Abstract Christmas Photography Fun!

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I have been having a shameful and ridiculous amount of fun recently taking pictures of my Christmas tree! As you can see above. No, that’s not a color wheel; it’s a Christmas tree! How did I do it?

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It started when I was drinking water in front of the Christmas tree. I had the empty glass up to my face and realized it created a kaleidoscope effect with the lights. So I put the glass over my camera lens and started taking pictures, experimenting with focus and the distance between the glass and the lens.

The results span from the very abstract (usually achieved by putting the bottom of the glass very close to the lens):

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Pulling the glass farther from the lens achieves a color wheel effect:

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Adjusting the focus so the lens was focused on the bottom of the glass created a different looking type of color wheel:

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Going less abstract, I also played around with various concepts…

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Putting the star on the tree…

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Glowing magical orb! You can see the focal difference between the three as it progresses and the effect it has on the reflections in the glass.

I really liked the magic looking orb concept…

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Again, playing around with focus and concentrating the bottom of the glass on a green light on the tree this time.

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I may or may have not played around with this idea to the point of hand cramps. (I did.)

So if you’re bored and have a water glass and some Christmas (or whatever) lights around, give it a go! It’s a lot of abstract kaleidoscope fun and everyone loves bokeh!

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Snowy Day Sorbet

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I got a sorbet and ice cream maker for Christmas, and I decided to take it on its maiden voyage this past weekend.

But of course it would snow the day I decide to make sorbet! I was undeterred. I also noted that I was not the only one interested in delicious treats that snowy day. (Of course I’m going to try to work in bird pictures any way that I can).

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Top left, clockwise: a white-throated sparrow, female cardinal, dove, and house finch out for a snowy day meal.

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A female cardinal sitting pretty in a tree, seen between deck rungs.

But I still had to go out in the snow to pick up ingredients. The yummy recipe I used called for Dutch-processed cacao. Cue running around all over town with my friend in a very determined search.

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Happily the driving conditions weren’t too bad. We found what we needed by the fourth grocery store!

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By the time we got back, it was getting dark.

As mentioned, I had never used a sorbet maker before (and had yet to read the instruction manual), so I did not realize that the bowl part of the machine needed to be frozen solid. Surprise! So we threw the bowl in the freezer and while we patiently waited for the bowl to freeze completely, I made the chocolatey liquid mix.

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I used semi-sweet chocolate chips. The recipe called for 6 oz finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate, and the price difference was ridiculous! $3.49 for 4 oz of solid bars of baker’s chocolate or $3.14 for 12 oz of chocolate chips. The quality of the chocolate might vary, but I’m making a sorbet, not creating chocolates for the queen.

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Here are the chocolate chips, mostly finely chopped. …Mostly.

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Here is the mixture before adding the finely chopped chocolate.

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And this is after adding the chocolate.

We then, per the recipe, chilled the mixture. Once the mixture was chilled and the bowl was completely frozen, I began the sorbet-making process. Now, the sorbet maker box says that sorbet/ice cream can be made in as little as 30 minutes. The box is a lying liar and is not to be believed. I poured the mixture into the machine, which then rotated the mixture around with its mixing arm, to both aerate and freeze it. After 30 minutes (the recommended mixing time), it was still something of an amorphous (but delicious) liquidy goo, so I threw it back in the freezer for 2 more hours.

Finally, I had a delicious super chocolatey sorbet!

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Here it is pre-sprinkles. It is super chocolatey and definitely rich enough to make you think you’re eating ice cream.

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And here’s one more picture with a black background. Because why not.

Everest: Part IV

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Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV (you’re on it!)

It’s the last chapter in this saga! This will return us back down to Lukla.

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We left Pheriche for Deboche and finally lost our lucky streak of good weather. As you can see above, it began as overcast and became cloudier as the day progressed. I had also developed a fun new problem– my coughing had quieted a bit but I had developed a bruised rib from all of the coughing.

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Above are our dzopkyo crossing a bridge. They were, for whatever reason, quite fussy that morning. Unlike our ascent, which followed a somewhat indirect scenic route, our descent lead us along the main Base Camp trail.

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The trekking was fairly easygoing and still very picturesque.

