Colorado National Monument

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Colorado National Monument (locally referred to as The Monument) is a National Park Service unit near the city of Grand Junction, Colorado. Spectacular canyons cut deep into sandstone, and even granite–gneiss–schist, rock formations.

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When John Otto first saw the rugged red rock canyons south of Grand Junction in 1906, it was love at first sight. The following year he wrote . . .

“I came here last year and found these canyons, and they feel like the heart of the world to me. I’m going to stay and build trails and promote this place, because it should be a national park.”

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The area was established as Colorado National Monument on May 24, 1911. Otto was hired as the first park ranger, drawing a salary of $1 per month. For the next 16 years, he continued building and maintaining trails while living in a tent in the park.

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Otto spearheaded fundraising campaigns, collected signatures for petitions, and penned newspaper editorials and endless letters to Washington politicians in support of national recognition for the ancient canyons and towering monoliths of his adopted home.

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This is an area of desert land high on the Colorado Plateau, with pinion and juniper forests on the plateau.

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There are magnificent views from trails and the Rim Rock Drive, which winds along the plateau.

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Nearby are the Book Cliffs and the largest flat-topped mountain in the world, the Grand Mesa.

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The park became more well known in the 1980s partly due to its inclusion as a stage of the major international bicycle race, the Coors Classic. The race through the park became known as “The Tour of the Moon”, due to the spectacular landscapes the race passed through on Rim Rock Drive.

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Just another day at the office!

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CALIFORNIA – Santa Cruz

Welcome to Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz County is located on California’s Central Coast, 65 miles south of San Francisco and 35 miles north of Monterey. Situated on the northern side of the Monterey Bay and rimmed by redwood forested mountains, Santa Cruz County has 29 miles of beaches and 14 state parks.

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Santa Cruz is one of America’s surfing capitals, complete with its own museum devoted to the sport, and a beach whose waves are known all over the world.

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I was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California, and the whole lifestyle revolves around the beach. My parents met surfing, and the beach was a major part of our daily lives.

Marisa Miller

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I went to UC Santa Cruz, overlooking the Bay of Monterey and Santa Cruz, in 1969. Back then, the city was part-hippie, part-surfer, but mostly retired chicken farmer.

Clive Sinclair

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I live in Santa Cruz. I moved here in 1974 and couldn’t leave.

Ellen Bass

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Santa Cruz is blessed not only with natural wonders, but also with gifted souls who can fashion nature’s bounty into man-made treasures.

Clive Sinclair

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Just up the coast from Santa Cruz lies Half Moon Bay, a coastal city in San Mateo County, California. It’s an idyllic enclave and truly the perfect place to spend some time away from the big city.

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Growing up in northern California has had a big influence on my love and respect for the outdoors. When I lived in Oakland, we would think nothing of driving to Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz one day and then driving to the foothills of the Sierras the next day.

Tom Hanks

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Just off the Half Moon Bay coast of California, winter storms and underwater geography combine to create some the world’s biggest and most dangerous waves. The Mavericks Surf Contest gives the world’s best surfers a chance to pit their skills against the big ones that can rise over 50 feet high, but this contest has an interesting twist.  No one knows when it will be held until just 24 hours before it starts.

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The big waves come in winter, and around the end of each year, the official waiting period for the Mavericks Surf Contest begins. When conditions are right, organizers call a field of 24 surfers (who have been pre-selected) to tell them when the Mavericks Surf Contest will begin.

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“I like to go for a little drive up the California coast.”
Author: Colin Farrell

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“In California in the early Spring, There are pale yellow mornings, when the mist burns slowly into day, The air stings like Autumn, clarifies like pain – Well, I have dreamed this coast myself.”
Author: Robert Hass

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If you are looking to surf in North America then head on out to California – there is great surf all the way down the coast. It is worth the trip to catch the big wave surfers riding the mountains of Maverick’s during the huge winter swells.

