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The Streets of San Francisco

During Becky’s April Bright Square photo challenge I opened the archives to December 2019 and January 2020. Now I’m sharing more of our pre-pandemic holiday in California and Nevada with stories that just couldn’t be squared!

Postcards from America

One day we rugged up against the cold and spent a few hours exploring the streets of San Francisco.

We started on Steiner Street at the beautiful “Painted Ladies”

before making our way along avenues lined with winter trees.

We walked down the stairs beside the hairpin turns of Lombard Street.

At the bottom we made an exciting discovery. We weren’t far away from the warming treats at Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. A second visit was very welcome after a chilly day of walking!

San Francisco Views

During Becky’s April Bright Square photo challenge I opened the archives to December 2019 and January 2020. Now I’m sharing more of our pre-pandemic holiday in California and Nevada with stories that just couldn’t be squared!

Postcards from America

The views from our Airbnb home in San Francisco were fabulous. In one direction we could see ships on the sparkling waters of San Francisco Bay.

Further round, we looked out across the suburbs and the always busy freeway to the Sutro Tower, high atop a hill between Mount Sutro and Twin Peaks.

While we thought this outlook was great, we were even more impressed when we visited Twin Peaks.

Perfectly positioned at the geographic centre of San Francisco with an elevation of 282 metres, the two hills of Twin Peaks have unrivalled views of the city and its surrounds.

Our walk from the car park up to Christmas Tree Point went right past the Sutro Tower, a radio and television tower which was once the tallest structure in San Francisco.

Although we could have stayed at the lookout at Christmas Tree Point, we couldn’t resist the challenge of climbing to the top of the hill. We were glad we did, because the 360° panoramic views of the city were spectacular.

On this clear winter’s morning, we could see the skyscrapers of downtown San Francisco, Alcatraz Island and its formidable prison and the glowing orange spans of the Golden Gate Bridge.

As well as the lookouts, there’s a short walking track which follows the curves of the road. Apart from the communications towers and a water reservoir the area is a designated wilderness reserve, dedicated to preserving the habitat of the  endangered mission blue butterfly.

We spent almost as long looking for butterflies as we had looking out over the city, but our search was futile.

The only creatures we saw were a few birds. From their perches high above the city, they seemed to be enjoying the views too.

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

The Last Walk

Camping at Carnarvon Gorge, October 2020

There’s one track left to explore before we end our visit to Carnarvon Gorge and, of all the walks we do, it turns out to be the most adventurous.

The Mickey Creek walk begins inside the park, just before the Visitor Centre. Although the sign says it’s only 1.5 km everyone tells us the same thing. “Go beyond the end of the track.” As we set off, we’re not sure what to expect. 

At first the level path leads through the bush, following the course of the creek. As always, the sandstone cliffs of the gorge rise up in the distance.

It’s not long before the track narrows and becomes steeper, at times climbing up the creek bank and then crossing to the other side. 

We reach a fork in the track and decide to continue on to Mickey Creek Gorge, leaving Warrumbah Creek Gorge for later in the day. 

And then the mystery is revealed. The formed track comes to an end but there’s a well-worn path beyond it, following the creek further into the bush. Of course we go on, rock-hopping along the dry creek bed. 

The gorge becomes more pronounced; the sides are steeper, the path is narrower and daylight recedes as the walls close in. 

We reach our limit before we reach the end of the gorge. We can see up ahead where the walls meet, but the smooth stone has no footholds to climb up.

We retrace our steps back to the Warrumbah Creek Gorge track. Here the creek is flowing and the path goes alongside until it too comes to an end.

This time the way ahead is not so clear but there’s only one direction we can go, so we continue deeper into the gorge, past tree ferns and moss-covered boulders.

In Warrumbah Creek Gorge the rock walls close in much sooner. A fallen tree, long ago washed downstream, makes a handy bridge and where the stony ledges are narrow we take our time, carefully considering our next step. 

Unlike Mickey Creek Gorge, we do reach the end of Warrumbah Creek Gorge – it’s so narrow we can reach out to both sides. 

With so much incredible scenery, all the walks at Carnarvon Gorge have been amazing. This final walk has completed our week in the most spectacular way. 

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

All The Way To The End

Camping at Carnarvon Gorge, October 2020

The main track at Carnarvon Gorge is 9.7 kilometres one way. With several sets of steps, many creek crossings and some gradual inclines, the track is classed as Grade 3/4 and is suitable for bushwalkers with some experience. Nine side tracks off the main track lead to the scenic wonders of the gorge. Big Bend campground is the last destination on the main track.

