Markham Heights Ben Lomond

We didn’t choose Markham Heights on Ben Lomond for our Wednesday walk specifically because it was the shortest day of the year, and we also didn’t quite choose it because it was possibly the coldest day of the year so far (it was minus 8 as we passed through Blessington), but because the minus 5 we were expecting on top would be a lot nicer and safer with 30 cms snow on the rocks than where we had been going, which would probably just be a dangerous expanse of ice rime.

Blessington Valley
Blessington Valley

Meanwhile, I was, at the time of the decision, disappointed, as I had been looking forward to the original destination. Through the dark I drove, heading for the Ben Lomond National Park. My spirits picked up considerably as the sun began to rise and I saw the scenes of some of the photos here. I also nearly skittled a deer which ran across directly in front of me, and also nearly had a collision with a black shadow on the road which turned out to be a cow. Needless to say, with temperatures so low, the road was very icy and I was not familiar with its dangerous points, so drove pretty slowly after those two scares.

Off we set. Markham Heights leering down at us
Climbing higher
And higher
Ben Lomond patterns in the snow

I have always wanted to camp under Ben Lomond to photograph the rocks at sunrise. Even though the sun had already risen, the rocks were still delightfully red on my arrival, so while the others did practical things like putting on boots and more coats and beanies, I dashed out and photographed rock. Hey; who needs to go to Central Australia for red rock? We have it a-plenty right here in Tasmania if we get up early enough (or hang around in rocks until sunset). Dolerite, the predominant rock in most of the state, colours up beautifully at the extreme ends of the day.

Snowy scene
Unnamed knob. Dave arrives.
Sue climbs

The rest of the day was a visual treat, seeing magnificent scenes of snow on bushes or rocks or windswept mini ridges.  We had morning tea on an unnamed knob, and lunch on Markham Heights, and assorted snacks here and there to spin out the day. My coils came off and another friend lost one of his mini spikes, so three of us got extra exercise retracing our steps, which also added nicely to the exercise value of the day, and the time spent moving in the white wonderland. I didn’t enjoy the stationary snack times as much as, well, minus 5 is minus 5, and even with 5 layers of warm clothing on, that is still cold.  When I’m moving, I’m fine. Here is a small collection of scenes from the day. I hope you enjoy them.

Dolerite from Markham Heights

Eaglehawk Neck and more

Eaglehawk Neck is not a place that thrills me, in that it has no high mountains and no lush rainforest, but I do like beaches and cliffs, so, as my camera club had a weekend there last weekend, I decided to join in.

Sunset Tessellated Pavement

It would be fun to see the Tessellated Pavement under different lighting conditions, and spend some time at the beach. I have always found the paths to be too tame and manicured for my particular tastes, but the tourists like them, and they need some spots, so this one does the trick.

Aurora, Tessellated Pavement

As it turned out, I hardly saw my club members at all, but I made some lovely friends instead, and they gave the trip a pleasant flavour. In particular, I had fun with Daniel and Sarah from Sydney while we waited in the cold for the moon to set so it would be dark enough for aurora spotting. I had delicious coffee on the hill with them next morning, but had to do the 1 a.m. shift alone, as nobody else seemed to want to get out of bed at that hour. I received a small aurora as a reward.

Happy dog

Tessa, my dog, mostly lived in the car, as my accommodation was a “pets not allowed” place, but Tessie is fine with that, as she knows I keep popping in to visit her, and that she gets several runs and walks each day. She feels secure in the car, and does not suffer from the normal separation anxiety that has been her lot since Bruce’s death. We both adored the Neck beach, where dogs are allowed to romp and play. She dashed in and out of the surf with joy. It’s so great to find a beach that lets dogs have some fun.

Happy dog

On the day I left, I popped into the Springs on kunanyi, and made friends with Sharon; we had fun walking trails together and talking heaps.
The next few days were spent admiring the wonderful Gussy and Abby, and watching gymnastics, waterpolo, chess club and the regional Primary School Athletics Championships –  photographing Abby’s gym and Gussy’s Aths races.
Shown here are some highlights from the trip..

Start of the bell lap, 800ms

Tullah region wanderings

Two friends and I spent three days in the Tullah region, climbing this and that, sleeping high and sleeping low. It’s a great area for exploring.

Camping high

Unfortunately, it has too often been my observation that pretty photos with names and locations attached have inspired the wrong sort of people to flood our beautiful wilderness and thereby ruin it. The Western Arthurs and the Walls of Jerusalem are two extreme cases in point.

Summit of Red Hills. I don’t mind naming this one, as it is not dramatic in an insta sense of the word; it is worth NO points; it is thus a thoroughly pointless exercise, ha ha. Not for us.
Mycena interrupta never fails to entrance

And who are the wrong sort of people? People who have not been taught any bushcraft and have made no effort to learn any; people for whom the words “Leave no trace” are a foreign language; people who seem to think that it’s just fine to spoil fragile areas now that they have seen them themselves; people whose sole aim in being there is to take some insta-photo and exit, without ever stopping to understand the place where they are; people whose sole concern is the self, who don’t care about the people who live near the area, or the children and ones yet to be born who might want to see the place. In short, shallow, selfish people.

