Lotsafreshair Blog is Moving!

I’ve been having a blast working on what the new look for the blog should be and the great news is that it is going live THIS MONDAY!

What this means is that if you’ve subscribed via the standard WordPress Follow Me button, you will (sorry about this) need to subscribe again.

The awesome thing is, that it’s super easy to do… just follow this link!

[It is a 2 step process, but hey… nobody likes spam, eh? I certainly don’t take it hiking and I don’t like it online either.]

If you’ve subscribed by email already, you don’t need to do anything… you’ve automatically been migrated across. Isn’t my developer a smart cookie?!

Lotsafreshair.com - New Design Sneak Peek!

Lotsafreshair.com – New Design Sneak Peek!

Well, here goes team… I hope you’ll join me on all the exciting new adventures ahead in Lotsafreshair (Mark II) – see you on the other side!

Cheers

Caro

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Coming Soon – Brand New Hiking How-To Videos and New Look Blog!

Yay! I’m so excited!!

You know how they say that change is as good as a holiday? Well, I guess I’m about to feel as though I’ve had one big holiday, because there’s a whole lot of ‘change’ coming very soon.

If you follow the @Lotsafreshair Instagram or Twitter, you might have seen me and the crew oot n’ aboot (a loving nod to my Canadian friends) shooting new clips for the 2nd series of the Lotsafreshair – How To Hiking videos.

The amazing crew of Mark (Big Dog), Peter and I, spent an incredibly busy day up in the Blue Mountains at the end of 2013, putting down as many tips n’ tricks as we could in the time we had.

That's a wrap!

That’s a wrap! Big Dog & Caro – Butterbox at Sunset – near Mt Hay, Leura.

Thanks to the awesome guys at National Parks, we had some amazing locations including Pulpit Rock, overlooking the Grose Valley, and the Butterbox at sunset, out near Mt Hay.

And as they say in late night TV, ‘…But that’s not all!‘ Alas, I don’t have any steak knives to give away, but I am also working on a lovely, fresh new look for the blog. Well, actually, the lovely Cath from Phase Creative is doing all the pretty stuff and I’m super happy with it.

Lotsafreshair.com - New Design Sneak Peek!

Lotsafreshair.com – New Design Sneak Peek!

I’ve been frustrated with the existing design, as I didn’t feel the design allowed enough topics and content on the screen. So we’ve been working on moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org (the bloggers amongst you will know what that all means!), and using this renewed flexibility to come up with a layout and design that really works.

And another sneaky look...

And another sneaky look…

The great news is that the design phase is nearly complete, and now it’s just down to the developing and coding side of things… oh you amazing, mighty, Web Princess of the dark arts of < and >. I am not worthy!  So no launch date yet for the new blog design, but you will start seeing the new videos over the coming weeks… YAY!!!

I’d love to hear what you think about the teaser video and any thoughts on what types of videos you’d like to see in the future. Please drop me a line below to let me know!

Where’s your hiking home?

Following on from last week’s post about living in small spaces, I’ve been thinking about where I feel most at home.

I’ve always said, that ‘home should be your refuge’. It’s the place where you can go and shut the door, relax, truly be yourself and be at peace.

I kinda feel like I’ve got two homes… one indoors and one outdoors.

I know I do go on about them, so it’s no surprise that I’m pretty much at home in the Blue Mountains National Park, just west of Sydney. It’s got a great mix of tracked and managed areas, along with intensely wild, untracked wilderness, gorges and canyons. Lots of variety and being a massive 268,987 ha (664,681 acres) in size, there’s plenty of choice and opportunity to get away from civilisation.

So what about you? Where’s your wilderness home?

Tents as Tiny Houses

Up until a week ago, I’d never heard the term, Tiny House.

Ah, now it's fit for MY purpose at <750grams.

My tent – My ultimate Tiny House

That was until I read this blog post by Wild and Scruffy, who writes one of my favourite blogs. On the surface, she doesn’t seem to have anything in common with me. For one, she is married with kids, but that doesn’t make her a Mummy Blogger; She takes nice photos, but that doesn’t make her a photographic blogger; she writes about the bush and outdoors only occasionally, so she’s no hiking blogger. Essentially, she is a good writer with a great way of bringing me back to the simple things in life. She reminds me to reflect on what’s truly important, sometimes through the mundane of day to day life.

My tiny home tent on the Huayhuash Circuit, Peru

My tiny home tent on the Huayhuash Circuit, Peru

As I was watching the documentary by Kirsten Dirksen I was inspired to think differently about home and what constitutes it.

