A Month of Alpine Fun


29th Dec 2017 – 1st Jan 2018 – Khancoban and surrounds

The last weekend of 2017 saw me and my Beloved camping at Khancoban, in New South Wales. Part of the reason we went camping was to try out our new 4 man tent. But Rebecca (my Beloved) suggested that I find some things for us to do over the weekend, so being a good husband I did as I was told. Khancoban is the south-western gateway to the Kosciusko National Park, which has plenty of exciting and beautiful places to visit, a lot of them requiring hiking or mountain biking to see. There are also a number of National Parks and State Parks not far away in Victoria. So thats what I happened to find – lots of walking as I didn’t think I would be taking my mountain bike. My Darling is not much of a walker, but she was willing to accommodate my planned activities, at least as far as she was able. When we arrived at Khancoban, the weather was looking a bit threatening, with low clouds. And in the evening and overnight we had a lot of rain. We discovered that our tent leaked, although it required a significant downpour for that to occur, and it’s possible that we didn’t put it up properly in the first place.

On Sabbath, with the bad weather having cleared away and the weather looking promisingly sunny, we drove to the Burrowa-Pine Mountain National Park on the Victorian side of the Murray River near Cudgewa. We had only been there once before, and due to flood damage many of the tracks were closed at that time. This time the tracks were open. So we started by hiking to Bluff Falls and having look at them. Then it was up, up, up to Campbells Lookout. This track really wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Although to be honest I didn’t really know what to expect. The track had lots of stairs, lots of scrambling over rocks, it even had a 5 metre or so vertical ladder to get up one particular section. Quite an adventure. But the scenery was magnificent, with great views, dramatic rock faces and formations, and fern gullys punctuated by the creek which runs down the middle of the valley.

Following the Campbells Lookout walk, we had some lunch then engaged in the much more leisurely pursuit – going for a drive through the countryside. And then we returned to Khancoban Caravan Park. While my Darling had a rest (ie, sleep), I went for a bit of a walk over the Khancoban Lake wall and into Khancoban itself, just to see what was around. There were boats and water-skiers in abundance on the lake. The Rose Garden in town looked like it had seen better days, but maybe that’s because it was being prepared for the next Rose season. In any case, the walk was interesting. And by the time I got back to the caravan park it was approaching dinner time.

On Sunday, New Years Eve 2017, the plan was to drive up the trail head near Tooma Dam, and then walk out to Paton’s Hut. But as is often the case, plans don’t always eventuate. We got to the trail head ok, and hiked most of the way, probably to within about 400 metres of the Hut, then Rebecca got bitten by something (no, not a snake!), and rather than complete the walk it seemed best to return to the car. It was a case of so close, yet so far. Rebecca suggested I go on another walk while she sat in the car and read a book, but I didn’t particularly like that idea, just case she had some sort of alergic reaction to the bite. So we drove back towards civilisation. At Corryong we had some lunch, and then we went and had a look at the Man From Snowy River Museum in the town.

Then it was back to Khancoban, where we found a nice shady spot and watched the boats, jet skis and water skiers enjoying themselves on the lake while we indulged in an ice cream and sat in the shade, at least for a while. Then we went back to the caravan park. At the caravan park, they had a Pizza night as a way of celebrating New Years Eve. And it seems that New Years Eve celebrations went on for a lot longer as every time we woke up during the night it seemed that there was loud music playing somewhere. Until the wee hours of the morning.

6th – 7th January – Bogong High Plains / Dinner Plain.

On the weekend of the 6th and 7th January, 2018, it was going to be hot. At least down on the plains where we live in Culcairn. On Sabbath I decided I wanted to go for a walk, and my Darling wife suggested I camp somewhere overnight to try out my new hiking tent. I didn’t take much convincing! Within about an hour I had enough food for an overnight camp, all my camping stuff and clothes suitable for hiking. And so I headed for the mountains. The plan was to drive to Dinner Plain, just downhill a ways from Mt Hotham, and do some hiking there then find a place to camp overnight. After looking at maps I decided I would walk the Carmichael Falls walk and then depending on how I felt and how hot it was I would consider another walk. The Carmichael Falls walk from Dinner Plain isn’t that long, but it turned out to be quite steep. It was like walking through a well tended rock garden with beautiful flowers, ferns and other types of plants everywhere. And then there was the falls themselves. They weren’t overly spectacular as it was the middle of Summer. But the rocks from which they fall was definitely worth the walk. Then on the way back I took a short detour to another cascade that looked distinctly man-made with the creek cascading over very symetrical rock steps. Although I’m pretty sure it was completely natural.

