Responsible Travel

The time we spent in California’s national parks was the most time we’ve ever spent enjoying the outdoors together. It was a wonderful change to spending our time in bustling cities, and we found that we loved hiking and exploring together. The American national park service is wonderful. They offer lots of in depth information and very successfully make these parks accessible to everyone, while still maintaining the wild and untouched nature of the parks. Unfortunately there are always people who feel that they can ignore the guidelines put in place to keep themselves and the park safe. We saw this multiple times in California, we’ve seen it here in Australia and we see it happening around the world in news reports. The people engaging in these dangerous and often illegal activities are ignoring our responsibility as traveller’s to do no harm in the places we visit. 

People put these ancient trees at risk

When we were in Sequoia national park we saw the biggest tree in the world, the General Sherman tree. The national park service have provided a walkway to allow people to view this huge and ancient tree without damaging its shallow root system. But while we were there one couple decided to jump over the fence and get a picture hugging the tree. It’s so sad that getting the perfect Instagram photo is more important than preserving these natural beauties for generations to come. Worse than this were the carvings covering the tree. It’s difficult to understand how someone could visit Sequoia and think that the park could be somehow improved by having their name scrawled everywhere.

Many preventable deaths occur in Yosemite

Respecting our environment is also important for protecting ourselves. When we underestimate our environment we fail to prepare for the potential dangers that we can encounter in the wild. It’s important to respect the fact that enjoying nature comes with its own risks. When you enter bear country you seal your food, when you visit the desert you stay hydrated, when you swim in the sea you stay weary of the tides. Recently four young Canadian men risked their lives by stepping off the boardwalk at a hot spring in Yellowstone national park. They posted videos of their activities online and a warrant has subsequently been issued for their arrest. They got off lucky-last week a man died after falling in to a hot spring in the park. So many deaths (of both people and animals) have occurred around the world in national parks and other wilderness areas that could have been easily prevented by following the rules. These rules may be restrictive, and I admit that a part of me also wanted a picture hugging the biggest tree in the world. But I believe it’s important to acknowledge that travelling comes with responsibilities. Because how can we justify travelling the world if we’re going to leave a wave of destruction behind us? 

Despite signs saying not to climb the pinnacles, many people do

Sequoia National Park- A Winter Wonderland

After spending a star studded night in Death Valley it was time to continue on to Sequoia national park! This park contains the biggest tree in the world and visiting in February was like entering a winter wonderland. 


Unfortunately these beautiful snowy views have their downside-most of the roads were closed and their was no way to enter the connected park, Kings Canyon national park. It’s a legal requirement to carry snow chains in the park during the winter months! Now, on the map Sequoia seems right next door to Death Valley…. But this is deceiving. 


In reality there are no roads that connect Death Valley’s west side with Sequoia’s East side. So the seemingly short trip takes about 5 hours. But don’t let that deter you! It’s a beautiful drive and a beautiful destination. 


So what could we see in Sequoia? Really just a small fraction of what the park has to offer. We explored the beautiful snow play area where you can sled to your hearts content. 


We saw the General Sherman tree and hiked the surrounding area. 


We found hidden waterfalls and learned about the Native Americans that once called the park home.


 And while the road to Moro Rock was closed we could admire it from a distance. 


 But despite the closures we had a wonderful day in Sequoia! I can only imagine how much there is to do in this park when all of it is open. 

Pinnacles Road Trip

Recently we took a weekend road trip north of Perth as far as Jurien Bay via the Indian Ocean Drive. Neither of us had been this far north before (I know, it’s shameful. But that’s why we’re so determined to start doing more domestic travel!) First stop on the trip was Yanchep national park! This beautiful green park is home to koalas,kangaroos, and some great bush trails. Entrance is $12 per car and this covers you for any other parks you visit that day. Yanchep is full of caves and you can tour the Crystal Cave for an additional fee, though we didn’t have time this trip. 

Spot the Koala!

Our new friend Skippy

 

Bush Trail

As we continued North the surrounding area became dense with bush land. At times we could see the coast line, but not as much as you would expect from a road named the Indian Ocean drive. There are some great lookout spots along the way though. 

When we were almost halfway to Nambung national park-more widely known as the pinnacles-we saw a big sign for “The Leaning Tower of Gingin.” We decided this sounded like something worth detouring for, so we headed inland towards Gingin! The land here was interesting and it looked like there’d been recent bushfires. When we got the the tower it turned out it was so observatory with a large lopsided towers that you can drop water balloons from! It also has a great view of the surrounding bush land as far as the coast. It was $6 each to go to the top of the tower, which I think is pretty pricey but it was good fun and we enjoyed the view. 

The view from the tower

 

Finally we reached the Pinnacles! I’ve wanted to visit here for a very long time, and it didn’t let me down. The landscape here is incredibly cool. The oddly shaped limestone pinnacles rise from the plains of yellow sand in a way that seems almost alien. This desert terrain could easily feature in a sci fi movie or be the latest image from a Mars drone. It was a surreal experience to feel as if we were stepping into a foreign world, and it was certainly a fun adventure. We did both the pinnacles drive (suitable for two wheel drive cars) and the walk, which was a short 1.5 km loop. I definitely recommend doing the walk as the you get a much better feel for the place when you get out of your car and experience the desert up close. 

The Pinnacles Desert


That night we stayed in the Pinnacles holiday park. It was $30 for the night in an unpowered campsite. The location is good and right by the beach. Our plan was to head to Jurien bay in the morning and get breakfast on the jetty, but unfortunately we woke up to some torrential rain! So after taking down our tent in record breaking time we began making our way South to Lancelin. By the time we got here the rain had stopped for just long enough for us to climb up the Lancelin sand dunes. This towering inland dune system makes you feel as if you’re in Egypt, and it would be a great place to visit with a four wheel drive! We had a delicious budget breakfast at the Lancelin bakery and then drove back to Perth where we spent the rest of the afternoon. This trip made for a great weekend and would also be a good day trip from Perth if you’re able to squeeze things in!

