I never met my Pop. He passed away in 1983, far too young at just 58, after a battle with skin-cancer induced mainly by too much north-west coast sunshine and a habit of gardening topless. He lived long enough to hold all of the grandchildren, including my older brother who was born just a few months before his death, but sadly missed me by three years. My Grandma always said he was a bit like me.
Pop was 17 when he attempted the Overland Track for the first time in 1942. Think on that for a moment… It was only 11 years earlier that Bert Nichols blazed the path for the full Overland and just seven since it was consolidated for use by independent groups. It would be another five years before the area was upgraded from ‘reserve’ to ‘national park’. There was no track-work to speak of, certainly none of the duck-board and board-walk that we have today. There was no helicopter access and all huts had to be fabricated from local materials – generally hand-felled and split King Billy and Pencil Pine logs. Some of those, such as the original Pelion Hut established by the Pelion Mining Co. remain to us, but most are gone. There were no sat-phones or EPIRBs and a serious injury was a serious problem – there was no option to flick a switch and wait for the paramedics.
That said, some things never change: two late-teens off on their Grand Adventure messing about down by Lake St Clair, a tired hiker leaning against the Windermere doorway, Cliff looking back at Barn Bluff with the ‘bugger me, I just climbed that’ pose. These, I think, could be any bushwalker, on any walk, from any time. Just trade the felt hat for Gore-Tex…
I wonder if Pop ever thought that 70 years later his grandson would work the Overland Track as a guide?
I’m fairly sure these would have been shot with an Eastman Kodak Brownie.