Nightly Reflections – South Coast Track III

Longer Form (Est. Reading Time 12 Minutes)

For six nights along the South Coast Track I jotted down vibes from the trail. Nothing really here about the track conditions or distances between camps, mostly focused on how I was feeling returning to this wilderness coastline. Some short, some lengthy, all sweet. Here they are.

Day One.

Today I feel comfortable returning to the south west, my third time on the trail in as many years. 

The track is familiar, and I feel that I’m becoming seasoned in traversing the region. I think that there’s no reason I couldn’t do this every year, spending a week (or more) and adding on new side trips each time, revisiting but embellishing my knowledge and bringing others along for the journey.

I’m alert and excited about the year ahead of me and the personal challenges involved. I’m well rested from summer, now into my third week, time spent mostly eating and laying about. So I’m ready for bush time and especially eager if the weather is going to be good…

Day Two.

Today I hardly thought about anything. My mind could get stuck on a song (never a good song I’ll add), or be on repeat for a moment from the past, usually within the past week, the upcoming house move and subsequent search for our new place. Then after a while and a few dozen steps, something else would be on rotation. Classic day two vibes, when the city speeds and expectations are slowing down to a more fitting pace, one that is closer to the rhythm of heavy footsteps and the rustle of a backpack as it slowly reduces in weight with each meal.

The sun continued to beat down solid, and we can’t believe we forgot sunscreen. Mostly the exposed skin is alright, save my neck. It’s pretty red, hammered from hanging out too long on the beach over summer already. Eventually it sets into the ocean out west, a bulk of cloud fragmenting the light into oranges, yellows and pinks. It can’t penetrate through it all, and a mass of grey hovers slowly above the Ironbounds, the ranges tumbling into the Louisa valley below. Tomorrows ascent. 

I fell asleep for an hour on the beach, head on my runners, mini hiking towel flung over my legs fending of the March flies. I dreamt deeply into the soft sand, flashes of a memory reel reflecting in my mind. Pub hangs, silent strolls in town, or leaving the house to go to the shops. Simple everyday events that aren’t necessarily spectacular yet all add up. When I role from my snooze, I dig my toes in deeply to find the harder compressed sand, and massaged their tired ends into submission for another days hiking, tomorrow sending it steeply up and down in what will be my biggest trail day (in kilometres) on the south coast track yet. 

Last year on day two I was reflecting on returning, being back in this place with a swathe of new experiences. That’s still the case, and I’m still chipping away at trail time and wilderness readings. It’s part of our backyard that I want to see protected and adored. But I’m really not thinking about it. I just am. I feel like I’m home, and content…

Day Three.

Today was another perfect patch of hiking on the south coast track. Full blue skies and minimal wind, the ranges to the west, north and east squeezed in together, only separated in the faintest changes of silhouetted blue. Truely fantastic and beyond impressive. Catching our eyes was the massif of the Arthurs and the prominent Federation Peak, the plateau of Mt.Bobs, and those out west towards the harbour that sit lower than Able height and avoid my knowledge, for now. While up is an exposed tramp, down to Deadman’s Bay is a secluded steep send through my favourite forest of dense green. Here the forest is warm, the canopy alight with brilliant blue. Hidden in its density are the birds calling, the insects beating their wings en mass, and the frogs calling back and forth.

Sun disappears and my mind vacates the scene. I’m spent, heel aching, hips rubbed raw, fatigued for sleep. Tomorrow I might find the time to reflect on the roots and branches on the push down hill, avoiding the falls and trips, occasionally pushing myself a little too quickly and slipping into tree trunks.

Sleep tight whenever we are hey…

Day Four.

Today was divine, a near perfect day for hiking, pushing us on for a double day. There was a chance we could lag behind, or take the effort of yesterday to meaning today would just happen. Yet alarms rang and sleeping bags rustled early. Bacon and eggs danced in the last of the butter. Tea brewed on the cliff edge, a little dusting of powdered milk sat on the cup handle.

The infamous Precipitous Bluff appeared from the grotto on Prion Beach and joined us intermittently throughout the day. A fantastic mass of dolerite rock, nestled up against the major fault line that divides the states dolerite and quartz, it soaked up the sun from its 1100m+ in height a seeming stones throw from the ocean. As we rowed across the New River Lagoon, with a slight breeze from the east, the bluff loomed behind ultra impressive, making  a classy crossing photo opportunity.

The near permanent un-cross-ability of the lagoon means there’s a shuttle system of row boats on either side of the water body, that’s a few hundred meters wide. Naturally you can’t cross and leave a row boat behind as well, so in the case there’s only one boat on your bank, you need to do three trips – row across, hitch up a second boat, row back to where you came, drop it off, then row back across. In doing the crossing we risked taking all three boats back across as we knew there was a big mob of hikers coming down the beach just behind us, and sure enough as we were readying to leave they rounded the sand dunes, stoked with the extra boat! Given the heavy bias for people travelling west to east, you usually have to do the triple trip from this direction. What’s ace is the next group did the same thing, and paying it forward happened for a few successive hiking groups.

