Sydney, Melbourne, Tasmania

"We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love... and then we return home." - Australian Aboriginal saying

G’Day Mates!!

This three week trip was off the charts of fun and fulfilled the full spectrum of cultural and adventure fantasies. It was Gerry’s first experience in the land down under and my second. Of course Australia is so vast and diverse, three weeks is not nearly enough time. We are already planning a return trip to meet up with wonderful new friends “Bong” and “Griz" from Adelaide.
We found excellent vibe in all the locations we explored. The people were happy, friendly and relaxed, a multicultural mix. 
I think that the feature that unites Australians is diversity.  
It was so refreshing to watch news that reported simply news and not biased editorials like we get in the USA.

Sydney was exuberant, sassy and stacks of fun, outrageously good looking, like sexy Bondi Beach.  The fine dining was excellent.
I discovered White Rabbit Beer and fell in love.  We took a train for 2 hours and hiked in the brilliant Blue Mountains. We took along a Japanese woman, who spoke little English. She looked lost on the street and she said “ Blue Mountain”? to Gerry, close to the train station. Her name was Mari and she had a wonderful time and glowed with pleasure at the creeks and waterfalls. She was in her 60s but kept up with us on 3 difficult hikes in and out of canyons.

 I just received a  nice note from her daughter, Sayaka, thanking us for our kindness. It was Mari, that was the kind gentle person! We loved the time we shared with this beautiful human being.

 This area reminded me of the magnificent Mogollon Rim escarpment here in northern Arizona.

Melbourne was artsy and dynamic, bubbling with global culture. The city looooves to shop. Our hotel was right in the City Center.

The Great Ocean Road is a must side trip from Melbourne. It curves from Torquay to Warrnambool and the views rival Big Sur and California’s Highway 1. It is a unique blend of bush, beach, rock and saltwater.

Witnessing the world’s smallest and cutest penguins emerge from the sea on Phillip Island just after sunset and waddle their way to their land based nests  is a life changing experience. 

Going to Tasmania is truly "living the dream.” It is simply dazzling and has it all:  ….“Tassie”  has vast uninhabited slabs of wilderness where we hiked some toughies on the Overland. Gerry was awesome!! We saw bountiful wildlife…wallabies, kangaroos, koalas, wombats, tas devils and on and on.

 We loved the gourmet food and wine and thriving arts scene in Hobart, particularly the MONA Museum, quite provocative and contemporary. It requires an open mind to enjoy.
From Hobart we “ enjoyed” a white knuckle drive on a winding mountain road for five hours to the seaside village of Strahan and stayed at a fabulous B & B and hiked in a nearby rainforest. We had a killer dinner, one of the best ever, at a local establishment.
From Strahan we had another mountain drive to Cradle Mountain National Park and stayed at a cozy cabin at the Pepper Lodge.
For four days we hiked extraordinary trails and some off trails in the snow. This is where we met Bong and Griz and had dinner with them each night and plenty of White Rabbits. Bong led us on a really difficult route one day and we were treated to his in depth  interpretive knowledge. 

We had to get up very early for a drive to Launceston airport on a dark, icy mountain road. Of course this is the opposite side of the road and a bit of a challenge considering all the animals were active, crossing the road at that time in the morning. Hitting a wombat  or Kangaroo would do serious damage and injury, but we focused and grinded it through, not our favorite part of the trip.

Man behaving Badly:

On the trip back to LA, the flight attendant with the second best legs in the world (Gerry numero uno) called me a “Cheeky Bugger” because I kept requesting more free drinks.  Hey, I needed them to go to sleep!!

Next up-Chicago-(Wrigley) and Cleveland (R & R Hall of Fame)

Coyote Gulch Grand Staircase Escalante

"Best of all, the Escalante country belongs to us. It lies entirely in the public domain, and is therefore the property not of land and cattle companies, not of oil and mining corporations, not of Utah State Highway Department or any Utah Chamber of Commerce, but of all Americans. Its our country. Or should be. It’s supposed to be."
Edward Abbey 1971

The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is a high rugged and remote region. It was the last place in the continental United States to be mapped. The natural beauty of  Coyote Gulch defies human perspective. Our group was blown away by the texture of this unspoiled landscape. We explored several superlative side canyons, slot like tributaries, and our eyes were feasted by the sights of several arches, a massive natural bridge, waterfalls and towering walls draped with variegated varnish. An emerald pool was extraordinary. 

Southern Utah and Northern Arizona have the greatest canyon systems in the world and I have been fortunate to be able to explore so many of them, however….
Coyote Gulch is the cream of the crop and the canyon that all others in southern Utah are compared. This has been on my radar for many years and we were finally able to put together a trip with a couple of the old gang and a couple of other great guys and explorers.
This was beauty beyond comprehension….but……we had to work for it. 
It was a 8 hour drive to the hamlet of Escalante where we spent the first night in a motel and had a fun evening at a local restaurant that served a nice variety of beers, strong beers!

The next morning we drove about 50 miles on primarily the Hole in the Rock back road to the Forty Mile Ridge trailhead and  lowered our packs and squeezed down the Crack-in -the Wall.
We then had a brutal 600 yards of hiking in deep sand before getting to the Gulch. From here it was smooth walking and wading. 
We camped under an overhang and happy hour started at 4. Dingo and Greg (Dingo’s brother in law) brought down hors d'oeuvres, margaritas, rum and other goodies…a backpacker’s dream!

The next day was absolutely fantastic!!  There were cottonwood groves that provided shade and sustenance. There were traces of those that came long before us…people whose spirits pervade the landscape.
It started to rain in the afternoon but we found another overhang to keep dry, and at four we had another round of happy hour and boy were we very happy!!

The next morning we hiked a couple of miles and left Coyote Gulch at Hurricane Wash and climbed out. We then navigated our way a few miles cross country through the desert to our vehicle that Dingo had shuttled to the Jacob Hamlin Trailhead. The navigation was spot on and we came out exactly where Dingo had parked.

On the road out we stopped at Peek-A-Boo and Spooky slot canyons and then started the long drive home at 2 in the afternoon.
This was an excellent  trip, well planned and executed by the trip leader Dingo Dawg. The camaraderie was off the charts. 
Thank you guys for the time we shared….Jake da Snake, Peter da Wild Goose, Dingo da Dawg and Greg.