Cullin, Twelvetree Range etc

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!

Hygrocybe firma at the base of The Needles. I was not expecting fungi here!

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.

Blandfordia punicea. I WAS hoping for that. These are called Christmas Bells. They seem to have failed to have noticed that it’s March.

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?

Geum talbotianum

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).

Blandfordia punicea, habitat photo.
Needles scenery

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.

Possibly Cortinarius austrocinnobarinus

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.

Cortinarius sinapicolor

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.

Hygrocybe lewelliniae

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.

Mt Cullin: climbing
Mt Cullin: climbing

So, before I aggravate any more splitters, let us move on to my next goal, Mt Cullin, 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.

Mt Cullin summit area

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.

Mt Cullin sunset – not an overdose of colour, but better than nothing.

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.

Lake Pedder dawn

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 Twelvetree 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).

Twelve Tree Range – one of my favourite sections

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.

Colourful Russula persanguinea
Hygrocybe graminicolor

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.

Aurantiporus pulcherrimus

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.

Junee River

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.

Routes for Cullin or Twelve Trees available on request.

Fungi Notley Fern Gorge 2018 Apr

Fungi hunting, Notley Fern Gorge. 2018 9th April.

Coprinus truncorum

Coprinus truncorum
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).

Fungi fest Lake St Clair 2017 May

Fungi fest Lake St Clair: round two. 2017

Cortinarius apricosa
Ever since our first highly successful venture in 2014, I have always wanted to return to Leeawuleena (Lake St Clair) to see the fungi. At last, this year, we succeeded, checking out the little darlings both at the lakeside, and also at the Franklin River reserve. Both spots yielded wonderful specimens to photograph. Oh, I get so frustrated trying to identify them. So many don’t seem to quite match any of the images on the wonderful FungiFlip (A pictorial guide to Tasmanian Fungi) or in the more comprehensive and excellent book on Fungi of Tasmania by Genevieve Gates and David Ratkowsky. The problem lies in me and not in their book or Flip. I fear I inconsistently sometimes want nature to be a lot simpler than it is for my convenience, but then it wouldn’t be nature, and I wouldn’t love it so much. Part of her allure is that she eludes our best efforts to tame her, or to comprehend fully her manifold secrets, or to reduce her to a simple set of rules or equations. There is always a complexity that lies beyond us.

Hygrocybe lewellinae
I don’t photograph anything for scientific purposes, or even as a record of “what I’ve seen” or “where I’ve been”. My photography is my creative interaction with the beauty I see around me, and my attempt to portray that beauty in my way. I love light, and the fungi I love are specimens that themselves play with light and allow me to represent my perspective on their play. Here is a small selection of what I saw last weekend.

Mycena interrupta playing cancan girl and showing us what’s under her skirt – nice gills, that’s what.

Alas, no idea

Mycena epipterygia

Mycena kuurkacea I presume

I would sure love to know this!!!

Yet another that has to go in my files as “unidentified”. Perhaps it’s a cute little coprinellus, or yet another mycena. If anyone can help me, please do in the comments. I’d be MOST appreciative.

Fungi fest Lake St Clair 2014 Apr

Fungi fest at Lake St Clair Apr 2014.

Who can resist the flame red of aurantiporus pulcherrimus, seen here by the shores of Lake St Clair?
It was snowing lightly on the central highlands as we drove towards our destination, our plan being to sleep on top of the glorious Mt Olympus.  But this was not a peak bagging bushwalk: we wanted to see the view.

Cortinarius archeri
“Are we going up if it’s like this?” asks my husband, his voice not full of joy and hope.
“Let’s just wait and see. There’s still a half hour’s drive left,” I say by way of prevaricating.
We arrived. The mist swirled around us, but the snow had ceased. I went into the information office to check on the latest forecast and saw doom and gloom for the next five days. We even discussed giving up and going to Hobart, but both agreed that, having driven here, we would set out and see how the day progressed. What eventuated was a fungi fest. I had taken seven photos before the little nature trail sign number two had appeared. Hm. This was going to be a slow trip, but we were no longer in any kind of hurry, so why not linger longer and enjoy these colourful marvels, these hints of magic lands and fairies?