We’ve all thought about it at one time or another… When is enough, enough? When does the hunting-gathering drive of stuff, overtake the need that the stuff was originally fulfilling?

Home for the night in 100 Man Cave, Kanangra-Boyd NP.

Home for the night in 100 Man Cave, Kanangra-Boyd NP.

Wild & Scruffy’s post and the doco got me thinking about my own tiny house (which only met the bank’s criteria for granting a mortgage whereby it had to be >50m2, because it has a parking space and a storeroom) and my even tinier house, my tent, fly and other shelters that I sleep under in wild places.

Various shelters on the Colo River, NSW. Walrus optional for floating down river!

Various shelters on the Colo River, NSW. Blue walrus optional for floating down river!

I’ve been living in the same place for over 10 years now, and over the past few years I’ve been tossing around the concept of stepping up in size. From one bedroom to two and a balcony would be nice. There seems to be this cultural drive, a momentum to be continually seeking ‘the next thing’, which invariably means, the next ‘bigger’ thing. Where improvement is measured by a change of status, perceived from your home, which apparently… is meant to bring happiness.

Having watched the doco and done some thinking, all that the endless striving seems to bring is debt. Debt which means your life is controlled by the necessity to earn a certain income, work a certain job and debt that brings incalculable fear and anxiety if you lose that job.

Sunset on the Huayhuash Circuit, Peru.

Sunset on the Huayhuash Circuit, Peru.

Are we designed to live in that cycle of control and fear?

One of the very basic things that draws me to wild places, especially overnight and extended walks, is the ability to be self sufficient. To know that when I leave the carpark, I have everything I need to eat, sleep, drink and be happy for x number of days. This isn’t about chest-beating, hunter-gatherer, knife-carrying, beast-killing, Bear Grylls urine-drinking survival style techniques. My friends and I don’t belong to that style of wilderness living, sorry.

Sleeping in an overhang

Sleeping in an overhang

But the comfort that the few items I carry comfortably on my back all have a purpose and that everything will be used – although hopefully not the first aid kit or PLB!

Essentially, our shelters that we build for ourselves, whether they be tents, fly-only, hammocks or even under an over-hang or cave, are tiny houses in the extreme. How can you describe the feeling you get when you look around your shelter by head torch and realise that you have everything you need?

Turtle like, we carry what we need and live simply for those few days that we venture out. The challenge to myself (maybe to you to?) is how can we bring this philosophy into our everyday lives?

This rethink stopped me in my tracks. I’ve discovered a new joy for my existing tiny house and rather than looking to the unknown of the bigger and better, (more debt, more control, more fear), I’m excited and refreshed about living in the now, living deliberately with what I have and continuing a practice I started in 2013, which was the ‘Urge to Purge’… but more on that another time!

Q:  What tips do you have for finding and maintaining simplicity in your life?

How Places get their Names

I love maps.

As a young kid, I used to lie on the lounge room floor and plan imaginary trips across the vast continent of Australia. In the internal conversation (that only makes sense to an 8 year old), I was an intrepid explorer, explaining the route to a curious journalist about a far flung adventure to link up curious names on the map of my homeland.

Planning adventures on the lounge room floor with Foxie's Katoomba 1:25,000

Planning adventures on the lounge room floor with Foxie’s Katoomba 1:25,000

These days, the picture is still the same. I lie on the floor of my grown up lounge room, muttering to myself about distances and how close those contour lines seem to be at a particular point, but instead of an imaginary journalist, I’m trying to sell an exploratory adventure to myself… and then hopefully, to my friends!

One of my favourite sketch maps - the wonderful Dunphy Maps

One of my favourite sketch maps – the wonderful Dunphy Maps

Maps truly are amazing things and inspired by last week’s post about place names that inspire fear, I decided to look at just how places get their names. Officially.

In the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of walking a few times with Brian (I call him “Foxie”) Fox. Not only is he an incredibly experienced bushwalker, with a superb ability to climb/shimmy/scale and slide his way up or down seemingly unsurpassable cliff lines, revealing themselves to be, in fact, old Aboriginal passes, he’s a very nice bloke!

Apart from this, although now retired (yeah, right) he previously spent 40 years working for the Lands Department of New South Wales, which due to several name changes along the way, included the Central Mapping Authority. The majority of his time there was spent in the compilation of topographical maps, with a key project being the Katoomba 1:25,000 for which he played a major role on the “new” digital series – the first to include the aerial photograph on the reverse side – which we’re now familiar with.

