Mt Rufus Circuit

Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Sunday after the overland track race I got up early (which was easy as I had the camping mattress with the slow leak, so by morning I was just lying on the ground) and headed out to do one of my favourite day walks - the 20km Mt Rufus Circuit. I’ve walked it a few times in recent years but this time I wanted to loosely emulate my efforts from the late 80s when I ran the circuit with Clare. I say loosely as I was only planning on running the flat and downhill parts, the rest I was going to walk.  

The early morning weather was great - it was sunny but was low cloud around so as I got to the top of Mt Rufus (after 2 hours) only the tops of surrounding mountains were poking through the clouds. 



The rest of the circuit was fantastic. I just loved cruising down the ridge, through the weird sandstone outcrop then down a pandani filled valley before crossing over to Shadow Lake. From there it’s an easy 6k back to the campsite.   



By the time I got back, Jon had just about disassembled our campsite which was a pretty good effort for someone who had completed a run 4 times the length that I had, in just over twice the time. Impressive.

First day of school

Sunday, 18 February 2018

This is belated first day of school photos with the cousins. The high school going cousins anyway - Jamie has still got a few years left of primary school.


Beach Weddings

Sunday, 18 February 2018

We went to our 2nd ever beach wedding yesterday. Much like our first beach wedding, it was blowing a gale.  It could have been a disaster but luckily the celebrant was prepared with all sorts of tactics to stop all the paperwork being blown into Carlton River so everything actually went pretty smoothly.


Whilst the wind was definitely annoying, it made the bridesmaid's dresses swirl around like clouds during the ceremony which I thought was pretty cool.  


 I love weddings where there are lots of weddingy details to check out and this wedding had the lot. With two years to prepare,  every last thing had been thought of and it looked amazing..

The food was delicious too. Catering was by the TacoTaco people, so it was a delicious totilla buffet, followed by a dessert buffet. Yum!


Overland Track Run 2018

Monday, 5 February 2018

The other thing I did at Pelion a week ago was to place some motivational messages for Jon to pick up as he came through about 30ks into the Overland Track Run.  We did this two years ago too, but due to the bushfires the race was cancelled and our notes had to sit under a camping platform for an entire year before he was able to retrieve them. Although they were in a ziplock bag the weather and wildlife had taken their toll and Jon required a forensic level of examination in order to make out just a few words.

This time I decided to go with less wordy, more legible messages, so I bailed up people a few weeks beforehand and got them to pose holding up their own words of inspiration. I could have got heaps more people but I was mindful that Jon would have to carry them for the next 50k so I didn’t want too big a stack.  Here's a selection - some of them more motivational than others....

I didn't end up using that picutre of Pinto but it cracks me up everytime I see it.

Once I had my collection I printed them at BigW then laminated them, and THEN put them in a ziplock bag. Then I put them all in another ziplock bag just to be sure!


At Pelion I took got another camper to take a photo of me pointing to where I had stashed them so I could show Jon the location before he started. BTW Jon didn't know exactly what he was going to be picking up from there - I guess he trusted that it wasn't something I'd just accidentally left behind from our hiking trip (like a boot)).


Fun Fact 1 - that tent on the right of the platform was home-made by person who took my photo. He wanted to copy a fancy Swedish tent which costs over $1200 in  Australia, so he ordered material from the USA and sewed it himself.  He said he tried a few different options for the poles and eventually settled on using archery arrows! I asked him if it was Mark 1 or 2 or more.. he said it was Mark One and Only - so I suspect it took a while to complete. Anyway - it looked like a great tent and weighed a fair bit less than our smaller ones.

Fun Fact 2 - that camping platform has a tiger snake under it. I did warn Jon about that. 

So with the messages in position we were ready for race day. Jon took the bus up to Waldheim with other competitors and organisers the day before and the race started at dawn on Saturday.  By the time the rest of us woke up Jon would have been getting close to Pelion.  As he struggled on, we packed all our best car camping equipment (big tent, ultra squishy mattresses, big cooker etc) into the car and then drove up to Lake St Clair. We had an hour spare to set up our campsite and make it look comfy and relaxing to the exhausted runner (actually that wouldn’t have taken much - he probably would have been happy with a towel spread on the ground as long as no-one made him run any further).  

Satisfied that we were once again the 2nd best support crew ever (the best support crew would have booked the $400 cabin by the lake and not made him camp at all)  we went over to the finish line to wait. 

As we watched the finishers come in it was interesting to note that a lot of females were finishing.  In fact as it turned out 9 of the top 19 were female, and 4 of the top 10 - very impressive!  Jon finished in 17th place, around 27 minutes slower than his dream-time, but an hour and fifteen minutes faster than last year so that was great.


