Tag Archives: nature

Running before the dawn

Running before the dawn by Andrew Gills
Running before the dawn, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

Starlight pricks through the black curtain across the sky. There’s not a sound on the air except my feet patting the bitumen as I run through our neighbourhood. It’s still dark when I hit the gravel road. So dark that I can see the orange glow of the street lights that are a whole kilometre away and over a small hill. I crunch along the gravel at a nice slow pace.

There’s almost no sign of life until after the turnaround point when the kookooburras start to laugh. Suddenly the world starts to come alive. Other birds start to sing. The horizon starts to grow lighter. I see first one, then two and more cars driving down the road.

By the time I am home the sun has climbed higher into the heavens and the day is bright. Despite having lived here all my life, I am always surprised that the transition from day-to-night and night-to-day is completed within 15 minutes.

Total: 11.5km road run

Walking with my partner

I'm such a sensible man ... not

I’m such a sensible man … not

I have the day off today to spend time with my partner (she’s a shift / weekend worker). We started our day with a delightful 5km walk around our neighbourhood. It’s a fantastic chance for us to catch up on all we’ve missed in the week that we’ve been like ships passing through the night.

The wallaby that lives in our street

The wallaby that lives in our street

Thanks to my new digital camera, I managed to capture a photo of the wallaby that lives in our street. I think it’s the first wallaby / kangaroo photo I’ve managed to share here on this Australian blog.

A "poop tree"

A “poop tree”

It’s winter so the wattles are starting to bloom and the old wattles are starting to grow “poop”. I know there’s probably a scientific and botanical explanation for these ugly growths but to me they’ve always made me think of “poop” so I call these trees “poop trees”. I couldn’t resist taking a photo.

The scrub turkey's nest

The scrub turkey’s nest

We have a scrub turkey who is building a nest. Last year he built a mammoth mound but didn’t have any success in breeding (though we do believe he might have found a mate). This year he’s trying again. Scrub turkeys build big mounds of leaf litter and bark. The turkeys themselves aren’t that big, last year, this bird’s mound was about 60cm (2′) high and 3m (10′) across.

The leaf litter the scrub turkey is stealing for his nest

The leaf litter the scrub turkey is stealing for his nest

To create his mound, the scrub turkey ‘steals’ leaf litter and mulch from far and wide. All the leaf litter on the path has been scratched there by our local turkey and will all find its way onto the mount. Last year, the turkey took mulch from the gardens across the road from here and scratched it all the way across to it’s nest too.

Total: 5km walk

England Creek (Right Branch) hike

Our route is in yellow highlighter

Our route is in yellow highlighter (map courtesy of Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane)

Yesterday, I led my first ever off-track hike. I haven’t done any off-track walking since I was a member of the Brisbane Bushwalkers Club about a decade ago but since being involved in adventure racing and rogaining, I’ve gained quite a bit of confidence in navigation. I put it to the test at England Creek (Right Branch) yesterday in a low risk navigational exercise. I invited my fellow Scout leaders along on the hike and one said ‘yes’.

Morning views from Joyners Ridge Road

Morning views from Joyners Ridge Road

We started out walk at the top of Mt Glorious. The skies were overcast and a light drizzle fell, but the views to the north as we dropped down off Joyners Ridge Road were fantastic. Clouds hung low in the valleys and the mountain peaks were almost like drifting islands.

England Creek (Right Branch)

England Creek (Right Branch)

The walk down to England Creek follows the first 7.5km of the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane route so it will be familiar to many local walkers. It follows Joyners Ridge Road and then turns left onto England Creek Road at a major intersection. Once down at the creek, my friend and I stopped for a brief picnic on a rock before leaving the track to head upstream into the jungle.

We were still trying to keep our feet dry here

We were still trying to keep our feet dry here

At first we rock hopped carefully, trying to keep our feet dry. I never know why I always do this on trips or events when I know that there’s no chance of staying dry. It’s like I’m putting off the inevitable. But it must waste so much energy.

Trying not to fall into the water

Trying not to fall into the water

By the time we got to this deep pool bordered by dangerously slippery rocks, I had given up keeping my feet wet.