Brian Fox (Pic: Jeanette Holdsworth)

Brian Fox (Pic: Jeanette Holdsworth)

He is the perfect person to ask about maps and how they come about, so he kindly agreed to this interview:

Brian, where did your love of mapping and bushwalking come from?

From 8 to 21 years old, I was involved in the Boy’s Brigade. From a young boy I rose through the ranks to be a leader and part of this organisation involved outdoor activities such as bushwalking and camping. At school my love of Geography also led me to the mapping side of things.

If I come across a significant feature (ridge, knoll, creek, river, etc) that doesn’t have a name on a topo map, can I name it? What is the process of a place getting an “official name”?

Yes! Anyone can submit a name for approval. Check the Geographical Names Board website and download a naming proposal form. There are a few naming conventions, i.e. if you are naming a place after a person, that person cannot be in the land of the living, do not use apostrophes, have good solid evidence, primary evidence to support your case, make sure the feature did not have a previous name and was there an older Aboriginal name for that feature?

The name you submit will also be passed on to the local LGA area, council for their designated officer to make comments. If in a National Park, then a copy is sent to the NPWS for their approval. Following that, your proposal goes to the Geographical Names Board (GNB), if approved then the name is advertised in the local paper for 30 days for public comment. If all goes well the name is then gazetted.

You can download the handy fact sheet about How to Name a place.

Brian, not to be out foxed! (Pic: Brian Graetz)

Brian, not to be out foxed! (Pic: Brian Graetz)

How do you approach the detective work of finding out the history behind a place name? Where do you start and how does the journey feel, especially when you find out the answer?

The short answer is I leave no stone unturned and examine every possible source of material I can lay my hands on. I ascertain what does the name imply, i.e. does the named text indicate it is named after a person, event or time frame? I first check my own records (as I have built up a reasonably good collection of books and maps), looking for primary sources (birth, death certificates, electoral rolls etc) and secondary sources (newspapers, tourist directories) of information. If the name is of a person, then there are a number of ways to track it down, e.g. genealogy web sites, Election Rolls, probate, newspapers, Public Servant lists, railway employees, Blue Book, Council Minutes and cemetery records to name just a few.

It goes without saying it is a very time consuming occupation, at times with plenty of dead ends, but when you start to unravel the mystery it feels like a “Eureka” moment. The time and effort than becomes worthwhile.

Tell me about your book, “Blue Mountains Geographical Dictionary”. How did this come about and what has the response been?

It was a combination of mapping, i.e. establishing the correct position and naming of text on the Katoomba Topo Map, plus my love for the bush and bushwalking that led me to research place names within the Blue Mountains. I soon realised that only a few of the common names had been investigated and a lot of the generation of people which held the oral history were passing on. This made me realise the need to record our Australian Blue Mountain Place Names before further information was lost.

Just a small selection of some of Brian and Michael's books

Just a small selection of some of Brian and Michael’s books (Pic: Caro Ryan)

Since that book, you’ve been working tirelessly with bushwalker Michael Keats on a series of other bushwalking books. How did the relationship come about and what is the aim of those books? What types of info is in them?

In 2005 (whilst working for the Lands Department) I took a telephone call from the Geographical Names Board and was transferred to a person (Michael Keats) who was seeking information on a name on the Jenolan Topo map. From this simple request we soon established that we held a number of things in common, our love of the bush, our desire not just explore, but to understand the origins behind the place names on the map.

Each book in the series has as it’s core, bushwalking track notes with plenty of photos. But the aim of this series is to include as much as the physical and cultural aspects as possible. Such as,

  • geology
  • climate
  • historical maps
  • river catchments
  • place names
  • flora
  • fauna
  • European settlement
  • forestry
  • mining
  • threatened species, etc.
Brian in the Gardens of Stone NP (Pic: Yuri Bolotin)

Brian in the Gardens of Stone NP (Pic: Yuri Bolotin)

You’re about to launch book 5 of the Gardens of Stone series, for such a relatively unknown National Park, that’s a prolific work. Why did you embark on this series?

One of our main reasons is that this huge area has never been fully documented, just small segments. Our researched books do not just cover the Gardens of Stone National Park and beyond series, but also a large slice of the adjoining Wollemi and Blue Mountains National Parks. Apart from highlighting this unique area to the general public, we wish to be able to focus the attention of the policy makers in protecting the fragile environment and to direct those such people to change the status of the State Forests which adjoin these national parks either by adding to or as State Conservation Areas. Our secondary aim is to leave a lasting legacy for the following generations.

