The Australia Journals: May 7, 2010

Picture with Ben (Australian exchange student in the U.S.) in Big Bend National Park while on Thanksgiving Break in the fall of 2010.

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

Commentary

One really cool part of the study abroad experience was that I got to meet a couple Monash students who were planning on coming to OU for a semester. Later, when Ben (in picture above) came to OU, I got to spend quite a bit of time with him, including a road trip over Thanksgiving break. It was kind of like an extension of the study abroad experience. Haha. It was really cool to be on the opposite side of the exchange after having done the exchange. Definitely a cool experience if you can meet someone who will be attending your home school after you return and you can spend some time with them in your home country. 

The Journal Entry

Today was a pretty good day. I got woken up at about 2:45 this morning. No surprise for a Thursday night anymore. I got up at 7 this morning and got ready. Math was ok. My sinuses were bugging me the whole time, so it was hard to concentrate. After that I went over to the math building. On my way there I visited with Megan for a little while. That was cool. After that I went and got help on a couple ATM 3040 problems. One of them we couldn’t figure out what was going wrong, and the other one Steve was going to take a look at again. After that I went to Menzies and visited with Elizabeth until 3040 tute started. After that Elizabeth and I printed a couple things at the campus center and then came back to the halls. When I got back I talked to Mom and Dad on Skype for a while and then talked to Cory for a little while. I ate lunch while I was talking to them. Mom and Dad got to see Nashville all flooded. I’m so jealous. It was nice to finally get to talk to them. It had been a while since I talked to Cory as well, so it was nice to get to talk to him too. After I finished talking to Cory I went to 2020. After 2020 Elizabeth and I talked to Megan and Ben for a couple minutes. Ben is the guy coming to OU next semester. That was cool. After that I came back and stopped by the ops office to get my new backpack. I was glad to finally get that. It’s pretty nice. It’s got so many different pocket/compartment things. It’s crazy. It will take a little getting used to. After I messed with that for a little while I organized my binders and then worked on my 2211 essay. I worked on that until I made dinner. I made pancakes tonight. Those were good. After dinner I worked on my essay some more. I did that until about 9:15 or so. After that I went through pictures from last weekend. After I finished that I started writing in this. It’s now 10:11, and I’ll probably get to bed here pretty soon. 

Trip Report: Eagle Rock Loop

My Eagle Rock Loop route by day. Keep in mind water crossings will vary by person and based on water levels. There were many other crossings I was able to do without sandals. Topo map from MyTopo and trail based on this Forest Service document.

When I first heard about Eagle Rock Loop a couple years back, I was really excited to give it a try for a weekend backpacking trip. It would be nice to have a backpacking trip that was relatively close. This past weekend I finally got around to giving it a try. I started at the Little Missouri Trailhead on the NW side of the loop (where the Athens Big Fork Trail and Little Missouri Trail meet) and did the loop counter-clockwise. I’ll give an outline of each day below and then some overall thoughts at the bottom, along with some pictures, of course 🙂

Thursday

Camp spot Thursday night just above Little Missouri River.

I left OKC around 1:30 P.M. on Thursday, and got to the trailhead around 6:00 P.M. About the last 9 miles of the road are gravel. It’s in good shape with the exception of a few potholes. I was the only car at the trailhead when I got there. I was going to camp next to the parking lot, but there was a no camping sign posted, so I ate dinner and then got my stuff and crossed the river. Someone already had the established camp spot right across the river, so I started up the hill and found a (non-established) spot a couple minutes up the hill. While I was setting up camp, I noticed a tick crawling on my stuff. I was already nervous about ticks to begin with, so it didn’t help seeing one that quickly. Haha. After I got camp set up I went back down the hill and did some reading next to the river. While I was reading Rebecca came over and we chatted for a little while. Rebecca was the person at the established camp spot. She is from New Orleans and out of a job right now due to Covid-19, so she is doing a bunch of hiking around the area. She was at the end of her first day hiking the loop. After chatting for a bit we went back to our camps. I got ready for bed, finished reading the chapter, and then went to bed.

Friday

View from Eagle Rock Vista.

Friday morning I ate breakfast, got camp packed up, and hit the trail at 8:00 A.M. I took the side trail at the top of the first ridge (Hurricane Knob ridge), which provided a great view. After that it was down into the valley with Straight Creek, and then up to the top of the ridge of McKinley Mountain. Then it was down into the valley with Long Creek. I used my sandals to cross Long Creek. Of all the camp spots I saw along the Athens Big Fork (ABF) trail, the camp spots next to Long Creek were my favorite. After that it was up and over the ridge for the Brier Creek Mountains, and then down to Brier Creek. That was followed by the ridge for Leader Mountain, and then down to Blaylock Creek. I used my sandals to cross Blaylock Creek and then took a break for a few minutes. The crossing for Blaylock creek was a really neat spot. The trek down to Blaylock Creek, and then the trek back out, were the most difficult of all the valleys though. The next ridge was the ridge next to Brush Heap Mountain. I took the side trail that headed toward the top of Brush Heap Mountain. Part way up the trail, I realized I should have left my backpack at the bottom of the trail. I guess I thought the trail would be a little shorter. I turned around before I reached the top, but there were still some great views. I’ll have to go to the top next time I do the loop. After that it was down to East Saline Creek, and then up to Eagle Rock Vista.

