The International Congress of Speleology 2017, Penrith, Australia


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Following my stay in Cairns I flew to Sydney and arrived at the airport at the same time as several others from the Chillagoe trip. Barbel who had also decided to fly to the Congress from Cairns and I wound up taking the same train to Penrith where the congress was being held. Fortunately I had read up about Opal cards before arriving in Australia and knew we would need one of these to take the train. These cards turned out to be very handy as they could be used not only for travel on trains but on the ferries and buses in the area. The train trip to Penrith was fairly simple we only had to change trains once. Arriving in Penrith we were surprised to see an old style steam train rush into the station. We both turned to each other and exclaimed ‘The Hogwarts train?” Sadly I didn’t get a photo of it as I was encumbered with my luggage at the time. I returned to the station on another occasion when they were running and old electric train and got some pictures though it was not nearly as impressive.

The station at Penrith was undergoing some remodeling and we exited on the wrong side which delayed our getting a taxi for awhile but eventually we realized our mistake and once we got to the other side of the station we quickly found a taxi which dropped us off at our respective hotels. I was staying at a hotel that was a ten or fifteen minute walk from the conference center but it didn’t take me long to figure out the bus system which made the trip just a few minutes long.

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Luckily the hotel had pretty good sound proofing since I was greeted daily by the sound of dozens of lorikeets, parrots and cockatoos that  lived in the trees out front. I stopped to take a few pictures most mornings on my way to the congress.

The congress itself was a lot of fun and I enjoyed the talks and presentations. I did miss the 3D stuff that had been shown at the prior ICS’s I attended and hope that future ones will have more displays along those lines. I was also a little disappointed that the photo salon was a continually playing slide show which made it a little difficult to focus on a particular image and decide which would make a good candidate for a particular category for the cavers choice award. The obstacle course was particularly imaginative and the sump simulation provided for some good entertainment.

It was a great week and I really enjoyed myself. Especially the field trips on wednesday but I’ll write about that in another post.

 

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Caving and Chillin in Chillagoe


 

img_6603-x4Chillagoe, a small town in Northeast Australia, is about three hours northwest of Cairns. Having decided to visit Cairns prior to the International Congress of Speleology in order to see the Great Barrier Reef the pre-congress trip to see the caves in Chillagoe was a great fit.

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I had managed to pick up an Australian sim card for my cell phone while shopping at the mall in Cairns so I gave the trip organizer Paul a call to let him know I was in town. He answered that several people who were going to Chillagoe were meeting for dinner at a restaurant on the pier and I was welcome to join them. since this was a short walk from where I was staying in Cairns I agreed. I was a little late since I underestimated how far a walk it was to the botanic garden but It was nice meeting a lot of people who I’d get to go caving with over the next few days and dinner was good.

The morning came all to soon and once more I got up before the sun to pile in a van, now we were on our way to Chillagoe. Geoff and Jean who I had met at the Texas ICS were on this trip , and a number of new-found friends from Germany, UK, the US, and Switzerland. Kim who had been on the Barrier reef trip with me was going on this one as well, George however, was driving down to Sydney so wouldn’t be joining us.

Our first stop was for snacks at an interesting site- Camp 64. This shop in Dimbulah featured a variety of memorabilia, items for sale and delicious meat pies. several people opted to try the locally grown dragonfruit and I spotted passion fruit growing on the fence outside.

Then it was on to Chillagoe. Most of us would be staying at the Chillagoe caving  club house. The club was an impressive setup. They have an old schoolhouse converted into sleeping quarters, principal’s house converted into the kitchen and dining hall, and a newly built bathroom and shower block. This was at the base of a hill that provided an excellent view of the surrounding town.


The karst of the area was fascinating the caves are strangely above ground formed in limestone which through faulting followed by volcanic activity and secondary mineral deposits were shaped over time into karst towers that were some of the sharpest limestone I have ever climbed over exhibiting rillenkarren, rinnenkarren and grikes. You can read more about the terrain and wildlife at the Chillagoe-Mungana parks website.

