Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


The last packhorse ride

Story: Christl Valentine-Anderson

ImageStanding tall over the fertile Kiewa and Mitta Mitta valleys, Mt Bogong - Victoria's highest peak - is an imposing sight.

Little has changed on the mountain, frequented for centuries by Aborigines for their annual cori (bogong moth) harvest, since George Maddison first rode up the Staircase Spur with his family and a mob of cattle in 1884.

Bogong holds a special place in Victoria's 646,000ha Alpine National Park. Its imposing summit stands alone, separated from the lush Bogong High Plains and settled valleys below by the deep cut of the Big River. Its melting spring snow splits into a myriad of tiny streams that eventually feed both the west-flowing Murray River and southeast-flowing Gippsland rivers.

From high up on Bogong, other mountain peaks recede to the horizon in every direction, ridge after ridge of ever-paler blues - Mt Feathertop, Mt Fainter, Mt Pilot, Mt Blue Rag, Mt Cope, Mt Loch and Mt Selwyn ... and to the north-east mighty Mt Kosciuszko.

The 1600m vertical climb to Bogong's summit is a lesson in itself of environmental diversity and adaption. Lowland riverine forests gradually become pockets of temperate rainforest, sprinkled with mountain ash and grey gums. Then mixed species appear of soft intoxicating peppermints, blackwoods, sassafras and blue gum.

Dramatically, single species emerge, like alpine ash, and the woollybutts that are signposts of regular winter snow.
Finally, where snow lies permanently in winter is the sole survivor in this harsh, ever-changing and stunning environment, the snow gum. Varying from straight and tall in sheltered pockets to twisted and windblown forms in exposed areas, snow gums appear as a determined mob behind a rocky outcrop or as stunted refugees in a tight gully.

On a warm summer day their gnarled trunks provide a welcome backrest while you boil a billy and absorb wonderful vistas of vast plains sweeping across herb and grass fields to the distant peaks. Story end

Full story: Issue 18, August / September 2001

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