One of the problems with hiking is finding suitable and convenient locations to keep active and maintain or build fitness between our more serious adventures. Australia is fortunate in that we have large expanses of land. Even for the majority of us who reside in the cities or the surrounding suburbs, finding a local park is not that difficult. I have a few nearby that I use routinely for jogging or trial walks with a fully loaded backpack. But after a while such places risk becoming monotonous. You learn every turn, every tree, every blade of grass (well, almost). Day trips can fit the bill but often the prospect of driving some 20, 50 or 100km to find some new or at least less familiar surroundings feels a task, and soon those options are exhausted too.
Recently, I have taken to using daily tasks as part of my training and exploring my local area on foot. I have four shopping centres within a 5km radius and have made the transition to leaving the car behind. A few bags of groceries, whilst weighing considerably less than a backpack, actually feels more of a workout because they are carried rather than secured tightly to your hips and shoulders. It takes a little more time but you complete a chore and get some sun and exercise without the need for fuel. It’s a win-win.
Today I tried something different. Upon crossing a drainage ditch I decided to double back and climb down into it. A concrete channel is far from a luscious rainforest, towering peaks or dramatic coastal cliff faces but there were at least a few gum trees lining the view and some bird life. A change of scenery is always welcome, plus it takes you away from the cars and pedestrians. I followed the channel beyond a distance I’d normally travel, beyond the local shopping centre and into unfamiliar land of a neighbouring suburb. To the wrong side of the tracks, or the Skyrail, as the case may be.
Although it appears my side may have been the wrong side of the tracks all this time, as eventually the concrete gave way to the original creek that it had replaced when the suburb was constructed. The vegetation became denser and more lush and colourful. Some ducks inhabited the pond that had formed. I’d almost call it pretty, were it not for the copious amounts of rubbish collected by the storm water. The foreground plants in the picture below were growing out of cracks in the last of the concrete before nature reclaimed its rightful place.
Of course, this signified the end of my makeshift urban trail, but it was replaced with another more formal: a bike path meandering beside the creek. There was a sign suggesting the road was closed, but it didn’t appear to be the case so I continued until the sign proved correct. A construction zone had blocked the path so I clambered down the banks and adopted a more familiar exploration method: trekking through nature rather than walking a sealed path beside it. On the opposite bank I saw a couple of chickens. Odd.
Eventually I made it back to the path which delivered me to a reserve with various sporting grounds and an off-leash dog park. Not a bad spot in the middle of suburbia, save for the 6 lane tollway 10m directly behind where the following photo was taken.
I returned home on the opposite side of the creek, the side with the non-closed bike path, and found the source of the chickens I had spotted earlier. A house backing onto the creek had installed a gate in their back fence revealing a chicken coup. Dozens of chickens were foraging free on the banks of the creek and surrounding grassland. Most were generic brown or white chickens, save for this little fella in his rather striking speckled sweater and matching pants.
All in all I’d consider today’s journey a successful ‘trip’.
One final advantage of urban hiking is the ability to stop for a kebab and ice cream mid-hike. Such luxuries are typically beyond the nature trail experience, although I think I’ve just set myself a task for the next trip. My first meal out tends to be more extravagant than the typical trail mix or dehydrated soups: a steak, or similar. I may have to take my bush-chef game up a notch. A kebab should be easy enough, and encasing an ice cream in a block of ice should prevent it from melting for long enough whilst also keeping the rest of the ingredients cool and fresh. The stick could even help with kindling.