It was the CBC’s turn to put on the medium/hard Wednesday walk and Linda led a lovely off track walk from the Corin Dam Road in the A.C.T. over the hills and everywhere, around the headwaters of Blue Gum Creek. We walked through lovely forest and found some wonderful granite tors which offered great views, including views of Blue Gum Hill, so named because of several rare, blue-leafed eucalypts growing near its summit. Blue Gum Hill is more of a steep and prominent mountain, dominating the grasslands below than a hill, and now, with the beginning of the Smokers Trail closed to vehicle access much harder to reach than a few years ago. Linda managed to avoid any bad scrub and found some wonderful open, grassy glades through the trees. Down in the valley there were numerous heaths in flower. Lovely. I was kicking myself as, given the forecast for rain, I had left my camera at home. Blast.
3 days later, Saturday, I was on Terrylea’s walk up Stockyard Spur to Pryor’s Hut. You can see an earlier post of mine covering this route in much more detail.. I had decided that I would never do it again. It is highly demanding. However, I couldn’t resist the lure despite the awful weather forecast. Terrylea was in touch with me ahead of the walk wondering whether to cancel it or find an alternative. However, an examination of the new Bureau of Meteorology Beta site gave some hope and she decided to take a chance on the weather. At Corin Dam, where we commenced the walk up Stockyard Spur, it was dry but quite misty, the mist imparting a mystical (mistical?) , magical quality to the forest, especially to the higher sub-alpine areas of Snow Gums. The grey/white bark of these trees become phantoms in the mist. I love walking in mist. (see my earlier post on mist)
Stockyard Spur is unrelenting : it rises well over 500 metres in about 2 km. Soon we were wet with perspiration. It was hard work. However, we completed this steep pitch to the helicopter pad (for fire fighting) in about an hour, where Terrylea called a halt for morning tea in the mist. Always amusing to hear inexperienced bushwalkers speaking so authoritatively and incorrectly about where they are on the hills. The problem is that they give wrong information and vibes to others. They should learn not to say anything.
From the helicopter pad the track loses its footpad nature and becomes a 4×4 track, undulating along the ridge through Snow Gums and Snowgrass, Bossia scrub coming into flower, buttercups shining gold and beautiful orchids blooming along the track. Since Terrylea ( and I think most of the others) did not know the whereabouts of the two viewpoints at the highest point along this ridge, I took them to both, one each side of the track, although the mist didn’t allow any views. From there it was only a few minutes to the junction with the Mt Franklin Fire Trail and 10-15 minutes later, at 12.05 pm, we were at Pryors Hut, a typically dark and gloomy hut inside, erected as a shelter for workers at the old arboretum decades ago .
Terrylea actually wanted to continue from the hut to the southern summit of nearby Mt Gingera but this option had not gone onto the program. It was a most “do-able” option, but some in the party did not wish to go any further, possibly influenced by the most authoritatively given but incorrect advice put forward by an inexperienced bushwalker who was also inexperienced in assessing those in the party. Why do such people always feel that they must give advice? So we entered the gloomy hut for lunch. Only another ¾ hour would have seen us on the summit. Three of the party pulled out stoves to make tea or coffee and one person had even brought with him a picnic chair to sit on.
As we left the hut after lunch the clouds melted away and we had the most glorious sunny afternoon. How lovely it would have been on the top of Mt Gingera. Oh, ye doom and gloom merchants! However, Terrylea had no real option – she had no certain knowledge that the sun would shine, the Gingera summit option had not been advertised and she did not wish to split the party.
With the mist gone, Terrylea gave us ample time to revisit the two viewpoints, the one overlooking the Cotter Valley apparently known as “The Grandstand” although I have never heard it called this before. We spent some time at each, admiring the stunning views.
I love this high country, the alpine and, as here, the sub-alpine country. This afternoon could not have been better. I was not at all appreciative that we had to leave it and return to the low country. I guess I suffer from “littoralphobia “ .
Mystical. Wonderful to be in mist. Near the heli pad, after the really steep bit is over.
Pryor’s Hut on the saddle between Mt Gingera and Little Ginini
Our lovely leader at “The Grandstand” view point at the highest point along the track to Pryor’s Hut.
View across the Cotter Valley from “The Grandstand”
Also from “The Grandstand” . Snowy Flat Creek is coming in from the bottom right. It flows into the Corin Dam on the Cotter River.
