Weminuche Wilderness – July 2020: Trip Summary

Normally my brother and I would have done our annual backpacking trip in the vicinity of NW Wyoming. My dad’s side of the family has a reunion in Cody, WY each summer, so we get in our backpacking trip leading up to that, or afterwards. But as we all know, this year has been anything but normal. When the family reunion got cancelled, my brother and I scrapped our plan to do our second trip in the Wind River Range, and instead decided to go to the San Juans in Colorado since they were a shorter drive. It was the first time doing our trip outside of the NW Wyoming vicinity, so that was a little weird, but it was nice getting to finally do a trip in Colorado. I can finally tell people I have done a backpacking trip in Colorado. Haha. Keep reading for a summary of our trip. I will have some more blogs over the next couple weeks covering some things I did differently on this trip vs. previous trips, and lessons learned, so stay tuned for those.

Trip Summary

If you follow my trips, you know that they rarely, if ever, go to plan. This trip was no exception, but it really worked out for the better this time instead of being a disaster, so that was great.

Day 1: I had an “uh-oh” moment right off the bat on the first day when I realized I forgot the belt for my hiking pants at home (I hadn’t worn them on the drive up the previous day). Thankfully my brother came to the rescue. He had an extra belt with him that he let me use. The first day went as planned. We hiked from the Pine River Trailhead to just south of Little Emerald Lake (~11 miles). The weather for the hike was great. The hike up The Pine to the Lake Creek turnoff was easy. The hike after the turnoff was pretty strenuous. Of the ~2,000 ft of elevation gain, ~1,600 ft of it was done after the turnoff (last 5 miles). We were glad when we finally got to the lakes.

We had to camp about 1/4 mile south of Little Emerald. The first time we started to walk to the lake, it started raining moderately part way, so we went back to the tent and hung out there until it stopped. Unfortunately, it was cloudy, rainy, and gloomy for most of the time we were there. It was a really beautiful area, but because of the weather we were never able to see it at it’s best. We were able to spend some time at the lakes, but not as much as we would have liked. My brother got a little bit of fishing in at each lake, but never caught anything. I got very few pictures on this day, which was discouraging. When I was getting my bear bag at one point, I slipped off a wet log and somehow managed not to hurt myself too bad. Just a couple scrapes and bruises on one arm. That was quite lucky. I put my bear bag in a different spot after that. Haha. We saw three day hikers up at the lakes, and one person passed our camp headed out. As far as we were aware, we were the only people camped at the south side of the lakes. Just as the sun was setting, the clouds started to clear up, and we were treated to a nice rainbow and sunset. Having that ending to the day was definitely a morale booster.

Day 2: Our second day was a pretty wild day. Haha. This is where we started to deviate from plan. The day started off with great weather. The trail was easy to follow while hiking along the lakes. Once we reached the north side of Emerald Lake, the trail became difficult to follow. I’m not sure if we got off the main trail at some point, but there were points where we were pretty much bushwhacking our way along a very faint path. We finally met back up with a well beaten trail just north of Emerald Lake. The first half of the trail on this day was pretty overgrown in a lot of spots, even where there was a well beaten trail. Since it had rained quite a bit over the previous couple of days, all the vegetation was wet. Unfortunately my brother and I didn’t have the foresight to put on our rain gear, so after a couple miles, both of us were pretty much completely soaked. It was pretty miserable hiking.

As with the first day, most of the elevation gain was at the end of the hike. About 1,200 ft of the 1,600 ft of elevation gain was achieved in the last couple miles of the hike. Not too long after we started climbing my brother noticed a bear across the drainage. It was so far off it was hard to see, so big kudos to him for spotting it. That was the first bear we had ever seen while backpacking, so that was exciting. Thankfully it was a ways off. There were lots of waterfalls during the last couple miles of the hike, which helped take our minds off the difficult hike, if only for a moment. As we started getting close to Moon Lake, we started to hear thunder, and it was pretty stormy to our south. The thunder kept getting louder, and just below Moon Lake I saw a lightning strike that ended up being 3 or 4 miles away. I knew my brother was already worn out, so I was already contemplating camping at Moon Lake instead of going on to Rock Lake. The thunderstorm was the deciding factor to go ahead and stop at Moon Lake. We both pushed hard to get to Moon Lake, stopped at the first campsite we came to, and quickly got camp set up.