Retiring for a session in a fishing net hammock, I resisted the flies somewhat to get in a little rest and reading, delve into some deeper down time beyond cooking and making camp. The book I’m reading teaches teachers about teaching – by exploring the learning cycle and how we sense information, give it context in our lives, and (to complete the cycle) churn it into action. For a while I floated in the hammock, reflecting on how this applied to my hiking, either on this trip or over the years. There’s things sensed – maybe the tightening of skin being burnt, or a certain hunger in your gut longing for the flavour of fat/sugar. It could also be the sensation of being lost, being afraid, being fatigued. Each experience layers itself in your mind, allowing comparison of how and why each happened, and naturally how one would approach the situation into the future. With hiking, the resulting actions (or inactions) usually take form after the trip back at home. To try ensure minimal fuss before the next trip, I store and pre pack my gear once I get home. To try avoid confusion over meals, I have a pre-written shopping list of food.

We kick off again, out of the hammock and on to the warm, dry trail, undulating across the old sand dunes and under some difficult to negotiate wattle tree carcasses impeding the trail. It’s a challenge, squeezing under a branch or three, pushing uphill on a slope made of sand, as your pack inevitably catches a rouge piece of branch, dragging what minimal momentum you had to a halt.  Fortunately (as I’m not the biggest fan of this wattle stretch), it’s not long before we’re across the Rocky Plains and into my favourite patch on the trail. Truly ginormous gum trees, stunted in height like most coastal trees owing to the relentless barrage of winds of the Southern Ocean, for what they lack in height they make up in girth – with diameters at your chest height of five humans arm spans end to end: huge!

It’s right now I get to be so glad we pushed through to make it to Surprise beach, and to see this forest and the evening, golden sunlight filtering through the canopy.

We arrive. Set up. Find water and guzzle it down. We’re parched as. A fantastic days hiking along the premiere wilderness track in the land. No place like it, facing away south across spectacular cliffs and beaches that have felt the barrage of time like few others. Curtains for the day were burning red and pink, a sunset for a lifetime, jagged rock enveloped in ocean and silhouetted on a pink-blood January sky…

Day Five.

Today I’m in love with our surroundings. Well, I am every other day, but today’s a special day for all the right, simple reasons. Woke up late without an alarm, body clock delayed in calling the shots, ended up just catching the end of the morning feeding session of the local birdlife. Made a cuppa in the vestibule, the sunlight warming my tent through the slowly moving tea tree. Gazed into the middle distance as the tea brewed, waking up to a gorgeous coastal morning, cracking a massive smile across my face. It’s a different vibe waking up next to the coast – everything has reset itself according to the waves relentless frequency, wiping away our footsteps on a high tide in the process.

Eventually we packed up, and after a cruisey breakie, remembered it was time to walk. I laughed straight into a hill, immediately burning the energy through my calves, and draining my water supply. Still, while the light washed out the landscape above the trees in overcast white, below a few rays managed to penetrate the forest and parried with the understory of ferns. Ferns grow in the most stunning soft greens, delicate yet hardy, controlling and covering the landscape from below.

We got through to Granite Bay in no time, dodging a basking snake on the final ascent to the campsite. At this time it was empty bar one other hiker, and we set up shop and yarned about hiking along the eastern seaboard, following our verbal trails as we listed hikes from Cairns to Cradle to Canterbury over the ditch, and how Covid changed our hopes for so many more. I love sharing our trail stories, carefully crafted and chockers with chance occurrences we use to share values and connect – conversations and kindness of those on trail or offering a ride, the mental hurdle of solo wilderness hiking, and more.

After a waterfall shower, located under the stream that falls onto the beach below camp, my body feels stiff and sore, time to rest it and not stretch it, a sage recovery session for tomorrow’s send over the South Cape Range. So I retired to tent bed for an arvo kip and to finish my book. I’ve been chipping away at The art of changing the brain for a couple of months now, made easier by the short and punchy paragraphs and blend of advice, research, and personal experience. I’ve relished reading and learning about learning.

It’s all part of perfect afternoon in, jogging the mind and resting my overloaded muscles.

Later, I woke up to a near howling wind and a packed campsite, maybe the potential rain on the horizon has accordion-ed everyone to this camp either side of the range, prepping ourselves for the up and over tomorrow.

Again I find myself reflecting on the special loving nature of our surroundings today. I love it’s quiet, even in the howling wind. I love how it welcomes us to the landscape, even when offering up impenetrable three-metre high vegetation across the trail. I love the sensation of coming across a snake, and love even more the distance we keep from each other…

Day Six.

Today is our second last day on the south coast track. Many kilometres, views, and beads of sweat later, we’re almost there. Woke up to a rapidly emptying campsite and a superheavy seabreeze slowly clearing at Granite Bay. Waves were pumping hard, the white caps and the deep blue water surfing in together.

Straight into sending it up and over the South Cape Range, into the mud mission, featuring the sloppiest and most consistent stretch of mud for the trip. I took a few falls, ended up with mud up to the ankle, and came so close to mud near to the waist. Elliott wasn’t as lucky. Super slippery navigating across delicate and exposed branches offering minimal purchase. The mud demands your focus, keeps you heavily in tune with your footsteps, draining all your energy as it is directed to ensuring you don’t slip. Every footprint is important, because a lapse could mean mud up to your knee, could mean falling face first into the mud, or of course for a more serious injury.

