Hiking the packsaddle trail


img_4739-x3Since one of my friends got introduced to backpacking this summer, I suggested a hike up to packsaddle cave would be a good chance for her to try out her hiking poles. One of her friends was able to join us for the hike and We picked a good day for it as the weather was very pleasant. Of course the steep trail soon had us wishing it was a little cooler but overall it was a great day for a hike and the cave was nice and cool.

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We had a great dinner at the brewhouse in Kernville. You can check out the rest of the pictures here: https://captnemo.smugmug.com/Places/California/Packsaddle-trail/

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Dinosaurs in Pismo


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When looking for a way to escape the weather in the central valley we have two choices the mountains or the coast since the mountains have a tendency to be covered in white stuff in winter my parents and I opted for a drive to the coast. The two main routes towards the coast from Bakersfield are the I5 (referred to as the grapevine) which goes South to L.A or hwy58 which goes west towards Morro bay. Since we weren’t in a hurry though we chose another rout and took the 166 through Cuyama. This is a slow route but is scenic and  avoids some of the more extreme elevation changes the other routes go through. We’d picked a beautiful day and the sun was out while plenty of people enjoyed the ocean. There were plenty of flowers in bloom and the birds were singing.

We passed by the Monarch Butterfly grove  but since it was crowded and we’d been their previously we didn’t stop though we did admire the clouds of butterflies as we went by. We stopped at Dinosaur park so I could capture a few Ingress portals while we enjoyed the scenery.

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The park has an interesting history of being the location of one of the largest sea caves in California, as well as the site where someone attempted to build a life size brontosaurus. Unfortunately the cave collapsed and the brontosaur was never completed. There is a very nice park there now and we enjoyed walking through it.

Eventually we moved on had some lunch then found access to a nice cove to do a little tide pooling.

It was a pleasant day and while the drive home was long it was worth it.

 

 

Jenolan Caves


img_7942-x3Part of the International Congress of Speleology is the Wednesday field trips, these could be geology field trips, general site seeing, recreation or I was happy to see for this year a trip to a wonderful cave system not to far from where the congress was being held. Part of signing up was choosing which cave outings we wanted to participate in. My first choice was easy enough since they list a photography trip, but what to put for my second? Options include bush walk, history walk, fossil tour, and whats this music tour?

Hmm OK, lets see what a cave music tour is. So I put myself down for that. I’m so glad I did. It turned out to be a cello performance in one of the cave chambers that had fantastic acoustics. A really unique experience.

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The trip to the cave though was a fascinating one. We stopped at a lookout spot and witnessed a beautiful rainbow among some wonderful mountains.

Then as we drove down into the area where the cave is located we came across a kangaroo in the road. We were in a fairly wide road and there were cliffs on both sides of the road so the poor critter took off down the road to get away from us. As it came around a corner it spotted a way off the road but got a little excited perhaps and combined with the road being wet from recent rain, whoops down it went. Never thought of kangaroos being clumsy but the bus stopped and we waited while it got up and headed off the side of the road finally.

The cave has an unusual entrance in that you actually pass through the entrance on the road(the larger buses barely fit the narrower part) in order to get to the parking area.

We had some great tours through the caves. I got to take some pictures, really enjoyed the cello concert. He played a piece he wrote where he made the cello sound like a didgeridoo as well as the more usual classical pieces. Lunch was great and it really was a fun outing.

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.

 

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.