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We were still high enough to see plenty of yaks traversing the trail.

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But I was so bummed about the weather! The clouds made the mountains difficult to see.

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Cue the Benny Hill music. There were a lot of yaks on the trail.

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Here are the yaks that were crossing the bridge, up close and personal. I was always a little nervous being around such big animals, even if they do have colorful little floof balls on their heads.

After some river crossing, we made our way through a small forest.

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I really liked the old man’s beard on the trees (sort of visible in the picture to the left). I had never seen that before! Other than that, the forest again reminded me of the forests back home.

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After walking through the forest a bit and passing the mani wall above, we stopped to camp in Deboche, just as the rain started in earnest. We were pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so I spent most of my afternoon in my tent, listening to the rain fall.

That night, as I was brushing my teeth outside of my tent, I saw a horse on the other side of the field. I was not super pleased that there was a horse wandering the field our tents were in (I’m a little horsephobic) but figured he was far enough that it wouldn’t matter. Later that night, I woke up at about 2 AM and my foot brushed up against something outside of my tent. And that something moved. I FREAKED out and immediately pictured the stupid horse I had seen earlier sitting on the entrance of my tent. I was now wide awake and mustering the courage to go outside and have a fight in the dark with a fat horse intent on sitting on my tent. I slipped out the back exit, creeped to the front of my tent, and…there was nothing there. Feeling a little insane because I knew my foot had hit something, I zipped open the front flap and found a stray dog lying in the antechamber of the tent, clearly seeking shelter from the rain. He looked up at me imploringly, and I felt (1) relieved I didn’t have to fight a horse and (2) terrible for even disturbing the poor dog. And that was my 2 AM animal adventure in Dengboche.

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If this isn’t the shadiest horse you’ve ever seen, you need to stop hanging out with such shady horses.

The next day I saw this shady horse. I half expected him to offer me some drugs. He was lurking near a bathroom that belonged to the teahouse we had breakfast in (you can see it in the left of the picture– the green metal). The bathroom had the most complex lock I had ever seen. I half expected to find a stash of gold in there, instead of a hole in the ground. And I was nervous to be encased in a metal box with this shady character lurking nearby.

Anyway, we left the shady horse and Deboche behind and made our way up (in the mud and rain) to Tengboche Monastery.

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After a fairly brief visit, we continued on our way to Namche Bazaar.

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This was probably the most miserable day of trekking. It was rainy, cold, and muddy and the rapid-fire descending (we lost about 4000 feet in the span of an hour or two) killed my knees and made me regret not bringing trekking poles.

I felt like a whiner for complaining, however, when I saw all the porters on the trail. I’ve sort of alluded to porters throughout this little saga, so I’ll explain here. There are no cars at all on this trail. To get supplies up or down the mountain, they must be carried by either humans or animals. The physical abilities of these porters almost defies logic.

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Oh, you know, just carrying a door and a bag twice the size of my body up a mountain side. No big deal.

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Are they building a rocket ship at the top of this mountain? I really hope these guys are very well paid. I was told by our sherpa that they are paid the same regardless of the size of the load.

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The trail finally linked up with the trail we had originally taken out of Namche and things began looking more familiar. We finally found ourselves back in Namche Bazaar and staying in a lodge for the night.

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As it turns out, our timing could not have been better. Perhaps you heard on the news about that horrible avalanche disaster in the Annapurna area? The Everest Base Camp circuit was hit with the same storm system, albeit not nearly as badly. While those at a higher elevation received snow, we experienced horrible thunderstorms and vicious rain and wind. I watched it from the window of the lodge and felt so thankful to not be in a tent.

And the next day….

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…was flawless sunshine! I couldn’t believe our luck with the weather. We sadly left Namche behind.

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But were seen off by a bunch of young and friendly Namche residents who wanted fist pounds and high fives. We then followed the same trail back down to Phakding.

And I saw more impressive porters.

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He has to climb all those stairs with that heavy looking load.

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Taking a break and then starting on his way.

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Colorful porter baskets waiting for their owners outside of a restaurant. The porters just leave the baskets on a ledge and go inside to eat and drink.

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More colorful porter packs.

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There were a lot of donkeys on the trail. It may have actually been national donkey parade day.