Satisfyingly he said was very happy with our messages. He said he rationed himself to just looking at 1 or 2 every half an hour or so.

After he debriefed with some the other runners (the fastest took 8:01, the slowest didn’t come in until 9:18pm that night after a 15 hour race), we escorted him back to our campsite and set him up comfortably on the air mattress where he promptly fell asleep until dinner time.  After dinner he was in good enough shape to wander around chatting to some other racers staying near by, then it was back to bed until the presentations early the next day.

 It's now Monday and I’d say he’s looking pretty good for someone who has just run for over 10 hours on the most demanding of tracks.  Well done Jon!

Here are all the messages…

Arm River Track Hike - Day 3

Sunday, 4 February 2018

The previous night the ranger had advised us of a total fire ban for the last day of our hike.  I didn’t ask him to clarify what that meant so in the morning I wasn’t sure if I was still allowed to boil water on my stove for porriage. In the end I figured that if I did it nice and quickly, nobody would mind. Ha. First I managed to tip over the pot of boiling water (a la the kids camping expedition but not onto anyone’s feet), then I couldn’t light it again so I had to use matches (I’m almost certain they were forbidden), then I ran out of gas so I had to muck around changing over canisters, then using more matches I was finally ready to pour the water over my oats. At this point I spilt most of my breakfast onto the grass. With this level of incompatence it was a miracle i didn’t actually burn down the entire park.

 Our only plan for day 3 was to walk back to the car so after breakfast (kindly donated me by Clare), we packed up and headed off.

 It was already hot and as we walked out we noticed creeks had dried up just in the few days since we had walked in.

We stopped for lunch at the little lake at the top of the last descent and we couldn’t resist a swim there. It was amazing how pleasant the water was - normally it would be freezing!

An hour later we were back at the car, changing into clean clothes and preparing for the 4 hour drive home.  It was a fantastic weekend - hopefully next time more of my family will accompany us!

Arm River Track Hike - Day 2

Sunday, 4 February 2018

After a comfortable night on my newish cloud-thermarest we awoke to the sounds of overland hikers tromping past our tent as they left for their next destination. They had all departed by 7.30 which was pretty amazing. I guess everyone was trying to avoid the forecast hot weather - I don’t think we managed to leave before 9am on any day when we hiked the full route.

Once up we had a fairly leisurely breakfast and then faffed around a bit. I don’t know exactly what time we finally got going but I do remember that in the end it was half an hour later than I wanted to leave (having reached maximum faffing saturation).  

From Pelion it is a steady climb up to Pelion Gap. I can’t remember how long it took us when we were carrying packs but it was certainly longer than it took us without them! We skipped past about 5 groups of fully laden overland hikers and arrived at the lovely Pelion Gap about an hour later.  

At this point you can either turn left to climb Pelion East, or turn right to climb Mt Ossa.  OR, if you were crazy and didn't realise what an amazing opportunity it was to climb one of Tassie's highest peaks AND get to see the view (the first time I climbed Ossa it was so foggy I wasn't even sure I was at the top), you could simply walk straight through to the next hut.  Most people choose Ossa over Pelion East as it’s the highest mountain in Tassie, but we’ve been lucky enough to be able to do it recently so we turned left.  

As we climbed up the grassy lower slopes we noticed a bank of cloud was heading towards us, and before too long the blue sky was gone and we were completely immersed in it.


We continued onwards through the fog and just as we scrambled up crown of Pelion East we emerged above it so we could see the tips of all the mountains around us.  Ten minutes later all the cloud was gone - so that 30 minute delay in leaving our campsite turned out to be a really good thing! The climb only took us about 45 minutes from Pelion Gap.

 After about 15 minutes admiring the stunning views we headed back down through the sunshine. 




About 20 minutes from the hut we stopped at a waterfall where Clare examined her troublesome toes and I had a quick swim - it was really starting to get hot. We’d already seen 2 snakes by this point - Clare having a near miss as she was looking the other way and nearly stomped on one.

It was well and truly lunchtime by the time we got back to Pelion so we made ourselves lunch on the shady deck of the hut and gazed over at our next target - Mt Oakleigh.  We had befriended some other Arm River hikers who had headed up Mt Oakleigh in the morning and still hasn’t returned which was a bit of a worry as we didn’t really feel like really long climb in the afternoon!

Eventually we steeled ourselves, filled up our water bottles  and headed out into the sunny button grass plains towards the mountain.


