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Monday, April 25, 2011

Kidnapping the Neighbors Kids

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Our kids had a visit from a couple of their friends this morning.

Rather than let them sit around playing computer games, we bundled them into the van and took them on a couple of hikes. (After checking that it was ok to kidnap a couple of extra kids. Thanks Renea!)

The first hike was around Camp Mountain – a beautiful forest to the south of Samford. I’ve done this on the mountain bike before, and really wanted to show everyone how picturesque it is.

Up the Long Road

It’s a big road for a small person. Lilly kept going all day. (Picture by Liz)

Camp Mountain Summit

It’s a good climb to the Summit of Camp Mountain, with great views of the city.

Lace Monitor

Some of the wildlife at the top (Picture by Liz)

The second hike was up the Goat Track – a washed out dirt road west of Samford. I love this road because of the views and the fascinating Rock Art that has sprung up along the way.

Sail BoatCouple with ChildMenagerie

I’ve been observing the rock structures over the last couple of months and they’re getting quite realistic!

Albany Creek Water Tower

The view from The Goat Track looking east past the Water Tower at Albany Creek, with Moreton Bay in the background.

All up we hiked 8.8km with a total ascent of 520m. I was really impressed with how well the kids coped with it – no complaints and everyone kept up a great pace (average of about 4.5km/h).

Well done team!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rock Art – Clear Mountain

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Rock Art - Clear Mountain

It seems like wherever I ride my mountain bike these days, this wonderful rock art seems to be springing up.

One day I’ll ride by and see a simple pile of four or five stones. In a few days, there’ll be a few more – as though it’s a sapling or a strange rocky mushroom. After a week or two it starts to get more complex, until eventually you get something fascinating like this which looks like the fairies have been up to mischief in the forest.

This phenomenon is wonderful on so many levels:

Unlike the Mona Lisa, this sort of art is vulnerable. If someone was malicious enough they could knock all the rocks down with impunity. But they don’t. I think this is because most people who go out in the forest on foot or on a bike are happy people. The happiest people on earth are those who get regular exercise doing something they enjoy. I doubt you’d get many spiteful souls walking in the forest. I doubt this sort of creation would last a day in a big city.

Even though it’s vulnerable, it’s beautiful. Not in a “Mona Lisa” way – but on a simpler level. Someone just grabbed a few stones lying around and stacked them. It probably took less than a minute. But the end result quietly says “I was here”. When someone adds to it, the stones say “I was here too”. After a few weeks, the mystical conglomerate seems to be chattering away saying “Hey – we were here too! Me too! And me! Woo – hoo isn’t this fun!”.

And eventually you have something created by dozens of people that has taken on an happy energy of its own.

As an experiment, why don’t you take a walk in a forest somewhere, stack up a few stones, and see what they grow into?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Harrisons Pocket

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The afternoon was too pleasant to spend in the office, so I took a walk along the northern shoreline of Lake Samsonvale.

This area was known as “Harrison’s Pocket” before the dam was built. But now the town of Harrison’s Pocket, with its post office and school only exists on old maps.

The landscape has changed completely.

Clear Mountain

The lake is now an important habitat for many different species of water-birds.

Mount Samson

The western part of the lakes covers what used to be known as the town of Samsonvale named after Mount Samson which towers over it to the west.

None of the old town remains except the cemetery on the shore of the lake.

Blue Gum

The land to the north of the lake has some beautiful quiet trails.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Goat Track

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The Goat Track is a narrow one-way gravel road which winds up from Samford Valley to Mount Nebo. Until recently it saved motorists over 10km on the trip.

The Goat Track (1/8)The Goat Track (2/8)

But heavy rain a few months ago caused landslides which made the road impassable for everything except foot traffic and mountain bikes.

Rock Sculptures (3/8)Rock Sculptures  (4/8)Propitiating the Mountain Gods (5/8)

The natural disaster has inspired the locals to develop some exciting new art forms.

Propitiating the Mountain Gods (6/8)Propitiating the Mountain Gods (7/8)

At first one or two simple stone sculptures sprang up by the roadside near the damaged areas. As other walkers passed by, they added to the artwork, building more and more complex sculptures until in one area, the whole roadside has turned into one large gallery of public artwork seeking to propitiate the gods of the mountain to ensure the safety of this thoroughfare.

More Rock SculpturesMore Rock SculpturesMore Rock SculpturesMore Rock SculpturesMore Rock SculpturesMore Rock Sculptures

Art Gallery With A View (8/8)

This whole thing has been spontaneous. The people who contributed to it probably never met the earlier contributors, but it has evolved into a public collaborative work of art. There are rumours that the local council may not ever have the funds to repair the damage. And so weeds and grass continue their slow march reclaiming the road while people slowly turn what was a serious traffic route into a public art gallery with-a-view for fun-loving hikers.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Joyners Ridge Road

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Liz and I enjoyed a hike along Joyners Ridge Road. Starting at the Maiala car park, we walked 7.6km down through the rainforest to England Creek, and then back up again. A total trip of 15.2km with almost 700m of vertical ascent. Lachlan and I walked this road as part of our hike last week, but today it seemed much easier.

Through the Rainforest

This walk gave some great examples of the different environments that exist at various altitudes down the mountain. We started off in thick rainforest filled with piccabeen palms, figs, and ferns.

Joyners Ridge Road

After about 2km, the vegetation underwent a stunningly quick change into wet Sclerophyll forests with tall Eucalyptus.

Crimson Rosella

The air was filled with the calls of bellbirds and whipbirds sounding like laser sound effects from a Star Wars movie.