So far, we’ve walked 12.58 km from the Visitor Centre and visited six of the nine highlights of Carnarvon Gorge. It’s another 4.5km to Cathedral Cave, Boowinda Gorge and Big Bend. Who’s up for that? Not you? Me neither! The main track is one way and we still have to go back the way we came. 

Glen and our friend Jock decide one day they’ll walk the whole 9.7km to Big Bend. They don’t need to stop at all the places we’ve already seen, so they should be there before it gets too hot. Let’s go with them. Pack your lunch, fill your water bottle and strap on your back pack. It’s going to be a long day.

We set off on the main track, go past the all the side tracks and continue beyond the Art Gallery, crossing the creek several more times. The sandstone cliffs of the gorge tower over us on either side of the path.

Don’t forget the restroom I told you about near the Moss Garden. It’s the only one between the Visitor Centre and Big Bend, so remember to take advantage of it on the way. 

After walking 9.1 km we finally arrive at Cathedral Cave. Like the Art Gallery, ancient indigenous rock art has been preserved on the walls of the huge cave. The vast sandstone overhang, eroded by wind and water, provided shelter from the weather for the local indigenous people who used the area as a campground. 

The artworks here depict their hunter/gatherer way of life. Many images are thousands of years old, while more recent ones were created just over 200 years ago and record the local people’s first contact with Europeans. 

The next stop on our walk is Boowinda Gorge, another 80 metres further along the track. Here the sandstone walls close in. The smooth curves in the stone have been formed over millions of years by water rushing through during flash floods. 

Finally we arrive at Big Bend where there are campsites, toilets and picnic areas. Let’s rest a while in the shade beside the creek and enjoy our lunch.  

Don’t get too comfortable though. Unlike other walkers who have set up their tents, we didn’t bring our camping gear. Soon we’ll need to walk another 9.7 km, all the way back.

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

Story Tellers

Camping at Carnarvon Gorge, October 2020

The main track at Carnarvon Gorge is 9.7 kilometres one way. With several sets of steps, many creek crossings and some gradual inclines, the track is classed as Grade 3/4 and is suitable for bushwalkers with some experience. Nine side tracks off the main track lead to the scenic wonders of the gorge. The walk to the Art Gallery begins 5.1 kilometres from the Visitor Centre.

The Art Gallery at Carnarvon Gorge is not your usual gallery. It’s located in the middle of the bush, the work on display is more than 3,500 years old and some of the techniques used to create the images are unique to this area. Its location high on a sandstone wall means it’s an uphill walk, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

The track is just 340 metres and most of the way the incline is gradual. There’s no need to rush – go slowly and enjoy the spectacular scenery. 

As the track becomes steeper, the sense that something special lies ahead grows stronger. Roughly hewn steps lead up between huge slabs of rock towards the entrance to the gallery.

The Art Gallery is a collection of more than 2,000 images crafted on the stone by the indigenous Bidjara and Karingbal people. Stencils, paintings and engravings depict tools, animal tracks and the hands and feet of people from long ago. The gallery is viewed from a 62 metre long boardwalk, giving visitors the ability to see the ancient works close up, without causing damage. 

The people who lived here told stories through these images, recording their connection to country, their way of life and their spiritual beliefs. Their works have survived for more than 3,500 years and their stories are still being told. 

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

Where Kings Grow

Camping at Carnarvon Gorge, October 2020

The main track at Carnarvon Gorge is 9.7 kilometres one way. With several sets of steps, many creek crossings and some gradual inclines, the track is classed as Grade 3/4 and is suitable for bushwalkers with some experience. Nine side tracks off the main track lead to the scenic wonders of the gorge. The walk to Ward’s Canyon begins 4.3 kilometres from the Visitor Centre.

To flourish, king ferns need plenty of water and a warm, sheltered position. In Australia, they grow in coastal rainforests where rainfall and temperatures are optimal. Surprisingly, they also grow in central Queensland, at Carnarvon Gorge – it’s the only place in Queensland where they’re found away from the coast. 

Sheltered by overhanging rock walls, shaded by a natural ceiling of tree ferns and watered by a tiny creek, Ward’s Canyon is the perfect location for king ferns. 

