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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Hiking Poles and Nordic Walking – What’s the story?

It’s been a few years since I’ve used hiking poles, but lately I’ve had a dodgy knee and have thought that they might be helpful once more. Actually, after a rather spectacular face plant whilst trail running a month ago, I’ve now got two of them. Dodgy knees that is.

With the speed at which technology changes, I thought I’d do some research and find out what’s the latest thinking around poles, their uses and benefits.

Helen - Nordic Walking Instructor… amongst many other inspiring achievements!

Helen – Nordic Walking Instructor… amongst many other inspiring achievements!

Thankfully, I have a good buddy who apart from having an awe inspiring record of marathons and ultra marathons, she is also a qualified Nordic Walking instructor. Yep… those wacky folk who can look like preying mantis on tracks with poles.

Here’s her inspiring creds – makes me go weak at the knees just thinking about it!

  • Hiking Killimanjaro
  • Wild Endurance 50 & 100km
  • Oxfam Trailwalker 100km
  • Six Foot Track Marathon
  • Kepler Challenge NZ
  • Marathon des Sables, Morocco (250km staged race in the Sahara desert)
  • The North Face 100km
  • Everest Marathon, Nepal (3 week trek to start line at 5100m then a 42.2km race back down)
  • Verdon Canyon Challenge, France
  • Great North Walk 100’s (173km non-stop race)
  • Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, France (unfinished business!)
  • Ultimate Trails 100km, Lake District UK

Plus some handy qualifications to back up her experience:

  • Level 2 – Cert IV Personal Trainer
  • Wellness Coach
  • Nordic Walking Instructor

She generously agreed to this interview – thanks Helen!

Tell me a little bit about your experience and how you got into fitness in the outdoors.

In 2008 I joined Sydney Bushwalkers and soon became a walks leader for the more popular tracks around Sydney and the Blue Mountains.  Favourite walking areas are around the Grose River, Mount Solitary and Lions Head in the Blue Mountains and locally around Sydney Harbour and Ku-ring-gai & Berowra NP’s.

After taking on the challenge of Kanangra to Katoomba in a day and Six Foot Track in a day with SBW, I soon developed a healthy appetite for endurance walks which grew into a love of ultra marathons.

Arms should be comfortably at the 90 degree angle to check for correct length in Nordic Walking.

Arms should be comfortably at the 90 degree angle to check for correct length in Nordic Walking.

Why should someone use trekking poles? What’s the benefits? How can they help?

There are lots of benefits from using trekking poles but the most significant would be the reduction of wear and damage to the lower joints.  Using poles reduces impact loads on the legs by about 5kg when walking on level ground and about 8kg on an incline.  This reduction in impact stress on the lower joints significantly reduces wear and risk of injury to the knees, feet, ankles and hips.

Using trekking poles can also help prevent back pain and injury.  Walkers tend to naturally lean forward.  When carrying a backpack, they tend to lean further forward bringing the load over the weight bearing forward leg.  Weight is then being supported by a bent spine with the potential for back pain and injury.  Correct pole technique introduces a forwards and lifting force from below and behind that balances things and posture becomes more erect and allows the walker to more comfortably and safely carry the load.  An upright posture also helps us breathe more easily.

What’s the difference between Nordic Walking Poles and Trekking Poles?

They are very similar, the noticeable difference being that Nordic walking poles have a removable ‘glove’ that allows a specific exercise technique where the hand is opened on the backswing.  The ‘glove’ isn’t required for bushwalking where the arm swing doesn’t change much from the walker’s natural rhythm and style, however, a wrist strap is still a necessity as the wrist straps take the weight NOT the hands.

As the pole moves to behind you, the hand should be loose and free, resting on the strap.

As the pole moves to behind you, the hand should be loose and free, resting on the strap.

Nordic walking instruction teaches you how to use all types of poles correctly using a natural alternate arm leg action.

Opposite legs in action. Right leg and left pole forward.

Opposite legs in action. Right leg and left pole forward.

Also, Hiking Poles have adjustable heights, whereas most Nordic Poles are bought for a set height that you can’t change.

When should poles be used?

With proper technique, poles can be used almost anywhere.  I wouldn’t really use them off-track in scrubby environments as the risk of getting caught up in scrub and causing injury to self or fellow walkers is greatly increased!  It is best to practice stowing them away quickly inside your backpack for the off-track sections and get them back out for fire trails, steep ascents, steep descents or river crossings.

Put your hand up through the strap, the same way as ski poles.

Put your hand up through the strap, the same way as ski poles.

