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For the last week, there has been november-y high-pressure weather: Dry, cold, with strange gusts of wind, and a thick ceiling of high fog blocking the sun. To make it more depressing, weather forecasts do not know anything about high fog and forecast "clear and sunny" while one is moving in a perpetual grey gloom. The only way out is up, and that's what N___ and I did today.

As mentioned yesterday, we went to visit I___ at a health resort about 90 minutes drive away. The resort is in a quiet little town in a low mountain range, at about 750 metres above sea level. While we were going there, the light became stronger, the sky whitened, the sun showed as a bright spot, and finally a pale blue sky became visible right overhead.

We walked through some nature preserve forest around a lake. The trees were covered in frozen mist that formed flaky needles of ice, and under the weak sun the ice thawed and every tree was like a rain cloud. On the ground, the raindrops froze again and surrounded every tree with a ring of flaky snow.

The lake was covered in mist still, and mirrored the pale white sky, so it felt like there was a vast cloudy nothing next to us. After some hours, more of the mist dissolved and the other side of the lake became visible.

Image: N___ and I right in the middle of nowhere )

We had a good lunch, and saw the busy work of beavers all along the shore.

Next part of the walk took us over some open fields in very weak sunshine, and then dusk came, so we went for coffee and cake in the only café in town that was not closed until start of the skiing season.

And then N___ and I drove back in a night which was icy and damp.

Very nice day. The air in the hills was so clean and fresh, and the light was amazing. It was well worth the drive.
lyorn: (wild roses)
One month ago in the bright spring sunshine I stood on a hilltop between strange art installations, looked at the surrounding hills, found on the highest and furthest away of them and said, "I want to go there".

Last weekend I did. Read more... )

Note: I'm backdating this because it took a while to write.
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The drama, having delivered its impact, lay inert. The cats, less so. The rest of life slogged on.

Wednesday: Cats )
Thursday: Dress-up )
Friday: Cats, again, and laziness )
Saturday: Doing something wrong here )
Sunday: Two ruins and a lot of sun )

And then it was Monday.
lyorn: (Default)
Looking at the calendar, it's only 3rd of April, but today's weather was more like early May: Warm and sunny, and the plums and almonds were already in bloom. The meadows in the valleys were bright green, though up in the hills they were still yellow and brown -- not enough time to grow yet, and not enough rain.
Getting some fresh air, and a Brotzeit )
Playing the Box Game with the cats )
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Well, that was nice. If a little expensive. I went into town on Saturday, and hillwalking on Sunday. And got up early on both days. I've decided to blame the cats.

Saturday )
Sunday )
Monday and on )

Recipes: Salmon pasta, fried veggies, and spicy curd cheese cream )

And now it's nearly weekend again -- not one day too soon.
lyorn: (Default)
Looking at my tags, I haven't gone hiking for ages. No idea why, except for the obvious "there are not enough weekends in Spring."

Anyway, today I had nothing else do to except maybe look for something to wear for choir performances that is not washed-out and shapeless, and spend money on it that I will regret spending, so I got up early and headed for the hills. Read more... )
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This is about four times as long as I feel it should be.

Part 1

Second week: Porthleven to St Ives )
Third Week I: St Ives )
Third Week II: Cardiff )
Going home )

Part 3
lyorn: (Default)
I have considered transcribing my travel diary into entries for the right dates, but unfortunately I do not have another four weeks of vacation (if I had, I'd still be travelling) and it's not that interesting to anyone else anyway, I guess.

Short summary:
- What I did: Hiking on the South West Cost Path in Cornwall for two weeks, and then being fangirly for a few days in Cardiff.
- Fun? Yes
- Other: Need to do that more often.

Longer Version
This is me being a wuss )
Getting there )
First week: Falmouth to Porthleven )

Part 2
Part 3
lyorn: (Default)
I slept a lot, wrote 3500 words, cooked dinner, watched Dr Who, read half a book and some fanfic, and missed two caves.

Thursday and Friday I had to be at work at 6:30 am, which sends me into a "must catch a plane!" overdrive which requires a large amount of coffee to keep up for nine working hours. Friday there wasn't enough coffee in the world, I crashed and stumbled home around 4 pm, fell into bed, slept for four hours, and then felt up to do something useful with the weekend.

