Cataract Gorge Launceston “Tomorrow”.

Cataract Gorge Launceston “Tomorrow”

T. Tourist in Tree Tunnel

I never expected to have so much fun in Cataract Gorge. After all, I run there every day, so it holds few secrets, and it is becoming alarmingly popular of late. So why was I there in a role other than “daily runner”? Haven’t I had enough of the place? (No, is the short answer).
My Camera Club, NTCC, is having a ‘fun afternoon’ there later this month; however, I can’t attend as I will be climbing a truly horrible mountain on that day. But I wanted to play the party game, even if I can’t attend the party, so here I was. It was raining this morning, precluding many other duties: today was to be the day. And what was this game? I had an 8-letter word, (mine was “tomorrow”) and I had to find something to photograph for each letter of my word.

O. Orifice (oral one) of opalescent peacock (yelling)

While I did my post-breakfast run, eyes left and right for inspiration, I considered my lot. The consonants were easy, but three Os. Oh dear.  As I ran, I hoped I would happen upon an Olearia; that would make life easier. Yes, I caught it on the rebound up towards the Power Station. Phew. That was one O dispensed with. I have never seen an orchid in the gorge, and the only fungus specimen I know beginning with O (Oudemansiella gigaspora), I had only seen on Mt Wellington, so I’d have to think outside the botanical square for two more. I ran and dreamed. You will see in the photos my solutions to my problem.

Mollis azalea (Macro)

My only other issue was selection, as my mind was working overtime, coming up with far too many fun alternatives. Oh well. I’d shoot anything and everything, and decide later which ones would be in the final cut.
I grabbed my camera backpack, and swapped my running shoes for walking boots and gaiters, as I was about to follow one of the South Esk River’s tributaries upstream for my W shot. That was fun. As I dived over the edge of the railing, I heard a father steer his curious son away; I think he decided I was someone suspicious, or, at the least, very strange. I am sure I am thought to be Very Strange quite often, so this only caused a smile.

O. Olearia (overhanging)

W well and truly covered (with a bit of beautiful M thrown in for good measure), I transferred location to the Rotunda with its Rhododendrons (ignoring the Runners, Rain and Rocks). While I was photographing the path with its colourful overhang, there, beautifully framed by the crimson arch, was a Tourist, who signalled to me that he’d move. What? A considerate tourist? Is that not an Oxymoron? I didn’t think I needed T for tourist, but thought this Oxymoron could be an Obnoxious Oggling Obstruction. However, I then met him – he was not just a tourist; he was also a fellow photographer; of course he had manners. He was even a bit of an Ornithological cognoscente. However, after all those fine Os, I decided I would like him as my T, despite my myriad tree photos, including a double-up of Tilia.

R. A roo, who is actually a wallaby, but so much cuter than the Rotunda, and even better than all my beautiful Rhododendron photos.

We chatted for about an hour, laughing together about some of the possibilities for my letters, and touching on the paradigm shift between the seventeen and eighteen hundreds, David Caspar Friedrich’s influence on the Romantic artists (and our mutual admiration of his work), the embracement of chaos as part of the enlightenment and more. It was so, so very relaxing to talk to someone about topics like this. Part of my ache for Bruce is that such conversations are now a rarity for me. Greg, btw, is a beautiful photographer. You can check him out on his web:

R. Regal Royal blue, with Reckoning eye (with further apology to the Rotunda and Rhodies).

I went up and changed lenses from wide angled to zoom. Soon enough I yelled out excitedly to Greg who reappeared that I’d found another O; I had just photographed the quintessence of Opalescence. This game was such fun.

O. Orifices – but wallaby ones this time. And you can concentrate on the ear to make it different.

A female came running by. I already had too many Rs, and didn’t need an F, but shot the Runner just in case. Satisfied, I began my journey back to the car, but bumped into a bushwalking friend, and had a chat, by the end of which this game had occupied nearly four hours! I was, predictably, starving. Just a bit more Moss in case I decided I needed it, and an appealing Rock, again, just in case, and I was away. … But not quite. On a different visit, I had taken a photo of a possum whose Orifices were quite prominent. I wanted a good marsupial orifice. I would come back in the evening to try my luck on a repetition. Otherwise, I’d use a rather cheeky one taken this morning. I like games.

