My favourite young adventurer – aka my daughter – has made her first mark on the publishing world.
Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service has just produced a walking guide for children on the Overland Track, titled ‘My Overland Track Journey! For Young Adventurers’. It’s filled with track facts (poo and paw type stuff), field-guide material, challenges, diary pages and quizzes. It’s designed for kids to carry on the track, filling it out as the days roll out through the Tasmanian mountains.
Part of the research for the booklet was done by my then-nine-year-old daughter when we hiked the Overland Track together last year. At the end of each walking day, she’d pull her notebook from her backpack – like father, like daughter – and jot down ideas and thoughts for the booklet. She’d sit quietly in the huts or in our tent – stopping only to count the number of leeches crawling over the tent fly – and scribble suggestions she thought might appeal to other young walkers.
Her favourite moment…
She proudly now has her own copy of the booklet, her ideas solidified in print, and is part-horrified, part-chuffed that it’s filled with photos of her along the track. In her own way, she’s left her indelible mark on the outdoors experience along Tasmania’s most famous walking trail.
And in a neat twist, one of the first kids who’ll get to sample her work is her younger brother, when he and I hike the Overland Track together this coming summer. This booklet, and her work, may just have made my life easier for a week.
For all the dozens of hiking trails and thousands of kilometres I’ve hiked, one experience stands high above all others. It was the week I spent walking Tasmania’s Overland Track in the company of my then nine-year-old daughter. It was probably the heaviest pack I’ve ever carried, and the slowest I’ve ever walked, but there was something entirely refreshing and revealing about seeing the world through young eyes again. Over the course of 65 kilometres and one week, I watched a child absorb the wilderness and come to feel at one with it. Continue reading
Children complicate adventure. Not so much because they might be inherently weaker or whinier, but because of their blind trust. Even at times of potential danger, they look at you with the surety that they’re safe inside some parental bubble, that nothing can harm them while dad or mum is in hand-holding reach. Take risks and you do so for two or three people but with the knowledge of only one. Such trust frightens me, especially since I know how fragile and misplaced it can be. Random chance doesn’t respect a child’s naivety.
Six years ago I took my family to Europe with the plan to cycle across the continent, beginning in Biarritz and meandering for five months towards Venice, towing our two young children in trailers behind the bikes. Two weeks into the trip – six years ago tomorrow – my then three-year-old son fractured his skull. Playing on a rotunda, following his older sister as she crept around its edge, he fell six feet onto a concrete path, landing on his head.
Walking on a trail can be like threading a line between words in a book – you only see part of the story. Move off the line – read the entire page – and a place expands and changes, developing new shapes, angles and experiences as you step through untracked land.
In a forest or in heavily mountainous country, you quickly sense the possibility of this change if you were to step away from the trail. On my recent visit to New Zealand, however, I discovered there can be just as much shift in an open, barren landscape such as that around the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park. Continue reading
How long is a piece of string? How large is a canyon?
Visit almost any great or grand canyon in the world and there’ll be some kind of chest-beating claim about its size. It’ll be the largest in the world, or on the continent, or its depth will be compared to the Grand Canyon since we’re all desperate to know how it measures up against the most famous slot of all. Continue reading
Far-reaching mountain quests – aka peak bagging – are universal. Scotland famously has its Munros (mountains above 3000 metres in height), Colorado has its 14ers (peaks above 14,000 feet) and Japan has its 100 Famous Mountains. Even tiny Tasmania has a stake in this world of mountain missions, with its own list of chart-topping peaks known as the Abels. Continue reading
Think of great mountains across northern Tasmania and most people think only of Cradle Mountain. But to reach Cradle Mountain, you invariably drive past another imposing and isolated line of rock that is the breastplate of Mt Roland, a mountain that’s arguably the equal of its more famous neighbour.
To most who drive through here, Mt Roland is just windscreen scenery, a moment of ‘I wonder what that mountain is called’, before it’s forgotten in the quest to reach Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain. Continue reading
It seems suitable to wrap up the year with the final, and top, pick in my selection of the 10 finest mountain trails I’ve had the privilege to trek. My favourite trek over the many pairs of boots I’ve worn out is in Ethiopia, atop the mountain range known as the Roof of Africa.
The Simien Mountains aren’t the highest peaks in Africa, though at 4550m Ras Dashen is often claimed as the fourth-highest on the continent (which conveniently overlooks a few unnamed peaks in the Ruwenzori). But it’s not the head-spinning glory of altitude that elevates the Simiens to the head of my list. It’s the headiness of its escarpment, combined with the life – both human and animal – that’s scratched out on its plateau. Continue reading
I spent most of last week hidden from the world, kayaking on the waters of Bathurst Harbour and Port Davey in Tasmania’s World Heritage-listed Southwest wilderness. It wasn’t the first time I’d paddled here, but familiarity did nothing to blunt the impact of this utterly wild area. A second time here is effectively twice as good. Continue reading
It’s a pretty short journey from No 3 in my list of mountain treks to No 2. From Torres del Paine National Park you need only skip across the border into Argentina to find yourself at the foot of Monte FitzRoy, less than 200km away. Perhaps the single-most impressive mountain I’ve had the pleasure to ogle, FitzRoy is an enormous bubble of rock – its summit escarpment is more than 1km in height – rising out of the fierce Patagonian Andes.
It’s been 10 years since I hiked here, and still the walk and the landscape live with me. It was a hike of both expectation and frustration, since I walked for almost a week in FitzRoy’s shadow before the clouds parted to grant a glimpse of the mountain I’d travelled half the world to see. Continue reading