Category Archives: Camping & That Outdoorsy Stuff

What is UP?!

Geez, anti-chatty, much?

Well, you can tell when I came back to California. In rural Australia, there’s pretty much nothing to do other than knit, watch very bad TV, and write blog posts about the few things you do that are actually interesting. It was nice to have some time to chill with the knitting needles, but near the end I got kind of antsy, like I was just spinning my wheels on the whole business thing. So when I got back to California, I hit the ground running. Here’s the quick synopsis of my life since early May:

1. Arrive in SLO. Awesome surprise greeting party of all my favorite peeps. Tail-gater in the airport parking lot, complete with sammich, beer, and fondling sub-15-micron merino fleece.
2. One hour later, take off for Phoenix, spend time with family, and help spread my grandmother’s ashes. Go through tons of pictures with Dad, and realize that the act of going through physical pictures is probably going to be obsolete by the time I die.
3. Two days later, back in SLO. Say hi to kitties that I’ve missed very much.
4. Felicia’s sweet wedding – she wore red cowboy boots under her dress and had the wedding & reception at a wine bar. Dinner was biscuits and gravy. Totally perfect. Oh, and the groom is pretty cool too. :)
5. Spinning at the Winery in Livermore. Nice event, met nice people, lots of spinners, chatted with the cool vending folks (Shari and Morgaine mostly, but met the nice people behind Shaggy Bear Farms and got to talk to another natural dyer!) Also tasted the wine – Retzlaff Winery has some pretty nice wines.
6. Shearing at the Pronsolino Ranch! Year two, I learned quite a lot from Year 1 and had a better setup. An actual shearing table this time (instead of a sheet of plastic on the dirt), I talking my friend Marya into helping, and I picked much better fleece. It’s still a ton of work – you go through about 100 fleeces in rapid succession in an afternoon.
7. Dan gets back from Australia, yay!
8. Dan’s sister’s wedding – back up to Northern Cal for a bigger event this time. Yes, I wore the same dress that I wore to Felicia’s wedding a few weeks before. It has also made an appearance the wedding of another 2 friends, and I think those are all the separate friend circles that I have, so I think the dress will now be semi-retired.
8. I actually begin honest work on my website.
9. Then we find an awesome house for rent about a mile away – it has a 1-car garage plus storage space plus workshop plus backyard. It’s in a nice little neighborhood instead of a fishbowl bordered by obnoxious students and obnoxious adults with screaming kids. So we decide to move.
9.5. We add 2 big planter boxes to the 2 big planter boxes that are already at the new house. We plant stuff. This is cool, I’ve never had a garden before. Dan’s convinced I’m going to kill everything, so he sets up a fully automatic irrigation system. We buy organic seeds, plus some grown-in-an-organic-manner plants from a local nursery called Growing Grounds, which works with people suffering from mental health issues. I could not possibly feel more awesome about the garden!
10. We pack stuff.
11. I get rid of stuff.
12. We move stuff.
13. We unpack stuff.
14. We fix stuff.
15. Move, move, move, moving, moving.
15.5. My cat Bandit goes missing. :( Tears, inability to sleep, worry, and feeling like a failure.
16. More unpacking.
17. Buying storage stuff.
18. Assembling storage stuff.
18.5 More fixing stuff.
19. Figure out where the hell to store stuff.
20. Getting rid of more stuff.
21. Isn’t moving fun?
22. Deep fried food, chocolate-covered bacon, ice cream, and overpriced beer at the county fair.
23. and AEROSMITH!!! Totally rocked, this time we saw them from stage right (two years ago we were stage left).
24. Deep fried food, chocolate-covered bacon, ice cream, and overpriced beer at the county fair…..again!
25. and WEEZER! Holy crap, like 8th row! Awesome concert, and as all concerts do, makes me want to be a rock star when I grow up. This experience was brought to you by the letters J-A-S-O-N, otherwise known as Felicia’s husband who bought her an awesome birthday present to share with friends. :)
26. Frantic packing from 11pm after the Weezer concert until 2am. Packed for being gone for 2 weeks, 3 separate trips.
27. #1 trip – backpacking in Goddard Canyon! 44 miles in 72 hours. A personal record, but the last day kind of sucked ass. Wore the 5-fingers KSO Treks and totally loved them. Best trail shoes ever, even though they blew out a hole in between the big toe and index toe.
28. #2 trip – camping and climbing in Tuolumne! Totally awesome, the entire freaking LA crew was there due to two of my friends doing a once-in-a-lifetime climb. Jan and Andrew did the Bachar-Yerian. For those of you that don’t climb….well, I really don’t know how to equate it to anything. It’s pretty much the boldest and most impressive thing you can do, requires physical ability and mental focus that is super-human. And Andrew led it with a veritable circus of 20 of us below watching. Insane and brilliant. Dan and I stuck to easy-peasy stuff, I felt killer on knobs and Dan felt good to be out climbing after 2 years and 2 more shoulder surgeries. Yay!
29. I get news that my cat was found, but was dying. I have to make the call to put her down while I’m away. Tears, inability to sleep, and feeling like a complete and utter failure.
30. #3 trip – Golden Gate Fiber Institute! My brain has to degauss from going straight from climbers to fiber freaks, but the potty-mouthedness, insanity, and intensity carries straight on through. So does the sleeping bag, as it’s at the YMCA camp on the Marin Headlands. Also a strange mix of past and present – fiber arts at a place that was once used for missile defense. It was the most killer week I’ve ever spent with fellow fiber freaks, learned new and cool spinning tricks & skillz, and made some awesome, awesome new friends that I’m totally stoked to keep in touch with and see again at other fibery events.
30. Home again! To an overflowing washing machine and screwed-up dryer. Yep, home sweet home. :)
31. Immense spoiling of remaining kitty. Immense gratitude to my friend Eileen who was with my other kitty in her last moments. I enjoyed making her an over-the-top yarn care package – you just can’t put a price on what she did and it was the least I could do to show my appreciation.
32. Immense freaking out when I saw “a thing” on remaining kitty’s neck a few days later. Turns out it was just an abscess and the vet drained it and she’s just fine. Well, occasionally trailing blood and pus around the house, but just fine.
33. Work on my website finally continues in earnest. I made a commitment that I’d be up on September 1st, and that’s what’s going to happen. So I don’t update my blog again for a little bit…..well, I’ll be at the computer working on the real site. :)

