Sniffle Season

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I’ve lost a lot of fitness recently after a nasty bout of pneumonia. I actually noticed my legs getting smaller, something that has never happened before but I guess that’s what happens when the only movement you can bring yourself to do is move from bed to the couch. I’m back on track now, slowly building up my strength again but I know I’ll feel like I’m dying next time I go hiking or skiing.

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Prior to the pneumonia, I did manage one day hike and it was awesome. Climbing up a densely forested mountain is great by itself, but to summit and suddenly see panoramic views of mountains and river lands is something else.

There were three parts, however, that were less than awesome. The first was when I decided last minute to take my large camera bag so I had more lens and filter options. Not only did I not change a single lens or filter, but D’mitry remained safely packed in my small camera bag and missed out on the whole thing. I’m a terrible friend.  The second less than awesome part was the birds. Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a terrible irrational fear of birds and hold IMG_3074firmly to the belief that anyone who feeds wild birds, therefore making them friendly, is the worst kind of person. Some of the best views on the whole hike we rushed by so I could escape the birds which had obviously been thrown a few too many lunch scraps. I may have done a little duck and run a few times. The third less than awesome part was the ice on the steepest part of the trail. This, however, wasn’t so bad. Sure, it was dangerous and slow-going, but I feel more at home on frozen surfaces than I do on vertical rock walls, as a climbing-junkie friend and I discovered on a glacier a few years ago when I took to butt-skiing. With some very careful steps, it felt like an added adventure. So I guess it was just two less than awesome parts.IMG_3028

The important question is whether the hike was worth it despite the less than awesome parts. The answer is 100% yes. I love beautiful views, physical challenge and nature, all of which this hike delivered on a fantastic scale. If that had to be my only fall hike this year, it was a good one.

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Side news: I just ordered a new hike tent and I’m really excited about it. Get ready for a review. Kind of like the time I did a review of all the cars I’ve owned, except I’ll actually be interested in what I’m reviewing this time.

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Ski stories

Hoodie pre-edit

 

Don’t mind the long absence, I have been very sick. So sick that I only went hiking once over the whole autumn. It hasn’t been a very fun few months. I will post photos of that one hike soon, however there is something more pressing that I’ve been thinking about recently, having learned that a piece of my childhood is now officially closed. This long predates D’mitry, but it’s a good story.

There’s a reason I love skiing and part of that is the memories of getting up super early on Saturday mornings with my sister to follow my dad around while he did his ski patrol sweeps. It meant getting the first runs of the morning on fresh slopes. Eventually our presence become so common to the patrollers that they would simply shrug when we turned up at Dad’s heels and hand us a pile of hazard poles. If we were going to follow them around, we were going to work. Soon, our presence was so widely accepted that they made it official and created the title “Junior Patroller”. We even got put on the free season pass list, even though Dad already got the whole family free season passes by being a volunteer ski patroller. Honestly, it was the only way my family could afford to ski and skiing was practically the reason for existing in my household. Every second weekend throughout the winter, we would leave for the mountain straight after school on Friday, via some form of fast food drive through, and ski right through until Sunday evening, when we’d pack up and head home, ready for school the next day.

But the skiing isn’t all I remember. At the time it didn’t seem important, but now a large chunk of my skiing memories are not of skiing at all, but rather the lodge we stayed in whenever Dad was patrolling. My sister and I liked to think we ruled the little A frame building. We knew every passage and hidden storage room entrance; we knew that the best place to hide was under the stairs; we knew there was a trapdoor under the rug in front of the fire that led to the firewood storage basement; we had bowls lined up in front of the fire ready to be filled with snow and Coke; we hid the best marshmallow roasting sticks so no one else would use them; we knew which bathrooms were the best and worth making a beeline for at the right moment. Saturday evening was roast night with big communal dinners of roast lamb and apple pies. As a kid it just happened effortlessly, but now I catch myself wondering how the cost was split up between that many people.

