We arrived in Yulara, Australia about 1:30PM on July 14 and drove 300km to Watarrka National Park. The Red Center sector of Australia looks quite different from other deserts I have visited.
These trees, Kurkara or Desert Oak, were abundant. The skinny ones are juveniles, which drip any rain near their base until they sink a deep taproot. Then they spread out to a more typical tree appearance. The Alice Springs/Yulara region averages about 11 inches rain per year, most of it in summer due to latitude 24-25 degrees. The closest North American analogy is the Sonoran desert of northern Mexico and far southern Arizona. Elevation is about 1,500 feet. The mountains in this region top out at 5,000 but evidently that's enough to double rainfall vs. flatter, more barren deserts to the west and southeast.
There's just one hotel out there and we arrived not long before sunset upon the western end of the George Gill Range.
The next morning we drove out to Kings Canyon to hike the 6 km loop trail starting at 7:45AM. We planned to be here in July, the coldest and driest month. Early morning temps were about 45F with highs about 65F. There were steady moderate winds on top so I wore my old ski jacket all day.
We also hiked the spur trails on the NE side of the map to Cotterill's Lookout and into the Garden of Eden.
The steepest ascent is at the beginning, though it's only about 500 vertical feet.
Once we're up a bit, the sun starts to illuminate the southern wall of the Canyon.
We are still shaded this early as we walk east on the north rim. Liz climbed a distinctive rock here.
Her backlit hair is the closest we came to seeing a corona on this trip.
Over the next 15 minutes we move gradually into the sun.
The trail goes through a narrow crevice where I couldn't resist the photo opportunity.
Soon we reach a view from the north rim west toward the trailhead.
Cotterill's bridge was built over a crevasse.
This gets us to the highest viewpoints.
I took this picture from the north rim sitting down because a stiff breeze was blowing toward the cliff on my left.
Returning from Cotterill's Lookout Liz is among crossing crevasses.
Here a stairway has been built partway down the north rim.
This bridge crosses the canyon.
A sign on the bridge describes the Garden of Eden below.
On the south side we descend to the canyon floor.
A final stairway descends to the permanent water.
Liz is approaching.
We're at our snack break in the Garden of Eden.
The view of cliffs and reflection is impressive.
Leaving Garden of Eden we see the ferns and cycads that only live in this oasis.
At the top of the south rim it's blowing hard but sunny.
The pole at left is one of three solar powered first aid kits on the trail.
We see many rock domes from the south rim.
This gate marks the end of a short south rim hike, about 1/4 of what we did.
The gate is locked when high temps are predicted higher than 95F.
Edge of south rim view north.
The notch behind Liz is Kestrel Falls, which can flow during summer wet season.
Gradual stairs descend from the south rim to the trailhead.
The spiniflex desert shrub is unusually dense here.
We were done by noon and then drove the 300km back to Yulara in time to watch sunset on Uluru. On the way we passed by Mt. Conner.
Mt. Conner has similar geology to Uluru but no road access.
Kings Canyon topography may look familiar to those who have spent time in the American Southwest, but it's unique in Australia.