Leaving out names to protect the innocent, here’s a ‘great outdoors’ yarn to celebrate Camping Month which has been given a nod on the main cover of Dubbo Photo News this week.
Exhibit A is an Australian family of five, camped wild and in the snow at the top of a remote snow-covered American mountain in the heart of mountain lion country (evidenced by the paw prints everywhere in said snow, discovered on a spotlighting adventure by jubilant head-lamped children, who were only too happy to stay quiet in their tents all night after that).
Camped on the edge of an abandoned 1920s ski field, the wide open treeless space offered a 45-degree downward slope, and the perfect playground for tobogganing.
Inevitably when participating in any action sport, it’s always going to end in tears, but who ends up crying in this tale, isn’t who you think.
What made this toboggan slope extra appealing was a little launching dip at the bottom so if you lined up your toboggan just right, you could “get some air” to end your ride plus lots of giggles and laughter to boot.
All jolly good fun.
However, hilarity came to an abrupt end when the youngest in the family who has a particularly straight eye, caught that dip bang on centre.
With a spectacular demonstration of “air” more akin to “stratosphere”, Newtonian forces got the better his velocity and momentum, so like an empty Space X rocket he separated from the mother ship and fell back to earth, sadly sans reusable landing gear.
With a suspected back injury diagnosed by his wailing at any attempt to move, the Great- frozen-mountain-top-bottom-of-a-gulley-Outdoors offered just one solution; carry the injured out.
Because she was a mother, a line of work which required the skills of a pack horse, the role fell to her, to begin the slow trudge to camp up a snow-bound mountain road with injured child slung to her sturdy back.
The remaining family members hoofed it cross country to fetch a camp bed which could double as a mountain rescue stretcher.
Alone in the frozen wilderness with six known mountain lions (as she would later discover that morning to be a fact, when a ranger explained why she always carried a side arm clipped to her belt); the mother (and her inner bear) put a good kilometre of below-zero, 45-degree upward hiking behind her.
The mountain rescue party of Dad and siblings returned with their makeshift ambulance, where the patient was transferred for the remainder of the trek, to lay horizontally under the comfort of a warm blanket, his family of heroes each taking his weight at the four corners of the stretcher.
Arriving at camp, flush faced, exhausted and filled with concern for the future of the baby of the family who the mother feared might never walk again, the stretcher was soon gingerly set beside the crackling camp fire.
Taking stock of their exertion in that moment, stretching backs and gulping water, all was quiet for oh, I’d say, about three seconds, before the injured child sat up, miraculously cured, got off the stretcher with the agility of a gymnast, thoughtfully saying, “Thanks for that,” before adding, “What’s for lunch?”
Now there are several ironies to this story. One is, the youngest member of the family still lives, the second is the family still loves him, and thirdly, they all still love camping.
While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and glamping is nudging at that raw, dangerous, living-in-the-wild experience, the number of campers and caravan visitors in our neck of the woods do crunch very well and bring economic benefit.
In the year ending December 2017, the number of international and domestic caravan and camping overnight visitors to NSW was 4.2 million. They spent $2.1 billion dollars and 96.7 per cent of all those lovers of the great outdoors are Aussies.
Clearly we love the great outdoors.
In Central NSW that translated to 397,000 people or 9.8 per cent of the total visitors dropping in to pitch a tent or plug in a caravan.
Dubbo and surrounds can’t offer trips to the beach for campers, but we do have plenty to see and do, plus one thing the Eastern seaboard can’t compete with – our brilliant dark skies.
Kids love learning about the planets, looking at the moon through a telescope and hearing stories of what Saturn smells like and what life will be like on Mars.
In the winter especially, skies above the Central West offer a galaxy of discovery and particularly good viewing.
In 2016, NSW strengthened its position as Australia’s astro-tourism capital with the certification of Australia’s first Dark Sky Park at Warrumbungle National Park by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
Observatories are found in the Blue Mountains, Parkes, Dubbo, Broken Hill, Bathurst, Port Macquarie and Mudgee, plus many other sites of astronomy significance.
In the past month, the Australian National University put Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist and vice-chancellor of ANU Brian Schmidt on stage here in Dubbo at the DRTCC, alongside wunderkind astrophysicist/cosmologist Dr Brad Tucker. Their talk was followed by a star gazing gig in Victoria Park.
Dubbo College Senior Campus hosted a star party on Wednesday, May 23, allowing 50 locals to officially participate in breaking the Guinness World Record – which they did – for the most people stargazing at any one time. It was more than 40,000 across Australia.
There’s always lots going on for campers and in the great outdoors plus plenty of reasons to rug up and go outside to look up.
We don’t even have to worry about being eaten by mountain lions.
Disclaimer: Yvette Aubusson-Foley is president of Inland Astro Trail Inc. committee dedicated to encouraging star gazing and astro-tourism west of the Great Divide.
Yvette Aubusson-Foley is a Dubbo journo, who spent time living and raising her family in the USA, but has now returned to her home town.