Sunday, September 8, 2013

Gillies Lookout Via Robsons Track

We were having a pleasant, if rainy, stay at Goldsborough Valley Campground in Wooroonooran National Park, accessed off the Gillies Highway south of Cairns. This campground is one of only two on our entire 4.5 month journey where we have been the only campers (and over a weekend!), and we enjoyed the luxury of absolute quiet and no smoky campfires. We had a nice large grassy, if wet, site right by the Mulgrave River with a wonderful deep, clear swimming hole steps from our caravan door.

The resident Ranger (completely bushed as far as I can tell), would come by each day with ever more dire predictions of rains, rising river levels, floods, and territorial, mating crocodiles coming early to heat because of the unseasonal rains. I alternated between thinking he actually believed the future was fraught with danger and suspecting he just enjoyed winding up the naive Canadians.

Late Saturday morning, the weather actually cleared a little and the rain stopped so we drove back out to the Gillies Highway and up past Little Mulgrave towards Yurrabunga and the start of Robsons Track to Gillies Lookout. This is about 16.5 km from the junction of the Gillies and Bruce Highways and is marked by a larger than normal pull-out on the north side of the Gillies Highway and a small monument marking the trailhead and describing the history of the trail.

I'm not sure what the elevation gain on the trail is, but it isn't that much, maybe a couple of hundred metres. The trail is relatively steep and quite eroded at first as it winds up between large granite boulders splitting here and there but always rejoining further up. After about half an hour, the angle eases back and the trail continues winding up a dry spur ridge with views of the Bellenden Ker Range and the Goldsborough Valley opening up. Two thirds of the way up, the trail drops steeply down a small ravine to cross a creek and climbs just as steeply out the other side, then, wanders gradually uphill through open forest and grassland to join an old forestry road up near the ridge top. At this junction, you turn left and within five minutes come out at Gillies Lookout and the hang-gliders launch site.

There is a great view of the Goldsborough Valley with the Mulgrave River a silvery line running through. The heads of Bartle Frere and Bellenden Ker were in the clouds and showers were washing over the pyramidal Walshs Pyramid. More importantly, we couldn't help but notice that the far Goldsborough Valley where the Mulgrave River arises and the campground is, were perennially in the cloud as continuous showers (rain) passed over.

We arrived back at the Gillies Highway as a family were pulling out and the woman asked us if we had enjoyed our hike and “gone all the way.” When we replied to both in the affirmative she heartily congratulated us on our stamina, but, I had to bite back the caustic comment “that it's not that far” which, might have been churlish, but was certainly truthful. 

Doug Overlooking The Goldsborough Valley

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