Friday, January 31, 2014

Thursday Adventure: Routeburn Track (Southern Alps, New Zealand)

The last weeks have been a bit difficult around here, thanks to illness and other trials.  The saddest thing was the death of my last remaining grandparent, my father's mother.  She was 91 and hadn't been in the best of health (she'd been suffering dementia for years) so it wasn't unexpected; but still.  I treasure my memories of summer weeks with her and my grandfather in their home in the Appalachian Mountains.  I adored my grandmother: she made terrific pancakes, let me watch whatever I wanted (I first saw Star Wars, The Black Stallion, and many other great movies at her house), and let me explore the woods behind their home with no companion but their Australian Shepherd (a dog that I fiercely loved, especially since my parents wouldn't let me have pets).  Scrambling around the steep, heavily forested valley behind their house was my first experience of exploring wilderness, and it was the foundation for my lifelong love of the mountains.

So in honor of my grandmother and the love she instilled in me, today I share one of my favorite mountain adventures of the last decade: walking the Routeburn Track over New Zealand's Southern Alps.  The Routeburn Track is a 32km trail that starts near the end of Lake Wakatipu, crosses a high saddle, and drops down the range's other side to end not far from Milford Sound.  My husband and I decided to do the Routeburn instead of its more famous cousin the Milford Track on our trip to New Zealand in 2006 because we'd heard the views were better and the track spends far more time in high alpine terrain (always a plus in our book).  Also, no sandflies: even bigger plus!

Robert and I and our good friend Catherine took a bus from Queenstown to the start of the track, enjoying gorgeous views of Lake Wakatipu along the way.

Lake Wakatipu
At the start of the track: Catherine, Robert, and me
The track starts in mossy forest, crossing a stream by means of a swing bridge.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Podcast fun, a revision update, and a taste of New Zealand

Happy 2014 to all! Hope the new year is going well.  It's been a bit stressful here, since mid-January is the deadline for Boulder's "open enrollment" lottery for the upcoming school year.  Like many other Boulder parents with a kindergartener-to-be, I've been going on countless school tours, fretting over enrollment lottery statistics, and spending way too much brainpower agonizing over what elementary school would be best for my son.  Choice is a wonderful thing - we're blessed to have so many excellent schools, both public and private, here - but boy, sometimes it's overwhelming.    

I haven't spent all my time fretting, though! My son just started his first real ski class (a season-long program at a local ski area), and I don't know who's more excited, him or me.  After all, while he's in his class, I get to ski trees and moguls to my heart's content.  I can't even tell you how wonderful that is after 4 years of barely skiing at all.  And after I ski my heart out on the steeps, I get to come back and ski green runs with my kiddo, and share in his excitement.  I tell you, there's no better way to spend a day.

My revision of The Labyrinth of Flame is chugging along - I've got 30K revised so far, probably about 1/5 of the book.  I'm still having a ton of fun doing it, too.  Revising may be challenging but it's oh so satisfying.

And I'm psyched to say that the podcast I recorded late last year with Renay of Lady Business is now live!  Renay was a great host; I had so much fun discussing all things SFF with her, from conventions to agents & publishing to gender and genre divides.  I also talk a bit about The Labyrinth of Flame, share some mountain stories, answer some reader questions, and recommend a whole lot of great books.  (I will apologize however for sounding like a valley girl on speed.  I blame the rather potent cough medicine I was taking.  I swear that on prior podcasts I didn't say "like" and "whatever" every third word.)

I know it's been ages since I did a Thursday Adventure post here on the blog, but after seeing all that gorgeous New Zealand scenery in the second Hobbit movie, I've been re-inspired.  Especially since I realized I never did an adventure post for the Routeburn Track, which was one of my favorite experiences on my own New Zealand trip.  So expect a post chock full of NZ mountain pics coming soon - in the meantime, have a little taste!

Mountain views on the Routeburn Track in New Zealand

Last but not least, you have got to check out this long and wonderful list of female SFF authors & their novels, by Andrea K. Höst at the BookSmugglers.  Looking through it, I spotted so many old favorites I haven't thought of in years - Ann Maxwell, anyone? - along with plenty of authors I've never heard of, and am excited to try.