“Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”
― Henry David Thoreau
1. Natural Bridge National Park – Queensland Australia
Keep your mouth shut. Especially while hiking, walking on the beach or driving with the windows down. You may not think there are a lot of bugs, but they will find their way into your mouth no matter what. This also applies to the amount of negative chatter you allow your brain to have while you are hiking. Keep your inside-your-brain-mouth shut. It’s easy to allow ourselves to over think when we hike, there is not much else to keep your brain busy, so thoughts start to overtake our bodies. We get jealous that someone is in better shape, or has better gear. We feel self-conscious that other people are looking at us or judging us for our hiking habits. We get nervous that there is something in the bush that will jump out and eat us. Nonsense. You are in great shape, no one is judging you and whatever jumps out of the bush will be handled appropriately when the time comes. Turn off the noisy brain chatter and listen to the land. Hear the birds chirping and the creek flowing. Count your steps or repeat a mantra. Switch what could be a spiraling down into negativity into a meditation to move forward.
2. Springbrook National Park Mt Cougal Section/Currumbin Valley Rock Pools – Queensland Australia
Always bring a swimsuit and a rain jacket. I have had this rule for a while, ever since living in Colorado, where you sometimes run across water without expecting it. Whether it be in the ground or falling from the sky, you just never know. Although the glacier runoff in the rock pools was bone chilling, I was still prepared with my swimsuit and was able to take a quick dip in a beautiful place. There was one time in New Zealand that I forgot my own rule and left the house without a rain jacket, it downpoured and I got soaked. I arrived home and realized that I had my umbrella with me the whole time.
3. The Great North Walk – Berowra Valley National Park – New South Wales Australia
Know where you are. Know where you’re going. Know where you’ve been. Knowing where you are in the sense of understanding what you are likely to run into. Are you in a region where bears and mountain lions are prevalent? Or are you more likely to run into a rattlesnake or scorpion? Should you be stomping your feet as you walk, or is the most likely critter you’ll encounter a squirrel? These things are important so that you know what to look out for, what to expect and how to mitigate these situations. Learn before you start to hike; Google isn’t going to help you during a bear attack, but it can save your life before one. Sometimes you don’t always have an idea of where you are going. I usually don’t when I hike. I frequently find a trailhead and then choose which way to go upon arriving. This is where the last one comes in handy, know where you’ve been. You don’t need to know which way you are going, so long as you can back track and find your way back to the car park. I only got lost twice on this track, but I knew within 2 minutes of going off my route that I didn’t recognize it anymore, and backtracked my way to a fork to go the other way. Recognizing your surroundings and noting memorable points can be as easy as seeing a feather on the ground and thinking “oh that’s neat”, or remembering the difficult parts of the track where you may have had to think of your footing a bit. Whatever you need to do, leave a hypothetical bread crumb trail. Or you can be like some guy I saw earlier, and leave a literal trail of breadcrumbs, but chances are the birds will eat it before you make it back to the trailhead, so keep your eyes peeled.
4. Blue Mountains National Park – New South Wales Australia
What goes down must come back up. Seems simple right? You wouldn’t believe the number of people I heard grumbling that they had to walk up all these stairs to get back to the top. You walked down them, what did you expect?! If I had a choice of walking up then coming back down, that would be my ideal situation. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way and you have to go down first. I knew within the first 20 minutes of my hike that the way back would be much more difficult than the way out. It kicked my butt, but its easier when you expect it. It is pretty safe to assume that any hike that has the word “staircase” in it, is most likely going to have a lot of stairs, but most trails are graded. Blue Mountains NP has great signage and grading, so take advantage of the warnings when they are available. If you have been going downhill for a while and are beginning to get tired, it’s probably best to turn around and head back. Going uphill takes about 1.7 times longer than going downhill. I first learned this hiking fourteeners in Colorado. It would take about 5 hours to summit, then 3 hours to get back to the car.
5. Watson’s Bay/South Head – Sydney, New South Wales Australia
Stay on the path, but take the road less traveled. There are a lot of reasons to follow the rules when hiking. You are not an exception. These signs are here for a reason. It is usually to protect the environment from trampling down flora and fauna and to keep maintenance costs low so that parks and car parks are free. The number of tourists that don’t respect the land they tramp on is too damn high. I witnessed the following acts of environmental destruction while hiking in Australia:
Woman taking her dog on a track clearly marked “no dogs allowed, penalties exceed $5500”. When confronted on the situation she said “he isn’t harming anyone.”
Couple swinging from vines at Natural Bridge, where there is extensive habitat restoration due to years of misuse by the public. When confronted they said “yeah, but its a great Instagram photo.”
Family leaving a bag of trash next to the toilets where there was a sign not 10 feet away stating “please take rubbish with you, no bins provided”. When confronted they stated “someone cleans the toilets daily, they will find it and can throw it away then.”
And my favorite ever environmental destruction story is from Boulder, Colorado. I stopped a man as he was running down the side of a mountain, hopping over the switchbacks as he ran through the trees, in sandals nonetheless. I asked him why he thought it was ok to stray from the trail in such a destructible environment. It isn’t easy to get things to grow in this arid region, and once a plant is ripped up, it is usually not replaced for years. He stated “I am an earth child, and therefore don’t believe in man-made trails.” HAH! If you were an earth child, you would know that Mother Nature needs us to stay on the man-made trails to protect the beauty and wilderness around us.
However, when given the option between the main trail and a side trail with fewer people, take the side trail. Don’t follow the pack just because you are afraid what you will miss. Sometimes a short jaunt off the main drag will take you to a beautiful hidden nude beach where you can see some beautiful rock formations and some guys junk in a banana hammock that’s made to look like an elephant (picture not provided).
Travel Wisely Friends
Blue Mountains National Park