Mt. Solitary

No trip to Australia would be complete without a serious dose of “the bush”.

To enliven my last few weeks, my old pal Kerry and her beau Graham invited me for a three day walk to Mt. Solitary in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.

I have always wanted to do this walk. Especially when I lived in the Mountains nearly 30 years ago! But it always seemed a bit out of reach. Mt Solitary dominates the skyline from all of the classic escarpment lookouts of the Blue Mountains (Katoomba, Leura, Wentworth Falls). Across a deep and wide valley of seemingly impenetrable bush.

Mt. Solitary from the Golden Stairs near Katoomba.

Mt. Solitary from the Golden Stairs near Katoomba.

But with two trusty local guides, backpacks full of fabulous food, and some rather reluctant ageing knees, we set off. It was early Spring and it had been one of the warmest winters on record so the wildflowers were going off!

The local Warratahs are spectacular.

The local Warratahs are spectacular.

Isopogon.

Isopogon sp.

Hakea sp.

Hakea sp.

King orchid.

King orchid.

Wall hugging Epacris sp.

Wall hugging Epacris sp.

The first days hiking was gorgeous, inspiring and debilitating. We only walked about 6 miles but  we came down off a ridge into the deep valley of the Kedumba Rver and then inexorably climbed all the rest off the day all the way up to the peak of Mt. Solitary along a narrow rocky ridge line – big altitude change, rough ground. I was looking forward to the fresh shrimp pasta we were having for dinner but not relishing the pound of thawing prawns in my back pack. To top it all off, just as we got to the edge of the Mt. Solitary escarpment we were deluged by a hail storm! Very refreshing.

Post storm delights

Post storm delights

Mountain sunsets!

Mountain sunsets!

The camp that night was under a canopy of gum trees next to a tiny but delicious spring fed stream.

Kerry frying bacon at campsite 1!

Kerry frying bacon at campsite 1!

Right next to our campsite was a spectacular view back towards Katoomba across the Jamieson Valley. Good spot for breakfast!

I wonder why they call them the Blue Mountains?

I wonder why they call them the Blue Mountains?

The second day was easier walking – just as well as my calves and thighs were complaining. We walked for a couple of hours along the ridge line to Chinaman’s camp where we knew we had more spring water available and where there are some amazing cliff overhangs that are perfect for camping under.

Cave camping Blue Mountains style

Cave camping Blue Mountains style

Here’s a short time-lapse of the closing of the day under the cave overhang.

There is nothing like staring into a fire under the stars!

There is nothing like staring into a fire under the stars, waiting for a billy to boil!

As it turned out the spring that we were counting on was almost dry. Fetching water required a hike down to the very end of the dry creek bed until just before it plunged over the cliff. The last little puddle held about a kitchen sink full of brown and murky water full of mosquito larva! Now that’s what I call camping!

But this is the sunrise 10ft away from the water source!

The next day dawned clear and bright and threatened to get hot. This was just a week or so prior to the first bad bush fires of the season up in this part of the country.

Our path ahead was clear. Follow the edge of Mt. Solitary along until it drops into the valley, follow the ridge line to the “Ruined Castle” and then through the rain forest under the escarpment until we get to the “Golden Stairs”. Then up, up, up, the Golden Stairs until we get to a hot bath somewhere. Graham told me that we weren’t the first to see the Golden Stairs as the path to salvation. Early in the white history of the Blue Mountains the valley’s edge was mined for coal and shale kerosene. At the end of a hard week of toil the miners would head out of the valley for some well deserved R&R in the bars and fleshpots of Katoomba. Waiting at the stairs were a crowd of well-intentioned christian ladies who would sing hymns to discourage the wanton behavior of the weary miners. One of their favorite ditties referred to the Golden Stairs on the path to Heaven – but the miners saw the path in front of them climbing to a more earthly paradise!

The path ahead

The path ahead. Follow the ridge line, then turn right along the bottom of the escarpment until you get to the head of the valley, then up!

We had other companions on our walk. The furry critters in the Australian bush mostly come out at night when its cool, but insects and lizards are around during the day.

Giant bush roach

Giant bush roach

Our most constant companions were the amazing Australian Cicadas. Cicadas are widespread around the temperate regions of the world, and the US is proud of its cyclical cicada emergence which is happening this year. But trust me, there ain’t nothing to compare to Australian cicadas!

