Milford Sound? check
part of Hollyford Track? check
part of Routeburn Track? check
kayaking on Doubtful Sound? um, check on the weather tomorrow first....
ability to check Gmail on hostel computer? not check, repeat, not check
Milford Sound? check
Tom and I will be departing in a few minutes for the wilds of the Catlins Coast. It's the southern part of the South Island, and we'll be camping tonight, then hiking (excuse me, tramping) the Catlins Top Track for 2 days. After that we'll drive the Southern Scenic Route, stopping to camp at the Clifden Caves, before finally arriving in Te Anau, where we'll hopefully have Internet access once again.
But before we leave, we're headed to the chocolate factory!!!
The Asylum has been an amazing place to stay. Tom said it's the sort of place where he might keep extending his stay if we didn't already have plans. I can see what he means. Today is a gorgeous day when we might have gone surfing, or maybe taken a sea kayak or some snorkel gear and caught our own dinner. Instead, all I'll be catching is a Crunchie T-shirt at Cadbury World.
pleased with dinner
Happy Boxing Day to all my readers! Yesterday we celebrated Christmas in style. Tom spent the morning surfing with a bunch of Chinese people who were staying at The Asylum with us, while I poked around the grounds and tried to get into as many abandoned buildings as possible. In the afternoon, we went to the beach at Moeraki with a German couple (yes, the ones I was talking LOUD and slooooow with), where we spotted sea lions lounging on the grass and frolicking in the surf. As we were hiking up the hill back to the car, I looked through the fence and saw a yellow-eyed penguin with its chick standing not 2 feet away from us! So, we can check off most of the rare species on the South Island - yellow-eyed penguins, Hector's dolphins, Hooker's sea lions and many, many seals.
When we got back to The Asylum, the party was just getting started. Frank, the owner, fired up the old blacksmith's forge (left over from the days when the administrators thought it best for the crazy folk to work hard instead of take medications) in one of the outbuildings. A bunch of lovely German girls had spent the day making salads and preparing bowle - a potent fruit punch. We cooked up a heap of sausages, steaks and kebabs over the fire and sat around a collection of old couches eating, drinking and talking. Later we tried to come up with games that the whole group could play. With 10 Chinese, 6 Germans, 2 Americans and 1 Kiwi, we couldn't play anything that required lots of talking. Someone had bought a box of crackers, so we joined hands in a big circle to pull the crackers, then donned our party hats and ceremonially burned the bad jokes.
Best. Christmas. Ever.
Not me, I'm still feeling hot. But you know that stereotype? You know, the one how Americans deal with any foreigner by talking LOUDER and sloooooower? Well, at dinner tonight, that's what I felt like. Factoid for those that don't know me that well - my mother was deaf until a few years ago. (No, she didn't die. She got a cochlear implant.) Therefore, my natural instinct when I think people don't understand me is to talk LOUDER and slooooower. Well, I also try to throw in some sign language too. And thus I fulfilled the ugly American stereotype while dining with a lovely German couple tonight.
All of this, of course, is my way of saying that both Tom and I are safe and sound. The Banks Peninsula Track was simply amazing. We have picked up a rental car and are now ensconced in our Christmas digs. The Asylum is a former insane asylum outside of Dunedin that now serves as our hostel for the next few nights. It's still somewhat authentic, and I'm sure Tom will revive a few lines from his star turn as "Chief" in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest at some point during our stay. They have free Internet access (yay!) but it's dial-up (boo!). I may have lost my wallet and iPod while we were getting the car. I'm trying to not get upset and just view this as an opportunity to get a new iPod. It's not a very good consolation, though, as it will cost me more money.
Merry Christmas! Or belated holiday greetings! Or have a happy pre-season! This dateline stuff confuses me, but it's 9 p.m. Christmas Eve, and I'm surrounded by happy Germans and pleasantly sloshed. I may go out and chase the horses around the grounds soon, or I may just watch a bad movie and go to sleep.
Tom and I arrived in Auckland, and then in Chiristchurch, on Tuesday, Dec. 18. We have settled into the Chester Street Backapackers, which is lovely and quiet - two of my main considerations in a hostel. We're treating ourselves to a private room for the next few days.