At the viewpoint on the other side of the track from “The Grandstand”
Orchids on the track ; Stegostyla alpina or Mountain Caps
Still in the sub alpine zone. A glorious, sparkling mountain afternoon
Back at Corin Dam – Tidbinbilla Mountain, with Mt Domain to its right
On the following Tuesday I joined the hard walks brigade, the Tuesday Walkers! Terrylea had suggested that it would be fun and that I should go. I hadn’t been on one of these for quite a few years, but as she was going and we are fairly evenly matched, I decided to give it a try. Unbelievably the beginning of this walk was also up Stockyard Spur, and I gave a wry smile when I remembered that earlier this year I had said I would never go up it again. There were more wildflowers out than on the previous Saturday and there was no mist. Many birds were calling. A lovely day. Ian gave us a brief stop at the heli pad before continuing along the ridge for a couple k’s or so, then we left the track at about 626, 649, in a south-south east direction (from memory) . This was a day of exploration : just to see what was there. We headed for Snowy Flat Creek and then up to the summit of a prominent hill on the far side. Although off track and a bit scrubby, the walking was generally good, through lovely forest. We had a pleasant morning tea stop on the way to Snowy Flat Creek, which looked lovely, with its small waterfalls and bright green, moss-covered rocks. I took the opportunity of topping up my water bottle. Beautiful, potable, mountain water. We crossed the creek at about 632, 638 . From the creek we climbed steadily, coming across many rock outcrops hidden away in the trees. The summit, at about 632, 630, is a mass of granite tors and we had to make our way through these. In between the granite there were patches of various heaths, one of which was quite extensive with cream flowers which emitted the most beautiful, daphne-esque scent. I am sure that it was Epacris paludosa. All across the summit area of this mountain we also pushed our way through large areas of mint bush (Prostanthera sp) and Mountain Pepper . I had not realised that Mountain Pepper (Tasmannia sp) has such a definite scent, but then I had never actually walked through it before. However, a favourite scent of mine is that exuded by Mint Bush as one walks through it and today waves of its lovely perfume wafted over us. For me, it is reminiscent of thyme and brings to mind joyous days in the high country. Wild Mountain Thyme. So always I am reminded of the Scottish song of the same name , I guess my Scots/Celtic blood comes to the fore. You can here it here:
We spent some time on the summit, in the sunshine, gazing at the blue mountains and deeper blue valleys of this lovely mountain land before Ian led us off to another high granite jumble of huge rocks, passing a fat, coiled snake , thought to be a Tiger, barely visible under grass, some of its scales glinting gold in the sun. Shortly after this we came to a lovely “cave” and then Terrylea went off exploring and found a lovely spot for lunch (at about 635, 631) with great views across to Stockyard Spur.
After lunch Ian took us to a final granite outcrop, at about 636, 631. From here we went steeply down and down, down into Snowy Flat Creek, which we crossed on deep green, moss-covered boulders just above a beautiful small waterfall, all in rain forest, with tree ferns and not-so-tree ferns. A beautiful place, and here again I filled my water bottle. (about 637, 637)
From here, it was a long climb, interrupted by a slight descent into a tributary of Snowy Flat Creek. Here we were in super Alpine Ash forest.
We hit the Stockyard Spur track not far from the heli pad, at about 641, 654. From there it was only a few minutes back to the Heli pad where Eric was waiting for us, and then the descent of Stockyard Spur to the cars which we reached not long after 4.00 pm, a total time of 8.5 hours. Terrylea , at the end of the walk, had said that we had done over 17 km and about 1250m of climb, but I see that on downloading the track, her GPS reading has settled down and is now 14.8 km and 1164 m climb.
A really grand walk and we all seemed to have plenty of energy left at the end of it all.
How lucky we are to still have all this beauty and wilderness around us. I wonder, though, how long it will last. Our fragile earth. It is fragile and we are not looking after it, not even those who love it.
Corin Dam from Stockyard Spur. As you can see, the ground falls very steeply to the dam and the beginning of the walk.
Waterfall at our first crossing of Snowy Flat Creek
A lot of fallen timber here!
Heading up, gaining height, the scrub has eased. The first of many granite boulders
Nearing the summit, threading our way through the tors
View from the summit looking south
View from the summit looking north, Tidbinbilla Mtn and Mt Domain
Our fearless leader can’t get any higher
Terrylea and Ian in the “cave” near where we had lunch
The view from the last of the tors we explored .
Mt Bimberi, highest point in the ACT in the background right of centre
From the last tor we explored on the summit area. From here we headed back and down to Snowy Flat Creek before ascending to Stockyard Spur
Approaching Snowy Flat Creek on the way back
Waterfall on Snowy Flat Creek. We crossed just above it.
Careful! those rocks are slippery. Crossing Snowy Flat Creek
The following day I went off on the Wednesday medium/hard walk in the area of Bendora Arboretum in the Brindabella Range, up near Bulls Head on the Franklin Road. This walk was a doddle after the others, along a hardpacked fire trail and with far too many people (22) . About 15 km and 560 m climb. One loses any sense of being in wilderness or in the mountains on such walks. They are, however, excellent for socialising, for catching up with people or meeting others. And it must be emphasised that this walk took us through some absolutely enchanting forest filled with light, scents and birdsong. The arboretum , too, is a lovely place and today it was filled with light and fantastic birdsong. A wonderful place to be. I could have sat there all afternoon
At Bendoura Arboretum
Life, death and rebirth. Bendora Arboretum
Mountain Pepper at Bendora Arboretum
The western side of part of the Tidbinbilla Range from near Bendora Arboretum