Saturday there was light snowfall, nothing that even reached the ground. Today, the weather was cool and perfect and I decided that I could do with a large amount of fresh air. So I drove into the hills for a short walk. With the sun and no wind, it was warm enough for a T-shirt, until I got back into the forest where there was still frost on the ground. The rock grottoes had icicles. For some reason (too busy taking pictures of icicles, I guess) I missed the fork to the cave I had wanted to see, so at the next cross-roads I took a path to another cave. Only to get the wrong fork again only a few hundred metres from the cave, because the sun, setting behind the hills on the other side of the river valley had shone in my eyes. With the sun down, I did not track back

Currently, I am reading an interesting book about wilderness survival, which has useful models of Why Shit Happens and Why People Do Stupid Things. Very useful if you want your heroine get through a situation where she's entirely out of her depth by personality traits alone. I thought about it while I was following that path which had signs ever twenty metres, but what I thought most about was the complete lack of anything remotely resembling wilderness around here. There are ruins of castles that have been built on the ruins of older castles, not to watch or defend a border, but to control land which has been fields and pastures and managed forest for longer than the castles have been there. Boulders along the paths have groves, worn in by generations of women who set down the water barrels they were carrying up from the valleys to the villages uphill. The small town where you leave the Autobahn to drive up the river valley was the seat of a king a thousand years ago. The first hill rising from the valley has a chapel build on the ruins of a chapel built on a holy place build on the remnants of a fortification. This land hasn't been wilderness for at least fifteen hundred years, but with its overgrown rock formations and cliffs it manages to put on a good façade.

On the up side, the most dangerous life forms you are likely to encounter (except for homo sapiens and canis familiaris) are ticks. The largest predators are cats the size of a big and bad-tempered housecat, but shy. No "Beware of Mountain Lions" warning signs here.

I never noticed it that much until the half year in California, where, at the edge of town, the world just drops away and you are in a very different place. Oh, well. If I wanted to live dangerously, I could take up rock-climbing.

Easter

Apr. 10th, 2007 06:23 pm
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I am still in need of a vacation, though not quite as much as I was before the Easter holidays.

Read more... )

I need to write a nice, long post about books again.
lyorn: (Default)
Saturday proved that sleeping in and lazing around in a bookstore when not feeling up to something more strenuous might be a very good idea. I had fun, but I worked hard for it.

This was the last weekend, and I didn't have to work. I looked over my list of "things to do" (See redwoods. See Alcatraz. More shopping. Get chocolate truffles from The Fudge House to bring home. Hunt for books all over town.), then at the weather forecast and decided that I didn't want to climb up and down hillsides in the rain promised for Sunday.

Read more... )

And this is exactly the right time to be talking about one specific book:

Jane Huber: 60 Hikes within 60 miles - San Francisco )
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Friday evening I finally got home around ten, found the fridge empty (I had planned to buy groceries after work, but my favourite shop closes at 9), and a single can of soup left in the kitchen cupboard. I had the soup, and a cup of strong black tea, fell into bed and slept for thirteen hours straight.

Which put me in the enjoyable position to be awake, up and about at noon on a Saturday, with six hours of daylight left. I dawdled a little, read the newspaper articles about Thursday's earthquake, tidied up the room some, packed the camera, maps and drinking water and finally got on the road around the time I usually wake up.

Read more... )

(Maybe I should make a tag for this type of entry?)

ETA: Done.
lyorn: (Default)
Of course, the weather didn't hold. Saturday was grey and threatening rain, so, after a phone call from Tiassa at 9 am I just went back to bed and slept for another four hours, went shopping for groceries and ended up in the bookstore. There's a hardcover I did not want to buy, so I thought I could read it while drinking coffee, and put it back afterwards, and if I accidentally spilled coffee on it and had to buy it... well, that'd just be my subconsciousness telling me something, wasn't it?
Read more... )
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How cool is that? A real-life red-grey bushy-tailed coyote, jogging out of the underbrush, half crossing the road, stopping, looking at my car, looking some more, and then going along on its business.

I had decided that, it being January and rather cold (freezing at night and in the mid-40s in the daytime) tarantula season had to be over and I finally could drive to Mount Diablo, which is overlooking the whole place, a single mountain surrounded by low hills. It was a sparkly clear day with frost on the grass when I left the hotel. My hiking guide recommended three routes on the mountain, however, one was beyond my ability, the next was recommended after rains, so that one could see waterfalls (and it hadn't rained yet), so I went for the simplest one and just drove through the main entrance and uphill for a long time: an enjoyable drive, and not really hard. (I still wouldn't want to drive in Tenerife!) I stopped twice to admire the view and the cool clear air, and take some pictures. Unfortunately, Tiassa's camera went weird on me, so I have to lock myself in the bathroom and check by touch if the film's OK, or get someone in a photo shop to look at it.