Thankfully the storm calmed down after that. There weren’t any more lightning strikes and the storm moved out without raining on us. As we were eating lunch, I noticed a rock chuck headed towards our camp spot. I couldn’t remember if I had left my bar bag open, so I got up really quick and chased it off so it didn’t get into the food. It turned out that the bear bag was closed. It was stormy all around us, but it ended up being a pretty nice afternoon at Moon Lake, so my brother did some fishing and I took some pictures and read. My brother caught several fish, which was good after not getting any at Emerald Lakes. It started looking like it might rain a little after 3:00, so we headed back to our campsite. My brother had left his trekking poles laying on the ground when we left camp, and when we got back we discovered the rock chuck had eaten most of the cork off of the handles. He ended up filing the rest of the cork off the handles. We discovered a little later that the rock chuck had also put a small hole in his dry bag. We were able to fix that with some duct tape. That definitely put a damper on the day.

It started to rain around 3:30, and rained lightly for about an hour, so we laid in the tent for a while and relaxed. After it cleared up again, my brother went to try and catch some fish for dinner. He caught a couple fish quickly. Just as he started to fillet them and I started to get stuff set up to cook them, a cold front apparently came through and the wind got a little bit gusty out of the north. I found a spot somewhat out of the wind and my brother eventually made it over with the filleted fish. The last time we cooked fish on a trip something similar happened. Not sure if that is a sign we should heed or not. Haha. While cooking dinner, I went back up to camp and noticed the rock chuck in camp again, and then quickly noticed he had been eating the mesh used for back ventilation on my brother’s backpack. I chased the rock chuck out of camp and had to deliver the bad news to my brother. Needless to say, we were quite frustrated with the rock chuck at this point.

We eventually finished dinner and hung out around camp the rest of the evening. It started to rain lightly around 7:30, so we started to get ready for bed and then got in the tent. It ended up raining on and off throughout the night. At an elevation of 11,620 ft, this was the highest either of us had ever camped. Our previous high was ~10,400 ft in the Wind River Range. This camp spot is up near the top of favorite campsites, if not at the top of the list. It definitely took a lot of effort getting to it though.

Day 3: The original plan for this day had been to do a day hike from Rock Lake to one or more of the Ute Lakes, but since we stopped at Moon Lake the previous day, we decided to go over the ridge to Rock Lake, spend some time there, and then hike to Flint Lake. It would be a short and easy day, which would be nice after a couple tough days.

After our experience walking through the wet vegetation the previous day, we decided to put on our rain gear for the first part of this hike since it looked like we would be hiking through more wet vegetation. It was a short hike from Moon Lake up to the ridge, but it involved another ~800 ft of elevation gain. There wasn’t much of a trail between Moon Lake and Half Moon lake, but the hike up to Half Moon was pretty straightforward. Once we got close to Half Moon Lake, we took the rain gear off. We made it to the top of the ridge around 9:00 A.M. We were both really glad we had waited to go up and over the ridge. The sky/light was great for pictures and we weren’t in a rush to get up and over due to thunderstorms. The view from the ridge was incredible. It was definitely worth the difficult trek to get there.

We spent some time on the ridge getting pictures, and then headed down to Rock Lake. We spent some time at Rock Lake (my brother fishing, myself taking pictures and reading), and then headed on to Flint Lake. We got to Flint Lake around 11:40 A.M. After getting camp set up we headed over to the lake and spent some time there. I came really close to jumping in the lake, but couldn’t quite get the courage up to do it (I really hate getting in cold water). My brother caught several good sized cutthroats. I eventually headed back up to camp while my brother continued fishing. I tried laying down in the tent for a bit, but it was too hot in there, which was a change for the trip. My brother had a bull moose walk quite close by him while he was fishing. After eating dinner we went back down to the lake for most of the evening. It ended up being a beautiful day all day, and was the first day of the trip we didn’t get rained on, which was really nice.