But it makes for a very entertaining hiking especially under the gorgeous canopy. Stunning eucalypt woodlands, some areas with amazingly huge leatherwoods, sassafrass, or places where a tree’s come down and the resulting exposure to the sun creates an amazing fern grove of green against the encroaching shadows. And of course the open areas of swampy heathland, where the scrub is at eye level as your meandering through the flowering landscape.

The stretch down into South Cape Bay is divine. From Trackcutters camp it’s mostly down hill with just a couple little elevation gains. Amazing views span out across the cliffs, down in to the wonderfully perfect opening up onto the sandy beach and rivulet to wrap up the days hiking.

Now that I’m here I’m ready to go home. I can sense it’s just a day away now. A bed, sleep and familiar smiles is that which I’ve been missing. I think on every second last day there’s a blend of reflection of the time spent on trail blended with the possibility of tomorrow and returning to friends and family.

I have loved this trip incredibly. The lucky weather will be in the records forever, so too gawking at the unbelievable views and summiting the challenge of starting with 28kg condensed into my backpack. Layering of experiences over the years, even the ability to give expertise to hikers, and reflect on three years running. The noticeable changes and the seasonal shifts – for example water availability or condition of the campsites. 

It’s exciting be in a position where I am learning about this beautiful part of the world. I’m familiar with it, and excited to think that over the many years to come how well I’ll get to know it as 3 trips becomes 10, maybe 20 or even 30. 

It’s exciting to know that tomorrow the adventure continues, and that means beginning to find a new place to live and begin building more settled and longer term future with in this beautiful island wilderness I love that I get to call home.

Happy trails my friends,

Jimmy Nails

During the week I study wilderness at University of Tasmania, I campaign with the Wilderness Society, and on days off I hike in the Tassie Wilderness World Heritage Area. You could say I’m a wilderness tragic. Outside of wilderness I’m a sucker for melody, cook a mean pasta, and need a third dot point.


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The South Coast Track – where these photos were taken – is the traditional lands of the Lyluequonny & Needwonnee people. I respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Owners of these lands and waters on which I was able to traverse, learn, and appreciate – and pay respect to the First Nations Peoples and their elders, past, present and future.


Bibliography / Suggested reads: 

  • James Zull ‘The Art of Changing the Brain’
  • Daniel Kahneman ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’

Back Home… Challenging Elements

Longer Form (Est. Reading Time 8 Minutes)

Fourteen Remote Days Out Bush

The sun is setting behind the coastal mountains, each brimmed with a line of clouds waiting for the days final event, a last hurrah of sunburst. Sooty oystercatchers call from across the bay, tiny fish leap out of the ankle high deep water as it recedes. A seagull forages for food rather than beg me for hot chips. Currawongs clanker, honeyeaters hustle. The breeze shifts. I hear it first from the north, pushing through the tea-tree forest.

Unhurriedly taking in the changing surroundings and slow lap of water against the shoreline is one of the principle pleasures of remote hiking. It’s cheesy, but it’s one of those occasions you don’t want to pass by. It’s so peaceful. Totally chockers with peace! Like the mountains in the distance, the quiet reflects my calm, my content. I haven’t felt this solo peacefulness in a while. I have with others, somewhat, but not on my own. And not this remote, well into the Tassie wilderness.

For the first eighteen days of the year I hiked, incorporating the Port Davey, South West Cape, and South Coast Tracks. Here is a selection of diary entries from the trail that capture the wild and remote vibes of this beautiful slice of earth.


The southwest region is spectacular and the hiking world-class. And it’s challenging. The vegetation can wall up to impenetrable scrub in an instant. It’s renowned for its fast moving and unpredictable weather, of relentless rain and punishing winds. You’re seriously remote, days and days from any human structure or transport. The paths, where they exist, are slow going – including river crossings, mud, and more scrub.

Walking on my own on trail, for day one I found myself overthinking and planning. Then on day two my thoughts fizzled to straight out head-in-the-clouds daydreaming. Day three and my mind ticked over restlessly, taking in my surrounds details as I moved further south. Come day four, despite my running thoughts on trail, I forgave my thinking. It’s hard to sometimes, to cut myself some slack.


Steering away from Scott’s Peak Road, the dust of my ride settling as they headed back to Hobart, I caught my last glimpse of motorised transport for four days. The last car I’d see for two weeks. With the exception of the time tested path and the well rusted star pickets that line it, the landscape before me is shaped by time only. Crossing the Lost World Plateau, I follow narrow benched tracks with my eyes as they contour away into the distance. Mountains capped in white quartz, locked in the mist for morning tea, now appear clearly to the east north south and west. A coastal breeze pushes up the valley, the thicker, enthusiastic air pumping its way off the coast as far as it can. It fills my ears as I round another twist in the path.

Apparently people have a love/hate relationship with the Port Davey trail. I loved it – the huge sweeping views of the Spring Valley, ace tracks surrounded by wicked peaks, and crossing the Bathurst Narrows by boat. Conditions were fortunate for me, and in crappy/sodden weather the mud, exposure and patches of confronting vege could definitely have potential to test ones resolve.