See you soon!

Mungo National Park

Telegram for Mr. Mongo! Telegram for Mr. Mongo! I’m sorry, but the name Mungo reminds me of Blazing Saddles, and I had to get that out of my system before I could continue with the post. Damn you, Mel Brooks!

You get to Mungo after driving down 120+ km of dirt roads, punctuated by jarring cattle (or sheep) guards. There’s no water, no gas, and no store out there, so you have to make sure you bring what you need and head out with a full tank of diesel. But it’s well worth the trip – how often can you go someplace where they’ve found human remains over 30,000 years old? I can just imagine the ancient Aborigines running down the mega-fauna of the day – large pig-hippos, huge wombats, and giant kangaroos. The National Park mostly encompasses a few ancient lake beds – the floor has long ago filled in with scrub brush, but there still linger the remains of an ancient shoreline, and sand dunes where the westerly wind blew the soil to opposite shore. Within the past 200 years, the entire area was home to 50,000 sheep at one point, and a large shearing operation.

The lookout of Mungo Lake was our first stop. I think pictures with Dan in them look better. :)

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And I’ll just apologize right now – I’ve become obsessed with digital stitching and panoramas recently. But the Australian landscape really lends itself to these type of pictures – it’s mostly flat as far as the eye can see. And when you get cloudy days with the cloud-shadows on the landscarpe, it’s really pretty. Click on most of these pix for a larger view – they’re still somewhat low-res because it’s easier to upload, but you’ll get a better sense of scale.