Day 4: Our plan for this day was to hike down Flint Creek to The Pine, and then find a camp spot somewhere along The Pine. We had two separate people warn us the previous day about blow downs on the Flint Creek trail, so we were a little worried about what we were getting ourselves into. At some point along the trail there was a dry stretch of trail, and we both got excited since that was the first dry trail we had seen up until that point. It’s the little things. Haha.

Between blow downs and overgrowth, the trail was definitely in need of some work. The trail was easy to follow the whole time though. There were parts of it where it felt like what I imagine a rainforest to be like due to the dense, lush green vegetation. It was a lot different than what we were used to hiking through in our previous trips. At one point we were walking through some dense vegetation and three large birds took off right in front of my brother, which I’m pretty sure almost gave him a heart attack. It gave us both a pretty good laugh.

We reached The Pine just before 1:00 P.M. and took a break for lunch. We then headed down The Pine towards the trailhead. At one point we found some raspberries along the trail, and we each grabbed a couple. They were so good! I’m sure we both could have eaten a whole bush full, but there weren’t that many fully ripe, and we wanted to leave some for others. For the last couple miles or so of the day we could see an incredible waterfall coming down the mountain to the left of the trail. It was neat to be able to see that as we were hiking along. The first three established camp spots we passed were all occupied, so I started to worry we might not be able to find a spot. Thankfully the fourth spot we saw was open, so we stopped there for the day. Using the Avenza Maps app, I calculated we had about 8 miles left to get to the trailhead.

We hung out around camp until dinner time. Both of us let our feet soak in the river for a few minutes. That felt great. After dinner my brother tried some fishing in the river just upstream from camp. He caught one small fish. I read while he fished. After a while of that we came back to camp and hung out there until bedtime. It was another beautiful day without any rain, which was much appreciated.

Day 5: Nothing too exciting to cover about this day. We hiked out to the trailhead, and in the process saw lots of people hiking in and saw a couple snakes. We reached the trailhead around noon. The trailhead was packed, which was quite the contrast to when we started the hike. I’m assuming the main driver was the weather (bad when we started, great when we finished).

Overall Comments

Wildlife: We saw more wildlife in this trip than several of our previous trips combined. That was exciting. We saw pika, rock chucks, turkey, several deer, a bear, a moose, and a bald eagle.

Vegetation: As mentioned earlier, there were parts of this hike (particularly at higher elevations) that seemed quite rainforest-like. There were many, many parts of the trail where we were walking through dense vegetation even though there was a well beaten trail. That was a lot different than what we had hiked in previously. It was really neat. The wildflowers were fantastic, especially in the higher elevations. It seemed like we kept running across flowers that we hadn’t seen before. Finally, the hike along The Pine contains a lot of Aspen trees. I kept thinking how awesome that hike would be in the fall with the Aspen trees changing color.

People: The Pine was a fairly busy trail, but away from The Pine we really didn’t see too many people. It wasn’t as isolated as some of the hikes we have done in WY, but it wasn’t crowded either. The weather may have helped with that some.

Trash: I was actually quite surprised with how little trash we found during the trip. That was encouraging. We found a sock, some fishing line, an empty bug spray bottle, and some other small bits of trash. But all in all, it was quite clean, so kudos to everybody using those areas for keeping them clean.

My Beginner Trail Lessons: Part 5

For a short background on this series, see my first post.  

July 2017 – Teepee Pole Flats/Emerald Lake – Big Horn Mts., WY

Sunset while camped at Emerald Lake.

This trip, along with three of the following four trips, were pretty much train wrecks. There were lots of valuable lessons learned during this stretch. Haha.

