Backpacking the Big Sur

Ventana Wilderness

Pine Ridge Trail

I guess you could say Julia and I have the travel bug, bad. As soon as we returned home from Australia we just had to go backpacking the Ventana Wilderness, Pine Ridge Trail to the Barlow Flats campsite in the Big Sur. Well let’s face it life is very short so you’d best make the most of it while you can.

We stopped in Monterey Bay on our way down to the Big Sur and enjoyed the seals, seabirds, and sea otters here. This bay is a wonderful place and before us humans had arrived and polluted and fished it out, it must have been even more amazing. Once again, enjoy it while you can.

Next day we drove down the lovely highway one to the Big Sur Station where we began out two day backpack in to the redwood forest. This was supposed to be a practice hike for our mega backpacking trip on the Rye Lakes 40 mile loop in the Sierra Kings National Park in August. We wanted to test out our new 2 pound tent, our water filtration systems, and discover if we could hike 8 miles in a day with 40 pound packs on. We did indeed get to test all of these things and at the same time explore the Big Sur forest. Let’s say this was not one of the most beautiful hikes we’ve ever experienced, but it was enjoyable and all our tests were successful.

When we got home we found our permit to backpack the Sierra Kings National Park in August had been revoked due to wildfires in the area. This was a great disappointment to us both. However, we’ve substituted a two night three day backpacking trip in the Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe instead. Let’s hope there are no wildfires up there.

Destination Australia

North West Cape

Once again it’s time for Julia and me to travel the world. On this trip our goal is to voyage to the beautiful and very remote region of Australia’s North West Cape. It is over 10,000 miles from here in Oakland to Sal Salis camp on the lovely beaches of the Cape Range National Park in Western Australia. This beautiful and remote destination is our ultimate goal. Coincidentally, it is the same distance Julia and I flew when we made our circumnavigation of the continental United States in 2008 – except instead of taking three months to travel the distance will only take seven days.

The first leg of the journey leaves from Oakland and continues onto Honolulu. Here we’ll spend two nights and two sunshiny days soaking up the sun and recovering from being squeezed into undersized jet aircraft seats for 6 hours.

We’ll continue our excursion by traveling on a recycled-air airplane, hopeful our lungs don’t dry out too much from exposure to its extremely parched atmosphere, for hour 10 hours from Honolulu to Sydney. Fortunately, we’ll have two nights and days to recover from our ordeal in the wonderful metropolis of Sydney. We’ll take-in its gorgeous harbor and unique sights and prepare ourselves for another long flight.

The next leg of the expedition will have us flying high, for six hours, through the skies of Australia from Sydney to sunny Perth – the capital city of Western Australia. Here we’ll spend another two nights recovering from modern air travel with its dehydration, poor circulation, and circadian clock issues. But I can’t wait to visit Kings Park and cast my eyes once more on the winding Swan River.

Once recovered from this massive traversing of distance Julia and I will fly north, for an hour to Learmonth Airport, near Exmouth Western Australia. Here we’ll pick up a car and drive ourselves to Sal Salis camp. Sal Salis is an eco-friendly resort in this very inaccessible Kimberley region of Australia. They offer tents on the beach, each with its own facilities. The whole resort is powered by solar energy and they restrict guest water usage all in an effort to reduce the impact tourist have in this highly eco-sensitive Cape Range National Park. But the restrictions are all worth it as the place offers up-close and personal access to one of the world’s most remote and beautiful locations.

Julia and I plan to take advantage of the yearly migration of Whale Sharks that lumber slowly and gracefully through the warm water near Ningaloo Reef. We’ll don our snorkel gear and dive in to swim a long side the world’s largest fish. Sure, they are sharks, but don’t worry they restrict their diet to plankton – and only on rare occasions tourists.

Mandu Mandu gorge is just behind the camp and will allow us to walk back into geological history as the area is steeped in fossil bearing limestone formations. The location captures 30,000 years of human habitation and history. Studies of artefacts, middens, and rock shelters found among the Acacia trees, spinifex, kurrajong, and rock fig have slowly revealed the rich human history of the place. The hike also offers spectacular views back to the coast, overlooking Ningaloo Reef.

A little further south of Ningaloo Reef is Shark Bay. This is the last known location on the planet of the most ancient creatures left alive in the evolution of life: the Stromatolites. Stromatolites provide an ancient record of life on Earth by their fossil remains, which might date from more than 3.5 billion years ago. These creatures mark a point in the history of the Earth before which there was little oxygen in the atmosphere. No oxygen, no us. No Stromatolites, no us. I really hope I get to see one.

After taking in as much as we can of the Cape Range National Park and its many wonders we’ll fly back to Perth to spend four days hiking the numerous parks and trails near the city.

Once we’ve immersed ourselves in the riches of Western Australia we’ll begin our long eastward trek back – first stop Melbourne in my home State of Victoria. Here Julia and I will stay for a few weeks visiting with family and taking-in as many of the sights and hikes that we can.

Finally, we’ll continue our long eastward trek to Sydney, then Honolulu again, and then home. Stay tuned for trip updates when we begin this amazing adventure.