After inserting your hand up through the strap, bring it down over the handle.

After inserting your hand up through the strap, bring it down over the handle.

How the strap should look if using it correctly.

How the strap should look if using it correctly.

I’ve heard that using poles helps me get a full body workout. Is this true? In what ways?

Almost. Walking is known to increase blood flow which in turn reduces the risk of heart attack and other health concerns.  When we walk we engage about 35% of our muscles.  This increases to 90% when walking with poles.  By engaging more muscles, blood flow increases by 20% without increasing exercise intensity.  Walking poles make a good exercise 20% better.

In the Nordic Walking instruction you will also be taught how to use poles for strength and resistance training exercises without the need to go to a gym.

Is there an etiquette to using / not using poles?

When using your poles be especially considerate of your fellow bushwalkers  – not everyone wants to listen to the click clack of trekking poles when they are out to enjoy the natural environment – keep the rubber stoppers handy!

Use the rubber tips if walking on rocks or footpaths.

Use the rubber tips if walking on rocks or footpaths.

I personally wouldn’t recommend using poles in sensitive environmental areas where flora and fauna need to be protected and scraping the pole tips on boulders is also not a good look.   It’s worth practicing your technique so that you keep your poles in check at all times and can put them away easily when not in use.

[Caro: And my personal favourite, if you’ve got them stowed in your pack or if you tend to swing back, don’t stab your fellow walker behind you with them. You will be most unpopular!]

What should I look for when buying a good set of poles?

Poles should be reliable and strong as you will have to trust them for stability and safety.  Cheap poles are not engineered for the task and for the high loads of bushwalking, especially with a backpack.  Serious injuries have been caused by the sudden failure of cheap poles.

Use the poles with the opposite legs.

Use the poles with the opposite legs.

Choose poles for quality and simplicity.  Experienced walkers choose simple poles without overly bulky hand grips or shock absorbers.  Fixed length poles can be cheaper, lighter and easier to use than adjustable poles but aren’t suitable for off track bushwalking when you want to fold them away in your pack.

Look for poles that have minimal protrusions to catch on undergrowth and lawyer vine!   Strong, light weight material options are carbon fibre (graphite) and ‘high tech’ aluminium alloys.  Graphite can suffer impact damage so the more robust aluminium is preferred for bushwalking.

In summary

Walking poles help bushwalkers enjoy their activity more, with less fatigue, less risk of fall injuries, less risk of wear/damage to lower body joints and with improved exercise to remain fitter, healthier and more physically active for longer.

Two poles or one?

Bushwalkers who use just one pole for some added stability get only that one benefit.  Poles are used as a pair to receive the full health and fitness benefits.

Other uses

  • Poles can be used to hold up a ‘fly’ shelter when there are no convenient trees or branches lying around.
  • In emergencies can be used as a splint or put 2 inside a sleeping bag to make a stretcher

P1000166

Can’t I just use a fallen branch?

As they have no wrist strap to take the weight – muscles in the forearm will become stiff from holding on too tightly and branches are more likely to break and cause injury.

The plug!

In September 2014, Helen will be starting Nordic Walking/Trekking Pole instruction sessions in Sydney for those who may be interested in learning correct technique or looking for a 90% muscle workout – let’s make that 95% if you smile. Dates/location TBC. You can contact Helen at GrpExAus@bigpond.com.

Hiking Food Review : Strive Food 24hr Ration Pack

Following on from last week’s post on Easy Hiking food for Overnight Trips, I was sent some product by the nice folk down in Tassie from Strive Food.

I was interested to read that this small, Aussie business has grown from Todd and Melanie’s basement in Hobart and from their expertise as a nutritionist (Melanie) and Outdoor Ed Instructor (Todd). What a winning combo!

Enjoying the view from Mt Solitary whilst the billy boils.

Enjoying the view from Mt Solitary whilst the billy boils.

For people who are time poor, or lacking experience in the outdoors, having someone else do the packing, prepping and planning for them is a nice weight off their mind.

For years, the market in Australia has been dominated by NZ company Backcountry and fair enough, I’ve eaten many of these in my time and their freeze dried meals are lightweight, easy and tasty. Exactly what everyone wants in the bush.

Vegetarian Laksa Weigh-in at 138 gms

Vegetarian Laksa Weigh-in at 138 gms

I’m encouraged now that there seems to be a really good local Australian competitor to this market in the form of Strive.

I took the 24hr Ration Pack out for a test and the video above shows my experience and thoughts.

Let someone else do all the work - Strive Food 24hr Ration Pack.

Let someone else do all the work – Strive Food 24hr Ration Pack.

