Sunday, 28 December 2014

Abbott Falls Walking Track - Olney State Forest

Abbott Falls Walking Track
Only State Forest
Lake Macquarie NSW

Track notes.

Sunday, 28th December.

It has been a week since we spent two nights on the Hastings River and exploring Werrikimbe Trail. With nothing planned until late January both of us were keen to slip out of suburbia, even if it was just for a few hours.

Considering the Watagans and Olney State Forest are right on our doorstep the Abbotts Falls Circuit should provide a reasonable respite.

Today we embark with Grace and Thomas. Two very eager hikers who conquered the circuit without raising the slightest of sweat.

The trail head. Proudly presented by Grace and Thomas.

Abbott Falls Walking Track is part of Olney State Forest and accessed from Freemans Drive, Cooranbong.

From Morisset on Freemans Drive take the left onto Martinsville Road.

Turn left onto Watagan Road following the signs to Watagan State Forest.

Watagan Road becomes Martinsville Hill Road. Follow the road off to the right as it becomes Watagan Forest Road.

Follow the signs to 'The Pines' picnic area which is a right onto Palmers Road. Simply follow this road to its conclusion and you are at the trail head.

Having worn synthetic Underarmour shirts in the past today I am trialling a 100% merino light wool shirt in attempt to reduce body odour. The synthetic shirt is both comfortable and wicks the water away well. Should the wool do the same and remain relatively stink free I will change over.

Trialling the new wool shirt.

The trail commences in open bushland of casuarina and small eucalypts and is easily traversed. Trail bikes share the first few hundred meters of the track. These obnoxious toys have chewed deep ruts in the path yet the footing remains fine.

Open bushland.

Fortunately the trail soon depends steeply into lush, humid rain forest which is not accessible to these nuisances.

The trail continues downward and is at times steep. Caution is required but the trail remains not overly challenging.

The journey down to the valley begins.

As the vegetation changes so does the demeanour of Grace and Thomas. Excited chattering has given way to the occasional thoughtful question. Mostly they are concerned with taking in the beautiful semi tropical rain forest and keeping a sure footing.

It is refreshing to see them away from their technology and enjoying vigorous activity amongst such stunning scenery. I am encouraged that they both embrace the outdoors.

Thomas takes point.

The decline is becoming steeper and while the temperature is cool the humidity is very high. The trail steadily becomes more challenging. Never becoming treacherous it requires some care and concentration.

About the thirty minutes into the circuit.

A fallen tree presents a clearing to the valley below.

As the trail levels you approach a small clearing with sign posts indicating both left and right. To the left is a small yet pretty pond in a clearing down a particularly steep set of stairs.

After my expert instructions and advice all of the party made it to the clearing. During my descent I slipped and slid to the base on my backside producing plenty of laughs. My place is assured in the team if only for comedic relief.

Worth the tumble?

Taking the right we continue toward Abbotts Falls. The track has now levelled out and we can hear Dora Creek running over the falls. The sound of running water is soothing to the senses. Rather than rush to the source of the sound the group seems to slow and enjoy its hypnotic rhythm.

A fallen tree and its still standing partner mark the access to Dora Creek at the top of the falls. I wish my knowledge of natives was more astute so I could put a name to these timeless sentinels of the forest. These ancient old trees are truly magnificent.

 The fallen tree.

Blackbox? I have no idea.

Finally we reach the falls. Deep in the humid rainforest it is a beautiful spot. We pause only for a short while to enjoy its peaceful sounds before the journey out.

Crossing Dora Creek at the falls.

These deep holes are common on the waters edge.

The top of the falls.

Dora Creek cascades over Abbotts Falls.

Soon after departing the falls the party comes across a clearing and we rid ourselves of leeches. Both Grace and Thomas handle the ordeal with relatively little fuss. Shell, while making huge improvements in recent times copes somewhat worse with the experience. I estimate a total of over twenty removed throughout the trip.

Nature provides a clearing to remove leeches.

At this same clearing the track becomes a little confused. Future travellers are urged to resist the temptation to head into the small trail on the left. It leads nowhere. The true trail heads right but is obscured by some fallen branches. Once over the branches the trail is easily followed.

The trail continues upward. One continuous steep climb. Thomas with youthful enthusiasm runs the incline. My memory fails me as I cannot recall being eight years old, weighing twenty nine kilograms and being gifted with seemingly unlimited energy.

He stands at the top of the hill with hands on hips declaring the rest of us slow.

The incline. This picture does it no justice.

Throughout the entire journey we came across various fungi. I find fungi fascinating. Quite beautiful in its unique, somewhat alien appearance.

The top of the incline delivers onto German Point Road and a well signed left hand turn. While we travel much faster it is disappointing to be on a 4WD track. The scenery remains pretty but the ever present wheel ruts and bogs are a constant reminder of things made by man.

Acacia on German Point Road.

