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6/3/10 Arm River Track to Lake Ayr

12.20pm departure from the trailhead, arriving at Lake Ayr at 5.10pm. Distance covered 8.1km

For the Labour Day long weekend, we teamed up with the Hughes family to do the Arm River Track in the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. It was going to be the first ever big hike for Bronte and Juliette and their first real camp in the bush too. Unfortunately Meghan and Kath had to stay home because Meggie developed tonsilitis, so with Andy and Emily leading the way our merry group of six set off up the very steep incline that is the hour-long first stage of the track.

Five minutes later came the first of many similar inquiries from Bronte….. “is it chocolate time yet?”. We had alerted the girls to the fact that when we’re hiking things are very different to how they are at home – there’s no larder and fridge to forage through at your leisure. And yes, that was the source of Bronte’s one and only melt-down…. that she could only have the Mars Bar from the day pack on the way up, rather than the Crunchie bar stowed in the bottom of the big backpack! Life deals you some tough hands sometimes.

The weather had started out overcast but by the time we were up on the plateau the day was perfect, hot enough for the girls to take a swim at Lake Price, our lunch stop with views across to Mount Pillinger.

The girls were full of energy, running and playing along the track, then stopping to inspect wildlife at close range. For Damien, Andy and I that meant lots of stop/start walking, but it was great that they were in such high spirits. There were really interesting features along the way – long fallen log bridges over streams, and some more precarious narrow steel bridges – the girls didn’t skip a beat, until the leeches arrived on the scene. There were shrieks and squeals when the first couple were discovered, but after camping in ‘leech city’ for two nights we hardly bat an eyelid at a leech now, except to perhaps shift it out of our line of vision.

We set up our three tents overlooking Lake Ayr and Mt Oakleigh. It was a spectacular setting. Those leeches sure know the good spots. We cooked our first camp dinner and while the kids settled down to sleep the adults brewed a nightcap under a clear moonless sky and took the opportunity to turn off the head lamps, sit back and enjoy a rare view of the Milky Way.

Day 2 – Lake Ayr – New Pelion Hut and Old Pelion Hut, returning to Lake Ayr. Distance covered 9.6km

After a leisurely morning at the camp site we set off for the Overland Track. Yes our girls can say they’ve walked on the Overland Track! It was liberating walking without heavy packs on as we meandered our way to New Pelion hut – the girls checked out the lodgings there and thought it was pretty cool. It was another perfect day so we continued on to Old Pelion Hut and to the Douglas Creek waterhole behind it where we had lunch and another swim. It was absolutely idyllic and the three girls managed to delight a group of school teachers from Melbourne who were doing the guided walk on the Overland Track. They swam and chatted with them. Damien and Andy set off to do a bit more hiking and I followed the girls upstream over the rocks as they explored the river for ages. Emily even found some rocks with little fossils of leaves in them.

We made our way back to Lake Ayr for the evening, having decided to stay at our campsite rather than sleep in Pelion hut for the night, something we had considered doing.

As we ate dinner at sunset the sky put on a colour show for us with shades of violet and fuschia. It made us recall that saying about red sky at night…. sailor’s delight. Andy asked “so what does a violet sky at night signal?”. After we had tucked three exhausted girls into their 3 man tent, downed our dram of whiskey and turned in for the night ourselves we found out. It means an almighty storm lasting the whole night long! Bronte called out a few times in the night, once to say “Mum I’m worried that the lake is going to fill up and wash our tent away”. I told her it was all ok and that wouldn’t happen, but just to be on the safe side I stayed awake almost the whole night to check we held our position!

Day 3 Lake Ayr to the Arm River Track Car Park. Distance covered 8.1km.

In the morning we had to decamp in the rain…. sadly the egg and bacon brekkie was off the menu, but the girls sure perked up when they heard it had been replaced by Mars Bars. “Cool, we never get to eat chocolate for breakfast!”.

Off we plodded for the journey back down to the car in the rain. This time the girls found their pace. They did not complain once despite the fact that they were absolutely drenched from head to toe, flicking leeches off various parts of their body without even missing a stride. They sang as they walked along, and enthused about the hot chocolate and all the food they were going to have at the cafe in Deloraine. Juls reckoned she liked doing the trek in the mud and the rain even more than she did in the brilliant sunshine on the first day.

The descent back down from the plateau to the car park was harder than we thought it would be, with lots of slippery tree roots to avoid, but we all made it back unharmed, save for a few leech bites.

And so a tired happy band of hikers ate and drank their fill at the cafe at Deloraine and headed back home to a lovely hot bath and a soft comfy bed. Three days; 26 kilometres; a lifetime of memories.

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