The range of products were all known to me and were tasty. I’m not sure about the demand for this full 24hr pack, except perhaps for outdoor ed purposes, which probably is a reflection of Todd’s background. I guess it makes it super easy for a school running Duke of Ed or similar to just stack up on 50 of these packs and hand them out as necessary.

Veggie Laksa Cooking up a treat.

Veggie Laksa Cooking up a treat.

The preparation was super easy, only negative I could find was that the bags didn’t have a simple tear from corner. I needed a knife to get into the bags. Also, the cooking time needed to be about 7 mins longer than stated on the instructions as the noodles weren’t cooked at the stated time.

However, the flavour was good and the serving was ‘generously hearty’ one might say. Actually, it was huge and I struggled to eat all of it! I needed to roll back down the mountain when I’d finished, thankfully I was certainly full of carb energy to do so.

Gnocchi is heavier at 213gm

Gnocchi is heavier at 213gm

I’ve still got the bolognaise and pasta meal to try out and I’m looking forward to that on my upcoming 3 Peaks trip to Kanangra-Boyd NP (just not the traditional route!).

All up, I recommend giving Strive meals a go. Apart from feeling warm and fuzzy inside from the food, there’s also that nice feeling about supporting a local Australian small business.

Ordering online is easy through their website and if you live in Hobart, you can even pop into their shop.

Generally speaking, I think that most people will opt for the main meals when it comes to pre-packaged dehydrated or freeze dried meals. I think it’s basically pretty lazy if you can’t wrangle together breakfast, lunch and snacks from your local supermarket.

For goodness sake, you’re about to put yourself out in the bush for several days – if you can’t manage to pop some muesli and milk powder into a ziploc bag, there’s something wrong!

Q: What’s been your experiences with pre-packed dried foods for hiking? (The good, the bad and the inedible!)

Easy Hiking Food for Overnight Trips (That’s lightweight too!)

I’m still staggered by the number of people who say that planning and organising food is the issue that stops them from doing overnight hikes.

There’s really no reason these days for using that excuse and my suspicion is that if you’re still using it, then the real issue isn’t to do with the food, but something else. (Ouch!)

I’ve already done this video on Basic Food for Hiking last year, so here’s a refresher to prove that it can be as easy as a trip to your local supermarket or even hopping online and letting someone else do all the work for you.

Once you’ve mastered the basics of supermarket options, and only if you’re keen, you can worry about dehydrating your own food and getting into the other myriad of options available to you.

1.  The “Let someone else worry about it” option

Ready to go 24hr Ration Packs

Let someone else do all the work - Strive Food 24hr Ration Pack.

Let someone else do all the work – Strive Food 24hr Ration Pack.

I mean really. If you just want the easiest option and don’t want to think about it, order a 24hr ration pack that is ready to go. There’s a few varieties that I’ve come across and they’re pretty good. Just check the overall weight and what cooking/preparation you need. eg. do you need to take a stove and billy? (PS: I’m going to be doing a video review on the Strive Food 24hr Ration Pack very soon!)

 2. The “I’ll do some of the thinking” option

Pre-packed Dehydrated Meals

This is simply a trip to your outdoors store (or buy online) purpose made dehydrated hiking meals. There’s a stack of different varieties available these days and some brands, such as Backcountry, come with the easiest of all preparations. ie. Open and stand up the pack, pour in boiling water, close the pack for 10 mins, then eat. Many of these are surprisingly tasty. You can buy packs for all meals, but you might just want to grab the evening meal and substitute it with your supermarket options below.

Enjoying the view from Mt Solitary whilst the billy boils.

Enjoying the view from Mt Solitary whilst the billy boils.

3. The “I’ll grab what I need when I’m shopping and save money” option

DIY Supermarket Option

No offence, but if you can go to a supermarket, you can organise easy overnight hiking meals. Here’s my super simple meal plan for a weekend trip. (Australian available product names used.)

And to make it even easier, you can Download my Hiking Food Shopping and Prep List here, and take it with you to the shops!

Seeds, Fruit & Nuts - The foundation of every good Scroggin.

Seeds, Fruit & Nuts – The foundation of every good Scroggin.

Saturday

Breakfast

  • N/A. Eat it at home super early before you hit the road for the track or take it with you. I usually take a coffee and toast in the car.

Morning Tea

  • Muesli Bar and handful of Scroggin (nuts, dried fruit, etc)
Muesli Bars - Loads of choice!

Muesli Bars – Loads of choice!

