I have an affection for blue mountains. The Blue Mountains of Southeast Utah are etched in my memory from childhood. I will always see them rising from the bean fields of western Colorado up to the heights of Monticello and then into a series of dramatic peaks “with horsehead on her side”,
The Blue Mountains of Australia have a different drama. We see a distant hazy shimmer of them from the terrace of our third story flat in Carlingford, a northern suburb. They are nothing like Utah mountains, but they have their own wild splendors even though they are just a few short hours from the throngs of people living in Sydney.
With Utah Mountains, part of the Rocky Mountains of America, we definitely look up, way up. In traveling to the Blue Mountains of Australia, we have a sense of gradually rising, but we don’t really notice we’re going up until we start looking down. On the way up, we cross wide silver rivers flowing out to the Pacific Ocean. Then we gradually ascend until we glimpse houses and acreage in the valleys below. Australian mountain forests do not grow the evergreen conifers of the high mountains in America. Australia’s trees are largely many varieties of eucalyptus (gum) trees.
We visited Mt. Tomah, one of the region’s botanical garden on a rainy summer afternoon. We made our way through the town of Richmond and then up though a narrow highway past small farms and fruit stands. Mt. Tomah contains a variety of beautiful walks around many species of trees.
Here is one place which does include conifers from around the world even though many do not grow naturally there. The botanists who started the garden brought the various species there and planted them. You enter the visitors’ center and then walk outside to a large terrace which looks out and beyond the garden grounds in quite a sweeping view. Closer to the visitor’s center, the landscaping with waterfalls and rocky walls, trellises and benches was charming.
Though a soft gentle rain fell most of the time we were there, we enjoyed the broad paved walking trails and even made our way through some of the narrower natural trails.
Many of the species were labeled. These botanical gardens are free to the public and their maintenance is funded by the Australian government and some private foundations.
The following week we took our Self Reliance group from Melbourne and the Spencers from Auckland, NZ to another part of the Blue Mountains. This time we went through Leura and Katoomba to a place called Scenic Wonder. We bought a ticket for the day which enabled us to view the sights from a cable car, a train and a skyway
for as long as we wished. The main viewpoints were the Three Sisters lookout and the enormous forested valley. This day the venue was crowded, and we had to wait in some lines to ride the venues. But the scenery was definitely worth it, as the skyway traversed the gorge. Below us we could see little waterfalls and streams. Though the green forested slopes and crevices were quite different, the felling of looking down at the splendor was not unlike that of Bryce Canyon lookouts in southern Utah. We went on several short hikes, and finally left Scenic Splendor to eat lunch in Katoomba. Then we convinced the men that we needed to take a look at the shops in Leura on our way back to Sydney.