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There were also very high bridges and waterfalls along the way, of course. No trail is complete without those.

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Everything felt like it was in stunning technicolor. When we arrived in Phakding, we finally finally FINALLY had the opportunity to take a shower. I won’t even mention how long I went without showering (it’s just not possible/practical at the higher villages along the trail). It was heavenly. We camped in Phakding for the night again (and promptly lost electricity during dinner) and then set out for Lukla the next day.

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Donkey is so beautiful.

We promptly encountered a serious donkey traffic jam and had to take shelter on a restaurant balcony. We were stuck there for about ten minutes but some of the donkeys were wearing flower crowns, so it was all good.

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When I said serious traffic jam, I meant it. This isn’t even the same group of donkeys as above (you can tell from what they are carrying). They just kept coming!

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More donkeys. Forever donkeys. I didn’t know this many donkeys existed.

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I saw quite a few women doing this. The seed or spice is put on a tarp to dry in the sun.

So the fun thing (read: not fun thing) about Lukla is that you actually need to ascend from Phakding to reach it. And as you can see from my pictures, it was very sunny and surprisingly warm. So that was an unpleasant last little jab that Everest got in.

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And we were back in Lukla! As a treat, we were staying in a lodge instead of a tent. The lodge, interestingly, was right next to the airport. And when I say next to the airport, I mean we were separated from the runway by a chainlink fence. I stood taking pictures of the incoming planes and helicopters.

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We sat and had tea in the yard of the lodge and I watched as the sun slowly went down.

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And finally the sun set in Lukla.

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The next day we were off to the airport…which, as mentioned, was right next door. I have not yet mentioned the sheer terror that is the Lukla airport.

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See the end of that very short runway? That’s just a sheer drop off the mountain side. It’s pretty sink or swim. The airport itself is also a little chaotic.

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It’s just a crush of people jostling for tickets and bag inspection. That’s how it works– you show up and hope you get a ticket. The tickets themselves just have a gate number and nothing else. Your departure time is whenever it happens.

After clearing security and getting into the little waiting area, I looked over to see many of the local young men transfixed by what was playing on television.

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What was playing? WWE wrestling! I kid you not. It’s incredibly popular there! One of our sherpas excitedly told us about his favorite wrestler. So my Everest journey concluded with me sitting in the airport with a snow-capped mountain visible from the open window, watching WWE wrestling for the first time.

And then I boarded my tiny plane and said goodbye to the Himalayas.

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Everest: Part III

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Between Dingboche and Lobuche.

Part I
Part II
Part III (you’re on it!)
Part IV 

And the Everest adventure continues! We’re going to make it to Base Camp this time! This leg of the trip is most seared into my brain, so get ready for some dramatic, verbose writing! So after two nights in Dingboche, it was time to leave for the very tiny village of Lobuche. We packed up and took the same route we had the morning before for the day hike.

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Taken about a minute after we left.

We retraced our steps about halfway up the mountain nearby and then turned off on a path that was being guarded by a pair of very lazy dogs. (They weren’t really guarding anything; they were fast asleep in the sun).

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We were immediately treated to more breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. As you can see above, we were not the only party on the trail. We passed some dzopkyo going about their business.

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I know how they feel, struggling uphill.

The initial trekking was pleasant enough, as it was on even(ish) ground without many rocks. We got a view of the town of Pheriche from above.

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See those little fields and buildings below? Pheriche!

There will be more on Pheriche later!

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We also passed this adorable little abandoned(?) cottage. After a good dose of walking across an open valley plain, we veered onto a path that wound around the side of a mountain. After more demented ribbon candy path trekking, we crossed a bridge over a channel of water and then had to climb back up. This is when things began in earnest.

(A note now, though, on my pictures of the trails. I’ve noticed that my photos of the trails tend to feature a lot of flat and even paths that don’t look terribly difficult. You must be thinking “wow, this girl is a complaining drama queen.” While that may be true, I didn’t manage to get pictures during the more difficult times on the trail because I was trying (a) to not fall over or (b) to not cough up a lung. The more difficult zig-zagging parts of the trail were also not particularly picturesque.)