When I was sixteen my dad decided to stop ski patrolling and, considering how crazy expensive snowsports are, that’s when we stopped skiing as a family. Bad timing; the previous season I had slaved away dragging months’ worth of firewood to the house for my parents in exchange for a fancy new ski jacket. That was the end of growing up in a ski resort, however I had always entertained thoughts of one day joining ski patrol at that mountain myself, for real this time instead of “Junior Patrol”, and bringing up my own ski resort kids. Now it’s ten years later the lodge we used to stay at has folded. It’s been over for a long time, but something about the lodge closing down feels final. I still ski a lot, it’s one of the reasons I’ll never be rich, and I’ll probably join ski patrol eventually, perhaps at a different mountain. But that mountain is mine and that lodge felt like home and for the first sixteen years of my life, my sister and I practically ruled it.

Sleeping on top of the wrong mountain

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Finally a multi-day hike this year worth writing about. After last time’s dilemma that resulted in legs covered in ice scratches, as well as a crazy busy summer of working 6 day weeks and often 10+ hour days, we were finally able to hike successfully. Almost. 15km in one day isn’t bad, right? It’s perfectly attainable, even on steep hills, and I’m pretty fit, right? Plus, D’mitry is tiny and doesn’t add much weight to my pack, even though he can’t walk and has to be carried everywhere. He’s all about the style shots, not the physical work. What I didn’t know is just how steep the trail would be.

Like any experienced hiker with common sense, I consulted some topographical maps. Sure, it looked really steep, but I’ve hiked steep before. I’ve hiked near-vertical scramble before. I’ll be fine. And honestly, I was fine. It just took a lot longer than I thought. It came to my attention very quickly that I’m not in my early twenties anymore and I don’t bounce back as easily when old teenage injuries come back to bite. At times like that, all I can hear aside from imaginary T-rex screeching from my pocket is my father’s voice telling me that hiking is “80% in your head and 20% in your legs.” It’s one of those mantras that I hated hearing as a teenager but now it kind of makes sense. I may have finally come to the realisation that I’m not indestructible and probably couldn’t actually take on a bear like I always claimed I could, but I can certainly get myself up a mountain.

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Unfortunately I didn’t get over the second mountain. Having realised that this hike would take a lot longer than originally planned, the group decided it was more realistic to camp on the first peak, before our intended campsite on the second. It worked out for the best, because it turns out the view from this peak was better and spending an evening there meant more time for a dinosaur photo shoot. Here are some highlights from the evening we spent on top of the wrong mountain after a difficult but super rewarding hike.

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By the way, I had a great time. Challenging hikes are my jam.

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Spare time?

I have an awesome job. Had I known that getting a real people job would turn out like this, I might not have complained so much about growing up. I spend most of my time outside, tricking kids into learning school things by teaching them in a forest. The best part is that I can go take photos of dinosaurs in nature and no one thinks I’m weird; if anything it actually helps me fit in. Sometimes my job requires me to do things I would be doing in my leisure time anyway, like walking a half day hike eight times in one week or standing ankle deep in a creek for an hour. Sometimes, I work really long hours and don’t take photos of D’mitry accompanying me on adventures. Just remember that my job is itself kind of an adventure, which makes up for the office work and odd jobs I’ll be spending most of my time on over the winter.

Here’s an old picture to tide you over. Never forget, I may work hard and long hours right now and have very little spare time, but my job is almost certainly better than yours.

It is possible to mention loose leaf tea and hard core hiking in the same story.

Tea Leaves

 

I got a new toy. After months of debating with myself and wondering just how great D’mitry might look through a better lens, I upgraded my camera. The same day I also bought some loose leaf peppermint tea because it’s a great joy in life, so I used the new camera to showcase my new tea.