The boardwalk here is a new addition and saved us a lot of mud and suffering. At the first river crossing we met our returning friends who had taken six hours for the trip. We continued on hoping that we were setting a faster pace as a six hour trip would have not had us back until 8.30 that night!

After the first few k we left the button grass and started to climb - firstly through mossy shady forest, then a pandanni grove and finally through rather scratchy stunted bushes until we emerged at the top of the ridge a very hot and sweaty hour later.  




There was a delightful breeze along the ridge and it felt like someone had turned the air-conditioning on which was lovely.   After another 500 metres of rock hopping and further climbing we reached the highest point of Mt Oakleigh - including breaks it was about 90 minutes after we started so we would make it back to camp in daylight after all!  It was possible to follow the track further along the ridge so as to gaze down on the dolomite pillars below but none of us had the motivation for that - we were very happy to have a nice break at the top then slowly make our way down again - it had been a big day. 


Back at the river crossing we had a quick swim which was really nice and also allowed Clare to further examine her long suffering toes. That night at the campsite we all ate our own favourite camping dinner - for me it was two minute noodles, for Clare it was those packet pasta things, and for Greg it was whatever Clare made him. All up we probably walked about 18k, (half of it uphill), I swam twice and saw four snakes - I was certainly ready for bed once the sun went down.

Arm River Track Hike - Day 1

Thursday, 1 February 2018

This time last year 3 generations of Hawthornes and myself were heading off on a 3 night hike to Frenchmans Cap.  Perhaps that was the start of an Australia Day hiking tradition - although it hasn’t really caught on in my family as once again I was the only McComb amongst 2 generations of the Hawthorne clan.

Our plan was to walk into New Pelion Hut via the Arm River Track which is one of the few midway access points to the Overland Track.  New Pelion is 11kms from the start of the Arm River Track and about halfway down the overland route.  From New Pelion we then could climb any number of peaks, swim in any number of rivers or simply soak up the feeling of being in Tasmania’s beautiful wilderness. 

I’ve always been curious about the Arm River Track. It’s the route that guides and rangers use to get into the middle of the Cradle Mountain park without having to walk for 3 days like the Overland hikers do. Over the years I’ve also heard talk of other adventures starting from that point. The track was It  inaccessible for about 18 months after the floods washed away parts of the Mersey River Road, but thanks to Clare and one of her recent jobs - namely applying for funding to fix the road, it’s accessible again.  I wasn’t sure exactly HOW accessible the road was going to be, as I had received mixed messages about what sort of car we would need. In the end I took dad’s subaru Imprezza, but the road was so dry it turns out I could have taken almost anything…!

With a hot weekend forecast we were keen to start hiking as early as we could, however it’s a four hour drive from Hobart  so despite our best efforts (and a stop for a vanilla slice at Campbell Town) we weren’t leaving the Arm River car park until 1pm. 


The first hour is quite a steep climb but thankfully the straight up route has been replaced with lots of zig-zags, giving you a moment to recover between bends.  Once up on the plateau the views were immediately spectacular and we suddenly felt like we were right in the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness.  


The track itself was just delightful, winding its way past tarns and through dark mossy forests, suddenly breaking out onto an alpine plateau where we could see the mountains all around us.   That's Mt Pillinger in the distance at the end of the lake below - one of our possible peaks over the weekend.


Pelion East appearing in the photo above. 

The last bit before Pelion was up a gorgeous grassy valley which opened out next to a surprisingly large lake which I didn’t even realise existed when we did the overland track.  


We could hear New Pelion Hut before we saw it - the sounds of relieved hikers (it's the stop at the end of their longest day) chatting & relaxing on the deck carried through the trees.  For us it was only a 4 hour hike but we were still pretty weary from our full packs, so once we got ourselves set up (just a few metres away from our previous camp site), we headed off to Old Pelion Hut for a swim.


It’s about a 15 minute walk but well worth it for the access to a deep swimming hole and cute little waterfall. Last time we came it was gaspingly cold but this time the water was much warmer (but still cold enough to be refreshing). Despite the crowds of hikers at New Pelion we had this place to ourselves which was a treat.


Whilst I relaxed in the stream I reaslised that my crocs made it really easy to float - they pulled my feet right up to the surface of the water.   As I floated around  I realised I'd discovered a fantastic new sure-to-make-me-rich invention..  in fact I can hear the TV ads now...  "Tired of not being able to keep up with your buoyant friends? Sick of sinking like a stone?.. try Float Feet™ - the easy way to float!'  

Unfortunately for Clare all she managed to invent with her apres-hike footwear were 'Sink Shoes'  - so her company is going to be way less successful than mine -  except in criminal circles perhaps. 