We stumble upon some animal scat. Grace and Thomas love the word. They use it as one would a profanity. Very amusing, it has been the subject on and off for the entire trip. As they have been constantly on the look out there is much excitement when we finally stumble on some.

My guess is snake scat.

We continue along this road until a sign post directs us to Turpentine Road. This leads to several camp grounds. Unfortunately campers, of the variety that possess chainsaws and tents larger than our house, are camping over the trail and it becomes a little confusing.

We eventually find The Pines Walking Trail. A separate walk which represents the very last leg of our hike.

The bridge leading to The Pines Walk.

We arrive at an intersection which does not indicate Abbotts Falls Road and we head left which takes us to a pretty waterfall.

Waterfall on The Pines Walk.

The trail quickly leads us away from our destination and we consult the map. Turning around we head past the intersection and within a few hundred meters we are at The Pines Picnic Area.

The girls lead us home.

It is here we will cook a much earned hot lunch and discuss the journey. Grace and Thomas are in great spirits and both Shell and I are proud of their efforts. We covered almost eight kilometres today and neither missed a beat.

Lunch at the Pines Picnic Area.

The Abbott Falls Walk Track is great fun. Challenging at times I can't imagine anyone with a decent level of fitness being overly troubled.

The conversation is excited on the way home. Mostly concerned with our next adventure. And scat. Often scat.

Artistic indulgence.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The Werrikimbe Trail

Previously this blog was just photos, directions and overall thoughts.

I have decided to simply transfer my journal notes. A little more personal but really no different.

Thank you to John and Lyn Daly for their Take A Walk e-book.

The Werrikimbe Trail
Werrikimbe National Park
New England NSW

Notes from my journal.

Sunday, 21st December.

I am not sure if it is a matter of comfort in routine but my preference is for Thunderbolts Way to Walcha. The freeway, while quicker, is uninspiring.

Access was via the Oxley Highway heading west from Wauchope toward Walcha.

Take Kangaroo Flat Road and continue until you come to a fork in the road. Take Moorback Road on the right.

Continue along Morebahck Road until you enter Werrikimbie National Park and Cobcroft Road is on your immediate right.

Take Cobcroft Road. The Werrikimbe Trail is a locked gate about two kilometres from the intersection.

A further six kilometres from the trail head is Cobcroft Rest Area where we cook a quick lunch. I must admit to a great deal of anticipation at the start of this hike. Made all the more exciting to be sharing it with my beautiful wife.

A thunderstorm building in the Northwest produces some rather ominous sounds as we double check our packs at the trail head before we embark.

The storm clouds and its threatening thunder followed us the entire afternoon.

Trail head.

Good to go.

The Werrikimbe Trail winds East and our intended base camp was the Hastings River Crossing about eight kilometres from the trail head.

With only the occasional climb it is a relatively easy walk of only a few hours. The trail alternates from thick eucalypts to casuarina stands. Occasionally when the trail drops we encounter some rainforest habitat.

The trail to the Hastings River.

Fungi everywhere. If only I was confident identifying what is edible.

We arrive at the Hastings River mid afternoon. The timber bridge crosses a pretty, fast moving part of the river which is ideal for camping.

The Hastings River.

We decide to set up camp in a clearing to the right of the trail on the Eastern side of the bridge. Resisting the temptation to pitch the tent on the actual trail on the western side which is far more idyllic.

Camp site.

Shell pitches the tent while I begin filtering some drinking water and boiling water for the shower. While the temperature never broke 30C the inclines and the packs have us a both sweaty and a shower is a welcome luxury.

We eat dinner tonight on the bridge. Lamb and mushroom risotto and some dark chocolate.

An outstanding cook.

Sitting on the bridge at twilight with Shell, the water noisy over the rocks, I feel miles away from everything. People, houses, sounds, internet and that horrible artificial light that seems to permeate from everything. This is when I feel most content. Most in love with life. Sharing these moments with this amazing girl. This stunning country side.

It is dark when we settle into the tent. Dishes are cleaned and Shell has made a very reasonable effort to remove the terrible smell from my sweaty shirt. Night sounds. Water running in the river. Crickets and frogs. Just before we fall asleep fire flies put on a beautiful show for us. I am fascinated by these remarkable insects. A very pretty show as we fall asleep. A sleep which would have much more satisfying had I packed pillows.

Monday, 22nd December.

Dawn brings us an overcast sunrise that quickly burns off with the promise of fine but warm day.

Breakfast is on the bridge. Porridge with nuts and brown sugar. Over tea and coffee we decide to continue on the Werikimbe Trail rather than follow the Hastings South.

Travelling light with just the day pack we should cover plenty of distance.

Packed light.

From the Hastings River the track continues East and the further we travel the more likely it seems our destination is the Forbes River. An ideal spot for lunch.

The trail continues as it did the day before. Alternating between casuarina stands to thick eucalyptus.

Werrikimbe Trail East of the Hastings River.

