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Happy trails

20 February 2017

Stepping out, the Clarence Valley way

‘Standing desks’ (where you stand at your workstation instead of sitting down) have become a bit of a ‘thing’ lately, and one day I might join the stand-up brigade, but not today.  

I’m writing this on a Monday, and my legs are weary from a big Sunday walk. I’m tired but happy.

The modern human’s relationship with walking is a circular thing: we start on all fours; struggle until we triumphantly get up on two legs and revel in our toddler ability to cover ground and make mischief; as sulky teens we view family bushwalks as some kind of torture and resist and complain at every opportunity; then we get our drivers’ licence and, well, why walk when you can drive? Then a heartbeat later we’re middle aged and rediscover walking. It’s an activity that keeps us in shape, it’s peaceful, relaxing and rewarding. And then, eventually, we’re elderly and walking becomes a challenge once again.

The Clarence Valley has all sorts of walks – some, like the amazing Yuraygir Coastal Walk are world famous and draw visitors from here and abroad, but there’s countless well-signed National Park walks, and multitudes of beaches, reserves and foreshores waiting to pass beneath our boots.

We did a different kind of walk yesterday. Myself and wife Jen were checking our house out on Google Earth on Saturday night, and were intrigued by some nearby white-sand fire trails snaking through the landscape. The opportunity to walk large distances through new landscapes has a remarkable effect on my beloved, and so Sunday saw us shod in sensible outdoors gear, armed with map printouts, lots of water, juiced up iphones, and ready to hike this well defined fire trail.

The opportunity to walk large distances through new landscapes has a remarkable effect 

Our departure point was the sports oval at one of several classic little Clarence villages: the kind with a purpose-built Sea Eagle nest high above the Rural Fire Brigade shed, where there’s a gentle skate dish next to a basketball half court, a community hall and tennis court nearby.

And so we set out and were soon rewarded with new perspectives on the place we live. The fire trail weaved the contours of the landscape, it took us through stands of paperbarks and eucalypts, it took us up ridges where we had 360 degree views of bush, waterways and glimpses of coast. It took us past swamps, grasslands, plains and scrub. Every few hundred metres, a different vista would scroll into view. Barring the odd powerline or firebreak in the distance, we may have been seeing the same landscapes Yaegl eyes have been seeing for millennia. These moments of pause restock your soul.

Of course, we were so enraptured with the whole thing that by the time we turned to retrace our steps we had walked far further than we should. My lower back had seized up and so I revisited my former teenage self on the walk back, moaning and complaining for much of the way. Ah well, one step at a time.

By the time we made it back to the Carpark I was buggered but euphoric. It was an absolutely ripper walk.

There’s a nice Latin saying – Solvitur Ambulato  which means ‘It is solved by walking.’ Basically, if anything’s weighing on our mind, if we’re feeling a little down or if there’s a decision we’re struggling to make, the simple act of walking can be very helpful. Walking gets us out of the house for starters, and from there it takes us out of ourselves as we step into the views we discover.

So if you’d like to put enough distance between yourself and your troubles to see them with clarity and without fear, walk out into a quiet Clarence Valley landscape and feel part of something timeless and bigger than any of us.

Fresh eyes - Gra Murdoch

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