Mungo Lake Panorama (Large)

We then drove around the self-guided tour of the 70 km Mungo Loop. It kind of went something like this: I’m pretending to be a rally car driver and driving a 1-ton rear-wheel drive ute with nothing in the back. It steers like a boat and the back breaks loose occasionally. We pass a small green sign with a white number on it – 19! – and screech to a halt. I speed-read the excerpt from the brochure, which usually is something like this: “The depression between you and the lunette to your left would commonly fill in with water to form a lagoon.” Or “You are now crossing the lunette and entering the habitat of Rosewood and Belah trees. Note the dense stand of Belahs to your right.” Dan would say something silly, resulting from being awake for about 30 hours at that point and having drunk 12 Carlton Draughts in the last 4. We’d race onward. And here’s what we saw.

Eroding sandstone at the east end of the lake. This formation is some of the only topography around. The brochure said it was nicknamed the “Walls of China” by the Chinese laborers that were used to build many of the buildings, water tanks, and sheds around the park. I’ve no doubt it was named that because of the laborers, but it sounds like a cruel joke perpetrated by the landowners to me. These “walls” are maybe 50 ft tall at the tallest. Regardless, it’s a beautiful natural feature.

Mungo Eroded Wall 2 (Large)

Then we drove around the back side of the wall, through mallee scrub and Belah trees, until we got to the northern sand dunes.

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When we got to these dunes, we noticed a lot of paddy melons. These are common throughout Australia – they’re a non-native species that does really well and sprouts up everywhere. They look like small watermelons, but are unfortunately toxic for humans. Surprisingly, we noticed that something had been eating the paddy melons. And then we saw a big flock of Galahs! Galahs are pretty cool – they’re pink-breasted cockatoos, but they have a much less raucous voice. These guys weren’t real tame, and flew away anytime I got anywhere close. So squint your eyes, and pretend these pictures aren’t blurry.

Paddy melons on the ground and Galahs in the tree:

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Even though these were pretty far away, they at least spread their combs for me. Check out the Galah in the tree! It actually has a paddy-melon:

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It’s very pretty to see a bunch of them flying – all you see is their bright pink underbelly as they fly overhead.

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After all the Galahs flew away, Dan and I spied the obvious high point:

Mungo Sand Dune (Large)

So we set out to summit Mt. Dune:

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I got distracted by the cool shapes the wind makes in the sand:

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But we did bag the peak:

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The light was nice on the way back down:

Mungo Pink Dunes (Large)

And when we got back to the car, the sleepiness and beer took its toll, and Dan actually managed to fall asleep. And yes, I’m totally bombing down the road while stealthily taking this picture. :)

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I continued around the rest of the loop and back to the Mungo Lodge. Which was a “4-star resort” which charged the exorbitant price of $250 a night (yay for only being out there one night and it being my birthday present!) for staying in a nicely-furnished mobile unit. Seriously, it was a nicely-appointed desert shack. I mean, it would totally be worth $125 per night, but the chique image with the snooty French proprietor was just a little much. Dinner was super-good, and not all that expensive by Australian standards, so next time I’d bring a tent and just go there for dinner. Breakfast was super-expensive, and though they were the most perfectly poached eggs I’ve ever seen in my life, I don’t think eggs and bacon is worth $29 per person.

Anyway, I stopped by the Lodge because we forgot to bring lunch out there, and the loop spits you out not too far from it. I grabbed the cooler, pried Dan out of the bed (somehow he had made it from the ute to the bed while I was in the bathroom), and raced back out to the Walls of China to catch the sunset. Even Dan was glad I dragged him out, it was really pretty.