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“Soon it got dusk, a grapey dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”
― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

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“The setting sun burned the sky pink and orange in the same bright hues as surfers’ bathing suits. It was beautiful deception, Bosch thought, as he drove north on the Hollywood Freeway to home. Sunsets did that here. Made you forget it was the smog that made their colors so brilliant, that behind every pretty picture there could be an ugly story.”
― Michael Connelly, The Black Echo

California – Yosemite National Park

“This is the California that men dreamed of years ago, this is the Pacific that Balboa looked at from the Peak of Darien, this is the face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look.”

– Henry Miller  Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch

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Yosemite became the first wildland in the nation protected for all-time 150 years ago when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act, protecting the Valley and Mariposa grove. Later, in 1890, it became a national park. Over the last 150 years the park has played host to a number of dignitaries and celebrities – as well as about 4 million regular visitors a year.

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“Yosemite Park is a place of rest, a refuge from the roar and dust and weary, nervous, wasting work of the lowlands, in which one gains the advantages of both solitude and society. Nowhere will you find more company of a soothing peace-be-still kind. Your animal fellow beings, so seldom regarded in civilization, and every rock-brow and mountain, stream, and lake, and every plant soon come to be regarded as brothers; even one learns to like the storms and clouds and tireless winds. This one noble park is big enough and rich enough for a whole life of study and aesthetic enjoyment. It is good for everybody, no matter how benumbed with care, encrusted with a mail of business habits like a tree with bark. None can escape its charms. Its natural beauty cleans and warms like a fire, and you will be willing to stay forever in one place like a tree.“

– John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938) page 350. Find more of his quotes, from The Sierra Club.

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Over eons, rivers and glaciers somehow carved 3,000 feet into solid granite to create Yosemite Valley. The nuances of the Valley form spectacular rock formations, for which Yosemite Valley is famous.

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“The making of gardens and parks goes on with civilization all over the world, and they increase both in size and number as their value is recognized. Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike. This natural beauty-hunger is made manifest in the little windowsill gardens of the poor, though perhaps only a geranium slip in a broken cup, as well as in the carefully tended rose and lily gardens of the rich, the thousands of spacious city parks and botanical gardens, and in our magnificent National Parks—the Yellowstone, Yosemite, Sequoia, etc.—Nature’s sublime wonderlands, the admiration and joy of the world. Nevertheless, like anything else worth while, from the very beginning, however well guarded, they have always been subject to attack by despoiling gain-seekers and mischief-makers of every degree from Satan to Senators, eagerly trying to make everything immediately and selfishly commercial, with schemes disguised in smug-smiling philanthropy, industriously, sham-piously crying, ‘Conservation, conservation,’ that man and beast may be fed and the dear Nation made great. Ever since the establishment of the Yosemite National Park, strife has been going on around its borders and I suppose this will go on as part of the universal battle between right and wrong, however much of its boundaries may be shorn, or its wild beauty destroyed.”

― John Muir, The Yosemite

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“There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods…and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred. It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.”

– President Theodore Roosevelt, 1905

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“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

~ John Muir

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The Gates of Yosemite scene where this fall stands opposite the mouth of Yosemite Valley to El Capitan is often what comes to mind when I think about Yosemite National Park. Ever since the landscape photographer Ansel Adams captured and immortalized the “Gates of Yosemite,” it was probably instrumental in making Bridalveil Fall one of the most photographed waterfalls in the park.

Prominent as you enter Yosemite Valley, it’s hard not to notice the beauty of Bridalveil Fall.  The native people of Yosemite Valley, the Ahwahneechee Indians, called the fall “Pohono” meaning “spirit of the puffing wind.”  Early Yosemite pioneers named it Bridalveil Fall because of the flow’s resemblance to a bride’s veil swaying in the wind.