What’s the point of a new camera if you don’t do something fun to photograph? The problem I encountered with the way of thinking was that it made me impatient to do something awesome, so I went hiking the next weekend. Everything started great, even seeing bear scratches on trees didn’t unnerve me. What finally did unnerve me, however, was six inches of snow covering the trailhead because someone (yeah, it was me) forgot the compass so backbearings were out of the question. After a week of 30 degree weather and no mention of remaining snow anywhere online, I hadn’t expected this kind of problem. While snow makes for great shots of D’mitry, crusty, half melted ice snow looks far too disappointing for effective dinosaur photography. I settled instead for the scratches on the trees.

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As well as an appreciation for dirt trails, I also came to appreciate snowshoes. I don’t own a pair myself, although I may next time I go overnight hiking in spring, but they make great prints in the snow that are super easy to follow. After sneaky following a group’s snow shoe prints through thick forest growth, we eventually stumbled upon the trail, only have it disappear again after a few kilometres. With the snow getting thicker as we climbed the mountain and us having no idea whether we are even close to the path or just blindly slugging uphill, constantly falling through the icy snow, we began re-evaluating our choices. At this point, D’mitry had only made it out of my pack twice and my legs were covered in ice scratches, so the disappointing decision was made to turn back. As we followed our footprints we reflected on the fact that we had carried a tent, stove, fuel and enough food for two days up a big snowy hill, only to turn around and go home.

But it’s not all bad. Nothing a hot shower and cup of brand new loose leaf tea can’t fix. Going on a compensatory adventure the next day certainly helped too. I’ve never had any interest in cycling, especially knowing that your thighs burn while trying to maintain enough momentum to ride up a giant hill when instead you could just walk at your own pace. Hiking is still better, but in an attempt to spend more time outside together and create more opportunities to take cool photos of D’mitry, my pet Tim has convinced me to start road cycling. If I’m honest, I’m actually becoming a bit of a fan. I’ll even go as far to say that it was a half-decent replacement for a failed overnight hike trip. No photos yet, because I’m not great at it and tend to concentrate too hard to photograph a tiny dinosaur, but we’ll get there.

An honest review of adventure-worthy cars by a non-car enthusiast and a tiny dinosaur.

Although the vast majority of my favourite adventures don’t involve cars at all, their remote locations make driving a prior necessity. It’s not that I don’t like driving (I actually quite like it), it just doesn’t really go well with the pursuit of nature in my opinion. However, since we have established that driving is necessary for getting to adventure locations, many of which involve rough, winding roads and extreme weather, it seems appropriate to share some of my favourite vehicles from my driving history.

I was very clear in the title that I am not a car enthusiast. I don’t care about engines. I know how to do routine checks and change oil and that’s the extent of my interest. With that in mind, the following cars will be rated according to four categories:
1. Quirk (is it so awesome that it turns heads?)
2. Cost (is it expensive to run?)
3. Versatility (will it take me anywhere or only on paved roads?)
4. D’mitry Stamp of Approval (is there space for a little T-rex?)

 

  1. Mazda Eunos 500

This was my first car and I thought it was cool because none of my friends had a sunroof, but I did. A mentor recommended Mazda to me after having a very reliable one for around 10 years. Have to say, she was right about its reliability. That is, until a week after I sold it and the transmission blew up. But having said that, it was a very old car. This is also the car I owned when I found D’mitry.

Quirk: 1/5
It had a sunroof. That’s about it. Also it had no cup holders, which ruined everything.

Cost: 2.5/5
Meh.

Versatility: 2/5
It was pretty much a city car.

D’mitry Stamp of Approval: 1/5
Nowhere for a tiny T-rex to sit.

2. Jeep Grand Cherokee
This thing felt like a beast. It could go anywhere and double as a place to sleep when you got there. This was my first car after moving to Canada and I took D’mitry everywhere in it. That is, until it started breaking down. We had a great run, and then the combined cost of repairs and fuel determined that the Jeep had to go.

Quirk: 1/5
Many people own this exact model.

Cost: 0/5
4×4 V8 SUV is never going to be fuel efficient. And it certainly wasn’t.

