Our destination for the winter camping trip was a place called Falls Creek, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) to the northeast, on the way to Sydney. A good part of the travel there is on the Hume Highway, one of the most heavily trafficked stretches of bitumen (asphalt) in all of Australia. That part is fast. The last section, when you head toward the Alpine region, makes up for it. It is a slow, two-lane road, threading its way through farm country, gradually climbing into the Alpine National Park.

Our foray into the snow began long before we set out. For me it started on June 24 with a casual email from Alan, my cycling friend, alerting me to the fact that a winter adventure was in the works. It would likely happen the second week of August. Would I like to come?

Like a small snowball accumulating size and speed on its way downhill, a flurry of emails followed over the next five weeks, some were about dates and details, others were simply banter among the various members of the group. When it all shook out, there were six people going for five days the first week of August. It was all still weather dependent, of course. Rain can ruin the best-laid plans of ski trips, and winter weather here. like all Victorian weather, is anything but consistent.

The last weather prediction we received before heading out had good news and bad. The good news was that new snow was predicted. The not-so-good news was that it would probably be accompanied by gale-force winds. It didn’t occur to me that gale-force winds driving pellets of snow can feel like a shotgun blast.

The plan was to rise very, very early on Friday morning, meet at a designated carpool spot, then head out for the long drive in order to be at the campsite by early afternoon. I suspect I was not the only one who spent a restless night waiting for the alarm clock to bounce me out of bed at 3:30 am. We were on the road by 5:15, rolling into a McDonald’s just before our exit off the Hume Highway by 8:30. It was packed.

With the exception of some of the automobiles, an industrial-strength, Italian espresso machine and odd items on the menu, it could have been snow country, USA. There were skis and snowboards, parkas and boots. Heavy sweaters and hardy looking folks wolfing down bacon and egg sandwiches with a curious breakfast condiment, barbecue sauce.

From there, we headed east on the country road, through Myrtleford, Bright and Mt. Beauty. Then the climb began. Cars came toward us with patches of snow stuck to the roof, but we were driving through rain as well. We were almost at Falls Creek before it became apparent that there was going to be plenty of snow on the ground. The base of the ski resort is at an elevation of 1500 meters (nearly 5000 feet.)

On the last Saturday in August, Falls Creek hosts the Kangaroo Hoppet, a 42 km cross country race that counts as a main race with the Worldloppet ski Federation. Over the years, the event has been dominated by Australian racers, but last year’s male winner came from Germany.

We nosed our way to a likely spot in the huge parking lot, unloaded the Subaru, and headed off. The wind was whipping up. One of our members was already nursing a cold that would end up ruining the trip for him and his son. There were at least ten kilometers to go with 20 kilo (44 pound) packs on our backs and it was not going to get any warmer. Little did I know I would soon be plunging into an icy stream.

Stay tuned for the misery.

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