Saturday, January 2, 2010

Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains are a pretty cool place to be. Mal and I are having a great time hiking around and camping at the base of the HUGE falls just outside the town of Wentworth Falls. It’s a really fascinating and beautiful place. The Blue Mountains remind me in a way of the New River Gorge in West Virginia in a way. The town is not far from the rim of huge sandstone wall rim of the canyon, so there are a few trails around the top of the falls that are a bit touristy and crowded. But the further down you get, the less people you find. Building the trails to the bottom must have been quite a project. The whole way down I was admiring the engineering of the ridiculously steep trails carved right into the cliff that precariously meandered their way down the side of the cliff, wandering from ledge to ledge with nothing more than a bit of railing on the side to keep hikers from tumbling hundreds of feet to their death. It would be the coolest job to get paid to design a project like that. The initiative it would take to look at a cliff face and imagine putting a trail from bottom to top that would accommodate hikers who may have little to no experience scaling sheer rock walls.

Tonight we are camping the same spot we camped last night, at the base of lower Wentworth Falls. From this point you can’t even see upper Wentworth Falls and the crowds of people who gather at the top to watch the sun go down. During the day, a fair amount of hikers make their way down to the bottom of the falls, but by the time the sun begins to get lower in the sky, everyone is busy clambering their way back up towards the top of the falls in fear of being forced to navigate their way up the cliff trail in the dark. This was nice for us, because it was a great spot to sit by the pool at the bottom and build a campfire on the beach while watching the sun sink down. We discovered some rather large eels that inhabited the pool and would swim around, particularly at night. They are eerie to watch by the light of headlamp, slowly and gracefully navigating their way through small pools in between boulders where they would practically tie themselves in knots in order to fit in. Then just as easily as they would tangle themselves up, they would unwind into a single strand and slither into the next pool.

We’ve seen all kinds of interesting creatures here. It seems as though there is a climate change or something not 2 km down the trail from our campsite. From another falls that we hiked to today we saw lots of fantastic birds that do not seem to inhabit the area around our campsite. They are stark white with a yellow-green headdress that they flare up as a means of communication. We found evidence of their feeding frenzies high in the canopy when they would litter the ground with a layer of shredded leaf and twig debris. One of the most alarming discoveries to us were leeches. We were going to camp further down until we began to find the squirmy little buggers attached all over our feet and ankles. At first we thought they must just be in the calm pools in the creek, but then we were appalled to discover that they were all over the ground as well. Particularly on the trails, they would hang out, reaching around with their sucker as far as they can, waiting for something to walk by to grab on to. When they found something they would grab on with surprising ferocity and if given enough time would begin sucking blood. We decided to head back up to the same campsite, away from these pesticides. On the trail we got used to having regular leech checks every hundred feet or so. One of our theories for them not being around the upper camp was that the eels may eat them all, preventing them from living there. Before, we were thinking about spearing one to give eel a try, but after that thought, we decided that the eels may be a good thing to have around.

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