Walk a mile in Steve Cockburn’s shoes – Queensland Bushwalker

Welcome to Steve Cockburn from  South East Queensland.  Steve, an experienced hiker and bushwalker  tells us about many of his adventures with the Brisbane Bushwalking Club. Areas he has explored or wants to visit include the Overland Track, Cradle Mountain, Australian Alps Walking Track, Guy Fawkes River, Stinson Crash site in Lamington NP SE Qld, Steamers, Teviot Gap, Spicer’s Gap, Mount Maroon, Mt Barney NP.

1. How about a bit of background on yourself. Live where? Work where?

I live in Brisbane on the Northside. Have lived here most of my life, though was born in Melbourne a fair few years ago. I am married to Angela and we have 3 adult children. I am a Social Worker and I work for the Queensland government in a very challenging area of child protection and so bushwalking has taken on an important stress management role in my life.

Echo Point Jetty Overland Track Tasmania

Echo Point jetty near the end of the Overland Track May 2009

2. How did you first get into bushwalking / backpacking? Any particular mentor or group?

I first became involved in bushwalking during my schooling when I was in the Air force Training Corp (Cadets). Apart from the activities there, outdoor survival training was a significant component. I remember many great experiences and I learnt some very useful independent living skills and survival skills. I learnt to cook and wash up very well. Angela frequently comments how clean I can get cooking pots – a skill drummed into us for health reasons. I also learnt to navigate and survive in the wilds with very few material resources. I am sure that this is where I developed my love for being safe outdoors. These days I carry a few more things to make life comfortable and surprisingly my pack these days is much lighter and easier to haul.

I’ve always loved the outdoors but the birth of our children stalled any serious walking. As a family we have had some great adventures and less than comfortable trips outdoors, but my days of backpacking were certainly put on hold for nearly 25 years until a friend of mine at work suggested I join the Brisbane Bushwalking Club (BBW). This I did and I quickly began revisiting my old skills and also visiting all the interesting gear shops in the Fortitude Valley area. This is backpacker gear central for Brisbane and fortunately for me , I work in that area so many a lunch time has been spent gearing up with items a fraction of the weight I use to use but also way more expensive. Anyway, I think I have all I need for now but I still like to keep an eye out for what is new.

The BBW has been excellent for me. I started out slowly and eventually I’ve worked my way up to some pretty serious walks. In this group I have met so many great people with such a rich array of skills and experience and they are all so wonderful to walk with and learn from. By nature I am a cautious person and so I tend to be choosy about the walks I do and I certainly carefully pick the leaders that I have a high level of trust in. Luckily, there is no shortage of these and I think some of these people and leaders I walk with are some of finest people I have ever met.

I think your true character comes out more often as you work your way down a long track or struggle to get to the top of the slope in front of you or when things start to go pear shaped. That’s when you learn the most I think. I’ve been in some very tricky spots and that’s when you realise the qualities of some people and it is amazing how many of these fantastic people are in this club –This might be a broad generalisation but I think there is a very significant cluster of really great people who are attracted to bushwalking and especially to the “through walkers”.

What also amazes me about our club and bushwalking is the number of very fit mature aged walkers. I’ve been overtaken many a time by 75 years+ walkers and I hope I am that fit when I get near that age in 20 or so years- I doubt it though. I have many great people from the club I walk with and without naming them all, I think I am so lucky to be able to share walking with some of the finest people I know.

3. Solo or with someone? Who is your preferred hiking partner?

I do not do too much solo walking although I do like to do a little. I posted on a small thread that became interesting in the Bushwalk Tasmania Forum (BWT Forum) about this topic and it had some very common thoughts shared about how one feels when out there all alone. I think everyone should experience this feeling.  Both were wonderful experiences to be by myself with nature and my thoughts. I treasure these moments.

In the picture above I had a day to myself.  After 8 days on the Overland track with my walking mate Chris, walked out Marianna, a friend we had made on the track –  Marianna had to catch the bus a day earlier and I stayed behind for a rest. I had some spare food and coffee and I decided that I would make an offer of a cuppa to every walker who passed. Only a couple came by. It was magic. Two German walkers came by sodden wet and out of food. When I offered them a cuppa and biscuit they could not believe it. We sat for an hour on the jetty and chatted and shared our experience.