So far Christchurch is lovely. Today is a little overcast, but the sun keeps poking through. We've been enjoying wandering around the city and had great fun at the supermarket. What is it about foreign grocery stores that is so enticing? I want to try one of each of their candybars, and don't get me started on the cookies, sodas and cheeses. After a picnic lunch at Cathedral Square, we stopped by the library so that I could get a little Internet access. It's cheaper here than at our hostel, but don't expect any personal e-mails or frequent posts when we have to pay for the Web.
After this, we're off to explore the botanical gardens and visit one of the art museums before heading back to the hostel for dinner. Fun fact - the celebrity gossip magazines here still gossip mostly about American celebrities. There's a good supply of the magazines at the hostel, so I intend to read up!
We may change our plans slightly and spend some extra time in Akaroa after we finish the Banks Peninsula Track instead of coming back to Christchurch for another night. The town looks interesting, and I fear that we may just spend our time in Christchurch trying to eat at every restaurant I see! Sadly, we've already spotted at least two Starbucks. The McDonald's doesn't dishearten me quite as much, simply because I want to eat all the weird, non-American things on the menu, like the Kiwi pavlova for dessert.
Is it wrong to buy a duffle bag when we get to Auckland for the sole purpose of bringing home lots of funny food?
I'm snowed in at a hotel next to the Providence Airport. Looks like I'll have a later flight to LA, so no trip top the Fabric District for me - apologies to those who wanted me to bring them home goodies. Instead I'll be grabbing my rental car and heading straight up to SLO.
On the bright side, I can see a store called "Ninja World" from my hotel window. If only it were open, I could get Tom a T shirt!
In keeping with our continuing vein of cultural non sequitirs (see: watching Top Gun on Christmas), we decided to celebrate the all-American holiday of Thanksgiving by gorging on Indian food. Kudos to Mary for cooking up an awesome Hindi buffet, not to mention enough leftovers to keep us going all weekend.
Also kudos to Mary for posting her Borg bellydance routine on YouTube, which is what we're all watching in this photo. L to R are Rachel, Victoria, Mary, Joyce, Liz and Chris, drinking wine from a paper cup.
Kudos to Victoria for getting into the spirit of things by forcing her Italian Greyhound, Itchy, to accept her place in the caste system for the day.
And finally, kudos to me (with help from Mary) for putting together a Ganesh on the lite-brite coffee table. Clearly I've found my medium.
I am outsourcing my blog to Tom. You may have noticed that I've been posting less. I've made him a co-author on the blog, and hopefully this way you'll get to hear him blog-quote my wit more often.
Is a shared blog the class ring or varsity jacket of the new millenium?
Short and sweet post -
The Namaste Indian students are hosting a Diwali festival this Sunday from 4:30-9 p.m. in the Wood Center ballroom. Tickets are $16 and include a delicious Indian meal (where else will you find that in Fairbanks), plus entertainment. I will be performing Orissi dance as well as modeling in the traditional Indian fashion show. Yeah, I know. I'm white. But I got a lot of Indian clothing.
So, when I said I was working for The Man, I meant I was working for The Man. My temporary job is at a place that is funded by the Department of Defense. They just extended my contract until February, so The Man must not have figured out that
a) I'm a pacifist
b) I'm leaving the country for seven weeks
Regardless, I haven't been blogging because it's hard to blog at work when you're at a supercomputing research center run by The Man. It's just not good form, people. Hell, I haven't even been reading blogs lately, unless you count graphic design blogs. I call those market research.
By way of apology, I give you something I've seen all over the Internet for the past few days.
From the Tampa Bay Craiglist: Survival of the Fittest
Whenever I get a package of plain M&Ms, I make it my duty to continue the strength and robustness of the candy as a species. To this end, I hold M&M duels.
Taking two candies between my thumb and forefinger, I apply pressure, squeezing them together until one of them cracks and splinters. That is the "loser," and I eat the inferior one immediately. The winner gets to go another round.
