This is the second year we have stayed in Pygmy Possum Lodge at Charlotte Pass and again it was very satisfactory; fourteen OFF members spent three to seven days there during the week of 8-15th January. It was also a pleasure to have the company of some of the ski club’s members who were welcoming, helpful and knowledgeable.
The bedrooms, all with en-suites, were comfortable and warm, and the kitchen very well-equipped (but it called for some complex choreography when everyone was preparing dinner at the same time). The lounge afforded spectacular views of jagged granite tors, snow gums and olive-green shrubs, all occasionally blotted out by sweeping curtains of rain that briefly dampened our enthusiasm for the outdoors.
During inclement weather we occupied ourselves with reading, needlework, jigsaws, crosswords and identification of plants and animals we’d photographed. There was a happy hour each evening which sometimes developed into serious wine-tasting, and one night to admiration of the full moon as it rose in a crystal clear sky flushed by the sun’s afterglow.
This year was particularly good for wildflowers – daisies everywhere, mintbush and eyebright on the upper slopes, clusters of magenta trigger plants, cream candle heath and glossy buttercups in low-lying areas. Photographers found it difficult to capture the depth of colour in bluebells, flax lilies, violets, fan flowers and others in the blue – mauve spectrum.
Fauna was not conspicuous but there were grey kangaroos on the Waterfall Track and we saw two large echidnas. Piles of dung, scratchings and big burrows were the closest we got to wombats. Around Charlotte Pass were Flame Robins, Brown Thornbills, Australasian Pipits, Crimson Rosellas, Little Ravens, Striated Pardalotes and Welcome Swallows.
There were some introduced animals including hares, a black rabbit, a feral cat (which we reported) and Common Starlings. A variety of sleek high country skinks was seen, and several “large dark snakes” (probably copperheads). There was a dead alpine funnel-web on Porcupine Track and colourful live grasshoppers and beetles were photographed on leaves and flowers; a few Bogong Moths secreted themselves in the Lodge at night.
The legacy of snowfalls late in the season was evident in the high water level in Lake Jindabyne and good flows in the alpine streams. The countryside was green and snow gums were regenerating well, although the rate of regrowth is noticeably slower at higher altitudes. March and bush flies seemed more than usually abundant and persistent, perhaps another consequence of the recent rain and snow.
Weather conditions were generally mild and conducive to walking. Our first walk was to Porcupine Rocks, an OFF tradition that prepares us for more demanding tracks. Many small patches of snow were visible on the Main Range and we admired “Jan’s tree”, a magnificent old Snow Gum beside the track that escaped the ferocious alpine fires of 2003. On our return to the Kosciuszko Road, we indulged in hot drinks and burgers at the Alpine Eyre café at Perisher Gap; it was a popular meeting spot for the rest of the week.
Other walks completed by members of our party included Dead Horse Gap via the Thredbo chairlift, Blue Lake, Mt Kosciuszko via the Summit Road, Rainbow Lake, Guthega to Illawong, Waterfall, Mt Stilwell and Charlotte Pass Village to Alpine Eyre café. On the windiest day, while some were battling gales around Mt Stilwell, one couple enjoyed a peaceful riverside picnic in the sheltered woodland of Island Bend. At the end of the week the remaining ten people lunched together at Parc Café in Jindabyne and spent time in the displays and shop in the NPWS Centre.