After completing the Carmichael Falls walk, I decided I would walk to Precipice Plains lookout. By comparing the distance on the map for the Carmichael Falls walk I figured it would be about 10km return from the Carmichael Falls track. And as it turns out I was pretty close. By this time of the day it was getting warm-ish, but still nowhere near as hot as it would have been at home. Precipice Plains is a geological feature where the Dargo River valley is surrounded by high cliffs. I guess thats where the “Precipice Plains” name comes from. The walk itself was along a 4WD track with alpine forest on both sides. It was quite a pleasant walk, with a breeze blowing across the track most of the time and shady sections where the trees overhung the track. As the wind was quite strong at the lookout I stayed well clear of the edge of the precipice. But even so, the views across to the cliffs north and west of the lookout were quite spectacular.

After I returned to the car, I decided I would check out the JB Plain camping area. It was rather pleasant, and it would have been even more pleasant and quiet as there was no-one else there. But I decided I would drive to Anglers Rest, on the Cobungra River, and camp there instead. This meant driving down to Omeo from Dinner Plain and then driving along the Omeo “Highway” north to Anglers Rest. I knew there were a number of camping spots there. I didn’t realise how busy the camping area just down the road from the Blue Duck Inn would be, but I managed to find a spot for my small hiking tent.

The name “Anglers Rest” is very descriptive of the area, and is a popular fishing spot as it is near the junctions of 4 rivers – Mitta Mitta, Cobungra, Bundarra and Big Rivers. People travel from some very long distances just to fish in the area. The area is also popular for horse riding, mountain biking, white water rafting, camping and hiking.  It is nestled near the bottom of the valley, and is very picturesque. But the Omeo “Highway” is not for the faint hearted. It was even more of an adventure in the Gold Rush days as it was only a walking track then between Omeo and the Mt Wills goldfields. Even though it’s all asphalted now, it’s still quite an adventure as it is narrow and winds it’s way around the mountains to connect Omeo in the south and Mitta Mitta in the north.

After a fairly restful night, I rose early and had breakfast, packed up camp and drove to the Bogong High Plains near Falls Creek. My first walk for the day was the Mt Cope walk. It wasn’t very long, being 3km return, but the walk was along a very picturesque trail and the 360 degree views from the summit were well worth the effort. Along the way I chatted with an Army person who had his full combat uniform complete with helmet and what appeared to be a very heavy army-issue backpack. He wasnt hiking very fast, but then you wouldn’t expect him to with all the weight he must have been carrying. He was able to identify most of the mountains around, including Kosciusko many kilometres away. He also told me of some good hikes around Falls Creek and Bogong High Plains, which wet my appetite for some more adventures in the area.

After the Mt Cope hike, I drove a little way towards Falls Creek, and parked the car for a hike to 2 alpine huts. Huts in alpine areas of Australia generally fall into about 3 categories – 1) huts built by cattlemen many years ago to aid in the movement of cattle between the high plains and the valleys (and possibly rebuilt after a bush fire or something else requires it), 2) huts built by government agencies such as the National Park service for the use of visitors (for example, snow skiers), and 3) huts built by other organisations such as schools or clubs. I’ve been very interested in alpine huts ever since I acquired and read a book about the mountain cattlemen and huts of the high plains. Interest in alpine huts also increased in my early adult years due to another book I read about the history of snow skiing in Australia which talked about various huts in it’s narrative, and my own personal interest in and enjoyment of snow skiing (before I met Rebecca I went snow skiing whenever I could, often every Sunday). Movies such as the “Man from Snowy River”, which featured the beauty of Australia’s alpine areas also played a part in my interest. The two huts I visited on the Bogong High Plains that day, Wallaces and Cope Huts, seem to be huts initially built by cattlemen.