The plan for this trip was to do the purple loop in the map above, starting at the yellow star and going counter clockwise. However, on the first day, we ran into a creek crossing that we didn’t feel comfortable crossing because of the depth and current (roughly in the vicinity of the red star). We briefly looked for other options, then decided to head back to Teepee Pole Flats (pink star) and figure out what we wanted to do. We ended up camping at Teepee Pole Flats, and then hiked back out to the campground at the trailhead the next day and stayed there for a night. After that we hiked to Emerald Lake (orange star) and spent a night there before hiking back out. So what lessons did I take away from this?

First, trekking poles were on my list of gear to get for the next trip. I had never used them since I figured they were additional items to bring along that I didn’t necessarily need, but they would have been really useful for this creek crossing. I have taken trekking poles and used them throughout each trip since this trip. They were a tremendous help for all the creek/river crossings on the Eagle Rock Loop hike I did earlier this year.

Second, I wish we would have taken longer to try and find a spot to cross that we were comfortable with. I’m not sure if we would have found one, but we definitely had some time to look, and I think it would have been worth taking some more time to try and save completing the loop. I’m pretty sure if we had had trekking poles, and had taken some time to find a better crossing, we could have got across that creek.

Finally, a good pack makes a big difference. Up until this trip, my brother and I had used cheap packs we bought at Walmart. I remember after our last trip with those packs my shoulders were killing me. For this trip, my brother and I each got an Osprey pack and had REI fit us. This helped tremendously. The fitting was definitely a good move since there were some adjustments they made I would have had no idea I could have made. So while not necessary, a good pack will definitely make the trips more comfortable.

My Beginner Trail Lessons: Part 4

For a short background on this series, see my first post.  

August 2016 – Titcomb Basin – Wind River Range, WY

Island Lake as we were headed back to the trailhead.

This was a trip that actually went pretty much as planned with no big hiccups. We (my brother and I) got incredibly lucky on the second day though. We had stayed at Barbara Lake the first night, and on the second day we hiked to Island Lake. As the hike to Island Lake progressed, it looked like it was getting stormy behind us. I wasn’t 100% sure it was headed towards us, but I figured we better try to get to Island Lake as soon as we could in case it was coming our way. We usually stopped for lunch each day on our hikes, but if I remember correctly, on this day we just took a short break for snacks and water and then kept going. I’m sure my brother wasn’t too happy with me by the time we got to Island Lake. By the time we got to Island Lake, the storm appeared like it was pretty close, so we grabbed the first suitable camp spot we found. As we were finishing setting up the tent it started to sprinkle, and not too long after we were in the tent, it was a full on downpour with some very small hail/grapuel included as well. This still holds as the most intense storm I have been through while backpacking. After the storm moved through, we overheard several stories of people getting caught in the storm in Titcomb Basin, which is not a good place to try and find shelter from a storm.

Since I’m already a weather nerd (my degree is in meteorology), I’m probably more tuned into the sky than a lot of people while out backpacking, but this was a great reminder to pay attention to the sky throughout the day. This storm was a great example of how quickly conditions can deteriorate. However, we had plenty of warning the storm was coming. Enough so that we were able to push hard to Island Lake, and got lucky enough to beat the storm. If you’re tuned into the sky, you’ll almost always have some warning that storms are coming and can take appropriate action. Had we not been paying attention to the sky, we likely would have taken our time on the trail and been caught in the storm on the trail somewhere.

Also, know how to set up your tent so in a situation like this you can get it set up quickly, and have your rain gear in a spot where you can get to it quickly in case you are still on the trail when you get caught in a storm.

My Beginner Trail Lessons: Part 3

For a short background on this series, see my first post.  

August 2015 – Paintbrush & Cascade Canyons – Teton Range, WY

View from our camp spot on night two of this trip.

My first takeaway from this trip was that I wasn’t a big fan of backpacking in Grand Teton National Park. Why? In the park, we were only allowed to camp in designated spots, and we had to have a permit for the specific spot we were staying at for that specific night. Had we been able to reserve these a little bit ahead of time, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. But we weren’t, so we had to go to the visitor’s center the day we wanted to start our trip and see which camp spots were open on which nights, and then try and figure out a trip that worked with the camp spots available.