Lunch

  • Crackers or flat bread of your choice (Vita-Weats, Rice cakes,  Mountain Bread, Lebanese Bread)
Crackers are easy and lightweight.

Crackers are easy and lightweight.

  • Cheese (Baby-Bell, Laughing Cow, Picon, etc)

Processed cheese like these can be kept out of the fridge.

Processed cheese like these can be kept out of the fridge.

BabyBel Cheese

BabyBel Cheese

  • Salmon/Tuna sachet (smaller 100g) or little 95g tin eg. Tuna with lemon pepper, tuna with tomato and onion, salmon with smokey flavour
Salmon or Tuna slices in sachet.

Salmon or Tuna slices in sachet.

      • A few slices of Salami (1/3 of your supply)
      • Handful of Scroggin if you’re still hungry

Afternoon Tea

      • Muesli Bar and handful of scroggin
      • Jelly snakes/sweets
By late afternoon, you might appreciate a sugar hit to get you up the last hill.

By late afternoon, you might appreciate a sugar hit to get you up the last hill.

Dinner

      • Happy Hour to share (eg. Bag of soy chips, tube of Pringles)
Pringles or similar keep well in your pack. It's nice to have something to share with your mates before dinner!

Pringles or similar keep well in your pack. It’s nice to have something to share with your mates before dinner!

      • Cuppa Soup
You can now buy individual sachets of Cuppa Soup. Perfect if you never touch the stuff in the city.

You can now buy individual sachets of Cuppa Soup. Perfect if you never touch the stuff in the city.

      • Pasta and sauce sachet (eg. Continental – Napoletana)

Packet Pasta & Sauce - loads of options

Packet Pasta & Sauce – loads of options

The tomato based flavour ones work best with your salami

The tomato based flavour ones work best with your salami

      • Salami (non-heat treated)
      • Chocolate to share for dessert

Chocolate - every hikers perfect dessert!

Chocolate – every hikers perfect dessert – How to make friends around the campfire!

And if you really want something to drink before bed (think about it), a hot choccie could be nice.

And if you really want something to drink before bed (think about it), a hot choccie could be nice.

Sunday

Breakfast

      • Muesli or cereal of your choice in ziplock bag (add dessert spoon of powdered milk to bag at home)
      • add some dried fruit if you wish for some flavour and fibre!
There's great varieties of dried fruit now available. Add it to your brekkie.

There’s great varieties of dried fruit now available. Add it to your brekkie.

      • Moccona coffee sachet or coffee bag or tea
There's also coffee bags available, which tend to have a stronger flavour.

There’s also coffee bags available, which tend to have a stronger flavour.

Morning  Tea

      • Muesli Bar and handful of scroggin

Lunch

      • same as Saturday (different flavour tuna)
I've been known to use the lid and ring pull as a spoon to scoop out the salmon… be careful though!

I’ve been known to use the lid and ring pull as a spoon to scoop out the salmon… be careful though!

Afternoon Tea

      • same as morning tea

…and if you screw your nose up at having the same thing 2 days in a row, or no fresh food, suck it up Princess. It’s two days for goodness sake!

This gives you a shopping list (Which you can download here) for the weekend as follows:

      • 1 box sandwich size ziplock bags
      • 500g fruit and nut mix (the yummiest looking you can find)
      • 1 bag  M&Ms
      • 1 bag snakes or sweets of your choice
      • 1 box muesli bars
      • 1 packet of crackers or flat bread
      • 2 small packets (100g) or small tins (95g) of flavoured tuna or salmon
      • 1 x 20cm salami (non-heat treated)
      • 1 bag Baby Bell cheeses (‘little baby cheeses’) or similar
      • Happy Hour (1 large tube of Pringles)
      • 1 packet Pasta and Sauce
      • 1 sachet Cuppa soup
      • 1 family block chocolate
      • 1 box Moccona coffee sachets (I like the cappuccino ones, but wouldn’t drink them in town)
      • Dried fruit (option) I like dried mango or blueberries
      • 1 packet 2min noodles (emergency food)
Every hikers best friend.

Every hikers best friend.

Now the key is not to just pack everything above in your backpack. Here’s the simple prep that I do with these items before I start packing. It’s all about breaking it down, removing the packaging and only taking what you need.

Preparation at home

SNACKS

      • Remove muesli bars from box.
      • Take 4 only and leave the rest.
      • Put 3 large handfuls of fruit and nut mixture into a ziplock bag. Leave the rest.
      • Add 1 handful of M&Ms to fruit and nut ziploc bag. Leave the rest.
      • Take your packet of snakes/sweets as is.

