No, it's not a top-secret military base.
That was just one of the outlandish suggestions from readers about the origins of a rock feature in the Budawang National Park which when viewed from the air looks extraordinarily symmetrical, as if man-made.
On reading about the rock formation, four Canberra adventurers - Steve Hanley of Harrison, Danielle Winslow of Evatt and Paul Cuthbert and his daughter Ella of Watson - wasted no time checking out the geological feature at ground level.
And what an adventure it was, after more than 40 kilometres of mountain biking on a challenging mix of fire trails and water crossings and three kilometres of trekking, the dedicated daredevils eventually reached the remarkably rectangular-shaped outcrop which, according to Steve, "isn't quite as symmetrical when viewed up-close".
But their trip didn't all go to plan. "We went the wrong way initially and realised we were on private property after the first river crossing so backtracked and went the correct way," reports Steve.
Then Danielle's bike broke. "She had a stick jam in her back wheel and rip the derailleur off," explains Steve. But that wasn't going to stop our intrepid investigators - oh no, they simply modified her bike to a single speed. Gee those hills would have hurt.
Partly due to the extent of last summer's fires which ravaged the park, and partly due to big blue skies, Steve and Co enjoyed "fantastic open views, including an amazing area with a big pool I think would be an excellent camping spot just next to the Endrick River".
When our fearless foursome were in sight of the rectangular cliff top, they left their bikes next to the trail at the saddle and headed on foot up the spur to the cliff face.
"First we walked along under the cliff line until we were directly under the rock feature to see what it looked like from below and when we eventually found a line through the cliffs we scrambled up to the top," reports Steve.
After double-checking there were no sign of aliens or secret military bases(!), the four soaked up the extensive views over the park.
While the symmetrical rock feature is part of an area labelled on maps as Square Top Mountain, you've got to wonder why it's not called Rectangular Top Mountain.
"That rectangular slap has to be the reason why the mountain is so-named," says Steve, who, like your akubra-clad columnist would like to know if there is an indigenous name for the mountain.
Story behind seat with a view
Meanwhile, another bush mystery, the origins of a wooden park bench perched high on the Tidbinbilla Range (Spotted, February 20), is a step closer to being solved.
"The seat was apparently placed there about five years ago by a university rogaining group as bit of a joke," reports bushwalker Daniel Newton. "I heard it was carried up in pieces and put together in its current location."
Enquiries by this column to various rogaining and bushwalker groups has so far failed to uncover those responsible, but someone must know.
Several readers thought the 'plaque' you can just make out on the back of the seat might provide a clue. However, as pointed out by geocacher Thomas Schulze, "that's just a logo for FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)", an envionmental certifier for the timber the seat is made from.
Thomas was so taken by the out-of-place seat that he hid a cache near the seat in 2019. "The first time I saw it, I was amazed, so the second time I went up there, I placed a cache there and called it 'Tidbinbilla Throne!" exclaims Thomas who has squirrelled away over 800 similar caches in the ACT bush. "It's been found 12 times," says Thomas. "That's not a lot, but given the location is so hard to get too, it's not too bad!"
It also turns out that like Peter O'Neill who first brought the seat to this column's attention, not everyone who visits the seat is a geocacher. In fact, just last weekend regular reader of these pages, David Osmond of Dickson, stumbled upon the seat during a walk up Mt Tidbinbilla.
"I read about it in your column on Saturday but didn't realise it was on the route I had planned until I was virtually upon it," reports David, who enjoyed a rest on the seat before his final ascent.
Not far from the seat, David also discovered a Anemone stinkhorn. "Now that's a freaky sight, I've never seen a stinkhorn near Tidbinbilla before. Indeed, I don't think I've ever seen one before," says David, who asked a friend to identify it.
Although many years ago this column somewhat foolishly went to the Southern Highlands in search of the fly-attracting fungus - which bears its spores in a brownish slime which smells of faeces or carrion - like David, I've also never spotted one in Canberra either, so asked fungi authority Heino Lepp about how common they are in the ACT.