Club members had brought three landrovers, which with the rental vans made getting to the caves simple as all the caves we visited were within an easy drive from the clubhouse and accessible by a short walk through the bush. I had not brought any SRT gear as the large amount of photo gear I was lugging around made my pack heavy enough. Fortunately there was plenty of cave to see without climbing though they did have a cable ladder and rope belay for one of the sections I went through, and Valentin seemed to really enjoy the parts of the trip where he got to repel and climb. Cave temperatures were warm, reminding me of caves in Mexico and Guatemala, though not as humid there was enough to cause my glasses to fog up.

After this first day of caving Winifred announced he’d be happy to take people caving at night after dinner. I was the only one who took him up on this but we had a great trip. He spotted a tarantula which was so still we wondered if it was alive but while I was photographing it it took off convincing us it was indeed alive. We also spent some timephotographing the night sky through an opening in the cave and came across some roosting swiftlets. We backed out of the chamber so as not to disturb them but one bird continued to follow us through most of the cave. Eventually while photographing formations I actually caught some pictures of the bird in flight. The  best result is at the top of this post.

 

During breakfast the next day at the nearby eco lodge this guy dropped in for a visit on someones chair.

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Then it was back to caving.

A big thanks to our organisers- the Chillagoe caving club for leading us on some wonderful trips and allowing us the use of their clubhouse. It really was a great and memorable time.

Ely and the 2016 NSS Convention


 

Heading out from Susanville we were taking Highway 50 Americas ‘loneliest road’ at least that’s what all the signs and tourist info said.Our next stop before getting to the convention in Ely was in Fallon where we spent the night across the street from the Douglas Mansion. Currently painted pink its listed as the only Victorian two story in Fallon in 1904.

We were following the path of the famous pony express and passed a few places listed as stops for the express as well as the famous Nevada shoe tree. Oh and when we stopped for cool drinks in Austin the saloon had a small collection of authentic western Jackal-opes.

Eventually we arrived in Ely and looks like we were in the right place!

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I was actually surprised i didn’t notice more signs on the way through town- turned out the were being blown over by windy conditions, it was really windy which was stirring up a lot of dust ugh. At least the sessions etc. were inside. We were warned in registration to put something heavy in the pouches provided for our Convention badges or they’d likely fly up in the breeze and try to strangle us.Since we’d arrived late we missed lunch so we headed into town for something to eat. The Silver State restaurant turned out to be across the street from our hotel and provided a great lunch.Then it was back to the school to admire the art, pictures and cave maps.

 

We spotted a sun spider in the hallways, said hi to Morley and Lorelle and watched kids and adults alike enjoying the cave sim. All too soon it was evening and time for the Howdy Party, this years theme was supposed to be Donner Party or some such but as at most Howdy parties  Most folks came as they were. Some did dress in old time western garb so the theme was present. Dinner was fine, though there was some grumbling at the late arrival of the beer truck Finally it was time for the main attraction. The performance by ‘The new Christy Minstrels‘ (an American large-ensemble folk music group founded by Randy Sparks in 1961). Needless to say it was a great show with many of the audience joining it with familiar songs and dancing.

The next day we spent enjoying the talks and sessions. Dad and I stopped in to watch Kip manage to beat the time for his age group in the 30 meter vertical, he managed to climb faster then the goal he’d set for himself so he was pretty happy.

The other vertical competitors all appeared to be enjoying themselves and there was plenty of people encouraging them so it was fun watching.

For that evenings entertainment I had signed us up for the ‘Rockin Rollin Railroad’ a geology field trip aboard the Northern Nevada Rail Roads authentic coal burning steam train.This featured presentations by local geologists covering railroad & mining history with a show and tell of ore samples from the Robinson Nevada Mining District. They did a great job telling us all about the geology of the area.They had some fascinating info about all the copper, gold, molybdenum and silver that had been mined in the area and descriptions of how we could see various layers from the Cretaceous where there was limestone as well as a host of other layers and minerals I must confess I missed as I was too busy geeking out on being on a steam locomotive. Running back and forth trying to find the best spot to get a picture while not getting covered in smoke and cinders proved challenging, but it was a lot of fun.