Mount Diablo is close to 1200 m high, and on the top it was pleasantly chilly, the temperature where you have to get moving now, but once you do it's very nice. I followed the Fire trail, which leads around the summit. My book said that there would be signs along the way to tell you about this and that, but there weren't. I passed a large rock on which a bunch of young folks were clowning about. While it still holds true that I've never seen a hill I didn't want to climb, I judged the rock well beyond my current capabilities (and isn't that immensely frustrating?) and didn't attempt it.

The view was incredible, even though the air was not entirely clear -- it was good-weather-air, where the horizon dissolves into contrastless blue. Yet, you could see the Golden Gate Bridge, and Sacramento, and snow-capped mountains far away.

After completing the trail, I walked up to the summit, bought some postcards, admired the view some more and walked back down to the car.

And on the way back down, I saw a coyote.
lyorn: (Default)
Another "it's not autumn if you're in California"-day, and I found myself on the move before 11am. Which seems to be a popular time to get going, as the BART train was more than half full and became crowded in Oakland (where the three East Bay lines meet). I had studied my maps and got to my chosen starting point at the south-eastern corner of Golden Gate Park with minimal fuss. What fuss there was, was created by twenty five-cent coins: Not only need you pay for the MUNI ticket with the exact amount of change, you need it in coins. The BART ticket machines will change a dollar note, but sometimes only into really small change.

The subway train became a streetcar and passed a bunch of cute, vaguely Victorian houses at the southern edge (if I got my geography right) of Haight-Ashbury. One small house was painted hot pink. I wonder if it was the same that Ceridwen and I saw when taking a guided tour. I have the photograph at home, but I didn't manage to get my cell phone out and running in time to make another photo for comparison. Some things remain a mystery.

More, with lots of small pictures )
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Sunday morning I felt a lot better and got up at 9am. The time at which I manage to get up is a good measure of my willpower and emotional energy, because getting up before 1pm is always hard, and in those pre-noon hours nothing in the world seems as important as getting a little more sleep. Making it out of bed at 9, even with the help of just-switched-off daylight saving time [1], means that I'm doing fine.

In my new book I had found a couple of hikes I wanted to do and sorted them by season. The one that came up as "do as soon as possible" involved watching elephant seals at the coast near Santa Cruz. In winter and spring you can hike the area only with a guide (because the elephant seals are mating or caring for their young, and no one wants to have a couple of clueless tourists get in the way of 4000 lbs of blubber and attitude), and I'm not fit enough to keep up with a guided tour. Plus, it's a 90 minute drive, and days are not getting any longer.
Read more... )

[1] Story rec: On the futility of Daylight Saving, and going to utter weirdness from there: DST Nocturne, by Rebecca
lyorn: (Default)
One of my plans for this year has been, "get out more". Quite easy, as New Year's resolutions go, along with "sleep in more" and "eat more chocolate", one would think, because how hard can it be to do more of a thing you love?

The answer, of course, is "very". Especially if one's schedule makes it hard to even phone one's mother, because she doesn't like to be called after ten in the evening. Even more so if it's a year where winter has decided to stay until the Spring equinox and then some.

But finally, yesterday, when faced with a choice between tending my ailing computer, and getting out more, I packed my sunglasses, map, windbreaker and towel (don't ask) and headed up into the hills -- by car, as I'm about as unfit as you can be and still manage to get from the computer to the fridge, and I did not want to risk driving a motorbike when shaky with exhaustion. (Occasionally I have attacks of non-stupidity.)

The weather was nice: cloudy, cool and windy, but dry. I parked the car behind a tiny yellow church at the edge of a hilltop village and started walking. It was very quiet, only the sound of the wind, some crows crowing and a dog barking somewhere. My eyes had difficulties adjusting to the three-dimensional view. I walked down into a valley and up again through dark firs, under which some persistent snow had managed to ignore the turn of the seasons so far. Fascinated by the snow I missed a turning and didn't end up on top of the rock with a view that I'd been aiming for, but instead at the foot of the slope crowned by the rock. The slope looked like nothing much, which should have been a warning sign, still, I managed to climb it, only falling into the brambles once.

