Tuesday, May 12, 2015

We stopped to rest while hiking McKenzie Falls.

Pam Anderson and her husband took us to hike in Grampians National Park which was a short drive from their home on several one lane dirt roads. We stopped at an abandoned gold mine but unfortunately we didn't see any gold flakes in the soil. The drive up to Mckenzie Falls involved a twisting, winding road with hundreds of switch backs. We took the hill at an aggressive speed with constant acceleration and hard breaking in the curves. I started feeling motion sick in the back seat so I fixed my gaze out the front window trying to anticipate each new curve.

Mckenzee Falls had just reopened after being ravaged by an out of control wildfire. All the barren tree trunks were charcoal black. One plant thrives after a fire. Fires release nutrients to the soil and create rich seedbeds for newly dropped seed. The first rains after fires bring the landscape to life; a cycle of regrowth, competition and maturation starts all over again.The Australian Grass Tree thrives after a wildfire.  It sends up a four foot inch thick rod that thrusts up from the grassy base. This phallic seed bearing appendage earned it's un-politically correct nickname, "Black Boy" from it's charred appearance. Life always finds away.

Reed's Outlook gave us a stunning view of the entire valley. There is a rock that juts out over the cliffs edge and it used to be possible  to stand at it's tip, "Lion King" style for photo opportunities. Unfortunately it is now fenced off. One too many people must have fallen off after being asked to "step back" for a photo. Terry kept her back plastered to the rock wall standing clear of the railing.

The parking lot at the Mckenzie Falls trail was full of cars. A Japanese double-decker tourist bus pulled into the lot and it seemed like hundreds of people piled out. I've never seen a bus like this before. It was set up as a sleeper and each person must get a coffin-like compartment that comes with a curtained window. I really wanted to look inside. The parks department office was burnt to the ground and surrounded by a fence for our protection. Only a single brick chimney marked the site. Pam and her husband are avid hikers and they planned to hike all the way to the base of the waterfall and back up. Once we got near the river, the flies started buzzing in our ears. Pam explained that "The Australian Salute" is the gesture of swiping flies from your face. Thankfully, Terry and I had head nets that kept the flies from getting on our faces. The second watercolor hit my sketch, dozens of flies would land on the page to drink it up. Either they liked the color or the moisture. I stuffed pencil end erasers in my ears to dull the annoying buzzing around my head. Terry and I stopped because she felt the hike down was too steep. This sketch was done at the top of the falls. I was glad for the chance to sketch. If this sketch seems rushed, that is because it was rushed. I decided to consider the sketch done when Pam and her husband hiked their way back to us.

When we drove down out of the park, we stopped at a Cricket field as the sun set. Dozens of Kangaroos were foraging in the field. Terry kept walking up to the kangaroos I suppose with the intent to pet one. I've seen videos of kangaroos boxing and using their tail and hind legs as very effective weapons. I kept my distance and watched. The kangaroos knew to hop away and keep a safe distance.

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