Climbing Suburban Mountains: Part 2 – Mt Gravatt Outlook


In every walk with nature, one receives far more than one seeks.       John Muir

At four thirty it was still dark but the birds were singing. Loudly. Realising there was no chance of more sleep I decided to make the most of my day and begin it with a hike up a nearby suburban mountain.

Mt Gravatt Outlook Reserve is a quartz peak within the Toohey Forest Conservation Park  in Brisbane. As with my previous hike/climb (Mt Coolum) I doubt it would even rank on a sliding scale of world mountains. Nevertheless, it is a significant landmark in an otherwise flat suburban landscape, just 10 kilometers south east of Brisbane city center. The “hill” and surrounding suburb was named after Lieutenant George Gravatt who commanded the Moreton Bay settlement for a short time many years ago, in 1843.


The luxury of hiking this mountain, for me, is there is no travel involved. I simply have to walk out my backdoor and into the forest that winds its way up the little hillock. The lookout affords stunning views of Brisbane city as well as clear views of the Moreton Bay Islands, the D’Aguilar Range, Mt Coottha and the Glass House Mountains. The walk is quite interesting too.


Toohey Forest is named after an Irishman, James Toohey, who made his home in the forest in 1872. Interestingly, his family maintained ownership of the lands until 1945 when Brisbane City Council acquired them. The park spans 260 hectares. Its vastness is matched by its variety. This is a Eucalypt forest replete with vines, closed scrub, an abundant understory of acacias, sheoaks and banksias as well as our very distinctive Australian grass trees. Wildlife is abundant too. Walkers can enjoy the songs of kookaburras, thrushes, lorikeets, honey eaters, currawongs and magpies, to name a few. Of course there are possums and bats as evidenced by their fecal remains. Large ant nests provide food for echidnas. I’ve seen lizards, skinks and geckos but not a goanna yet.

As with life, there are many paths that can be taken to get to the top. There are sealed bike paths, dirt tracks and even smaller ‘goat’ tracks, created by mountain bike riders, one can follow. The forest is so dense and beautifully populated with flora and fauna that one is quite shocked when the sounds of urban traffic encroach on the peace and tranquility. Toohey Forest straddles a major freeway and nature lovers wander under it by way of a pedestrian tunnel. On the other side one is required to wander through the grounds of a university, another surreal experience, before diving back into the cocoon of the forest.


After a gentle undulating wander the final section, a steep incline, requires a little push but nothing too tough or taxing before emerging at the outlook. There is a little café at the top. Which sadly was not open when I arrived just after dawn.


For me the journey is approximately a three hour return hike. This is a pretty decent way to decompress, get into nature and enjoy moving. What I love about suburban forests is that there are so many entry points and people can enjoy tramps of their own design based on time and energy levels.

The beauty of having a forest in your backyard is that you can go off on a hike in the relative wilderness and still return home in time for breakfast.

Next stop: Hmmm, should it be Mt Tambourine, Mt Barney, Mt Tibrogargan, Maroon perhaps? I’ll meet you on the next peak.

Happy wandering,



Climbing suburban mountains. (Part 1 Mt Coolum)


Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”  WB Yates

I climbed a mountain recently.

Okay. I should put a few things in perspective here. I climbed a suburban mountain, in Australia. So don’t go thinking it was an 8000 metre snow-capped peak.  No, no, this mountain is a mere 208 metres (dare is say high? Mountaineers and rock climbers such as my husband would see it a pimple, a blip on the landscape).

Why did I, on one of the hottest days of the year (35 degree heat with about 85% humidity) jump in the car and head off for a 101km drive to hike up this mountain?

Well,,,,  I haven’t done it before. It is on my love list for the year and I need to get fit.  Without boring you silly, I had a short convalescence last year that rendered me unfit to participate in the most simple of physical activities. I’ve been slowly building up my endurance and fitness because, come April, I’m hiking to base camp on a real mountain in Nepal.


Fears of my fitness and the difficulty rating of the ‘mountain’ were quickly confirmed when those descending were not lathered in sweat but literally dripping with it. The day was warm but the sheer flow of perspiration was a little alarming. This alarm was accompanied and heightened by hearing my pulse in my ears as I ascended. Was I really that unfit? Really?

