Very busy December = lack of posts ...

Delicious homemade soup by my classmate's mom (taken with iPad)

Saw 十二夜 Twelve Nights with my free movie tickets — cried the whole time (taken with iPad)

Some of the decorations in my classroom — hoping to win the competition (taken with iPad)

A delicious burger from Huge Burger — treating myself after my thesis presentation (taken with iPad)

Tuesday December 10th, 2013

Awesome bamboo — love it!

Are we going in the right direction?! Lost in a beautiful forest!

Betel Nut Trees

A flower spotted on today's hike

五寮尖 Wuliaojian hike on 12.03.2013 (22°+)

Sitting on a thin ridge, catching my breath, while waiting for my friends to ascend the cliff face

The first of many stunning views (number ten on the map)

We scaled the face of a rock to get up this ridge and then walked all the way across it

More gorgeous views from the Wuliaojian trail

五寮尖 Wuliaojian day trip ...

三峽 (Sanxia) has a wonderful hike called 五寮尖 (Wuliaojian) that is rated a five out of five, in terms of difficulty, on the Taiwan Adventures website. I absolutely agree with this rating. If you have a fear of heights or are not up for a challenge, you may want to pass on this day trek.

It took four of us almost six hours to complete a 7KM trail. The majority of it was up or down steep slopes using knotted ropes as an aid. This was our route:

We did not plan the trip carefully and ended up doing the trail backwards. The GPS was possibly guiding us toward the trailhead (parking lot two and/or three) but we spotted a sign and decided to follow it instead. This sign led us to parking lot number one on the map.

(Photo: Neil Wade)
Having seen many photos of the steep cliff face pictured here, this was our goal for the day, although we were completely unaware of the exact location. We headed 2KM (not KG as per the above map) up the number 10 trail. The trail is not marked and leads you through a thick, dense forest that doesn't see much light. The rocked path was damp and covered in moss and a handful of rocks were loose. The view from the top was spectacular but not exactly where we wanted to be.

We thought number eight could be the place due to the trail jetting upward as per the above map. Number eight offered more gorgeous views from atop a ridge but still not where we wanted to be. While taking a much needed rest on the peak, two other groups of Taiwanese hikers arrived. We showed them an image of the steep cliff face and they directed us toward number six.

Upon arrival at number six, still no cliff face although we did see them off in the distance coming down the trail from number seven. Time was rolling on past 2pm and we were concerned about making it back around to the car before dark. Also, one of our group members had just about enough at this point and was considering the trail down from number six to the parking spots at number two and three. 

Three of us were determined to head on though as we hadn't yet reached our goal and the fourth member of our group trekked on with us, much to his chagrin. What came next was something we were totally unprepared for. WOW!

Rather than descend the rope as per Neil Wade's image above like most hikers, we decided to climb it. Do keep in mind, there is no safety gear. I barely made it to the top and then getting to the top left me sitting on an extremely thin ridge that I hardly dared to stand on. My whole body was shaking from adrenaline, exhaustion and perhaps from the two sheer rock faces that shot down on either side of me — it was very tempting to shimmy across the ridge but it may have taken a half hour to do that.

My group members were at the bottom waiting for me to check if there was a way down, so I stood up and braved it, venturing on alone to see if the trail continued on. We could see another cliff face across the way from the one I was on, so we weren't sure if we had to go over there. It seemed that the trial did continue on, so I headed back across the narrow ridge and yelled down to my friends to come up. 

At this point, I was too exhausted to even think about taking photos. I sat down to catch my breath, enjoy the view and wait for the others. The trek from number five to four offered more steep slopes and mostly ropes. The sun was slowly sinking toward the mountain and I was encouraging my group members to move faster so that we could be out of the mountains in time.

Number four to three offered another trek through a dense bamboo forest with slippery paths, so moving quickly wasn't much of an option. We barely made it out before dark and we were all quite pleased to see the road! 

What an adventure but do plan ahead! Photos to follow ...

Fumaroles on 陽明山 Yangmingshan ...

Finally made it to see the fumaroles on Yangming Mountain — a site to be seen

So tempted to stick my finger into this puddle to see just how hot it is

Hot sulfurous gas quickly rushing out of a small opening at 小油坑 Xiaoyoukeng

View from the parking lot — it was a chilling 13° on 陽明山

陽明山Yang Ming Shan — 七星山 Qi Xing Trail ...