BREAKFAST

      • Put one serve of muesli/cereal in ziploc bag.
      • Add 1 heaped dessert spoon of powdered milk
      • Add sugar if you must
      • Add small handful of dried fruit (optional)
      • Put 2 tea bags or coffee sachets in a ziploc bag. Leave the rest.

LUNCH

      • Put salami in ziploc bag and make sure you have a small pen knife to cut it with. You might even want to put the knife the bag.
      • Take salmon/tuna tins as is.
      • Take 4 baby cheeses. Leave the rest.
      • Count out the number of crackers you will eat for each lunch and put into one ziploc bag. (I take 4 rice crackers for each lunch = 8)

DINNER

      • Take happy hour as is (Pringles tubes are a good way of protecting the chips).
      • Take 1 cuppa soup and leave the rest.
      • Take pasta and sauce packet as is.

Oh and don't forget to take something as emergency food, just in case you get back late or are benighted.

Oh and don’t forget to take something as emergency food, just in case you get back late or are benighted.

Beef Jerky makes a good alternative to salami, especially if you're hiking in the tropics or hot weather!

Beef Jerky makes a good alternative to salami, especially if you’re hiking in the tropics or hot weather!

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?

Leeches – That slimy, slippery, itchy, sinking feeling

Can you feel it? Nah, you probably can’t. If you’re anything like me, sometimes the first thing you feel is the damp trousers against your calf as your blue blood oozes, unrestrained, into the fresh wilderness air. Last Monday, Australia Day (Invasion Day), I set out to walk a historic, somewhat invisible, track in the Blue Mountains.

Around a waterfall is a prime spot to find leeches

Around a waterfall is a prime spot to find leeches

Although the day started grey, it wasn’t long before the blue sky broke through and my companion and I were bathed in beautiful sunshine. However, down at ground level, under the lush canopy, the mystery of the disappearing track and recent downpours had the earth beneath our feet become the unmistakable home sweet home of Euhirudinea – the Leech.

Lush and ferny - a perfect home for leeches

Lush and ferny – a perfect home for leeches

Like something from Alien, the Australian version of these hermaphrodite little darlings have 2 toothy jaws, (3 in other countries) and seek out a tasty dinner which can keep them going for up to 3 months. They do this by producing a secretion called Hirudin, which stops the blood from clotting… hence the unstoppable flood of our precious, red stuff.

A leech can go without eating for 3 months!

A leech can go without eating for 3 months!

Like most people, I used to get pretty grossed out by these little critters, however, over the years I’ve come to admire their tenacity, patience and curiosity and am happy to reward them with my ample B positive. I’m no Buddhist, but find it quite unnecessary to smother them in salt, which causes them to sizzle, froth and die – surely a bit over the top. I simply get my finger nail under them and flick them off, making sure not to flick them in the direction of my friends.

The evidence of Hirudin, the anti clotting agent

The evidence of Hirudin, the anti clotting agent

Sure, I bleed. Big deal. And for the next 5 days I am scratching into the wee hours of the night, whilst reaching for my trusty spray of Stingose, but I kinda think of it as being part of the Circle of Life, like something from The Lion King.

Leeches? Just smile and get over it.

Leeches? Just smile and get over it.

Not to get too sentimental about these suckers, as they can cause infections such as cellulitis, but for me I don’t give them a second thought. Get over it… move on – oh, unless of course you’ve got one on your eyeball!

Oh and with gonads in their heads, I should probably start calling them Dickheads, instead of my usual expletive… bastard (as per the video)!

Q:  What’s your favourite method of dealing with leeches?

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.

Mt Paralyser and other names that inspire fear

When looking over the topographic maps for the southern parts of the Blue Mountains, especially the Kanangra-Boyd Wilderness area, a virgin navigator would be forgiven for never wanting to step foot in this part of the world, due to the array of fear inducing, high blood-pressure invoking place names.

After putting off tackling Mt Paralyser all my life, I found myself there twice last year. They were both such enjoyable trips (thanks Roysta for the first one and then I led this group from Sydney Bush Walkers club there a few months later), that I wonder why I put it off for so long.

Here’s a selection of my favourite gut-wrenching, fear inducing Kanangra-Boyd place names:

  • Mt Paralyser
  • Mt Strongleg
  • Mt Despond
  • Mt Great Groaner
  • Mt Savage
  • Mt Misery
  • Mt Hopeless
  • Sombre Dome

… I wonder if I can plan a route that will take in all of them in the one trip? 🙂

What are some place names that you visit which would put off the less fearless? Please share your suggestions in the comments below!