I reached Eagle Rock Vista at 1:00 P.M. My plan was to camp at Eagle Rock Vista, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to kill that much time there. It was fairly windy there as well. I thought about continuing down to Viles Branch, but eventually decided to go ahead and camp at Eagle Rock Vista. I was completely worn out by the time I got there. I was really glad that was the last hill for the day. According to data from Charlie Williams’ website, it had been a combined elevation gain of ~2,150 ft. and elevation loss of ~2,000 ft. over seven miles for the day.

There were three camping spots that I saw along Eagle Rock Vista. I grabbed the middle one. I ate some trail mix and then got camp set up. I expected to have a lot of people come through during the afternoon, but actually had very few. I typed up some notes from the day, laid down for a while, and then did some reading. I noticed Rebecca walk by at one point, so a little while later I went and chatted with her for a bit. While we were chatting she mentioned she had cell service. I checked, and sure enough I had it as well. I resisted the urge to check anything since the point of doing the trip was to get away, so I turned my phone back to airplane mode. Haha. After chatting with her for a while I came back to my camp spot and worked on getting some pictures with my good camera.

I had quite a few people come through during the late afternoon and evening. Both of the other camp spots got occupied. I was hoping the wind would die down once the sun went down, but it stayed windy most of the night. I knew it would be a tough day, and it definitely was. I would put it right up there with the harder days I have had on trips in the “big mountains” (aka Rockies). It was fun seeing the different ridges and valleys, and Eagle Rock Vista was a nice reward at the end.

Saturday

I have to admit that I did take advantage of the cell service on Saturday morning before I left Eagle Rock Vista to check the weather and make sure there still was no rain in the forecast. Thankfully that was still the case. I hit the trail at 7:40 and headed down to Viles Branch. I ran into Rebecca one last time at her camp spot shortly after getting on Viles Branch. We chatted for a minute and then I continued on. There were a bunch of stream crossings along Viles Branch, but thankfully I was able to cross all of them without having to change into my sandals. I really liked the hike along Viles Branch. That was my favorite stretch of the loop.

Shortly before reaching the Little Missouri River I caught up Nick, another person backpacking the loop. We chatted as we hiked along the trail. He was also from Louisiana, and had hiked the loop several years back. We got to the river around 9:45, and that was a definite sandal crossing. As I was going to tie my boots onto my backpack, I noticed that Nick had clipped them onto his backpack with caribeners. I had some spare caribeners, and had one of those “why didn’t I think of that” moments. So thank you to Nick for helping me out with that. It was definitely handy the rest of the trip. Once we got across the river I knew we were supposed to start going upstream, but Nick started walking downstream. Since he had done the trail before I figured he knew where he was going, but after a minute I asked him if we should be going upstream. Then he mentioned he was going fishing, so I turned around and went to find the trail. While going back to the trail, I managed to get a stick between my trekking poles and my legs, which ended up tripping me and I fell. Thankfully I didn’t hurt anything. I’m sure I made a great first impression with Nick though. Haha. I took a break for a few minutes before hitting the trail again.

After that I was on the struggle bus for a while. I knew I was supposed to cross the river again, and got to a point where I couldn’t see an obvious spot where the trail kept going straight, and it looked like a good spot to cross the river, so I crossed the river. I found out pretty quick that was not the right choice, so I had to go back and cross back over. Once I kept going straight I found where the trail was. Had I actually put myself in the right spot on the map, I would have known that was the wrong spot, but I didn’t have myself in the right spot, so that was mostly my fault. Shortly after that I went through the Winding Stairs area and crossed the river at the appropriate spot. The Winding Stairs area was a little anti-climcatic for me, so that had me confused as well. The stress/frustration about trying to follow the trail probably didn’t help. There were a ton of people there, which made me think I was closer to Albert Pike than I was, which also got me really confused. I found out after I got home there is a parking lot fairly close to Winding Stairs, thus why there were so many people. But that got me really confused as I was hiking through there. A while after that I came to a stream crossing that had blue markings and double diagonal white markings. The trail markings up to that point had been a single white rectangle. That got me really confused. After I crossed the stream there was a sign for a parking lot. Once again, I had no idea about the parking lot near Winding Stairs, so that again made me think I was close to Albert Pike, but a sign said it was still 2 miles to Albert Pike. So between the first river crossing and Albert Pike, I was all sorts of confused. Once I actually got close to Albert Pike and was next to the road, I finally realized where I was on the map. I got to Albert Pike at 1:00 P.M., and it was time for a much needed break and a reset. I was already fairly worn out, but knew I wanted to get farther down the trail that day.

