Location: SSS1, Bob’s range, and various locations along the way
Team: Andrew - Botanist, Peter - Botanist, Petra - educator, and myself in one car. Kate - horticulturist, Alex - Fieldwork coordinator from the Australian National Botanic Gardens Seedbank, Joel - Botanist, and Hunter - educator from Victoria in car two.
Today would be the last day assisting scientists with their field work. It was a very wet morning and was looking unlikely anyone would be utilising the helicopter to fly to any remote sites. During breakfast, the educators, including myself, were given a briefing on what we would be doing today, with whom we would be working alongside, and finding out the location we would be adventuring to.
I was elated to find that I would be heading out to the Survey site with Botanists, Peter and Andrew, as well as Petra, another educator from Victoria. There is something quite special accessing areas that are not necessarily an option for the general public. Today we unlocked the padlocked gate to drive along the Cascade trail to reach our destination - Cascade Trail hut and the survey site. As a regular hiker, it would take approximately 3.5 hours to reach the hut. So it would be a 7 hour day of just hiking to explore the area we were in today. If I was to do this without the magic key, I would likely be spending 9 hours out in that area on foot! You can imagine the excitement building as we unlocked that gate. It meant that I would have a lot longer to explore and investigate the area around the hut and survey site.
The only obstacle that stood in the way of us reaching the destination was a particular creek. It had rained a lot during the night and early morning. If the water had risen too high, we would not make it. However, once arriving at this crossing, we noticed that it had barely risen! Hooray.
Through the water we went and continued our journey along a bumpy and slightly rocky trail until we eventually reached our destination.
Off I skipped, excited to be working with Peter in the boggy area of the survey site. We collected the pink markers where the botanists had been surveying throughout the two weeks. Once that task was complete, we joined Andrew who had spotted an interesting lichen that he wanted to collect. This was going to prove to be unsuccessful unfortunately. The reason being you wonder?
I shall tell you why. We were in the company of two beautiful and rather large copperhead snakes. They were happily resting by the side of the rock we were standing on. This did not remain and after a short time one of the snakes decided they had enough of us and kindly asked us to move on when raising its head.
During the first part of this trip, Peter and Andrew explained everything they were collecting and why. They were constantly patient with myself and Petra. Having two incredibly knowledgeable experts in their field of botany was just a dream come true. Many of my wonderful students know of my travels and adventures in the bush. Having such wealth of knowledge on tap was magical, and I hope I can share this passion and inspiration with you all.
Today, I laughed until I cried. One such moment was captured when Petra recorded me having a chew on a pepperbush leaf. It sure was peppery! The next taste test was a native carraway that tasted surprisingly like carrot. Peter then showed me that you can eat a bearded heath but then Peter mentions, “they always taste horrible”.
The laughter and smiles did not end there. The journey in the car was equally fun - sharing stories and chatting about plants and flowers.
We next made a stop at Bob’s ridge for more cuttings. Here we rested and watched the storm roll in. Petra was worried about snakes with the thick, low-lying shrubs. However, I was not worried at all, until I realised I had narrowly missed stepping on a copperhead that was happily resting on a rock in the sun three times in quick succession!!
We watched the storm in the distance and decided it was best to get moving so that we were not stuck on the wrong side of what could potentially be a deep creek crossing. Of course we couldn’t leave until we took a photo of the whole group.
Once we crossed the deeper creek, we relaxed, pulled over and collected some more species that Andrew had spotted on the way to Cascades hut. The view was divine, the company was fantastic, and everything seemed just so perfect. Petra recorded Peter digging up a grass and explaining why he was doing that. Turns out you need the roots to help with distinguishing features on similar looking plants. As we sat in the grass with the gentle flow of the water in the creek, I felt so content looking at Rams Head and Rams head south in the distance. Another magical moment.
Eventually, after nearly 8 hours of field work, my heart felt full, and I loved every moment of our week’s long adventure. Today, I laughed until I cried - it really was that special. This truly will be a life long memory that I shall treasure forever.