1. Peak Charles NP, WA. This was the only park we went to in all of Australia that was utterly devoid of people. In fact, we didn't see more than 2 other cars on the road all that day. Upon arriving at the park, it appeared that the only thing that made it a "park" was a forlorn honey bucket in a dirt lot, and a small sign indicating the way to the trail. After having sandwiches I'd bought at a Vietnamese bakery in Esperance, we headed on up the mountain. Hard trail! What made it so fun was the terrifying aspect of the trail turning into a series of rock cairns, and the fact that there was absolutely no one there to help if you hurt yourself. Up on top of the mountain, the winds were pretty fierce, and the mountain eventually got so steep I didn't trust my boots, sliding down a ways on my butt while Dan struggled to the very top.
2. Mt Field, NP, Tasmania. Once we left the parking lot, we didn't see anyone else in the park that day. A typical Fall day, it was cool and overcast, with the sun appearing only occasionally from behind the clouds. This was an Alpine hike through a lot of very wet, swampy buttongrass meadows with fantastic views across the island. Aside from the sinking up to my thighs in mud, which I didn't like, it was great - especially the exhiliration of knowing that this was the first time since college that I'd been able to hike such a long trail. We stopped for lunch late in the afternoon to enjoy cold pasta with red sauce next to an incredible tarn, all by out lonesomes. A wonderful day.
3. Bluff Knoll, WA. Way out in the middle of nowhere north of Albany is this, one of the best hikes in the West of Australia. Crowded (not surprisingly - one thing I learned in Australia was that the Outback is jam packed with people) at the parking lot, it thinned out as folks realized that this was a seriously steep, loooong uphill climb to the very top. Once finally up there, we got a little giddy with a couple of pommie backpackers and took a lot of pictures of me sitting on the very edge of the bluff, looking down a thousand plus feet to the base of the mountain.
4. Bunya Mountains NP, Queensland. Not a terrifically difficult hike, it still sticks with me just because it was one of the major points of going to Australia for so long in the first place. Spike the bunya bunya tree (or bunya pine tree) on our front porch has always served as a reminder that Dan's mad for araucaria trees, and bunyas are among his most favorite. So, you can imagine his delight to actually get out there in the last best preserved stand of these trees in the world, one of only two or so places where you can see them growing naturally. It certainly helped that it was a fantastically clear, warm day; even the expansive views out over the power plant to the east looked great.
5. Square Rock, ACT. Having met Face and Sarah, two American-born Australian teachers, the night before at the Henschke tasting dinner, we agreed that it'd be a great idea to meet up the next day and go hiking with Face. (Actually Frank, that's his nickname; give it a fâux-Italian pronunciation and you're there.) Badly hung over, he stopped by our hotel after his morning class and showed us how to get back to their house. We were badly hung over as well, but on the trail it didn't seem to matter very much. They made us yummy sandwiches, I brought a bottle of the Torbreck Woodcutters Red along (great stuff, even at the US$18 they want for it in Redwood City), and we spent lunch looking out over the countryside to the southwest of Canberra, which was great fun. The wine helped, too. :)
6. Warrumbungles NP, NSW. This is here in spite of the fact that we only really got a bare inkling as to what this park would be like. Strapped for time, and with Iain in tow (who, although not as fit as the two of us, still did a great job of keeping up), we did at least get to a good viewpoint of the Needle, one of the big formations in the park. It was clear that this would be a great place to spend a few days hiking... if you had the time.
7. Mt Kosciuszko, NSW. Fun because it was first big hike, and because Neville was along for the walk. This was also my first and worst encounter with biting flies - at the top of the chairlift from Thredbo, I was promptly attacked by hundreds of the little fuckers. Thankfully Nev had the presence of mind to bring along some repellent. It's a bouncy metal boardwalk almost all the way to the summit, so it's pretty easy going; the flowers were fine as well. The only annoying bit was the gaggle of strange, fey, American fags at the top wishing us a Happy Mardi Gras!!! in an obviously fake Aussie accent. I think they must have been from Dallas.
8. To the lighthouse at Wilsons Promotory, Victoria. This was a real killer - 25 kilometers or something all the way down to the tip, with a Final Insult at the very end - the lighthouse itself is perched on the top of an incredibly steep hill at the near-southernmost point of continental Australia. (The real point is actually about a km west, but I was too shagged to go there on the way to the Point.) Best of all: you can book a bed in advance at the lighthouse. It's not real cheap, but it is comfortable - given the wind and weather, using a tent would have been horrible. We went up the east side of the Prom on the way back, which was also terrific, leeches notwithstanding. The final few k's uphill to the parking lot were the toughest I did all year, but Dan cadged some ibuprofen off a passing hiker, which I ate with some Néstle Club dark chocolate with almonds. I think that did the trick nicely. I also managed to lose my Helena's Hawaiian Foods on the trail, but the Victorian park service sent it back to us later on in the year.
9. Wandering aimlessly at Kakadu looking for the blue paintings, NT. I got it in my head that I'd go off trail to try to find some Aboriginal artwork commissioned in the early 1960s (I think); it was referenced in a few books I'd read earlier in the year, but the national park authorities decided it wasn't something they wanted anyone to look at for whatever reason, so it's been carefully removed from all current maps and reference materials. I thought it'd be relatively easy to find, but I was stymied, especially by the topography: we wound up on a very tall ridge with no obvious way down on the other side, and I stupidly wore shorts (the bush was doing a number on my legs). Still, fun to be out in the sunshine with the Marmot, looking out across the park with no one around, even if I was getting a little panicky.
10. Any hike with Neal and Judy at the Binna Burra Lodge, Queensland. We stayed five nights at the Lodge, and it was greatly enhanced by our meeting Neal and Judy, two retirees from Sydney. Every bit as fit as us, we spent the first three days hiking our asses off, including the Border Track from O'Reilly's at the far end of the park all the way back to Binna Burra (about twenty-eight k). The long hikes combined with the great vistas and cool rainforest were spectacular, but even better when finished off with a long, pleasant dinner with good friends, even if the wine I had was pretty shitty (some organic marsanne from Botobolar and some random low end reds from some crappy liquor store in Surfers). :)