So, when we began to climb back up from the bridge, the climbing became far more rocky and difficult. It was also suddenly intensely windy and freezing. This also marked one of the last sightings of these along the trail:

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Here we see a toiletus sheet-metalus in its natural habitat. 

A note now on the toilets. Do not go on this trip if you cannot deal with bad toilets. And I mean bad. The toilet pictured above is actually pretty nice. I won’t go into the gory details, but most toilets on this journey consisted of a hole in the ground and squatting in cold and dark places. I will say that you do get used to it and once you return, you have a new found appreciation for Western toilets and indoor plumbing (at least I did).

After a fairly brutal upward climb, we reached a field filled with memorials:

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It was fairly sobering. These were all memorials dedicated to men and women who had died on Everest, either summiting or, in at least one case, on the trail to Everest Base Camp.

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I immediately recognized this memorial, of course. Scott Fischer was one of the casualties in the 1996 Everest disaster and a main character in Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air.

After a rather somber break, we continued on towards Lobuche. The trekking at this point was far easier (although rocky) and, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful days.

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This is the view once you leave the memorial field.

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This was probably my favorite stretch of trekking. I cannot describe just how beautiful it was in person. The pristine white mountains in the background absolutely glowed.

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Here are two porters with colorful bags having a conversation. I genuinely admire how hard working these guys were. I can’t imagine carrying all that baggage!

And so, after about an hour or so of walking among the bleached rocks towards those mountains, we reached Lobuche. We did not stay in tents at Lobuche because it was so cold. We instead stayed in a lodge. Well. To put it politely, I was not a fan of this lodge. I genuinely believe that the construction was overseen by the Joker. It was constructed entirely of thin plywood, and nothing fit together as it should have (including doors and door frames). The long hallway to the bathroom was dark and Kubrickian. It looked like the set of a horror movie, and I honestly would have preferred sleeping in a tent. It didn’t help that I was tired, sick, freezing, and struggling to eat anything.

The next day was better. We left Lobuche bright and early with everyone else in town.

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This should disabuse you of any ideas of being alone on the trails. 

We were headed now to Gorak Shep, the last small outpost before Base Camp.

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The initial trekking, as you can see above, was not so bad. It became more intense as we went on.

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Stacked rocks on the beginning of the trail to Gorak Shep and a dzopkyo near the end of the trail.

Towards the end of the trail, I heard a loud rumbling and looked off into the distance to see this:

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An avalanche! Thankfully, this was nowhere near the trails and therefore no one was hurt/in any danger. After about 3 or 4 hours of trekking, we reached Gorak Shep.

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You can see how tiny the village is in this photo from the trail. It’s not much bigger closer up…

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All of the buildings looked brand new! 

You might be thinking “ah, you reached Gorak Shep! Good for you. Surely you then rested for the remainder of the day?”

HA! No. After reaching Gorak Shep, we ate a quick lunch and then pushed on to Everest Base Camp. This was the absolute most intense part of the entire trek. We were all freezing and exhausted. Two of the four of us had to have the sherpas carry our packs (I did not).

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It was like trekking on the surface of the moon. There was almost no vegetation. The path to Base Camp was also the most treacherous, with an incredibly uneven and rocky trail. As a result, I spent most of my time forcing myself along and trying not to fall over. Because of my lung infection, I spent all of our rest breaks coughing nonstop (for whatever reason, if I was moving, I was too busy trying to breathe to cough). I didn’t take a huge amount of pictures along the way.

At this point, we were at approximately 17,500 ft above sea level. It’s difficult to describe the challenge that such high elevation and thin air brings. Even with Diamox (a medication to prevent altitude sickness), you struggle to find an appetite, to sleep, and to exert yourself. Physical tasks that would be simple at sea level are now serious physical exertions. You have also spent the past nine days or so getting to this point. That level of fatigue drains you. And in my case, it hurt my damaged lungs to breathe in such cold air. You really have to keep a positive attitude and push yourself to get there.

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This was the final ridge we walked along to reach Base Camp. (Descending from this ridge, however, there was still more light rock climbing to be done before you reached Base Camp…it wasn’t just a direct trail there). From this ridge (but not visible in the picture) you could see Base Camp. If you looked down from the ridge, you could see glacial lakes.

