Sunday, 27 June 2021

Mt Scott, Northern Tasmania. 7 kilometre return hike.

 



Map sourced from Google Maps.

Introduction:

Mt Scott is a flat bump poking out amongst the striking green flora in the Mt Maurice Forest Reserve.  

Worth a look.

Scott is just shy of 1000 metres high and it's a fun old wander through the ferns and myrtles to reach the South facing viewpoint.  Loads of colourful fungi was sprinkled around trailside during my mid June jaunt through the forest and due to some recent blow downs at the start of the track very few people have bothered plugging through which meant I had the place to myself.

Sort of.  When I rocked up to the track head fairly early on a wintry Sunday morning I was somewhat surprised to see another vehicle already parked.  Soon enough a group of 5 oldies bumbled down the road and informed me they couldn't find their way through the tangle of trees and were calling it good.    

Game on. 



Getting There:

Much the same as for Mt Maurice; 

  • From central Launceston it is around 33 kilometres to Camden Hill Road on the A3.
  • Chuck a right hand turn onto Camden Hill Road, it is after the Myrtle Park Recreation Ground.
  • Toddle up for 7.5 kilometres and keep left where the road turns onto Diddlelum Road.
  • Diddlelum turns into East Diddlelum, stay left and continue on trhis road.
  • After around 6 kilometres hang a right and park at the junction.  The trailhead sign is a couple of hundred metres up the track. (photo below)




Map sourced from AllTrails.









Currently there are a few blowdowns and a bit of gnarly growth impeding the start of the trail.  If you carefully follow the markers and keep on an Eastbound direction the trail gets easier and cleared of vegetation.

















I popped the top on the white plastic cylinder containing an old walkers register and wrote a long winded entry describing how I spotted Mt Scott from Mt Maurice months before and thought that I had better get onto it.  Then I wandered around, had a gander, and slinked back down the track to my van.  
A worthy journey to a lesser known natural area.


Other Resources featuring the Mt Scott walk:

Dragon Tales Tasmania

All Trails





Tuesday, 8 June 2021

King Island, Tasmania. 5 days/ 4 nights; trails, cheese, solitude.

 

Cape Wickham lighthouse.


Introduction:

One of the larger 300+ islands that make up the State of Tasmania; King Island is flat, lush, prone to very changeable weather, chock full of fat cows, popular with golfing enthusiasts and known Australia wide for it's excellent diary products.  

Don't lose interest yet, it gets a bit better.

I wanted to know what else this island 65 kilometres long by 25 kilometres wide with a population of 1700 people was all about.

I discovered a pristine, unpopulated coastline with long stretches of sand begging to be walked.

The locals constantly yak away to each other and -shock, horror- visitors too, and they were genuinely convivial and helpful.  Nice folks.
Disdain for travelers doesn't seem to exist, yet.

There's an abundance of native bird life and protected areas heaving with wallabies and terrific views.

The lack of hard hitting attractions and tourist development has instead attracted a steady trickle of curious visitors possibly seeking one or more of the following;

1. Solitude, a quiet getaway 
2. Golfing getaways -there are 3 courses on the island 
3. Offbeat surfing trips 
4. Something completely different from the manic tourist shit fuckery that is Cradle Mountain or  Wineglass  Bay on the larger landmass to the East.  

This trip slots into the first and fourth motives.

King is a costly destination to reach compared to many other popular Australian holiday spots but screw it,  I was a longtime curious and a bit jack of all the sudden State lockdowns due to a yet another Covid infection throwing prospective travel plans into disarray. 
So I stuck close to home and coerced that woman I live with to accompany me.






This is a picture of the map the car rental folks gave me. 
The roads are in good nick; a mixture of sealed tarmac and gravel tracks.


Map sourced from Google Maps.
Getting There:

No ferries, swimming would be a right feat, so a tiny puddle jumper aeroplane it was.  

I flew Sharp Airlines from Launceston to King Island.  
The initial flight went via Wynyard on the North Coast and took around 80 minutes all up.  The plane itself wasn't a complete shitshow but still possibly the second oldest aircraft I have ever traveled in, held together with duct tape and prayers.  
On a positive note, the pilots were first class and the views were sweet.

