Finding peace in wilderness

    Easter trek participants Matt, David, Dayne and Kevin.

    ‘First Responders Trek for Health’ is a not-for-profit organisation focusing on the physical and mental wellbeing of emergency services personnel.

    It was formed in late 2019 by members of the Woodend SES Unit.

    Founding member Kevin Mcnair said the group facilitated participation in outdoor activities to increase and maintain physical fitness and contribute to the improvement of robust mental health.

    “Currently we primarily use hiking, but we will be introducing walking and the use of assisted mobility devices next year when the organisation is in a position to do so. This is an all-inclusive program,” Kevin said.

    “Participants have the opportunity to connect with people from various backgrounds and form positive relationships.

    “They build a sense of belonging and self-worth and provide and receive support, and share their positive experiences with others.

    “As well as discovering the unbounded beauty and serenity of our country and the wilderness.”

    Over the recent Easter weekend – Victoria’s coldest for 80 years – four First Responder trekkers from the Macedon Ranges embarked on a three-day, two-night ascent of the state’s highest peak, Mount Bogong.

    Joining Kevin on this latest hike were members of the SES, police and Ambulance Victoria – Matt, David and Dayne.

    “We would be joined on the first night by a young solo hiker named Marcus, an outstanding young man who decided to join our quest, and so we became five,” Kevin said.

    “This trek was a multi-purpose event to test the feasibility of an extended time in the wilderness under challenging conditions with potentially one or more members with fatigue and or PTSD.

    “Over those three days and two nights the mountain certainly delivered a variety of elements to the exercise, rain, gale force winds, ice, snow, subzero temperatures and leeches.

    “It was a resounding success with a very positive outcome.”

    This November the group will undertake its most comprehensive exercise to date – a 92-kilometre trek with a group of six to eight participants. The groups are kept small to maintain the integrity and preservation of national parks.

    “We will be trekking the South Coast Track Tasmania, a world-heritage protected area and one of the great wilderness treks in the world,” Kevin said.

    “It’s virtually untouched and pristine, it incorporates native forest, two mountain ranges, expansive button grass plains, boggy moors, river crossings and coastal areas.

    “We will fly into a remote airfield at Melaleuca and finish at Cockle Creek, a worthy challenge on a number of levels.

    “I would like to personally thank everyone who has shown an interest and belief in what we are doing as well as the hiking groups.”

    For information on First Responders Trek for Health or how you can become involved, email or visit the Facebook page, ‘First Responders Trek for Health’.

    First Responders Trek for Health members reach the summit of Mount Bogong.