As we pass through a casuarina stand we disturb a handful of Red Tailed Black Cockatoos. Impossibly black with remarkable crimson tails visible when in flight.

Red Tailed Black Cockatoos.

The trail is relatively easy with the occasional steep incline. As we approach a small clearing amongst ancient eucalypts we startle a Swamp Harrier. Over half a meter high it is an impressive predator. I can't help admiring this bird and feel it has risen above its rather underwhelming name.

According to the map we are within two kilometres of the Forbes River when the trail suddenly swings North and then North West.

What appears to be a nest with some small soft shell eggs.

The trail starts up a steep incline and we enter a cooling temperate rain forest. Enormous trees with fern in the understory.

A change in fauna.

We come across a locked gate at the top of the hill as the landscape opens into sparse scrub. The temperature has risen markedly in this terrain. As the trail continues to head away from the Forbes River and the surroundings remain the same we decide to head back to camp.

As we walk the trail the discussion turns to gaiters. We have both been irritated by grass seeds that defy all sense of physics. Shaped like a sperm they attach to your wooden socks then cunningly burrow their way to your skin. Although inanimate they seem determined to germinate in your ankles.

Possibly a grave in a clearing near camp.

We have returned to the campsite and had a late lunch. Shell is asleep on the picnic blanket while I do the dishes and filter some water. At some point she crossed the bridge and is on the Western side. I find comfort in watching her sleep. The sun is hot and burning my back. I don't mind. I feel totally relaxed and at ease.

Filtering water is my specialty.

After a swim we decide to shift the tent. Having slept in the shade of the eucalypts on the Western side of the river Shell is confident the track is seldom used and we pitch the tent on the track itself. We will risk a chance encounter with fellow hikers or the Rangers 4WD.

The new campsite from the bridge.

Having pitched the tent and cooled from the swim we lay about for the rest of the afternoon. With dapple shade and dinner a few hours away the temptation for sleep is almost irresistible. We hiked over sixteen kilometres today. While I am not tired the solitude of this place brings an overwhelming sense of relaxation. As my beautiful wife sleeps next to me and I write these words I am drowsy with happiness.

The tent pitched on the Werrikimbie Trail.

Dinner. Beef ragu.

Dinner is now done as are the dishes. Our last night before we hike back tomorrow. We decide on an early night and early start in the morning. Shell is always impatient. She does not bush walk. She marches from one pace to the next like she is preparing for battle. If an early start can be had, we will certainly have it!

As we lie in the tent now on the Western side of the river the fire flies return for a more spectacular show than the previous evening. I fall asleep before the performance is concluded.

The setting sun before the fire fly show.

Tuesday, 23rd December.

We are up at 4.30am. Shells eagerness to strike camp and set out is contagious.

Breakfast is the same as the previous morning. Pleasantly it is not a rushed affair and we take our time cooking and eating.

We break camp and double check both campsites and the bridge to make sure there is no trace of our stay. Thow on our packs and leave.

Rain threatens.

On the hike back we explore a side trail on the right. It leads North for a few kilometres before crossing a stream and opening into a clearing. If the trail continues past the clearing I cannot find it. I can't help but wonder where it leads. The bridge over the creek is certainly man made which indicates the trail has some purpose.

Soon after we start back on the Werrikimbe Trail Shell comes to a sudden halt. Her next step would have landed on a rather large tiger snake. Having just had breakfast it was unable to retreat off the trail. Instead it preferred to stay right where it was and make threatening gestures at out presence. Fortunately the same digesting animal that prevented it from departing also made it difficult to cause us any real concern and simply walked around it. Again the subject of gaiters is raised. Time to invest in some I think.

Tiger snake.

In a nearby stand of casuarinas we startle some Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos. They don't excite me like their red cousins but are beautiful just the same.

Our last stop is an abandoned mine shaft. Approximately two kilometres from the trail head on your left hand side. Obscured by a fallen tree a few hundred meters will have you at the shaft. Certainly worth the detour.

Mine shaft trail entrance (looking East).

Abandoned mine shaft. The pictures do not do it justice.

With the trail head now in sight I will be relived to unload my pack but I am certainly not looking forward to seeing other people. Just as we approach the locked gate the rain begins to fall.

Back at the trail head as rain begins to fall.

We exit via Cobcroft Road. Which becomes Fenwicks Road as you enter Cottan-Bimbang National Park.

A pretty creek crossing in Cottan Bimbang National Park.

Finally Fenwicks Road becomes Seaview Road and arrives at the Oxley Highway after a scenic thirty kilometre drive.

At the Oxley Highway.

Home via Thunderbolts Way. First there will be lunch at a cafe in Walcha. I have ordered three main meals and feel reluctant to share. I am famished. It is raining outside and I feel claustrophobic with all the strangers chattering around me. I miss the bridge at the Hastings River already.

I am thinking 'where to next'? I look at Shell, I am positive she is thinking the same.