Horse Track near Cradle Mountain Tasmania

On the Horse Track near Cradle Mountain April 2009

In the picture above, Angela and I were staying a few days in the Scout Hut at Cradle Mountain. It had been heavily snowing and I decided to venture out by myself to do the Horse Track and attempt to climb Cradle Mountain. The walk in was through clean snow and being the only one around all day was such a treasure. You start thinking and experiencing things differently when solo and it is renewing.

Footprints in snow near Cradle Mountain Tasmania

Footprints in snow near Cradle Mountain Tasmania

4. Who is my preferred walking partner?

Well it would be Angela if she enjoyed it as much as I did but unfortunately whilst she’s a real trooper, she is not as enthusiastic as I am. Here she is with me on route to the Scout Hut (Cradle Mountain area). We spent several days up in the Hut and it was such a great base to venture out into the Park. Well done to the Scout Hut wardens and friends.

Start of the Overland Track Tasmania

Angela at the start of the Overland Track

5. If you had a couple of months off just to hike, what would be the three multi day hikes in the Australia you would complete?

  • Overland Track Solo
  • Hinchinbrook – Thorsborne Trail
  • Australian Alps Walking Track
  • Guy Fawkes River
  • Great Ocean Walk

Looks as though I cannot count! I will do all of these ones eventually.

6. Alright, unlimited finances, money and time what would be the three multi day international treks you would complete?

Not too sure about this one. I think I’d like to do some of the tracks in New Zealand. The Kepler and Routburne in the off season interest me. I also read an article in Wild magazine about doing the Milford track in May (closed season).This interested me as well. I think there is a theme here – uncrowded tracks.

I do not have any huge desire yet to go too much out of Australia. When I have quiet time and I start plotting and thinking about options, it is always somewhere in Australia,

7. My three favourite bits of gear are? Why?

This is my trusty Exped Vela 1 tent along with my lovely floral genuine 1950s shower curtain footprint. This is a great light tent which has excellent wet weather qualities. As you can see, the vestibule is as big as the inner tent and in an emergency, it will take 2 or store heaps of gear. Love my tent!!

Exped Vela 1 hiking tent

Steve's favourite, the Exped Vela 1 tent

I think the next piece of gear are my relatively new approach shoes ,the Five Ten brand , Camp 4 model. I initially thought they were just a jogger but after several potentially serious falls whilst I had my other boots on which have the vibram soles (ice skates on wet surfaces), I started looking about for some less dangerous shoes. I do most of my walking in SE Qld rainforests and creeks as well as heaps of waterfalls and bouldering and I just kept slipping in my other shoes. When one of my walking buddies showed me her 5/10s, I tried these and the level of difference in grip and safety is huge and I feel so much more confident on the cliff breaks and rocks. So this has to be on the favourite list.

I think my next one would be my One Planet Cocoon sleeping bag. It is a light weight bag that is flexible to enable me to do serious cold and the variable nights we have in SE Qld.

I have heaps of other things that I also love like my Osprey 70ltr pack, my Snow Peak giga titanium solo stove and pot set and my crocs.

8. I really hate it when I am bushwalking / backpacking and…..?

I see toilet paper at the edge of the camp site. You know what that means!! What about this shot? I could not believe my eyes when I stumbled across this mess. The biggest poo pile I have ever seen and on the banks of Lake St Clair…And a toilet within 30 metres!!! Unbelievable. Sorry for those with light stomachs.

Heap of Poo on banks of Lake St Clair

Heap of Poo on banks of Lake St Clair

9. I knew we were in trouble on that trip when …….

..our really experienced leader looked at me and he did not need to say a word. A group of us were doing the Stinson Crash site in Lamington NP SE Qld and this is one trip all keen walkers need to do when in this area.

Just Google Stinson crash or Bernard O’Reilly and there are heaps of info there. A must to read if interested in Aussie bush history and endurance. This is the link to the article The Story of the Stinson Wreck

It is a 2 day walk, up from Christmas Creek to the Stinson crash site and then a very long walk out via the Stretcher Track. This is a very difficult walk but I am so glad I did it. The track up to the wreck is steep but reasonably Ok for an experienced fit walker. Once there you overnight on the edge of the Mc Pherson Ranges…Magic. You then have a walk out along the old and very unmaintained rescue path cut by the local 80 or so years ago.

Do not try this unless very experienced because it has many many large tree falls that take ages to get around and with each tree fall comes the old canopy full of the very worst thorns , Lawyer vine , and the aptly named “wait a while” vine . I have not ever experienced the thorns this bad. I literally shredded my new long sleeve shirt and I still have the blood stains on both forearms of the shirt.