Versatility: 5/5
This car could practically climb walls and fight bears.

D’mitry Stamp of Approval: 4/5
Many adventures were had in this car, and it had a little dish near the handbrake that was the perfect size for D’mitry.

3. Subaru Legacy
My current car. It’s smooth, comfortable and sounds impressive, plus it goes everywhere I want to. It’s perfect for snow driving and we all know how I feel about all things mountain, plus skiing is life. It’s also manual, which is my preference, although it is silver and that is probably my least favourite car colour.

Quirk: 2.5/5
I’m told it’s an impressive model. I guess I believe it.

Cost: 3/5
The reason this doesn’t score higher is because it takes premium. Having said that, it is still cheaper to run than the Jeep.

Versatility: 4.5/5
It isn’t as tough as the Jeep, but I’m not really into 4×4 and it takes me everywhere I want to go.

D’mitry Stamp of Approval: 4/5
No practical seat for D’mitry, but it’s already taken us on a handful of ski days so it’s promising for adventures.

4. Dad’s Land Rover Freelander
The car Land Rover fans buy when they can’t afford a Range Rover. It has awesome speakers (not even added after purchase) and lots of terrain settings, most of which I didn’t understand and never used. I took this car on a few ski trips and camping trips and enjoyed its comfort and versatility.

Quirk: 2.5/5
Meh.

Cost: 2/5
Meh. It was a diesel so it’s not all bad.

Versatility: 5/5
Lots of settings and pretty tough. I don’t know how it goes for 4×4, but I also don’t care.

D’mitry Stamp of Approval: 4/5
Good place to sit for a little dinosaur and plush leather seats.

5. ……….Wait for it. 

Definitely the greatest car ever built. 

Suzuki Jimny. *cheers*
Hands down the greatest. It’s tough. It’s adorable. It’s incredibly versatile. It looks like an old style Jeep shrunk down to a small woman (i.e. me) size. Featuring no carpet so your wet clothes won’t make a mess after kayaking, roof racks for carrying all the gear that won’t fit inside after you cram all your friends in there, no power steering so you really feel the road and a clutch that squeaks in rainy weather. It has full 4×4 capability and handles brilliantly in the snow and on windy, rough roads. Plus, they’re pretty rare. It honestly broke my heart when I had to sell this little box of awesome. But I was moving to the other side of world and couldn’t take it with me. I left a little piece of my heart in that car.

Quirk: Through the roof.
Not only would people stop and stare, but I would from time to time too, and I owned the car. It’s just so cute and tough at the same time.

Cost: 5/5
Super fuel efficient and cheap to fix… that is when it actually needs fixing. It was definitely the most reliable car I’ve ever owned.

Versatility: 5/5
It went everywhere and beyond because of its 4×4 and lightweight frame.

D’mitry Stamp of Approval: 5/5
A comfortable hidey hole for D’mitry. Fun, bouncy drives throughout the state. Ability to drive up mountains, along beaches, over rocks and wherever you want, albeit slowly. Best car ever.

I understand this is not an unbiased review. I don’t care. Many people dislike Jimnys because they are slow or because they don’t have power steering or air bags (prior to 2000). Still don’t care. My old roommate hated that car because he was super tall and it is tiny. Again, don’t care.

Please keep in mind that this review is everything it claimed to be: honest, about cars and written by someone who doesn’t care about cars with her little tiny dinosaur.

The in between

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I like cold weather. It’s partly because skiing is my life but also because it means there are less people on hiking trails and blankets are the best. What I am less a fan of, however, is the in between weather that comes after it’s been freezing cold but before it gets warm. It’s like the weather version of a shrug and means I get really into vests, which are definitely the most confusing item of clothing. It’s like saying I want only between my shoulders and hips to be warm, but screw the rest of me, those bits can stay cold. Yet somehow vests make sense during the in between weather. Things also look less beautiful during this meh kind of weather. I will always love the forest and the mountains and even the beach on overcast, rainy days, but that kind of weather definitely takes away the vibrant colours that can be experienced during better, or even worse weather. Have you seen the environment during a storm? It’s awesome. The dull-coloured in between weather also tends to mean chunks of slushy, half-melted snow and that is usually gross. I love snow. I love not snow. None of this in between nonsense.