W. Come on, it wouldn’t have been me not to find an excuse to sneak a Waterfall in somehow. You only know about things like this if you explore the gorge’s secret places. T might be for tomorrow, but the gorge is a Treasure chest for its many lovers.

Creekton Falls Track 2018

Creekton Falls Track 2018 Bushwalking with children

When we bushwalk with children, we see tracks – and matters in general – through new eyes. Not only do the children open our hearts afresh to the glories of nature as they look with wonder at the beautiful world around them, but we also see how high steps actually are, or how difficult some obstacles are. This does NOT mean we want them removed, oh bureaucrats sitting in your offices with even surfaces and life reduced to three easy manoeuvres: it just means we become more newly aware of the challenges (good ones) they pose, and we learn patience as we watch the children struggle through something we find easy. Such efforts teach them resilience, stamina, and determination. They help make them fit and stimulate the brain.

Children who go bushwalking are not going to grow up into passive, nanny-reliant blobs. Gussy rose to the challenges posed by obstacles too high to go over, low to go under and enormous to go around all by himself, and was thrilled with the affirmation that conquering them gave him. His dad, being 6′ 2”, possibly had more difficulty, actually, and Abby went her required “number of kilometres to match her age” rule, and then hitched a ride on mum’s back. Her mother’s feat in dodging dangers whilst carrying a rather heavy, mobile sack was extraordinary.

Normally when I bushwalk, I do not take all that many action shots. I have crashed my sternum against my camera enough times to make me cautious with regard to my former methods of camera attachment. However, today I made an exception, and photographed the expedition rather than the goal. If you want to see the actual falls, please turn to

These photos are here to give people an idea of what the actual track (past Duckhole Lake) is like, and to give parents encouragement to get the kids out there in nature. It is so much better for them than staring at screens. Nature provides for them the very best playground. It is not sterile and smooth like the risk-free government ones: it is far, far better. I am so glad the government is too busy and too impoverished to interfere with tracks like this and dumb them down to the lowest common denominator, as they do with so many of the more popular tracks.

Creekton Falls Area 2018 Remembering Bruce

Creekton Falls Area. Oct 2018. Remembering Bruce.

Surely it is inevitable that the Fairfax Family would gather at Creekton on this weekend, it being the anniversary of Bruce’s disappearance and death. Like my second daughter, I was not so sure about doing this. What would my feelings be when I entered this place where I last saw the person I loved so much, and have lived three quarters of my life with? He was my soulmate, the only person who has truly known and understood me, and the one with whom I shared experiences, ideas, joys and hopes – and disappointments, of course – and, the most amazing sharing of all, that of our joining together to bring two beautiful people into the world, and of combining forces to participate in life and love with them, to teach them values we as a couple thought were important, and to hopefully impart to them a love of things we love, as we feel they are worth loving. We also, of course, watched with delight as their personalities grew and their own stamp on life took place. And later still, we watched the same process playing itself out with young Gussy and Abby. Did you notice in the above how I slipped from past tense to present? This is part of the ‘problem’ faced when you have been part of someone, and they of you for so long. Bruce is gone, but he is still part of who I am, and I still live as if he were there, just not right now … until suddenly, and not when I expect it, or think it appropriate, I realise that it is all finished, and yet still I have these thought and behaviour habits that are not undone so easily.

Creekton was a sad place, and a time for reflection, and yet other things – stupid, tiny things – can upset me far more. Last night I was terribly upset, as I saw an excellent film about Mary Shelley (whom I admire enormously), and I wanted to share my thoughts and reactions with Bruce, and to hear his, and I realised with terrible pain that there is no one in the whole world with whom I can share such things any more. Normally coming home from films or theatre, we would talk for hours about the themes or implications of what we had seen, but now I just had to bottle it all up. My dog does not understand Mary Shelley.