Looking West

Another few kilometres down the track and the vegetation opened up, the ground was much drier, and we didn’t have to worry about the ubiquitous leeches that inhabit the wetter parts of the forest.

Red Triangle Slug

The Red Trianlge Slug (Triboniophorus graeffei) is the largest land slug in Australia. Liz almost stepped on this magnificent specimen. As we approached, it shrunk in size defensively. But even so, it was still the size of a human hand.

Lantana Hut

A previous visitor appears to have cut an archway through a lantana thicket. To my warped mind it looked like a little hut.

Neil and Liz

I really enjoyed being able to share this beautiful walk with Liz. All up it took us just around 3 hours plus 45 minutes in breaks. Let’s do it again soon!

Friday, April 08, 2011

RIP Uncle Bert

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Bert has been in my life since I was about three years old. He was one of the wild clan of Scotsmen who had migrated to Australia in the 1950′s and befriended my parents when they arrived as immigrants from the UK in 1965.

I remember many family parties with Bert throughout my childhood, most of which would end with everyone singing traditional Scottish songs like “You Tak’ the High Road”, “Will ye no’ come back again”, “Scottish Soldier”, “The Northern Lights of Auld Aberdeen”, and a few more bawdy ones as well, which, as a child, I didn’t quite understand. One of my early childhood memories is falling asleep on a spare bed at Bert and Kate’s place while the well-oiled adults in the garden down stairs were singing “We’re poor little sheep and we’ve lost our way… Baa, Baa, Baa”.

We went on beach holidays with them – a dozen or more of us crammed into one little beach house called “Bimbo” at Moffat Beach on the Sunshine Coast – some times for up to a week.

Bert had an impish grin. Even when he was stone cold sober, he looked like he’d had a few glasses of Whisky, or if he was about to play a practical joke. One time he appeared on TV as part of the Red Hackle Pipe Band. He played the bass drum, and swung the big fluffy drumsticks grandly as the band marched. Unfortunately, while the TV camera was on him, the tether on one of his drumsticks broke, and the stick went flying through the air. Without skipping a beat, and with his famous cheeky grin, he just kept playing with one drumstick, swinging it wildly on one side of the drum and the other. For a straight faced drummer, it would have been quite a feat. For Bert it was as though he’d pulled off the most spectacular practical joke on TV and had got away with it.

He was a fan of the Brisbane Broncos Rugby League Team. One of his prized possessions what a football autographed by all the members of the 1992 Premiership Team. I know it’s authentic because I was there when they signed it. I watched that premiership game with him and about ten minutes from the end the phone rang. He just picked up the phone, said “Can’t talk, the Broncos are playing” and hung up.

Kate was the love of his life. They never had children together, but it didn’t seem to bother them. They seemed very happy together. Once they said to my Mum and Dad that the only time they regretted not having kids was when Mum and Dad’s grand children came along. Happily, all of my kids got to know Bert and Kate, and to experience a celebration at their home on several occasions.

It’s only as I write this that I realise that Bert gave me something valuable. We were a migrant family, and as such, we rarely met any extended family – aunts, uncles, grandparents. They were far away overseas. Uncle Bert and Auntie Kathy were part of our “adopted” extended family. It was this extended family with whom we spent our childhood Christmases and New Years.

I was fortunate enough to meet up with Bert a couple of weeks ago at Mum’s 70th birthday. His health was declining and he was starting to get difficult to understand. But under it all, he was still the same cheeky Uncle Bert who has known me almost all of my life.

I’ll remember him. And I’ll miss him.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Sports Day

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Lilly in Flight

It was the annual sports carnival at the kids’ school today. In keeping with the whole fitness concept I thought I’d leave the car at home and walk up to the school and back. School was a-buzz with excited kids in team colours chanting war-cries and cheering for their team.

The Wrong Side of the Tracks

I sat off to one side trying to sneak shots of the kids, but Harrison wasn’t fooled – he knew I had my eye on him.

Lilly scribbled in the front of one of her note pads this morning “I’m gonna win”. With an attitude like that, and her blue war paint, no one else had a chance.

Lilly in Flight


Oh – this was a chook I saw as I was walking home. When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and when you’re carrying a camera, everything seems to be asking to have its photo taken – including chickens. As soon as I stopped to look at one of them, about a dozen came running out of the coop to look at me.

It was a fun walk. The funniest thing was I actually burned up over 1,000 calories doing it. Time (and energy) fly when you’re having fun :)

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Clear Mountain Lookout

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I hiked up to the lookout on Clear Mountain this morning. It’s pretty steep in places – even on foot, so it’s a good workout, and the views are worth the effort.

Pineapple Break

I started walking up the “Pineapple Break”. Perhaps it was called this because it borders a former pineapple farm. But I like to think it’s because pineapples grow wild by the side of the trail. Note to self: Come back here when it’s pineapple season :)

Where Angels Fear to Tread

On the way up, there are myriads of jump ramps along the steep tracks built by crazy down-hill mountain bikers. There’s no way you’d get me launching off one of these things!

The Spider and the Lake

Looking down towards Lake Samsonvale while a large spider waits for breakfast.

The Butterfly and the Lake

A butterfly flutters into view as I enjoy the views from the top of the mountain.

Ship on the Bay

A container ship is just visible out on Moreton Bay.

Eucalyptus Leaf

Mountain Stream

One of the many streams trickling down the hill

The best part of today’s hike was enjoying new tracks I’d never tried before and great views of my local area from the top.