I will point out that if you can commit to the trip early in the year, you can reserve backcountry camp spots in advance (this year the reservation system was open Jan. 8 through May 15). So if you are able to set your trip in stone that early, then this can work for you. Also, there are probably a couple hikes I could do where I could camp just outside the park and then do day hikes into the park.

Thankfully we were able to figure out a way to do the loop we wanted. However, I hesitate to go back to the Tetons for backpacking since I really don’t want to take a two day road trip (one way) only to find out the route I want to do isn’t available. It’s also a bummer since it doesn’t allow any flexibility. If you get part way into your trip and decide you want to change plans, you’re out of luck. I’ll probably be back at some point, but if I’m not able to get reservations made ahead of time, I’ll likely choose somewhere else to go. Just keep this in mind if you are planning a hike in a national park.

Second: if the trail disappears, take some time to evaluate and see if you can find it. We came to a spot on the trail where it seemed to disappear, except for a faint path going up a steep hill with loose rock. I really wasn’t a fan of following that path, but I didn’t see another route, so my brother and I took it. It put my brother and I in a dangerous position, and a couple hikers behind us started to follow us as well. It turned out the actual trail did go a different way that was much safer. Thankfully someone further down the trail who knew the correct route started running towards us and yelling, and the two hikers behind us ended up taking the actual trail. But had I just taken a minute longer to try and find the actual trail, I likely would have found it.

Third takeaway was that I really missed having my DSLR. I only took my cell phone on the Cloud Peak trip and on this trip. My cell phone got some decent pictures, but I could have got much better pictures with my DSLR. So, although a pain, for each trip from this point forward I have lugged around my DSLR.

My Beginner Trail Lessons: Part 2

For a short background on this series, see my first post.  

July 2014 – Cloud Peak – Big Horn Mountains, WY

Lake Helen on the hike into Cloud Peak.

This was the first true backpacking trip for my brother and I. Two main lessons came from this trip.

First, mosquitoes can be downright awful in the mountains. I had grown up with mosquitoes in Wyoming, but never had I been swarmed by as many as we were on this trip. I remember being in our tent and we could hear the hum of all the mosquitoes outside. I can’t remember if we brought bug spray or not, but this trip definitely moved bug spray to the essential list of items to take on future backpacking trips. 

Second, it is very easy to get lost. From what I had read prior to the trip, the hike from Mistymoon Lake was pretty straightforward, and my brother and I made it to the peak without any problems. The approximate route we took is reflected by the blue line in the image above. However, on the way down, we somehow managed to take a slightly different route. I believe it was something like the red line the screenshot above, although I’m not sure where we actually got off our original route. We were following cairns on the way down since most of the route was boulder/rock hopping without any trail, and the cairns we followed took us a different route on the way down. We had no idea we were going a different way until we eventually realized we were somewhere we hadn’t been on our way up. That was not a good feeling. Based on our map, I was pretty sure we were headed in the same general direction, so we kept going and thankfully we met back up with our original route, but it could have been pretty bad if that different route had taken us in a different direction. So don’t think just because you made it to your destination that the trip back will be no problem and you can let your guard down.

My Beginner Trail Lessons: Part 1

Intro

Almost 10 years ago, back in August 2010, my brother and I did a day hike to Table Mountain in the Teton Range in Wyoming. Little did I know what that would lead to a few years later. It took a few years due to my job situation, but in July of 2014 my brother and I did our first true backpacking trip. We have done a backpacking trip each year since, and each of the last couple years I have been able to do a solo trip as well. Back in early May a thought crossed my mind that it would be fun to put together a blog series about lessons learned on trips so far as I get ready for my two big trips this year, and thus this blog series was born. There have been lots and lots of lessons learned, but this series just tries to capture the main ones from each trip. I hope you enjoy, and hopefully at least one of these will help you out on your backpacking journeys. 