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On the picture to the left, you can see the glacial lakes from the melted parts of the glacier. Note that all of this trekking was on the Khumbu Glacier. Beneath the rocks, you could see ice. To the right are the rocks you must climb up and down on to reach Base Camp. Your trekking poles won’t help you here (though I didn’t use any, so they never helped me).

Finally we reached Base Camp! *Trumpets sound*

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There really isn’t very much at Base Camp. There were some prayer flags (as you can see above), a biting wind, and fellow trekkers who looked like they could be on the cover of Fit Young Hikers magazine. But it was incredibly gratifying to know that I had made it. In something of an exhausted daze, we retraced our steps and made it back to Gorak Shep, where we also stayed in a lodge due to the freezing temperatures.

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Not the Hilton, but far nicer than Lobuche!

I woke up the next morning to a complete frost on the inside of the window. During breakfast, it was decided that two of our group members would be helicoptered out and taken to Kathmandu because they were so ill. After that rather grim news, the rest of us quickly began our descent down. We took the same path as we did on the way up. Because we were descending and entering more oxygen-rich air, it went much quicker. We stopped for lunch in Lobuche (where I happily watched the proprietress of the tea lodge knitting a hat) and continued our way down though the memorial field.

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The memorial field on the way down.

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This was the view from our descent from the memorial field. We used the path that we had taken from Dingboche to Lobuche. However, once we reached a certain point, we turned and descended down instead of continuing on to Dingboche. After about an hour and a half of walking on a loooong rocky field (I almost tripped about five times), we reached the small town of Pheriche (remember the picture at the beginning of this entry?). We tented down and enjoyed a nice afternoon tea.

While reading a book in the tea lodge, I looked outside and noticed that the sun was setting. It was absolutely freezing out, but I’ll do almost anything for a photo. I ran outside and took photos until my hands were numb.

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Like most places along the Everest Base Camp trail, Pheriche is undergoing a lot of construction!

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Looking towards the trail out of Pheriche at a Trekker’s Shop.

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Here is another building that is undergoing construction, with a mountain range in the background.

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The sunset reflecting off of a peak in the distance.

And so began our descent down. We actually took a different path down than we did going up, so I will cover that in the next entry!

Everest: Part II

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The view from Dingboche.

Part I
Part II (you’re on it!)
Part III
Part IV 

And so begins the second part of the Everest adventure! Where last I left off, I was in Namche Bazaar. We spent two nights in Namche, hiking up several hours the day after we arrived and then returning down to Namche in order to acclimatize. I, however, did not. By that point, the illness in my lung had progressed to what sounded like bronchitis, and I was having trouble breathing. I briefly attempted the day hike but quickly had to turn back, instead spending a good part of my day in bed, concerned I was not going to make it much farther up the mountain. I ventured into Namche briefly, purchasing both the cheapest Mars bars (88 cents) and the most expensive gummy bears (4 dollars) I had ever seen. Relatedly, I am considering quitting my job to enter the gummy bear import business in Namche.

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The very beginning of the hike out of Namche

Thankfully, I managed to pull myself together and keep going (no thanks to either my antibiotics or Dayquil). The next day, we left Namche for Phortse, a small farming village, via the Mong La Pass, which snaked through the mountains. There were some excellent views of various peaks.

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We also came upon a woman who was helping her (I assume) husband collect money for the privately-funded maintenance of the trail. I was fascinated by what she was making. The lack of crochet hook or knitting needles led me to assume that it is macrame, but if anyone knows for certain, please tell me!

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Macrame? Maybe?

As usual, the trail was varied and reminded me of demented ribbon candy, with its pronounced ups and downs. I was surprised, however, by all the beautiful and varied vegetation. Even more surprising were the little bumblebees and butterflies that I saw.

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That was the only railing I ever saw on the trail. A lawyer always notices.

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It was at this altitude that we began to see yaks. Above are a pair of yaks in front of a town on the way to Phortse. Following a brutal ascent, we descended all the way down to the Dudh Koshi River, and then ascended back up to arrive in Phortse.

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Here is Phortse!

In the above picture is a stupa with the Buddha eyes painted onto it. In taking this picture and not paying attention to my surroundings, I was almost caught in the crossfire of an angry dzopkyo argument. I thankfully escaped ungored.

