Lake Mountain

August 17th, 2014 | Snow, Victorian alps

I spent a wonderful day skiing at Lake Mountain yesterday. The beauty of Lake Mountain is that it is such an easy drive from Melbourne. The village centre fills with young families on toboggans, but you only have to move a short distance down the track to leave them behind.

I was joined by my son, Thomas, and his (and my) friend Jamie Blaker. It was my first trip to the snow in two years, and the first time in several years any of us had made the trek to Lake Mountain.

Part of the joy of a day such as this is the drive. It takes you through so much stunning forest scenery, including the little town of Marysville, devastated by the fires of 2009. Jamie is a frequent visitor to Marysville, as his parents own a house there. It was burnt down. Fortunately, a new house now stands in its place. Here is the view from their balcony.

View from Blakers 3 copy

The snow cover was adequate without being exceptional. Likewise the weather – foggy and windy, but essentially fine. Thomas and Jamie are both studying Law, so that formed the basis for most of the day’s conversation.

Here they are strutting their stuff.

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Jamie skiing copy

We stopped for lunch at Lookout Rock, where we have eaten on a number of previous occasions. It’s great to be able to sit down on some snow-free ground, though the freeze starts to sink in if you stay too long.

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There is always so much to photograph. I loved this snow gum.

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As you can see, the trees are still mostly burnt and dead. The snow gums only regenerate from their bases.

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The trunks looked fabulous against the mist.

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Here is Thomas (in the red) with Jamie…

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…and with me.

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The day would not be complete without a photo of a snowman!

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Then it was back down the mountain for a well-earned cup of coffee in Marysville!

So many scenic panoramas opened up before us from the car windows…

Here is just one.

Valley view copy

Other highlights? Two lyrebirds, with tails fully erected, skipped across the road a short distance in front of us on the drive up. The cost – or relative lack thereof – was also something of a highlight. $53 for the car park – yes, a bit of a shock, but it also covers trail fees, and ski hire for the day was only $36, which I though was very reasonable.

It is so utterly peaceful and serene on those Lake Mountain ski trails. I always find the snow country lifts my spirits and inspires me enormously. I’m not talking so much about the hustle and bustle of downhill skiing, but the quietude of the back country.

To be able to experience such joy on a relatively undemanding day trip from Melbourne is a rare treasure indeed.

Beaten Leadbeater’s?

September 3rd, 2013 | Poems for adults

Beaten Leadbeater’s?

A pretty little possum with a black stripe down its back,
It darts throughout the forest tops through depths of darkest night.
It forages for sugars, grabbing insects for a snack,
Then slips back to its hollow with arrival of the light.

It was named ‘Leadbeater’s Possum’ for a past museum worker,
A famous taxidermist (little creatures he would stuff),
But the story of this possum is a genuine tear jerker.
Oh, life has not been easy for this precious ball of fluff.

It thrives, you see, on forests, but its habitat is narrow.
From Marysville to Baw Baw, thereabouts, denotes its range.
It’s Victoria’s state emblem so, in part, we push its barrow,
But we challenge without mercy its capacity for change.

For we chopped and hacked the forest lands that were its sole dominion.
We plundered and we butchered and we put it on the run.
We reached the point where scientists were of the broad opinion
It was done for. Then it re-emerged in 1961.

Though we scarcely did deserve it, we’d been granted a reprieve,
A chance to right a wrong, to mend the errors of our ways
But, alas, we mended nothing, so we’re forced once more to grieve,
And face the harsh reality that crime just never pays.

A crime? Am I mistaken? You can check the regulations
And the statutes in the law books on the dim and dusty shelves.
You will never find it mentioned, though you search through many nations.
It’s a crime against sweet Nature. It’s a crime against ourselves.

For it seems we’ve missed our moment. It would seem Leadbeater’s Possum
Is living now on borrowed time, it’s fate forever sealed.
We could have ceased all logging and allowed the beast to blossom,
But a vision such as this, alas, shall never be revealed.

Then let us throw the dice once more. The odds, it’s true, aren’t pretty.
Let us do at last what’s right, and put an end to crime.
The human soul needs more than just the bright lights of the city.
Let us let the forests stand, and leave the rest to time.

Who knows what magic beckons if we put aside our blunders,
If we down the screaming chainsaws and revert to Nature’s dance?
What panoply awaits us, what array of shining wonders?
Perhaps Leadbeater’s Possum, too, still has a fighting chance!

© Stephen Whiteside 26.07.11

Woods Point

August 3rd, 2013 | Photos, Poems for adults

I went on a great drive with my son Thomas earlier this year through some of the most remote towns in Victoria. Woods Point, the A1 Mining Settlement, and Gaffney’s Creek are all old gold mining towns set deep in the heart of the forest.

We drove from Melbourne to Marysville. Shortly after leaving Marysville, on the road to Lake Mountain, we had to pull over briefly while a car rally was finishing. We had only resumed our journey for a few minutes, when we found this lying on the road.


This dead lyrebird had clearly been hit and killed by a car. It was still warm and soft. It had signs of severe bruising, and a broken leg. I carried it to the side of the road. The surrounding bushland was part of the Yarra Ranges National Park. You do surely have to question the wisdom of allowing cars to race through areas like this.

Shortly after, we found evidence of a different kind of carnage on the road.

Toyota Hilux copy

This Toyota Hi-Lux was also still warm, but the driver was nowhere to be seen. Presumably he had come around the corner too fast, skidded and flipped. No doubt he had been picked up by a passing vehicle and taken back to the nearest civilisation.

Yet more carnage awaited us.

Wombat 1

This dead wombat was being eaten by a dog as we came around the corner. Our vehicle scared the dog off. It was still soft, though not warm, and very possibly also a victim of the recent car rally. Again, I dragged it to the side of the road.

At last we were able to put the violence behind us, however, and we arrived at the beautiful little hamlet of Woods Point.

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The original plan had been to buy Thomas some late breakfast at Woods Point, but the shops were closed at Woods Point, Gaffneys Creek and Kevington (there weren’t even closed shops at the A1 Mining Settlement!) and it was about 5 pm before he got his breakfast, a hot pie at Jamieson.

The storekeeper at Jamieson explained that the local pie rep was an old school friend, which is why Jamieson, some distance off the Mansfield-Mt.Buller road, was stocked with pies. I asked if pies were also available at Kevington, but was told it was ‘too far down the road’ – hence this little poem.

You Can’t Get Pies at Kevington

You can’t get pies at Kevington.
It’s too far down the road.
You can buy pies at Jamieson.
They get a constant load,
And also at Mt. Buller
They frequently are stowed,
But you can’t get pies at Kevington.
It’s too far down the road.

Woods Point doesn’t get them.
Nor does Gaffneys Creek.
Both these tiny mining towns
Must turn the other cheek.
The outlook at the A1
Is exceptionally bleak,
And you can’t get pies at Kevington.
It’s too far down the road.

Mansfield gets a ton of pies –
As many as they need.
They truck them up the highway
With efficiency and speed.
Bonnie Doon and Yarck and Yea
From pielessness are freed,
But you can’t get pies at Kevington.
It’s too far down the road.

© Stephen Whiteside 27.05.2013

Once leaving Jamieson, it was a relatively short trip to Mansfield, and then it was down the Maroondah Highway to Melbourne, and home.

All in all, it had been a great – and memorable – day!