Friday, 26 December 2014

A Royal Affair – Mt Royal National Park

Fireflies flicker through the darkening forest and thunder drums inside the roiling clouds moving in from the west. Frontal winds whip through the treetops. A storm is approaching.  Raindrops arrive, but they pass over quickly. Then after all the noise, silence moves in. Until an hour later, another frontal wind, lightning and thunder, more rain, followed again by silence. A second storm moves on up the ranges. I drift off to sleep but five times the routine repeats itself. Wind, lightning (counting it closer), thunder and rain, then silence. It's a long, fitful night. 

Friday, 12 December 2014

Glennifer Falls - Dorrigo National Park

Never Never River

Seeing Glennifer Falls for the first time was one of those 'wow' moments. I vividly recall being amazed at how this magnificent waterfall had been hidden in my backyard for so many of my bushwalking years without me having seen it.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Nymboi-Binderay National Park - packrafting

The valley is charged with heat. Only cicadas persist. There is no bird sound. Even the march flies disappear by noon. It feels as if the very air around us is ready to explode into flames. 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Exmouth and Echo - two journeys - Warrumbungle National Park

From the top of Mt Exmouth, the highest peak in Warrumbungle National Park, I can see east across the open valley below. On the horizon, amongst the jumble of spires and peaks, is a point called Echo Mountain. On top of that mountain, looking back across the same valley, is Caz. We are each alone - immersed in solo, overnight adventures on top of different peaks, each sitting quietly amongst the rocky mountains of this spectacular park.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Kings Plain National Park - a revelation

We drove out to Kings Plain National Park on a Friday night and arrived in the dark, pitching camp on a grassy site by Kings Plain Creek. It seemed a good omen that in the branches of a nearby tree a squirrel glider was happily going about its business. But apart from that, the car headlights gave little hint of the surrounding landscape. By arriving late we were arriving unseen and unseeing. But the beauty of this, was the revelation of a new landscape when we opened our eyes first thing the next morning. 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Rosewood River deep - Dorrigo National Park

It's pitch dark and raining steadily. The river is invisible even though we are camped right beside it, lying on a gravel bank in just our bivvy bags. As rain drifts across my face, the misted beam of my torch dances around in the dark. I fumble to give Caz enough light so he can rig up some sort of system that will lift the bivvies off our faces and allow us to sleep without our heads completely buried in their claustrophobic, suffocating confines. We use his tripod and some string and the result is nearly useless. There is also a growing pool of water at my feet. The bags are proving to be completely waterproof which is lucky because they are all we have to keep us dry since it was me, that morning, who casually looked at the blue sky and reassured Caz the tarp was unnecessary and we could leave it behind. I said, this is a light-weight summer adventure, who needs a tarp? Turns out, we did.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Peta and Ebor Falls - Guy Fawkes River National Park

Meet Peta, the pretty face wallaby. She is the epitome of cuteness but she is also an orphan as a result of a road accident that changed the direction of our most recent weekend adventure.

As we drove west on a recent Saturday afternoon, you could tell spring was in the air; flowering wattle filled the forest with vibrant splashes of colour as we weaved through farmland and state forest towards Chaelundi Campground in Guy Fawkes River National Park. An afternoon storm had passed through the edge of the national park leaving puddles and a spattering of hail amongst the leaf litter. Beautiful light was emerging to the west as the thick band of deep indigo storm clouds, laced with lightning, drifted north.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Junuy Juluum National Park wanderings...

What is in this dark forest? What is behind this thick barrier of shrubs, trees, vines and weeds that borders the grassy roadside like a fence? Secret beauty could be in there. Rare animals may be resting beneath ancient trees. There could be gardens of moss, struck through with rivulets of silver water, and what unusual thoughts might we encounter beneath the dense canopy of Antarctic beech?

Ten kilometres out of Dorrigo, we are standing beside this tiny patch of protected rainforest known as Junuy Juluum National Park. It covers just 945 hectares and is remnant warm temperate rainforest. It apparently provides a refuge for paradise riflebirds and sooty owls. It is a scenic backdrop to the town but does it have more depth than that? Is it scenic inside and out? It is one of those small national parks that gets overlooked; there are no tracks, no car park, one sign, no tourists.

