As a nurse, Jane never imagined that her career and life would take such a dramatic turn that one day she’d be hiking and assessing trails all over Western Australia. But it did. Here’s how it all unfolded.

Before I met my husband to be, I’d never been on a hike, not even a bushwalk. 

But I’d met a man who was a photographer and had done some extreme hiking. He told me about being one of the first teams to hike in the Bungle Bungles Ranges before it became Purnululu National Park. 

His stories were almost scary;

How the group nearly ran out of water.
How they had to get to the road to meet a bus in time.
How they hiked early in the morning and late into the night because it was so hot.

 I remember the first time Michael took me camping. I didn’t have a good enough sleeping bag or any idea about camping food. I didn’t have adequate boots for hiking. I certainly couldn’t foresee that I’d transition into a career, traveling the state and country mapping and describing trails.

 Steve Jobs once said, ‘You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards’. As I look backwards, I can see how it all came together but at the time, it was a step-by-step journey both literally and metaphorically.

Step 1. Hiking

I kitted up and bought expensive hiking boots. Turns out they didn’t suit my flat, soft feet. It took me about three different pairs to work that out, as I learnt how to preventatively tape my feet for blisters. I invested in a good sleeping bag and backpack. I bought a cheap mat. I’m now on version three of my sleeping system and backpack.

Much of our early hiking was backcountry. One special trip was a hike through Karijini National Park, not the hiking trails but navigating with a map and compass.


From Nurse to Trail Assessor: A Journey Taken One Step at a Time, Jane Pulsey

Karijini National Park


As a group we navigated up gorges, over waterfalls, and down red rock cliffs. We slept on flat rocks under the stars. Rock wallabies came close at night to check us out, disappearing as soon as the torch flicked on. Our hiking companions taught me about cooking and eating well on the trail. Whilst on a longer holiday from nursing, we traveled to the USA and hiked through the Sierra Nevada mountains and Yosemite National Park for ten days.

We went with Michael’s hiking mentor, Arthur Weston. As an American, this was his backyard, and we explored the Californian backcountry. We confirmed that bears do indeed shit in the forest but didn’t encounter any bears in person. When I was painfully stung by a Yellow jacket wasp on the neck, I was picturing someone having to do a Bic pen tracheotomy.


From Nurse to Trail Assessor: A Journey Taken One Step at a Time, Jane Pulsey

Queen Charlotte track


In New Zealand we did some lesser-known tramps like the Queen Charlotte Track and Rees and Dart Track. In Germany, we tackled the Rhein Burgen Weg (Rhine Castle Trail).

Step 2: Becoming a Magazine Writer

As an ICU and trauma nurse, I was looking down the barrel of burn out and my personal cure for that was travel. On my days off and on holidays we’d go hiking. Michael had started writing articles to go with his photography and I was asking myself how I could join him in the business. I’d just completed a sociology degree to escape nursing so writing a few thousand words on a day off was what I did naturally.

Once I made the decision, and noting that I’d get long service leave in two years, we had a goal to aim for. During those two years, I started pitching and writing for magazines. I had a few published articles under my belt by the time I walked out of the hospital for the last time. And seeing my name in print for the first time was exhilarating.

The first trip we took as writers and photographers was a five-day sea kayaking adventure along Ningaloo Reef and then an outback survival course in the Murchison region.

Step 3: Becoming an Author

With newfound connections in the publishing world, and a developing outback specialty, a large publishing company offered us a contract to write a series of educational books on living in the Outback aimed at 10-12 year-old kids. We spent six months on the road visiting six children who lived on farms and stations throughout Outback Australia.

Having never written a book, I could’ve rejected the offer, but one of the things we’ve learnt on this journey is to say yes, and then learn on the job

Writing on the wing like this can be stressful, but ultimately it worked for us. The key was doing solid research and organising contacts well before beginning the writing. That relationship with the publishing company turned into about 70 titles and allowed us to travel in Asia for six months writing a series on Australia’s neighbours.

Step 4: Learning to Map

On a 4WD trip with our camping mates, we were chatting about how people who owned ‘soft’ 4WDs didn’t really know where to go. So we came up with an idea to put together a book of all the suitable trips we knew about in WA. What a great idea!

We pitched the concept to a couple of map publishing companies and HEMA maps came back interested in the idea. Then came some learning; how to use a GPS and map the 4WD trails in Western Australia. The result was Western Australia 4WD Top 50 Atlas & Guide.


From Nurse to Trail Assessor: A Journey Taken One Step at a Time, Jane Pulsey


I was the writer but also the techie one, while Michael drove the rough tracks. I wrangled the GPS, laptop, and spreadsheets. Michael took many thousands of photos. Meeting the cartographers who pull all the raw data together to create the maps we know today was amazing.

Step 5: Hiking The Bibbulmun Track

Traveling around the southwest of WA, we’d pass the Bibbulmun Track signposts where the 1000km track crossed a road. We always said we’d like to tackle it one day.


From Nurse to Trail Assessor: A Journey Taken One Step at a Time, Jane Pulsey

The Bibbulmun track


While mapping 4WD trails near Pemberton, we met some Bibbulmun Track end-to-end hikers. Their enthusiasm for the trail inspired us to put aside nine weeks to complete the journey. An expedition of that size can’t be completed in one go without a conscious decision to find time. We chose spring for the weather and wildflowers.

The Bibbulmun Track was a life changing experience for me. Walking for 63 days, with just a backpack of belongings, rising with the sun and going to bed early, surrounded by nature

The rhythmic nature of this epic hike made me physically fitter and mentally more connected. We didn’t know where the Bibbulmun would lead for us professionally, but we had an inkling we could do something with it. With our collection of images, we pitched a book concept to the Bibbulmun Foundation. They didn’t go for that, but they did suggest we do a calendar together.


Step 6: Assessing for Trails WA

The financial advantage of trails for tourism and country towns was becoming better understood and governments started putting more and more money into them. In Western Australia, government departments like Parks and Wildlife (DPAW) and Sport and Recreation came together to create the idea of Trails WA – a website and app that would compile the top 50 trails in Western Australia. People could nominate their favourite trail, then trail assessors would hike the track, photograph, describe, and map that trail.

The committee just needed someone who could;

  1. Hike, cycle or kayak all the trails
  2. Map the trails
  3. Photograph and write them up
  4. Choose the top 50

When we were chosen to assess the trails, we faced the learning curve of trail gradings. Our job was to travel from Esperance in the south to Kununurra in the north (and most places in between) and assess the nominated trails for the designated criteria. We chose the top 50 and they were uploaded to the website. As the project has grown, we’ve backfilled many trails, including more recently Gourmet Drive Trails.


From Nurse to Trail Assessor: A Journey Taken One Step at a Time, Jane Pulsey

The Pilbara

Technology has advanced, with digital photography and smart phone mapping apps making it so much easier to complete this kind of work. If I was back at the beginning and looking at all the work and learning I had to do to reach this point, it would’ve been overwhelming. Thankfully, it’s happened one step at a time, even if each step required a leap of faith.