I took about a 30 minute break at Albert Pike, during which I let my feet sit in the river for a few minutes, ate some trail mix, drank some water, and looked at the upcoming trail on the map. Then it was back to the trail again. There were a couple creek crossings shortly after that where I had to put on my sandals to cross. At the next river crossing I met Rainey and Gary from Dallas. I spent a few minutes there chatting with them. They had been on the trail the whole week and were on their way out. Gary recommended I check out the Ozark Highland Trail, so I’ll have to check that out at some point. Just before I left they pulled a couple packets of applesauce out of the river, which I thought was a pretty genius idea. I’ll have to keep that in mind for future trips. I was a little nervous to cross the river with them watching after what happened earlier with Nick, but I made it across fine. Haha.

While I was talking with Gary and Rainey, they mentioned they would likely camp near the double crossing down the trail. I had no idea what they were talking about, but it ended up being the next crossing. It was a creek crossing followed by crossing the river. I didn’t realize it was the double crossing though, so I put my boots back on after crossing the creek, and then headed down a social trail that went who knows where. After a short walk, I figured it wasn’t the correct trail, and then went back and realized I was supposed to cross the river at that spot, so I had to put my sandals right back on. I made it across there and kept on hiking. I found a decent camp spot shortly after 5:00 P.M. and decided to call it a day. I was really worn out again. I got camp set up and then took a dip in the river to rinse off. I’m usually not one to hop in a river, lake, etc. since I’m really not a fan of cold water, but I knew it was going to be a warm evening/night, and I felt gross, so I wanted to get cleaned off. It was definitely cold, but I felt a whole lot better once I got dried off and warmed back up.

After that I went and talked to Nick and Nicole. They were camped in a spot just up the hill from me, and had got there right after I arrived. They had driven up all the way from Houston. They hadn’t planned on doing the whole loop, but someone talked them into it after they started hiking. They didn’t bring any sandals with them, so they had done all the river/creek crossings barefoot. These are not nice, soft dirt bottom river crossings. These are rocky, slick, really hurt your feet river crossings. I’m sure I would have called it quits after the first couple crossings, but they had powered through, so kudos to them. I chatted with them for a few minutes then went and ate dinner. After dinner I got my good camera out to try and get some pictures since I hadn’t had it out since Eagle Rock Vista that morning. After that I read and then went to bed.

I knew Saturday night was going to be warm, so when I set up camp I unzipped my sleeping bag and had it available to use as a blanket, and slept straight on my sleeping pad. It actually worked out really well. I should have done that the prior night. Made me glad I got a sleeping bag that can unzip all the way.

All the river/creek crossings throughout the day that required sandals were a huge pain. I would estimate it easily added an hour to the hike. I will admit that the cold water always felt good on the feet though. Haha. It ended up being a 15 mile day, which I’m pretty sure is the longest I have ever hiked in a day. The only other day I can think of that comes close is a day in Utah that I believe was in the 13-14 mile range.

Sunday

Little Missouri Falls

I hit the trail at 7:45 Sunday morning. About a 1/4 mile or so up the trail I reached Little Missouri Falls. I figured I was close, but I didn’t realize I was that close. That was definitely one of my favorite spots along the loop. Farther down the trail I saw some sort of large cat looking animal run off. If I had to take a guess I would say it was a bobcat, but I didn’t get a great look at it. It didn’t appear to be a mountain lion. I passed three different pairs of people between the falls and the trailhead, two of which I knew I had seen previously on the trail. One pair had camped up at Eagle Rock Vista the same night I did, and the other pair I had passed in Viles Branch. It was fun to see them again. I got lucky and met one of the pairs at what appeared to be a spot where I had to cross the river, but they let me know I could stay on the side I was on. Sure enough, I hiked about 20-30 yards and ran into the trail again. It looked like flooding had washed the trail out at some point. Huge thanks to them for the tip. I got to the trailhead at 9:40 A.M., which was the only place I had to use sandals for a stream crossing that day. I cleaned myself off a bit, changed into some clean clothes, ate a Clif bar, got gear loaded into the car, and then hit the road. I got into Mena, AR just after 11, so I stopped at Wendy’s and got a BBQ cheeseburger for lunch. That and the sweet tea tasted wonderful. Haha. After that it was back to OKC.

Overall Thoughts

For not being a “big mountain” hike, I was actually quite impressed. You don’t get the grand views of the granite peaks, cirques, and alpine lakes, but it is a different kind of beauty. There are some pretty cool views from the ridges along the ABF, but other than that you are in pretty dense forest most of the time. The creeks and Little Missouri River have some really pretty spots. It was also really cool to cross the “little” Little Missouri River and the “big” Little Missouri River, and see it change from big to little along the hike. And for not being a “big mountain” hike, I was actually quite surprised with how difficult it was. If you don’t do ABF, it really wouldn’t be too bad, but the ABF adds a lot of difficulty to it.

If you do this hike when the weather is nice hiking weather, don’t expect to get away from people, although if you do it during the workweek the crowds would likely be smaller. Outside of the Winding Stairs and Albert Pike areas, the traffic really wasn’t too bad though.