Up in the Boging High Plains that Sunday was very pleasant – around 25 degrees Celsius. When I stopped briefly in Mt Beauty on the way home, it was certainly a lot hotter than when I was hiking in the high plains.

A plan not realised

Over the Australia Day weekend in late January I had a plan to head for the hills again, and had sort of set my mind to camping and exploring the Snowy Mountains / Kosciusko National Park near Jindabyne, New South Wales. I had all the camping gear packed, all the food purchased and was all mentally prepared. And then rain, thunderstorms, and the like were forecast for exactly where I planned to go. So I checked other places such as around Falls Creek and Mt Hotham – the same sort of weather was forecast. I checked the forecast for some places outside the mountains, and the forecast there was for 35+ degrees Celsius. I realised that I could either risk getting caught in  electrical storms and being stuck in a hiking tent during the forecast rains, or risk getting severly sunburnt, or stay home. Guess which one I chose?

History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul


“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” (Thomas Jefferson).
As 2016 slips quietly behind, with little more than a few ticks on the clock (if you have one that ticks), it’s a good time to reflect on the year that has been. Lord Acton once said “History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.” And so with that in mind, lets turn on the light that was 2016.
I’m not one to make New Year Resolutions – mostly they are just one more goal to not fulfil. And there can be plenty of them without adding another. Mostly, this year has been an interesting, although at times stressful, year. My oldest daughter, Zoe, left home to embark on a journey of learning as a University Student. That was a little stressful, but no where near as stressful as my son getting his car licence and the subsequent having to compete with him for use of the car – those of you that have sons and have  gone through this will know what I mean (yes, mum and dad, that includes you). And then there was the health conditions that manifested their ugly heads that made it hard to exercise, as mentioned in previously entries in this blog. I have also had ongoing problems with my voice over the last year which has made certain activities and situations very frustrating, with lack of (sometimes no) volume and sometimes a very unreliable voice. Interestingly enough, my preaching hasn’t really suffered and has actually been enhanced somewhat by including my wife in my preaching appointments – it’s a quite unexpected blessing to be able to share the pulpit with my wife!
The year just gone wasn’t all stress, though. Actually there were some great things happen this year. Eliana and I got to travel on a railway that neither of us has travelled on before from Bairnsdale in Victoria’s far east. We had some great times away camping, hiking and exploring Australia’s eastern states with visitis to Griffith, Young, Weddin Mountains National Park near Grenfell, Jindabyne and Kosciousko National Park, Bombala and the South East National Park in New South Wales (NSW), Mitta Mitta, and Omeo (and the surrounding region) in Victoria. There were also a number of day trips. I got to explore some interesting railways that have been converted to rail-trails in the Otways in Victoria’s west, and to explore parts of Victoria’s high country on my bike. And while on the subject of bicycles, I saved up enough money in 2016 to buy a brand new mountain bike this year which has made exercising and exploring heaps more fun. The last time I got a brand new bicycle was about 5 years and around 15000 – 20000 cycling kms ago.
Here are some cycling stats for 2016:
  • Distance travelled: 5615km (more than the distance between the southermost point of Tasmania and the northern most point of Cape York Peninsula, the norhernmost point on the Australian mainland, via the most direct route. And roughly half way between the 2014 and 2015 distances).
  • Amount of time to travel those kms: 262.5 hours.
  • Average speed: 21.4kph.
  • Elevation gain: 23611 metres (2.66 Mt Everests).
  • Rides: 215.
  • Average distance per ride: 26kph.
I also became a member of a Gym in 2016, the plan being to increase my upper body and arm strength –  something my cycling generally doesn’t increase.
On a more intellectual note, I have been learning Biblical Hebrew for the last few years, and this year saw me actually starting to read a Hebrew Bible for myself in the original language, which has really been a very slow but extremely pleasant and mind expanding experience. I have gained a much greater appreciation and love for the Bible, and the God who inspired it, as a result. And I’m looking forward to more of the same as I continue through the dynamic and descriptive world that is the Hebrew Bible in 2017. I also almost finished a Certtificate III in Fitness, which when finished will allow me to be a Gym Instructor / Fitness Trainer, something I have been interested in doing for a while. While I enjoy the “software Enginerring” / Web Programming that I currently do (and will continue to do), I have been feeling a lack of human interaction in recent years since since I started working from home. And while the computer work is helpful and necessary, I want to be able to make a personal impact on peoples lives in the area of Fitness, which is why I embarked on the fitness courses I am doing in my spare time.