Entoloma sp I suspect. I couldn’t see underneath, and didn’t happen to bring a mirror.
The score at the end of the day was over a hundred photos of fungi, and not a single leech bite, which is amazing if you consider that in order to take most of my photos, I lie in the mud, or at the very least, go down on my elbows and knees, paying homage to nature’s little miracle workers, noble housekeepers of the forest who facilitate the growth of the trees I love.

Dermocybe canaria
The photos I have chosen are ones that I hope act as visual-poetic images, a single moment intended to connote a much wider field of magnificence, a whole world of forest green and elemental wonder that fills me with joy. The larger field of forest context is there, but blurred usually, just a hint of the rich world that is the kingdom of the fungus, but also enabled by it.

Entoloma rodwayi
I had assumed that my association of fungi with primeval charm had been taught to me via connections of pictures of fungi with fairies in woods, and then via Tolkien, or Shakespeare’s comedy characters retreating to wonderful woodlands for their happy endings, by Faery Queens or Merlin’s wood (although I love the lot). However, last year I took my one-year-old grandson fungi hunting, and he knows none of these stories, and yet he warmed the hearts of many who watched him by delighting in the tiny forms, calling me with unabated glee each time he found a new species (for him, colour or type).

Hygrocybe firma
Fungi are essential to the life of forests as we know them. Without saprophytic fungi (or decomposers who live off dead or decaying matter), our forests would be unmanageable piles of non-decomposed logs and unbroken-down leaves, cluttering up the space needed for new trees. As it is, thanks to the work of these agents, the trapped carbon in lignin and cellulose (made when the plant was photosynthesising) can be returned to the soil for recycled use by the next forest dwellers. Because of this, I walked through the forest enjoying the debris of mossy logs and fallen branches and leaves from the sassafras, leatherwoods, King Billy Pines and myrtles, not for one moment wishing it were manicured or “tidied up”, as this very debris is the heart of the recycling process that is necessary for the forest’s health. In the book Wildwood, Roger Deakin bemoans the fact that in England many “wood-feeders” have been rendered locally extinct by being literally tidied out of existence (136).

Hygrocybe lewelliniae

The other most helpful fungi are called mycorrhyzal fungi. These ones form associations with the trees’ roots – in which case they do a deal with the plant, making use of the sugars that the plant has made, whilst returning the favour by increasing the plant’s absorption of water and minerals. These fungi have also been found to be beneficial in aiding some plants’ resistance to certain diseases, and in helping plants to overcome poor or contaminated soils. Whilst the saprophytic fungi might be called the housekeepers of the forest, these (mycorrhyzal) ones might perhaps be called the chefs, nurses and doctors. Whichever the type I am looking at while I walk, I don’t see them without also taking into account their essential role, even if I don’t put it into words at that moment. Knowing it is like being told the wonderful ingredients of the meal you’re about to eat in a restaurant: it makes it all the more delicious.

This account of the benefits of fungi has entirely omitted the other reason that I love them, which is because they are supremely beautiful – that is, the ones I love are. The ones that enthral me most are the tiny, ethereal ones, with fairy caps and stipes as narrow as a spider’s web – the ones that connote enchanted woods and a world of limitless beauty, or the ones that are so viscous they almost glow.

Lake St Clair, the backdrop to this fungi fest

Mycena interrupta – that one’s a give away. The web informs me it’s known as the pixie’s parasol. It seems that association of fungi with the little people of the forest crosses all national boundaries.
So, on we went fungi hunting and photographing until we reached Echo Point Hut, where we dumped our packs with the tent and food for an excursion that was no longer taking place, and went on further, doing a recce up the slopes of Mt Olympus for the next time that we would be there to do the climb properly. It was lovely to spend time at this hut right by the water, set in forest that is so lush, with the sound of running water ever present. Nice just to be, and not to be passing through for once.

A waterfall we found whilst wandering around the untracked slopes on the flanks of Olympus
Note American readers: I hear many Americans calling fungi “mushrooms”, but in Australia this appellation is usually reserved for, say, the champignons (Agaricus bisporus) that go in Beef Stroganoff, so to call a poisonous fungus a mushroom could be quite dangerous in the wrong context. Besides, fungus is the scientific name for what we’re talking about, and so removes all ambiguity.