Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Grand Canyon, Evans Lookout & Govetts Leap (via Braeside Track) - Blue Mountains National Park

Grand Canyon, Evans Lookout & Govetts Leap (via Braeside Track)

Blue Mountains National Park

Blackheath NSW

Saturday, 7 March.

An overview of this hike can be found here

I had the impression the Blue Mountains gained its reputation based entirely on its proximity to Sydney. Its popularity based entirely on how easily it was accessed by the bus loads of city dwellers who could stroll a few meters from car parks to look outs.

A baseless assumption. An ignorant opinion.

Despite the disappointment of Carlon Head it was obvious the area was a place of breathtaking landscapes.

We planned during the week for an easy overnight trip. We planned 24km over two days with an overnight stay at Acacia Flats.

I had my suspicions regarding this plan when Shell declared the night before we would be departing at 5.00am. It occurred to me an alarm set for 4.30am was a rather unnecessary.

We are fortunate enough to crew a yacht which races on Friday evenings so our normally early night was going to be later than usual (for the record Christina, the yacht we crew, enjoyed line honours this evening).

So it was late to bed and an early start.

Our departure point was to be the Braeside Track Trail Head.

Heading south on the freeway simply follow the signs to Katoomba. Passing through Katoomba on the Great Western Highway to Blackheath.

Arriving at Blackheath turn right into Prince George Street and then right at the T intersection into Boreas Street.

Boreas Street turns veers left and becomes McNicol Street.

At the T intersection turn right and follow the dirt road, James Road, until you arrive at the trail head. There is a car park on the left just prior.

After coffee and breakfast in Springwood we arrive at the trail head around 9.00am.

Car park at the trail head.

Good to go.

We headed for Evans Lookout. Our intention was to exit the following day from Acacia Flats camp ground through Govetts Leap and to the car via the Braeside Track.

Ignoring the sign for the Braeside Track continue along James Road over a pretty waterfall to the end of the road.

Waterfall on James Road.

At the end of the road turn left onto Evans Lookout Road.

This road would have lead us to Evans lookout and onto Beauchamp Falls through to Junction Rock and finally Acacia Flat for the evening.

As we made our way along Evans Lookout Road we encountered a local lady working in the garden who enquired on our destination.

When she heard that neither of us had explored the Grand Canyon she urged us to do so. During the same conversation she also indicated Acacia Flats was particularly busy at the moment.

As we continued along the trail I considered the idea of including the Grand Canyon on this hike. Adding only a few kilometres it was certainly achievable.

Shell jumped at the idea when I suggested it.

At this point she declared a reluctance to camp at a busy site.

I tended to agree.

As we headed down toward the Grand Canyon Shell suddenly declared that an overnight stay was not necessary.

I explained that without an overnight stay, if we included the Grand Canyon, to complete the hike we planned would be a big ask in a single day.

Shell's response was typical 'I want to do 20km today. I want to be wrecked at the end of it. I don't care where we go. Work it out'.

With that she set a cracking pace down to the canyon.

Suddenly the early start seemed no coincidence.

I love this girl.

Down to the Grand Canyon.

The beginning of the trail down to the Grand Canyon is currently undergoing maintenance. The work underway takes the form of steps for the most part and makes the journey quite easy. A pleasant walk in which the flora quickly changes from eucalyptus bush to tropical.

Maintenance work on the trail.

The Grand Canyon needs to be seen in person to get a true understanding of its beauty. Photographs and descriptions really fail to capture this location.

Further down the trail the fauna becomes rainforest. Moss covered walls and steps provide scenery. Running water is everywhere creating a musical backdrop as we journey to the base of the canyon.

At the bottom of the canyon the trail levels and the hike is easy. Crossing Greaves Creek we are surrounded by soaring rock faces on either side.

The trail follows Greaves Creek and often makes it way under rocky overhangs.

