Some of my fonder earliest memories are of the mountains with dad. And whilst I like to think that I have the mountains in my blood, the truth is that mountains are more birthright than genetic. Like a pure and godless religion perhaps, the gift of mountains is handed down from one generation to the next.
Travelling with dad through the night en route to the Alps as a kid was always an adventure I never wanted to end. In a way I guess I never really grew up.
Mum and dad were teenagers when they first met, and were Hotham regulars and then diehards soon after their marriage. Dad can remember driving up the road back when it was mostly single lane ice, rock and mud in a VW beetle with chains. There were few locals back then and even fewer rules. Back then you could lease a block of land with a couple of mates and build a chalet; and then start a business, which in the Australian Alps is always a sensational way for making a small fortune from one much larger.
The mountains were a four-season destination for us back in those days of building Pegasus and then Jack Frost: countless hours spent running amongst the snow gums with my sisters and cousins, climbing, building cubbies, exploring old goldmine shafts, riding BMXs, or fishing for trout down on the Plains of Heaven. And, of course, skiing; whether Nordic or downhill, I could never get enough.
Dad had his own adventures of course. Whether it was a hole in the petrol tank in the middle of nowhere, a trailer jackknifing and pulling him off the Great Alpine Way, a couple of falling mountain ash as wide as busses nearly squashing his car into tin foil, or the many crazy adventures with an old car and the kind of snow that we don't get anymore, the mountains should have claimed him many times over.
It is funny to reconcile dad turning seventy. Both mum and dad are still so healthy and young at heart that these days (as I begin to age too) I scarcely consider them horribly older than myself. They don't seem like old people. Even with a fused foot, dad still skis, still loves a stroll in the mountains, or throwing a line at the odd trout. And he still loves being in the mountains with his wife, kids and nine grandchildren. Mountain air obviously keeps you young, and fertile.
So seventy years and a long weekend seemed like a good excuse to get everyone together for a bit of a celebration. Although we had a few flakes of snow, there wasn't enough for any skiing. But lots of walks, some cubbies, picnics, mountain bikes; and a couple of excellent meals at two of Dinner Plain's finest restaurants.
Looking back on those endless mounds of communal spag bol in Pegasus, it seams that wine and fine cuisine cooked by others is the only thing to have changed much. But also, I guess, that I am now a father myself and responsible for instilling the same sense of wonder and awesomeness in my kids and nephews that only the wilderness of mountains or the ocean can grant.
If only I can be the hero that dad was and still is for me.