I have found that, in general, the brown and red M&Ms are tougher, and the newer blue ones are genetically inferior. I have hypothesized that the blue M&Ms as a race cannot survive long in the intense theater of competition that is the modern candy and snack-food world.
Occasionally I will get a mutation, a candy that is misshapen, or pointier, or flatter than the rest. Almost invariably this proves to be a weakness, but on very rare occasions it gives the candy extra strength. In this way, the species continues to adapt to its environment.
When I reach the end of the pack, I am left with one M&M, the strongest of the herd. Since it would make no sense to eat this one as well, I pack it neatly in an envelope and send it to M&M Mars, A Division of Mars, Inc., Hackettstown, NJ 17840-1503 U.S.A., along with a 3x5 card reading, "Please use this M&M for breeding purposes."
This week they wrote back to thank me, and sent me a coupon for a free 1/2 pound bag of plain M&Ms. I consider this "grant money." I have set aside the weekend for a grand tournament. From a field of hundreds, we will discover the True Champion.
There can be only one.
You know, receding hairlines don't work for a hair band.
Isn't he gay?
now that he's taking a poetry class
baggage claim. When I do, they kick me off.
OMG!!!!!! You know I'm excited when I start using acronyms. LOL!!!! (OK, that one made me feel dirty)
Did you know that there's a Society of Typographic Aficionados? And they have a yearly convention called TypeCon???? And at the latest TypeCon they screened Helvetica, a movie all about fonts?!?!?!?!?!?
Dear God, I feel a little faint! And, um, maybe slightly like I might cry if I ever got to go to a TypeCon.
Oh, yes, blah blah blah, haven't posted recently because I started a new job. I'm working for The Man now. That's right, working for The Man every night and day. I figure it's best not to use DoD computers to update my blog while I'm on the clock.
Could things really be working out? Is it possible to fit in a trip to New Zealand, a visit with my parents AND a two-day tribal fusion dance workshop all in one? Fingers crossed on this one...
You know what? Tom Moran is right - the Internet does need a font critic. Or maybe he was saying that to shut me up as I embarked on yet another rant against Papyrus. (Seriously - why is that font everywhere I look? I hate it with a passion that most people cannot begin to understand.) Either way, I've decided to add Font Critic to my resume, and so I'd like to begin with a recent favorite font that is currently gracing both my resume and my latest promo card for dance classes.
Organic Elements is a recent offering from Nerys Evans at dafont. It's a serif font with some curved lines which a give the font a graceful look. The thickness of the stroke varies, as seen in the lowercase A, F and N, which reminds me of trying to write with a calligraphy pen as a child. In this case, the changes in width are deliberate and smooth.
While the spurs are quite basic, the ears lean down over the letters like a weeping willow. The beaks vary from standard to the elaborate swoops that begin the capital T and Z. The crossbars arc up gracefully in the capital H, and the tails in the lowercase Y are rather standard until the end, when they have small flourishes. Other small touches, such as the lack of a dot on the lowercase I, contribute to the font's unusual look.
The font falls a little short in usefulness because it has little to offer besides the basic alphabet. It includes numerals, though these seem on the small side, and basic punctuation, but no other characters are available. Also limiting its usefulness is the shape of the letters. Those graceful curves that catch the eye such as the capital W can easily bleed over onto another line of text. If you are using a desktop publishing program, you can easily move blocks of text to avoid this problem, but font lovers trying to design a flyer in a word processing program may not be so luck.
Overall, I really like this font. It's clean, but draws the eye in with its swoops and flourishes. The little unexpected blank spaces, such as the missing dot on the lowercase I or the bowl not quite touching the stem on the lowercase B also serve to grab the reader's attention. I think the name is quite appropriate, because the shape of the characters is reminiscent of the curves one finds in nature. I can easily see it being used to advertise a florist or a line of natural beauty products.
One odd note - while the font is called Organic Elements and downloads as such, I had trouble locating it after installing on my Mac. I finally found it listed as decorativefontFINAL, and I'm not certain how to change the name.
