An American walkabout |

An American walkabout

by Ron Walker

Ed Murphy is going through considerable effort to give Quinn, his son, a traditional Australian walkabout. Ed has dual citizenship in the United States and Australia, while Quinn was born in Australia.

Born in southern California, Ed now lives with his family, Nikelle, Quinn, and Cade, in Brisbane. Ed has traveled the world: picked kiwi in New Zealand, taught English for a year in Taiwan, and found true love (Nikelle) on a cruise to Russia. He is our nephew and plans to hike the Pacific Crest Trail with Quinn.

It was 30 years ago that Ed trekked 1,300 miles to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail. This time, he and Quinn plan to start at Mt. Lassen and finish atop Mt. Whitney for Quinn’s 18th birthday.

Ed is a meticulous planner: from freeze-dried food to air mattresses and a tent, their plans are set. One thing overlooked is the inordinate amount of snow on the trail. The other fact that was overlooked is it has been 30 years since Ed did the 1,300-mile trek. On Quinn’s side of the ledger, a 40-pound pack on his back represents one-third of Quinn’s total body weight.

The condition of the trail is marginally passable, but they persevere, loving the beauty as much as tolerating the effort. On one occasion, Quinn steps too close to the trail edge and slides 75 feet down an embankment. Opportunely, he is wearing his GoPro and gets some really spectacular film footage. (Quinn is working toward a college degree in film.)

With the wisdom of job, Ed doesn’t look back. He and Quinn hitchhike (riding with an elderly lady in a truck), take buses, and venture from trailhead to trailhead, to discover a whole new style of “walkabout.”

When we receive a call from our son, Randy, in Graeagle, he tells us, “I’m going to meet Ed and Quinn in Quincy. I’ve arranged for a big family get-together on Father’s Day. Ed and Quinn are going to rest up for two nights.”

As they are about to leave, Rosemary, Randy’s wife, offers the use of her truck.

“Use it and leave it at Mom and Dad’s house in Smith Valley,” she says, and they press on. At Markleeville, Ed collects the parcel he had shipped from Brisbane and heads for Smith Valley.

At the news of Ed and Quinn coming to see us, Tom, our son who lives in Napa, jumps in his Subaru and is here when they arrive. The hugging and carrying-on is shameful. Quinn is the star attraction, of course. My question to Ed is, “Well, what would you like to do?” With a huge smile, he replies, “We’d just like to take it easy and watch some movies on TV,” and that’s what we did. One day, however, we drive to the high country of Yosemite, but most of the time we talk and have premium family time. As a parting reminder of our time together, Orllyene tells Quinn to pick out one of her vast number of DVDs as a birthday present. He picks “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” and, for a few days, it did.

Ron Walker can be reached at