Launceston’s Cataract Gorge is my playground. I can be found there every day of my life – unless I am up a mountain or off exploring some distant waterfall. The gorge is my “daily drag” to which I owe much of my fitness. It is my sanity and my soul’s revival. Whilst my husband deteriorated with his illness, the quiet beauty of the land, the gurgle of the river, the pattern of flow as the river defined its daily course over boulders and smaller rocks, the tweets and songs of the birds … all these things brought me peace while my legs beat out the rhythm of my daily run. With that as medicine, I needed no other.
Every day I run my chosen path, delighting in the workout provided by the many hills present, noting en passant the flowers, leaves, flow lines and fungi that line my route. Past the “tourist section” filled with beautiful flowers, paddymelons and wallabies I go, and on to my preferred lonely sections of mostly unmaintained paths that are wilder, freer and less populated. Manicured nature does not please me for more than ten minutes or so.
And then came Covid. Australia went into lockdown, but we were still allowed our gorge. Like cattle, we were herded into the one nice place to go. I figured that if I could smell someone, I could also breathe their germs, and the main gorge paths were now full seeing’s we were locked out of National Parks territory. I spent my runs holding my breath and gasping for air when I found an empty spot. I had to change the paths on which I ran. This lead to new opportunities, and I have never returned to my old route. I still haven’t worked out how you can claim that herding the citizens into a small area and locking them out of the wide open spaces provided by National Parks helps prevent the spread of disease. As soon as they made the announcement, I said: “They’ll have a massive mental health bill to pay”, and my words have unfortunately proven to be correct.
In order to find space in the gorge, I began to explore off-track areas and tiny paths that had not previously called me. My rewards were many, and the number of new fungi genera and species that I found in these conditions has been a massive bonus. I have continued with my “covid routes”, even though lockdown ended over a year ago. And I continue to find wonderful fungi.
Here is a collection of 20 or so favourites from the gorge. You will see my natural instinct is to favour the small and dainty ones. However, I also love many of the larger ones as well. Space does not permit me to show everything.
Amongst the genera and species not shown here, just in case you’d like a full check-list of what I have found and photographed in the gorge, are the following:
Callistosporium ‘dry red’
There are others that I have seen but either I have not got around to photographing them, or couldn’t ID them, so saw little point. Some of the “big browns” and “big whites” are rather challenging to ID.
I hope there are no misprints, typos or false IDs. Please alert me if you spot errors. There is far too much misinformation in the web. I do not wish to be part of it! I hope you have enjoyed seeing what our gorge has to offer.
It was a perfect day for fungi hunting – albeit a little cold – and, as I had been waterfall bagging cum bushbashing the day before, I decided to have a lovely relaxing day searching for treasures on the slopes of kunanyi / Mt Wellington. I also wanted to get my first ever photo of Myrtle Gully Falls with a decent flow, so headed in that direction.
Silly me. I only brought my landscape lens. No matter. It meant I could return later with my macro one. I hate changing lenses in the forest anyway.
Having set out early so as to ensure a parking spot, I had the entire forest to myself on the way out.
At the time, and having finished shooting landscape shots, I was cross at not having brought my macro, but once I’d resolved to return, I could just relax and select the specimens I wanted to photograph later.
One patch of fungi that intrigued me was a total gang of Hygrocybe firma in a kind of open mossy area. I resolved to also bring little Abby there later so she could play fairies. There must have been at least 50 specimens – all tiny – in a slightly scattered cluster.
On the second trip, I met heaps of people: some in family groups, lots walking their dogs (all on leads), some fungi hunting, like me. We all smiled as we passed each other in a general feeling of good will. Several commented on how lucky we are to have this mountain at the city’s doorstep, and they were not wrong. It made me really happy to see so many people out enjoying its beauty.
My joy, however, was quickly dispelled when I returned to the area of all the Hygrocybe firma. There I saw four females in their early twenties (probably) ducking down and gathering things from the ground. There were NO Hygrocybe firmas left! I was really cross. I asked them what they were doing, and they said with a kind of chuckle: “Oh, we’re just doing a little foraging.” Their hands were absolutely full of fungi! Fungi that belong to ALL the people of Hobart, and not just them. I was so cross I followed them back to the car, and took a photo of their number plate. They were in a car from NSW. Tourists, stealing our fungi. As if it isn’t bad enough that our government wants to rape and pillage everything called “National Park” to sell it as a commodity to tourists without said tourists also thinking they can come and destroy public space in this manner. I told the slowest of them (the others were scurrying away from me) that she should take up photography, as then she could “take” fungi without touching or destroying them for others. I pointed out that their piles of fungi were presumably going to land in a bin somewhere; they weren’t even of any use. One of them was videoing the caper (as I arrived). I’m sure it made a fantastic Insta story.