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A Phortse resident with the mountains in the background.

This is not one of the culpable dzopkyo. I show him as an example of a model citizen.

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We tented down for the night but, as usual, ate inside of a lodge. The lodge shown above struck me as particularly beautiful, so I took a picture. To the right, you can see the stove that heats the entire room. Because there are fewer and fewer trees at this elevation, the proprietors burn yak dung patties for heat. Yes, it is someone’s job to carry a basket and collect the yak dung on the trails. And I’m told that it is (thankfully!) a well paying job.

After a night filled with strange yak noises, we set out on our way to Pangboche, an even smaller village. The trail was similar to the one from the day before, with its snaking turns around mountains.

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Orange vegetation during the fall! My heart sang.

The trail was also another fun (read: not fun at all) exploration in repeated ascension and descent.

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Pictured above is one of many fun staircases up. Commonly, you’d proudly find yourself at the top, round the corner, and find a steep trail down. I think my screams of “WHY?!” echoed throughout the valley.

Like the previous day, I saw multiple yaks.

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Here is a small yak having some lunch. At one point on the trail, I stopped to take a picture of something behind me and when I turned back around, I found myself face to face with a giant yak. We both seemed surprised by the other’s presence.

Finally, we descended(!) to Pangboche.

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This was the view from my tent– some resting yaks and a whole lotta snow-capped mountain. Because this village was so small, we ate in the tent for the first and only time during the trek. We were treated to some beautiful views when we woke up.

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Dzopkyo enjoying their breakfast before setting off.

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More dzopkyo.

We began our day with a visit to a monastery…

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…which we promptly realized was closed! Above on the left, you can see a woman spinning all of the prayer wheels on the outside of the monastery. After this failed attempt, we set off for Dingboche!

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As we continued on the trail, snow-capped peaks greeted us at every turn. You might ask yourself at this point: was the trail winding and sadistically varied like all the other days? Was it a constant game of gains and losses in elevation?

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Look at the tiny person on the trail!

Yes, of course it was! What a silly question. But the scenery made it more than bearable.

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The river to the left is the Imja Khola river.

A brief walk through a forest of trees marked the last time we would encounter them until the descent. Instead, we found ourselves in an ecosystem filled with shrubs and, omnipresent as ever, rocks.

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Pictured: not trees.

If I never see another rock again, I will have lived a successful life. I cannot even begin to explain how frequently I tripped on rocks.

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Some rocks were better than others, of course. Pictured above are mani stones, inscribed with the Tibetan Buddhist mantra of “om mani padme hum.”

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Indeed, there were Buddhist relics everywhere along the trek. Above is a stupa, which are ubiquitous throughout the entire trail.

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To the right in the above picture, you can see the stupa that sits directly outside of Dingboche. After a not-particularly-challenging trek, we reached Dingboche at lunchtime.

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Above are some of the residents and visitors to our camp site. In the background you can see a little boy who was quite fond of playing with giant sticks.

That evening, I decided to attempt some nighttime photography (my first and last attempt at it). I was not displeased with the results, especially since my methods were rather crude. I didn’t bring a tripod, so instead I fidgeted about with the manual focus through mostly guesswork and rested my camera on a stone wall covered in yak dung patties (recall that that is what is burned for warmth). The hand sanitizer I brought was undoubtedly my best investment.

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The reality was much darker than the picture shows, so I was quite pleased that I was able to get things relatively in focus. And I’m sure I made quite the sight, fidgeting in the dark with my camera while crouched next to a bunch of yak crap.

The next day we remained camped in Dingboche and went on a relatively moderate 3 hour hike for acclimatization purposes.

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Here is Dingboche from the beginning of the hiking trail. It was cosmopolitan compared to the last two villages we camped in.

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Another stupa on the hike up! The views on the hike were spectacular.

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Here is one view. And then on the other side…

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…was this view. This was probably one of my favorite days on the trek. Beautiful views, a comparatively brief and easy hike, and Ritz crackers at lunchtime tea. What else can you ask for?

Everest: Part I

Okay, so I trekked to Everest Base Camp in the beginning of October.

