Recent blog entries for mikal

Mount Stranger one last time

This is the last walk in this series, which was just a pass through now that the rain has stopped to make sure that we hadn't left any markers or trash lying around after the Scout orienteering a week ago. This area has really grown on me -- I think most people stick to the path down by the river, whereas this whole area has nice terrain, plenty of gates through fences and is just fun to explore. I'm so lucky to have this so close to home.

Interactive map for this route.

Tags for this post: blog canberra bushwalk


Syndicated 2015-11-15 12:20:00 from : Mikal, a geek from Canberra living in Silicon Valley (no blather posts)

A walk in the Orroral Valley

Last weekend was a walk in the Orroral Valley with a group of scout leaders. Embarrassingly, I'd never been in this area before, and its lovely -- especially at the moment after all the rain we've had. Easy terrain, and a well marked path for this walk. The only catch is that there's either a car shuffle involved, or you need to do a 12km return walk.


Interactive map for this route.

Tags for this post: blog pictures 20151107 photo canberra bushwalk


Syndicated 2015-11-09 19:13:00 from : Mikal, a geek from Canberra living in Silicon Valley (no blather posts)

Scout activity: orienteering at Mount Stranger

I've run scout activities before, but its always been relatively trivial things like arranging attendance at a Branch level event such as an astronomy night or an environment camp. They've involved consent forms and budgeting and so forth, but never the end to end creation of a thing from scratch. So, I was quite excited to be presented with an opportunity to take the scouts orienteering in an unfamiliar environment.

I chose the area of nature reserve between Mount Stranger and the Murrumbidgee River because its nice terrain (no tea tree!), but big enough for us to be able to do some long distance bearing navigation, which is a badge requirement some of the scouts are working on at the moment.

The first step was to scout out (pun intended) the area, and see what sort of options there are for controls and so forth. I'd walked through this area a bit before, as its close to my house, but I'd never bush bashed from the river to the trig before. The first attempt was a simple marking off of the gates along the bicentennial horse trail -- I knew we'd want to cross this somewhere for the long distance leg. That route looked like this:

Interactive map for this route.

The next recce was a wander along a candidate route with some geocaching thrown in for good luck. The geocaching turned out to be quite useful, because on the actual night with the scouts it meant I had a better handle of what was in the area, so when a couple of girls started losing interest I could say stuff like "Did I forget to mention there's an awesome tree house just over there?".

Interactive map for this route.

With that in mind, I then just started slogging out a route -- the long distance leg turned out to be the hardest part here. I wanted to avoid fence crossings as much as possible, and this whole area is littered with barbed wire fences. I think I redid that leg four times before I found a route that I was happy with, which was ironically the first one I'd tried.

Interactive map for this route.

Job done! Now I only needed to walk this route three more times! The first walk was to lay out the orienteering markers before the scouts attacked the course:

Interactive map for this route.

...and then actually doing the course with some scouts...

Interactive map for this route.

Comparing the two maps, I don't think they did too bad to be honest. There's definitely potential here for more navigation practise, but I think the key there is that practise makes perfect. There shall be more hiking and orienteering in our future! The final walk was just collecting the markers after the event, which I will skip here.

I put a fair bit of effort into this course, so I'd like to see it used more than once. To that end, I am going to put the documentation online for others to see and use. If you'd like help running this course, drop me a line at and I'd be happy to help.

Tags for this post: scouts orienteering navex


Syndicated 2015-11-08 15:40:00 from : Mikal, a geek from Canberra living in Silicon Valley (no blather posts)

Halo: The Fall of Reach

ISBN: 0765367297
As someone who doesn't play computer games and has never played a Halo game, I find myself in the strange position of having read a Halo book. This book is the first in the chronological lineage, and explains the history of the Spartan program which produced the Master Chief. I decided to read this after accidentally watching a Halo mini-movie on Netflix with a sick baby, and deciding it wasn't totally terrible.

The book is actually ok to my surprise. Its competently written, and on par with much of the other combat fiction I've read. It certainly doesn't feel like its a tie in to a game. I would have liked this book to cover more of the moral issues around the back story to the Spartan program, but those were only briefly considered. Then again, I like a good shoot 'em up as much as the next guy and perhaps that would have been too boring. Overall I enjoyed it and think I might have to read more in this universe.

Tags for this post: book eric_nylund combat halo engineered_human cranial_computer personal_ai aliens
Related posts: The Last Colony ; The End of All Things; The Human Division; Old Man's War ; The Ghost Brigades ; Old Man's War (2)


Syndicated 2015-11-02 02:50:00 from : Mikal, a geek from Canberra living in Silicon Valley (no blather posts)

CBC Navigation Course

This was the GPS followup to the previous map and compass navigation exercise. A really nice walk, apart from crazy horse lady. The walk also included another visit to Forster trig. I'm not sure if its the time of year or the direction of approach, but this ascent was much nicer than my previous one, we seemed to avoid most of the prickly things. It would be interesting to recce the other side of the hill and see if I just got unlucky last time, or misread the contours.


Interactive map for this route.