Lake Herbert seen from above

For some of us, these regions are our quasi “holy places”. They are places where we revive our spirits and refresh our souls; where we take time out to connect with the wider natural environment. They are not just precious to us: they are essential to our mental and spiritual wellbeing. They are not just huge playgrounds (which they are also. Give me a mountain rather than a gym and treadmill any day, thanks!!).

Core rise
Up high

My lack of blogs over the summer has had nothing to do with any inactivity on my part – I seem to have lived in the wilderness this summer – but rather due to my not wanting to over-popularise the beautiful areas I have been in. These spots are, or rather, were, our playgrounds, but we are now being locked out of them so that the tourists can come in and spoil them. They have been turned into a money-making commodity.

Entoloma discrepans I believe
Dead tree – great caption huh.

Thus I don’t want to aid and abet that process by being too specific about anything much other than indicating “Tullah region”. If you can enjoy photos of beauty that don’t specify location, then please enjoy these examples of what our amazing planet has to offer to those who have worked on their fitness, and acquired bush skills to survive in lonely and challenging locations. We left no trace. Keep tassie Wild.

Mycena epipterygia
Sleeping high

Blackboy-Mathinna circuit.

Having once climbed Mt Blackboy by the easy route, I was not all that interested in a repeat, but today we took it head on and did a traverse along the high rocks, and that made it a totally different and really fun experience.

Fingal Valley

Not only did we attack the boulders from their most challenging angle, we also began way, way down at Mathinna Falls, giving us a climb of over 500 ms in the process, and not from the nearest road access as is normally done if you only have bagging in mind.

Hypholoma australe – these were near the carpark, before the real fun began.

The actual climby bit was probably only about 2kms horizontally. Do your maths: that’s STEEP. People from our small group were falling and slipping the whole time. It only counted as a fall if you landed on your bum or worse. I was relatively unscathed with only three falls. Several of my friends got into double figures. One specialised in quite spectacular landings.

Delvin Ck track to falls

Even just standing talking waiting for the rear to catch up, you kind of slid down the slope unless you grabbed a sapling to prevent the descent. I was sure I spotted a flat bit of ground somewhere down below (and John backed me up); this became a source of many jokes as we tumbled our way downwards.

Russula viridis – very pleased to find this one! You don’t see them often.

Sorry for the lack of photos of rocks and forest: when you are above your head in ferns, it’s hard to get a shot, and the rocks were reached in midday glare, which I don’t find conducive to pleasing photography. I leave the massive and alluring boulders to your imagination. Meanwhile, if you know me, you know I love fungi.

Dermocybe canaria. I have also not seen very many of these in my hunting.

I was quite proud of how clean my pants still were at the finish – ripped and muddy pants were the norm by the end of the day – until I got home and discovered a huge red patch base right, courtesy of a hitchhiking leech.

Blackboy Falls from above. We could see them, even if you can’t. This was as good as it got today. Work in progress!

We also visited the top of a waterfall en route, which, given its location and in order to be able to talk about it, I have dubbed Blackboy Falls. (It is an unnamed blue line on the map). We lacked time to visit the base, but at least we have now seen it, and have also (of course?) plotted our route for a more extensive, close-and-personal visit some other time. As it was, we didn’t get back to the cars before 5 pm, and it was more than dinner hour by the time we returned to Launceston. It’s worth being hungry to have had such a fun day. Very little beats real bushbashing, with its engagement with nature, and its total workout value. Keep Tassie Wild.

Traversing the ferns back near the bottom. Thanks for the photo Phil Andrew, who, being taller than I am, had a little less trouble taking a shot in the jumble.

Freycinet 2023

Freycinet peninsula wasn’t exactly plan A for Easter, but when the forecast turns to snow down to 200ms with gale force winds, then you change your plans: Freycinet it was. Even so, there were electrical storms the day we were supposed to leave, so we ran in the forest in the morning, and climbed Mt Parsons in the afternoon instead of setting out with children and rucksacks, and began the tenting part of our trip a day late.

Omphalotus nidiformis

Even with an improved forecast, we weren’t exactly sure how the youngest, seven-year old Abby, would deal with the wind and light rain that would be our lot. The elements were kind to us, and we got in lots of activity, working around patches of rain. As it turned out, all three children loved it.

Abby and Karen arrive
Tristan playing near the campsite

I left my camera behind on several of our mini expeditions, as getting my camera wet is a very expensive thing to do, but luckily there were plenty of fun things to photograph around the campsite.

Wombat on Wineglass

For fungi, we saw ghost fungi (Omphalotus nidiformis), Russula clelandii, Cantharellus concinnus and more, sighted dolphins swimming at dusk, noted pied oyster catchers and black-faced cormorants having evening strolls along the water’s edge and even saw the most obliging-ever wombat. Wallabies gate-crashed our Easter party, and Gussy and I had a most persistent (and insistent) possum that came into our vestibule three times during the night in an attempt to carry off Gus’s rucksack. I shone the torch in its eyes (useless), hissed menacingly at it (also useless) and hit it on the head with Gus’s walking boot (temporary victory). In the end, I only got some sleep by putting the rucksack inside the tent.

Pied Oyster Catcher Haematopus longirostris
Pied Oyster Catcher Haematopus longirostris
Black-faced cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscescens

These are some of my favourite shots.