The relentless crashing against the Wilson Bay rocks pumps over the dunes and into the forest. It’s calming us, reminding us to rest after yesterday’s epic 11+ hour traverse of the South West Cape Range. This range juts 600+ metres straight out of the ocean, a spectacular zig zag of peaks, saddles and misleading gullyies mostly above the tree line. It’s an area battered by wind and weather for eternity. From all angles – northerlies push across from the mainland, easterlies across from the Pacific, west and southerlies straight off the 40’s and Antarctica.


Nearing the end of the beach we were treated to five minutes of blue sky, and the split in the clouds let in enough sunlight to create a stunner rainbow. One so low and squashed the New Harbour Range loomed up behind it. Between the highs and lows of being out bush on trail – part of the trick is hanging onto these moments through the mud, rain and pain. The same way your body forgets it all when you’re deep into a fantastic yarn with your hiking mates. But really the rain is just as beautiful as the sunlight. The cold just as special as the warmth. The expanses of button grass just as grand as the towering mountain peaks beyond.

There’s a few more distractions for us when at home, but when out bush we’re clearly surrounded by the best opportunity to be reminded of the importance of a healthy backyard. One that it’s simultaneously resilient and fragile. That we’re part of this intensely interconnected world, in such wonderful ways far beyond our wildest understandings.


Last night a thunderstorm hit the coast above our camp. My tent lit up brighter than day with each strike of lightning, and I’ve never heard a noise so loud in my life. It was exhilarating.


On the South Coast Track, again, and it’s raining, again. It feels so familiar, this 80 odd kilometre stretch traveling lutruwita’s wild and remote southern coast. I’m recognising things constantly. Even non-view related things, like certain broken boardwalk planks or piles of timber stacked neatly off to the side of the trail. I’m recognising the terrain. I sense a growing familiarity with the area. Each experience hiking is naturally shaped by company and the weather. This feels like a layering of experience – sometimes shock and awe, and a week of rain. Others comfort and familiarity, and a week of rain. Did I mention the rain?

I wonder what it’s going to look like next year?

I like to believe that this trail and terrain will be here relatively unchanged into the future. That the wild and cultural elements of the place are retained and nurtured, so that each layer of experience we lay down is comparable to the quality of past experiences – not a reflection on what’s no longer here.


Now I’m at camp, nestled into the eastern pocket of Surprise Bay, perched on a limb of our campsite banksia. If you’ve been here, it’s the gnarled specimen in the lower level of camping pads, that’s warped into a verticle standing spiral, creating a perfect seat in the diffused setting sun. I’m treating myself to a little music, subtle tunes as I type whilst my hiking pal reads and stirs dinner into action. Today was a wet, wet day. Solid rain from the west smashing into our backs as we plodded towards Prion Beach and the testing three boat crossings of New River Lagoon.

It was also our penultimate full day of hiking. I know it’s a daydream, but I still wish it would go on forever. That the trail didn’t wrap up in forty k’s and turn into a bitumen road back to nipaluna/Hobart. That it journeyed through the southern ranges and forests, linked through to kunanyi, and wound its way back north – to the east coast, to the Bens and wukalina/Mount William. Maybe one day it will – a continual hiking loop around the state. Months of traversing the many and varied landscapes of this special, much loved island almost swallowed by the southern ocean.

My tent broke last night as well, after a challenging crossing and with tired body. Today, my body is tired but oddly I feel I could go on hiking for hours. ‘It’s not that I don’t feel the pain, it’s that I’m not afraid of hurting anymore’.


After twelve straight days of hiking over two hundred kilometres, heading over the South Cape Range was unreal. A mental brick wall to be overcome. We decided against a rest day, and I’m glad to have done so. On the other side I felt revitalised, pumping with excitement and new energy.  To be in the weather all day every day. To watch it pulling towards the coast, at a rate much faster than you can walk, all the while you’re mentally adding up the ks to decipher where you might be once the weather hits, and how drenched you’ll be come camp.

The challenges the remoteness of the southwest throws at us (or we throw ourselves at) are intangible, and are the thoughts needed to overcome a storm, a muddy path and flooded river, or overwhelming chill/heat. I, like many, are drawn to the element of challenge that the wilder places on earth provide. The weather, the terrain, and the physical and mental levels one reaches through the journey.

I was so impressed with my fitness today. Powering up hills like they were flats and setting some serious pace. Breathing is solid and fitness clearly pumping after so many days hauling 15+ kilos over the summer terrain. It’s been a long time, years, and many hurdles since I’ve had this level of up hill fitness. But I’m over the heavy boots! This landscape is divine, totally humbling under the giant gums, dense south facing beech and horizontal, and the continual tea tree heath. And mud. And hard water ferns for entirety or forested areas. I love it so much!

Reflecting with people who I met on trail – some for who the SCT was their first ever multi-day hike (quite the achievement): I feel that our take on the nature of our experiences is how the hiker adapts to the trail. We can revel in the depth of wilderness, grow our skills and ability to conceptualise the challenge effectively, or even up things to pack in heavier weights and live a comfier trail life with tarps, snorkels, and changes of clothes. Or we could be shitty. Either way, the challenges of the trail are a reminder of the importance of allowing ourselves and future hikers the chance to gain and grow from these experiences.


