Sunday 12 January 2014

Nights by a Highland Lake: Part 1

[Mt Rogoona above Lake Myrtle] 
Launceston,1982. I’m one of the leaders of a group planning an overnight bushwalk. Being newish to this part of the state, I’m listening more than talking. We discuss potential destinations, place names that seem ripe with promise, rich with story. Places I too will come to cherish, ‘though that’s in my future.

When the name Rogoona is mentioned, keen looks turn suddenly sad. “No … it’s been burned out. Tragic. No point going up there.” There’s a bit more discussion; some speculation about the fire’s cause; talk of pencil pine groves destroyed forever.

[A burned pencil pine grove near Lake Myrtle] 

It’s the era of the Franklin Dam dispute. Lake Pedder is not long drowned. Nuclear weapons seem to hover over us. We share the pervasive feeling that all that is precious can be threatened, even a mountain like Rogoona.

Fast forward three decades, and I’m headed for Mt Rogoona; my third trip in recent years. In the intervening years much has changed, much has not. We’ve raised three children, and are well into the wonderland of grandparenting. But I always said I’d catch Lynne up on some of what she missed in those years. This beautiful mountain above a glittering lake is high on that list.

One of the positive changes in that time has been weather forecasting. For all that we complain when they get it wrong, forecasters today are able to give us just that: a casting-ahead – even a week to ten days ahead – of likely weather conditions.

So for this trip our weather is looking as sorted as anything driven by a chaos engine can be. Unfortunately my memory is also chaotic. From my previous trips I recall “a little bit of uphill” getting to Lake Myrtle. Pedantically the map insists there are 457 metres of it, but my memory is still more of sidle than grunt. Of course after 5 minutes of sidle, it’s steep for the next hour. And then you’re still not there. Too late I remember that there is a series of false summits – faux plateaux – as we had dubbed them on my last trip.

[Contemplating "a bit of up"] 

Optimism and faulty memories are largely helpful allies in bushwalking. Otherwise we might never leave home. But as we break out of forest onto the buttongrass of Blizzard Plain, with Mt Rogoona in view at last, I resist expressing my “almost-there” thoughts. “Not-even-half-way-there” is actually more accurate. After some buttongrass bog there’s the little lake foretaste provided by Lake Bill. It’s a very pleasant mountain lake, but an ugly step-sister in comparison with Lake Myrtle. It’s only a few minutes off our route, but we’re too tired to drop in on the second-rate sibling.

[A distant Mt Rogoona, with glimpses of Lake Bill]  

Quietly cursing too much Christmas pudding and an unreasonably early start, we stagger on up the slope. We pass a wonderful array of wildflowers, gushing waterfalls, and glimpses of Rogoona without giving them the enthusiasm they deserve.

I’m concerned about our levels of exertion; concerned that I’ve built up the beauty of our Lake Myrtle destination to such an extent that Lynne will be disappointed. I worry too that there will be multiple tents there already, with the best spots taken.

We finally arrive, though only after a tricky last-minute creek crossing, and my optimism returns. The campsite is both beautiful and empty. We slump down on unreasonably soft lake-front grass in bright sunshine. Mt Rogoona sits lofty and sphinx-like above the shining waters. Lynne is beaming through her pain. I’m guessing that in a few days, perhaps weeks, her memory too will become as unreliable as mine.

[Lake Myrtle reflections] 

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