National Park Experience – Spring 2020 – National Parks Association of Queensland

National Park Experience – Spring 2020

Author: Suellen Hopkins, Member, National Parks Association of Queensland (NPAQ)

Photography: Suellen Hopkins

Congratulations to the National Parks Association of Queensland on celebrating its 90th anniversary!

I was essentially born into NPAQ just short of 50 years ago. Day walks, regular weekend camping trips and yearly extended outings were the only holidays I had ever known growing up. There were many early morning starts where my sister and I were woken in the dark for toast and vegemite eaten in the kitchen before piling into the van to head to a weekend campsite and far too many tent setups and pull downs to remember precisely. Memories of extended outings, bouncing across the crystal-clear creeks of Salvator Rosa National Park in the back of a short wheelbase Landcruiser, rain in the Grampians, celebrating my 10th birthday in the Stirling Ranges of Western Australia until travelling the Canning Stock Route and standing atop a red dune covered in flowering Thryptomene in my mid 20’s. Of course, there was also the annual pre-Christmas picnic and the associated transportation of the canoe to and from that upper reach of the Brisbane River. It was the canoe’s yearly outing and involved a multitude of ropes and pulleys as it was lowered and then hoisted back into its usual resting position high in the garage.

Very few long weekends were spent at home. I remember an Easter spent in glorious sunshine, paddling about Woody Island on a surf ski with my skin covered with a salt crust and I remember another, attempting to shelter under canvas at Mount Spirabo in torrential rain that necessitated an emergency departure from the campsite before the creek rose and we would have been isolated for days. It was the trip when things did not go to plan that was reminisced of the most. There were so many tales told of the early days. I am unable to recall exact details but most involved trains and cattle trucks, flooded creeks, boggy tracks, fires and food and fuel drops.

Whilst I recall some spectacular scenery and the beauty of the native flora and fauna, it really is the people and the many characters that also come to mind. I feel fortunate to have been influenced by many of them growing up. The exceedingly generous Johnny Walker and his first trip to Moreton Island, the extraordinarily wise Norm Traves and his dislike of packing a wet tent (it was to be avoided always!) and through NPAQ the embattled and thoroughly determined John Sinclair. Sadly, all have passed away in recent years, but their legacies continue like so many NPAQ member’s stories and achievements. It was mentioned at John Sinclair’s memorial service that John, together with my father George Haddock as the NPAQ representative to the Fraser Island Advisory Committee, made a formidable force when it came to the preservation and protection of K’gari. When George died so unexpectedly 12 years ago now, a vast knowledge of Queensland’s National Parks was lost, but fortunately the opportunity for our family to spend time together in those National Parks was not. I would have wished for him to be with us and showing us the way but at least these places were preserved for all to appreciate. Whilst we have not managed to participate in NPAQ outings with many excuses including a young family, a dog and weekend sport, our family have been able to explore some of these special places together. At age 4, George’s grandson happily walked the 10km around the base of Uluru and at age 6, walked the 25km route through the Carnarvon Gorge to Big Bend and back. The spirit of NPAQ certainly lives on in those legs!

In these increasingly unpredictable times, the preservation of our National Park Estate is as important as ever and the Associations work is still far from done. Maybe after our time in isolation these areas will be appreciated even more…

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