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I made it back to my seat in time for the description of the Ruth mine and to see the samples of garnets picked up at nearby Garnet hill.

A mine is a hole in the ground, owned by a liar.
-Mark Twain

Wednesday and Thursday we spent mostly attending sessions at the High school though we did spend some time in town admiring the new Lehman cave mural done as a commission in honor of the convention and browsing the great caving pictures at the art bank gallery. I even picked up a copy of a murder mystery book about a murder at an NSS convention in Ely Nevada! ( The book ‘An Unconventional Murder’ by Nevada caver Gretchen Baker was very entertaining)

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I left Mom and Dad at the motel to catch up on their rest while I headed down to the camp ground for the campground party which was great fun as usual. The canon firing was a nice touch. Though it had to end a little early because of noise complaints.

 

 

Friday morning we skipped the sessions and headed out to tour Lehman cave.

 

On the way back we spotted a couple elk standing by the roadside and we took a small detour to visit the charcoal kilns. We also stopped to see these guys by the roadside.

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We made it back in plenty of time to get ready for the banquet dinner and awards ceremony.

It was another wonderful convention and I look forward to attending many others!

Summer in Susanville


img_1100-x2 Since this years NSS convention was being held in Ely Nevada which is North East from Bakersfield and my parents had decided to go with me, we opted to take the long way around and head a little further North to see my brother and his family in Susanville first. It was a long drive but leaving the 100 F degree temps of the valley for the cooler mountain air made it an enjoyable trip.

We went out to dinner at ‘whitehouse‘ a local Thai restaurant, food was tasty though a little sweeter then I’m used to. Saturday, Emily suggested a trip to Subway cave up near Hat creek and I readily agreed.Unfortunately Michael wasn’t feeling well so he and his Grandma Meg stayed home. When we told Mathew we were going to see a cave he proclaimed “I must wear my batman shirt” and ran off to change. It had been a few years since I visited Subway (pretty sure it was during the Western Regional at Hat Creek in 1999) and I had forgotten the stairs going up and into the cave. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, Mathew ran all over but we could spot him easily enough as his shoes flashed in the dark. Alice seemed plenty happy and it was nice and cool in the cave compared to how warm it was outside.

We stopped on the way home to look at some wild flowers and spotted a young buck in the trees.

 

All too soon the weekend was over and it was time for us to head onward to convention but that’s another post.

PackSaddle 2016


 

Waterfall at the creek

Creek

Last year I managed a visit up to Packsaddle cave but it was mid summer and I headed up a bit late in the day which made for a too warm trip. Well honestly it was hot but I survived. This year I joined a local hiking group and they wisely headed up early in the morning and picked a weekend when the weather was really very pleasant. I managed to pack extra water and even had some ice left in one of the bottles upon returning to the motorcycle for the ride home.

As evidenced in the photos there was more water present then last year which in turn meant more wildflowers and unfortunately more poison oak but I think we managed to avoid it all.

Hiking across the ridge

Hiking across the ridge

 

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wildflowers

Hiking up the hill

Hiking up the hill, if you look real careful there’s people up near the top 🙂

It was a surprisingly large group, close to 30 people but everyone seemed to enjoy the hike and no one complained that I took my time coming up the hill as I stopped to take just one or two more pictures.

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lupine

Finally we reached the cave. Here I was disappointed to find my flashes weren’t triggering from the radio transmitters but I did have optical slave as an option so I took a couple shots with that and found that my dive light made a fairly good substitute as well.

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flash using optical slave in the cave

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dive light

So at least I got a few in cave pics then it was time to hike back down the hill.

There were still plenty of flowers to photograph on the way back

Mariposa Lilly

Mariposa Lilly

and I got back to the motorcycle early enough to enjoy a pleasant ride through the canyon before heading down to the valley where it was getting pretty warm again.

More wild flowers

More wild flowers