Hide & Seek in the Sugar Pines, NSW
Bago State Forest, Buddong NSW, 2720, Australia
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Travel time: 3 hour drive from Canberra
Play time: 30 minutes
Things to do:
- build huts
- play hide and seek
- take photos
- balance along the fallen trunks (be careful of the mossy ones!)
Words by Casey Hawkins. Photos by Nate Polta
I could tell something was different when I peered out the passenger window of Nate’s Prado. The change in the cab’s air temperature should’ve given it away; we had woken up in a grass field covered in ice.
We’d arrived at a free camping area called Pilot Hill Arboretum just after night fall. The surrounding trees were so dark and dense, we didn’t really know who or what we’d be waking up next to.
As soon as we parked up, I dressed the bed Nate had knocked up during his work breaks days earlier. The futon mattress sat level with the window to allow for storage underneath. Nate packed pillows galore and an extra thick blanket to buffer the minus degree temperatures. I donned my thermals despite thinking there was a chance I’d wake up in a sweat.
While Nate braved the cool night air to take photos of the sky, I lowered the window and hung my head out while propping it up with a pillow. Having seldom ventured away from the city over the past few years, I’d forgotten how great it was to stare up into a sky full of twinkling stars; for a brief moment, they dissipated my concern for how the cold night air was quickly replacing the warmth we’d created throughout the journey.
The icy grass crunched under my Ugg boots as I ventured towards the drop toilets. By the time I walked back, Nate was keen to drive down the road to start the Sugar Pine walk.
If it wasn’t for Google Maps, we would’ve missed the entry point into the Sugar Pines; it was nothing more than an info plaque standing waist high. We slowly wandered through an open section where a row of pines had been removed. The sun that leaked through the pines onto the forest floor made the dead pine needles look like an orange carpet. I looked up in wonder while Nate snapped away.
My walk turned into a run when I became intrigued by what lay upon the other side of the 2.4 hectare plantation. I weaved in and out of the tree stumps like a child running around witches hats on the school oval. When I reached the clearing I was out of breath. Baby pines across a dirt path sat limply in comparison to their ancestors. When Nate caught up we began debating who looked after the forest and whether it was owned by a logging company.
After 15 or so minutes playing hide and seek and filming short snippets for a video, we reached the entrance point once more. We read the sign which informed us the sugar pine is native to the west coast of the USA, and is the tallest and largest of all the pines. It’s believed they can grow up to 800 years old; the hundred or so towering over us were planted in 1923, so it’s safe to say they’ve still got a bit of life left in them.
I reached for my drink bottle as soon as I clambered back into the car. I felt hot and slightly puffed from running around, but my extremities remained icy cold as usual. We pulled away from the patch of dirt where we parked, smiling silently. I didn’t feel the need to discuss what we thought about the Sugar Pine walk as we headed to Beechworth. I think we could both sense each other’s delight for the place, so no words were needed.