Joshua Tree – Ryan Mountain

 

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Whilst I’m sitting here listening to the rain fall against my window, heater on, cup of tea in hand, dreams of the desert call to me.

One of the most highly anticipated stops along our road trip was none other than the iconic Joshua Tree National Park. We said a reluctant goodbye to our beautiful room at Ace Hotel Palm Springs, vowing to return one day, and sprang into our car, heading on to our next destination. We had a carefully laid out plan. Since we were travelling light(ish), we were going to check out the town, grab some supplies and hire a tent from Joshua Tree Outfitters before heading into the park to bags a campsite and squeeze in a quick hike.

One unforeseen problem – it was Wednesday. And why was that a biiiiiiig problem? Joshua Tree Outfitters don’t open on Wednesdays. And no one else in the tiny town hired out camp equipment. Stride-broken and crestfallen we commiserated our sad fate together in the car. We were contemplating sleeping out in the open (in rattle snake country) or at least in our car, when we went and did what non-delirious totally sensible people would do.

We bought a tent. That’s right, we bought a tent.

Cue carefree, jangly guitar road trip music again!

Driving into the park is like entering another world. Being from Australia, we’re no strangers to desert landscapes but we’d never seen anything like this. I distinctly remember letting out an involuntary, “Woooooah…” when we first caught sight of it. Dry, hulking mountains look down upon you and the numerous oddly shaped Joshua trees dominate your view for miles and miles.

Just a quick look at the nitty gritty for those keen to visit. Joshua Tree National Park is an extremely well-tended and well-loved park with great facilities for campers. You can traverse it with a regular car as all the necessary access roads are sealed and the campsites are pristinely clean. There are plenty of drop toilets, but no running water or electricity (I think there are one or two specific sites that do have these if you need them).

We found our perfect spot at the Jumbo Rocks Campground and pitched our tent quick smart in order to have enough time to embark on a hike up Ryan Mountain. Ryan Mountain is a 3 mile there-and-back hike that ascends 1070 feet (325 metres). Being crazy and highly excited noobs we set out in the middle of the afternoon whilst the sun baked down on us but we made do with plenty of water and in that heat even the ridiculously smallest of shrubs shed the most luxurious shade. The hike is not too long in terms of distance but it does ascend quite rapidly with very few flat spots for respite.

We were rewarded above and beyond our expectations and efforts. Due to the elevation, you get the most incredible views of the park from above, its mountains and unusual rock formations. Enduring the afternoon sun meant that we made it to the peak as the sun was beginning to set behind distant mountains – we were speechless for a while. I think it was just that beautiful and we were just that pooped. The golden hour in this part of the world during Fall lasts a long time but be sure to bring torches to ensure that your descent is safe.

The South-West

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Last long weekend we contemplated two choices. Spend the time doing some much needed home DIY and tidying? Or go coastal exploring? You can see which option won out – the irresponsible but equally necessary choice! We took the opportunity to have a much needed break from the daily grind and wound our way around Dunsborough and the rocky coastline that surrounds the South-West.

The sunny weather and crisp ocean air cleared the stress and drear from our minds as we scrambled intrepidly across coastal paths and up rocky ways. The cool nights were spent hunkering down with mugs of warm tea, too many Snickers bars and a good read. The highlights? Climbing Castle Rock and watching the sun set over Sugarloaf from atop a rocky perch.

Grand Canyon and Monument Valley

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About a month ago now, I went adventuring – with my parents! And I left poor Jinn at home. Yes, I know I know, most of you are wondering what on earth possessed me and there were indeed some moments I asked myself the same. Being of the incredibly strong, stoic and self-sacrificing species that is commonly known as “the migrant parent” (holler if you know what I mean), my folks have never travelled a great deal, choosing to pour all their money and resources into funding my and my brothers’ education. I’d long promised to take them somewhere different, somewhere exciting, and these were a couple of our favourite stops.

The Grand Canyon is one of those places of such vastness and great age that you can’t help but see yourself and your place in this gigantic world with renewed perspective. Discovering that the beautiful natural phenomenon was created out of countless layers of soil laid over millions of years and then eroded and carved away by the Colorado River for millions more makes me realise that I’m barely a twinkle, a flash of a shooting star, across the face of this earth. And if that wasn’t enough self-contemplation to make me burst, we arrived to be welcomed by some rather inclement weather, causing me to bitterly rail against our tough luck. I was convinced that our trip was “ruined”! However the upshot was that mist, rain and unseasonal snow shrouded the iconic crags and knolls to create some truly spectacular sunrises, silencing my selfish complaints to a simple, awed “thank you”. (Props to Dad for getting up with me everyday in the subzero temperatures and pitch black dawn!)

Zipping down a few very picturesque highways to the border of Arizona and Utah into the heart of Navajo country, we made our way to the very different but equally striking Monument Valley, which was equal parts cultural experience as it was visual adventure. It’s no surprise that every western movie ever (plus probably every Jeep ad ever) was filmed right here. As we wound through the strangely shaped mesas and buttes, past herds of mustangs grazing and hear the unmistakable sound of coyotes howling in the distance you truly feel like you’re deep in another land. We spent the evening watching sunset’s dying light play shadow puppets with the unusual rock formations, and listening to the songs and stories of our local Navajo guide, Will Cowboy. (His real name, I kid you not.)