In Iceland, I saw a man with Parkinson’s, and I burst out howling, sobbing on my daughter’s shoulder. I was shocked by my reaction. And yet Creekton didn’t make me howl. Maybe I had my very strong guard up in anticipation. It was a pensive time, not without tears, but they were quiet ones. The flowers we took there to distribute caused me more tears than the place itself. Maybe that’s because a year ago, when I first encountered Creekton, I saw and felt nothing but beauty, not knowing what the future held. Then, when Bruce didn’t show up, I merely thought he was “mislaid”; I thought it was over-dramatic calling Search and Rescue, but others encouraged me to do it. I was only mildly worried come nightfall, as he was appropriately clad to endure a night out, wearing a puffer jacket and lined waterproof pants. However, at 9 or 10 or whatever, the helicopter came down to land near where I was (pacing up and down), so I went up to the two pilots to thank them so much for continuing to search for my husband after everyone else had gone home. I was filled with gratitude and wanted to express it. The noise of the ‘copter would also give Bruce hope if he was lying somewhere. It was only when they told me that they were not just searching visually with strong lights, but were also using infrared rays to detect body warmth that my heart sank. They had found no warmth in that forest apart from mine. Only then did I know despair, but it was dark and I went to the car to cry with Tessa (dog). I don’t associate that dreadful night with Creekton or the beauty that was there.

The Police kept giving me hope that all was not lost. I became a wound up machine that could not sit still, but needed movement – movement of any kind – to keep me from thinking. Up and down the path I paced, an automaton pushing time along. If I moved quickly enough and for long enough, maybe I wouldn’t need to think at all; I could get drunk on movement. Movement became my laudanum. Intellectually, I assimilated the fact that my husband was dead. Emotionally, I only arrive at full realisation maybe once or twice a month. It’s like I am mostly in shock still, and am protected against reality much of the time. It’s odd that we can have intellectual knowledge, and yet remain emotionally cushioned from an extreme event. Shock is the most astonishing protective mechanism. I can’t discern any evolutionary explanation for the existence of such a kind reaction to extreme pain, in that it does not directly (or indirectly, really) contribute to our survival. I was once hit badly by a car. It smashed the bones of my upper body, yet I didn’t feel a thing. I heard a bang (me being hit) and then I observed myself flying through space towards a railing. I concentrated hard to protect my spine against a bad landing. But pain wasn’t part of the equation at all. Nietzsche says that if we knew unveiled reality we would drown in horror. I think he’s right. Of course Schopenhauer agrees to sentiments like that.

And so, we gathered. We walked the walk to Duckhole Lake. I had real trouble stopping myself from searching for Bruce, as if it were not a total absurdity that after all that searching by so many people he could be found near the track. But my eyes kept scanning to left and right, searching for that telltale metallic red of his jacket. We built a little raft of flowers and made a cutting-grass cross. Abby (aged two) added decorations of her own. Gussy (seven) both added a dried forest-fungus he had found and liked, and built his own raft of barks and lichen. We floated them out to the centre of the lake. We three girls had our own quiet time, and also sang some special songs. And then it was time to take the children further along the track on what was more a bushwalk and not quite so much a poignant pilgrimage. I have convinced myself that Bruce died painlessly from pneumonia. I didn’t like observing the thickness of the bush and being prodded to contemplate the notion that he could have gone off the track in this section and had a less benign ending. I concentrated on the job at hand, of getting two very young people across a n extremely demanding track. Because most readers using this blog are researching it to find routes and suitable tracks, I will give that section of the day its own blog, so they don’t have to wade through grief in order to find out what the Creekton Track is like for a person with no emotive associations.

Long Lake 2018 Snow Camping. Sept

Snow Camping at Long Lake, Central Plateau. Sept 2018.

As I walked up the road leading to the old carpark – a walk we are not supposed to like, but one idles up a tunnel of pure myrtle with its delicate little leaves and mossy trunks; walking, in fact, on moss and looking out at rich, open rainforest – I became suddenly aware of how fundamentally content I was doing this act of walking in the wilderness with my pack on my back in the implicit company of a few friends, who were not actually with me at that current point in time, but were somewhere up ahead, or behind; we were together, even if not crowding each other out.

