We welcomed winter with a four day weekend around these parts. At least the boys had four days home from their school; Grant's school was still open on Friday. After he headed east on his daily commute we steered west into the Walpole Wilderness to climb Mt Frankland. It is just a little climb, as most of the ascent is done on the road in, but there is a bit of ladder climbing involved. Fortunately no one succumbed to vertigo.
It must be a lonely life for the fire warden who is stationed up on this granite monadnock during the warmer months. There is virtually no sign of human habitation in the unbroken panorama from its peak back to the coast and inland to the ranges. We didn't see a soul on our drive north from Walpole - aside from the occasional grazing cow - which heightened the adrenalin rush I felt surge through my body when the fuel light in our car came on on the lonely dirt road below the peak. Alone in the wilderness with four children and no mobile phone; I wondered how we would pass the night if the tank emptied before we made it back to town.
Thea tripped around the rock (and I was quietly grateful for the safety fence) while Lewis sketched, Quinn read through some bush books and Darcy emptied his entire collection of plastic Kinder surprise figurines onto the granite. I had asked him to take some of the unnecessary items out of his backpack, so it was good to see that he kept the essentials. We picnicked in the bush beneath the mount and Thea walked back to the car with us through the trees like she had been walking all her life, and not just a few weeks.
We climbed a rock closer to home with Grant the next day, then lit up our backyard fire-pit and roasted the last of our apples in the coals. There may be three months of snotty noses ahead of us, but right now we are embracing the change in season. The forest is cool and dripping and there are bright splashes of colour underfoot as the fungi push their way to the light. And there are always hot baths and drinks and warm, dry clothes waiting for us once we find our way home again.