Check out this video with cameos and explanations by Foxie taken during a walk/climb up Pantoney’s Crown in the Gardens of Stone National Park!

What’s next, after the GOS series?

While the Gardens of Stone National Park and beyond series continues, so also is my various history articles being researched for Blue Mountains History Journal, articles are submitted to various places including The Sydney Speleological Society.  While GOS continues Michael Keats and I are storing researched information on Capertee National Park,  Passes within the Jamison Valley, and we would also like to revise our book on the Passes of Narrow Neck with new information which has come to hand since it was published. Never a dull moment.

Walking in Gardens of Stone NP (Pic: Caro Ryan)

Walking in Gardens of Stone NP (Pic: Caro Ryan)

 

In summary, Brian stresses the importance of authentic documentation. Keep your records up to date, write on the back of photographs (or in the metadata of digital images). Things like dates, events, location (some camera’s include GPS data already) and people are essential.

I’ve personally found Brian and Michael to be very generous in their knowledge and expertise. They have done immense amounts of research through their books and they are passing this on. Together, they truly are leaving a lasting, positive legacy for all.

You can find out more about these two Bush Explorers at their website, as well as purchasing their books! You seriously will not find a more detailed account of these locations in any other book.

Six Foot Track Project Launch!

Ok, so you know how they always say, ‘Never start with an apology – it’s too negative.’?

Well, here I am breaking with tradition because for the last couple of weeks, I’ve taken leave of my blogging senses to concentrate on a very exciting new project that is launching this week!

For the past year, I’ve been working with the fabulous Matt McClelland (www.wildwalks.com and bushwalk.com) and Geoff Mallinson (geoffmallinson.com and Dad of danmallo.com) on a new approach to multi-day hike websites. We’re getting down to the pointy end of the work these last two weeks and we’re racing to get it all ready in time!

We all share the same aims of wanting to encourage people to get out into (and enjoy) the bush in a safe and fun way, so we pooled our collective skills into this project.

Geoff goes for a slide at Norths Lookout

Geoff goes for a slide at Norths Lookout

The Six Foot Track is one of Australia’s best known multi-day hikes and although the 45kms is usually done as a 3 day trip, it is also run during the annual Six Foot Marathon in around 5.5hrs.

The book, website and associated YouTube channel are full of information, photos, track notes, videos and an exciting new development called, ‘EmuView’ which adds a 360VR experience to the interactive maps on the site.

Guess who on the bridge?

Guess who on the bridge?

We’re launching this Thursday night with a shindig at the Hornsby RSL, so once that’s out of the way, I hope to return you to your regular weekly blog programming!

Hope you enjoy it!

Missing Cessna VH-MDX : Where in Barrington Tops is it?

Do a search for “VH-MDX” in Google and you’ll find all sorts of things. Unfortunately, what you won’t find (yet) is the location of this missing Cessna aircraft, that disappeared over Barrington Tops National Park, north-west of Sydney in August 1981.

It truly is Australia’s greatest aviation mystery and one that has confounded everyone from search & rescue and aviation experts, locals, bushwalkers and conspiracy theorists for over 30 years.

The main reason I started this blog was to encourage people to get out into the great outdoors and to demystify some of the dark arts of moving and living in our wild places.

But I also want to use my blog to encourage people with the necessary skills and experience to get involved through volunteering in their local outdoors community.

I produced this video above to give a glimpse into some of the work that has gone on behind-the-scenes this year to help bring closure to this long standing mystery. To hopefully answer some of the unanswered questions.

For many years, Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue Squad has been running an annual SAREX (Search and Rescue Exercise) in different parts of this rugged and wild National Park, to not only test and train ourselves, but to inch closer to knowing the truth.

Each year, we’ve been supported and joined by other squads, in particular the NSW Police Rescue and Bomb Disposal Squad and PolAir and our volunteer brothers and sisters in WICEN, the Rural Fire Service and the State Emergency Service.

Next weekend is a big one. This year has seen the great guys over at Police Rescue really throw themselves into seeing this SAREX as an opportunity for all squads to work together, train together and learn from each other, under the authority of the State Rescue Board. The logistical exercise of this type of activity can’t be underestimated and the teams from Police logistics have been heavily involved in bringing this together.