This year promises to be a boom year for the Ozzie cicada too. Everywhere I looked their perfect carapaces were lined up all along trees and fence lines. The trees and air were full of their fat little bodies (my cousin Malcolm says they were created as Christmas dinner for the birds), and the air was thrumming with their ear piercing song. Part of me wished I had my excellent sound equipment with me (duh) but a bigger part of me was glad not to have had the weight! How would the iPhone hear this?

"Green Grocer"

“Green Grocer”

Moved out.

Moved out.

As we came under the shade and moisture of the escarpment we went from the dry Eucalyptus and Casuarina dominated forest into the green moist Coachwood and tree fern dominated rainforest and the cicadas gave way to the raspy mimicking repertoire of Lyrebirds

Kerry botanizing in the Coachwood forest

Kerry botanizing in the Coachwood forest

At the foot of the Golden Stairs we had  a breather, and sucked down the last of our brown spring water from Chinaman’s camp before climbing out of the valley, enjoying the views back across the valley to Mt. Solitary.

Kerry and Graham having a breather.

Kerry and Graham having a breather.

A level view of the iconic "3 Sisters"

A level view of the iconic “3 Sisters”

Oh and a final 180 degree panorama of the view South into the Burragarang valley and  Sydney’s water supply.

Burragarang Valley from Mt. Solitary.

Burragarang Valley from Mt. Solitary.

Artifact and Translation

The climax of my stay at ANU was the exhibition “Artifact and Translation” that ran from October 1-5, 2013.

Here is the flier!

A3_poster.indd

It was a great opportunity to show the digital images I developed as a consequence of our field trip to the Kioloa Field Research Station, along with the whittlings and translations that we have all been working on.

Here’s the view when you entered the Foyer Gallery from the main entrance of the ANU School of Art.

Entering the gallery

Entering the gallery

With four large prints on the left,  my whittle translation in the center and everyone else’s whittles and translations along the far wall.

The four large ‘Old Blotchy’ prints. Developed from images taken of the gnarled and wrinkled skin of that grand old survivor.

Maculaata (Old Blotchy) #1-#4

Maculata (Old Blotchy) #1-#4

And a close up to see how it looks in real life.The photorealism breaks down.  The patterning which is an artifact of the Live trace software has been tuned to closely resemble the patterning that is natural to the Spotted Gum tree bark which flakes off periodically leaving pastel colored scars with the occasional bright orange scar from humans sgraffito. Natural artifact mapped into software artifact.

Maculata (Old Blotchy) #1 detail

Maculata (Old Blotchy) #1 detail

And my whittle translation. This is the first time I’ve used digitally manipulated images of whittles in my work – another digital translation of the hand made.

Teatree topology

Teatree topology

Each whittle was from a successive slice from a branch of Teatree harvested at Kioloa. It was interesting treating each successive, subtly different, slice as if I had never worked that material or form before. Exploring what moves with the knife worked and what the existing convoluted branch forms suggested.

Chunk of teatree.

Chunk of teatree.

First teatree whittle.

First teatree whittle.

Teatree topology translation

Teatree topology translation

Teatree topology detail

Teatree topology detail

Along the opposite wall was the series of 6 smaller prints.

Maculata #1-6

Maculata #1 – #6

I think this one is my favorite.

Maculata #4

Maculata #4

And close up.

Maculata #4 detail

Maculata #4 detail

The final portion of the show was the whittlings and inspired translations by all of the folk who joined in the field trip to Kioloa.

We arranged the whittlings along the wall on a narrow shelf (thanks for the timber donation Tim!), each accompanied by its translation into another medium or process, and a swing tag giving some clue as to its identity.

An array of whittles and translations.

An array of whittles and translations.

Some details.

Whittle, translations and tag by Pia Nemec

Whittle, translations and tag by Pia Nemec

Translation by Andrew Carvolth

Translation by Andrew Carvolth

Andrew created a tool, and used it on a piece of wood to create marks. The essence of whittling, translated into a whole new entity! Nice work.

Ashley, Brian and Shep trying to solve the puzzle.

Ashley and Brian trying to solve the puzzles.

Shep just savoring the full sensory experience.

Shep just savoring the full sensory experience.

Huge thanks to everyone who made this exhibition possible. Especially to Ashley Eriksmoen who invited me to ANU and who was such a generous, supportive and inspiring host. To Jason O’Brien who did such wonderful work with my prints and who was forever cheerful despite my constant hounding. To Jason Kochel for all his help with the gallery. And finally to all the staff and students of the Furniture Workshop at the ANU School of Art, who welcomed me, worked late at night with me, and who dedicated themselves to the art, whimsy and mystery of whittling.