So. I didn’t get to show Abby the red fairy bonnets growing on “her” mountain.
Fern Glade, Burnie, is situated on the beautiful Emu River – a place where you feel like whispering, and not just because of the plentiful platypuses and paddymelons. Actually, on my visit, marsupials well and truly outnumbered fungi, which I had gone to see, even though the latter were numerous.
How many times have I driven past this place but never bothered to explore it? Countless. At last I was rectifying this matter today, thanks to posts on the fungi website.
There are actually three Fern Glade walks in Tasmania: one here at Stowport, part of outer Burnie; one at Fern Tree halfway up kunanyi (Mt Wellington); and one leading to the Marakoopa Caves near Mole Creek. You could kind of do a Fern Glade fungi-crawl, trying to do all in a day, which is not, however, advised, as each is so beautiful, and the fungi so numerous in autumn / early winter, that the rush would destroy the hoped-for goal of enjoying peace, serenity, that “ancient feeling” one gets when in the presence of trees whose age and size makes your own look ridiculously diminutive and inconsequential, and whose majesty far, far outclasses anything humans can come up with. I suggest three separate days. Allow yourself to be overwhelmed by beauty.
I didn’t really know anything about this place apart from the fact that it boasted nice fungi, so parked at the start, as that seemed a reasonable thing to do, and set out walking beside the river. I had no idea where or how far I was going. Besides, when you know you’re going to allow yourself to be waylaid by fungi, neither time nor distance has much relevance. It was a cold morning, and the paddymelons who greeted me looked even colder than I did. They just sat there, huddled up with their usual “bad posture” and didn’t budge a centimetre as I passed by. They were too cold, and too unthreatened to bother.
I walked to the end of the “manicured” tourist-type track, but saw it was possible to continue, so that I did, for so long that I got hungry. Having left the car at 9 o’clock, I didn’t return until after 1 pm. There was plenty to amuse me!
Here is a selection of some of the fungi that I found. There were, of course, many more fungi than this. This is your “trailer”. The film lies in Burnie.
Re IDs. I have tried my hardest. Sometimes one asks for help but doesn’t get an answer. This is my best effort. I am happy to receive corrections.
Ever stuffed up arrangements for the start of a walk? What did you do?
Here’s what I did on this occasion.
As I explained in my previous blog*, I had been up most of the night worrying, getting only three hours’ sleep, before driving 2.5 hours north to pack my bag. There was then a 3.5 hours’ drive to reach my meeting place with the other bushwalkers of the group in the far SW of the state. Trouble is, with so much fatigue, so little sleep and so very much stress, despite setting out before the others, I didn’t quite make our rendez-vous, and when I tried to find them early next morning, they were neither where they said they’d sleep, nor where they would park at the start of the walk. I searched and drove to and fro for half a day. Had I found their car, I would have given chase, but there was no sign of it. Had they had an accident or been unexpectedly delayed? I drove back to the Needles saddle, where there is range, but there was no sign of a missed call or message. By an early lunchtime, I decided I now had what was left of three days to do my own thing. Oh the choices!!!! Such a wealth of them once one is down in the south west!
I had been going to climb to Pandani Shelf for photographic purposes (not using the out-of-bounds route), but the reality and the forecast proclaimed that clouds would dominate up there, so I decided for some lower joys that would nonetheless involve climbing.
I ate an early lunch, and settled on my first goal: The Needles, which I have climbed many times before, but never with small children in mind. Now was the time to climb specifically watching for aspects that might daunt pint-size people (like metre-high steps or huge mud baths). If all was well, then we could come here as a family in April. I have also never devoted time on the Needles to examining the flora of the region, and was interested to see if plants were recovering after the fires of two years ago.
My other question was, how long would it take: was it a good length for a diminutive five year old?
The pictures tell you that I found very beautiful flowers, and meanwhile, I decided that we can definitely bring the children, although Abby will need lifting (“flying”, she calls it) over some of the two-metre-long stretches of gooey mud, … and perhaps a hand up some of the steeper parts where sliding backwards is possible (very few of these).
The amount of burnt devastation is very sad, and yet the new growth brings hope, and many of the shrubs are recovering nicely. I even found a Geum talbotianum, which the web tells me is on the threatened species list.
Back in the carpark, I met two other very friendly plant enthusiasts, who recommended Tims Track to me, so that seemed like an excellent suggestion. My focus would switch to fungi.
The above fungi were the first to greet me. How could you miss that? They were huge and bold and cheery. I had met more lovely people in the carpark here, so was feeling generally cheerful. I might be alone on this trip, but I was certainly not lonely, and was enjoying meeting other like-minded souls.
