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The green, green Grampians

After our obligatory Melbourne food-coffee-shop-art fest, the three of us bundled into the car and meandered our way to the Grampians via the picturesque Great Ocean Road, Australia’s answer to Big Sur.

I recently came across the Japanese term shinrin-yoku, literally “forest bathing”. It refers to the recommended practice of visiting the forest for health benefits, both physical and mental. Nothing could be truer and articulates so perfectly the effect even a short trip out of the city does to us. The sharp fresh air, the quiet punctuated by only the gentle sounds of nature, letting your eyes settle on wide open spaces and distant horizons. It’s interesting that out there, one can experience true silence and true darkness, perhaps giving our senses the natural rest they need.

Ironically I write this whilst staring at my laptop screen in a bustling cafe, bass-heavy Lauryn Hill blasting from a speaker into my left ear, cars whizzing by on my right, and the barista is doing that thing they do where they bash equipment together really loudly for some reason or other. (Someone help me out here – what are they doing?)

But this is the reality of our everyday. So maybe tree-hugging shouldn’t be a term reserved for altruistic environmentalists alone, it might do us all some good. I’m convinced it does.

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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.

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