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The beginning of the path to Base Camp.

Part I (you’re on it!)
Part II
Part III
Part IV 

I thought it would be fun to do a few entries on it! I took approximately 23984728374^23 pictures, so I’m going to split them into separate entries (and I’ll do a separate entry for Kathmandu at the very end). Let’s skip to the fun trekking part! And as always, click on any picture to make it bigger!

To begin the ascent to Everest Base Camp, you usually take a small plane from Kathmandu (capital of Nepal) to Lukla.

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This is the hot mess that is the local flights part of the Kathmandu airport.

You can do it the Hillary and Tenzing way and ascend from Kathmandu, but that’s just silly. …I, however, briefly considered it when I saw the plane.

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I am frightened of planes. I get scared inside of a jumbo Boeing 777. This plane was tiny and was going to land on a short landing strip on the side of a mountain. There is very little room for error in that kind of situation.


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Pictured: tiny inside.

That the flight attendant ran up the aisle during the short flight to hand the pilot a barf bag did not assuage my fears. But after a short flight with breathtaking views, we landed safely in Lukla, and I loosened my death grip on my seat’s armrest.

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It’s Lukla Airport!

So after grabbing our bags and drinking some tea, we were off on the beginning of our trek! We first passed through the town of Lukla, with its multitude of tourist shops.

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…Because every town needs an Irish pub, I guess?

After walking through Lukla, the trek began in earnest.

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On the road!

I should have known to really appreciate that stone path. It would be the last one I would see the entire trip.

On the first day, we traveled from Lukla to Phakding. A word of explanation on the trekking: we each carried our own backpack and our duffel bag was carried by a dzopkyo.

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The one in the back looks embarrassed by this behavior…

The elegant animal you see here is a dzopkyo, which is a cross between a cow and a yak. Although yaks are usually what come to mind when you think about Everest, dzopkyo are generally the preferred method of baggage handling because yaks cannot descend too far down and donkeys cannot ascend too far up. And that’s how we came to have our bags carried by these weirdos.   

Once we reached Phadking, we tented down for the night and enjoyed the success of our first day.
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The inside of my tent before I ejected everything from my bag.

The first day trek was quite pleasant and not very difficult. …Which lulled me into a horribly false sense of security. Day two was much, much worse. On day two, we made the trek from Phakding to Namche Bazaar. And to make things more challenging, I was slowly developing a lung infection! My lungs had been bothering me after the first day in Kathmandu, and I had (perhaps foolishly) hoped it would clear up quickly. Day two quashed all hopes of that and breathing became harder and more painful.

The scenery, however, was worth it. The route to Namche was lush and absolutely beautiful.

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Waterfall!

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In the picture to the right, you can see the omnipresent prayer wheel.

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Women tending to a cabbage field.

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To the left you can see a snow-capped peak in the background with conifer trees in the foreground. And to the right, a beautiful waterfall decorated with prayer flags!

We also met some animal friends along the way…

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This adorable little beggar really wanted a bite of chocolate bar.

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Working donkeys carrying loads on the trail.

We then officially entered Sagarmatha National Park:

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The entrance gate we used.


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The sight that greets you when you enter the park.

It is much more forested than I expected.

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Views of a river. Look at the mountain peaking out in the background of the picture to the left!

We trekked around the river for a while and then found ourselves stepping on stones in the shallow water to cross part of it. And then we came to the most terrifying bridge. A word about bridges on this trip: there are a lot of them and they sway. Up to this point, we had been over several already. But this bridge was high. Very, very high.

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See that red arrow? That upper bridge is the one that must be crossed on the way to Namche (the lower bridge was the original bridge but is no longer safe/functional). It is a looong way down. And a long way up. I took the picture on the left during the break before the ascent to reach the bridge. What followed was a very challenging and brisk 30 minute ascent. If you go on this trip, for the love of god, make sure you get your cardio in. On the right you can see the view from the bridge.

After what felt like hours (and probably was hours) of zig-zagging ascent, we trekked through a very beautiful forest.

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I couldn’t believe how much it resembled the decidedly deciduous forests back home! In the photo to the right, you can see a Nepalese porter carrying what looks like a heavy load up to Namche.