Speaking of weather, be sure to be aware of what the weather has done recently, and what the forecast is. Heavy rains can cause the creeks and river to rise very quickly, and make crossings dangerous or impossible. Back in 2010 a flash flood of the Little Missouri River in the Albert Pike area killed 20 people. Charlie Williams has some good advice in the “Water Crossings” section on his page.

The trail is fairly easy to follow most of the time. There are definitely some confusing spots at stream/river crossings and where there are a bunch of social trails though. I never felt like I was completely lost, but I was definitely frustrated at times that it wasn’t marked better in spots. Be ready to go around, over, or under trees. There were lots of downed trees across the trail. Some appeared recent, but most of them looked like they had been there a while. Trekking poles were a tremendous help for the stream crossings. I probably would have used sandals at several more crossings if I didn’t have my trekking poles to help with balance while crossing on rocks, so I would highly recommend those. Also, bring sandals or some sort of shoes for water crossings. I wouldn’t recommend doing the whole trail in sandals, and I doubt many people will want to hike in wet boots. I talked to several people who saw at least one snake. Thankfully I never saw any. I never found any ticks on me, much to my surprise. I didn’t wear sunscreen at all. Between having pants, a long sleeve, a hat, and the trail being in the shade most of the time, I didn’t need it. That would probably be a different story if I did the hike in winter when the trees didn’t have leaves. I’m not going to be surprised if I start breaking out in a rash from poison ivy, oak, etc. I think I may already be starting to get a rash in a couple spots. Big question is probably how bad is it going to be. Haha.

There were definitely lessons learned on this trip that will hopefully make any future trips much smoother. I’m not sure if I would do it the same way next time or not. With all the different trailheads, there are many, many different ways to do the loop. I may try starting at Little Missouri Falls next time, go clockwise, camp in Viles Branch the first night and camp at Long Creek on ABF the second night. That would split up the ridges over a couple days, and spread the mileage out a little more evenly. Not really sure there is a best way to do it. The vast majority of people I talked to started at Albert Pike. With all the different trailheads, you can easily split the loop up into different day hikes if you’re not a fan of backpacking.

Finally, I hope I got everybody’s names correct. If not, I’m sorry. I tried to jot them down in my notes as soon as I could. Haha. Thank you to those who chatted with me for a bit and kept me company on the trail, even if it was just for a few minutes. I always enjoy getting to know fellow backpackers along the trail, especially when I’m hiking by myself. If you have any questions about the hike, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’ll do my best to try and answer. Also, just do a google search for “Eagle Rock Loop Arkansas” and you’ll be able to find plenty of other great write ups on the loop. I have placed some links to other write ups below.

I will likely get pictures posted from my good camera early next week. I’ll post on my Facebook page when they are up.

Forest Service Info

Ouachitamaps.com (Charlie Williams)

The Outbound Collective

Fayetteville Flyer

The Australia Journals: May 2, 2010

Picture from the footy game in the blog post below.

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

Commentary

In Australia they have a sport called Australian Rules Football, but everyone calls it footy. It took me a little while to learn the rules and what was going on, but once I got the hang of it I really enjoyed watching it. I had been to one game before this day, but that was by myself. This was definitely a better experience going with some friends, one of which was Melinda. Both games I went to had Carlton playing, and Carlton was Melinda’s team, so that ended up being the team I went for while I was down there. I watched sports fairly often back home, so it was nice to get into a sport while I was there and be able to go to a couple games. It was great to get to spend some more time with Melinda, but it just made it that much more difficult not to ask her on a date. Haha. I don’t remember grabbing dinner with everybody afterwards. A great example of something I remember vividly (the footy game) and something I don’t remember at all (grabbing dinner afterwards) all in the same day. Go Blues!