I also lose a lot of motivation to take photos during this kind of weather. I don’t edit my photos because I like to take natural shots and let nature do the images for me (D’mitry is the only enhancement, but he is actually there, not Photoshopped in). So above is the only photo I’ve taken in weeks, with all the dull colours of an overcast, in between weather day. Enjoy it until I take more dinosaur photos after the weather improves or deteriorates. I’m fine with either.

For those wanting photo evidence of my ski adventures this winter, sorry, it snowed too much for photos. Also I was distracted skiing. I’m not ashamed of my priorities.

Blegh

You know when everyone is sick but you’re all healthy and you’re like “I’m not sick, you’re sick! Ahahahaha!” Then a week later, just as everyone gets back to business after getting better, you start feeling that sore throat starting. You can only kid yourself into thinking you’re just dehydrated for so long before you finally have to accept the grim reality that you’re just plain old sick and not only that, you’re sick a week later than everyone else. This is bad because no one is there to sympathise with you and everyone has already used up all their pity on the fist wave of sick people. Being sick sucks. Especially when you’re the last to get sick.

Patience for adventures while I try to coax D’mitry into making me tea, even if he would spill most of it with his tiny and inflexible little arms. We did go skiing, I’ll tell you all about it when I can stay sitting up for more than ten minutes.

Epic journey to the cold lands

We journeyed to the cold lands where everything is flat and people are more coat than human. Logically, to me it seems the mountains should be colder but it seems we left regular winter with the mountains and opted for something a little more extreme. D’mitry and I decided to experience the frozen prairies for the first time in order to spend Christmas with New Family while Old Family endures a heat wave in the southern hemisphere, where even the cold lands are dying under the sun. Can’t complain, I’m a winter person so I’m happy.

And to make matters even better, we discovered a new animal to add to the list of fun animals D’mitry encounters on his adventures: arctic cows. They’re even more exciting than lava chickens. Although, disappointingly, we are not technically in the arctic, the fact that cow poo freezes on contact with the ground is, to me, close enough. Tim even threw a lump of frozen cow poo at me because he’s a lovable jerk.

I’m also told there’s a chance we could see northern lights here and if that’s not arctic I don’t know what is. I’m probably more excited about the prospect of seeing northern lights than I would be about meeting the cast of Jurassic Park, and that’s an entire series of movies all about dinosaurs. That’s saying a lot.

Everyone needs an aloof silhouette shot, looking longingly into the distance. Even D’mitry.

In case anyone was wondering, it was D’mitry’s birthday exactly one month ago. Spread some love around to celebrate.

Blessed Christmas to all those who love me enough to read about my adventures with my dinosaur. We love you.

Hedgehogs are great

If we stretch back far enough, we might have some vague memories of D’mitry’s old nemesis Cyril the Cat. However, it turns out that not all pets are nemeses, just cats because they are jerks. And also one particular turtle but that’s something else entirely. Recently, I achieved a life-long dream and obtained a pet hedgehog. This might not seem like a big deal, but let’s remember that I grew up in Australia where hedgehogs are nothing more than an adorable legend. Now D’mitry has a new buddy named Truffles.

It turns out hedgehogs are not easy to photograph, particularly when the one we adopted wasn’t cared for particularly well in its last home and, even though we feel good about providing a better, loving home for her now, she gets super grumpy about absolutely everything, even being given treats. Progress is slow but certain and hedgehog/dinosaur photos will follow shortly, trust me.

In other news: it’s winter and that means ski adventures! We already spent a ridiculous amount on upgrading our ski gear so the least you can do is read about us using it. Get ready for tales of powdery (mis)adventure and frosty photos of D’mitry.