Please pardon my delay in writing this post. While we did get home a day early, there was much to do upon our return - airing out the tent, washing our stank clothes, cleaning for the housewarming party, etc. From what, you may ask, did we get home a day early? Why from putting 1,600 miles on my car in order to hike 33 miles over 5 days. Trust me, it was worth it.
Tom enjoys the scenic views at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge. You may not know this about Tom, but he is an informational plaque-aholic. I cackled with glee as I drove past many, many plaques at high speed. Unfortunately, they reprint a lot of them in the Milepost.
We spent our first night on the road at Kluane Base Camp. Fittingly enough, it was right near Kluane Lake. We opted to use the tent instead of renting a hostel room. It dipped below freezing, which isn't so good with my 40-degree sleeping bag. We bought a small fleece blanket the next day at the Canadian Superstore.
We traveled through many varied terrains, including desert. I'm not certain if Carcross is, in fact, the world's smallest desert. The sign ambiguously says that it is "affectionately known as the smallest desert." Hey, I'm affectionately known as "the most awesomest person ever," but that doesn't necessarily make it true or make awesomest a word.
We spent the night before we started at the Dyea campground, and naturally decided to get a jump on things with a visit to the old Dyea city ruins. At one point we were gazing across an empty meadow when my keen eye caught two moving black shapes in the distance. Bears! It was only the next morning that it occurred to us that we had driven around to the ruins.
It occurred to us right around the time that we heard something very big run past our tent very fast. Tom later confided that he was grateful that I didn't freak out when another camper asked if we had seen that big bear by our tent that morning.
As you can see, the Chilkoot Trail starts with going up. This will be a prevalent theme.
Part of the allure of hiking the Chilkoot Trail is that it is like walking through a museum. When the stampeders went through, they dropped empty cans, extra shoes and anything they found too heavy to carry over the pass. These relics still lay by the side of the trail, kind of like a monument to the efforts of the gold rush of 1898. By leaving everything exactly as you found it, you can help ensure that future hikers can appreciate the living bit of history they are walking through.
And right before this picture was taken, I managed to knock down a bunch of rusty shit with my pack. Take that, history!
We stopped for our first lunch break, and the river looked so cool and inviting that I decided to dip my feet in. After shrieking like a little girl, I pulled them out to let them dry. That's a glacier-fed river, me thinks.
The trail goes through a few different ecosystems, staring with temperate rainforest. Hence, we crossed lots of bridges.
The rainforest is home to lots and lots of mushrooms. This was one of the freakiest ones. OK, the one that seemed to be dripping with blood was a little freakier, but I didn't get a picture. This will have to suffice.
Tom says "Hi" to the blogosphere.
After the first night camping at Canyon City, we set off. More bridges, this time of the suspension variety. Here you see Happy Mary, posing for a picture. After the flash went off, Apprehensive Mary returned, and I crossed the bridge clinging to the wires, all the while mumbling about drunk college kids building rickety bridges on their summer vacation.
More rainforest, more climbing. But our second camp, Sheep Camp was not too far ahead. Once we got settled in there, Tom and I decided to go back on the trail and look for rusty shit. Not finding any, we decided to head off the trail and into the woods. This was easy to do, since we'd left our packs (with all that unnecessary stuff like bear bells and bear spray) back at camp. This led to the very first ever...
heard on the trail
unlike fat little Mary" Moran
If you look closely in the center of the picture, you can see the bear that was in the woods with us. It seemed to be trying to make sweet, sweet love to a tree and looked a little unhappy to be interrupted in the middle of wooing. Is it too hard to see? Should I zoom in and crop?
Why bother when the bear followed us back to camp? We found out later that this bear was becoming a nuisance in the area. Just to be on the safe side, I kept Tom between me and the bear as it wandered around camp and poked its nose in other people's tents. I've heard that you're supposed to make lots of noise to let the bear know you're human, so I occasionally leaned out from behind Tom to yell things like "I applaud your choice of a vegetarian lifestyle." (Note to Bethany: That is what it's like to see a bear in the wild.)