The Journal Entry

Today was a good day. I got up at 8. When I got my milk out of the fridge, part of it was frozen. Luckily there was enough of it unfrozen to have breakfast. I had to let it set out for a while to unfreeze though. After breakfast I brushed my teeth and then cleaned my ears out. After that I got a shower. After my shower I got on the computer and noticed that the weather was going nuts in Arkansas again, so I started watching that on SPC and NWS and stuff. Eventually I got a link off Facebook to watch one of the news channels in Little Rock that was doing uninterrupted broadcasting of the weather, so I started watching that. While I was watching that I chatted with Mom on Facebook, as well as Shahayla from Artesia. That was cool. I got lunch at about 11:45. When I got my pizza sauce out to make a tortilla pizza, it was mostly frozen. I ended up making a mess trying to get the pizza sauce out. I eventually got the tortilla pizza made. After that I turned the fridge down a little bit. Somebody had put it on its coldest setting. At about 12:20 I went up to Elizabeth’s room, and then we met Erin and went to the bus stop. We caught the 737 bus to Syndal station, and then took the Glen Waverly train to Richmond. We met up with Melinda and her friends there. Then we all went to the MCG. Our seats were way up at the top, but they actually weren’t too bad. I could actually see what was going on most of the time this time, which was nice. I ended up cheering for Carlton because Melinda gave Elizabeth and I a scarf to wear during the game. It was a decent game. Collingwood was up by a lot at the half, and then Carlton got it down to 3 points during the 3rd quarter, but then Collingwood took off again and ended up winning it by about 50 points. It was a lot of fun though. We were around a lot of fans who were really into it, which was cool. It was really cool to get to hang out with Melinda, but at the same time kind of a bummer. She is so cool and hanging out with her today just made me think of asking her out and all, but I just can’t bring myself to do that. It was fun getting to visit with her though. She was making fun of me for saying “gosh dang” at one point and for saying “candy” as well, although I think it was Elizabeth who said that. Also, Tim met us at the game, which was cool. I hadn’t seen him in a while. After the game Elizabeth, Erin, Tim, and I went into the city. We got off the train at Southern Cross so Elizabeth could get her mom’s PJ pants that she left when they were visiting. When we were going to our platform, our train was just pulling up, so we all had to run to catch it. Luckily we got there before it left. We got off at Flinders St. and went to get dinner at The Lounge. That was a pretty cool place. I got chicken parma. It was pretty good. It was a lot of food. It was fun getting to visit with everybody during dinner. After that we went back down to Flinders St. and took the Glen Waverly train back to Syndal. We then caught the 737 bus back to Monash. While we were getting on the bus, Elizabeth was still standing when the bus started and almost ended up in Tim’s lap. That was pretty funny. After I got back I came up to my room. I went down for snacks at 9 and hung out for a little bit. After that Elizabeth and I visited in my room for a little bit and then her room for a little bit. Then I came back to my room and started writing this. It’s now 10:45, so I think I’m gonna get ready for bed.  

JourneyHugger vs Sea to Summit

4/30/20 Update: I sent JourneyHugger an email on 4/26 requesting instructions for returning the sleeping pad. I also sent them a message on 4/28 using the contact form on their website. I have yet to hear back from them. If I end up hearing back from them, I’ll provide another update, but it looks like they may not live up to their promise of a full refund within 30 days. So buyer beware! As my brother said, at least I got the product, although I’m not sure I’ll use it. Haha.

For the last couple years I have used a Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Air Sleeping Pad on my backpacking trips. It has been fantastic, and the only knock I have on it has been the noise when I’m moving around. I’m always worried that I’m going to keep my brother awake when I’m backpacking with him. On my Idaho trip this past year, I was camped pretty close to some other backpackers, and I was worried it would be annoying to them. I may be making it worse than it really is, but it’s definitely noisier than a roll up or fold up foam pad.

A little while back, I saw an ad on Facebook for the JourneyHugger JourneyMattress. It was half off, and I could return it within 30 days of receiving it for a full refund, so I thought I would give it a shot and see if it happened to be quieter than my Sea to Summit pad. This brings me to this past weekend.

Over the weekend I set up my backpacking tent in my living room one afternoon, set up both pads in it, and then rolled around on both pads to compare the noise. Unfortunately, the noise seemed to be pretty much the same between both of them. However, while I had the JourneyMattress, I figured I would try to sleep on it for a night just to see how comfortable it was. Saturday night I set up my non-backpacking tent in my backyard and slept in the tent overnight. I started out with the JourneyMattress, but after about 30 minutes or so, I decided I better get my Sea to Summit pad and pillow. The JourneyMattress was actually really comfortable, but the built in pillow did not work for me for a few reasons.

First, the firmness of the pillow isn’t adjustable. I generally don’t inflate my standalone pillow as much as I could (more of a soft pillow feel vs a firm pillow feel). However, with the JourneyMattress, you have to inflate it until it’s firm since it’s part of the entire mattress.

Second, I generally drool a little when I sleep. Since I didn’t want to drool on my sleeping bag, I tried to put an empty pillowcase between my head and my sleeping bag. Not sure if that would stay in place all night or not, and it was a big hassle when I tried to cinch down the opening of my sleeping bag.

Third, I generally like to put one of my arms up next to the pillow (but not on it) when I’m trying to go to sleep. I couldn’t do that with the JourneyMattress unless I wanted to be at the edge of the mattress, which doesn’t work well with the mattress part.

If you take the built in pillow out of the JourneyMattress, I think it’s right there with the Sea to Summit pad as far as comfort goes, and if I remember correctly, all the other stats (R value, weight, size, etc) are all very similar to the Sea to Summit pad. I didn’t test it in cold weather, so I can’t say if it would keep me as warm as the Sea to Summit pad, but based on R value it should. One other thing I didn’t like as much on the JourneyMattress was the inflation valve. It wasn’t quite as good as the Sea to Summit valve, but not a dealbreaker by any means.

So, overall, if the built in pillow works for you, then I think this is a great pad, especially if you can get it on sale for $60 like I did. But mine will be getting returned.

What sleeping pad do you use on backpacking trips?