One stops, sheds something, catches up … there are moments of solitude and times of company, as one chooses.  I possibly should not have been surprised at my contentment – I am, after all,  “naturelover” – and yet it arrived unexpectedly, as I wasn’t seeking or explicitly anticipating it. It was just a feeling that overtook me as I wandered, and I realised that there was nothing else I needed at that particular moment, and that, although my darling Bruce has gone, there is a wonderful life to be lead, nonetheless. Perhaps this awareness was nudged into existence by a text I had had from my little grandson during the week, saying: “Don’t go, nanny”.  Go where? I had already gone from his house. I read it as a deeper statement of love and the expression of a desire to have me around.

The Little Fisher River is one of my favourite rivers in the whole world. It gurgles with just the right amount of pure, clear water, cascading picturesquely through open myrtle forest of green and brown, both colours rich in intensity. Every now and then monster tree trunks enter my purview, stately curving their way up to the light, covered in soft moss.  It took us 1 hr 13 to the carpark, and another 8 minutes to the first river crossing, which I was not anticipating with glee, having heard it was slippery and dangerous these days. I was keen to get it over and done with, as I don’t like carrying all my expensive camera gear over slippery terrain where it might get damaged, and I certainly did not want to land in the river. The temperature was not much above zero. In fact, light snow fell for most of the day.

From the bridge to the glorious Rinadena Falls was another hour’s walk. I love these falls, but we got there a bit too late for the best photographic conditions, and the fact that it was snowing and truly freezing did not have me leaping around with ecstasy. We crouched under branches to eat our lunch, with me hoping the frozen precipitation might slow down enough to warrant setting up my tripod. I did set up, but did a pretty rushed job, as the others were keen to move on, having already taken a few snaps.

On we went. I was looking forward to the climby bit, as I had chilled off somewhat over the inevitable stasis of lunch-munching. The section between Rinadeena and the valley above – Little Fisher Valley? – is rather steep, with two sections having fixed rope to aid climbing the slippery face.

Once we entered that high valley, with its flattish area in between Turrana Bluff and Mersey Crag, the patches of snow multiplied rapidly. We also struck our first icy tarns. We still had one final climb – only a hundred metres’ height gain – to reach Long Tarn now. And once up that, everything was pure white and a fairyland of beauty. One of our party wasn’t handling the snow well, which gave us plenty of time to appreciate the various vignettes of magical scenery as we quietly wended our unhurried way towards the pencil-pine goal.  The slower person apologised; as a joke, one pointed out she had a train to catch; I said I had a doctor’s appointment at 3.16. Rolfe made a bet that the doctor would give up on me and go home. It seems he was right. I was late for the appointment, and there was no doctor waiting. Luckily I wasn’t sick anyway. Pure nature healed anything that might have been wrong.

Long Lake with Turrana Bluff behind.
Pitching the tent was a pretty cold business, as it is a very static job, so I had chilled right down by the time my accommodation for the night was established. Rolfe suggested we walk up to the ridge to see Mt Jerusalem and Daisy Lake, and I was all for it. A bit of a climb might warm me up again, and if there was going to be any colour at sunset, we would be well positioned to photograph it. There wasn’t … but I did warm up. The cup of water I had left just outside the vestibule, however, was frozen solid. I banged out the ice so I could drink later, wondering how the other water I had gathered would hold out.

I always worry in snow camping about my ability to warm up the tent space. I am a lot more confident if with my daughters, sharing a tent (or with Bruce, but that is no longer a possibility). Two people definitely warm up a tent with no problems. The fact that I can do it alone comes as a relief and a confidence booster. My boots froze overnight (as did the laces, of course); my water bladder did likewise, but I was pretty warm with what I had brought, so was happy with the outcome. This was my first snowcamp for 2018, and it’s surprising how out of practice one can feel doing it for the first time in any given winter. I warmed the tent alone and coped alone, but I sure did appreciate the knowledge that in that pine grove over there were three others, and just down the slope a ways, two more, so that if I felt dangerously hypothermic, or if my tent collapsed overnight or if some other unplanned catastrophe overtook me, I could yell for help and someone would come to aid me, is a huge relief. This is one of the many massive benefits of being in a club.