After what felt like an eternity, we reached Namche. My lungs felt about ready to jump out of my body in protest, but we made it!

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What is Namche? It is the largest Sherpa village (really, the largest village in general) on the trail to Base Camp. And it was the most beautiful sight in the world after all the ascending that we did that day.

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And thus the second (and hardest) day ended with the moon coming out over the mountains above Namche and me starting a course of antibiotics for my lung infection that would prove to be totally ineffectual.

Apple Picking

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I love fall! Fall, fall, fall. My favorite season. I realize, of course, that it is not yet fall (minor detail), but I will be away for a good chunk of autumn, so I decided to jump the gun a bit on apple picking. My dad suggested we go and I readily agreed!

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We went to a local farm that does apple picking and couldn’t have asked for a better day!

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First apple picked!

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It’s so bucolic, man. (I just want a reason to use that word). 

They mainly had McIntosh apple trees. We searched all over for different kinds of apple trees to no avail…I think. I probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

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Various things on wheels on the farm! I remember taking hay rides in those kinds of wagons as a kid!

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Fallen crab apples under a tree and the scenery nearby.

This makes me want to crawl under the tree with a blanket and a good book.

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Some crates. I guess the farm supplies various fruits and veggies to stores! This also marks the first time I’ve actually seen a pear tree. I am sorry to report that I saw no partridges in any of them.

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A beautiful apple tree full of apples!

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Our haul at the end of the day. I’m glad that these weren’t the apple trees from the Wizard of Oz because that would have amounted to a lot of fighting.

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The farm also had beautiful sunflowers! Along with the flowers, there were tiny residents who popped up to say hello…

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These colors are natural. In fact, I tried to make it LESS saturated.

The bumblebees really loved the sunflowers. Like, a lot.

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There are two bumblebees!

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I found this lovely lady hanging out on an apple I plucked from the tree.

And finally, there were a lot of honey bees. I found a hive that the farm was maintaining as well as various stray bees traipsing among the flowers. I probably looked a bit strange lying there in the field with my camera, but I love taking pictures of bees!

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I should probably get started on my next project….baking all of the apple pies!

Adventure Time!

I have become mildly obsessed with the show Adventure Time. So I decided to give myself the Adventure Time treatment!

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The bushy unmanageable hair is so accurate…

I really love reading and have an actually unreasonable amount of books right now (my workplace gets sent tons of advance reader copies and employees are allowed to take them), so I thought it was only appropriate to draw myself on a pile of books. The books I drew are actually some of my favorite books, except for two made-up books (Hamlet is my favorite Shakespeare play, but to my knowledge, there is no such book as “Hamlet the Pig”) and, of course, a shout out to Adventure Time (first book). I also included my favorite animal, the jellyfish, on my shirt, holding a little balloon (how sweet!). I colored it with watercolor pencils, because…that’s basically all I have right now.

Here’s the line art (because why not):

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Painting: Fitzroy, the King of Goldfish

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Heavy is the head that wears the fancy crown.

So after a long break from painting, I jumped back in. Kind of. I oh-so-smartly left almost all of my watercolors behind while moving back (except for white and van dyke brown– good thinking, me!) so I had to crack into some watercolor pencils I’ve had lying around for a while. 

coloredpencilsTa-da!

You see how the top part has some words on it? Those would be the instructions. Which, in my excitement and haste, I neglected to read. So of course I dipped one of the pencils into the water and then wondered why it wasn’t working. Yeah, I know. Anyway, I still prefer watercolor paints to these pencils, but they’re a nice substitute for now. 

As for the fish up there, I think I might put in a background, but I think otherwise he’s done. 

Being Sick

Illustration of how my coughing evolved into bronchitis:

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Well…I think I’m hilarious. 

I am sooooo super sick right now (seriously, the Dayquil does nothing!). I decided to channel all my sick-y horribleness into a funny little drawing about how my illness evolved. I will never not make Pokemon jokes. It is my right as an American.

The coloring isn’t terrific, but I left most of my art stuff back in New York, so I had to go to Walmart to buy some Crayola colored pencils (along with the aforementioned useless Dayquil). And Koffing and Weezing are the strangest shades of purple I’ve ever seen.