Travel

Rob Lowe’s Favorite Hiking Trails Wind Past Bobcats and Giraffes

Here's where the ‘Parks and Recreation' star hikes when he travels the world.

Photo courtesy of Rob Lowe
Photo courtesy of Rob Lowe
Photo courtesy of Rob Lowe

Rob Lowe has had a fantastically recognizable career, from starring in the likes of The West Wing and Parks and Recreation to hosting his own podcast Literally!, where he chats with A-listers like Katie Couric, William Shatner, and Drew Barrymore on a weekly basis. His latest flick, Dog Gone, soared to number one on Netflix, tracking a father and son’s hiking journey along the Appalachian Trail to find a lost pup. And as it turns out-off the big-screen-Rob is a big-time hiker himself, part of an incredibly active lifestyle fueled by a sense of adventure, love for quiet moments and, oh yes, his absolute favourite, Atkins protein-loaded Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars. As for his top hikes, a few-including bobcats and maybe a giraffe or two-stick out. In his own words, here are his favourite hiking memories. As told to Jesse Scott.I love being outdoors-I’m outdoors any chance I can be, for as long as I can be, every day. There’s the physical training element of it, and there’s a meditative element to it that is so important. Really, it boils down to being alone in nature. And I cannot live a life without that.

I don’t understand the earbud/headset thing when people are out hiking, skiing, or anything like it. I get that people want to listen to music. But to me, that’s missing the whole point. You can listen to music in your car. You can listen to music in your kitchen. You can listen to music anytime. But the sound or lack of it-it’s not even really a lack, there’s plenty to listen to out in nature-is something that I think a lot of people are missing out on in today’s world.

Irina L/500Px Plus/Getty Images
Irina L/500Px Plus/Getty Images
Irina L/500Px Plus/Getty Images

Being here in Santa Barbara, the thing I love most is that there are so many good hikes and trail heads that are so easily accessible and they all connect. It’s not necessarily that one is any better than the other. I recently came upon Franklin Canyon in LA, which is up in Beverly Hills, and it’s the best. I hate being in the city and, immediately, you can be surrounded by bobcats and bears and everything. It’s good for my soul.

I’m an avid skier. That’s probably the thing I do the best. Hiking up somewhere to ski down is the ultimate goal for me. You haven’t fully hiked until you’ve done it in ski boots, carrying your skis at altitude.

Leo McGilly/Shutterstock
Leo McGilly/Shutterstock
Leo McGilly/Shutterstock

But my favourite hike is the trek to Machu Picchu. You can take the Inca Trail, which I believe is multiple days-I did not do that version. I did the eight-hour version, and it’s just spectacular. It was the perfect amount of challenging, not necessarily technically, but challenging in terms of fitness.

Arriving at Machu Picchu is one of those things where it’s so famous, you’ve seen the pictures, but the images can’t prepare you at all for the majesty of it. Also, you realize you’re looking at something that there’s no close second to. It’s truly one of a kind. You feel the history and the energy. There is really something inexplicable about it. And then of course, there’s the payoff of having travelled so far for so long. It’s not an easy trip.

canadastock/Shutterstock
canadastock/Shutterstock
canadastock/Shutterstock

I kind of felt that way with Yosemite, too. It’s a place, conversely, that is easy to get to. You go to Yosemite, and you realize, ‘I would travel for days to go to a place like this,’ yet it’s right in our backyard in California.

To me, it’s one of the other wonders of the world, and it took me forever to get there-I don’t think I got there until I was in my forties. It just absolutely blew my mind.

Adria Photography/Moment/Getty Images
Adria Photography/Moment/Getty Images
Adria Photography/Moment/Getty Images

There’s one other hike I did in the Masai Mara in Kenya that was unbelievable. I went for a run and it was like a dream. I’m running, thinking, ‘I’m going to avoid that tree line. I don’t know what’s in there, it could be bad.’ Then I look over and see giraffes. And as I’m running toward the herd of giraffes, I think, ‘Oh, look at the wildebeest.’ And then I’m like, ‘That grass is a little tall. I’m going to make sure I stay away.’ Then I ran into a watering hole and just threw myself in it and hoped there wasn’t a crocodile. These are thoughts you’re not going to think anywhere else on Earth.

Looking ahead, I’m going to be hiking in Jordan, Israel, and the Valley of Kings in Egypt. That promises to be an epic trip.

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Jesse Scott is a contributor for Thrillist.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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