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“When I think of the overwhelming majesty of Yosemite National Park, I cannot help but agree with Carl Sharsmith, a longtime Yosemite ranger.  When a park visitor asked what Carl would do if he only had one day in Yosemite, Carl replied, “I’d go sit by the Merced River and cry!”  And he was right:  There may never be enough time to see all the grandeur of the Yosemite, in all its wonder.  But however much time you have to spend, Yosemite National Park is worth the trip.  It does not matter what season.  Every experience—taking a sunrise walk with a ranger, strolling through the rain on a chilly fall afternoon, picnicking along the Merced in the summer, being surprised by the mist coming off Bridalveil Fall, noticing deer or coyote across a field, or marvelling at wildflowers as they come to life after a spring shower—adds to the tapestry that is Yosemite.  Each experience is its own unique treasure.”

-From the Blog: “Learn More Everyday”

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This is my personal favourite photograph of Bridalveil Fall. Inspired by the great Ansel Adams, I attempted to capture – within the limited time that I had to spend in Yosemite – a decent image of this spectacle. With a bit of luck, I found an angle that illuminated the rock face thereby exposing its raw texture and reflectivity. Notice the formation near the centre that appears like a human skull, or a mummified head.

“I went to Yosemite as an homage to Ansel Adams. I could never be Ansel Adams, but to know that’s there for us – there’s so much for us in this country.”

– Annie Leibovitz

“A lot of people think that when you have grand scenery, such as you have in Yosemite, that photography must be easy.”

Galen Rowell

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Along with Half Dome, Yosemite Falls is the iconic symbol of the grandeur and beauty of Yosemite National Park. I think the falls are practically synonymous with the incomparable Yosemite Valley.Yosemite Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in North America, with a total drop of 2,425 feet.

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El Capitan is a favourite for experienced rock climbers. Rising more than 3,000 feet above the Valley floor, it is the largest monolith of granite in the world. El Capitan is opposite Bridalveil Fall.

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Half Dome is perhaps the most recognized symbol of Yosemite. It is one of the most sought-after landmarks in Yosemite. Rising nearly 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley and 8,800 feet above sea level, Half Dome is a Yosemite icon and a great challenge to many hikers. Despite an 1865 report declaring that it was “perfectly inaccessible, being probably the only one of the prominent points about the Yosemite which never has been, and never will be, trodden by human foot,” George Anderson reached the summit in 1875, in the process laying the predecessor to today’s cable route.

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

-John Muir

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“Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.”

-Ansel Adams – Photographer

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“Every time I come, I’m still amazed at the breadth California has. Big Sur, Yosemite, the desert… I love it.”

Theo James

Arizona-Sabino Canyon

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In the eastern foothills of the Santa Catalina mountain range, Sabino Canyon is a world of natural beauty. Stunning vistas, the freshness of the morning air, the tranquility of running creek water, and the rugged backdrop of Thimble Peak make this place so unique.

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During the winter and summer rainy seasons, pools of water form in rocky outcroppings that wind up among hillsides resplendent with palo verde trees, cholla and prickly pear cactus and graceful groves of ocotillo.

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The oasis of Catalina Canyon is one of the most scenic spectacles in Arizona. A paved road runs 3.8 miles into the canyon, crossing 9 stone bridges over Sabino Creek. It begins at an altitude of 2,800 feet and rises to 3,300 feet at its end, a popular drop-off in summer because of the swimming holes at Hutch’s Pool and The Crack.

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“So I came down here, to breathe dust and walk with the dogs– to look at a rock or a cactus and know that I am the first person to see that cactus and that rock.”

Author: Douglas Coupland

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Arizona Waterfalls are about as contradictory as they get. Given the hot and arid climate that epitomizes the deserts of the American Southwest, it’s easy to dismiss this state as lacking waterfalls. Yet we manage to find them, proving that even waterfalls can be resilient in such unforgivingly dry climates.

“Desert springtime, with flowers popping up all over the place, trees leafing out, streams gushing down from the mountains. Great time of year for hiking, camping, exploring, sleeping under the new moon and the old stars. At dawn and at evening we hear the coyotes howling with excitement—mating season.”

~Edward Abbey, Postcards from Ed: Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast

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“I have never been in a natural place and felt that it was a waste of time. I never have. And it’s a relief. If I’m walking around a desert or whatever, every second is worthwhile.”