Though ‘Back Home..‘ I’m going to delve into what wilderness is a little more.

If wilderness is ‘out there’, then what’s here at home? What does our future of wilderness look like? How do we protect wilderness areas at threat from human activity? Does a true wilderness include people, or not? There’s so many questions, and given the number of trails and making up for lost time we’re teeing up for 2021, plenty of time to mull over the topic in more refined nature.

So, here’s to turning a bit of home thinking time into home writing time, and looking forward to sharing this over the coming summer with you all.

And I want to hear what you think. Comment below or join me on Instagram!

Happy summer trails my friends,

Jimmy Nails

During the week I study wilderness at University of Tasmania, I campaign with the Wilderness Society, and on days off I hike in the Tassie Wilderness World Heritage Area. You could say I’m a wilderness tragic. Outside of wilderness I’m a sucker for melody, cook a mean pasta, and need a third dot point.


The Port Davey, South West Cape, and South Coast Track traverses, and the Southwest National Park – the inspiration for this piece and where these photos were taken – is the traditional lands of the Toogee. I respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Owners of these lands and waters on which I was able to traverse, learn, and appreciate – and pay respect to the First Nations Peoples and their elders, past, present and future.


Back Home… Te Araroa (SoBo) Reflections

Longer Form (Est. Reading Time 6 Minutes)

Be back in a couple months.

Lost in a network of coves on the far north-eastern point of Aotearoa’s Te Waipounamu/South Island. The island here has being consumed by ocean over millennia, valleys filling with water and creating a myriad of jutting points and hidden bays. Loosing my bearings a little, my neck cranes left to right searching for what I think could be Meretoto/Ship Cove, the starting point for the southern leg of the countries national trail, the Te Araroa (the ‘TA’).

I was pumping with energy, excited and hanging to get hiking. The boat pulled up to the jetty, and so did I, grabbing my loaded pack from the legend of a captain as I did so. A quick smile, thanks, and beginning the 1500 kilometre stretch down to the southern tip! The cool weather rainforest here is gorgeous, the sun shining through the dense, brilliant green canopy and a path lined by tree ferns and nikau palms. Following the contour over a spur, I caught a glimpse of the ocean below, stunning blue and gently washing against an undisturbed shoreline below me.

Another TA hiker and I strolled into camp together an hour or so from the jetty, meeting a third TA hiker in the process. At this stage, our earliest of expectations were totally fresh, and I truely had no idea what the terrain and challenge ahead was going to be. I knew there’d be heavy packs, and lengthy week long stretches between towns. But these were just shallow, inexperienced expectations of a thru-hike. Over a dehydrated meal and spoons of peanut butter, we delved into the details of the trail ahead and what food we had packed in. The other hiker had hiked the Te Ika-a-Māui/North Island too, and I begun to learn a bit of the lingo (‘most people walk SoBo’ that is, ‘South Bound’), hear of other people ahead/behind us (we’d started between two ‘pulses’ of hikers, about three days apart), and what else I could expect from walking for months on end (podcasts, podcasts, podcasts).


From fresh faced beginnings the distance unraveled underneath my feet as the scale of the undertaking hit me. I can tell you the exact location it began. For those playing at home it was in the Richmond Ranges, on the ridge line between Slaty and Old Man huts, staring south west to Mount Rintoul. After a lunch in the shade I stood there, staring at peaks innumerable in every direction, snow capped in the direction I was heading. Here’s an excerpt from my diary that day: ‘[the view] was humbling.. I felt alone for the first time in a while.. The scale was just huge, and my mind started to put it all together and went into shut down mode.

Here it hit that I was only on day eight of an expected seventy, and the vastness of the challenge sunk in. The sensation reminds me heavily of my time on Frenchman’s Cap, staring out over the Tassie Wilderness World Heritage Area, overwhelmed as I yet again reassessed my interpretation of the grandness of the outdoors.

Throughout the TA on the Te Waipounamu/South Island, you pass from one area to the next mostly surrounded by spectacular mountains on the eastern flank of the Kā Tiritiri o te Moana/Southern Alps. Mt Rintol in the Richmonds, Wiauo Pass in Nelson Lakes, Avalanche Peak in Arthurs Pass, the Two Thumb range and more. In evenings the sun sets behind the mountains, striking brilliant silhouettes and casting crisp shadows, even in February.

The shock of distance and the remote nature of my time on trail meant I had to reprogram my attitude to the hike. I realised that I was undertaking a mental marathon, not a sprint. The wild and remote backcountry of Aotearoa is what drew me here, and it provided the challenge I was seeking.


Feeling this remoteness is a crucial element to the wilderness experience. Some of the challenging moments of a lengthy, backcountry hike are tied to remoteness – the challenge of trails exposed to the elements with lengthy distances without water, of traversing free flowing rivers, or interactions with wildlife. In A Life on Our Planet, our favourite, David Attenborough, shares his changing experience with nature whilst the wild places of the earth have dwindled rapidly over the past sixty years.