Once I found my pace, a nice a steady tortoise pace, I really began to enjoy the walk and the scenery. I settled in, embraced the heat, the flies and the mosquitos and drank in the beauty around me.


The initial stages of the walk were through lovely forest with some incredibly old trees.  Then came an open section of the trail with great slabs of blackened rock to my left and magnificent views of the ocean and the little township below, on my right and behind me. How does one continue to climb when such a view is on offer?

The whole trail comprises little steps hewn into the rock, later it is not so much steps as a rock path.  The plant life, geology and bird calls were a constant source of intrigue.




Yes, it was steep and yes it was hot, but all too soon I was at the top. I had arrived without terribly much effort and in such a short time, twenty-two minutes, I was almost disappointed. I’d wanted more.


One of my goals for the year was to ‘climb’ this suburban mountain and I’d achieved it.  I took time to enjoy the magical coastal view and the sense of accomplishment that comes with ticking off another item on my love list.  After hydrating and giving thanks for the splendor before me I turned to make my way down.


Once back at the base of the mountain I was struck by the idea that since it didn’t take me two hours I could turn around and begin again. So, that’s what I did, for several hundred metres, until I saw the lunacy of the idea on such a hot day. Once sense and reason kicked in I headed toward the car and pointed it in the direction of the beach.

What a magical morning.


A little bit more:

Mt Coolum is a 101km drive from Brisbane, located on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. . The summit offers spectacular coastal views.
The Mt Coolum National Park is noted for its remarkable botanical diversity; more than 700 different species of plant have been identified. Vegetation types include eucalypt forest, coastal wallum, paperbark wetland, rare coastal montane heath and some rainforest. It’s a pretty special place.


Life, it’s a gift. So write your own rules.

Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”
Pope Paul VI


A friend recently wrote about attending the funeral of a dear friend at the end of last year. Reading her post I was moved and sobered by her loss, the passing of one so young, and the very gift of life itself.

Death forces us to sit up straight and pay attention. It makes all the little things, well, look just like little things. It gives us perspective. It’s a sharp hit of reality that forces us to focus on life. A death at a time of year when many people set resolutions and goals is particularly poignant.

How often do we hear that life is short? It is. It’s too short to live with regret. To live with fear. To live small.  Life is too short not to express ourselves fully, to feel deeply and to enjoy being crazy and daring and doing the things we love.

I wrote recently of setting some goals and creating a love list for the year. I’m going to hike a mountain, swing on a trapeze, I’m going to go to the beach and walk in the forest more often. I’m going to meet friends for lunch and take my husband out, to a different restaurant, each month for dinner.  I have plans for the year. My plans are my way of living. Of making life fun. Of honouring the lives of those I love who have lost theirs. But you know, I was thinking, as I was reading my friend’s blog, that to really honour our own life and the sweet beauty of it, we really ought to focus on giving stuff up too. I’m not talking about sugar and alcohol or cigarettes or whatever your vice might be. I reckon we need to give up guilt and shame and negative self talk. We need to free ourselves from the rules that have bound us, that have hemmed us in. We really ought to rewrite the rules of our lives and live on our own terms unrestricted by those old limiting patterns and beliefs, of the pointless merry-go-round of self sabotage.

The reality of our finite existence sometimes comes with the tragic loss of loved ones. What better way to honour the lives of those who have lost theirs by honouring our own.  Go ahead and make this year your best ever. What will you start doing, stop doing and do more if?


Feed and grow your own magic

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”  Melody Beattie

I’ve been thinking lately of how, when one passes away and leaves the earth, our footprint, our stamp on the earth, lasts for a time but is eventually worn smooth as those who love you also pass.   I’ve been thinking too of that moment in time when your voice and your stories are no longer heard and when your image in a photograph is no longer recognised by its viewers. I’m not sure exactly when that occurs and I’m sure it’s different for everyone but it’s been very strongly in my thoughts as I think about my grandparents and loved ones who have passed.  For me, I still feel them strongly.  I hear their voices still and I speak of them often.  But when I go, when my son no longer tells his children of my grandparents, what then? It’s like your echo stops rebounding and there is a silence, a stillness where you once were.


