Hiking through cotton grass – Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales

Cotton grass in the Brecon Beacons, Wales

Cotton grass in the Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales (Jake Graham Photography)

We climbed away from the haggard forest and the deep-set country lanes, between grazing sheep and bounding rabbits, and on. Cotton grass began to appear; at first one or two shoots, but by the time we reached the lower crags of Fan y Big the ridgeline was awash with white. As pure as the foam of an Arctic wave, the cotton heads lit up the Beacons, monotone yet magnificent.

We sat – with our toes overhanging – on a diving board of sandstone. We were at the apex.

Fan y Big summit, Brecon Beacons, Wales (Jake Graham Photography)

Fan y Big summit, Brecon Beacons, Wales (Jake Graham Photography)

From the Craig Cwmoergwm spine we moved south, beyond tottering cairns and peat bogs the colour of the night. The Neuadd Reservoir deep in the valley had run dry.

Stopping to rest on our descent into the Caerfanell basin, Jake fell asleep amidst a bed of grassy tussocks. I tried, but was kept from my slumber by the chirrups of the skylarks overhead.

Cwm Cynwyn valley, Brecon Beacons, Wales (Jake Graham Photography)

Cwm Cynwyn valley, Brecon Beacons, Wales (Jake Graham Photography)

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Hiking the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, Canada

Sunrise from Sombrio Beach, Juan de Fuca trail

Sunrise from Sombrio Beach, Juan de Fuca trail

Heading north from Victoria, we soon found ourselves in a landscape dictated by the trees and the ocean. Pacific waves – each infused with an eruption of translucent, turquoise light as they built in height – lurched onto the pebble beach with a crashing of foam, so raucous that I could do little else but marvel at their force.

We were midway along the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, one of several long distance coastal walks on Vancouver Island, stretching for 47 kilometres through ancient, mossy woodland and across storm-scarred beaches.

Without ambition, other than to absorb our surroundings, we pitched our tent beneath a conifer on the water’s shore, before finding the path.

Camping on the Juan de Fuca Trail

Camping on the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail

From the curious head of a harbour seal riding the ocean swells, to caves, spilling waterfalls, towering cedars and blankets of oyster mushrooms, we followed the path at a pace no faster than our natural gait. Indeed, with such a stimulating environment encompassing our steps, it took us some three hours to cover just a few kilometres.

Mushrooms on the Juan de Fuca Trail

Mushrooms on the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail

We spent the evening perched within the crags of a lone rock, each of us deep in thought as the waves – now blackened, save for the acceptance of moonlight at their crests – jostled below.

Tide pools on Sombrio Beach

Tide pools on Sombrio Beach

Though I have only walked bits of the Juan de Fuca trail here and there, I have little doubt that a journey along its entirety would be an endeavour without regret.

Some walkers like to complete the route in just two or three days, whilst others find the charm of the path so great that it takes them a week to complete. There are basic camping spots all along the trail, and drinking water can be collected and treated from the dozens of courses that cut the path. The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail is a wilderness walk, meaning that all supplies must be taken in, and so too removed. With consistent undulation, slippery rocks and the potential for adverse weather conditions, the path is by no means a predictable plod and those hiking it should have the necessary gear and fitness levels.

Hiking the Overland Track, Tasmania

Overland Track, Tasmania

There are few places in the world more diverse, wild and enigmatic than Tasmania, Australia’s island state. Several years back I hiked the Overland Track, an 80-kilometre traverse of the island’s western mountains through the Cradle Mountain-Lake Sinclair National Park.

Tasmanian Wildlife Identification Chart

Tasmanian Wildlife Identification Chart

It was the middle of winter, and whilst the track is popular in the summer months, with some 8,000 enthusiasts completing the distance each year, we had the mountains to ourselves. Initially bemused by the solitude, we swiftly gained a little light on the matter as the path ascended and drifts of snow began to drown the way. What should have been a four-day stroll, ended up being an eight-day trudge through waist-deep snow and sub-zero nights, a mishap that gifted me with one of the greatest hikes of my life.

I could write tirelessly about the wonders of the Overland Track in winter – its curious wildlife, temperate rainforest and its majestic mountains – but will instead let the photographs and sketches do the talking, beginning with a Tasmania Wildlife Identification Chart.

Reflections of a bog

Reflections of a bog

Snowy mountains, Tasmania

Snowy mountains

Highland plateaus

Highland plateaus

Rising mist

Rising mist

Frozen tropics

Frozen tropics

Outcrops

Outcrops

Hidden paths of the Overland

Hidden paths of the Overland

Translucency

Translucency

Wallaby in the snow

Wallaby in the snow

Waterfalls beside the Overland Track

Waterfalls beside the Overland Track

Sunset from a cabin

Sunset from a cabin