Hiking through the remote places on the TA shines a light on how motorised transport can impact the nature of wild-ness. When your choice is purely by foot, the size and scale is almost incomprehensible; the challenge totally different. Yet you can drive the length of the south island in a day, or fly it in under three hours. Doing so the surroundings might ‘look’ wild (and well worth seeing none-the-less), but they really ‘feel’ and ‘act’ as wild by traversing them powered by your own energy. If a place retains a disconnection from transportation intrusion, the more remote and wild it can remain, and the richer the experience for those on trail.

We felt the tainting of the challenge when, after a serious and difficult day of hiking, a helicopter flew in people to the valley. Not only did the helicopter shatter the quiet completely, but it reduced our remoteness completely. The pilot even offered to take our rubbish out – a nice offer, but dropping 50 grams of scraps from my pack will never be worth it. Another element to this example is that we were hiking with speed to avoid the cyclonic weather pushing from the north east over the alps – whilst those in the chopper had a lift out with the chopper regardless. The extended consequences of introducing motorised access are broad and permanent – and I’ll delve in to some of the elements of this in future parts of Back Home..


The extent of wilderness – remote, challenging, and typically iconic areas – has a unique ability to humble. As we hiked/tramped on the TA, I relished sharing this experience with others. Our skill levels were different, so too our expectations of ourselves. But rolling into camp with pals and sharing a yarn from the trail – totally enriched the value of a wilder experience. I reflect on these moments a lot. Not a day passes where I don’t think about the TA and trail, and no week passes by where my pals from the TA don’t reflect on the experience with me.


Returning home was a whirl wind of adrenaline. Crossing the Te Waipounamu/South Island from north to south on foot was an emotional stretch. The pain and changes of twenty-nineteen being trampled into the path, or more poetically, set to rest in my mind in exchange for burning through kilojoules like they’re going out of style. Come a week into trail a was able to power through multiple burgers, pizzas, litres of milk, and keep operating, still retaining room for more food!

We were drawn together for a variety of reasons, but most common was the allure of the scenery and interaction with the islands wild and remote landscapes. How we share, care for and nurture these landscapes into the future will determine the quality of experience for those that follow in our footsteps.


Though ‘Back Home..‘ I’m going to delve into what wilderness is a little more.

If wilderness is ‘out there’, then what’s here at home? What does our future of wilderness look like? How do we protect wilderness areas at threat from human activity? Does a true wilderness include people, or not? There’s so many questions, and given the number of trails and making up for lost time we’re teeing up for 2021, plenty of time to mull over the topic in more refined nature.

So, here’s to turning a bit of home thinking time into home writing time, and looking forward to sharing this over the coming summer with you all.

What does wilderness mean to you?? Comment below and join me on Instagram here!

Happy trails my friends,

Jimmy Nails


During the week I study wilderness at University of Tasmania, I campaign on wilderness protection with the Wilderness Society, and on days off I hike in the Tassie Wilderness World Heritage Area. You could say I’m a wilderness tragic. Outside of this I’m a sucker for melody, cook a mean pasta, and need a third dot point.


Hiking, tramping, trekking – whatever you call making your way across the land by foot – is an ancient activity. The original inhabitants of Aotearoa/New Zealand, the Maori, have travelled across the land by foot for aeons. Pathways have been trodden into song-lines and stories that are, in some cases, millennia’s old. Many modern-day paths, including portions of long distance trails such as the Te Araroa, incorporate these routes as part of the journey.

I pay my respects to the many and varied iwi and hapū whose land I was able to traverse and appreciate on my journey across Te Waipounamu/South Island. The land was my inspiration for this piece and where these photos were taken.


Back Home… Exploring for Protection

Longer Form (Est. Reading Time 5 Minutes)

A takayna/Tarkine Wilderness BioBlitz

NOTE: On March 20th, 2021, I’m running the the takayna trail run – 25km half marathon through the wilderness. I’m dedicated to raising donations for the Bob Brown Foundation that works tirelessly to protect this area of the world. You can help protect this special place by donating to my running effort here.

It’s nine o’clock on a Friday night. I’m prone in my tent, where the mix of last nights and this mornings rain has left the floor and lower ceiling sodden, absorbing and sharing the moisture of the rainforest floor wonderfully. My sleeping bag is twisted, and damp. My pulse beats loudly in my ears. It beats against my makeshift pillow, a trusty down jacket stuffed into a thermal shirt. Beyond the beat drifts in the finest mist of rain, struggling through the dense, ancient rainforest canopy and finally settling on my cheap, portable, thin walled home. It’s a soothing rain, almost dreamy.


The day wraps up and my eyes droop heavily to this pitta-patta, a few currawongs touch base with each other across an otherwise quiet canopy. They call a few rapid ‘good nights’ and one of ‘surprise’, a different call separate from their usual chatter. A call I hadn’t heard before. Today we put in a solid, lengthy days hiking. Pushing through and across a land dense and scarred by forestry, by fire, and by wind. The vegetation became thicker and thicker with confused regrowth. The ground undulating and torn by machinery. Further we pushed, deeper into takayna.

We established our camp on the slopes of a ridgeline that’s wonderfully remote. It’s one of the few, if only, times I would get close to using the word pristine. With a human-changed climate, pristine no longer exists. But a slip, trip, fall or bite – and our only option out is emergency helicopter. That, or being hauled for hours through the density, which is not ideal. We scattered our tents through the forest, beneath ginormous trees that allow such little light in that hardly a plant can grow beneath them. This is old forest. Very, very old. 