The return flight went direct to Launceston and took about 45 minutes.

We had to chuck on a mask after parking the car at Launceston airport and keep our faces coddled up until reaching the rental vehicle on King Island.  For us Tassie folk down here where Covid 19 barely struck that was a surreal experience.  Not a big deal but slightly bizarre if you haven't been used to it.  

Flights were pricey; $586 return. Per person.





Transport:

We rented a Hyundai I40 wagon from King Island Car Rental which is basically the only official vehicle rental agency on the island.  I think.
The car drove great, cost $460 for 5 days, had a big hole whopped out of the bumper from a recent Wallaby incident and the odometer topped out at just over 133,000 kilometres.  
Fuel was available in Currie just down from the supermarkets.  Cash only.  

Every single other driver does the finger wave as they pass you.  Everyone.  Every time.  You should too if you make it over here.  I actually found myself waving to fellow motorists as I drove out of Launceston airport upon my return to the big island.  It had gotten ingrained in my brain I guess.

When I head back over (quite soonish I'm thinking) I will swoop in with my touring bicycle and panniers and free camp and explore the island via pedal power now I know my way around and what is out there.  
It's a solid option.
The roads are very quiet and we saw locals push prams and walk their dogs along the minor ones and they don't die in great numbers I'm guessing. 

However, there is a fuckload of road kill scattered about and the bouncers tend to bail out in front of the cars and trucks all hours.  I kept the speed down because I drive like a dude 30 years my senior and I hate killing wildlife and I don't want to kill myself either.  And what's the hurry right?




Accommodation:

I booked a self contained cabin over on the East Coast in Naracoopa.  Cost: $428

We struck gold here.  4 nights at Baudins Accommodation with no one else on the property.

Housekeeping were really swish and left the place very clean when we checked in and the kitchen facilities ticked all the boxes.  The restaurant is closed which means you have to be healthy and get off your bum and cook up some tasty food yourself from all that kick ass King Island produce on offer.  

The location offers a long wild beach, very few people, absolutely no shops or touristy bullshit and plenty of crazy little roads to wander off down.  Recommended.


Currie:

The main settlement with the shops and stuff is Currie.

2 well stocked supermarkets (open 7 days), bottleshops, an always packed bakery, the pub and hotel and a butcher.

I had lunch one day at Elle's Beef and Reef, can recommend.


Who cut the cheese:

The King Island Diary cheese store and tasting room adjacent to the rather large factory just North of the airport is one of the island's major attractions.  Lovely little Porky Beach nearby is worth your time too.

Opening times during our April 2021 visits were 11am to 4:30pm, closed Thursday and Saturday.

The set up is simple- you bowl up, request a basic tasting platter and tuck in.  The coffee was solid too even though I was afterwards informed it came out of an automatic machine and there are alcoholic beverages on offer too.
I was dragged in for a tasting twice by my cheese loving girlfriend and we purchased a suitcase worth of delicious milk products to take back home.





The public shelter at Penny's Lagoon features a spectacular setting and rarely used barbeque facilities.

Yup, Kelp can be made into truly useful stuff and also things you really do not need. 


Ree on Fraser Beach.


Walks:

This is actually what I got up to most of the time.  You know, walking.  Wandering.  Ambling.  Striding.

The established trails oscillate wildly between lovingly groomed and over signposted efforts courtesy of Parks and Wildlife to "is that a really, really old roo track or the path?"  Much of the time you follow a rarely driven dirt track.

One word of advice- pack accordingly.  If you head over and explore a bit you will be moving around  on a flat chunk of low lying land in the middle of the Bass Strait. It is very exposed and the weather is super changeable.   
Best to chuck in a rain jacket and sunscreen (and gloves if it's Winter) and water and toilet paper and a bag for your toilet paper and take a map or use your phone or something to know where you are.  
Just saying.

There are loads of options for half day and full day walks.  And plenty of farm gates to open and shut and Kelp trucks cruising around collecting the aquatic plant straight off the coast line.  