August 2010 – Table Mountain – Teton Range, WY

Picture of me with Table Mountain and the “Grand Tetons” in the background. The backpacking seed was being planted.

This was a pretty straightforward and short day hike that went off without any big problems. I have since learned to be very thankful when hikes go to plan, as I have had several that have not. My main takeaway from this trip: a simple day hike may very well plant the seed that eventually grows into the desire to get into backpacking. I don’t think I had given backpacking a whole lot of thought before this trip, but I credit this trip for being a big part of getting me into backpacking. It is similar to what happened to me with running. I started out doing sprints for track, got convinced to do cross country in high school, ended up eventually doing a half marathon, and then finally did a full marathon. Haha. If you are interested in backpacking, day hikes can be a great way to “get your feet wet” and see if it’s something you would like to pursue. 

Also, if I remember correctly, I gave my brother grief about how he was crossing a creek on this trip, and then I ended up being the one to fall in. Haha. So be careful about what kind of advice you dish out.

The Australia Journals: June 27, 2010

Pictures I took of various license plates while in Australia.

For background on this series of blogs, see this intro post.

Commentary

Four and a half months after hopping on a plane to Australia I was back in the U.S. While I was sad to have left Australia, I was glad to be home. Even though there were some rough days in there, it was still an incredible experience. It seems as time goes on, I gain more and more of an appreciation for the experience I got to have. I’m now a huge advocate of participating in a study abroad program if you have the opportunity. For most people, there will never be another opportunity to integrate yourself within another culture for an extended period of time and get the experiences that come with that. Not only will you meet plenty of people from the country you are studying in, but you’ll likely meet people from around the world. While you are studying abroad, be adventurous. Go exploring on your own if you can’t find anybody to go with (be safe, of course). See if the school offers any sort of special trips/events for students. Even if you can’t afford to do a lot of traveling, you’ll still have tons of opportunities for local experiences.

For those of you who have read through this whole series, I hope you have enjoyed it. It has been fun for me to read back through my entire journal after having it sit in storage for the last 10 years. It has made me want to go back there all over again. Haha. Hopefully I can make it back there again at some point.

Finally, if you know of anybody considering study abroad, encourage them to really look into it. I understand it’s not for everybody, but if they can make it work, it’s likely to be an experience they will be forever thankful they did.

The Journal Entry

I’m currently laying on my bed in Alpine and it is the 27th. I never got around to writing in this on the 25th. Anyway, my flight to L.A. ended up leaving Melbourne an hour late. That was a bummer. The flight was ok. The first half was a lot better than the second half. I got a lot more sleep/rest during the first half. The flight was pretty full. During the first half I slept/rested pretty much the whole time. There was a meal in there as well. During the second half I tried resting some, eventually watched an episode of Mythbusters, and then slept a little. I was woken up when they started serving breakfast. I didn’t eat much because my stomach felt horrible. After that I think I just tried to rest until we landed. We landed at about 8:20 A.M. Going through customs went pretty quickly. That was good. After I got through that I went to the Southwest terminal. I got there at about 9:30. I hung out there for a few minutes. I put my jacket and sweatpants up. A little before 10 I got in line to check in. That went pretty quickly. After I got checked in I went through security. That went pretty quickly as well. After that I just hung out until about 11:30. At that point I got lunch from McDonalds. After I finished lunch I worked on organizing pictures for a while. I talked to Cory for a while as well. My flight to El Paso left on time (at 1:40). That flight went pretty quickly. It wasn’t too full. I pretty much listened to my iPod and rested the whole time. We got into El Paso at about 4:30. I went and met with Mom and Dad and then we got my bags. After that we went to BK and ate dinner. After that we came home. We got home at about 10. I stayed up for a little while checking email and stuff. Just one more note. While I was in the L.A. airport, I noticed I was walking on the left instead of the right. That was pretty funny. Anyway, I believe that’s it for my Australia journal. It was an awesome trip, but I’m glad to be home. 

The Australia Journals: June 21, 2010

The boat I stayed on while SCUBA diving on the Great Barrier Reef.