"Of the two starfish-like stinkhorns the Anemone stinkhorn (Aseroe rubra) seems to be less common in the ACT than the other (Clathrus archeri) which has more spore slime on its undivided arms," confirms Heino, an Honorary Associate at Australian National Botanic Gardens.
"I've seen (or had local enquiries about) the Anemone stinkhorn far less often than the other, but of course, that might just be an artefact of people generally not going into areas where it is more common."
No matter the species of stinkhorn, from experience, I strongly suggest you approach it from upwind. Yuck!
Spinning yarns creates unlikely tourist attraction
Since this column's recent exposé of a 'dancing rock' captured on film near the Air Disaster Memorial, the walking tracks that criss-cross Fairbairn Pines have been a lot busier than usual with many nature lovers hoping to witness a similar spectacle.
One reader who recently traipsed through the otherwise seldom-visited forest and hit the jackpot is Pattie Burke-Maxwell of Weston.
"It was quite amazing to see and a real test of logic!" exclaims Pattie who captured her own footage of a 'dancing rock'. "Only when we looked very carefully could we see a tiny thread of spider web holding the rock up," she explains.
Still in the world of Australian Garden Orb Weaver spiders, while recently admiring a particularly large web glistening in the morning sun, Liz and Mike Lynch of Isaacs noticed "a bee fly directly into the web".
"This entanglement gave the spider the signal to swing down from its hiding hole to deal with its next meal," reports the couple, adding "a brief heroic struggle followed, and to our utmost surprise the spider dropped like a stone, held only by a single thread.
"Amazing, we thought - the spider has obviously been stung by the bee!" However, as the spider swung gently in the breeze, the bee disentangled itself and flew off.
"We were left looking at the swinging corpse, when our seemingly 'dead' spider suddenly sprung back to life and scurried back to its hiding hole."
Mmm. Perhaps spiders, too, have nine lives!
PS: Regular readers may remember Rob Gardiner of Isabella Plains whose wife, due to his abnormal fear of snakes, warned him away from these pages due to the recent spate of snake photos. Well, with the focus on spiders, the shoe is now firmly on the other foot. "While creepy crawlies are no worries to me, my wife is an arachnophobe," he muses. Gee, I can't win.
WHERE IN CANBERRA?
Clue: Sir Robert
Degree of difficulty: Medium
Last week: Congratulations to Glenn Schwinghamer of Kambah who was the first reader to correctly identify last week's photo as the 1836 ship's bell atop the old stone kitchen at Lanyon Homestead. Glenn just beat Wendy Duke of Lyneham, Toni Hogan of Bonython and Marie-Anne Robinson of Monash to the prize. Marie-Anne reports the bell was "rung to signal the start and end of the working day for convict labourers who toiled at Lanyon from the 1830s". According to local folklore, when the bell was given an enthusiastic ring late last century, it reverberated up the Murrumbidgee Corridor so far that it was heard a couple of kilometres away in Tharwa. Fearing a fire or other calamity, the bushfire brigade captain of the time, the late Val Jeffery, promptly dispatched the fire truck. Heck.
How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and suburb to email@example.com The first email sent after 10am, Saturday February 27, 2021, wins a double pass to Dendy, the Home of Quality Cinema.
As a result of our wet and mild summer, several readers, including Shane Breynard, have noticed 'faery (fairy) rings' growing around the capital, including one outside the cemetery in Mitchell.
The naturally occurring rings of mushrooms - caused by an individual fungus growing underground which sprout lots of small threads, called mycelium, in a circular shape - are globally the subject of much mythology. This is especially the case in Europe where they are often thought to be linked with witches or the devil.
"The impression that the grass growing inside the circle is darker than the grass growing outside the circle is fascinating," reports Shane, who would "love to see one of these popping up on top of Parliament House". ''But I expect any faeries have chosen to keep well clear of that place," he laughs. Have you seen a faery ring? If so, let me know.
CONTACT TIM: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter: @TimYowie or write c/- The Canberra Times, 9 Pirie St, Fyshwick