We were setting a hard pace. Perhaps Shell was aware of some record I was not and we were challenging this mystery figure?

The scenery was stunning and I stopped frequently for pictures.

At one point a pair of day hikers shot past when I was taking some shots.

Shell suddenly declared I was taking far to long with the camera.

We set off in pursuit of the packless couple. Apparently we were now in a race.

The best I could come up with when Shell was unhappy with my 'smile'.

Greaves Creek.

At one point we encountered a group of canyoners preparing for decent. The gaping bottomless hole they were exploring seemed foreboding.

I will admit to some curiosity as to what may lie at the bottom. This curiosity was certainly not enough for me to even consider abseiling into the dark abyss.

The gaping hole the abseilers were tackling. I have no evidence to suggest they ever returned.

The trail continues and the scenery remains consistently beautiful.

Occasionally we caught the day hikers as they paused for a photo. They seem to be mocking Shell's efforts. As we approached they would jump back on the trail and leave us behind. Moments later the situation would repeat itself.

I happily tagged along. Shell is a competitor. It is one of the many things I love about her.

As we approached the end of the canyon I had formed a plan as to how we might get 20km of hard walking in today.

The scenery had changed a little and as we approached the ascent out of the canyon Shell agreed to a brief respite. Taking in the view I was reminded of how badly I had misjudged the beauty of the Blue Mountains.

The climb out is challenging. I worked up quite the sweat. As a result condensation built up in my camera case and my photographs became foggy.

Sadly we missed an opportunity to photograph a lyrebird which allowed us to get within five meters.

The climb out.

The trail out of the Grand Canyon terminates at Evans Lookout. There is a carpark nearby and it appears to be a popular tourist destination as the area is swarming with people.

The stunning views explain its popularity.

Sweeping views from Evans Lookout.

I outlined my plan to Shell.

We would return to the trail head of the Braeside Track. Taking Braeside Track we would head up to Govetts Leap Lookout.

Retrace our steps down to Barrow Lookout and take the Cliff Top Walk back to Evans Lookout and return to the car from there.

A round about trip that would get Shell her 20km.

Shell pretended to listen then asked which way to head.

She set out at pace in the indicated direction.

Back at the trail head we followed the Braeside Track which parallels Govetts Leap Brook.

Despite the quest for speed there was time for some food and a mandatory foot rub.

The Braeside Track was a relaxing walk. The hard pace Shell set was not difficult after the break.

Govetts Leap Brook is one of those creeks that I love. Fast moving clear water over sandstone.

At the end of the trail we turned left and made our way up to Govetts Leap Lookout.

A short yet demanding climb to the top.

Similar to Evans, its proximity to transport meant it was busy.

It seems to me that almost all vantage points in the Blue Mountains afford stunning panoramic views. Govetts Leap is no exception.

Govetts Leap Brook from Govetts Lookout.

We headed back down to Braeside Track to continue our hike toward Evans Lookout.

Little dragon sunning himself near Govetts Lookout.

We made a brief stop at Barrow Lookout before taking The Cliff Top Walk to Evans.

A brief chat with a couple of overnight hikers who were heading to Acacia Flats for the night. Having made the trip in the past they agreed it would likely be crowded.

Views from Barrow Lookout.

The Cliff Top Walk was an easy journey.

As we made our way to Evans fatigue began to set in.

Occasional glimpses of scenery from the trail were a welcome distraction from tiring legs.

Finally we came to Evans Lookout.

As we began the final leg back to the car I pondered the hike.

By the time we arrived at the car we had completed over 21km in around 5 hours.

We were both wrecked.

Is this what I had in mind when I started hiking?

There is enormous satisfaction in the physical fatigue resulting from a hard push.

At what cost? Is it possible to enjoy both the majestic landscape while pushing hard?

Back to the car.

I came to the conclusion that I can have my cake and eat it too.

We can drive ourselves to exhaustion and still enjoy the views.

There is room for both.

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