For background on this series of blogs, see this intro post.

Commentary

This was definitely one of my favorite days during my study abroad trip. Over the course of the semester I was looking into getting a SCUBA dive trip booked, and I think there were a few times where it didn’t look like it was going to work out. Eventually, though, it worked out so that I could do the trip between my last final exam and leaving to go back to the U.S. I had never done SCUBA diving before, but I figured it would be a really cool experience, so I wanted to give it a shot. I am so glad I did. Even though I sound a little disappointed in the journal entry below, looking back on it now, it was a fantastic experience. Really the only downside was that, over the 4 day dive course, I only got in two “stress free, fun” dives. Everything else was more stressful since it was aimed at training. Had I been able to get in another day or two on the reef to get in more “fun” dives, it probably would have been a lot better. Regardless, it was a super cool experience, and one heck of a way to finish out the study abroad experience. I’ll have one final blog in a few days to wrap up this series.

The Journal Entry

Today was a decent day. I didn’t sleep too well last night. It seemed like I would wake up about every hour. We had to get up at 6 for our first dive, which was at about 6:30. That one was ok. We all messed up one of our skills, which didn’t make Peter, our instructor, too happy. In addition, he told us not to go deeper than 18m, and three people did, so they had to eat vegemite. We only had a short break until our second dive of the day. During that break we had breakfast. Our second dive was at about 8. It was our video dive. I liked that dive so much more, since it wasn’t really about testing us. It was more of a dive for fun. That was nice. They just have a videographer on the boat that goes out on a dive with each group. That’s really cool. After that dive we had a little longer break. I had to eat vegemite during that break since I forgot to strap my tank down after taking it off. I can honestly say I think that’s one of the worst, if not the worst, things I have ever tasted. It was absolutely horrible. It just makes me feel sick thinking about it. Anyway, the boat moved during that break. We had our last dive at around 11. Our instructor didn’t go with us on this dive. It was just our own dive. I was a buddy with Nick. That was really cool to be able to do that. It took so much pressure and paranoia away and made the dive so much more enjoyable. After that dive we got all our gear torn down and put away and then had lunch. After lunch our group went to watch the video. It was pretty sweet. It was sooo expensive though. It was $75. I still got it though because I didn’t really have any other way of showing people what it was like. That was frustrating. After the movie we just hung out until Sunkist showed up. We got on there and it brought us back to Cairns. We got on there at about 2:20. We got back to Cairns at about 4:30. It was a pretty rough ride once again. I got sick, but not to the point of throwing up. It was so nice to be back on land. A van took us to the CDC, and then I just walked from there back to the hostel. After I got back I visited with a new guy in our room. He just finished a dive course with Pro-dive. That was cool visiting with him. I got all my stuff put up, brushed my teeth, and then got a shower. It was so nice to get a warm shower. I felt so nasty. After my shower I ate dinner and checked email and stuff. After that I went and checked out the night markets. Those weren’t anything too impressive. There was one aisle where one person after another asked me if I wanted a massage. It was so annoying. After I was finished there I started back to the hostel. I stopped by a convenience store to get a drink, and then came back to the hostel. When I got back to my room I started writing this. Overall the diving trip was pretty awesome. It wasn’t quite as awesome as I was expecting though. There’s just so many things you have to worry about and you can’t be down very long. Other than that, it was really cool seeing the barrier reef. It’s only 8:40 right now, but I am totally exhausted, so I’ll probably end up getting to bed pretty soon. Hopefully tomorrow I feel good enough to do all the walking I want to. It could be fun trying to get to sleep tonight since I still feel like I’m on the boat. 

The Australia Journals: June 16, 2010

View of Cairns from a hike in Mt. Whitfield Conservation Park.

For background on this series of blogs, see this intro post.

