Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
September 2020
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Champagne Falls and Bridal Veil Falls

After completing my circuit of Dove Lake, I started heading back towards Launceston, but with a plan to take a detour to find a couple of waterfalls I’d heard about. A 4WD track departs from Lemonthyme Lodge, tucked away in the Moina bush, and heads up a ridge for a kilometre or so before dropping steeply into Bull Creek. The recent rain meant that there was a good flow over Champagne Falls, breaking up and recombining as it tumbled over the drop.

From Champagne Falls the walking track meanders along first one side and then the other of the creek, through lovely rainforest.

It arrives at Bridal Veil Falls, which is about 750m upstream from Champagne Falls. This is taller and more vertical, but has some interesting features as well.

You can actually walk halfway up one side and get partway behind it and look out through the mist (and, yes, the bridge uses the large boulder as a structural support).

As I came back down I noticed a Tasmanian land snail (?).

Both waterfalls, and the area in general, were lovely … and the added bonus was that I had the entire place to myself. (The only down side was that I didn’t take my serious camera.)

A walk around Dove Lake

I’d really only come to Cradle Mountain to do the canyoning trip, and didn’t have time to stay for very long, so this morning I got up early, broke camp, and took the shuttle bus to Dove Lake to do a quick circuit. The weather was overcast, which reduced the spectacularity of the views, but it wasn’t raining, and the scenery is still amazing even when clouded in.

Given the number of clear days that Cradle Mountain experiences and the number of overcast days that it experiences, this is probably a pretty average shot of it.

I took the eastern side first, giving me views of the iconic boathouse on the far side, and an approach to the Glacier Rock vantage point.

It was nice to see some of my favourite plants; the alpine and temperate rainforest environments are favourites of mine. I’d forgotten that I’d find celery top pines here (and this one is tangled with a snow gum, right on the shore of the lake)

And if I’d known (as I suspect now) that this was a lemon-scented boronia I might have sneakily crushed one of its leaves (already fallen, of course);

And there were magnificent pandanis, viewable from a distance and close up

And normal myrtles as well as the more famous fagus (in its non-autumnal green).

The mosses of the ballroom forest

contrasted with the open fields of button grass with scattered trigger plants and tea-tree.

The recent rains meant that the waterfall from up on the plateau was in full force.

The track around the lake has had a major upgrade since I was last here (in fact, I haven’t been here for over 20 years, I think), making it an easy walk that will protect the environment now that tourist numbers have increased so much (I’m glad I’d made the early start and avoided the crowds later in the day).

But you can see why they come: it is amazing countryside.


The currawong, on the other hand, appears rather less impressed.

Wet and wild canyoning

As a thank you gift for services rendered, one of my now-graduated PhD students very kindly gave me a voucher to go canyoning in the Cradle Mountain area. The original plan was to do Dove Canyon, but heavy rainfall in the day or so preceding the planned trip meant that the location was changed to Machinery Canyon near Lake Cethana. I didn’t know anything about this area, and was amazed at the shape of the landscape, its geology, and the history of tin and silver mining (indeed, the creek/canyon’s name was changed to reflect the fact that machinery from the mines had been hurled into it). [A note about the photos: some of the photos were taken by the tour guides and some by me, and although my camera was waterproof we were so wet that it was hard to dry the drops off the lens, so there is some blurriness at times.]

The first part of the expedition was to walk down the creek into the canyon proper, scrambling over rocks, taking care with our footing, and being reassured that our wetsuits were actually going to keep us warm in the chilly water.

Prior to the first of six abseils, we launched into a plunge pool (supposedly impersonating Superman).

We had a choice of going down a dry route or a wet route for the first drop, and, because I’d abseiled a few times before, I thought I’d go down the wet way. I was a little nervous about how well the wetsuit boots would grip the wet rocky surface, but they felt quite secure, and I arrived at the bottom quite safely.

Between abseils there were some smaller falls and boulders to negotiate.

The second abseil involved an overhang, which was a bit of fun, and this was followed by a break for lunch.

The third and fourth abseils occurred in quick succession in a bit of the gorge characterised by the precariously positioned boulder suspended between the walls. The first drop was quite wet, while the second went over a large rock that created a tunnel for the creek.

Fortunately the suspended boulder stayed in position.

Just before the fifth abseil there was a nice deep plunge pool with a rocky ledge off to the side about 5m above the surface. I couldn’t quite summon the courage to jump when I first stepped up (I took too long and overthought it), but I came back and took the leap (although I think the photo tells that I am not totally relaxed about the whole idea!).

The fifth abseil was a fairly straightforward ramp but wet, and then we made our way to the sixth and final abseil.