The Sand Dunes

Exploring Death Valley 

Artist’s Pallette

Arriving in Death Valley as an uncharacteristic super bloom was just beginning was a strange shattering of our expectations. This place that in my mind was a barren land where nothing thrived was instead teeming with life. Rare flowers whose seeds had lain dormant for years were sprouting everywhere, their vibrant colours peppering the otherwise drab landscape. In all honesty my knowledge about Death Valley before we arrived was limited. I’d seen pictures of Artist’s pallet and the infamous race track, but mostly all that came to mind was a bull skull laying in sand (you know the photo I’m talking about). In reality Death Valley was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. This crazy land of extremes- the hottest, driest place on earth, the lowest place in North America-was also a place of many contradictions. The landscape is difficult to live off-that is undeniable- but so many organisms call this place home. Life can blossom here. Far from the unattractive karst park I had expected, Death Valley is full of mountains, multi coloured rock formations, rolling sand dunes, salt flats, historical dwellings, and-of course- thousands of flowers. The night skies here are worthy of an entire blog post of their own. I could have spent weeks exploring- and I hope some day I will.  
 

Zabriskie Point

  
We entered Death Valley through the Death Valley junction entrance. Armed with the free map and newspaper that you should always get at each national park, we headed down the wide open road into this beautiful wilderness. At this point we foolishly thought we could drive though Death Valley and onto the next spot in a day, but as soon as we reached the Zabriskie point look out I instantly knew we’d be spending the night here. The rolling mountains laid out before us were so inviting. I felt we could happily explore them for days. But that was just the first spot we stopped at in this diverse valley. Every other hike was so different, and everything was strikingly beautiful and awe inspiring in its own way. I’ll be making another post about each hike we did soon, but this is just a quick reflection on the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. If you decide to go there, give yourself time. Trust me when I say you’ll need plenty of it. 

Rear View Mirror Views

Walpole- Giants, long drives and not so mountainous mountains

As part of our resolution to see more of beautiful Western Australia we decided to spend Easter Monday discovering some of Walpole. I have never been before and Alex has only seen a small part of it. Walpole is part of the Great Southern region of WA and is home to many forests, national parks and a beautiful coastline (though most of the coast is accessible only via four wheel drive). The drive to Walpole from Bunbury is 3-3.5 hours and passes through several small towns, many of which seemed like they’d be worth visiting on a more leisurely weekend trip. But this was a day trip and we had lots of things to see! We were unusually prepared and had a picnic packed the night before and were able to leave the house by 7 am! My little sister Molly joined us on this trip too. 
 

Walpole’s beautiful forests

 

Our first stop on the drive was Diamond tree between Manjimup and Walpole off the South western highway. It’s well sign posted so it’s hard to miss. This is part of a network of trees which were historically used to spot bushfires in the area. The Diamond tree is 52 metres high and you can climb to the cabin on the top via metal spikes inserted in the tree trunk. Neither me or Alex were quite able to reach the top but fortunately Molly could be our Guinea pig and she got there and took some photos for us! Upon reaching the bottom she asked “can I go again?” 

 

Molly and Alex ascending the Diamond Tree

 
The diamond tree also has a short 400 metre loop trail that points out some local flora and has some more little trees to climb. There are also flush toilets, so it’s a really luxurious spot! 😉

 

The view from the top

 
After the Diamond Tree we went directly to Walpole’s Tree Top walk in the Valley of the Giants. This is a 40 metre high walkway among a forest of giant tingle trees. There is a fee for entrance-$19 per adult and $9.50 per child. (Families can avail of the family pass for $47.50) The walk is wheel chair friendly and is 600 metres round trip. Walking through the canopy of trees from this height was very cool and offered a different perspective on the Forrest. Afterwards you can do a ground walk called the Ancient Empire walk and the different view the two walks provided was a cool comparison. It is worth noting that the walk way does shake and wobble and one lady had to get off as it made her feel dizzy. Over all the treetop walk was pretty cool and definitely worth visiting but I personally felt it was a tad overpriced for such a short walk. 

 

Walking amongst the giants

 
From the Valley of the Giants we made our way to Mount Frankland. This granite peak is located in amount Frankland national park. The parks has many entrances so it can be confusing to figure out the way to go, but the best access point isn’t via the park at all- it’s down North Walpole road off the South Westen highway. The last section of this road is unsealed but is accessible to two wheel drives-though I probably wouldn’t drive it in a Porsche! 

 

The Ancient Empire walk

 The hike to the top of Mount Frankland is relatively short at just 600 metres each way, but it contains over 300 steep steps and a ladder. The steps were a bit exhausting especially in the warm weather, but I would think that most people with a moderate level of fitness could do this hike in under an hour. The view from the top is beautiful- miles of forest and bush land , the ocean in the distance, and the surrounding mountains such as bluff knoll and mount Roe. As usual the hike was insignificant to Molly and her boundless energy. “That wasn’t a real mountain.” I think she was expecting ice picks and a 90 degree drop! I really enjoyed this hike and I think it’s definitely worth doing if you’re in the area. I found it more enjoyable than the treetop walk. 

 

The view from Mt Frankland

 
I was seriously impressed with all that Walpole had to offer. There are so many national parks and reserves in the area. I really hope that next time we visit we can take the whole weekend, and maybe even rent a four wheel drive to explore the beautiful coast line. 

We made it!