I have lost track of the number of times i have walked up Mt Stirling. In rain and fresh snow, summer drouth, bushfire haze, spring blaze of wattle, in thunderstorms and hail. But, in my experience, more than anything else, this is a misty place. I love that slow transition from the Circuit road, up through alpine ash into snow gum, and finally that rounded peak above the treeline.
And in spite of all my journeys, it constantly amazes me that something new always presents itself. This trip, mid June, a long walk to snow line, it was the wonderful ash forests on Bluff Spur, and that interface between the burn line and the unburnt forest higher up the mountain.
For many years, Baw Baw was my alpine escape on the weekend. That is a long and complicated story, revolving around a seven year affair with a community and a gorgeous bit of land on the slopes of Mt Toorongo, up above Icy Creek. After that was all over, I shifted my allegience north of the divide. I think i needed something more ‘alpine’ and I get that as I emerge from the trees on Stirling and get that first and wonderful glimpse of the long arc of mountains from Cobbler to Howitt and through to the Bluff.
It’s a bit embarrassing to admit to how much I love this place, how I feel drawn to walk into the misty trees, how I love those nights sleeping by the stove in the GGS hut, how my knees hurt from skiing those basins, how pissed off I feel as I watch people drive over the mountain in their 4WDs, and how I can’t help thinking they would get so much more if they would just get out of their trucks for a little while and walk amongst the silence and the bare branches of those fire-killed trees. Australians are so restrained, we don’t wear our hearts on our sleeves, and maybe thats a good thing. But I would hope we could acknowledge the power and beauty and quiet dignity of a place like this old mountain.
I feel endlessly blessed to have this place as my backyard and I feel better and just a bit clearer everytime I walk down off the mountain and out of those trees and return to ‘normal’ life.
“This is as real as the rain”.