Early Winter Activities


Well, Winter has only just started in the Riverina district of New South Wales (Australia), and we have already had plenty of cold days. But over the last week, I have managed three very un-winter-like nature-based adventure activities – at least to my way of thinking.

Last Sabbath (11th June) I had a hankering for some walking. The sun was shining, and from inside the house it seemed like too good a day to waste it being inside. Outside it was still rather cold, but the sunny sky seemed to be promising a beautiful, albeit coolish, day. My darling wife must have sensed my hankering because she suggested we go for a walk in the Woomargama National Park (WNP), about 40 minutes drive away from where we live. The WNP is bisected by the Hume and Hovell Walking Track (H&HWT), a 400+ km walking track between Yass (NSW) and Albury on the Victorian border, and it was part of that walking track that we decided we would walk. So we packed a picnic lunch and drove towards the WNP. As we drove merrily along we noticed that the closer we got to the park, the more cloudy the sky got. And by the time we reached the Samuel Bollard Camping Ground on the H&HWT it was looking more than a tad threatening. But we started off on our hike anyway. The plan was to hike the part of the H&HWT between the Samuel Bollard Campground and Tunnel Road – not a long hike by any means, but as we had never walked in the WNP or the H&HWT it seemed like a good starter hike. We hiked a total of around 4km, and the photos below tell the visual story of our hike.

On the Sunday (12 June), it was an early start to be in Albury by 7:45am to meet up with the Albury Wodonga Pedal Power group (AWPP). The activity for that day was a group bike ride planned from Tumbarumba to Tintaldra then some lunch and on to Walwa – a distance of around 75km. About 13 riders were going, and 2 support vehicles to attend to any mechanical or other ‘breakdowns’ and to carry all our cycling kit except for water bottles. That was a good test of my new Jamis mountain bike that I purchased about a month ago and my general fitness. Both the mountain bike and I performed fairly well – the bike seemed really at home on the asphalt roads (I was admittedly a bit surprised at that), and my fitness level must have been ok too because I managed the climbs without any real need to stop and rest for any sigificant period of time (I was admittedly a bit surprised by that too) although the fact that I had two really long rests waiting for everyone else to catch up mght have had something to do with that. It was cool (well, it is winter), but the sun was shining with not a cloud in the sky as far as the eye could see, but I did spot some cloud clinging to the sides of some of the higher mountains as I pedalled along. Having ridden the road between Tumbarumba and Tintaldra a few times before I had a reasonable idea of what to expect although it’s always different on a bicycle as there is no motor to help get up the hills. I knew that from about 1/2 way along the ride I would have some more level riding and some downhill into Tooma. There was also the 270 degree vistas across to the Snowy Mountains, towards Tumbarumba, and towards the Murray River valley.

By the time I got to the Southern Cloud Lookout, I decided I had better wait for everyone to catch up. So while I waited (and waited) I stared in wonder at the view across to the Snowy Mountains with their snow capped peaks glistening in the sunlight. Eventually the rest of the group arrived at the lookout and it was decided, rather wisely, to have a late lunch (it was around 1:30pm by this stage) of all the munchies and teas and coffees that everyone had brought along. After some munchies and a chat, and deciding to terminate the ride at Tintaldra due to the time, we got back on our trusty steeds and either barrelled or sedately rode the brakes down the hill, or anywhere on the spectrum between those two extremes, all the way into Tooma. At Tooma there was a sign saying 18km to Tintaldra pointing along a steep dirt road, and one saying 20km via the asphalt and more level road – we took the 20km option. And within about an hour of that turnoff we had started arriving at Tintaldra – by this time it was about 3:30pm, and a bit too late to continue on to Walwa so we made the right decision to stop the ride at Tintaldra – a 55km ride in total.

