Winter in the Murrumbidgee


A chilly swim in the local river

30 June

Murrumbidgee River

Whitewater kayaking

A short day’s paddle from Casuarina Sands to Urriara Crossing. The level was about 1.2 at Mt. McDonald. Canberra has some great whitewater right on its doorstep – half an hours drive from the city. It is generally only paddleable for a short time after rain which makes it difficult to fit in with work, family and other commitments.

Sometimes things go to plan.

Air temperature max 6 degrees C. Water temp – cold. Check the video (GoPro chest mounted).




21 June

Honeysuckle Crag – Namadgi


½ day doing cliffcare tasks and ½ day climbing.

Many popular climbing areas have groups which take on cliffcare tasks – Arapiles, Blue Mountains etc. Typical tasks are track work, erosion control in descent gullies and rebolting routes with safer technology. Along with a good sized group from Canberra Climbers Association we worked in the morning then climbed in the afternoon. Charles and I climbed the classic of the crag, a 3 pitch route with a nice corner system then a run out slab followed by a steep wall to a final crack system. Deep Space/Sickle link up *** climbing. The crag has a different outlook to the main Booroomba Rocks – only a few distant signs of civilisation in a sea of rolling montaigne forest.

Outlaws, bushrangers and hidden treasure


Outlaws, bushrangers and hidden treasure

12 June

Canberra Nature Park – Rob Roy



Out the front door, like Bilbo Baggins on his big adventure to tangle with dragon, we walked around the side of our hill. A management track then snaked us up and down and around about into Rob Roy Nature Reserve and eventually to the high summit of Rob Roy itself. So close to home we were immersed in the bush.

Vistas from high on the range over the suburbs and grassy fields to the blue Brindabella Mountains in the distance. Mt. Tennant, named after our local bushranger, lay proud and tall in the south. Legend has it that his treasure of gold is still hidden on the mountain.

Wombat, kangaroos, feral pigs, eagles.

The outlook from Big Monks sensational.

16 km “there and back again”.

Canberra Nature Park is a series of bushland reserves close to or within the urban area of Canberra. The hilltops are part of the reserve system. Most of the suburbs have easy access to one of these areas. The reserves and the proximity to the mountains help to make the city the Bush Capital of Australia.

Robert Roy MacGregor (Scottish GaelicRaibeart Ruadh MacGriogair; baptised 7 March 1671 – 28 December 1734), usually known simply as Rob Roy, was a famous Scottish folk hero and outlaw of the early 18th century, who is sometimes known as the Scottish Robin Hood.Rob Roy is anglicised from the Gaelic Raibeart Ruadh, meaning essentially “Robert the Red-Haired”.     From:

Mt Tennant on the left
Mt Tennant on the left
Suburbs and nature park hilltops
Suburbs and nature park hilltops

Today our treasure is to have these areas preserved so when we make time to visit them on a beautiful winter’s day like this one we can feel like we’ve struck gold.

A walk in the old country – Gibraltar Peak


A walk in the old country Gibraltar Peak

26 June

Gibraltar Peak – Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve


Lyre bird calling Tidbinbilla

Note to Australian Aboriginal people this post includes reference to deceased Aboriginal people.

The Time Trail led us from the visitors’ centre at Tidbinbilla across grassy kangaroo fields to the Birrigai Rock Shelter. Over many years I had visited this place many times, occasionally in the company of Aboriginal People – Paul and Matilda House, Don Bell, Eugene Vincent, Laddie Timbery, Jonnie Huckle, Dale Huddleston and Bobby Jabbanunga. As staff at the Birrigai Outdoor School we had made great efforts to highlight the people with connections to this country. Josephine Flood had excavated the site and found dramatic evidence that confirmed that people had lived in this shelter for at least 18,000 years. Since the last ice age.  We attempted to convey a sense of respect, awe and ongoing connection to Canberra students about the significance of the site and the living continuous culture.

On top of the grassy hill above I recalled lying on the grass in a circle with young students under the glittering night sky looking deep into the universe at light from stars so far away that it would have left when dinosaurs still roamed the earth. In winter we drew attention to the emu in the sky, a stunning feature of the cosmos visible in the southern hemisphere. Unlike the ancient Greeks the Aboriginal people of Australia storied the dark parts of the night sky, the areas between the stars. Beneath the southern cross is a dark section, the emu’s head, that links to a giant swathe of blackness across 2/3 of the Milky Way, the body, which then trails out in bent lines, the legs. Once appreciated it is impossible not to miss noticing it in future. Intriguingly its appearance seems to match the incubation of the emu eggs as the father sits on them for 8 to 10 weeks leading into spring.

We descended into an intimate glade, “Front Hollow”. Here we played hundreds of “web of life” games – kids having the time of their lives as carnivores chasing herbivores trying to hide out in the scrub or as higher order canivores chasing them all – learning about food chains as they dashed about. We had camp outs and cooked possum stew in camp ovens and spotted dick on sticks. As part of a cutting edge Earth Education program, Sunship III, we held one night a week an endangered species ceremony. Death sought out the troubled tales of the species, peregrine falcons and others then counselled the humans present. All very late at night. As staff we applied every bit of our creative educational energies to introducing, interpreting and building student relationships with the earth.