On a pre-dawn walk, along a magical piece of coastline in Brisbane, just a few days ago I decided, not that I want my echo to last and last, but that I want the echo of places I’ve been, people I’ve spent time with, stuff I’ve done and achieved to echo within me for the rest of my days. A thought, that I guess was always there, bubbled and rose into a solid and conscious knowing and a conviction that I wanted to create moments of joy for myself that would sustain me, nourish me and fulfill me. I want to feel joyous anticipation for life and I want to truly cherish those moments, right now in the present and for years to come.

Often times I catch myself sitting at home and thinking, “Gosh, I should be out doing something. I’m wasting my life”. I’m convinced, on those occasions, that no one has a less interesting life than I.  Then, I think how silly that is. Life doesn’t have to be lived at break neck speed or be jam packed with adrenaline fuelled exploits. Sometimes it’s those quiet moments with a book and a cup of tea that are the most joyful. I can’t tell you how much I treasure the conversations I’ve had with my nana sitting at her kitchen table.  No pomp or ceremony, just us. Just love.

So, as the morning of a new year dawned and as I was enjoying the smell of the ocean bought to me on a gentle breeze I was  drawn to reflect on the year that had been and how the echo of that year affected me.  You know, there were some tough times and dark moments but by golly I wouldn’t write that year off for anything. Dotted throughout, and despite the dull and the dreadful, there were many, and I mean many, small, glimmering moments splattered throughout the year that made the whole bright and colourful and something to be appreciated.

I’m all for spontaneity and living in the moment but sometimes we need to plan our magic and our fun. Sounds technical and contrived doesn’t it? It’s not. Let me explain.

Last year, for the first time in many many years, I set myself a few fun goals to reach. A love list if you will. I wanted to walk the Six Foot Track ( a three-day hike in the Blue mountains), I wanted to go pistol shooting at a range and to see the turtles laying at Mon Repos beach.  I also decided to challenge myself to read  fifty books in the year and to take a photo a day and post it. I wasn’t sure if I would indeed complete these goals and the others on my list but it gave me something to work toward, it gave me a way to make life fun.

I’m proud to report that I actually finished 56 books. Their themes were many and varied. Some were fiction, others not. A few were plays. Many were purchased secondhand from op shops and charity bookstores, some were electronic downloads and a few were gifts.  As I look back over the list of titles I realise I was filled up by the wonder of words. I am still moved by them. I was sated by the magic and wisdom of their authors in bringing me these precious tomes. The echo of these books is within me.

Another action I committed to that bought me great joy was to take a photo a day for the year.  I won’t win any awards with my snaps, all taken on my phone, but the process of taking a photo of something that intrigued me, caught my eye or tickled my fancy and sharing it with friends, via social media, was fun. Now, after sifting through the 365 photos, I am delighted to see my year in pictures. There are themes that reflect my preferences and personality  and some images take me back to places I visited and special moments I enjoyed.  Snapping the beautiful, interesting and plain old quirky has become a habit and I find I’m still reaching to record my days.  Again, the echo and the imprint of those captured moments fills me with gratitude for my life.

A visual representation of some of my love list items for this year.

A visual representation of some of my love list items for this year.

This year I have again written a love list ( some of you might know it as a bucket list). Why? Because I want to fill my life with wonder and joy.  I want to remind myself that, while I might not be climbing Mt Everest or canoeing down the Amazon, while I’m not a famous or accomplished artist or an actor, or a public figure, that my life has meaning, that it’s special, that a life is made up of all the special, little moments as well as the once in a life time moments.  I want the echo of those moments to resonate in my heart, my mind and in my thoughts.  That echo will sustain me. It will motivate and inspire me.  And, thanks to a very thoughtful gift from my son, I plan to collect these moments of joy by recording them on little pieces of colourful and patterned paper and keeping them in a gratitude jar.  This time next year I will again be able to reflect on the magic of the year and be humbled and grateful for the majesty of life, my life.

My advice to myself this year is to – Feed and grow your own magic.

Happy New Year,