From above, the ridge line is an array of different greens. Some glossy, some matte. A total canopy carpet. Survival of the fittest is always at play. Here, every species around us is competing within a crammed forest. Those that can survive the longest – damp, dark loving species like the myrtle beech – grow slowly and gnarly, twisting through time for hundreds of years.


In the morning, the sun fights through cloud and wins but for a moment. We’re setting ourselves up for another day in the forest with a cold musli and lukewarm cuppa. Today we’ll be surveying and documenting whatever species we find – animal, plant or fungi. I’m balancing tea on one knee and book on the other, getting my eye in by scouring through pages of identification books, flipping from tree to shrub to orchid.

Traversing the Bertha ridgeline from north to south, we hug the eastern flank to avoid the dense fire instigated wall of life dense with batwing ferns and stink bush. The vegetation, although consistently rainforest, changes frequently, as the plants adjust to the lay of the ridgeline. We bio blitzed the whole ridge.

In one moment I’m photographing ferns cloaking a tree whose crown towers forty metres above. Next moment, I’ve discovered two tiny jet black beetles under the leaf litter. Moments later, a minute mantis fly (scientific name Calomantispa venusta for those taking notes) with wicked black and yellow forearms and antennae. Then, calling out to a mate, having found another special shaped fungi breaking down a fallen giant log. Find. Document. Repeat.

After a while, the groups rate of discovering new species drops off. Naturally, considering we’re bound to one form of vegetation. Everything has its limits. It’s at this stage I get to concentrate on my presence in this fantastic forest. A place where not many – if any – humans have traversed given it’s remoteness, and the preferable travel routes at lower altitudes where river and creek flow. I’m thinking about the future, and what it holds for this place…


One way I like to connect with new places is by finding commonalities – through similar species, shared climates, and familiar communities of plants, animals, and fungi. Here, a fern grows on the drier flanks of the ridgeline, and also grows at my favourite beach two hundred kilometres away as the cockie flies. How are they surviving in two totally different regions? What role in their surroundings are they creating that makes them the species best suited to grow there? Likewise is by finding new (to me) species, and trying to ID them and interpret where they sit in the ecosystem; again, all about what role do they play in the whole.

Another way is through experience, principally through hiking. My emotions and behaviours within a place are altered, or adjusted by, my surrounds. How this goes down solo is different from with a group. Not better or worse, just different. There’s plenty of laughs and reflection time either way, and I prefer both. In takayna, I felt extremely comfortable with my surroundings, owing much to our capable team. I felt calm. As opposed to other hikes, there was a defined task to locate and document species – to continue to build our case that this region deserves protection.

This region deserves world heritage listing, to join the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The fact that areas as internationally significant as this are being clear felled, bulldozed and burnt for wood chips is disgusting. Utterly disgusting. A truely outdated and unacceptable way of interacting with our surroundings. The darker, hidden side to wilderness protection is the actions that destroy it. That’s for another piece.

For now, you can enjoy a selection of photos from the BioBlitz here, or find out how you can be involved in future BioBlitz and help protect it through the Bob Brown Foundation, here.


Though ‘Back Home..‘ I’m going to delve into what wilderness is a little more.

If wilderness is ‘out there’, then what’s here at home? What does our future of wilderness look like? How do we protect wilderness areas at threat from human activity? Does a true wilderness include people, or not? There’s so many questions, and given the number of trails and making up for lost time we’re teeing up for 2021, plenty of time to mull over the topic in more refined nature.

So, here’s to turning a bit of home thinking time into home writing time, and looking forward to sharing this over the coming summer with you all.

And I want to hear what you think. What does wilderness mean to you?? Let’s chat below!

Happy summer trails my friends,

Jimmy Nails


During the week I study wilderness at University of Tasmania, I campaign for wilderness protection with the Wilderness Society, and on days off I hike in the Tassie Wilderness World Heritage Area. You could say I’m a wilderness tragic. Outside of this I’m a sucker for melody, cook a mean pasta, and need a third dot point. You can follow my more erratic self on Instagram.


The takanya/Tarkine region of lutruwita/Tasmania – the inspiration for this piece and where these photos were taken – is the traditional lands of the tarkiner people. I respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Owners of these lands and waters on which I was able to traverse, learn, and appreciate – and pay respect to the First Nations Peoples and their elders, past, present and future.


Back Home… Fresh from Frenchman’s Cap

Longer Form (Est. Reading Time 6 Minutes)

Re-wilding my thinking

This piece was brewed from the kilometres and sweat of being out on the Frenchman’s Cap trail, where the wilderness put me in a mind primed for writing after the time on trail was done. I opened the piece with ‘Back Home:…‘, as it’s not only written in the comfort of my home and shelter from the relentless summer heat, but home is my favourite flip side to wilderness. It’s where our experiences and memories of being out bush are allowed the time to solidify and take on meaning of their own. And I’m not going to pretend I don’t prefer my bed, clean clothes and fridge full of food.

