From the editor


Words & Image: James McCormack
Image caption: The scene of the crime:
Bluff Hut in the Victorian High Country

(This story originally featured in Wild #190, Summer 2023)

Each issue, I get to sit at my computer and write my editor’s letter. Sometimes, often in fact, I seat myself down with a sense of trepidation, knowing that I have no idea of what I should say or talk about, and wondering for how long exactly I might sit and stare at a blank screen in the vain hope some words come out. There are other times, however, when the opposite is true. I arrive at the desk with confidence because I know exactly what I want to say. And this, dear Wild reader, was one of those times.

Except it wasn’t. I thought I knew what I wanted to talk about—a recent event that was perhaps one of the most bizarre events I’ve ever experienced. I’ve seen a lot of—let’s be frank—weird shit in my life; this was right up there with the weirdest.

It was in the Victorian High Country (see this issue’s Track Notes), and we’d stayed up high near the Bluff’s summit taking sunset photos. When we descended, we walked the last hour in darkness, which I did with my headlamp switched off just for the sheer joy of being able to walk under star and moonlight alone.

When we arrived at Bluff Hut, it was after 8:30PM; given the late hour, I decided against setting up my tent and to sleep in the hut instead. I hung up my food to thwart raids by nocturnal critters; set my phone, headlamp and GPS watch next to my head; and drifted off to sleep.

Around midnight, I woke to see an antechinus or broad-toothed rat or similar scurrying about. I thought little of it. A bit later, he jumped up near my head; I shooed him away as I would a fly. Soon I heard what sounded like a battery, a cylindrical one like an AA, rolling along a wooden bench. At the time, I thought I must have dreamt this. The benches weren’t angled; there was no way something could roll along them.

But in the morning, I discovered I had not dreamt this sound; my Garmin Fenix 7, a GPS watch I’ve relied on almost daily for trail runs and hiking, relied on for tracking all manner of outdoor activities, relied on for navigation while backcountry skiing and out bush, was missing. We searched high and low, but it had gone. It just didn’t make sense. I’d been in the hut alone. Then I remembered Reid Marshall talking about his headlamp being stolen by a rat in the story he did for Wild a few issues back on the AAWT. It seemed surreal, impossible to be true: A $1000 (yes, I’d paid full price for it) worth of watch stolen by a thieving rat. My food had not been that well put away; why hadn’t it stolen a piece of salami? Or cheese? Or a cracker? Why a thousand-dollar watch? Perhaps the rat here at Bluff Hut, unlike the one Reid encountered, was more concerned about punctuality than illumination.*

But I’ve gotten off-track, because before I even set finger to keypad to write this Ed’s Letter, I realised that this watch theft wasn’t what I wanted to talk about at all. Right next to my desk—within arm’s reach so I only have to swivel the chair to get at them—sits every issue of Wild, all 189 of them, organised numerically from Issue #1 to the latest. Unfortunately, at times, this easy access also allows for easy distraction, and I will pull out a copy at random just to flick through and—yes, I’ll admit it—sometimes procrastinate.

This time, however, I reached to grab a few issues, and it had nothing to do with procrastination. It has just turned November, and it was back in November 2018 that I started working as Editor of Wild, putting together the remainder of Issue #169. Wow! Five years! It actually makes me the second-longest-serving editor here after founder Chris Baxter.** What an amazing honour! Back in my youth—when Chris was editor and Wild was so formative for me, influencing indelibly my hopes and desires, my goals for adventure, my politics, indeed, my entire worldview—not in my wildest dreams would I ever have believed that this would one day transpire.

Gratitude. Privilege. Luck. These three words immediately spring to mind when I think of my time here at Wild thus far. But none of my good fortune would be possible were it not for three factors: Firstly, the prior editors: Chris, Megan, Ross, Belinda, Carly, and Campbell; I’m going to be clichéd here, but I just can’t help it—I stand on the shoulders of giants.

Secondly, the gifted and hard-working contributors I’ve had the pleasure collaborating with, who make the mag what it is. There are few publications out there where contributors—who put up with my niggly requests for rewrites of rewrites of rewrites—dedicate themselves so diligently to creating such a work of beauty. But their hard work means—and I know it’s self-serving to say this, but I whole-heartedly believe it—that Wild is not only the best mag of its type in Australia, it’s one of the best mags, period.

And thirdly, I wouldn’t be here were it not for the community of Wild readers. Without you, of course, the magazine would be nothing.

Thank you forever for your support.


* BTW, if you find a Garmin Fenix 7 at Bluff Hut, you know who to return it to.
** Man, I’ve still got a long, long way to go to catch Chris, who was editor for 24 years. What a legend; he’ll forever hold the crown.