There were some nice little pools above our final drop, as we waited our turn to go over the 30m Petrifying Falls (so named, because the surveyor Henry Hellyer claimed that logs that fell over it turned into stone).

It was a very satisfying end to the journey (although we still had another half-hour walk along the creek to get back to civilisation). Definitely worth doing and a great adrenaline rush (and I might go back and do Dove Canyon another time).

Biggest serve?

Maths question for the week:

My mother made an egg and bacon pie without tomato for Josh, and an egg and bacon pie (the bigger one) with tomato for Imogen and I to share. Did Josh end up with the biggest serve?!

Moods of the Mountain #117

With bushfires in the northern part of Tasmania, and massive fires on the mainland, the mountain was hit with a rather unpleasant smoke haze this week.

With the wind in our sails

My sister and brother-in-law have a small yacht, and invited Imogen and Josh (and me, possibly as part of a package deal!) to go for a day of sailing together. We set off from Kettering, with my sister—dubbed First Mate Gill—taking the helm for the journey, while Captain Pete took up his post in the Beanbag of Responsibility in front of the mast.

We headed down the west coast of Bruny Island, ending up in a lovely little sheltered bay.

Imogen and Josh took to the dinghy and cast a line or two, with Imogen proving the more successful fisherman, eventually bagging a couple of flathead just big enough to be legal and give us a few mouthfuls for lunch (after we’d scavenged enough margarine to cook them in, since the oil had been forgotten).

It was a glorious day and just warm enough to make swimming an option. Josh’s attempt at standing up in the dinghy nearly ended badly and then he bit the bullet and had a quick more properly planned dip (but not for long—it was just a bit too cold for him).

After lunch we towed Josh astern in the dinghy, and with the wind blowing quite strongly we actually got up to about 8knots, with more than a bit of a lean for those of us on board the yacht, and a definite wake and bumpy ride for Josh.

Just before heading back we moored in another little bay, where I caught my first ever (undersize) fish, and Imogen added seaweed to her fishing haul.

We finished the day by having a nice counter meal at the local pub, which was a very pleasant way to end what had been a wonderful day.


12 of 12, January 2020 (and Moods of the Mountain #116)

So, a new year begins and the 12 of 12 tradition continues. Just as well I didn’t make a new year resolution about upping the quality and interest value of this weird little habit, because today was a very mixed day and most of the time I forgot it was the 12th and so forgot to take photos.

I played the piano on two separate occasions at Church. This is not actually a photo of either of the pianos.

I had a very miscellaneous afternoon, (i) trying to track down an image of a Tasmanian branch Scout badge (I cropped one off a photo containing the obverse side of the Chief Commissioner at Regatta earlier in the year)

(ii) having a game of “7 Little Words” (where 7 words have been broken up into a total of 20 pieces and you have to reassemble the words using the clues (except that I play my own version where I try to ignore the clues entirely and just look at the matrix of word blocks and see if I can identify the words on that basis alone (for example, I could see the word “trench” in the letter blocks … although this turned out not be one of the answers … unlike “quadruplets”));

(iii) admiring Imogen’s six fish (a Christmas present pet compromise, given that a dog—nice though it might be to have one—would also make life rather more complicated);

(iv) uploading 13 for sale ads to Facebook and Gumtree so that we can try to sell a few things that didn’t sell at yesterday’s garage sale *;

(v) giving Imogen and then Joshua their first driving lessons in a manual car (Joshua had the benefit of being taught second while Imogen suffered my not-so-good first-draft explanations; both of them were, unsurprisingly, a bit “skippy” and we didn’t get out of first gear this time … but we’ll get there);

and (v) admiring the last light over the mountain.

My new year resolution to keep my journal up to date has already fallen by the wayside. I had planned to catch up today/tonight but haven’t yet.

I had cooked a batch of stroganoff for dinner, but you know that thing where certain people don’t serve themselves the last little bit but the last little bit that they leave isn’t quite big enough for a full serve? Well, that happened … and so I scooped up the remnants and put them in the freezer with all the other previous remnants. I think it is time for me to stop cooking for a while and live off all the remnants in the freezer.

I need to start this year’s organisation notebook, before all the things that are on the “to do list” in my very absent-minded head fall out entirely.

We’d stayed overnight at Lisa’s place before the garage sale, and I didn’t put away my sleeping mat and pillow before we left. That job is now done (pity it didn’t make it on to the paper “to do list” so I could have the satisfaction of crossing it off!). I do like how small they pack up.