Yesterday's hiking route — probably worked out to be about 8KM+

There are two peaks on the 七星 trail — looking at one peak from the other

Heading down and overlooking 冷水坑 Leng Shui Keng

Taking a rest at 七星公園 Qi Xing Park or Seven Star Park

三貂嶺 Sandiaoling to 十分瀑布 Shifen Waterfall ...

杷枇瀑布 Papi Waterfall — the third of four

The steep ladder to climb from waterfall #2 to waterfall #3

A papaya tree along the roadside on the way to Shifen

三貂嶺 Sandiaoling to 十分瀑布 Shifen waterfall ...

Just around the corner from the Sandiaoling train station — heading to the trailhead

合谷瀑布 Hegu Waterfall — the first of four

One of two roped bridges that needed to be crossed

Walking through the beautiful, lush forest

Friday November 15th, 2013

Playing around in Photoshop — this cat is so easygoing she probably wouldn't care if I skied down her

I received my first Christmas card today from my father and his significant other. He couldn't have chosen a more perfect card. It read: 



I love the spirit of you ... the grace with which you welcome each challenge, the childlike wonder that still colors your days. 

I love the originality of you ... your willingness to stand out from the crowd ... your unique perspective on what's happening in the world and in your life. 

And most of all, I love the heart of you ... the genuine compassion, empathy, and friendship you offer to everyone you know. 

I guess it's pretty clear ... I love everything about you. And at Christmas, I'm wishing joy and blessings to you, my beautiful daughter and friend.

Playing around in Photoshop — this cat is so particular he would probably hate it if I sat up on him

Monday's photo editing class ...

Arrived just in time for the 5:10pm train after a 15KM hike (start time: 10:20am) (NOT FOR CLASS)

11.11 Assignment — Four different cards, four different colors, three shapes + one square. We aren't given much time to think about projects. We get to class and the prof tells us to pick a certain amount of our own images for a topic. The first hour we are told and taught the specifications. We get the remaining two hours of class plus an extra hour before the deadline. I have been able to finish projects within an hour or so.

10.14 Assignment — Four different images, four different colors focusing on using basic rectangular shapes and adding font. We were only allowed to use one font type. Yawn. Professor nagged me for not using the correct font, but I told her I added some bevel and emboss to make it look more interesting — she let it pass. We learned about layers and filters and turning images B&W. I found myself showing the prof a thing or two during her lesson. I love being able to play around in Photoshop a few hours each week!

My mid-term project. Not my images — had four to choose from. Not my words — copied from the Internet. Being required to cut out the insects — had four to choose from — made for nit-picky work. Not sure I am overly happy with my posters. Requirement: one B&W, one color for national parks. We had a three hour deadline. I handed both in within an hour. These are worth 20% of my final grade. Hmmmmm ...

Sunday November 10th, 2013 (30° + 55% humidity)

Colorful butterfly on my balcony — not sure who was more vocally excited, Levi or myself

My student, Ting, gave me a flower yesterday — surprised as this is one of my favorite kinds

For the first time ever, I am backing up — don't want to lose the 12,000+ photos I have

Morning shake consisting of mango, blueberries, kiwi and a banana — delicious

Thursday November 7th, 2013 (Sunny! 25°!)

Datsun sits down to enjoy a movie with me on Sunday evening

Love looking over my plants and finding new and different growth
UPDATE: I woke up to find the new growth completely shriveled up to nothing (November 8th)

Levi basking in the sun — it has been a number of days since the sun has graced her presence 

One only has to look at this plant and a leaf falls off — hard to get a close up of this new ... flower?!

Cold (21°) and rainy Tuesday ...

Girl Cat (Levi) never misses a moment to strike a pose in front of the camera

Chilly and wet outdoors and fighting a cold indoors — homemade chicken soup with lots of ginger

Boy Cat (Datsun) in his usual spot, between covers — doesn't matter if it's hot/cold/sunny/rainy

Delicious vegetable salad to go along with some hot, homemade chicken soup

Taoyuan Valley (桃源谷) 15KM hike ...

Love these little guys although it didn't seem to love the idea of me following it with camera in hand

Not a sole at the rest stop in the blazing hot sun — where's the next pavilion? 

4.0KM and happy to almost be done the uphill hike ... or not ... another 5KM begins

Eyes that dare us to inch closer to the little ones — he froze until we moved and then followed suit