The view from the rock was great and well worth it, though I admired it while stretched out flat on the stone. I do not trust my sense of balance, especially not when I'm wearing hiking boots.

I found a more gentle part of the slope for my way down, which was fortunate, because sliding downhill on your butt isn't much fun if the hillside is covered with rocks and brambles. The path led to a crossroad, where one of the crucifixes which litter the countryside stood. Some people, probably pilgrims, had gathered there. A priest in white and black and purple said a few words, then there was music: Some of the pilgrims played the trombone and the tuba, the rest sang hymns. It was no great musical performance, but nice nevertheless, on that windy early Spring day in the middle of nowhere.

I walked down to the next village and admired the way water was seeping and rushing out of the rock faces, running next to the street and sometimes on or across it, gathering into creeks big enough to turn a mill wheel after only a few hundred paces. The largest creek of all, with some ideas of being an real river, ran through the village. The main street was decorated with easter trees: still-bare bushes, or shapes constructed from fir branches, decorated with dozens or hundreds of easter eggs. Most were red or blue or yellow and made of plastic, but some were real eggshells and individually painted.

Along the main street it was tourist rush hour. The parking space in front of the inn overran into the street, children and middle-aged women were squeeing, and pensioners in knee-breeches, woolen stockings, walking shoes and outdoor jackets populated the sidewalks. From the inn came a smell of roast pork, but I wasn't hungry yet and I do not like crowds.

I walked out of the village on the main street, and a few hundred meters later the real circus began. I had half expected it, though not to that degree. The hills are karst formations, limestone riddled with holes and caves. Water disappears into the ground and resurfaces miles away. And after a winter with lots of snow, the caves and holes are so full of water that it runs over and shoots out of crevices, and valleys which have been dry for years suddenly have small rivers zigzagging though them. This place had the largest of the seasonal wells, and was the current attraction.

There were sixty or more cars parked along the main road and on the grass beside it and up a small lane leading up the valley, and oodles of people in rubber boots and garish jackets, carrying walking sticks. There were children yelling, teenagers showing that this was all beneath them, young couples with babies in strollers, a radio team, and a few bewildered city folks in nice shoes. One of the latter asked me for "the way to the geyser". I showed her on the map and explained. She said she had asked me because I had looked as if I knew what I was doing. Must have been the boots.

I passed the inn, which used to be a mill house once upon a time and still had a giant metal mill wheel, about three or four metres in diameter. It was turning slowly, and I wondered if something was still connected to it. Probably not. Going into the inn to ask was impossible, it was so crowded. So I followed the crowds up into the valley, admired the normal, all-year well of the creek, watched some people nearly falling in and then walked on. The valley had been shaped by a river, thousands of years ago, and had the characteristic U-shape, but most of it was dry and covered with yellow-brown grass, except where the only-this-month river from the upvalley wells ran. Or zigzagged. I must have crossed it ten or twelve times. But you could see that it was already drying out, the green, wet grass and the mud showed that it had been three times as large only a short time ago. I expected the wells to be already dry, and I was right. Pity. Should have gone two weeks earlier.

After the wells there were far less people, and after I had passed another cluster of cars I had the tracks to myself again. Over the hill and into the next valley, which boasted a somewhat larger village, more easter trees, some cows and calves, a barking dog and not much in the way of people out on the streets. I was slowly getting tired and wished for a non-crowded inn where I could get a bite to eat and a large glass of water or three. On the other hand, I was too tired to search the village for an inn, so I traipsed on. Along freshly-ploughed fields and just-turning-green meadows, through copses of bare beech trees or firs protecting the last snow. The silence was back, broken only by larks singing, and the wind rustling in the hedges. Occasionally I saw the yellow church on the next rise, or the one after the next, which helped a lot because the sun was behind clouds and my map didn't show every track.

I was back at my car at half past five and was very glad that I hadn't taken the motorbike, and very unhappy that I didn't find some forgotten chocolate bar in the glove box. As soon as I stopped moving, I started freezing, and I had a hard time getting the car down the serpentine streets to the highway.

Back home, I took a long hot shower and crawled into bed with two hot water bottles and two purring cats, slept for two hours, and spent the rest of the evening reading and petting the cats. And today my knees are giving me hell, the computer is still running erratically, but what the heck, it was fun. I need to do that again, before it gets too warm and the midges come out. However, next weekend is Easter... I guess I'll skip that one.

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