Snow in July

Category: Ships Log
 

July 2015

A real winter with snow, and overseas visitors!

 

This month we got to experience real winter again! In mid-July Chris had to attend a workshop on microbial ecology at a fancy hotel in the Blue Mountains, a couple hours west of Sydney. The Blue Mountains are a high elevation plateau (~1,000 m) with deep gorges cutting through it. The "blue" part of the name is because of a blue haze over the mountains; apparently the eucalyptus forest that covers the area releases oil droplets into the air, and when they combine with dust particles and water vapor, the light that is refracted is a blue color. We're not sure how the "mountain" part of the name came in though. The region is relatively high elevation for Australia, but there are no peaks; the area looks more like the Grand Canyon. Regardless, it is a gorgeous place! At the time Chris learned of the workshop, I was still unemployed and as it was my birthday in mid-July, this made a great birthday trip. I could share the fancy hotel room with him and go hiking while he was at the workshop. As it turned out, Chris’s boss (and now mine) ended up attending as well, and when he found out I was accompanying Chris, had me join in the workshop as an introduction to what I was getting myself into. It was a great opportunity for me and I was happy to get to participate (we were staying an extra day so we could still get out for a hike after the workshop). The workshop went well, and on the last day of the workshop, we woke up to a winter wonderland! Overnight it had snowed a few inches; the “Antarctic Vortex” had reached us in the Blue Mountains. Before the workshop started that morning, Chris and I put on our winter weather gear and went outside to see this white stuff that we haven’t experienced in a couple years now. We rolled some large snowballs in the backyard of the hotel and made a snowman. As we were searching for stones to use for facial implements, one of the cooks came running out into the yard and handed us a carrot for the nose! What a nice guy! We later learned that snow is incredibly rare, even in the Blue Mountains, and this was the heaviest snowfall in over ten years! Many of the Aussies at the hotel had never even seen snow before. It was a first for me as well, to have snow so close to my birthday!

 

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The hotel grounds turned into a winter wonderland.

 

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The snowman we built.

 

After the workshop ended, Chris and I had about a day and a half to check out the Blue Mountains before we flew back to Brisbane. The snow melted quickly, but it was still very cold, with temperatures hovering just above freezing. We spent the afternoon with the rest of the workshop participants checking out the Three Sisters of New South Wales – three large sandstone pillars that drop down into a vast tree covered gorge. A bit different from the Three Sisters in Oregon. :) The next day, Chris and I set out early from the hotel and hiked along the plateau top of the Blue Mtns to the Empress Falls trail where it descends into the gorge. At the top of the plateau, the forest is dry eucalypt, but as you descend it gets wetter and changes to rainforest. As we hiked into the gorge, we passed one magnificent waterfall after another cascading down the cliffs. It is some of the most spectacular scenery we’ve seen here. And it was a great workout to climb back out of the gorge!

 

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The Three Sisters.

 

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Empress Falls in the Blue Mtns.

 

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The creek continuing down along the canyon walls.

 

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Another beautiful waterfall further down the trail.

 

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A view of the Blue Mountains.

 

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A crimson rosella hanging out in the trees on our way back to the hotel.

 

When we returned to Brisbane, our first overseas visitors came see us! My Ph.D. advisor and his wife came to Brisbane for a couple days before embarking on further travels across Queensland. It was wonderful to see them again and catch up! And then two good friends of ours from our grad school days, who now live in the Netherlands, arrived. They will be here for a month, and in a couple weeks we will spend a week exploring the Cairns region together. It’s been a really fun month, and we have more great trips to look forward to next month!

 

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Hanging out with Carl and Jacque, our first visitors in Brisbane!

 

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Our second visitors to Brisbane, Judith and Ruud!

 

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Atop the Wheel of Brisbane with our visitors.

 

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