– Viggo Mortensen

Arizona – The Sonoran Desert

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The Sonoran Desert is an arid region covering approximately 100,000 square miles in southwestern Arizona and southeastern California, as well as most of Baja California and the western half of the state of Sonora, Mexico. Subdivisions of this hot, dry region include the Colorado and Yuma deserts. Irrigation has produced many fertile agricultural areas, including the Coachella and Imperial valleys of California. Warm winters attract tourists to Sonora Desert resorts in Palm Springs, California, and Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona.

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Prickly pear cactus are found in all of the deserts of the American Southwest, with different species having adapted to different locale and elevation ranges. Most require course, well-drained soil in dry, rocky flats or slopes. But some prefer mountain pinyon/juniper forests, while others require steep, rocky slopes in mountain foothills.

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Like other cactus, most prickly pears and chollas have large spines — actually modified leaves — growing from tubercles — small, wart-like projections — on their stems. But members of the Opuntia genus are unique because of their clusters of fine, tiny, barbed spines called glochids. Found just above the cluster of regular spines, glochids are yellow or red in color and detach easily from the pads. Glochids are often difficult to see and more difficult to remove, once lodged in the skin.

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The trip across Arizona is just one oasis after another. You can just throw anything out and it will grow there, I like Arizona.

~Will Rogers

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Crash landed on Earth, an alien stepped out onto an arid, rocky bajada and found himself dwarfed by gigantic, grotesque, green figures with arms reaching toward the sky. Feeling at home in this weird landscape, he approached one fiercely armoured mammoth, which he estimated to be 35 feet tall and weighing several tons. “Where am I on your planet?” he questioned the giant. The strange green figure remained silent.

Where was the alien? By the distinctive characteristics of the peculiarly human-like plant, he could have only been in the Sonoran Desert. His geographical location could be pinpointed to be either in extreme southeastern California near the Colorado River, in southern and western Arizona, or south of the border in northwestern Mexico. These are the only places on earth where the saguaro cactus — grand symbol of the Sonoran Desert, the West and arguably the United States — grows.

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If the stately 20-to 50-foot saguaro could have talked to the alien, it would have had tales of the Old West to tell. Some have been around since Teddy Roosevelt became president in 1901. A few still living today were tiny young upstarts, perhaps growing under the shelter of a paloverde tree, when Thomas Jefferson was elected President in 1801.

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The saguaro can grow only in narrow environmental niches within the Sonoran Desert, usually below elevations of 3,500 feet. Freezing temperatures and frosts can kill or damage the delicate plant. Wild arms and drooping limbs may indicate that a particular plant survived a bitter winter.

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These distinctive human-like arms begin to grow only in middle age, about 75 years, after achieving a height of 14 to 16 feet. The oldest, with dozens or more branches, have marked the passage of many years.

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When the pleats are more deeply shadowed, more defined, drought has shaped the cactus. The plant can lose up to 82 percent of its moisture before it dies of dehydration. In times of little rain, shallow roots near the soil’s surface can capture the moisture of even the lightest rainfall. The downward-pointing spines, “drip tips,” also help by directing rainwater toward the base of the plant. These clusters of spines also play a role in cooling the outer skin; they help deflect wind and provide insulation from freezing as well.

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Another feature of the saguaro, the many holes on its body, makes one wonder if the Gila woodpeckers inflict much damage as they hammer into the tissues used to store water. Often, these meticulous birds drill 2 or 3 holes before they are satisfied. But the plant quickly minimizes damage by sealing off the wound with callous scar tissue to stop water loss. Conserving water loss is essential to the survival of the saguaro. When the sun beats unmercifully on its waxy, watertight, outer surfaces, microscopic pores close. At night, when temperatures are lower, the pores open, allowing for the entry of carbon dioxide, necessary for photosynthesis and the manufacture of carbohydrates.

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“Even the plants in Arizona wanted to hurt you.”