Mungo Sunset Panorama 1 (Large)

I even managed to add a few more pictures of alpenglow to my repertoire! When we got there:

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And about 30 seconds later:

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Later that night, the stars were the best I’ve seen since I lived in the Caribbean. Even high-altitude in the Sierras can’t compare to it. It’s interesting – the hostel in Melbourne had a large picture behind the counter of the world at night. I’ve seen these before, but I never paid too much attention to Australia. It’s impressively dark. And there’s a big hole in ozone layer over Oz, so you don’t have as much atmosphere in the way. It was like the best of both worlds – the billions of stars you see in the Caribbean, but with that cold constant shine that the stars have in the Sierras. Dan and I laid out on a blanket outside of the room, just staring. He was snoring in about a minute, so I dragged him out of sleep for the last time, and into our over-priced bed. :)

Mongo like candy.

The Grampians

At long last, I got out of Robinvale and traveled a little! Dan actually had 2 whole days (well, nights) off, so we could really go somewhere. And where do 2 outdoor junkies go? To a climbing mecca of course, even though we didn’t bring any gear. We had to scope it out for next time, right? :) The Grampians is a National Park in the middle of Victoria, where mountains spring out of the otherwise flat-for-miles-around land. Dan and I got there on Sunday afternoon, after taking a network of backroads like this one. This is technically a 2-lane highway, even though there was only 1 paved lane.

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We drove in through the more remote west side of the park, mostly on dirt roads. When we got to a lookout in the main park, it was cloudy, but the light was nice:

Grampians Panorama (Large)

And this is a beat – uh – u can’t touch: (oh, oh, oh, oh-oh, oh)

Hammertime mosaic

Dan stayed up for a marathon 30 hours, then we got a few hours of sleep before picking up Shannon at the bus station in a nearby town at 3am. She’s a friend from California who had been working near Adelaide, and amazingly enough, that was the ONLY bus option! So we all slept in, then drove through the park and went on a few hikes. This is called The Pinnacle, and overlooks the town:

Pinnacles Panorama (Large)

The trails are pretty cool – this one in particular reminded me a lot of the via ferrata in the Italian Dolomites. There were metal stairs and ladders anchored into the rock, so that you could comfortably walk through canyons and up and down what would otherwise be chimneys and cliffs. It’s nice to have a few things accessible to the majority of the public.

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This was the only waterfall still going at this time of year, and it was pretty spectacular. Note the small pink dot of Shannon to the left!

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Dan had to drive back to Robinvale the next day, but Shannon and I decided to stay in Halls Gap for one more day. We hiked a cool loop from the town that went past a few waterfalls (dry right now) and up to a peak that overlooked town. And on the way down, I finally got my fill of kangaroos! There was a whole herd of them – 30 at least – hanging out on the edge of town. They were quite used to people, and Shannon and I watched them and took pictures for probably half an hour. I got some good videos of them hopping & boxing, but I’ll have to wait to post them until I’m back at home and don’t have to pay for bandwidth. :)

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I also checked out an interesting shop in town – it was a felting shop called Garments and Gadgets. Not a yarn store, a Felting store. The owners make really beautiful felted scarves by wet-felting and nuno-felting, and they sell a bunch of roving in all sorts of colors. I talked to them a little while and watched a felting workshop going on in back. It was pretty cool – you can make a nice scarf out of about 50g of roving. The ones that were nuno-felted – meaning that fiber was felted together through both sides of a porous silk scarf – were quite lovely. I was amazed at how light and airy those were, with beautiful drape. It definitely gave me ideas! Here’s a little sample of their wares:

Felting store mosaic

When we got back to our hostel, Tim’s Place, we invited our new friend Megan (pronounced mee-gan) out to dinner. She’s Tim’s niece and was watching the place for him. She said she’d go to dinner with us, if we’d go to breakfast with her tomorrow – and did we want to be on TV? It turns out that The Today Show, which I think is sort of like The Today Show or Good Morning America in the US, was filming the weather segment at Halls Gap the next morning. So Shannon, Megan, and I got up at 6, and were at the National Park Visitor’s Center by 6:30. And sure enough, we got our mugs on TV a few times. Too cool! I’m famous now. Well, not really, but I got to hold up a sign that said, “Hi, Dan!” and he actually saw it live. How funny is that? After those shenanigans, we hung out in town for a while, and I took pictures of a flock of cockatoos:

Cockatoo mosaic

Then we took a bus to Melbourne!