Dawn light

Breakfast was served in bed – in my sleeping bag, in fact – to a view of a slightly pink-tinged dawn, with light snow falling. Having my tent fly pulled right back was not calculated to keep me warm, but with beauty like that I didn’t care. I popped on an extra coat and slowly imbibed my porridge while watching the light flakes make their way to the ground. This is what one comes for. I loved it. We were all elated by the beauty as we set out for home an hour or so later. The forest was covered in a new coat of white powder, as the snow had been falling on and off all night, just a light hint of a thud against the tent. Peace.

Abby’s first overnight bushwalk 2018 Feb

Abby’s first overnight bushwalk 2018 Feb

Abby was nearly two and a half, Gussy six. The family decided it was time for Abby’s first overnight bushwalk. They chose a route that was sixteen kilometres long, which had a clear track all the way. Mother and father were loaded to the sky, dad carrying the four-person macpac citadel tent that our family has now used for two generations of family camping. Gussy carried his own clothes and lollies. Abby carried her own lollies. I talked to her later about the trip:

Dad seems to have a bit more on his back than the kids.
“Hey Abby. I hear you had your first big bushwalk.”
“Yes, I got a bag of lollies”. (These are not part of the normal diet).
“Great. I hear you slept in a tent.” (Sounding excited to help generate enthusiasm for this activity).
“Yes, I got a bag of lollies.”
“Did you have great fun?”
“Yes, I got a bag of lollies.”

You don’t need me to tell you the highlight of the bushwalk in the mind of a two-year old. Maybe one day down the track she’ll talk about the beauty of nature, like her big brother does. For now, the only really important thing is – and possibly thanks to the presence of lollies – she thinks bushwalking is a good adventure, and will happily participate next time. Gussy was proud of his efforts, and actually ran the final 5kms, as a friend had come to join them, and he was excited. Sadly, he then did not perform brilliantly at the school cross carnival a couple of days later. I think he was exhausted. Maybe it’s just that cross country running is not as exciting as bushwalking. 🙂

You will note that Abby is in a frock with patent leather shoes. That is not because her mother thinks little girls should dress like that in the bush. Rather, it is because Abby vomited in the car, all over her walking clothes and shoes, and luckily this outfit was at hand. She saw nothing wrong with wearing such clothes on a bushwalk. I was a little surprised until I got told the reason. (Note, the object that is the real highlight of the trip – the all-important bag of lollies – is being displayed like a trophy to prove it really happened.)

When planning a walk with two or three year olds (or, possibly, even four), you need to realise that you are more of a limiting factor than they are. Just admit, they are going to need carrying, possibly after the first kilometre, and don’t go further than YOU can go in the time span with such a load on your back. Also, be aware of the environment you are heading for. You will never find me recommending a spot where children could easily fall off a precipice, or drown before the adults noticed they’d disappeared. I assume the adults will be very vigilant near creeks or lakes under any circumstances, but there are some spots – Growling Swallet comes to mind – where a single lapse of concentration is more deadly than others.

The website has a pdf file, as well as a hard copy style booklet, titled “60 Great Short Walks”. You can browse it in the web. My tastes are very different from theirs, and I like being on narrow paths, climbing mountains or going to secluded rather than tourist-ridden waterfalls – areas like the one depicted below (Holwell Gorge Falls near Launceston. Abby is nearly two there, and walked the whole way, excitedly counting fungi as she went).

I will therefore over the next week compile a list made from the contents of this blog, and put mountains and waterfalls of the day-walk type that a fit set of parents can take one carried and one reasonably energetic child (who can do the whole thing). If you are searching this site before I have completed that part, then if you use my search magnet top right and search “Gussy” or “family”, you will get a few ideas for starters. These little children will be the ones making big decisions about our planet in years to come. How important that they learn about nature!!