Any way, we were on day 2 and working our way back along the Stretcher Track ( no track) and to avoid the wait awhile we dropped down to the side of the ridge line we were following and I think we dropped down too far and kept following a lower branching off spur thinking it was the main ridgeline. After a while we got caught in a large 400 metre square thorn patch and two of us had to use our packs to bulldoze our way through the thorns so we could get through it. Took ages and then.. oh dear … where are we?

The canopy was very thick so no GPS reading and we had no visibility to get a visual fix. I take my hat to our leader- a true leader – and one I would and do trust my life to.

We sat down , had a chat , a bit of a break and food and we thought our way out and like all real leaders do , our leader was cool , calm and he listened to ideas without looking stressed. After a few probes up the odd gully etc, I saw him standing about 100m up this gully with a big grin. I went up and he said to me.. I’ve found the track.” I stood beside him looked around and said …” Where?” Fair dinkum, he was standing on the “”track “, as was I and I could not see it!! Anyway he was right and we walked out 6-7 hours later in the dark… but we got out and I loved it… not too sure if I would be able to do it again as my navigation skills are not up to the standard to do this area but I have no regrets and I learnt so much about me.

10.  What trips have you planned in the next 12 months?

Well I have a few. At the end of April I am doing a classic SE Qld walk out along the Scenic Rim in the Main Range NP. The walk is called Teviot Gap to Spicer’s Gap. I think it is possibly going to be one of the hardest I will have done as it is off track, with 11 big peaks to get over in 3 days and each over 1100m. I have heard of some horror stories about the trip but it is a walk I just have to do as I love this area. Frank, I’ll do you a trip report on this one.

These links will lead you to more detailed  information about Spicers Peak To Teviot Gap and the Main Range.

Another is my yearly trip up to the Steamers. Another not well known walk but one of the best I’ve done up this way. I go with the club and we have a leader who puts this walk on each year and he’s just great to do this walk with. Here are a few pics of the Steamers and surrounds. It gets its name because the formation looks like a sunken steamer with the Mast, Funnel and Prow in the background. How does this look? We are on top of the Stern and it is such a stunning view in some of the most remote areas in SE Qld. Some very big hills here and this is a very small segment of the Teviot to Spicer’s Gap trip.

The Steamers SEQ from the Stern. Picture by Chrissy, one of my good walking buddies.

The Steamers SEQ from the Stern. Picture by Chrissy, one of my good walking buddies.

Here we are climbing up the Stern. It is a lot steeper that it might look. I’m the one in the grey shirt half way up.

Climbing up the Stern of the Steamers South East Queensland. Pic by Chrissy

Climbing up the Stern of the Steamers - South East Queensland. Pic by Chrissy

Headed out along the Main Range Track on the edge of the Escarpment Pic by Chrissy.

Headed out along the Main Range Track on the edge of the Escarpment Pic by Chrissy.

Grass Tree Central. It’s hard to believe that this Grass Tree is over 300 Years old.

Grass Tree Central. It’s hard to believe that this Grass Tree is over 300 Years old. It was here before Capt Cook!!

Angela and I are off to New Zealand in September. We will have a go at the Queen Charlotte Sound Walk.

Will be doing Mount Maroon in the Mt Barney NP in May and headed up to the Border track in Lamington NP and doing an over nighter in June . I love these overnighters. Great like minded friends getting out in the middle of nowhere and sharing “a night out above the Town” together. It’s amazing how much gourmet food one can carry to these spots for our meal.

11. What is your favourite outdoor website?

I’d have to say neck and neck with the Bushwalk Tasmania Forum and Our Hiking Blog.

12. What is your favourite outdoor hiking gear store?

Campsaver – I have just purchased a bit of gear from here and was happy. One thing that is good is that they do not have too many restrictions for importing some brands to Aust. cannot get all the brands but I’m happy.

As I work in the Fortitude Valley Area in Brisbane, I’d have to say that my favourite gear shops are Paddy Palin and K2. I do also like Macpac.

A huge thank you  to Steve for writing up this most comprehensive interview.  We have learnt about many tracks and it has given us some great ideas for new hiking trips.

Has anyone else walked in South East Queensland? We would love to hear about your experiences.

Spicers Peak To Teviot Gap

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