These were 6 worthy explorations I enjoyed.

Map sourced from Google Maps.

A
  Cape Wickham Lighthouse.  1km.

Stokes Point. 11km return.

Naracoopa to the Blowhole.  14km return.

Penny's Lagoon.  1km circumnavigation.

Calcified Forest/ Seal Rocks Lookout.  2km in total.

Cataraqui Memorial.  2km return.



Approaching Stokes Point.



Guidebook and Information:

I photocopied a few pages from Ken Martin's slightly oldish 'Walks of King Island' which I borrowed from the Launceston library.  
Aside from one memorable shitfight clambering over branches and blow downs attempting to locate a no longer existing trail the guide is solid and tells you all you need to know.

The ladies at the hire car desk were super friendly and full of great advice too. 



Friday, 14 May 2021

Western Arthur's A to K Circuit. SouthWest National Park, Tasmania. 4 days/ 3 nights, 54 kilometres.



Map sourced from Google Maps.

INTRODUCTION:

Here we go- the big kahuna.  The infamous Western Arthur's!  

At present only the A to K Western Arthur's circuit is permissible, not the full traverse, so that's what I looped around at the end of April 2021. 

Common impressions floating around about the hike include:
  • Low daily mileage.  
  • Spectacular mountain scenery and copious wild alpine lakes.
  • The planet's absolutely worst, horrible weather.  
  • The trail of sucking knee deep mud to Junction Creek.  
  • A rite of passage for every self respecting Aussie hiker with a large pair of hairy rocks between their legs (metaphorically where the ladies are concerned).

The track that supposedly induces a continual 5 day adrenaline rush and compels people to regal stories of agonising hardship and death defying adversity in the Southern hills of Tasmania.

Well yeah, nah.  Sort of.  Depends.

This wild romp in the mountains has been promoted and discussed ad nauseam online for years and I actually heard whispers of the rough n' ready Western Arthur's (WA) and the apparent difficulty in traversing the region as being second only to mighty Everest whilst wandering around Nepal yonks ago.  
Tales of terrified walkers and sickly down climbs abound and they are probably mostly almost maybe true.

This is my 2 cents and some dodgy observations regarding the WA  Alpha to Kappa Circuit.



GETTING THERE:  

Around 4.5 hours of driving South from Launceston or 2 hours West from Hobart to the trail head/ parking area/ campground at Scotts Peak Dam Road, South West National Park.

No scheduled transport runs to Lake Pedder, however on demand shuttles originate in Hobart.  
I used one (cannot remember the business name) waaaaay back in 2011 when I hiked the Port Davey and South Coast Tracks and it cost me around $120 from Hobart. 

A young guy from Sydney I met at Lake Oberon said he had jumped on a public bus to Westerway (a town on the B61 highway from Hobart) and hitched a ride to Lake Pedder.

Maydena is the last settlement where provisions can be procured but I would hit up a larger sized town such as New Norfolk beforehand where choice and range is far more extensive if you need anything essential.  

Windy roads and spectacular forests will guide you down the C607 to Lake Pedder.
The final 30 kilometres is gravel and potholes so take it easy.

There is a walkers register at the Port Davey trail head where the hike begins, the track starts over the road just to the left.

PERMITS:  

As the Western Arthur Range lies within South West National Park you are required to purchase a Tasmanian Parks Pass, displayed on your vehicle if you have parked one at the trail head.  Tas Parks Pass Website


SAFARI TRACK RATING:

Fuckin gnarly.  

This 54 kilometre circuit winding along purple-white quartzite rock and squeezing between tight scrubby bush has been run in under half a day, but most punters take 5 to 6 days depending on the weather, how heavy their pack is and how many people are rolling together.

The first 7 kilometres on the Port Davey Trail to Junction Creek is legendary even in Tasmania for it's thigh deep mud and the only way to successfully hike it is to embrace the slop and laugh it off.  
After the first easy spell of duckboard planking it gets nasty real quick.

Recent popularity of Lake Oberon as a 2 or 3 day out and back hike has smashed the low lying ground and any improvement to the 'track' will probably only encourage more foot traffic.  It's is what it is and I don't feel any need to revisit it soon.

