Explorer Falls. I like that name. It seems an appropriate one considering that the falls are not on the map, and thus, of course, not named, but are there to be found by those who go exploring and who happen to explore in just the right place.
I was invited to join some friends who were setting out to enjoy a lovely walk in which they planned to circumnavigate Lake Explorer. We would go in from the Lake Mackenzie carpark, wend our way to the lower reaches of Explorer Creek, cross it (with difficulty: it took us half an hour of vacillating to find the best spot, remove or change our shoes and brave the cold water), follow said creek up on its northern bank until we reached the Lake of its name, and return via the southern bank, after negotiating the outlets from Lake Pitt, Snake Lake and Johnny Lake, in that order.
The first of these outlets was picturesque but more like a series of elongated tarns; the second was a jump (small but deep); and the third was a scattering of quaint, shining ribbons of tannin water. Right near the end, however, the Fisher River needs to be negotiated, and that required a bit more effort, with a double crossing – knee to waist deep (depending on where you went) with fast-moving, forceful water, and a rather slimy base, which conditions are always a bit threatening when you have several thousand dollars’ worth of electrical equipment on your back. The consequences of a slip and unintentional swim are rather large.
I thought the vegetation would be rather boring, as we were too late for scoparia and other wildflowers, but too early for autumnal hues should there be any fagus. However, the landscape was aflame with scarlet from the absolute abundance of Bellendena montana seedheads. I have also rarely seen so very many pencil pines – lots of little groves scattered throughout the way. I would love to hear an expert tell me the age of some of the oldest there, whose venerability wrested your attention.
And, we happened upon two lovely water features. On the way up, the sound of flowing water louder than just creek murmurings drew my attention: there was a lovely cascade, which I photographed. On the way back, once more cozened to have a peep by the sound of rushing water, a proper waterfall shyly popped out its head from behind a rock.
It was a really beautiful day in the wilderness, which gave us all not just a breath of literal fresh air, but a whopping dose of “mental fresh air”, which the wilderness always brings. All the cares of corona virus and its scares and absurdities were left far behind as we soaked in the greater reality of nature (keeping required social distance, of course). It is not one scrap surprising that during the Great Depression of the 1930s, bushwalking as a recreation really took off. The bush has always calmed us down and helped us stay sane in times of trial. We need wilderness for mental health as well as for the air, as fresh here as anywhere on this planet. I also had a welcome day’s rest from hayfever. I am not allergic to the bush, but I am very allergic to the Tamar valley where I live.
Astonishingly, this expedition took us nine hours of elapsed time (which includes all food stops, photography and creek negotiations). It was “only” 16 km-equivalents; however, there was quite a bit of low scrub to negotiate, and creek crossings took quite a while. My watch says we were moving productively for 4 hrs 45; my gps says we were moving for 6. Believe whichever you will. A case can be made for either measurement.
No case can be made, however, for locking us out of this recuperative beauty and preventing us from being in the most healthy environment available to us. Luckily we did it before our stunningly smart NP decided that keeping people away from fresh air, decent exercise, beauty and the prerequisites for good mental health is the best way to keep them “healthy”. Maybe a bit like stealing children from their parents is a great way to keep them healthy. There is a lot more to being “healthy” than the presence or absence of this or that disease.
Back in yesteryear, I raced up the Empire State building in the World Stair Running Championships. As the leading world mountain runner in the field, I was favourite for the race. On the day, however, I had a fever and my resting pulse was double its normal, but I raced because they had paid a lot of money to have me there. At the end, I coughed blood into the bin, and was temporarily very ill, fainting several times in the next two days. The organiser, the famous and wonderful Fred Lebow, asked to meet me. I was ostensibly the sick one, but I looked at him and knew with horrid certainty that I was looking at a terminally ill man. In a week, I had recovered from that illness; Fred was in hospital, dying of cancer. Who was actually the healthier person on that day? Health has many facets, some of which are not readily obvious to an eye unable or unwilling to see. Having or not having a positive test result to covid-19 is one small aspect of our overall health. Let me be healthy in the wilderness.