There was so much more I wish I could have seen and done, and after seeing these photos Jinn made me swear to return. There are worse promises I could make.

Ojai Rancho Inn

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Set in sunny, rustic California, Ojai Rancho Inn is a refurbished motor lodge that keeps its old charm but has also had a major update in style. The vintage Americana vibe and healthy dosages of cacti and succulents in small pots had us sighing at every turn and their shibori-dyed curtains had me dreaming of shibori-ing the bejeebers out of everything when I got home.

There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a bevvy or two on your private mini “porch”, at their onsite bar Chief’s Peak, or even poolside. Also nearby is the cheery town centre and the friendly hotel staff were more than happy to fill us in on their local favourites.

Although not yet on most people’s “to-do” list, we would heartily recommend including Ojai in your Californian itinerary, there was so much to like about the laid-back town. To find out more about our other Ojai highlights, read about Summer Camp (oh-so instagrammable store) and Four Leaf Wood Shop (covetable and functional wooden objects for the home).

Ojai Rancho Inn / 615 W. Ojai Ave, Ojai / hello@ojairanchoinn.com

Meet Jack – Four Leaf Wood Shop

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walnutfourleaffourleaf-8fourleaf-3Meet a local love of ours. Okay, when we say local, we mean local to the gorgeous Californian town of Ojai. Whilst researching our road trip route, Jinn fell hard for the vibe and creative spirit of the place which is also home to the insta-perfect store, Summer Camp, and the cooler than cool Ojai Rancho Inn. Subsequently discovering Jack’s work for Four Leaf Wood Shop made a visit to Ojai an absolute certainty.

Welcoming us into his home and studio, Jack, is an absolute dude. When we dropped by, his business was still in its infancy but his knack and affinity for woodwork was already apparent, the start of something big. He had recently escaped life in the fast lanes of Los Angeles for the slower pace of Ojai Valley and swapped a very different job for the creative and tactile work of a craftsman.

Jack’s work stands out from many and I think it’s because he approaches the object’s function with the eye of a fine artist or sculptor, creating very unique shapes whilst respecting the natural knots and lines of the natural wood. His pieces make the everyday work of cutting, scooping, stirring, tasting, a ritual and a pleasure.

See more of Jack’s masterpieces here. My personal favourite? His cake knives are surpassed by none in beauty, form and function – you’ll be baking cakes just so you can cut them.

Product photos by Jack Gerard.

Light, linen and leather

IMG_1846 IMG_1870 IMG_1872 IMG_6287IMG_6282Wearing – Me & Arrow linen shift, Mr Sparrow necklace, Belmore shoes

Introducing a new love in my life – Belmore. The quest for local, handcrafted goodness caused me to stumble upon Belmore’s Instagram feed and I was instantly smitten. Honest, no-fuss aesthetic meets fine, quality craftsmanship.

What makes Belmore even more unique is that their goods are manufactured in a 100-year old factory in Sydney from local full grain kangaroo leather to produce beautiful durable shoes and accessories with a life and story of their own.

Be sure to discover the rest of their range here. Fascinating facts about their factory, team and process can be found here.

P.S. They’re having a sale and shipping is free within Australia!

The Stirling Ranges

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Good golly, where has all that time gone…? In all honesty it’s been consumed by all-work but that doesn’t necessarily have to mean no-play, and the time certainly hasn’t been dull. Jinn has been knuckling down to smash the crap out of a few exams, and I’ve been settling into a new job after a very hectic and often stressful year. All the more reason to come back to this space and create and express.

So whaddaya know? Western Australia has mountains – real, bona fide, actual mountains. Well, mini ones by global standards.

Over the deliciously long four-day Christmas weekend, we made the split decision to go camping. Lured by the views promised from the top of Bluff Knoll and other peaks around the Stirling Ranges, we had been feeling an increasingly insistent desire to detach and go hiking – so off we went. It was the perfect idea, the campsites were peaceful and secluded whilst everyone did the family Christmas thing and the weather unseasonably and mercifully cool for summer.

That said, the trip was not without hitches. Keen to get up those peaks, in embarrassing noob fashion we found ourselves with desperately low levels of fuel right smack bang in the middle of the sprawling national park with the closest petrol stations closed and enjoying their Christmas barbies. And let’s not forget to mention a certain person falling down a waterfall on our way back home through Pemberton. (Not me.) Despite the dramas, a couple of spats, and a few heart-stopping near-death experiences, we had an incredible time and will definitely be getting ourselves down here again soon.

Recommendations? Of course you’ve got to do Bluff Knoll because it’s the climb, and the highest peak, and do believe people when they tell you it’s windy up top – pack an extra layer, preferably of the windproof, windbreaking kind. However, we’d recommend Mount Trio as it’s nestled amongst a bunch of other small mountains and provides magnificent views too. Be brave and don’t mind a bit of rock-scrambling. Sunset views are just breathtaking so remember to pack head-torches for your descent.

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