents always impressed on me how important it was to get a marketable degree and History was considered anything but marketable. So now that I am no longer working for a living but instead I am working at things I love, I have added Historian to my list of current ‘jobs’.

At the end of the lecture Professor Fischer took questions so I submitted one. I asked if he had any advice other than reading books about how to become a better amateur historian. He said that Francis Parkman wrote an essay about being a historian  in which he said you should “Go there”, “Do it”, and “Write it”. He recommended retracing the paths and locations of whatever you are studying. Professor Fischer inspired me and made me think that I should plan some historical travel trips and write about them.

It would be fun to retrace John Quincy Adams trip from Russia to The Netherlands as a 16 year old. Here in Nevada, Duke and I have explored some of the old pioneer routes. I should do some more reading about the pioneers and write about it. Do you have other suggestions?

What other ideas do you have about how to be a better amateur historian?