After a bit of a rest, putting the bikes on the support vehicles for the trip back to Albury, drink and snacks at the pub (tetotaler’s lemonade, packet of chips and Mars bar for me), we all piled in the support vehicles and enjoyed a drive into the sunset…

Then on Monday (13th June) which was the Queens Birthday Holiday, with another uncharacteristically sunny Winter day, and a weather forecast which included a lot of rain later in the week, I decided it was just too good a day to waste it being inside. So this time I decided to ride towards Holbrook and see how I went – remembering that I did a 55km / 900+ total climbs ride the day before and I wasn’t really sure how I would go. I needn’t have worried about being able to make it to Holbrook. I made it there and back with energy to spare although my legs were starting to complain a little by the time I got back home.

I learnt something interesting on the two rides over the weekend. On both I took a mixture of trail mix (nuts, seeds, sultanas), cashews, and dates for some sustenance along the way. I also carried and drank plenty of water. It seems that the combination of those munchies (a nice mix of carbs, proteins and fats) and the amount of water helped keep my energy levels up considerably so I think I will make that munchie mix a standard for future longer distance rides. I also re-discovered the ‘after-ride-glow’ – a sense of persistent euphoria!

Time for a Weddin


No. I am not getting married (again), or anything like that. Over the weekend just gone, Rebecca, Jesse, Eliana and myself went to the Weddin Mountains National Park, located in the New South Wales central-west region. The purpose of the trip was to camp and hike and generally enjoy nature. Or in other words, get a prescription strength dose of Nature-RX . My wonderfully organised wife had trolled the internet for suitable venues for this outdoor adventure weekend, and many of the places she found were having road closures and/or fuel reduction burns over the weekend, and Weddin Mountains National Park was just about the only one she found within a reasonable distance drive from home, which had some good tracks to walk and things to do. So Friday morn, the car was packed with all the stuff we thought we would need, less some things we should have tried to fit in to our Honda CRV but didn’t due to space. And off we trundled initially at the leasurely pace allowed by Learner drivers in the ever forward-thinking state of New South Wales (Australia), but then after Jesse (our Learner driver) had finished driving I took over and drive at the actual speed limit, where possible.

Weddin Mountain National Park is located about 30 minutes drive west/south west of the town of Grenfell, and rises up to a somewhat impressive height above relatively flat surrounds. It seems somewhat out of place surrounded by flat-ish farming land. The place we were going to be camping was Ben Hall Campground, on the western side of the park. The campground was very dry, the creeks in the area all dried up, but apart from that it was a great place to camp with lots of shade from eucalyptus and kurrajong trees. Ben Hall was one of a not insignificant number of bushrangers (ie, outlaws) who found that stealing, pillaging, and taking other people’s stuff was more lucrative than working hard for a pittance and buying his own, and he had a hideaway in a cave near the campground from the long, but probably not quite long enough, arm of the Law.

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Kangaroo at the campground

Sabbath morning dawned with a little cloud, and a forecast top temperature of around 28 degress (Celsius). And so we embarked on what would become the longest hike Rebecca and Eliana have every done to date – more than 10 kilometres. Jesse and I have done longer hikes before. The destination was Eualdrie Lookout. The hike itself initially followed a dry creek ravine, with stunning multi-colored and variously shaped cliffs and rock faces, with layers of tress between various parralel cliffs and rock faces. The creek bed looked like it hadn’t had water in a long time. Along the way we saw a goat, which I think must have been wild, as well as hearing kangaroos and/or wallabies bounding through the bush above and beside us. And hearing the song of birds. Although it seemed that bird life was no apparent as in other places we have visited over the years. Rebecca and Eliana must be commended for the effort on this hike. Following the trail involved a fair bit of scrambling over rocks, negotiating fallen trees, and trying to avoid some pretty nasty spiky plants that we encountered in a number of places. Eliana had a fall, but with a some tears and a little encouragement she was back on her feet again. Rebecca kept referring to the last time we climbed “The Rock”, a towering edifice of a rock that stands sentinel over the township fo the same name about 40 minutes drive from where we live. I tried to re-assure her that this hike would be no where near as bad as “The Rock”, but I really had no idea what the hike would be like. We eventually arrived at the Eualdrie Lookout, and had some lunch while enjoying the views (which were quite stunning), and watching various members of a colony of lizards moving over the rocks.