I need to get to the other side so might as well jump in after all

I need to get to the other side so might as well jump in after all

That was fun

That was fun

And then when I realised I needed to get to the other side, I just jumped straight in.

There were lots of little gorge sections

There were lots of little gorge sections

The creek runs relatively low at this time of year after all the summer rains have finished and washed through the catchment area. But through each of the little gorges it was obvious that water often rushes through here much more quickly and at a higher level: just check out all the wear on those rocks.

What a beautiful part of the world

What a beautiful part of the world

As we trekked upstream I couldn’t help but think about how beautiful this part of the world is and how lucky I am to have it on my doorstep.

Impossibly tall palm trees along the creek

Impossibly tall palm trees along the creek

Dwarfed by the palm trees

Dwarfed by the palm trees

While rock hopping, it can be tempting to focus all your attention on your footing and on the creek itself. But when you look up and around, you can see what a complex ecosystem places like this are. Check out the impossibly tall palm trees that looked over us as we tiny humans meandered our way upstream.

One of the many swimming holes that would be amazing in summer

One of the many swimming holes that would be amazing in summer

England Creek (Right Branch) would be an even more amazing walk in late spring or early summer when the weather is warm (but not yet oppressively humid or wet). It’s dotted with these beautiful swimming holes and rock slabs that would make perfect places to have a picnic and swim.

A pretty series of cascades

A pretty series of cascades

It also contains many pretty cascades. I am sure that in late summer when we’re in the middle of our wet season, these would be imposing and scary. But yesterday they were just plain pretty. That’s not to say they weren’t treacherous.

Scrambling up some slippery rocks

Scrambling up some slippery rocks

My mate just walked across the log

My mate just walked across the log

Even the rock slabs that look dry were perilously slippery and required careful negotiation.In many of these cascades, we scrambled up the actual falls where the flowing water stopped moss from growing.

As it climbed, the trees closed in around the creek

As it climbed, the trees closed in around the creek

We knew we were starting to get into the upper reaches of the creek when the forest closed in more tightly around us and the light grew dimmer. The water volume reduced, the creek bed turned to stones and the going was more slippery than lower down where we had the option of walking on gravel. But by now we’d been in the creek for about three hours and it had become our entire existence, making the change in terrain feel natural.

The rocks in the upper reaches are slippery and seem constantly wetI can imagine the water rushing through here in the wet season; it must be spectacular. Now, in the dry, it’s just plain beautiful.

At these cascades we decided to exit the creek

At these cascades we decided to exit the creek

After following the creek for almost four hours, we reached our critical decision point. We had to decide whether to swim across a water hole and climb through the flowing water or whether to make our escape out of the creek back to the ridge 600 vertical metres above us to finish the hike along Joyners Ridge Road. We could see from the map and terrain that from this point there would be many more cascades than there is flat creek. We also knew from our descent and map that the forest would close in more densely the higher we traveled. It was also between 1:30pm – 2:00pm, which was the time at which we agreed we would start looking for an escape route so that we could be sure to get out of the bush by dark.

Bashing our way uphill through the jungle

Bashing our way uphill through the jungle

So we turned north-west and started to climb through the thick jungle and lawyer vine.

My mate is only about 20m behind me but is barely visible

My mate is only about 20m behind me but is barely visible

We climbed until we could see patches of grass starting to dot the ground, knowing this meant we were nearing a ridge or spur.

We have to go that way

We have to go that way

We just kept traveling uphill until we came to a clear spur and then we climbed some more. Occasionally we saw evidence that other humans had been here: a mug half-buried in the ground, some lantana that had been hacked with a machete months ago and was starting to grow back, and the odd section of small landslide where a group of people had obviously all slid the same way. The evidence of humans was subtle and could have been made months ago by a single group. But it was still a good sign for us as we climbed the seemingly endless spur.