The Australia Journals: Apr. 25, 2010

Picture from the ANZAC Day march in Melbourne while I was studying abroad.

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

Commentary

This was a really cool cultural experience I got to have while I was down in Australia. ANZAC Day is the equivalent to Veteran’s Day in the U.S. It was really neat to experience the ANZAC Day celebration in Melbourne. If you ever do study abroad (or really any traveling for that matter), I would encourage you to look into cultural holidays/celebrations taking place while you are there and try to take part. 

The Journal Entry

Today was a pretty good day. I got up at 6 and got ready. I met Erin out in the parking lot at about 7:15 to walk down to the bus loop. Once we got there we had to wait a few minutes for the bus. We took the bus to Huntingdale, and then caught a train to Flinders St. station. After we got off there we got lined up to watch the Anzac Day march. We just got lined up right outside Flinders St. station. That was nice. The march started at about 9. It was pretty cool. They had a bunch of really cool old vehicles. It was really cool to see all the people clapping for the soldiers as well. The only bad thing was that it was so long. Erin and I left at about 11:15 and it still wasn’t done. Of course, right when we got down on the train platform they had a flyover. That was a bummer. Anyway, after that Erin and I took the train back towards Huntingdale. I got off at Okleigh so I could go to Volcano Joes, but Erin went back to Monash. It took me a little while to get to Volcano Joes. It was a pretty cool place though. It had a big waterfall in it and was decorated in a jungle theme. That was pretty sweet. It is an all you can eat buffet place. The food wasn’t the greatest, but they had a good variety and the food was still good, so I was glad I went. I was definitely full by the time I was finished. The bus came about a minute after I got out of the restaurant, which was nice. I took the bus back to Chadstone, and then got off so I could catch the 900 back to Monash. There was 20 minutes until the 900 got there, so I went around the shopping center for a few minutes and got some pictures. I took the 900 back to the bus loop and then walked to the dorms. After I got back I checked email and all and then read/watched video on the big tornado they had in Mississippi today (the 23rd in the U.S.). There was a monster of a tornado that went all the way across Mississippi and killed at least 10 people. They had a huge severe weather outbreak in the southeast. It looks like it was nuts. Anyway, after that I read some articles for my 2211 article. After that I got dinner. I had some leftover spaghetti. I probably should have had something smaller, because by the time I was finished, I was so full. I haven’t been that full in a while. After dinner I worked on saving some soundings and radar shots from today and then worked on writing my essay. After that I looked into when I need to leave for the footy game tomorrow, and then started writing this. It is now 9:15, and I think I’m gonna get ready for bed. I’m pretty tired already, and I gotta get up at 7 so I can run in the morning. 

The Australia Journals: Apr. 16-17, 2010

Kookaburras in a tree during a camping trip at the Candlebark Camping Area in Lake Eildon National Park.

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

Commentary

One of the meteorology classes I took at Monash had a mid-semester two-night camping trip as part of the curriculum. It was meant to be a field learning experience with taking different meteorological measurements. I love camping as it is, but this allowed me to do camping with a bunch of Aussies in Australia, mix in some meteorology learning during the trip, and I got to finally spend some time with Melinda. It was one of my favorite experiences during the whole Australia trip. I already mentioned Celine in an earlier post, and mentioned there was one other woman who really caught my attention while in Australia. Melinda was that other woman. I had class with Melinda, but this was the first time I got to spend any sort of time around her. By the end of the camping trip, I was kind of wishing I hadn’t got to know her. Haha. She’ll make an appearance in one more post in a couple weeks. 