Monday, 25 August 2014

The Caterpillar - Mount Kaputar National Park

A chance encounter, in the campground at Bark Hut, has us inspired and busily re-stuffing our backpacks with overnight gear. We have only just walked in from three days out in the bush and now this nice couple are telling us how beautiful the Mt Coryah Track is.  Our discussion also reveals that the track will take us close to an un-named mountain of rock we have seen from a distance and are keen to climb. It all sounds so enticing we can't be bothered with our planned rest day. Loading up again with food and water, we stride off up the Mt Coryah track with surprising speed and energy.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Boundary crossing - Washpool & Gibraltar Range National Parks

Low scrub scrapes against my shins and a branch catches at the arm of my shirt. My hands are smudged with charcoal from the trunks of old, burnt stringy barks. I've had to grab them for support as we duck and weave, push and shove our way through the bush towards a distant bunch of rocks that have disappeared behind the dense canopy.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Mt Cordeaux and Mt Mitchell - Main Range National Park

This mountain has been becalmed; held still all night afloat an ocean of fog, which laps silently at the hull of trees beneath the summit. There are faint sounds of imagined movement coming from the valley below; like swells on a distant shore. Then the sun cracks the eastern horizon and golden light reveals that there is no better place than a mountaintop for watching and admiring and thinking and learning.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Circling the Crown - a glimpse of Warra National Park

For the first 5km of this adventure I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. The joy of rolling through the countryside was infectious: an icy wind at my tail, granite outcrops and boulders dotted the hills, fern drenched gullies lay in the moist shade of winter.

With a niggling foot injury putting me out of walking action for a while, Caz and I spent last weekend rediscovering another favourite type of outdoor adventure - cycle touring. It had been years since we had done anything like this and within the first two hundred metres I remembered just how much fun touring was. 

Friday, 20 June 2014

Diamond Head - Crowdy Bay National Park

My notebook from this trip has less than one page of scribbled thoughts and observations - vague descriptions of the golden ocean arch and waves firing through its aperture with the booming of an ordinance range, cormorants diving, a pale bellied dolphin spiralling out of the surf, a sea eagle dad showing junior the ropes of wind along the cliffs. All this, blurred by the haze of drifting cloud on a rain slapped headland. Who has time to make notes when there is so much to see around you. 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Sheer walls, sheer exhaustion - Dangars Gorge

It is in serious, hushed silence that we begin this challenging adventure. The dawn sky has turned dark with heavy clouds. We sneak over a fence and pick up a faint track that snakes its way down a gully towards the base of Dangars Falls. It's a wild little descent. The final third of the route is loose scree and dirt and steep. When we reach the bottom of the falls there are shattered rocks on the gorge floor and the signs and sounds of fresh rock slides are everywhere. But, the perspective is breathtaking. It's the sort of spot that makes you want to whisper. Which is not such a bad idea. The towering walls amplify every sound and as a tiny speck of person in the bottom of a big, moving landscape it is often best not to give voice to questions and doubt.

Friday, 9 May 2014

A freak of nature - Awabakal Nature Reserve, Newcastle

I don't know much about geology but I got a good lesson in wonder from this place.

The ongoing, and the visibly ancient, creation of land and rocks is on display along this small stretch of coast - seams of coal are exposed in the cliff faces, huge chunks of sandstone lie scattered like building blocks. The ocean is taking chunks of rock and earth when the swells are huge and driving. Landslips along the cliff face, especially after heavy rain, are sliding the bush into the sea. 

