" 'Pole, pole,' repeated our guide Peter Mato as we climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro," remembered Ernie Furtado of Lafayette.
Pronounced "polay," this Swahili word means "slow," a key piece of advice from the guide, as was dressing appropriately when climbing to the summit in Tanzania, Africa.
The Furtado/Pelletreau family of four climbed Africa's highest mountain on Christmas Eve.
"It was a goal that I did not expect at this time in our lives," said Barbara Pelletreau. "But when we decided to do a safari with REI in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, this (trip) was conveniently the week before."
There were 12 climbers on the REI tour. "Everyone got along and became fast friends, which was important considering the cozy accommodations on the mountain and physically challenging conditions," noted Furtado.
The family trained by climbing and cycling the back side of Mt. Diablo.
"I've done six marathons and hundreds of triathlons, but the day we climbed to the summit, which took 91/2 hours from Kibo Hut at 15,600 feet to the summit at 19,340 feet, was definitely the toughest thing I have ever done," Furtado said. "The combination of starting the climb at 11 p.m., high altitude, the steepness of the climb and the low temperature were challenging.
"Two in our group of 12 turned back, and we saw hikers from other groups also get assisted down the mountain. I was very proud of our entire family for making
Gold, sunshine at Rancho de los Caballeros
A trip to Rancho de los Caballeros is like walking in on a family reunion. Guests have been returning to this historic Wickenburg, Ariz. dude ranch since it opened in 1948.
A naturalist is on hand to hike or ride with you on 20,000 acres of rolling Sonoran Desert. On my first horseback ride I saw a bobcat giving her offspring hunting lessons. Golfers will play one of the top 75 golf courses in the country and everyone will enjoy the pool. Personally, I recommend the spa after team penning on horseback, or playing 18 holes of golf.
Meals are included at this family-friendly all-inclusive resort. Save time for a visit to the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in downtown.
Family-friendly Alisal Guest Ranch
Clark Gable got married here, and "True Blood" stars Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer got engaged here. I came to Alisal Ranch to relax.
But if you want an action-filled vacation, there's always boot camp. That's right -- the Alisal offers Cowgirl and Cowboy Boot Camp. It's not as tough as it sounds. Between trail rides and barrel racing, there is time to fish in the 100-acre spring-fed lake, or swing a club at one of two 18-hole golf courses.
My favorite activity at the ranch was the Breakfast Ride. Everyone from age 7 to 97 is welcome to ride or take the hay wagon to the Old Adobe. The fitness center and spa are good for working up a sweat after a visit to nearby Solvang. Breakfast and dinner are included in the all-inclusive pricing, so visit Solvang for lunch.
The charming town of Solvang is minutes from the Alisal and a 41/2-hour drive from Contra Costa County. Here you will find the Danish capital of America replicating a European village with wine tasting, art and Dutch foods.
Both Rancho de los Caballeros and Alisal Ranch are members of Ranchweb, a dude ranch directory.
Read Lamorinda-based Nancy D. Brown's blog at www.Nancydbrown.com