After being on the west side of the island, I was hanging to share some post-hike thoughts with you. But first step was to figure out what it was I was feeling perched up on that quartz peak deep in the Tassie Wilderness World Heritage Area. At the time I was overwhelmed. Physically not so much. Mentally, wiped out. Staring out for hours over a horizon filled with ridge lines and valleys. Every moment spent in the vast, vast, vast outdoors – especially these places void of almost any physical alteration or addition to the landscape by humans – adds to the complexity and scale of the area. I feel increasingly small, with a growing desire to hike further and deeper into the place.


“Should we hit up sunset up top?!”
“Yeah, I reckon!”

Not a cloud in the mid-December sky. Southern sun beating down on our dusty hats and patchy shirts, my exposed upper knee, between gaiters and shorts, holds an experienced and sturdy tan from previous weeks. My neck, freshly exposed from a haircut the same day, not so much. From the trailhead we yarned about how we’d approach the peak, and we decided on trying sunset. Pretty easy decision given the weather, and its unique calmness on offer up top.

I won’t bore you with a break down of the peaks, but from up on ‘Frenchies’ you’re over 1400 meters above sea level, and in the right conditions it’s a three-sixty delight of geological activity stretching as far as your eye can see. Shards, crescents and walls carved into rock by glaciers in previous ice ages compose your skyline. In the shadows below, rivers like the Franklin flow free from its headwaters through to the harbour, this river famously protected thanks to tireless campaigning by those before us. People that loved wilderness and natural areas shaped the conservation movement in Australia forever. Folk who’s footsteps I’ve literally followed, right up to working with the Wilderness Society.

Strolling into camp on night one, we’d left town later and arrived with headlights and star filled skies lighting our path, after negotiating our way over tree roots and muddy segments after sunset. In the quiet of the night we muffled our enthusiasm and excitement a little easier given our tiredness, to the benefit of our fellow hikers already well asleep. Satellites and shooting stars kept eyes focused above, and after a few failed late-night exposures (photographs), I bunked down on my newly acquired sleeping mat and sleeping bag liner, vaguely listening to resident frogs. My little tent is home. My sleeping system and pack all have their place, the pack contents too – exploding over the floor, food sealed and away from the tent walls, save a repeat of the possums breaking in. It’s extremely rare that I don’t fall asleep within five minutes. The combination of relaxation and exhaustion guarantee a solid nights sleep. Beside me as I sleep, my morning musli soaks in a red, trail beaten, metallic cup.

As the sun dimmed on night two, three of us walked around the massive bulge in the earth, laughing or stuck for words with how amazing our backyard is. A truely special place, that we’re fortunate to be able to climb and experience. The mountain highs saturate your thoughts and senses. In the past few days I’ve drifted through the hours, chipping away at work, at planning the next four weeks of hikes, and snagging the last few xmas presents for the festive break on the coast – but always returning to this moment up top.

For day three, we powered out to the trailhead through the first real heat of the summer, and cut a path back to Hobart and a burger and chips. Being on trail and returning home with mates is a totally different experience to hiking solo. Yarns, laughs, advice, support – all you’d expect from sharing a memory. Be it in the morning over breakie and a tea-leaf filled cuppa (or for the prepared, a pressed coffee!), spreading out a map beside our gear, or pointing to landmarks and sharing our gathered intel as the day progresses. We all gravitate towards sharing, and making memories together. It’s one thing humans can do really well.


Now in the settled, post-hike respite, I’m preparing for next weeks trip, and building a stockpile of food for two weeks wilderness hiking in the new year. My thoughts have settled and they’ve settled as this: Sharing wilderness is really important to me. Sharing the quiet. The remoteness. The quality of the experience on hand. I’m fascinated with these places and what it means to people. How it inspires them. How we all have our different interpretations of it. I love hearing these different takes on the special landscape around us.

And every time I return home from a sojourn out bush, the experience shapes my relationship between home and wilderness, it changes and continues to take on new, exciting, and even challenging forms.


Though ‘Back Home..‘ I’m going to delve into what wilderness is a little more.

If wilderness is ‘out there’, then what’s that mean for our home? What does our future of wilderness look like? How do we protect wilderness areas under threat? Does a true wilderness include people, or not? There’s so many questions, and given the number of trails and making up for lost time we’re teeing up for next year, plenty of time to mull over the topic in more refined ways.

So, here’s to turning a bit of home thinking time into home writing time. I’m looking forward to sharing this over the coming summer with you all.

And I want to hear what you think and what does wilderness mean to you! Comment below!!

Happy summer trails my friends,

Jimmy Nails


During the week I study wilderness at University of Tasmania, I campaign for wilderness protection with the Wilderness Society, and on days off I hike in the Tassie Wilderness World Heritage Area. You could say I’m a wilderness tragic. Outside of wilderness I’m a sucker for melody, cook a mean pasta, and need a third dot point.


The Frenchman’s Cap Trail, and the Wild Rivers National Park – the inspiration for this piece and where these photos were taken – is the traditional lands of the Toogee nation. I respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Owners of these lands and waters on which I was able to traverse, learn, and appreciate – and pay respect to the First Nations Peoples and their elders, past, present and future.


Previous photos from Frenchman’s Cap, here.