Mount Remarkable National Park. It is everything it's name sets it up to be. It is spectacular and leaves you filled with such awe and respect for all of Nature's wonder and yet, not even those last words do it justice, nor do these photographs. You just have to experience it for yourself and I really hope if ever your within reach of this area, that you do just that.
So here we go, are you ready? We're going to spend the day hiking Alligator Gorge. The kids and I are lucky we were able to experience this hike through each and every one of our senses, but the best I can offer you is this visual feast. Stick this place onto your "Bucket List" because I can promise that it will not disappoint and you will come away energised, whole and completely marveled at the incredibility of Nature. The splendor of those rock formations leave you feeling bewildered, connected and even a little bit ethereal. It's extraordinary, it really is.
Beginning with a funny little story, I'm going to let you in on a teeny tiny secret. Well, perhaps it is more of a confession. You see, this hike the kids and I undertook was not intended to be the six hour hike it became. I think I may have taken a wrong turn! Or more to the point, I didn't turn. We set off with means of hiking the Gorge Circuit Hike, a two hour return trip. I didn't look carefully enough at that map and it turned out we trailed the Alligator Gorge Ring Route, a four hour return trip, but with little legs and lots of breaks to soak in the majesty of this place that four hours quickly became six. The Australian bush can be a dangerous place and one should always be equipped when venturing forth. Fortunately for us, we were prepared. We had plenty of water and food supplies inside our pack, plus we each carried a jumper as the day had begun chilly, as well as our hats. We cross paths with another family during our hike but they went on ahead as we were stopped for lunch at the time. Upon our return to the car park we met up with that same family which gave me the opportunity to ask if they too had found their hike considerably longer than expected. We described to each other the way we'd gone and it turned out we'd both chosen the same route and made the same mistake. Luckily all the kids involved were up for the challenge and regardless of my navigation skills (or lack there of), I am thrilled we went the way we did. Hiking is one of my all time favourite things and I am hoping to encourage that love within my kids. They themselves are turning into great trailblazers and to have joined me in that six hour adventure was a stellar effort.
After we climbed our way up the stone steps from the bottom of the gorge, these were the signs that greeted us. It was the junction to the fire track and after having already hiked for four hours we were expecting a sign to read something like "Alligator Gorge car park 0.5 km". This was the moment I realised my mistake! I had to shovel my way out and I had to shovel f.a.s.t ! At this point, those expressions in that photo above pretty much say it all. The kids were not impressed and my explanation of our options was met with dispirited moans, crestfallen faces and a definitive thumbs down. They were tired and in need of a morale boost. So I resorted to the only thing any other parent in my position could do. I turned to bribery! It's amazing how much bounce the thought of hot chocolate with marshmallows and the promise of a new Lego set can give a child. And I'm not talking the jumbo Lego sets either, they were given the smaller size that you are likely to buy as a birthday gift for a classmate. Little did they know I was prepared to offer three figure cash amounts and aerial scenic flights! Haha, such troupers they were and they did so well for their first big hike.
It may be just the three of us who think this, but do you see an alligator in that log above? I had to photograph it because, really, how cool! Of course, that log is not what gave Alligator Gorge it's name. There are mixed reports as to the origins, with some stating that the gorge was named after a local shepherd called Ally but it is also likely that the name came about through the ancient quartzite walls and their resemblance to alligator skin.
As it happens, Mount Remarkable National Park is the featured Park of the Month for Nature Play SA and Jason Tyndall, Support Manager for Nature Play SA, wrote a fabulous blog post earlier this month. His visit was just days before our own and instead of me retelling all the details, I'm just going to piggy-back off of Jason's blog post and also his list of 20 Things To Discover in Mt Remarkable National Park.
In conjunction with Nature Play SA, the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources is hosting a series of events throughout the month highlighting how unique this National Park really is. If you happen to be in the area over the next couple of weeks, check out their list of events here. Also worth noting is Melrose's annual Fat Tyre Festival which will overtake the town and surrounding areas in June (10th - 13th). Mt Remarkable itself is accessed via Melrose and is well worth a visit even if you are not a mountain biking enthusiast. It is steeped in history and having been established in 1853, it is the oldest town in the Flinders Ranges.
Depending on how long you've been joining me here, you may or may not remember the Nature Bag I put together for Noah's fifth birthday last year. I still get a buzz each and every time I see that kid diving into that bag, which is often and he was determined not to forget it when we were packing for this trip. I had to restrict what he brought with him for our hike knowing that at some point I would be the one carrying it all. He chose his binoculars and the identification charts which were ideal when trying to ID the "Orange Peel Fungus" (Ascomycetes - Aleuria aurantia) we came across. At least I hope we ID it correctly..?
I love that our visit coincided with it being the Park of the Month as I've long been an eager follower of Nature Play SA and advocate all that they strive toward and represent. If you live in or around South Australia I highly recommend planning a road trip out this way and if you are farther afield, then add it to your next travel itinerary. It can be enjoyed any time of year but Autumn through to Spring is best for milder temps and stunning wildlife.
Have a read of Southern Flinders Ranges - Part 1 for details of the days either side of our hike.