The Journal Entry

Written on April 18 about April 16-17

The past two days have been good. Yesterday I got up at 7 and got ready. It was a normal morning. We had a test in 3360. I don’t think I did too well on it. I’m hoping for a 50. I’m not sure I’ll even get that though. Elizabeth doesn’t think she did too well either. It will be interesting to see what the scores are when we get the tests back. After 3360 Elizabeth and I went to Menzies and hung out there until 3040 tute at 10:30. We started earlier yesterday so we could talk about the assignment a little bit. After the tute I came back to my room and got lunch. After lunch I chatted with John a little bit and then started getting ready for the camping trip. It was such a pain trying to figure out what to take and what not to. Actually packing was really quick. I was gonna try to fit everything in my backpack, but that wouldn’t work. I ended up using my small suitcase and having that packed full. I talked to Mom for about 10 minutes while I was packing. At about 1:50 I met Elizabeth and we walked to the pick-up point. We left at about 2:30. We took a big charter bus. I sat with Elizabeth. We stopped in Yea on the way up. Elizabeth and I both got a muffin at a bakery. They didn’t want us to eat it on the bus, though, so I had to eat mine real quick. That was a bummer. After that we went to the camping spot. We are staying at Candlebark camping area in Lake Eildon State Park. I got my stuff after I got off the bus and then had to find someone with a tent. A guy named Sheldon said he probably had room. I helped him set up his tent. After we got it up, we realized we could get 3 people in there, so a guy name Allen ended up staying in our tent as well. We got our stuff set up in the tent, and then I went and visited with Elizabeth and Melinda. Elizabeth and Melinda are staying in a tent together. They actually got the tent from our 2020 professor. After a couple minutes we went down to the campfire and hung out until dinner. I was glad there was a campfire because it got cold pretty quick after the sun went down. Dinner was pretty awesome. I had 3 sausages and a hamburger. I probably could have had more as well, but I didn’t. After dinner we had a meeting where they went over safety and stuff and then we got into groups. Elizabeth, Melinda, and I got into a group with Jane, David, and Luke. I was kind of skeptical about them at first, but they have turned out to be pretty cool. After we got into our groups they assigned us group numbers. We got group 8, which meant we had to do the hill climb at 3 A.M. That wasn’t cool. I probably would have rather gotton any other time. A group did it every 3 hours from 9 P.M. that night. After we got our group numbers we all went to the bathrooms, which were the “base station” for the hill climb measurements. Richard showed everybody how to use the measurement device. After that we all walked to the base of the hill so we all knew how to get there. It was a pretty good walk to the base of the hill. It took about 20 minutes I believe. When we got to the bottom the 9 P.M. group started their climb while the rest of us came back. On the way back, we went past some bathrooms that looked identical to the ones at our campground. Everybody thought they were ours, but then figured out they weren’t. Nobody noticed them on the walk to the hill though. It was really weird. After we got back my group got ready for bed pretty quickly since we had to get up at 3. I just brought my silk sleep sack and a blanket from my room to sleep in. I slept in my jeans and a hoodie and all. I was warm at first but ended up being pretty cold. It was hard to stay wrapped up in the blanket. It was just too small. I didn’t really get to sleep until about midnight. I woke up at 2, and didn’t really get a good sleep until 3. Our group met at the bathrooms at 3 and started our walk. I was the time person, Luke did the measurements, and Dave wrote it all down. The hill was really steep. We stopped about every 4-5 minutes to get a measurement. Jane had to stop that often to rest anyway. Nobody really complained about it though, which was nice. There was a part of the climb where it levelled out, and we thought we were almost to the top, but then it got even steeper than it was before. That was funny. We got to the top at about 4. We stayed up there for about 15-20 minutes looking at the stars and just hanging out. The stars here are awesome. You can see so much. It’s amazing. I tried to get a couple pictures. I’m not sure how they turned out. We started back down about 4:25. We stopped a few times on the way down to get some measurements. It was so much faster coming down. I couldn’t believe we were at the bottom when we got there. We got back to the bathrooms at about 5:15. We put the stuff up and then went back to our tents. The two other guys in my tent had their walk at 6 A.M. I wasn’t able to get back to sleep before they left. I think I finally fell asleep at about 6:15. I slept ok until my alarm went off at 8. It was so cold in the morning. I was really wishing I had a sleeping bag. I got up at about 8:10 and came to the campfire area to get breakfast. They had pancakes for us. They didn’t have syrup though. They just had jam, sugar, and lemon juice. So I had my pancakes with apricot jam. It was pretty good. After I finished eating I got my camera and started getting some pictures around camp. A bunch of Kookaburras had started hanging around so I got a bunch of pictures of those. They are pretty awesome looking birds. They are really annoying though. Occasionally a big group of them will start making a lot of noise all at once. It’s especially annoying when you are trying to sleep. Anyway, at about 9:30 or 9:45 we started our experiment station stuff. Our group had pibal first. We got a ride a couple of km away and then they had to get the theodolite set up. We only had a few minutes to do measurements. I tried to do it first, but lost the balloon once I had to read the Vernier scale. The second pibal group lost it real quick as well. We tried a second one. This time I tracked and Elizabeth read the scale. That was so much easier than doing it by myself. The other group lost it, and so the guy showing us how to do it said we needed to get back since we were running late. I was bummed that we couldn’t see how long we could track it for. We got back to camp at about 11. After we got back Elizabeth, Luke, Melinda, and I went on a walk to the lake. Our group had a break until lunch at 12:15. It’s amazing how much higher the lake used to be. It has gone down so much. It didn’t take very long to get to the lake. We hung out there for a few minutes and then came back. After that I just hung out in the campfire area for a while. At about 12:30 I ate my sandwiches. They did a radiosonde launch at about 1. After that I noticed some specks in the viewfinder of my camera. I spent a while trying to get that to go away, but never could. That bums me out. I guess I’ll have to try to find a place to take it in the city to get it cleaned. At about 1:45 we got back to going to our stations. We did the wind mast first, then the tethersonde, then bowen ratio, and then radiation. The tethersonde was pretty crazy. They had showed us pictures in measurements class of those, but it was cool to actually see one. There wasn’t anything too interesting about any of the other ones. We finished at about 4:45. After that I got this and started writing in it. I wrote in it until dinner was about ready. I didn’t get too far though. I put it up and then we had dinner. They made chili for us. It was pretty good. It was pretty amazing they had made that here. After dinner we had a trivia night. We competed in our teams we had been in all weekend. By the way, our team name was the Climates. That was pretty awesome. Anyway, we had trivia for a while. That was really fun. Our team did pretty bad, but that didn’t really matter. That finished at about 9:15. After that I just hung out in the campfire area. I ended up visiting with Melinda and a couple other guys until about 11:15. That was really cool. Melinda seems pretty awesome. She is really pretty. I have wanted to meet her ever since the first day of 2020 class, so it’s been pretty cool to get to do that this weekend. Last night while we were visiting she said she doesn’t drink because she is a Christian as well. That’s really cool. She swears every once in a while, though, which is a turn off for me. I hate it though because it would be cool to go on a date with her sometime, but I’m only here for about 2 more months. I’m not really sure she is as strong of a Christian as I am looking for though. It’s so frustrating. Seems like the story of my life. We’ll see what happens though. Maybe we can visit some more in class and stuff after this weekend. I don’t really forsee anything happening between us though. Anyway, at about 11:15 I had to go to the bathroom really bad so I just decided to get ready for bed as well. It is now 9:50 A.M. on the 18th. I’ll probably try to write about today when I go to bed tonight. I just wanted to get the past couple days out of the way since I had some spare time. Anyway, that’s it for now.  