Just 270 metres from the main track, the canyon is reached by an uphill path through the forest. Steps rising up behind Lower Aijon Falls lead to a bridge over the creek at the point where it plunges over the edge.  

Beyond the falls the creek widens, its crystal clear water shallow and cool. The formed path disappears but it’s easy to see where others have gone before. 

The king fern is aptly named. With lush green fronds reaching up to five metres in length, it’s one of the largest ferns in the world. The first of the king ferns in Ward’s Canyon reaches out across the path as if in welcome.

There’s no longer access to the end of the canyon and the king ferns have grown over the path which used to go further. In this secluded location, they reign supreme. 

Joining Jude for Life in Colour: Green and Jo for Monday Walks

On the Inside

Camping at Carnarvon Gorge, October 2020

The main track at Carnarvon Gorge is 9.7 kilometres one way. With several sets of steps, many creek crossings and some gradual inclines, the track is classed as Grade 3/4 and is suitable for bushwalkers with some experience. Nine side tracks off the main track lead to the scenic wonders of the gorge. The walk to the Amphitheatre begins 3.7 kilometres from the Visitor Centre.

When ancient Romans attended an event at an amphitheatre 2000 years ago, they expected to see an awesome spectacle. You don’t have to be a time traveller to copy them – there’s an amphitheatre at Carnarvon Gorge.

Unlike the Romans you won’t be walking on cobblestone streets to get to the Amphitheatre. Turn off the main track and follow the sandy path for 630 metres through the bush, over the creek and up the steps. You’re heading towards the massive sandstone cliffs of the gorge and, if you look carefully, you might glimpse through the trees a mysterious opening in the rock.

The mystery deepens when you arrive in the clearing at the base of the cliffs. That opening is the mouth of a slot canyon high in the stone, reached by a steep staircase. Stop on the last landing and look back at the gorge before you enter the narrow crevice in the rock.

Daylight doesn’t go far into the canyon. It’s cool and dim in the centre but there’s sunshine up ahead. 

You may not have time travelled through the stone but, when you step out of the canyon back into daylight, it feels like you’ve entered an alternate world. The Amphitheatre is a 60 metre deep hole in the sandstone, its sheer sides almost meeting at the top. 

Like all the formations in the gorge, the Amphitheatre is a result of the power of moving water, which has carved and shaped the sandstone over thousands of years.

Sunlight streaming in through the natural aperture above highlights the colours and shapes in the stone. In some places the walls of the Amphitheatre are worn smooth while elsewhere the stone is jagged and ridged. Hollows and ledges are filled with small pebbles. Ferns and mosses grow on the sandy floor, flourishing in this sheltered location. 

Just like those ancient Romans you can sit for a while in this amphitheatre, taking in the awesome spectacle around you.

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

Where There is Water

Camping at Carnarvon Gorge, October 2020

The main track at Carnarvon Gorge is 9.7 kilometres one way. With several sets of steps, many creek crossings and some gradual inclines, the track is classed as Grade 3/4 and is suitable for bushwalkers with some experience. Nine side tracks off the main track lead to the scenic wonders of the gorge. The walk to the Moss Garden begins 2.8 kilometres from the Visitor Centre.

Its location in central Queensland means Carnarvon Gorge is surrounded by a landscape often severely affected by drought. Inside the gorge, where water is abundant, it’s a different matter. And where there is water there is life, especially in the Moss Garden.

Hidden away in the depths of Violet Gorge, the Moss Garden is reached by a 650 metre walking track off the main track.

Like all the walks in Carnarvon Gorge, there are creek crossings and steps to negotiate. The bright green foliage of fan palms and tree ferns spreads out on either side of the track – it’s noticeably cooler in the shade.

Further into the gorge the open forest is replaced by remnant rainforest. Lianas loop from tree to tree and the roots of strangler figs take hold wherever they can. 

The track rises steeply away from the creek and the gorge narrows until the sandstone walls on either side almost touch. 

A boardwalk replaces the sandy path for the last few metres. Even though the sound of running water is ever present in most of the park, here it dominates. Water tumbles over a small waterfall, filling a round pool before flowing away down the creek. More water drips constantly from the sandstone walls of the canyon. It comes from a natural spring high above and filters through the sandstone. 

The permanent supply of slowly filtered water supports a micro climate of mosses and ferns which cover the stone like a thick green carpet. 