Near the lookout we met a couple who we had seen at the campground earlier in the morning. They live at Ulladulla, on the NSW south coast. They were heading south to Victoria and visiting various places of interest along the way. At the campground, we met a number of other campers, some staying just one night, some longer – they were either going to or coming from Western Australia, Katoomba, Adelaide, and other places. The campground almost seemd to be some sort of ‘cross roads’ for all points of the compass.

Sunday we decided to go for a hike fairly early, then we had to go into Grenfell to buy some more water as there was absolutely no water at the campground excepot for washing hands in the toilet blocks. The hike we did was the Bertha’s Gully walk, which seemed to be named after the wife of Jim Seaton, who had a farm only a short distance from the campground in the years during and after the Great Depression. On other documentation the walk seemed to be called Black Gin Gully. But as a Black Gin is a racist term for an Aboriginal female, I am guessing that the gully was renamed after a white woman. This hike was described as a ‘pleasant walk’, and so we were thinking ‘easy’. But it wasn’t. This walk involved even more climbing and scrambling over rocks in relation to it’s length than the Eualdrie Lookout walk. But the scenery! There impressive towring rock formations and cliff faces, and some other differently shaped rocks which with that wonder of the post-modern age – the digital camera with impressive zoom capabilities – I was able to get some close up pictures of.

Upon our return back to camp we went for that drive into Grenfell I mentioned earlier. It was basically uninterering, so I won’t bore you with that. And lunch was minestrone soup with bread buns, then biscuits and fruit. After lunch, while Rebecca and Eliana rested after their earlier hikes, me and Jesse decide we would tackle the Lynchs Loop and Lookout hike. The sign at the start of the hike said it would take 2 hours, and was 2.5km in length. So we bounded off like a couple of mountain goats and slahed the required time in half! Including a 10 minute beark enjoying the views at the lookout. This hike had more impressive rocks. Impressive rocks are one thing this park has plenty of. And on the way down we, or I should say Jesse, almost collected a spider’s web. And it was a rather large spider that presided over his food collecting apparatus. After a rather un-manly scream from Jesse we negotiated around it and kept going.

When we got back to camp we all got in the car and drove to nearby Seaton Farm, a historical site featuring various Depression-era innovations and money saving examples. The farm buildings were constructed by Jim Seaton from second hand iron, mill offcuts, mud and earth, and hand cut timber from the surrounding trees. It seems that Jim Seaton would be what we might call a ‘hoarder’ today, as he kept anything and everything including bags of charcoal, tins and bottles, old tyres and car parts, second hand fences, correguated iron and farm machinery. But then when the times were tough all that assortment of thing could make the difference between making a living and not. The various items collected by Jim Seaton is testament to not only the difficult times he encountered, but also to his unique character.

The farm was a model of self-sufficiency – they grew their own vegetables, killed their own meat, grew feed for their sheep, cows and pigs. The farm house was made of iron, and had a packed earth floor – probably no “take our shoes off before you enter”, or “don’t bring those dirty boots inside the house” for the Seatons! The internal walls were made of mud over wire frames. But it did have sky-lights in some rooms, built by the Seatons of course.

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Storm clouds brewing

After our visit to the Seaton Farm, we continued for a leisirely drive to the nearest settlement, a township called Bimbi. By the time we arrived back at camp it was time to cook some dinner. As we partook of our dinner, a vegetarian pasta bolognese, storm clouds seemed to be gathering and as we had heard that there was the possibility of it being a  stormy night. As we had no plans for the next day except to pack up and head for home, and as we had done and seen everything we had planned to by Sunday afternoon, we quickly as possible packed up all our belongings into the Honda, and departed for home. And we are glad we did. As we drove along towards home we had a fairly constant lightning display – sometimes close by and sometimes nearer – and when we got home and checked the weathr radar on our phones we noticed that two storm systems – one coming from the south / east and the other from the north could have collided not too far distant to where we were camped!