The above fungus was part of a little cluster of canary yellow fungi, also pretty big and bold, yelling “Hello” to me as I involved myself with their world.
The Hygrocybe lewelliniae I happened upon was far more subtle. I don’t always require a siren to stop me in my tracks. This fungus has now changed its name, but I am sick of unlearning and learning anew, only to have the new one change – and of buying expensive books to have them out of date by the time I’ve brought them home. I express my discontent by using the names I have originally learned (mostly), and by not buying a $50 update which I know is already behind the times. Also, philosophically (and possibly more to the point), I am a joiner rather than a divider. Constantly splitting genera into smaller groups doesn’t suit my personality. Where we place dividing lines is a decision made by humans about nature; nature doesn’t necessitate that particular decision.
So, before I aggravate any more splitters, let us move on to my next goal, Mt Cullen, which had been on my bucket list for many years. It is the combination of the long drive and the problem of always needing to find a dog-sitter that has kept me away. Here was my golden opportunity. Having not planned to be here, I had no information, so just chose a starting point that looked appealing and climbed up.
I reached the first “summit” in 52 minutes; however, it was not the real summit. Now I was up high, I could see that the ridge led to a higher point, just across the way. However, the route was decorated with jagged rocks with a precipitous drop, and scrub in between. I battled the scrub rather than losing height (bad move), and eventually reached the summit with a bit of acrobatic work that I was not actually comfortable with, so chose an easier route for my exit / descent. It was not necessary to be so “daring”. Anyway, the twenty minutes that summit to summit took helped me kill some time: I had hoped I could spin the climb out for long enough to get sunset from a slightly raised perch, yet still get down with enough light to avoid an accident.
Once I was sure I could easily get down without trouble, I just sat and appreciated being there, waiting for colour. It was not a grand fanfare, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Back at the car, I had to decide which of all the thousands of possible spots to choose from, would be my piece of territory for the night. I chose a beach, parked the car, prepared it for sleeping and enjoyed the rest of the fading light while perched on a rock eating my dinner.
The menu for day two was pretty similar to that of day one: A mountain or two, some recce work, fungi, wildflowers and beautiful forest.
The recce work was on Mt Wedge, sussing it out for the possibility of sleeping on high – but tonight was not going to offer any views, so I’d bide my time. The new mountain was Twelvetrees Range, which I really loved. Its open ridge had a “Sound of Music” feel to it. I could easily have been on Skye, in the Lakes or in Iceland up there with no bush to bash through and big views of water and other mountains. It was great choose-your-own-route stuff, and I wandered happily all over the ridge top. Doing it like that meant the descent to the road at the end was VERY steep. (Under an hour up; more than, down, as I chose a longer, harder route).
I rewarded myself with food from the lodge, and then set about exploring the Lodge’s Forest Walk (no great finds there today), the Creepy Crawly Trail (this would be more correctly named The Ducky Weavy Trail) and revisiting Tims Track. The weather was far from photographically exciting, so I wended my way slowly east.
I love that cute, almost transparent Hygrocybe graminicolor . You may well be asking where the green is, but it can often be washed out like this. The form of its friends and neighbours enjoying the same moss close by indicates to me it was just bigger and more fragile then they were, but still part of the happy family.
I was going to sleep near the Needles, but the wind was howling and the dark clouds were swirling around me, and I decided that after all I have been through recently, I didn’t feel like moody but felt more like being beside a stream nearer the Mt Field National Park so headed even further east, arriving at my spot by the river after dark.
On my final day, my choice seemed to be between climbing Mt Mawson or more fungi hunting. The fungi had been so rewarding I opted for them, so explored the area around the Junee River, with some good finds.
And thus ends my weekend: a lot less strenuous than originally planned, but perhaps that was exactly what my body needed, and I certainly found some lovely jewels, and even met some friendly people in carparks – always a bonus.
No doubt this is the first of many fungi hunts for this autumn-winter season. I have been watching the number of posts increasing in the Tasmanian Fungi Facebook page, and on Saturday, when making our attempt on Cashs Gorge, I noted that the forest was alive with aborning fungi. It was time to examine my favourite hunting ground close to home, viz,, Notley Fern Gorge. I set out expecting to find nothing, actually, as it’s been pretty dry around Launceston. It’s all very well for Chris Wilson to find a plethora of specimens: she lives over on the west where it rains all the time and the forest is lush and moist. But if you don’t seek, you can’t possibly find, so there I was giving it a go. And I did find. Here are a few of my favourites from today.
Laccaria sp. Thanks to Dr Genevieve Gates for helping with the ID.
A solitary Coprinellus disseminatus Mycena albidocapillaris Entoloma sp, I think (as you see, I do a lot of thinking, ha ha).