Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Secret Is To Know When To Stop: Sandy Point to Roches Beach

Sunday in Tasmania was another of those days with a seemingly endless series of weather warnings, bushwalkers, mariners, even sheep, were warned that the day would be full of wild weather with strong winds, snow, hail, and thunderstorms. If I am not camping out, I love being out in bad weather. There is something stirring about wandering the hills or coast in strong winds, lashing rain, and dampening fog. Not wanting to drive too far, I chose Seven Mile Beach for the days walk and went out well equipped for miserable weather. 
Parking at Day Use Area #3, I wandered down to the deserted beach and walked the seven kilometres up to Sandy Point. No-one was about, not even the usual dog-walkers within the usual ten minutes of the parking lot, the wind was wildly blowing out to sea and dark clouds scudded over Mount Wellington. As I was walking back, I noted a prominent hill at the south end of the beach - Single Hill - and decided it would be good to also walk down there and hike up to the top for a view. So, I ambled the other four kilometres down to the south end of the beach, passing a few dog walkers near to the various car parks. 

 Lonely beach

At the south end of the beach, a set of stairs led up to a nice relatively new looking track so I figured I should follow this track and see where it led. The track climbed slightly and then wrapped around the headland below Single Hill eventually reaching Roches Beach. It was all delightfully pleasant as the weather, apart from 25 knot winds, was really quite benign. My feet, however, were starting to get a bit sore as I was wearing, as is usual, a pair of worn out shoes with the soles falling off. I found a memorial picnic bench and sat for a few minutes to rub my feet and drink a thermos of green tea before thinking I should amble on back as time was slipping away and I had been walking well over four hours. 

 Rainbow over Seven Mile Beach

Back on the beach, a rainbow was hanging over one lonely boat moored under Single Hill, a threatening grey cloud loomed over head, and the beach was entirely deserted, even near the parking areas. I strolled back, partly on the beach and partly on a sandy track immediately behind sand dunes. At one point, I did wonder if I had somehow missed the parking area, but, on reflection I realised I had simply walked much further than I remembered, so I ambled on until, six hours and 30 kilometres after starting out, I wandered, somewhat footsore in to Day Use Area #3. Sometimes, I start walking and don't know when to stop.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Twelve Steps Into Your Own Backyard

When your social media feeds become jammed with photos showing a series of fantastic camp-sites (at least half of which are surely staged - no-one willingly sleeps on a talus slope), soaring ridge lines, dazzling waterfalls, glowing sunsets, and the beautiful people are all trying to take a photo that will "trend well on Instagram," it's easy to think that adventure can only be found in distant lands equipped with fabulously expensive equipment. The image might play well for generating followers, but, adventure as Patrick Watson says is "twelve steps into your backyard."

Milking out one last run in the fading light,
Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park

All that adventure really requires is access to the natural world - the more expansive the better, but even a small park can offer adventure - some imagination and a desire to explore. You don't need a car, a GPS, a fancy hydration pack, or a handful of sugar filled gels, all you need is the desire to see and do something new to you. 

 Sunset, Spring Mountains, Oregon

I have hiked, climbed, skied and paddled in many countries, but, some of my best adventures have been the ones when I literally walked "twelve steps into (my) backyard, Through the tall green grass and into the world." 

 Sea kayaking Palau

One sunny spring day when we were living in Nelson, we decided to climb Copper Mountain from our house without using any infernal combustion engines. We rode mountain bikes 12 km and 1200 metres up Copper Mountain Forest Service Road until we hit the snow left over from the winter. Stashing the bikes in the trees, we continued on foot to the pass between Red and Copper Mountains, and took the south ridge to the summit where we enjoyed eye-popping views of the surrounding mountain ranges. 

 Bonnington Range, Nelson, BC

One year in July, when we were both nursing climbing injuries and could not go mountaineering, we loaded our bikes on the front of the Slocan Valley community bus, and rode up the valley from our house in Nelson to Slocan City, where we climbed a half dozen sport routes under a glowing sun on Slocan Bluff. We had lunch in a park at the south end of Slocan Lake, and cycled the Slocan Valley Rail Trail south down the Slocan Valley following the meandering bank of the Slocan River through river willows and past beaver ponds all the way to our house in Nelson. 

Quiet pools along the Slocan Valley Rail Trail,
Slocan, BC 

Our Tasmanian house-sit, situated in the rolling farm-land by Native Hut Rivulet, has provided endless hours of adventure. I've followed animal tracks through gorgeous eucalpyt forest in the fading light to watch the sunset over Mount Wellington from Howards Hill. In the early morning, before dawn, I've walked out through the open fields with kookaburras laughing at me as I hiked uphill to watch the fog rolling through the valleys across farm-houses with one light shining in the darkness. Echidnas and wallabies have watched me as I pass by on beaten in animal tracks, and rainbows stretch over water holes. 

 Rainbow over waterhole,
Campania, Tasmania

I discovered a 50 metre long sandstone bluff in a grove of native gum trees and I've scrubbed the lichen off to create a private bouldering wall. Wallabies lie sleeping in the bush nearby as I spend an hour working different boulder problems before meandering along animal tracks through fern gullies back to the house. Five hundred metres above the valley, on Coal River Sugarloaf, I've wandered lost in a foggy gum forest on a drizzling grey day, and descended the south ridge down to the valley on a sunny day with brightly coloured parrots flying through the trees. 

