It always takes me a few minutes to tune in when I enter a forest. During that time, when my mind is whirring with commitments, social media and the dreams of tomorrow, I imagine the trees whispering to each other, “get a load of this silly creature.” Then I slow down and gradually become more present, which is how it was on a sodden, misty trail this week in the Border Ranges National Park in NSW.
The trail was alluring on this day, in a cold and mysterious way. Water clung to shimmering tendrils of green and gold that curled across dark, weathered trees – their canopies shrouded in mist. Curiously enough, even a sign describing the life of the local Antarctic beech tree was a little somber. It drew parallels with the black plague in Europe 600 years past, saying that diseases were ravaging the tree at the same time.
Further along the cool, damp trail, fungi thrived – in emerald blankets across trees and ivory-coloured mushrooms that bloomed from the shadowy fissures of an old log. Something small and dark travelled silently, quickly through the forest. It appeared to roll like a soot sprite in a Ghibli animation. Later, I discovered, it could have been a rare Hastings River Mouse that survives off fungi in the cooler months.
I approached the midway point on the Bar Mountain circuit, which is part of the world-heritage rainforest of the Border Ranges National Park. Scarlet berries dangled beneath the sunlight, patches of which now broke through the canopy. I startled a few birds into a violent departure, their wings sounding powerful as they fled into the forest.
Everything was so green, it was almost perfect rainforest conditions and as I rounded a bend I came to Bar Mountain Lookout, which affords striking views over the Warrazambil Wilderness Area. It was a tad hazy, although the sun made a tentative appearance and I had the place to myself for about 20 minutes before a couple arrived. Black Hand Mountain loomed across the valley, as did Mount Lindesay and Mount Barney further afield.
Driving home, my mind cleansed by the misty forest and valley views, I encountered the end of a rainbow. I don’t think I’ve ever been so close to one before. It was splendid, although the cows seemed to take no notice.
Bar Mountain circuit is a three hour return walk that’s accessible from the Barker Valley entrance of the Border Ranges National Park. The park is roughly one hour’s drive north-west of Lismore, NSW.