The next day was the long day. It can't be avoided, as the next camp was 8 miles away. 8 miles up and over the pass. It was time to stop and smell the little purple flowers.
This is not the hard part.
This is not the hard part.
This is still not the hard part.
Now we're talking. Tom and I were starting to scramble up the Golden Stairs. The prospectors got to climb up in the winter, when stairs were hacked into the ice and snow. We chose to go in the summer, so we had to climb over a 45 degree slop of boulders. I'm glad that it was foggy that day. I was cold by the time we got to the ranger hut at the top of the pass for lunch, but at least I couldn't see up or down. Seeing up would mean seeing the false summits and realizing just how much more I had to go.
Seeing down would mean seeing down. I've got a little problem with heights.
Near the top of the pass we found more relics (or, as we put it, rusty shit).
Reaching the top of the pass doesn't mean the work is done yet. Rather, it was time to put on my pant legs and keep hiking through an alpine terrain for another 3 or so miles. We were now officially in Canada. There wasn't much security at the border, but I don't think most terrorists would choose the Chilkoot Trail for a secret border crossing.
Happy Camp. So happy to be here. Our 8-mile day took us just a smidge under 10 hours to complete, which is average. Another family on the trail had to be helped by the rangers. It took some of them 17 hours just to reach the ranger hut, which is about 4 miles of hiking.
The sun was out the next day, and we stopped for a snack and break at Deep Lake.
I'll never understand why those crazy Candians haven't dominated the world yet. They did, however, managed to rig up an ingenious outhouse-on-wheels contraption. When the hole gets too full, you pull up a few boards, roll the outhouse forward on the rails a few feet and resume use. Clever! But in America we give you toilet paper.
Tom and Mary at Lindeman City! We had lunch here and waited for a group of nurses from Anchorage to catch up with us. We hiked at about the same pace, and were planning on tagging along with them to avoid a nuisance bear that had been stalking small groups past Lindeman City.
I prepared, packaged and cooked all the food, so Tom did all the dishes. How domestic!
After a few days on the trail, I was getting a little nasty, so I tried dipping my head in Bare Loon Lake (which is not glacier-fed, but still not quite warm). The end result was wet hair that was still greasy.
Tom went for a full swim, only because I was there with the camera. He swam to three different islands, and ate berries on one (strictly against the rules of Parks Canada). The rest of the campers regarded him as crazy for doing this. For swimming, that is. Not for eating the berries. I think everyone was eating berries along the trail.
Last day of hiking. Last day. Pretty scenery, lots of rusty shit.
The old church at Bennett City. No, Mom, it's no longer used and we did not get married.
Victory! The old Chilkoot Trail sign at the end! Too hard to read?
Try reading it in Canadian, eh?
The only way back to Skagway from Bennett was on the railroad. To Tom's dismay, this led to many choruses of "Chaiyya chaiyya."
The trail may be done, but the fun has just started! Tom and I spent some time at the Canadian Superstore (motto: We're not WalMart, but we try!).
Foreign foods are funny! We did stock up on lots of good stuff, though, like Crunchies, Wunderbars and generic HobNobs.
A very short book, I'm sure.
Back in America, the traditional surly American attitude was on full display. I defy you, sign!
We're finishing packing and are about to hit the road, but before I go, I'll leave you with this:
not Myboyfriend Tom
I just spent precious minutes searching through my various e-mail accounts trying to remember that fabulous used outdoor gear Web site. Duh. It's Gear Trade. That's where I got my Montbell Super Stretch bag for less than half price. Deal! Just thought you should know.
We switched the toilets over to the well at the new house. Now we'll pay less for our delivered water ... but ... but .... the well water is really nasty. I mean, it's brown. And I could handle the brown, but the toilet bowl is slowly turning brown, too. And I'm scrubbing it about once a day. So now I have to question if the savings outweigh my fears that guests will think we're just nasty. It's only really a fear because we've got a housewarming party set for the end of the month.
Yes, it's true, I haven't posted for a while. Now that I'm down to 20 hours a week at the University, I've been playing with my schedule and I took a long weekend in Anchorage last week for the Carolena Nericcio and Megha Gavin workshops. This week Tom and I are heading down to hike the Chilkoot Trail.
