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.

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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.

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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.

Bogong High Plains – Huts, Huts and more Huts!

February 18th, 2014 | Camping, Family holidays, Photos, Poems for adults

I’ve just returned from a wonderful three day sojourn in the Bogong High Plains – near Falls Creek – with my daughter, Lenore.

My principal purpose in going was to visit Cope Hut. I’ve never got to Cope Hut before because it is so close to the road, and I’ve always planned much more ambitious walks. I didn’t mind if the holiday was a little less strenuous this time around, though.

The following information is taken from the Falls Creek web-site:

“Proposed by the Ski Club of Victoria as a ski refuge and funded by the State Tourist Committee, Cope Hut was built in 1929.”

In its time, Cope Hut was regarded as the peak of luxury by ski tourers. It earned the nickname “The Menzies of the Plains”, after the Hotel Menzies, Melbourne’s premier luxury hotel of the day.

My interest in Cope Hut stems from my research into the life of Mt. Hotham-based gold prospector, Bill Spargo (discoverer of the Red Robin Reef), a project that has now been running for many years.

Some time ago I had the good fortune to interview retired mountain cattleman Charlie McNamara. Charlie told me about a brief conversation he had had with Bill Spargo about Cope Hut a long time earlier, when he had encountered him on the road one day.

I asked him to recount it for me.

“Well, I asked him about the hut. I said “Who picked the site for it?” He says, “I did.” And I said, “It’s a wonder, Bill, as you never picked a decent place.” He said, “What’s wrong with it?” He said, “It’s a nice scene, nice view.” I said, “Yes, the view is beautiful.” He says,”There’s a spring there, running water.” I says, “Yes, that’s good, too.” “Well,” he said, “what’s wrong?” “Well,” I said, “Why didn’t you build it down where the wood is?” I said, “No wood. It’s the main thing, the wood.” I says, “Christ,” I says, “It’s a wonder you didn’t wake up to (the) wood.” “Well,” he said, “I won’t pick any more spots.” I was a bit sorry after that, you know.”

Here is Cope Hut today.

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As you can see, there is plenty of wood around the hut now. If what Charlie McNamara says is true, all of these trees must have grown since 1929.

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The walk to Cope Hut from the car took about 45 seconds. We weren’t looking for a long walk, but we did want something longer than that!

So we decided to head for Wallace’s Hut, past the Rover Scouts’ Hut. All of these huts were new to me.

The Rovers’ Hut, I must admit, took me quite by surprise. I had no idea it was so large. What it reminded me of more than anything was Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece “The Shining”.

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Wallace’s Hut is very picturesque, as you would expect from the oldest hut on the High Plains. The hut itself is very dark inside, and rather inhospitable, but the surrounding camping area is very comfortable and pretty.

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It rained on and off during the night, but we were quite cosy in our little tent.

A thick mist came through the following morning, transforming the scene.

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The mist vanished as quickly as it arrived, and we followed the snow poles of the Alpine Walking Track back to the car.

I decided it would be fun to spend the next night at Edmondson’s Hut, another hut I had not visited before, so we moved the car from the Cope Hut parking area to Watchbed Creek.

This is a considerably more demanding hike, and takes you well up above the tree-line.

The hut itself, again originally a cattleman’s hut, is not as attractive as Wallace’s, but it is much more inviting. It is better lit, more modern, and generally much better equipped. Again, the surrounding camp-site is quite beautiful.

The hut stands in a small area of unburnt snow gums, surrounded by trees that were well and truly burnt in the 2003 fires that swept through the area. I can only assume that a timely dump of water from a passing helicopter saved both the hut and the adjacent trees.

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The snow gums only regenerate from their bases.

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The night spent at Edmondson’s was dry, but a little colder nonetheless. I was cursing myself for not having brought my long johns! Still, we got through OK. The following day was clear and warm, with a blue sky, and it was lovely walking back across the High Plains to the car. From there it was down to the Mount Beauty Bakery for a cup of coffee and a bite to eat before returning to Melbourne.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable few days up in the Bogong High Plains – as indeed it always is.

Before finishing, I want to make special mention of the modern composting toilets, which were in absolutely fabulous condition at both huts. I counted eight toilet rolls at Edmondson’s Hut! It’s a far cry from the 70s, let me tell you.

I will finish with a little poem I wrote at Wallace’s Hut. It has nothing to do with the High Plains, but I had developed the idea for it the previous week, and Wallace’s Hut was a lovely peaceful place to write it. I had not heard of Pyalong until hearing it mentioned as one of a number of towns threatened by the recent fires north of Melbourne. I hope I am right in saying I believe it was not badly burnt.

A Pie Along To Pyalong

As I was walking down the road
I met a chap I hardly knowed.
“To Pyalong,” he said, “I’m bound,
And you can join me. How’s that sound?
I’ve fruit and cheese and fresh baked rolls,
And Boston buns, and coffee scrolls,
But you can bring a pie along to Pyalong.”

I said I thought perhaps I might
Walk down the road and out of sight
To go and meet this fellow’s mates,
And feast on apples, figs and dates;
To talk of sport and share the news
And hear a range of diverse views,
And also take a pie along to Pyalong.

This bloke and me are now good friends.
It’s funny how this story ends.
There’s many twists and turns in life.
His lovely daughter is my wife.
All because I said I’d go
And meet some blokes I didn’t know,
And take a little pie along to Pyalong.

© Stephen Whiteside 16.02.2014