Author: Janette Rallison

“He’d always had a quickening of the heart when he crossed into Arizona and beheld the cactus country. This was as the desert should be, this was the desert of the picture books, with the land unrolled to the farthest distant horizon hills, with saguaro standing sentinel in their strange chessboard pattern, towering supinely above the fans of ocotillo and brushy mesquite.”

Author: Dorothy B. Hughes

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“If you don’t die of thirst, there are blessings in the desert. You can be pulled into limitlessness, which we all yearn for, or you can do the beauty of minutiae, the scrimshaw of tiny and precise. The sky is your ocean, and the crystal silence will uplift you like great gospel music, or Neil Young.”

-Anne Lamott

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Land of extremes. Land of contrasts. Land of surprises. Land of contradictions…. That is Arizona.

~Federal Writers Project, Arizona: The Grand Canyon State, 1956

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I live in the dry dusty desert

Where we’re always short on water

And even if the sun fell upon us

It couldn’t get any hotter.

~Terri Guillemets

Australia – The Sunshine Coast

Balina SunriseThe Sunshine Coast stretches along the Coral Sea in Australia’s Queensland state., starting roughly 50 miles north of Brisbane. The area is famous for its unbelievably gorgeous beaches, surfing culture, eco-parks and nature reserves. We found a virtual treasure trove of sculpted sand dunes, mangrove forests and rivers, magnificent coastal scenery, rare birds, critters, and quaint towns and villages to explore and photograph.

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Local Wildlife.

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Heading to Noosa!

Heading to Noosa!

More Sunshine Coast on the next post.

 

 

Australia – The Outback

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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 Proverb

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There are about 750,000 roaming wild in the outback and they cause a host of problems. Camels were imported to Australia in the 19th century from Arabia, India and Afghanistan for transport and heavy work in the outback.

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I'm too sexy for my love Too sexy for my love Love's going to leave me I'm too sexy for my shirt Too sexy for my shirt So sexy it hurts

I’m too sexy for my love
Too sexy for my love
Love’s going to leave me
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So sexy it hurts

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58 Outback 6AAlice Springs is a remote town in Australia’s Northern Territory, situated some 1,500km from the nearest major city. It’s a popular gateway for exploring the Red Centre, the country’s interior desert region.

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Australia is the home of the largest living thing on earth, the Great Barrier Reef, and of the largest monolith, Ayers Rock (or Uluru to use its now-official, more respectful Aboriginal name). It has more things that will kill you than anywhere else. Of the world’s ten most poisonous snakes, all are Australian. Five of its creatures – the funnel web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, and stonefish – are the most lethal of their type in the world. This is a country where even the fluffiest of caterpillars can lay you out with a toxic nip, where seashells will not just sting you but actually sometimes go for you. … If you are not stung or pronged to death in some unexpected manner, you may be fatally chomped by sharks or crocodiles, or carried helplessly out to sea by irresistible currents, or left to stagger to an unhappy death in the baking outback. It’s a tough place.
 – Bill Bryson

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63 Outback 11 64 Outback 12 67 Outback 14Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is a massive sandstone monolith in the heart of the Northern Territory’s Red Centre desert, 450km from the nearest large town, Alice Springs. It’s sacred to indigenous Australians and believed to be about 700 million years old. It’s within Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which also encompasses the 36 red-rock domes of the Kata Tjuta, colloquially known as “The Olgas” formation.

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The Olgas

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Kings Canyon is part of the Watarrka National Park in the Northern Territory, Australia. Sitting at the western end of the George Gill Range, it is 323 km southwest of Alice Springs. We hiked it on a rainy day, which afforded us the opportunity to experience the spontaneous rushing rivers and waterfalls activated by the natural drainage system handling the rainfall.

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It brought me a new understanding of how, unless you’re connected with the land, you’re not really connected with yourself or the nation. And Australians, I think, are slowly beginning to realise that the land owns us, we don’t own the land. It’s taken climate change to achieve that. And you get this sense of forces which are outside your control.”
– Joan Kirner, on the Immensity of Outback Australia
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