Tags for this post: blog pictures 20151010 photo canberra bushwalk trig_point
Related posts: Goodwin trig; Big Monks; Narrabundah trig and 16 geocaches; Cooleman and Arawang Trigs; One Tree and Painter; A walk around Mount Stranger


Syndicated 2015-10-16 03:30:00 from : Mikal, a geek from Canberra living in Silicon Valley (no blather posts)

Geocaching at the base of Mount Ainslie

I have a bit of a backlog of posts about recent walks which I am working through. Last week I found myself in Ainslie for an appointment which ended at lunch time, so I figured I'd go for a walk. There is a series of geocaches near Campbell Park West (a set of office buildings for non-Canberrans), so off I went.

The cache series was nice, but the most exciting part of the walking in this area was all the unexploded ordinance (UXO) warnings. I'm sure the area is totally safe, as many people walk through it each day, but it certainly adds an air of adventure to the walk.

You can find a list of the UXO reports for the ACT on the Department of Defence website, I must say that its not very impressive that the Department has contaminated so many sites around Australia without remediating them -- there are heaps in New South Wales for example. The ACT gets off relatively lightly with only three contaminated sites.

Its also interesting to note that a suburb very close to me was used as a bombing practise range in World War Two. I'm not aware of anyone in my circle who knew that.

Anyway. Nice terrain, nice caches, lots of fun. I'd say this would be a good walk for cubs, but I am sure the risk management paperwork for a walk in a UXO are is complicated.


Interactive map for this route.

Tags for this post: blog pictures 20151009 photo canberra bushwalk


Syndicated 2015-10-15 16:40:00 from : Mikal, a geek from Canberra living in Silicon Valley (no blather posts)

Lunchtime geocaching

So, I didn't get to sleep last night until 4:30am because of a combination of work meetings and small children, so today was a pretty weird day for me. I was having a lot of trouble concentrating at lunch time, so I decided a walk was the least worst thing I could do with my time. I decided to knock off some of the few remaining geocaches in southern Tuggeranong that i haven't found yet.

This walk was odd -- it started and ended in a little bit of Theodore they never got around to actually building, and I can't find any documentation online about why. It then proceeded through a nice little green strip that has more than its share of rubbish dumped, Cleanup Australia needs to do a visit here! Then there were the Aboriginal axe grinding grooves (read more) just kind of in the middle of the green strip with no informational signage or anything. Finally, a geocache at an abandoned look out, which would have been much nicer if it wasn't being used as an unofficial dump now.

That said, a nice little walk, but I have no real desire to revisit this one any time soon.


Interactive map for this route.

Tags for this post: blog pictures 20151007 photo canberra bushwalk


Syndicated 2015-10-07 00:58:00 from : Mikal, a geek from Canberra living in Silicon Valley (no blather posts)

A searchable database of walk waypoints

Over the last year I've become increasingly interested in bush walking, especially around the ACT. It quickly became evident that John Evan's site is an incredibly valuable resource, especially if you're interested in trig points or border markers.

However, I do most of my early walk planning and visualization in Google Earth before moving to Garmin Basecamp to generate walkable maps. I wanted a way to hook John's database of GPS logs into Google Earth, so that I could plan walks more effectively. For example, John often marks gates in fences, underpasses under major roads, and good routes through scrub in his GPS tracks.

After a fair bit of playing, I ended up with this KML file which helps me do those things. Its basically magic -- the file is just a link to a search engine which has a database of GPS waypoints based off walks John and I have logged. These are then rendered in Google Earth as if they were in a static KML file. You can also download the search results as KML for editing and so forth as well.

So, I'd be interested in other people's thoughts on if this is a useful thing. I'd also be very interested in other donated GPS logs of walks and bike rides around Canberra, especially if they have waypoints marked for interesting things. If you have any comments at all, please email me at

Tags for this post: walks gps search google earth
Related posts: HP iPaq GPS FA256A; MelbourneIT are into search engine optimisation?; Historical revisionism; Searching for a technorati search plug in for Mozilla Firefox; Well, that's Google blog search live then; Google book search


Syndicated 2015-10-01 14:59:00 from : Mikal, a geek from Canberra living in Silicon Valley (no blather posts)

Garran green strip

When I was a teenager my best mate lived in a house which backs onto this smallish reserve and we used to walk his dog here heaps. I had a few spare moments yesterday, so I was keen to do a quick explore and see what its like now. The short answer is that its still nice -- good terrain, nice mature trees, and a few geocaches. I think this one would be a good walk for cubs.


Interactive map for this route.

Tags for this post: blog pictures 20151001 photo canberra bushwalk


Syndicated 2015-10-01 14:35:00 from : Mikal, a geek from Canberra living in Silicon Valley (no blather posts)

Wandering around Curtin

I decided to go on a little walk on the way home from a work lunch and I don't regret it. This is a nice area, which I was exploring for geocaches. I probably wouldn't have come here at all, but it was the second part of the "Trees of Curtin" walk from Best Bush, Town and Village Walks in and around the ACT that I had done the first half of ages ago.

I am glad I came back for the second half -- to be honest I was pretty bored with the first half (a bike path beside a major road mostly), whereas this is much more like walking around in nature. The terrain is nice, no thistles, and plenty of horses. A nice afternoon walk overall.

Now back to reviewing Mitaka specs.


Interactive map for this route.

Tags for this post: blog pictures 20150930 photo canberra bushwalk
Related posts: Goodwin trig; Big Monks; Geocaching; Confessions of a middle aged orienteering marker; A quick walk through Curtin; Narrabundah trig and 16 geocaches


Syndicated 2015-09-29 23:23:00 from : Mikal, a geek from Canberra living in Silicon Valley (no blather posts)

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