* Here is today’s maths problem. I had included the dimensions of one of the objects we are selling online. It is 188cm x 60cm x 53cm. Someone enquired about it, and I explained that the object was very large and gave her the dimensions, so she could determine if she would be able to pick it up. Her response: “I have a van. Length is 180 width 130 height is 80 so it will fit.”

Will it?

[This is  “12 of 12” post number 125; I’ve been doing this since 2009. “12 of 12” brings you 12 photos taken on the 12th of each month. Some days this might be interesting or photographically satisfying … and some days it won’t be.]

Crescent Bay

I have been enjoying an extended Christmas/New Year break and on the 2nd, with the weather forecast neither too hot nor too cold, decided to check out the walk to Crescent Bay, south of Port Arthur, with my brother Colin plus Imogen and Josh. The track leaves from the Remarkable Cave car park and follows the coast eastwards past Maingon Bay.

There are lots of sea caves in the area (Remarkable Cave is the most famous of these), and the track passes over the top of Maingon Blowhole allowing a dramatic — but not easily photographable — view of the ocean rumbling in its dark depths (the following photo hints at the hole in the right foreground; the sea cave runs under the land bridge at the centre, and obviously the roof of the original cave has collapsed, leaving a hole some 10-15m deep; you can see the water below but the dark/light contrast made it impossible to get a decent shot).

As we journeyed around we saw a couple of Sydney-Hobart yachts making their way back after the big race.

We decided not to do the Mt Brown detour (it involved an uphill for which none of us were in the mood), and instead started to make our way down to the dramatic Crescent Bay, with its massive sand dunes.

Here there are fantastic views across to Tasman Island and Cape Pillar to its left/north. The lighthouse on Tasman Island is 29m tall, and is situated about 250m above sea level, which makes those cliffs rather tall. The cliffs on Cape Pillar, at 300m in height, are apparently the tallest sea cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere.

Of course, those massive dunes just had to be climbed and slid down by the more youthful members of the party; fortunately I had come prepared with a slippery cardboard box off-cut (the piece of foam was less useful).

It was only pretend sliding in the next shot!

It is a lovely spot, and there were some interesting sand and light effects on the dunes.

And then it was a matter of retracing our steps back to the car … and then going in search of an icecream or four.

This is the shed that Helen (and others) built

It has taken a while. I bought the shed kit back in July, tried get a concrete slab organised a bit later but had trouble connecting with contractors, had the unmade plans interrupted when the neighbour arranged to replace the ageing side fence (and then those contractors were delayed), and then had a bit more trouble connecting with concreting contractors, but finally, at the beginning of December a concrete man turned up and started digging a hole and putting in some formwork, prior to the arrival of a concrete truck which somehow managed to manoeuvre into and out of my long driveway. At the end of the day I had a slab. At the end of the next week I had a slab ready for things to be built on it.

It was then time to rally some assistance (my sister Catherine, who has skills in things construction-y, and my Dad, who has assembled the odd one or two sheds in his time) and to start assembling the shed. There was an online video to show some of the key steps; this made it seem that the whole process should be straightforward and quick. 

But no. There were misaligned holes, missing screws, and things that had to be undone and then redone without clear instructions, places where there should have been holes but weren’t, and various other niggly frustrations along the way.

Eventually all the panels were assembled and we could enlist some extra help (Imogen and Joshua) to start putting the shed structure into place.

The roof proved particularly problematic, but eventually we got it into position … but by this time it was nearly 10pm and my hopes of finishing the job before sunset at worst were well-and-truly dashed (so much for the ten minute video!). We hadn’t even begun to anchor it to the slab, so I had to go to the Scout hall for some big tent pegs and rope to tie it down for a couple of days until Catherine could return with a decent drill and appropriate masonry bit.

A day or two later and Catherine had got the shed anchored; I managed to finish off all the extra screws (the ones with no pre-drilled holes) and gable ends, and so, at last, we had a shed.

Because the shed is going to be used to store some of Lisa’s memorabilia for the kids, I decided that I should probably line it with some insulation to reduce the range of any temperature fluctuations. This turned into a bit of a saga as well, until I got the hang of the best way of affixing the lining. Once I did, though, it was just a matter of methodically working my way around all the panels, using the foil/foam insulation as efficiently as possible. At the end of a few days of off and on work I had managed to line the whole shed with very little left over of the big roll of insulation.

“All” that remains is to fill it … in some vaguely organised fashion.

Boxing Day gathering

It is a long-standing tradition to go to Snug Beach for a family gathering on Boxing Day. I took the Scout kayak trailer down, and Imogen and Josh and I went for a little paddle up under the bridge. I meant to take a few more photos of all the people gathered (the APs, my two sisters, an aunt, two uncles, and some others) but only managed the following photos.