Monday, July 7, 2014

hiking with Uncle Andrew

More vacation stuff -- this will continue to drip out in completely random order as the whim strikes us.

For our last full day in Australia, we went on a hike with Andrew up in the Blue Mountains near Katoomba, east of Sydney.  I was encouraged on the way to the trailhead that we drove right past the tourist stop at "Scenic World" and hared off down a dirt road to find our starting point at the Golden Staircase trailhead.  After being in the city for a few days, the need for things like dirt roads starts to take over.  Our destination was a rock formation called the Ruined Castle.

Going into it, I knew nothing other than that the name sounded promising.

Immediately past the signboard, the trail immediately plunged 600 feet down, with an average gradient of something like -35%.  Despite being tacked on the side of the cliff, the trail was mostly stair-stepped, and was quite reasonable to navigate.

And there were views

Big, open huge sky views.
After the first plummet, the trail flattened out, countering through some pretty lush vegetation.  The most interesting part was all the bird noises, including one stretch that seemed to be filled with bellbirds chirping their approximately uniform single pitch in surround sound from all directions.  Couldn't see them at all, but the aural effect was very cool.  Sadly my voice recorder chose that moment to run out of juice.

If you don't know what they sound like, this youtube video has some, though in real life it is a much more ethereal eerie sound environment with the chirps ringing from all directions.

Oddly, though this stretch was easy hiking, Nim got hungry and turned into grumpy kid.  She now sports a lovely black toenail acquired when she tripped over her own foot trying to run away from her  excessively cheerful parents.

Oooh, black toenail.  She's very proud of it.  It matches the black eye she got on the 4th of July when she threw a bottle opener up in the air in such a manner that it came down and hit her on the eyebrow.    these things just happen to 11-year-olds.  But I digress.

While she was grumpy, I found a tree that made a nice chair.
Eventually, we headed straight uphill for a couple hundred feet, followed the crest of the ridge, and came out on a vertiginous rock formation with spectacular views in all directions.  What you can't see in the pictures below is the crazy wind that came up, adding to the challenge of the rock scramble.

Our intrepid photographer
I could have played on the spires of rock here for hours, or we could have continued the hike to the next pinnacle of Mt. Solitary, but as we ate our lunch on the outcrop at the Ruined Castle and Nim cheered up, the wind continued to pick up and the sky completely clouded over.  Since there was some chance of rain in the forecast for the afternoon, we decided to head back towards the car.  Good choice, too, as the sprinkles started to fall at about the point we started back up the Golden Staircase.  Hard to believe given the nice weather at the start, but a good adventure nonetheless.

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