By the time we got back to our campsite it was time to cook up a delicious dinner (Marakesh Curry with rehydrated vegetables), which we followed up with hot drinks on the Heli Pad as us we watched the sunset behind Mt Oakleigh - one of our target mountains for the next day.



Tuesday, 23 January 2018

While we were in Launceston we stayed with orienteering friends in Norwood, whilst some other Hobart friends stayed at a posh Launceston Hotel. They gave us one of the freebies they got from their room - a fancy looking bottle of:


no.. not gin, or vodka...


water. yes.. WATER.  Bottled in a fancy glass bottle..


After simply gazing at the bottle on our benchtop for a day, Zali and I decided to see exactly how much better this Cape Grim water was than regular tap water, so we gave each other a blind test.  Amazingly enough we were both able to detect that there WAS a difference between the two, and I could tell which of the two was the Grim water - it had a softer feeling in my mouth. Worth bottling in a bottle? nah.


Orienteering Really Takes You Places..

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Like to this dunny on a property near Evandale..


It was so 'authentic' it even had extra lighting delivered by the bulletholes in both side walls.  It was out the back of the shooters hut that the start and finish of the orienteering race was held at..


I snooped around the inside of the  hut when everyone else was out running and I decided it would be a good place to shoot a horror movie should I want to make one in the same vein as wolf creek.   

Of course it's not all shooter's huts and stag's horns - after the race we went and had afternoon tea at a delightful bakery in Evandale which had a walled garden area which made me think of Provincial France or Southern Italy (neither of which I've visited).


After the bushland of Saturday, we had another change of scenery as we started and finished from a shack in Weymouth, a town I didn't even know existed before Sunday. This photo doesn't do the place justice, we were running around sand-dunes, up and down sleepy shack filled streets, and struggling through the sand on the beachfront. It was really nice fun, and the BBQ afterwards was a lovely way to end our Launceston trip.


Melbourne Weekend

Saturday, 6 January 2018

After cruising down to Melbourne in the afternoon we unwound in the air conditioned comfort of Jo’s cool apartment in Carlton. After a quick walk around her local area to confirm that I was in the un-coolest person in Melbourne (or at least in funky Carlton & Fitzroy) we then got takeaway thai and settled down to watch some netflix before sleeping on actual beds which was a nice treat! 

In the morning (today) Jon and I both got out early for some exercise - Jon pounded the yarra trail for 2 and a half hours while I took Jo’s bike for a spin into the city and back, which by the time I had made it home was a 36k and 2 hour return trip.  With Melbourne cooking in 40 degree heat we weren’t keen to tear ourselves away from Jo and her air-conditioning and we probably wouldn't have except that we had a 2pm Escape Room booking in St Kilda. 

The room went really well and we busted out with out any clues which was great.  Then had to think about what to do for 3 hours before boarding our ferry. It was so hot that anything outdoors was out of the question. In the end we decided to visit the National Gallery of Victoria which turned out to be great.  

Us and the thousands of other sudden-art-lovers were kicked firmly out at 5pm which meant there was almost the perfect amount of time left to get our traditional fish and chops from the pier before boarding the Spirit of Tasmania which is where I am now.


Farewell mainland and Christmas Holiday 2017. You've been fun. 

Grampians Hike - Day 3

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Days 1 and 2 are described in the brochure as follows: 

Revel in the adventure and natural beauty of the ancient rock features of the Grand Canyon, views from the Pinnacle Lookout and the spectacular outlook of rugged mountain peaks from the top of Mt Rosea.

Day 3 doesn’t get quite such a write-up:
Day Three provides the opportunity to return to Halls Gap.

Which basically meant that it is just a 14k fire-trail slog back to Halls Gap until such time as the rest of the peaks trail is completed.  In the afternoon of day 2 we spent some time discussing whether we wanted to do this section, given the forecast was for 35 degrees and there wasn’t anything scenic to see. Jon had been running every morning as part of his overland track training so our obvious way out was to have him run and get the car and bring it back to us.  
After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing we were down to two options - get up at 6am and leave by 7 to avoid the heat, or,  bail out.  With the kids unwilling and probably unable to be ready to go early we decided to bail out - which freed up Jon to run all the way back to the car, then up to the Pinnacle again before returning to the car to pick us up. A 3 hour run for him - a lazy morning for us!

Although it was not completely lazy for me as while he ran I walked the first section of the route - and in fact the first 2ks were delightful (paticularly without a pack!)..


but once you got to the big lake the track turned into a sandy fire trail. Jon’s run confirmed that we didn’t miss out on anything much except for some steep pinches which would certainly have hurt after a hew hours of hot walking.