So, you can expect another blog absence, but you can also expect some great pictures when we come back.
Fairbanks has a few reasons to celebrate every summer. One is the solstice, and the other is Golden Days. What, you ask, is Golden Days? Well, to paraphrase the less-than-educated person standing behind me at Pioneer Park yesterday, Golden Days is when we celebrate Felix Pedro getting left on the banks of the Chena River and then finding gold about 113 years ago. Except Pedro wasn't the one left on the river. And it wasn't 113 years ago. But then, who really thought we'd find the brain trust at a festival, right?
But you know what we did find? Free hot dogs!
Here's Tom, who took a break while eating his four hot dogs. He started musing about entering a hot dog eating contest, but he let me down in a pie-eating contest four years ago. It's hard to respect a man who comes in second.
I only had one hot dog. Marvelous restraint. Plus, they were lukewarm.
But I digress. I really only talked about Golden Days so that I wouldn't blog twice in a row about the transfer station. I stopped in after work again today, because I'm on the hunt for some dining room chairs. First stop: Farmers Loop/Taku. No chairs, but the Transfer Station Angels were there. I heard one of them mutter that he should go into his dressing room before changing his mind and dropping his pants right there to try on some clothes. I can't complain about him too much, though, as he was the one responsible for this:
It's always nice when someone puts some effort into displaying the recycle deck goodies. The rest of the deck was in similarly pristine condition, but I had to get a photo of the refrigerator display case.
The Chena Pump transfer station did not have any chairs either, but it marked a first for me. I pulled in behind a guy in a pick up truck and quickly accosted him with a "Does that work?" question. The short answer was yes.
And so we are now proud owners of a 27" TV. It doesn't have a remote or a power button, but I'm not above sticking a pen in the hole every time I need to turn the TV on. Plus, we can buy a universal remote.
My visit to the Chena Pump transfer station was marred by odd noises from one of the dumpsters. At first I thought some guy was smashing glass bottles inside the dumpster. That would be weird, but I could accept it. However, he was actually leaning into a dumpster and smashing a window. With a hammer. I would have gotten a picture of it, but the dude frankly scared me, so I left him to smash and brought my new TV home.
Transfer station, how I love thee! You take away my garbage and give me other people's garbage in return. Seriously, people, I have of late become a transfer station junkie. It just so happens that I go past not one but TWO transfer stations on my way home. There's the Farmer's Loop/Taku Lot transfer station, which is where all the hippies and college students go, and I also pass the Chena Pump Road transfer station, which is where all the rich people go. Needless to say, outfitting our new house has been a snap. What, you need photographic evidence?
Today's big find: An outdoor table for our massive, massive deck.
Also on our deck: Flowers. I paid for those, but all the planters were free!
Soon to be retired: A grocery basket found at the Farmers Loop/Steese Highway transfer station. I always stop in when I'm on that side of town. It served us well for bringing food up to the main cabin, but is kind of useless now that we don't live in the commune anymore.
Tom wanted a soap dish. Tom got a soap dish. Or rather, I got a soap dish for Tom.
I wish I'd found this chair before I bought a recliner at Salvation Army. Well, now we have two living room chairs.
And an ottoman, which technically is not a transfer station find. This one I found out with someone's garbage in the Aurora subdivision about 4 years ago.
Small nightstand for our office? Transfer station!
Filing cabinet? Again, not a transfer station find. A friend found it on her new property when the snow melted. It comes complete with a UAF sticker.
Three-foot tall wooden tiki fork? Transfer station!
Dresser? Transfer station!
Mirrored bathroom cabinet? Transfer station!
Computer desk? Say it with me now....transfer station!
You may be asking yourself why I am posting all these pictures of my dump finds. Well, my friend, it's because I can. I can sit in the comfort of my own home at my own computer and do this. You know why?
High speed Internet! (Not from the transfer station)
Life in the far north is not always all it's cracked up to be. I can't see Russia from here, but that's probably because of the ice fog.
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