And beneath that dramatic backdrop is a littoral of rock platforms that have eroded into a beautiful mosaic of shapes and protrusions and grooves. These emerge at low tide and on calm days to make us question the randomness of nature.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Way down south - Southwest National Park, Tasmania

Here, where the world is quiet,
Here, where all trouble seems dead
Winds and spent waves riot
- A.C. Swinburne

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Styx River - Oxley Wild Rivers National Park

I remember the descent; an open ridgeline to the river. There were forest red gums on the slope, very little understorey, fine shards of rock underfoot and towards the end it was easier to descend sideways, like a crab, inching our way down. A fire had been through before us, maybe only a week or so prior, and it had left us more view than expected. We could see down into the Styx River valley; from ridgetop to riverside we had to drop 700m in elevation.

As we descended, the elusive spotted quail-thrush nearly eluded us. Two of them took flight through the trees. We listened for their voice: it is a high pitched 'tseep tseep' that is almost beyond hearing and then when settled they call in far-carrying, repetitive notes similar to a treecreeper but slower, more plaintive.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Upper Falls - Hastings River - Werrikimbe National Park

At 4:30am, half dozing, I listen to the continuing rain on the tent. It is like sleeping inside a drum; each drop amplified and resonating as it hits the taught roof and walls. It has been going all night and beneath the rainforest canopy the drips filter down to us as fat, heavy notes with no rhythm. Then suddenly, above the drumbeats, comes a loud, long and tortured scream. In the treetops, a woman is being murdered. Twice she screeches out and we are both instantly wide awake. It is pitch black. I sit up, listen and wait. It comes again, slightly further off, one final drawn out scream then all is quiet.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Mt Maroon - Mount Barney National Park

It is rewarding, uplifting, and spectacular, to stand on the highest mountain and enjoy its view. Sometimes it is equally beautiful climbing the mountain beside it. 

In south-east Queensland Mt Barney is the mountain of choice for adventurous walkers and climbers. However, its smaller neighbour, Mt Maroon, is still a challenging day out and the views from the top are all the more dramatic with the looming, rocky peaks of Mt Barney dominating much of the scene. From Mt Maroon you can look across and stare Barney in the face: read its weathered lines and admire its grandness in the surrounding landscape. And yet, Mt Maroon also cuts a rugged and dramatic silhouette. It is broken by deep gullies and rocky cliffs and boasts a wind-swept summit that has a wildness of its own.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Never Never River - Dorrigo National Park

This has been a good summer for canyoning. The humidity has been suffocating and temperatures above 30 degrees celcius for days in a row mean we have sought out cool, refreshing escapes each weekend. It has barely rained here for more than 8 months and the creeks and rivers in our neighbourhood are low so their rocky banks are easy to walk. But, water is still flowing in the upper reaches of the Never Never River in Dorrigo National Park and its deep black pools are breathtakingly cold. Up here the river is hidden beneath a thick canopy of rainforest, on the shady side of the mountain, and the stifling heat is a memory.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Waratah Trig

There is, we have discovered, a good reason why this track remains unsignposted. It is certainly easy to miss the turnoff, which looks exactly the same as the path that leads to the pit toilet. However, those curious enough to venture past the overhanging bush pea and wattles will be lead through dry, forest to one of the grandest lookout points on the Gibraltar Range - Waratah Trig - a mountain that is also a sacred ceremonial site of the Bundjalung Aboriginal people. 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Platypus Creek - New England National Park

A narrow foot track leads through snow grass and twisted gums to a little visited rocky point called Platypus Lookout in New England National Park. The outcrop provides a bird's eye view from the edge of the New England escarpment across the deep valleys and forest far below where we plan to venture for a three day exploratory walk. From this perspective, the terrain looks inspiring but a little daunting and an aerial perspective presents only a broad brush of the landscape. You can see the forest but not the trees. There are few clues as to what really lies beneath the gently undulating tree tops and amongst the steep gullies that break the escarpment.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

2013 Campsites: the best of the best

A good campsite can elevate a simple weekend exploration into a memorable adventure. It can add wonder to a trip. In truth, each of our journeys into the Australian bush is as much about camping as it is about walking. Each adventure is a continuing conversation about what makes a good campsite, what hazards we have to avoid, the best gear for each unique situation, what is the ideal mix of serenity and scenery.