The temperature didn’t get up to the forecast high but it felt pretty darn hot as we ate our ice creams in Halls Gap and I’m happy we made the right decision for the conditions. 

Grampians Hike - Day 2

Saturday, 6 January 2018

We set off the next day at 8.30 as it was going to be a pretty hot day and we had another long climb ahead of us.  It was about 5k from the campsite to the top of Mt Rosea. Once again the trail wound its way around giant rock features and through sandy stretches of lovely forest to the top. This stretch was my favourite bit of walking.


Unlike the Pinnacle, it was only us and another pair of hikers at the top, so we spent a bit longer admiring the views and ourselves.




From there we had 8km of descending off the mountain and right back down to the next campground. Thankfully once we were clear of the ridge it was a pretty gentle and smooth track the rest of the way down.


although by the time we made it we were all pretty hot and tired, so the river next to the campground was a welcome surprise.

although by the time we made it we were all pretty hot and tired, so the creek next to the campground was a welcome surprise.

We spent the rest of the afternoon lazing on the grass reading and snoozing. It was very pleasant if a bit hot. This campground was right next to the main road through the Grampians so not at all  'exclusive' like the other campsite. There were quite a few car campers and families around - in fact that was one thing about the hike that was noticable was it's proximity to roads and carparks at all times. Not like a Tasmanian hike!

In the evening it cooled down enough for us to enjoy our 2 minute noodles and hot chocolates before going to bed.  


Grampians Hike - Day 1

Saturday, 6 January 2018

I’ve been planning this hike since it turned out that taking the boat to the mainland and driving to Adelaide was going to be significantly cheaper than flying.  The Grampians National Park is not far off the highway, and the Parks department people have just finished the first 2 days of a proposed 11 day hike of the entire length of the national park.   Unlike the Three Capes track which costs a bomb, it only cost a grand total of $90 to book campsites on this walk. Of course we needed to carry everything ourselves this time as there are no fancy cabins of comfy mattresses.

We met Jo in Halls Gap and set off at about 11:45. It’s been a long time since I’ve visited the Grampians and I’d forgotten how busy it could get in summer! The town was positively heaving and so was the track up to the Pinnacle, which was our first goal. This meant we had haul ourselves and our giant packs past hundreds of thong wearing tourists who had in many cases parked in the car park quite close to the top, while we had slogged all the way up from the town.


 It took us about 2 hours of steady climbing but we eventually made it and joined the hoards of drone-flying smokers admiring the views over Halls Gap and a large part of Victoria. 

Thankfully the next section of the track took us away from the masses and along the ridgeline through delightfully sandy and rocky trails which wound their way through interesting rock features. It was really lovely terrain. 


We  made it to our first campsite by about 4pm. This campsite had been exclusively built for the Peaks Trail hikers so it was pretty darn nice & the kids were happy to have a platform all to themselves.  



I forced Jo and Jon to attempt to re-create the promotional picture on the brochure (see below).


Hmm.. upon refelction ours was a bit different but almost as good.  At least it looks like Jon and Jo are still friends!

Of course all the real detritus of hiking (stinky socks, food bags, plastic plates etc) was hidden behind the tent!


I also made Jo recreate a photo from the early 90s as she sat in her 27 year old tent in her 27 year old thermals..


The rest of our evening was spent relaxing, reading, eating and admiring the views - all in all it had been a pretty fantastic day. 

Little Desert National Park

Friday, 5 January 2018

Last night (Monday night) we camped at Little Desert National Park. It’s just 10 minutes off the Melbourne - Adelaide highway and despite my first impressions of it being a bit dusty and neglected, it turned out to be really nice - we all swam in the river and launched ourselves off the ropeswimg.



Later in the evening we drank hot chocolates overlooking the river and watched the birds swooping around looking for bugs, and a kookaburra chasing dragonflies. 


More Adelaide

Friday, 5 January 2018

The last few days in Adelaide have been quite a blur of activity. We went to the Cricket on NYE and Ikea for breakfast on Zali’s birthday. 

We caught up with the Kennedy side of the family which was really lovely in both cases.  It’s such a small world that my cousin Linda’s daughter will be in Jon’s sister’s home group at her school next year.  We also squeezed in a quick visit to friends down in West Beach. 

Jon and I have been running in the local national park most mornings which has been delightful and the kids have spent a lot of time in the pool.  



We’re now heading towards the Grampians for a 3 day hike starting tomorrow (Tuesday):


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