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Event Reports and Stories

Exploring Snowball

"Snowball in Spring" 6/12hr Rogaine, 4th Nov 2006
Debbie Saunders, posted on 31st Jul 2007

As member of the Canberra field naturalists I love exploring natural areas and one way of doing this is by participating in rogaining events. Rogaining involves long distance bush navigation with only a map and compass, often where there are no tracks or other human constructs to use for navigation.

The ACT Rogaining Association (http://www.act.rogaine.asn.au/) holds several events each year in the local region, and last spring the event was held over 12 hours in a little visited area near Snowball Mountain, including parts of Deua National Park, Tallaganda State Forest and private properties. The topography was varied ranging from flat valleys to steep mountains rising up to 1200m. The upper reaches of the Shoalhaven River and Currambene Creek criss-cross the landscape providing a variety of stunning gullies with huge tree ferns, towering eucalypts and extensive bogs. With an abundance of frogs calling in the swamps, it wasn’t too surprising to also find a few snakes lingering amongst the long grass. Both a copperhead and a red bellied black snake were way too close for my liking, but neither of them really seemed perturbed by my presence. Lyrebirds called frequently from the dense gullies, thick with ferns and vines. The dense heath for which Deua NP is well known was great to see but it certainly also made for some challenging navigation. To add further to the diverse landscape, there were also rocky ridges on most of the mountains, including at Snowball trig. After a gorgeous sunny day navigating and exploring through the area, the sun set and the clear sky provided a spectacular sight with constellations and shimmering stars galore.

The tranquility of the forest in the day was even more pronounced into the early hours of the night with just the occasional owl calling and possum scrambling. However, before too long the cool crisp night air was accompanied by a thick fog which rolled in rapidly making navigation at night much more challenging, only being able to see a couple of metres ahead. The inviting forest we had known during the day had turned into another world. Step after step we became entangled in vines, tripped over and were regularly going backwards to get around impenetrable vegetation. With the darkness, fog and vegetation closing in on us it was easy to get disorientated. However by following a bearing on our compass we were able to traverse through a diversity of terrain and vegetation, exploring by torchlight. Through the fog, the shape, form and beauty of gnarled tree branches and clusters of rocky outcrops were accentuated by torchlight. We knew we were going in the right direction and the end was near when we once again heard to chorus of frog calls signaling the last creek that we needed to follow back to the start. It is great to know that there are still wild, natural areas close to Canberra where you can get off the beaten track and experience the rugged and varied Australian bush.

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