Farewell 2013

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

On New Year’s Eve I tend to reflect on the last 12 months (that have flown by way too quickly). Then I make some half-hearted resolutions to welcome the New Year. My main thought last year was to make sure I kept writing this weekly blog, which I managed quite well. The exception was during my overseas travels when I didn’t have easy access to a computer. Clearly, I’m not up to date with the latest technology – and probably never will be – so it’s lucky I’m not a frontline journalist 😉

But I do get a lot of enjoyment from sharing my travel stories, even if it’s only a handful of people who take the time to read them. I love each and every comment; just knowing that my words occasionally move people or inspire them. For me, there is nothing better.

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“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.” Laura Ingalls Wilder

For me…

Christmas-time is about my family. Big gatherings. Indulging in lots of food, drink and laughter. Watching the joy on the faces of my littlest nieces and nephews.

As we get older and become more engrossed in our own lives, Christmas-time is the one time of the year when we’ll drop everything else to be together. And I feel blessed to be surrounded by such a wonderful group of people each and every year.

If I had one wish…

It would be that my Canadian family could be here with us (or we could be in Vancouver for a white Christmas). That there could be some magic in this world that allows us to bridge the distance – just once a year. Maybe a port-key (if fiction was reality).

Christmas-time is also about my friends. Those in Australia and those across the globe. I may not see you very often but you’re always in my heart.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year… I hope 2014 is brimming with health, happiness and adventure.

Yosemite National Park: Panorama Trail

“It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.” John Muir

I’ve always wanted to visit California’s Yosemite National Park; famous for its towering granite cliffs, plunging waterfalls and lush meadows. And, as this was also the last point of interest on my US national park tour, I was super keen to do a decent hike.

We arrived in mid-September, about two weeks after a wildfire had ravaged part of the park; smoke was still thick in the air and all the towns leading into the park had huge banners thanking the fire fighters. It was a stark reminder of summers in Australia, where bushfires are always a topic of conversation.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to visit Yosemite under these circumstances but I was happy that we could bring some business to those who had not only suffered because of the bushfires, but were likely to suffer economically when people stayed away longer than necessary after the fires (and this was also just prior to the US Government shutdown that further affected the park – as well as all national parks in the country).

We choose to hike the Panorama Trail because, as the name suggests, this would offer us some of the best views of the park. We weren’t disappointed. It was one of those hikes where I had to keep pinching myself to make sure it was real – I was completely awestruck by the splendour of nature.

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Photo story: Death Valley

“In this below-sea-level basin, steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Yet, each extreme has a striking contrast. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.” US National Park Service

Death Valley is located in Eastern California and is situated within the Mojave Desert. It is the lowest, hottest and driest area in North America and, earlier this year, recorded the country’s highest June temperature on record (129.9 degrees Fahrenheit or 54.4 degrees Celsius). This was almost 100 years after Death Valley recorded the world’s highest temperature of 134 degrees (56.7 C) on 10 July 1913.

I personally don’t enjoy extreme heat. So, it was with some trepidation that I travelled through the Death Valley as part of my US National Parks tour. Fortunately, it was a rather cool 102 degrees (38.9 C) during our visit and our guide joked about needing a woollen scarf to cope with the cold (at least by Death Valley standards).

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Wilsons Promontory: Tidal River to Squeaky Beach

“This is my carefree, this is my freedom – this is MY HAPPY.” Coco J.Ginger

A couple of days ago, on the first day of the Australian summer, my brother and I took a Canadian friend on a lightning trip to Wilsons Promontory – so he could see a place that is very close to our hearts before he heads home. So, for this week’s blog, I’ve decided to take a break from US National Parks to share some photographs that I took a bit closer to home.

I think we (my family) must be creatures of habit because whenever we take overseas visitors to The Prom we always do the same two walks. We hike up Mt Oberon for the incredible views across the ocean, the peninsula and offshore islands. And then, if time permits, we hike from Tidal River to Squeaky Beach to get up close and personal to one of Australia’s most beautiful beaches.

But then, I guess, why wouldn’t we, when these places are so amazing?

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