We followed a narrow trail up Bunyip Gully. The Birrigai Bunyip, a staff person in a fabulous costume with a tree stump head, was coaxed out of the woods here for special school kids with disabilities. They loved her to bits, sometimes hugging rather too hard. In a small clearing was the site “Cradles to Coffins” where students followed the cycles of a leaf growing, dying and decomposing. It’s nutrients to be used over and over again in the forest. Across a gully I spied Bunyip Castle. We had taken thousands of kids abseiling here.

As I walked on this ground and along trails that blindfold I could still pick out memories came tumbling in like a cascading river. Each small place deeply etched in memory.

Over Schoolhouse Hill I imagined how the grass trees would look in summer as their tall flower stalks fringed with white honeyed blooms.

On the trail up the ridge towards the back gate I kept an eye on the ground looking for the chert flakes from Aboriginal tool making left here over millennia. There were no remains of the site of the emus nest where we had watched a father and then the gorgeous striped hatchlings.

I had learnt how to manage groups moving through the bush up this trail to “The Peak”.  Pacing was the key to keeping balance between the fit and the strugglers. These skills I learnt leading bushwalks I later transferred to leading snorkelling, canoeing, xc skiing, back country snowboarding, mountain biking, kayaking, caving, SCUBA diving, canyoning – wherever there is a journey of people in a “remote” landscape.

We rested at Eliza Saddle. Nearby the dramatic rock formation, Lizards Tongue, was the place where I had taken my own children to hold their teddy bears in outstretched arms like in the Lion King.

In a bushy gully high on the mountain a cacophony of birds all calling loudly from the same place turned out to be a lyre bird trying to attract a mate. We picked out at least 10 different bird songs.

The final section of the ascent is a narrow winding staircase of granite steps leading upwards. In spring yellow grevilleas line the sides making a “stairway to heaven”.

The summit is a very special place. There is a sense of presence on the smooth slab among rounded tors. The view is truly spectacular. You get a different perspective on the city and The Bush. The city is a distant smudge among the rolling hills. Namadgi is a rugged wilderness to the south.

This is where we had spread Shirley’s ashes. She had been a teacher at the outdoor school who had felt a deep spiritual connection to the place.

The Birrigai camp was visible below – rebuilt after the fires. Sounds of happy voices drifted up from way below. I could pick out the ropes course and the gold village near the creek where we buried gold painted pobbles for the students to pan for and relive the experiences of the early gold diggers. Memories of conferences and Earthkeepers programs flooded back. These were days of magical learning experiences. I was reminded  of the thousands of students that we worked with. Bushdances at night in the hall. Memories and deep emotion flowed in like in the latest Pixar movie Inside Out – lots of joy but also sadness. Sadness that we were not there facilitating all that fun and learning and being in the bush, working in the most wonderful team, spending days and weeks then years in a single bush landscape that slowly etched itself into our beings.

We had established a garden, Gael’s wood, near a massive pine that must’ve disappeared in the fire. She had died too young while teaching with us.

In the middle distance I could make out the road to the deep space tracking station where the first footage of Armstrong stepping onto the moon were beamed. Gladdie had dinked me there on her new Harley. Life is short and death random. She had passed away after falling down some stairs holding her big dog shortly after.

I walked down quietly. Through the wetter forest where we used to read about diprotodons, giant megafauna, as we “walked the boundaries” and helped students adventure into the past. To the new viewing platform.

We lunched on the way back down into the Nature Reserve within a mob of kangaroos. I felt calm and at peace. I made a pact to walk this old country and feel it regularly.

Gibraltar Peak circuit. 12 km from Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve via the Birrigai Time Trail and Eliza Saddle.


If we could read this landscape?


If we could read this landscape?

6 – 8 June

Budawang Range – Morton National Park


Five Blunts hit the trail. Father, aunt, son, brother, wife, husband, uncle. First overnight hike for one and others with hundreds under their belt.


Banksias are adapted to fires. Some species are killed by bushfires but the heat also makes the seed pods open to enable germination in the soil.


IMG_5282 IMG_5286

If we could read the stories written in the land around us what might we learn? Of the slow movement of the country northwards, riding on an ocean of magma? Of the ancient megafauna, diprotodon and the giant emu ranging across these hills? Of the passing ice age when the coastline was many kilometers further out than today? Of the lives of the Wandandian and Walbanga tribes that lived in these forests for 6,000 generations and more before the arrival of the modern boat people from Europe 200 years ago? Of the platypus in the pool nearby? Might we be able to read the future, where all things being “equal”, this bit of the crust will likely be 2,000 km north in 40 million years and a coral reef might have grown up in sight of Pidgeon House Mountain?

Old scribbly gum

(The writers here are the larva from the scribblly gum moth which burrow into the new bark of this species of eucalypt. as the old bark is shed the “scribbles” are revealed.)

3 day hike. Wog Wog to cascades camp on the Corang River – 8 km. Cascades camp east along the Corang River to more cascades at “Many Rock Ribs” at the junction with Canowie Brook then along Canowie Brook trail to Burrumbeet Brook camp caves and side trip up to Yurnga Lookout – 8km. Burrumbeet Brook camp caves over Corang Peak past Kora Hill and back to Wo Wog 14km.