For those unfamiliar with lantana ... it has prickles

For those unfamiliar with lantana … it has prickles

At the top of the spur we reached a ridge that was totally infested by lantana. The horrible weed rose like a two metre high wall in front of us and it was at least ten metres deep. We knew that the track should have been at the top of the ridge so it took us by surprise that the terrain dropped off again. But instead of panicking or second guessing myself, I told my mate to stop for a minute so we could get our bearings. I tracked a few metres north on the ridge until I could see further west and there it was, the big wide track meandering it’s way up to Mt Glorious. We were on precisely the ridge I had thought we were on as we climbed and, as I suspected, this was the only place where the track ran just off the ridge line. The reading and mental practice I’ve been doing paid off in real life.

Back out on the track for the final few kilometres

Back out on the track for the final few kilometres

We followed Joyners Ridge Road the final few kilometres back to the car, having thoroughly enjoyed a day out in the bush. I have plans to do some more local off-track hikes to continue to develop my navigation skills, both for my own enjoyment and for the adventure races / rogains team Whoops Witch Way are going to tackle later in the year.

Total: 15km off-track hike

Things I see when I’m out walking

Disgusting worm by Andrew Gills
Disgusting worm, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

Mum and I went bushwalking near home this morning. The birds were singing in the trees and the creeks were running clear.

But the bush was also alive with creepy crawlies like spiders, mosquitoes and this giant worm.

I upped the weight in my pack to 13kg this morning by throwing some of my motorbike gear into it. I found the weight quite manageable.

Total: 6.1km bushwalk with 13kg pack

A quick ride

Flood plain by Andrew Gills
Flood plain, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

During university orientation last week our lecturers said that we would have to decide what we’re going to give up to make space in our lives for study. It’s something that I’ve been told at the beginning of every course and still it takes me by surprise when I realise just how much work is involved in university study (and I’m not even a high-achieving student).

Yesterday I had the day off work. I had hoped to hit the road for a 2-3 hour bicycle ride. However, I also had 2-3 hours of readings to complete for one of my units (Literacy at Work), then I had classes from 4pm – 8pm. Normally, I would have completed the readings earlier but they weren’t available until the weekend and I’d been too busy doing additional readings.

So, my 2-3 hour bicycle ride became the first casualty of my new life as a full-time worker and part-time student. But I am committed to my health, so I made time during the day for a short 35km spin.

The air smelled damp and muddy as I rode through the Logan River flood plains. All around me the earth has become saturated so water is now sitting on the surface or expanding beyond the boundaries of creeks and dams.

Trees and clouds reflect on the surface of the dark brown water. There’s beauty in everything natural, even when the same natural phenomenon are annoying, frustrating and inconvenient.

I felt flat during the ride. Though that’s probably a feature of my running out of testosterone tablets and not being organised enough to buy a new packet on time. And the challenge of finding a new routine now that I’ve added both university study and Scout leadership to my schedule will have something to do with the fatigue too.

Total: 35.2km road cycle

Believe it or not this is a trail not a creek

It’s tempting to complain about all the rain we’ve been having lately but that would be silly. The wet season usually runs from mid-January through to mid-March and this year it’s been a doozy. We’ve had about 150mm of rain fall in the past 48 hours on top of all the rain we’ve already had.

It meant that my trail run this morning was a slosh-fest. Fortunately for me (but unfortunately for the bush), the recent rains have already washed the mud away so the water along the trails flowed clear.

I felt tight for the first 3km of my run. Especially in my left ankle and calf. I suspect it’s fatigue from all the hill climbing on Saturday night. But once I got going and started to relax, I felt a lot better and enjoyed my run.

After running a loop I got back to my car at 7.2km but decided to practice some discipline and ran an extra 800m up and down the road to finish with an 8km (5mile) run.

Total: 8km trail run.

Fallen trees and toads

Team Whoops Witch Way are back to our usual Wednesday night running schedule after last week’s deviation on the pool ponies. We worked hard tonight, running a hilly 9.4km. While the moon is full, it was hidden behind the clouds so the bush was dark as we wound our way along technical single tracks. The exercise was made more challenging by the two huge gum trees that had crashed down across the trails during the weekend’s storms. The rain also had the toads out in force; their beady little eyes reflecting green under our head torches.

Total: 9.4km night trail run