Dozens of dragonflies add jewel colours to the green of the Moss Garden. They skim across the surface of the waterhole and up over the mossy rocks, stopping for just a few seconds before taking off again. 

Where there is water, there’s always life. 

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

Don’t Count, Just Go Up!

Camping at Carnarvon Gorge, October 2020

The main track at Carnarvon Gorge is 9.7 kilometres one way. With several sets of steps, many creek crossings and some gradual inclines, the track is classed as Grade 3/4 and is suitable for bushwalkers with some experience. Nine side tracks off the main track lead to the scenic wonders of the gorge. The walk to Boolimba Bluff begins one kilometre from the Visitor Centre.

At just 2.2 kilometres the Boolimba Bluff walk sounds easy, but don’t let the distance fool you. Most of the track goes uphill and there are 960 steps and several ladders to negotiate, which is not surprising when you are heading to the top of these sandstone cliffs. 

The first set of steps is just a few metres from the start of the track. From there a wide sandy path leads on through the bush, going ever upwards to more stony staircases. 

Before reaching the top of the ridge, the path climbs into Wagaroo Gorge, the widest side gorge in the park. This is the steepest part of the walk, with 300 steps and several ladders over just 300 metres. There’s no need to rush. Take your time in the remnant rainforest, protected from the heat of the day by the overhanging cliffs.

Stop for a while to admire the beautiful formations in the sandstone, carved out by wind and water over thousands of years. 

You’ve come a long way up Wagaroo Gorge – you’re nearly at the top. 

Reaching the final step is cause for celebration… 

until you realise there’s another 750 metres of track to walk across the top of the ridge to the lookout. At least the path is level, and there are encouraging glimpses of what’s ahead.

Finally the lookout comes into sight. There’s a bench for weary walkers, but the spectacular view means you probably won’t sit for long. The bluff faces towards the mouth of the gorge and is 200 metres above the Visitor Centre from where the walk started.

At this point the gorge is 600 metres wide. The sandstone walls of the gorge are at least 200 million years old but the darker basalt layer on top was formed by volcanic lava flows just 30 million years ago. 

These divots on the bluff are almost as ancient as the sandstone below. They are actually puddles formed by slow moving water 180 million years ago, when this area was part of a flood plain. Upheaval 80 million years later forced the land upwards and erosion of the sedimentary rock revealed these prehistoric potholes.

It’s been worth the effort to walk all the way to Boolimba Bluff. Now you’ve taken in the views and caught your breath it’s time to retrace your steps. Just be careful on the way back down.

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

Getting Back to Nature

Camping at Carnarvon Gorge, October 2020 

The main track at Carnarvon Gorge is 9.7 kilometres one way. With several sets of steps, many creek crossings and some gradual inclines, the track is classed as Grade 3/4 and is suitable for bushwalkers with some experience. Nine side tracks off the main track begin at various distances along the main track. The Nature Trail is the first side track and starts just past the Visitor Centre. 

When a walking track is called The Nature Trail, we would expect to see plenty of natural wonders. The trail at Carnarvon Gorge delivers all that and more!

The level track winds through open eucalypt forest beside the creek for 1.5 kilometres, beginning and ending at the main track.

The path crosses Carnarvon Creek in two places, with large flat stepping stones linking each bank.

The towering walls of sandstone on either side of the gorge create a magnificent backdrop for the creek and the bushland.

In some sections the bush gives way to stands of bushfire blackened Carnarvon fan palms. Primitive cycads, little changed in appearance since the time when dinosaurs grazed on them, grow beside the track. Both plants are endemic to this central Queensland region.

Delicate wildflowers bring splashes of colour to the bush. 

An eastern snake-necked tortoise enjoys the sun on a rock in the middle of the creek

and a pretty-faced wallaby, used to human visitors, watches with fearless curiosity. 

Bird calls fill the forest and, although they can be heard, the small birds stay hidden. Larger birds are easier to spot in the trees or close to the water. 

While the little birds are shy, the insects are not. Several types of butterfly move from one plant to the next, taking time to rest at each one. Around the creek, dragonflies dart like tiny jet planes, never resting for longer than a few seconds. 

Part way along the track, movement in amongst the fan palms catches our attention. Hundreds of Euploea climena butterflies flutter around the trees. Dozens more are clustered on the underside of the palm fronds – only moving when a gust of wind shakes them loose. 

It’s a display only nature could put on.

Joining Jude for Life in Colour – Yellow and  Jo for Monday Walks