The climb up Alpha Moraine, basically a steep, rocky ridgeline, is straightforward and the path to Oberon is nicely constructed and unchallenging.  

After that the fun stuff begins; the down climb to Lake Oberon gives you a taste of what is to come in the days ahead.  Very doable and nothing outrageous but not the easy, flowing walking- you know, eating up the miles- that I personally chase.   Slow going and the arms are utilised often.  

I carried and used a 10 metre 6mm prusik cord as a rope to lower my pack down the very steep sketchy bits when I felt unsafe downclimbing with it on my back.  
Just remember, the holds, tree roots and ledges are always there when you need them even if you can't see them.

After Lake Sirona I bowled down the track without any complications and took the shortcut to McKay's Track which was flat, fast and spat me out at Junction Creek for a return battle with the mud.

Photo of the topo map I carried.  I hiked anti clock wise on the lollipop loop.


DAY 1:  Scotts Peak Dam Trailhead to Lake Cygnus.  17.3 km.

7 hours.  Discovering the magic of these mountains, good camping on the platforms.

DAY 2:  Lake Cygnus to Lake Oberon.  4.2 km.

4 hours.  The rain hooted down at 12pm so I threw up the tent and read Beau Miles' latest book.

DAY 3:  Lake Oberon to Haven Lake.  8 km.

9 hours.  Really fun day poking up and down and around the cliff edges and taking in my surroundings.

DAY 4:  Haven Lake to Scotts Peak Dam Trailhead.  24.5 km.

10 hours.  Mostly flat walking, great sighting the range from a distance.


Junction Creek crossing.



Track junction after the muddy stuff (mostly) ends.




MAPS AND RESOURCES:


I carried the TasMap Western Arthur 1:50000 topographic map.


The track notes from John Chapman's South West Tasmania 2017 Sixth Edition were spot on.




Every now and then the track would get a bit faint or seem incongruous so I checked the basic offline Western Arthur's Traverse map on the Gaia App.  
There is a fair bit of Telstra mobile phone coverage on the high points overlooking the Arthur Plains facing North too.

Lunch stop at High Moor Campsite on Day 3





Another crazy pants-browning down climb.


Haven Lake Tent Platform campsite Day 3


First light above Haven Lake.




Heading West on the McKay's Track to Junction Creek.

GEAR:

I hate talking gear.  I swear the only reason some dudes get outside is to use their gear.  And talk gear.  And then talk about how they used their gear.  Slap me.

Anyway, it's an exciting changeable environment up there at 1000 metres above sea level in the Arthur's so here's what I took gear wise for what it's worth.  

No huts, no shops, few bug out options.  

I went solo and possibly a tad overboard because of this and carried a monster pack weighing 13.8 kilos everything included; full kit, food for 6 days and a litre of water.  Too heavy to feel safe on many of the down climbs so I belayed my pack when necessary and it was torn to shreds by the end of my 4 days of fun.  
But hey right.

Tarptent Rainbow (shelter), Sea to Summit Ether Light Mattress, Heavy duty Montbell Down Jacket, 2 quilts (Tier Gear and Enlightened Equipment) just in case I froze my arse off, one Gossamer Gear hiking pole and plenty of clothing.  
Topo Mountain Racers on the feet and I never wear socks.  
I carried gaiters but they just stayed in my pack as cargo.  I wore pants and shorts as the sun or cloud dictated.  

I had read somewhere that the mice that lurk around the official campsites were very friendly (correct) and keen on an easy feed so I stored my food supplies in an OP (Odour Proof) sack.

Aside from a wee dusting on Day 2 I struck a mostly fine weather window and although my rain jacket was useful on the windy ridgelines, late April wasn't really cold or wet this year.

Embrace the mud bitch.




Sunrise over Lake Pedder whilst driving home the morning after finishing up the trail.

OTHER RESOURCES:

I recommend Cam Honan's excellent post everything you need to know about the WA Traverse.


Erin Saver's blog posts about her WA Traverse in 2017 were very useful.