Personally, this is my 3rd SAREX for this missing plane over the years and the weight of the families, the sense of expectation and the management of risk for us sits heavily upon all our shoulders. We’re certainly not going in with gung-ho hero attitudes. We take this serious terrain, very seriously indeed.

I’ll be heading up one of the small teams in the primary search box and we’re preparing ourselves for a gruelling few days, looking out for any clues and for each other.

Maybe this year, next weekend, we will know the answer.

When did you stop playing?

Yesterday I found myself at the local kids playground with the excuse of having a 4 year old in tow.

My local council have been kind enough to install outdoor exercise equipment (you know, things to help you do sit-ups, work your abs and test your core with little signs to show you how it’s done) in amongst the kids swings, jungle gym and vom-itrons*.

IMG_1773

Whilst giving my abs a bit of a work-out, I found myself looking across at all the kids stuff and secretly wishing that I was on them instead. I was remembering what it felt like to swing so high you thought you’d go all the way around or dreaming up adventures of pirate ships and secret jungle hideouts on the climbing gym.

What it was like to just lie back and see how the sunlight glinted through the leaves and marvelling in the magic of a deeper than deep, blue sky.

I found myself asking, “When did I stop playing”?

“When did I start being ‘age appropriate’ at the park?” and “Why is it deemed age-inappropriate for grown ups to play on them too? Like kids have some kind of monopoly?” or “Why do I need a 4 year old with me to make it OK?”

On thinking about it, it didn’t make sense. Why should play equipment only be for kids? As though it’s somehow selfish for an adult to be using a swing when there’s kids around.

Stuff it. I love swings. I love the feeling. I love the slightly out of control whirly-girly sense of wind rushing past your face, the world spinning by, all the colours blurred and the senses alive.


Maybe this is one of the reasons why I feel myself drawn into wild places (yes, even more wild than the local park after Mother’s Group). These places hold the promise of the new, of discovery, of adventure in our city based lives that sometimes lack surprises. They challenge us physically, allow us to feel things outside of the everyday and take big deep gulps of fresh air.

So after my playground adventure yesterday, my new challenge is to find places and experiences to play more in the everyday, in my city life.

Q: What are some things in daily life that bring you a sense of play?

*Vomi-trons : Any play equipment that spins you around until you think you’re going to spew… and yes, I felt like spewing for about 10 minutes after but it felt great!

What’s Your Excuse?

When I started this whole bushwalking/hiking thing about 13 years ago, I was astounded at how unfit I was.

If you’d asked me to fill out a form that included a question about my fitness, e.g.: unfit / average / fit / marathon fit, I thought I was average, possibly even average-fit. As a desk junkie during the week, I still managed to get out and walk the suburbs regularly, could happily walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge (one of my favourite past-times) and would take the stairs at work.

But it wasn’t until I started venturing in the outdoors with people who had serious fitness (especially the ‘rock-scrambling-up-800m-elevation-with-an-overnight-pack-and-still-holding-a-conversation-type-of-fitness’), did I begin to learn what being fit is really all about.

Talk about everything being relative!

During that painful first 12 months, I discovered a range of techniques to blend in with the others and now, over time, I’ve learnt that there are often more actors in the outdoors than in NIDA.

The video above shows some of my excuses… what’s yours?

Hello Macpac!

Who doesn’t love outdoor gear, eh? Until social media came along, I didn’t know that anything could be more addictive, time consuming (or dangerous to the credit card!) than wandering through an outdoors store.

P1020359

My Macpac collection! Can you guess my favourite colours!

Since falling in love with wild places I’ve accumulated quite a bit of stuff, but when I was just getting started, I was simply looking for advice to get through the gopple-de-gook of retail shop assistants desire to get a sale. I just needed good stuff that was tough enough to handle the Aussie bush and wasn’t going to break the bank.

On the advice of much more experienced people than me, my first purchase was a backpack from Macpac, and I haven’t looked back. In fact, I now own three of them and they’ve all got adventures and stories to tell.

MacpacLogo_WebTherefore, I’m super excited to announce that I’ve been appointed one of Macpac’s ambassadors.

I thought carefully about aligning myself with any brands, but as you can see, this is a product that I genuinely use every time I go out bush and one that I’m happy to be aligned with.

One of the things that I’m looking forward to, is being able to provide them with honest feedback on the products from gear tests, along with suggestions of how the products could be made even better than they already are.

Don’t worry everyone, I’ll always be honest. If I don’t think something is up to scratch – I’ll say so!