Viva La Barefoot Revolucion!

Ok, before I show you pretty pictures of yarn, I just have to write about a book I just read, called Born to Run. It’s one of those books that completely changed my way of thinking – in this case, about shoes and running.

I’ve always been one to prefer barefootedness. I remember running on the gravel walkways around my house as a kid, with never an ouch! or twinge. Running around barefoot on the beach, occasionally getting stuck by prickers from sea grape bushes or catch-and-keep. Scrambling around barefoot on the rocks by my house, accidentally once sticking my foot into a dirt patch full of cactus spines. Aside from those few missteps, I only put shoes on to go to school or into town. Fast forward to today, where my feet are in shoes most of the time, except when I’m home. Then I kick them off and run around barefoot again. But now, I can be barefoot outside too:

Five Fingers Footies!

Woo-hoo! Yay for funny-looking little toe shoes! Also known as Vibram Five Fingers. Apparently, we’ve been doing nothing but screwing up our feet ever since Nike invented thick-soled sneakers in the 1970’s. A lot of the arguments the book brings up are well-researched and make a lot of sense. Running and walking with a heavily cushioned shoe promotes heel-strikes, which just transmit force up your leg, through your knee, to your hip. Running in thin-soled shoes encourages a more ergonomic stride, one that our body evolved towards over the course of 2 million years. You hit with your foot underneath you, on the outer part of your sole, then rotate forward toward your big toe. Your foot and leg muscles act like springs, absorbing the impact and returning it for the next step. Anyway, I can’t recommend this book enough. Christopher McDougall does a great job with telling a captivating story about the Tarahumara and interspersing it with fascinating history and facts about the human body and how it was Born to Run. I’ve always hated running, and I’m truly inspired to go out and really start running for fun.

Snow-camping in Sequoia

I spent the last week with Dan, the final hurrah before he left for Australia for 4 months. We spent a few days snow-camping in Sequoia National Park, one of our favorite spots. There’s something especially magical about it in winter. No one is there — and I mean NO one. We saw one couple at the very beginning of our hike on Wednesday, then no one for the rest of the day. The only sound was the crunch of our snowshoes, and when we stopped and listened, the whole forest was hushed.

And what a forest is the Giant Forest. It’s a landscape straight out of a fantasy novel or Myst game – very surreal. You think if someone pinches you, you’ll wake up. Walking through a sequoia grove is like stargazing on a dark and clear night. The trees are so old and so big and have such a presence about them, that you feel small and insignificant. Which is all very difficult to capture in a photo, but here are a few:

A big tree

Me and big tree

We did a 5-mile loop through the Giant Forest on Wednesday, then a quick 2-mile hike to Sunset Rock on Thursday before heading home. Me at Sunset Rock:

Me at Sunset Rock

And for all of you wondering about the name “Alpenglow”, here’s a good example of the sun setting the granite on fire. This was the view from our camp.


Now, I almost got to the end without mentioning yarn. But check out this fine example of a Jared Flood Habitat hat, knitted by yours truly. With yarn spun by yours truly and dyed by yours truly too, after the hat was knit. I love this color, and already have the perfect name for it. Which I’m not telling you yet. :)

Dan and me, Habitat hat

I’m happy to report that Dan and myself are doing well again. We love each other to pieces, really. I’m super-excited for him – working and having adventures in Australia for 4 months! – but pretty sad to be so far away and for so long. However, on the bright side, it looks like I’ll be able to join him for a month in mid-April. And that’s only 9 weeks and 3 days away, but pshaw, who’s counting? ;)

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