The Australia Journals: Apr. 6, 2010

My first (and I think only) time to eat Kangaroo while I was in Australia.

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

Commentary

Renting bicycles and going for a ride in the city was a great experience that I would recommend. Once again (just like renting a car and doing a road trip), it allows you to get out and see areas that you might not see otherwise. 

I’m not a very adventurous eater, so I didn’t eat a whole lot of different food while I was in Australia. This was one of the days I was a little bit adventurous and tried some kangaroo. If you are an adventurous eater, studying abroad would be a great opportunity to try some different foods.

Even though we didn’t get to go to all the places we wanted, and the kangaroo wasn’t a big hit, it was still a great day.  

The Journal Entry

Today was a pretty good day. This morning I got up at 8 and had my normal morning routine. After I had gotten ready I started looking up possible articles for my 2211 essay. I did that until about 11, then got stuff together to go into the city. After that I got lunch and then left for the bus loop. I caught the 11:50 900 bus. I got off the train at Parliament station. I got off there so I could go to the DIAC office to get a visa label. When I got into the office, there was a sign stating they only did the visa labels between 9 A.M. and 11 A.M. That didn’t make me too happy. I got to the office at about 12:45, and I was supposed to meet Vivien at Fed Square at 2, so I had an hour to waste pretty much. I took the train to Flinders St. station and pretty much hung out at Fed Square the entire time. That was a real bummer to have to do that. Vivien showed up at about 2:15. We went to the bike place and rented a couple bikes. It was $20 for 2 hours. We decided to head over to the Docklands/Port area. We followed the river for a little while, and then got lost for a little bit. We eventually made it to the street we needed. We rode to the port and I got some good pictures of the cranes and ships and stuff. The cranes and ships were so huge. It was amazing. There were so many shipping containers there as well. I don’t know how they keep track of them all. Anyway, we headed back to the Docklands area, and Vivien wanted to go somewhere else. However, it said it would take 40 min, and we only had 40 min to get the bikes back, so I told her we better not. I felt so bad. I still feel pretty bad about it. Anyway, we ended up riding back along the river on the opposite side. We rode a little past the bike place and then came back and returned out bikes. After that we headed towards the restaurant where we were going to eat. We walked up Swanston St. and then down La Trobe St. We stopped at a few shops on the way, including a book shop, reject shop, and a couple clothing shops. We ate at the Berth Restaurant in the Docklands. We both got kangaroo. It wasn’t too bad. I would definitely take beef steak over kangaroo steak. But it wasn’t horrible. The potatoes and sauce were really good though. Once again, it was really expensive. It was $30 for the meal and an apple juice. I hate how it’s so expensive to eat out here. Anyway, Vivien didn’t really like the kangaroo. She was kind of bummed about that. We finished the meal at about 7:15. After we finished we walked to Southern Cross station. We barely missed the train we needed. It left just as we were running down the escalator. That was a bummer. We had to wait about 12 minutes for the next one. We got off the train at Okleigh so Vivien could go to Coles. The entrance to the shopping center closest to the station was closed. We ended up walking almost all the way around the shopping center to find an open entrance. Chocolate bars were on sale if you bought two, so Vivien got two and I just paid her back for one of them. She got some other stuff as well. After she finished shopping we walked to the bus stop and took the 733 bus back to campus. That was the first time I had taken that bus. Vivien made a point during the trip that we were probably supposed to have zone 2 cards, but I totally spaced that out when we got on the bus. We made it to Uni fine though. After we got back we walked to the halls. After I got to my room I checked email and stuff. Duke won the championship game. That sucks. After that I got a quick shower, and then started writing this. It is now 10:40. I think I am going to get to bed. I’m pretty tired tonight.