Friday, March 25, 2011

Kangaroos in the Mist

Leveraging two business trips, Margaret and I met in Melbourne last Friday for a wonderful date weekend.  Renting a tiny car, we drove to the Grampian Mountains through increasingly wild range lands dotted by scattered sheep and ruminating cattle. Blue haze hung from eucalyptus trees. After a stunning sunset, we arrived in the small village of Halls Gap with the full moon washing the sandstone cliffs above our honeymoon cottage.

Waking up the next morning, we gazed across the misty field to see a mob of kangaroos grazing in the meadow. As we snuck closer a few bounced off with their outrageous and effortless jumps. Later that morning, while driving to our hike, we saw a pair of wild Emus cantering across another field.  And then as we stomped thru some exotic scenery on our way up Mt Stapleton, we flushed rock wallabies from the bush. Totally cool!

The scenery was also magnificent. Exposed slickrock had eroded to look like twisted elephant hide. Massive ferns and leathery leafed plants mixed with delicate flowers. Beehive falls tricked down a mossy cliff, coyly denying the majesty which it must command during “The wet.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

That's my Australia!

Computer Science pays the bills, but where’s the excitement?   If I’m going to take a sabbatical, shouldn’t I learn something new?  Initiate a new career?  That’s what I was thinking when Margaret left for a business trip to Melbourne.  With oversight eliminated, I quickly dashed to the casting office and was very pleased with the outcome. Of course, I do miss Margaret, but I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Nicole…

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cookbook Climbing

2/20/11 At a whopping 364m, mighty Mt Tibrogargan was today’s destination and it nearly defeated us. Located in the absurdly steep Glass House Mountains north of Brisbane, Tibrogargan baked in the sun.  Hoping for cooler temperatures, we had foolishly waited until late afternoon for our ascent – unaware that the class 4 scrambling route ascended the exposed west face.  As we started the adventure, I wondered if the day’s blazing heat had produced enough  thermal energy to return the igneous boulders to their original, molten form?  Clambering upwards, our palms were repeatedly seared as we grasped holds on the dark volcanic cliff.  “Baking sun” seemed the obvious phrase, but half-way up I realized that it wasn’t at all appropriate.   Rather, this climb resembled some newfangled sous vide cooking – the humidity was so high that I was continually basted in a salty jus.

Eventually, of course, we reached the pinnacle’s top and savored splendid views of Tibrogargan's shadow on the surrounding plains as well as the nearby expanse of the Sunshine Coast.  As the sun set, the temperature relented and the descent was actually quite pleasant. But next time, I’ll time the climb for early morning. 

The Glass House mts are steep!
Margaret pauses to cool her hands.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Olivia and Stephanie's Visit

2/19-28/11 Since before her tearful departure from Seattle, Leah has been anticipating the visit by her good friends Olivia and Stephanie. I have to say that it was every bit of a fantastic hit as she hoped. Right after picking them up from the airport, we drove N to the Sunshine Coast - with the girls chattering excitedly in the car the whole way. On Tues and Wed, the girls dressed in uniforms and went to school with Leah. Together, they held a Koala at the Lone Pine Reserve. Then, on the final weekend, we drove S to the Gold Coast, visited Olivia's aunt Barbara and hiked in Springbrook and Lamington National Parks. 
Yes, we want to bring a Koala home, but I'm afraid that Customs will check our bags...

A pair of Ibises stalked fish just a few feet from our cabin by the Balina beach.

Can you believe such an incredible beach with no one on it?

This is the incredible (if unimaginably named) "Natural Bridge" in Springbrook Nat'l Park.

Claustral Canyon

3/6/11 - I had a chance to visit the Blue Mountains one last time before antipodean winter hit - this time with just Adam and Galen.  We chose to try the classic, Claustral Canyon, through the new approach route (the Dismal Dingles). It was cold (mid 50s) and drizzling and this bushwack added 2-3 hours of wet, leech-infested interlocked barbed vines and ferns, but it was worth it! The three rappels down the Black Hole of Calcutta were fantastic as was the intersection of Ranon Brook, the 700m section to Thunder Gorge and the amazing Tunnel Swim. When we finally reached the car, 11 hours later and chilled to the bone, we were zonked, but the canyon was truly fabulous.

The first rappel (down into the Black Hole of Calcutta) starts underneath this boulder!

Adam, on the first rap.
Galen, entering the upper (open) part of the "Black Hole" - the next rap takes you deeper and darker.

At the junction with Ranon Brook

Looking back up Claustral, from the Thunder Gorge junction.

Downclimbing the hand-line, right before the tunnel swim.

50m of cold, dark swimming!  Rocks have clogged the narrow canyon, creating an intermittent roof

Galen lives for this stuff!