Day Six: Fiddlers Green to Mt Shillinglaw – “A Clean Slate”

Today is a clean slate.  The morning starts well, after a clear sky overnight and a helipad from which to view the stars without obstruction.  It is a simple scoot along the smooth road of Mt Selma, then I launch north up a very straight two kilometre section of the Champion Spur track.  A detour takes me to the northwest and then up a narrower track along the spur line itself.  I ignore the first official track marker leading north from the top of this hill, and instead I walk a further one kilometre to the north-west to the track branch in the next saddle, then I follow the north track away from the Champion Spur.  The rainbow colours of the local birds are a treat. After one kilometre there is a further track joining from the east in a saddle, just beyond a short but rocky stretch steeply downhill.

One more kilometre north and I reach a junction at the top of a shady hill.  I have a clean slate, so this is a perfect lunch stop and I make use of the rock seats.  After lunch is a stretch of three kilometres steeply downhill on a single track with significant regrowth, but it is easy to stay on track, and the shade is welcomed.  I order a short-black, and it comes in the form of a short black snake with an indistinct head.  The Humour Stick ushers it away for now.  Back on track, and I then see the feathers of a bird, but no birds of the feather. A wonderfully carpentered solid log crossing leads to a wonderfully carpeted river bank.  An excellent camp here for the evening, I think.  The river water is clear and cold, very refreshing, and the ferny banks are lush and tranquil.  Some blackberry bushes provide a tasty treat after a hearty meal.  But it’s time to decide what to do next so I’m stuck between a rock and a shard place.   The rock in question is a still a clean slate, but as peaceful and recharging as this Black River stop is, I’m slated to continue on. In fact with no bird to hand, it can’t be worth two in the bush.  Could this have been the work of the short-black?  The track opens up to vehicle width in the lower section prior to reaching the Black River, where it dives west into the lush forest and descends to the river banks.
I trudge up the steep incline on the other side of the river.  It is a northerly walk of two and a half kilometres uphill before a short shuffle down to a saddle and then uphill for another two kilometres north east to the peak of Mt Shillinglaw.  I encounter the forces of nature in the form of a burned-out gum tree, showing its resilience as it continues to preside over the landscape.  I also encounter the forces of nature in the form of the wind making matchsticks from a gum tree.  I’m sure that many splinter groups have tried to emulate nature’s powerful forces for darker aims, but such thoughts are swamped by a picture-perfect postcard-picture of gums leaning over the leaf-littered track.  I ignore a side-track to the east at an open clearing, and I follow the picturesque track a further one kilometre in a steady decline down to meet the Jamieson-Licola road.  Looking back, the AAWT sign for the section I have just travelled describes the track as “undefined in sections” and “remote navigation skills required”.  I know it is true, but I only know this in hindsight.  I could not have known without looking back.  I believe the act of looking backwards is called “Ruchschau” in German, but in English we probably call it “Looking Backwards”.  I recall doing a driving lesson as a teenager, and the driving instructor described a lane-change as the most dangerous driving manoeuvre because it involved “driving forwards whilst looking backwards”.  I reflect that many people struggle to drive their lives forward while they spend all their energy looking backwards.

I recall that fun, play and happiness spin off into creativity, imagination and innovation, and that these qualities provide the improvements that our world craves.  So for the following day’s walking from this Barkley River track junction to Rumpf Saddle, I decide to experiment creatively with the Ruchschau concept.  To explore this idea further, I set the aim of looking in the opposite direction to the direction I am walking, but instead of looking backwards while walking forwards, I decide to walk backwards while looking forwards.  For this purpose I accept a lift to Rumpf Saddle prior to sunset this evening.  This turns out to be a bonus because the skies are impeccably clear and the crescent moon is sitting peacefully below Jupiter with Venus to the side.  I choose to explore the ridgeline of Mt Skene where the panoramic views are amazing.

The sun sets against a foreground of gum trees denuded by the bushfires.  The sky darkens gradually as the red glow slips behind the farthest fold of blue mountain ranges.  A jewelboxful of stars pierces through the blanket of night.  The Milky Way sets a tone for the evening, and the night is filled with natural peace and unity.

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