Commentary

Final exams were quite a different experience at Monash than what I was used to at OU. If I remember correctly, at OU, finals were generally all in one week, and the tests generally took place in the same classroom you had been using all semester. I can’t remember if they were during normal class time or of there was a different finals schedule. Anyway, at Monash, I believe the tests took place over at least two weeks, and I had to go to a completely different campus for some of the exams. The different campus part was quite odd. Another great example of a unique experience while I was studying abroad. And after my last two final exams in the journal entry below, it was off for one last big hoorah while I was in Australia, which you’ll hear about in the next blog.

The Journal Entry

Written on June 17 about June 16.

Yesterday was a decent day. It took me forever to fall asleep Tues. night though. I got in bed at about 11, and I don’t think I fell asleep until about 12. That sucked. I got up at 6:30 and got ready. A little after 7:30 I left to go to the bus loop to catch the shuttle to Caulfield. I stopped by Nigel’s office on my way there to see if he put Elizabeth’s essay on the door, but it wasn’t. That was frustrating. I had to wait for the shuttle for about 20 minutes. I got to Caulfield at about 8:45, so I had about 45 minutes to just chill. I had my 3360 test at 9:30. I think that went ok. I’m pretty sure I did good enough to pass. I don’t think it was great though. I’ll be happy as long as I pass. I finished the test (or what I could do on it) in about 2 hours. After I finished I went to KFC and got lunch. I got some chicken nuggets. After I finished eating I stayed there for a little while and worked on NDIPS stuff on my laptop. A little after 1 I went back to the racecourse and worked on NDIPS until about 15 minutes before my 2020 exam. After that I visited with people from my 2020 class. That exam started at 2:30. That exam was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. I was pretty frustrated by the end of it. It took me a little over 2 hours to do. I don’t think I did near as well as I thought I would. It will be interesting to see what I got on it. After I finished that exam I went and waited for the shuttle. While I was waiting I visited with Leah from Deakin. That was cool. I got back to my room a little after 6. After I got back I made pancakes for dinner. That was good. I made a full recipe, and I was stuffed by the end. I didn’t even finish the last pancake. After I finished dinner I cleaned my ears out and then did laundry. While laundry was going I packed as much as I could, and then took pictures down from my walls so I didn’t have to do that when I got back. After that I just chilled until my laundry was done. After that I got as packed as I could, and then went to bed. I got in bed at about 11:30. 

The Australia Journals: June 11, 2010

Looking through St. Kilda Harbour towards downtown Melbourne.

For background on this series of blogs, see this intro post.

Commentary

The end of the trip got very real on this day. It was the last day that Elizabeth was in Australia. She had to leave early to get home for a summer internship/job, I believe. I was sad to see her go. After spending the last 4 months with her in Australia, it was kind of weird to not have her there the last couple weeks I was there. It was great having someone to share the experience with, and with me being on the shy and introverted side, it helped a lot having someone there I knew. But, I still had a couple weeks left in Australia that consisted of final exams and one last amazing trip, both of which you’ll hear about in the next couple blogs.

The Journal Entry

Written on June 12 about June 11.

I got up at 9 yesterday and got ready. After I got ready I started to study 3360 but then called my parents on Skype. After that I chatted with John on Skype for a little while, and then ate lunch. After lunch I tried to study for 3360, but don’t know how successful I was. I had a really hard time concentrating. I studied the majority of the afternoon. A little after 5 I made pancakes for dinner. After dinner I watched the Melbourne news and then Today Tonight for a little bit. After that I just chilled in my room until about 8:15. About that time Erin and Elizabeth came down so Elizabeth could give me her tomato sauce, bread, and sultanas. We ended up visiting in the hallway for quite a while and then we looked at a couple things on my computer. After that they went back up to Elizabeth’s room and I went out to the foyer and watched footy with Michael. We worked on a trivia thing with some other people as well. That was fun. After footy was over Elizabeth and Erin came back down to bring my saucepan back. We visited a little more and then they went back up and I got ready for bed. Before I got in bed I told Elizabeth goodbye on Skype since she was gonna be leaving to go to the airport to go home at 1:30 A.M. She ended up bringing my sharpie down that I gave her at the beginning of the semester. We said our goodbyes and then I went to bed.