I have long wondered what it would it be like to unlock my week days; for any day to be the same as the next in the context of getting out and about. That dream has been held in check for many decades by full-time work. My outdoor adventures generally had to wait till weekends and holidays.
[Bleak beauty on the windswept summit of kunanyi]
It didn’t matter that a plump high pressure system – that signal of stable, fine weather – was about to sit over our island; or that a rare heavy snowfall was slathering the mountains. If those weather windows occurred mid-week I, alas, would be found on the inside looking out. Longingly!
Enter the “flexible” work arrangements that have come with my nominal retirement. Suddenly this weather watcher has become a weather nerd. Add the fact that my usual walking companions are mostly in a similarly “flexible” situation, and you’d think we’d at last be getting our fill of the outdoors.
Alas you’d be wrong. Work may be an ogre, but it alone is not responsible for every ill. There are also obligations, and injuries, and even questions of motivation. And of course there’s the cat-herding act of getting friends together in the same place at the same time. So, six weeks or so into this new regimen, the overnight adventure score is still nil.
What’s to be done? Rather than let the great be the enemy of the good, if I can’t get any grand trips organised, I’ve opted to sneak out of those weather windows for brief periods; to start this new era with what some call microadventures.*
["Are you serious? We go down there?!"]
My first mini-trip was just a few hours long, and involved three of us making a very steep and rocky descent to a couple of kunanyi/Mt Wellington’s mountain huts. As Jim and Tim had never been to them, I had to lead the way. By looks and words, I could tell they had little faith in my memory of the route. Smarting at their doubt, and wondering just a little whether I actually did know the way, I had a moment of mini-triumph when the first hut came into view.
As we inspected the stone hut the others muttered in mild approval. I assured them the second one had an even better set up, and that we should walk on for “another … um, maybe 10 minutes, I think … er, from memory”. The other two exchanged more of those looks, but I managed to distract Jim by telling him we had a mobile signal here. With him duly engaged in facebook business, dissent was quelled.
[Tim & Jim set the world to rights by the fire]
Of course we did reach the second hut, with its rustic chairs and grafittied table. Crucially it also had the promised fireplace (Jim sometimes needs such motivations). We collected wood, got the fire going and boiled a billy for “real coffee” in my plunger. Over the glow and crackle of the fire we chatted in the relaxed and occasionally mocking manner that we’ve pretty much perfected over the years. Despite the gaspingly steep ascent back to the car, not one of us complained; a sure sign of a successful – albeit tiny – adventure.
The next microadventure involved just Tim and myself. After our recent dump of snow, I suggested we should check out the mountain as soon as the weather settled. Again time was limited, so we agreed to drive up the mountain as far we could, and go the rest of the way on foot. We reached precisely the end of my street before we met a Hobart City Council road block. (A little ice on our roads can lead to the kind of molly-coddling that would cause laughter in places that really have snow and ice.)
[Tim approaches The Springs]
Snow was sparse at our starting altitude, so we tromped up the steep Fingerpost Track in the hope of getting into the thicker stuff as quickly as possible. We were not disappointed, ‘though certainly puffed, by the time we reached The Springs. The ground was well covered, and trees drooped under the weight of snow, which occasionally plopped down around us.
[Tim and I relax at The Springs]
With the road closed there were very few others in the normally busy picnic area. One couple skied past, and two or three walkers ambled by. In luxurious sunshine we sat at a picnic table, complete with a snow white tablecloth, and scoffed chocolate washed down with thermos coffee. There was just time for a gloating message to Jim, who had a prior engagement, before we slipped and slid our snowy way back to the car.
A few days later Lynne and I took advantage of the mountain road being open, and drove to the summit for a little snow play. It was a Monday, one of her non-work days, and we got away early to avoid “the crowds”. We needn’t have bothered. Although the summit was clear, blustery conditions and thigh deep snow kept most people close to their cars.
[Lynne braves the kunanyi cold]
We walked on a slightly cryptic snow-covered track towards South Wellington before veering off-track to a high point. We were finding it hard to loosen up our limbs, and the wind was bitingly cold. But the scenery was stunning, with views through to the snow-covered Southern Ranges. We had time enough to take a few “hero shots” and explore some of the frozen world around us.
[Frozen ripples on kunanyi/Mt Wellington]
The only signs of life were footprints – a few human, most wallaby – though we saw not another soul. Without the encouragement of a hot drink, we were soon enough ready to retrace our steps. That’s what I love about microadventuring. Although you don't have to be far away from comfort, you’re still getting a small fix of adventure.
* The term owes much to Alastair Humphreys. More details at http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/books/microadventures/
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