Thursday, 22 December 2016

Open your eyes to this year's wild land

I remember battling 120km/hr winds on top of an exposed peak, struggling to keep my sanity while searching for a foot of ground we could safely sleep on. Then there was the night we slept under the stars, tucked amongst sandstone pagodas as if living in a private wing of some grand, many-roomed castle. Months earlier, our adventures had brought us the unexpected beauty of an ephemeral waterfall tucked up a narrow valley in a landscape caught between the semi-arid and the granite belt. Which reminds me of the breakfast we had the next morning, watching a spotted quoll rummage through cracks on the cliff-lined creek.

It has been a good year. Twenty-two National Parks in 12 months, with multiple visits to some of them. This blog, then, is a collection of observations and snippets from a year of adventures. It is also our passionate call to everyone - get out into this amazing wild landscape we live in.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Valley of a Thousand Fallen Trees - Barrington Tops National Park, NSW

Last month we walked through The Valley of a Thousand Fallen Trees to reach The Ancient Lands of Poa. Magical places high in the mountains, hidden amongst trees of autumn-colour-in-spring and filled with birds born from the blood of lovers.

In less fantastical language, we spent three days struggling up the tree choked and rugged Kerripit River valley in Barrington Tops National Park until we reached the high plateau and collapsed in an exhausted heap on the snow grass, grateful to have finally reached clear open beech forest where new spring growth blushed the forest in autumnal colours and breeding pairs of crimson rosellas roosted in the treetops. 

And, while we created mystical names for the landscape, there is a very real mystery hidden in the forests and mountains - Australia's only modern-day unsolved aircraft disappearance.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Donkey Mountain - Gardens of Stone National Park, NSW

This is a tale of two extremes. A story from different ends of the one valley as well as different ends of the social and economic spectrum.

It begins, however, with a unique and beautiful ass – Donkey Mountain which is part of Gardens of Stone National Park. Donkey Mountain sits alone in the middle of the Wolgan Valley, north-east of Lithgow on the western fall of the Greater Blue Mountains. 

Monday, 19 September 2016

Tinderry Peak, Tinderry Nature Reserve, NSW

It looks a bleak day for a walk. The dawn is grey.  Icy rain is falling in heavy squalls. We are in a spartan, upstairs room at a pub in Braidwood. There is a ghost, apparently, and all night the floorboards have been creaking. There is no heating and cold draughts sneak under the double doors that open onto a wide verandah. The empty street below is wet and shining under the light of a waxing moon.

But just 50km west, as the crow flies, this rain is falling as lovely snow and gathering in drifts on the granite tors atop Tinderry Peak.

By the time we finish a leisurely breakfast, the sun is out. By the time we reach Round Flat Fire Trail, and park the car at the start of our planned walk, there is clear blue sky and a cracking forecast for the days ahead.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Coonarma Peak - Gibraltar Range National Park, NSW

Many of our destinations are points on a map with no access track. Walks with no right or wrong way, in or out. This is one of those – to a peak perched on the edge of wilderness, a day's walk there and another back again, a weekend spent in conversation with the topography of the Gibraltar Range. 

Coonarma Peak is located in Gibraltar Range National Park in northern New South Wales. The national park is located 69km east of Glen Innes or 92km west of Grafton and within it, Coonarma Peak is an obscure outcropping of granite that juts out of the highland swamps and breaks open the ridges of dry stringybark forest. It is topped by an old trig marker and the sugary blossoms of grass tree spears in flower.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Waiting for Barney - Mt Barney National Park, Qld

A country road. A flooded creek. Morning. 

What do we do now? Wait. Yes, but while waiting?

Trying to reach Mt Barney is starting to feel like a scene from Waiting for Godot. We are forced into a holding pattern. So, Caz heads off taking photos of the flooded Logan River and its pretty rapids that ribbon through rounded boulders. I pace the road for a while and then begin searching the river oaks for elusive birds that seem to have vanished now I have my binoculars out.

“Vladimir: That passed the time.

Estragon: It would have passed in any case."

Actually, we have been waiting more than 5 years to climb this gentleman's peak. On our first attempt we were turned back by fire, as the park was scheduled for a prescribed burn. Not having checked ahead, we had donned packs, walked 2km in, and were confronted with the warning signs wired to the gate. Nothing to be done. We walked back out, and waited. 

Until now.  

This time it is flooding rains holding us back, and Mt Barney might evade us yet again.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The Magic of Munmorah State Conservation Area, NSW

A week-day morning in Munmorah State Conservation Area and fisherman are strung along the rock shelf beneath Wybung Head casting baited lines into the turquoise water. Swell surges and foams against the coast and the sound of the ocean carries up to us as we search along the headland cliff-line for a track down to the long platform of rock below. The view south, from high on the bluff, takes in 8km long Birdie Beach with Budgewoi and Norah Head lighthouse in the distance and Bird Island Nature Reserve sitting offshore.

But, to the north, we can see a more varied, rugged coastline; a series of bluffs and sandy beaches, wide rock shelves and boulder strewn bays snaking around to Snapper Point. This is the direction we intend exploring, picking our way along the littoral to our finish point at Catherine Hill Bay. We are searching for some of the spectacular coastal features that are the secret behind this section of coast's protected status. We just have to get down off this cliff.