Stories of the mountains…
Up and down the Zig Zag Track
Walking with children on Tasmania’s Kunanyi-Mt Wellington proved a fine challenge easily accomplished.
THE TRACK from The Springs to the Kunanyi-Wellington summit climbed continuously and steeply until we reached the junction where the Zig Zag Track climbs far more steeply back and forth towards the summit plateau. The track we were following, the Organ Pipes Track, continues past the vertical cliff face of that name and continues on to the chalet, a shelter made of the dolerite rock which constitutes this massif.
We took the Zig Zag. The tracks ascends from The Springs through mountain forest then emerges above the treeline into the subalpine zone of low, wiry scrubs which connects it to the bare, alpine rock field on the summit plateau.
It was a fine day for a walk. Minako, nine year old Mimi, seven year old Maika, Fi (who prefers her full name of Fiona but is seldom called that) and I made up the crew.
Being a holiday there were more people on the track than usually encountered although far than what anyone could call crowded. A few trail runners ascended and descended at speed. Do they ever trip on a rock to tumble, scratch, scrape and bruise skin or snap bones, I wondered?
Why is there so much water?
We took a brief break above the treeline where the view was clear all the way to the far south-east coast of the Tasman Peninsula, southwards to Bruny Island and across Storm Bay to the open ocean beyond.
Looking out, the younger M asked “Can you see America from here?”. Fi talked to her about spheres and how we live on one, and how that prevents us from from seeing America. She used the well-known boat-going-over-the-horizon example.
That she asked “Why is there so much water?”. How do you explain about water originating as the solar system was formed and coming in on asteroids as the Earth condensed, then the role of gravity and the earth’s magnetic field in preventing atmospheric erosion by the solar wind and loss of liquid water to a seven year old?
These were good, scientific questions of a young girl working out how the world she lives in works. Mountain walking, bushwalking of any kind, is a learning opportunity, a way for children to find out about the world they inhabit. Their natural curiosity encourages a rational understanding.
I watched as the younger M carefully touched the hard, spiky leaves of an alpine shrub. That was the opportunity to introduce its name: scorparia. She also learned to identify the alpine plant, pineapple grass.
There were other parents with young children on the track. That’s good to see, their introducing young children to adventure activities in nature, to travel in wild places. We played word games and made periodic rest stops for water and snacks for the two young Ms. Rehydration is important.
The lapse rate of air temperature with altitude meant it was cooler once we reached the summit plateau. A breeze coming in from the south-west carried a chill as if to remind us of the mountains and wild country out that way. It was time for the young Ms to put on puff jackets this fine Tasmanian summer day. We had lunch in the lee of some boulders. Crispbread with cheese, cherry tomato and sliced cucumber.
The older of the young Ms and I had a long, wandering conversation as we descended. Then it was time for milkshakes at the coffee hut at The Springs.
How did the two younger Ms go? I was surprised how well. They climbed then descended a steep, rough track of large, often loose rocks, carried their own packs and walked nearly 11km.
The walk could be seen as the stoic practice of voluntarily undergoing hardship to understand that they could now do it again, at being able to cope with adversity, like rough terrain and distance.
They seemed a little tired on arriving home.
Note: Kunanyi-Wellington is subject to sudden and extreme changes in weather. On a previous walk on a summers’ day we started in warm sunshine that changed to a light sleet then light snow.
Pack for both children and adults: waterproof jacket; warm top; gloves and beanie; sun hat; water, food, first aid kit, phone.
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