 Looking down on Campania from Coal River Sugarloaf

Each time I've walked out the door and into the world, I've had a new adventure. Some days I go out early, some days late, some times in the bright noon-day sun, and others in gusting winds and blowing rain. I've shivered and sweated, seen sunrises and sunsets, watched kangaroos boxing, and echidnas digging for insects. Cockatoos have shrieked at me from the tree tops, and kookaburras laughed. Each minute, each hour has been a gift, and it's all required nothing more than a pair of old sneakers, a raincoat, a wooly hat and the desire to explore. "Ain't it feel right, Ain't it feel nice, In your own backyard."

 Dead gum at sunset,
Campania, Tasmania

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Marion Beach

This is a short one, with just a couple of photos. I dragged Doug away from his desk again and we drove to Marion Beach, a little community on the coast east of Copping and walked from Marion Spit up to the end of Eagle Beach, about 20 kilometers. This is a beach walk that is hard to beat. The beach is flat and easy walking even at high tide, and, as the only access is at the south end, the further north you walk, and you don't have to go far, the less people you'll see. 

It is a beautiful stretch of the Tasmanian coast with views out to Maria Island and south to the Forestier Peninsula. You can walk all the way through to Rheban, on a somewhat overgrown track, but that would involve more of a car shuttle than we were interested in. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Oatlands to Parratah

Apparently, Oatlands has some of the “best bouldering in Tasmania,” and the on-line guidebook sported photos of nice clean looking sandstone boulders that, apparently, are “generally quite solid,” so I thought I would drive up and take a look. I also planned on walking the Lake Dulverton track (about 8 km each way) that runs from Oatlands to the small hamlet of Parratah, following the lake shore and the alignment of an old railway line. 

Driving north from Campania, big grey clouds lay right across the northern horizon and I began to wonder if rain was perhaps imminent. I parked by Lake Dulverton in Oatlands, and immediately put on my rain jacket and gloves. A strong north wind was blowing and the temperature felt quite frigid. Last time we had been in Oatlands, at the end of summer, a strong south wind had been blowing and it also felt quite frigid. Perhaps Oatlands is just cold and windy all year round. 

 Front approaching Lake Dulverton

It began raining almost immediately as I followed the track around Lake Dulverton past the two bund walls to the site of an old flax mill and Freds Point. Beyond the second bund wall, there is little water in the lake but the upper lakes have water fed into them from Arthurs Lake up in the Central Highlands to provide bird habitat; a strategy which is obviously working as there are lots of birds. 

At the end of the lake at Bacons Bay, the track follows the Tunnack Road to Parratah. This is still pleasant walking, however, as the track is mostly sheltered from the road by trees and there is minimal vehicle traffic. Near the junction with the Inglewood Road, the track passes by a private forest reserve and a beautiful forest of eucalpyts. I was in driving rain by this time so my camera had been tucked away. 

 Someone is going to get wet

For some reason, the track ends about 900 metres before you reach Parratah where there is a huge Macrocarpa tree (over 10 metres around) planted sometime in the early 1800's. As I was so close to Parratah, I wandered into town which is perhaps looking a little down at heel. There is a restored railway station, closed, an old hotel, closed and for sale, and a brightly painted general store, also closed. In fact, apart from three workmen – two watching, one working – the entire town seemed “closed.” There was not a single curtain open in any of the houses along the main street. 

The rain stopped and the wind even died down a bit which made the walk back much more pleasant as I could now actually see what was around me. The clouds over Lake Dulverton were quite fantastic. 

 Fabulous clouds over Lake Dulverton

At Freds Point, I walked down to the lake and walked across the dry lake bed back to the second bund, checking out any likely bouldering along the way (lichenous and loose). I crossed over the second bund and spent a fair bit of time walking past what I assume is all the bouldering in the area, but it was overgrown, dirty, and, when I jumped on one horizontal roof, both handholds broke and I landed flat on my back in the gorse below. 

Instead of going back to the track, I followed the lake shore around and did find three or four areas where there was some evidence of climbing, but the routes were way too hard for me, and, I was so stiff and cold from being out in the rain and cold wind for hours, that I doubt I could have climbed even a VE. Finally, I was back at the first bund, where I hopped the fence and walked back to the car for a hot cup of tea.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Two Islands And A Beach: Primrose Beach to Sloping Island and Green Head

When you see ice on the seat of your kayak, you know that, despite the sunny weather, it will be a chilly paddle. Our usual paddle outings from Campania have been on the east side of the Tasman Peninsula, a coastline of big sea cliffs, intricate sea caves, exposed open ocean, and few kayak landing sites, but, with a large southerly swell running, we opted for a more protected paddle in Frederick Henry Bay launching from Primrose Beach and paddling past Isle of Caves, Sloping Island, Sloping Reef, and Green Head on a 22 kilometre circle route. 

 Launch site at Primrose Beach,
D. Brown photo

There is a small boat ramp off the beach at the west end of Primrose Bay that garners little boat traffic, the more developed ramp and marina, on the east side of Primrose Point attracts the infernal combustion crowd, and we chose this as our launch site. It was cold, really chilly cold, and we quickly pulled our decks over our cockpits and launched as carefully as possible to avoid getting wet. Luckily, the beach is very sheltered so this was easy. 

 Paddling out of Primrose Bay,
D. Brown photo

Isle of Caves, 1.5 kilometres off-shore, is a little bigger than I thought it would be, but has only very small caves. It does, however, house many sea birds and some fur seals. One curious seal swam all around us sticking his head up every minute or so to see just what we were about. It is four kilometres across Flinders Channel – some current does run – to Sloping Island. Our topographic map shows a couple of old tracks and an old building so I assume the island was put to agricultural use in the past. 

 Doug soaking up the winter sun on Lagoon Beach

At the south end of Sloping Island is Sloping Reef, a rocky cluster of rocks home to many sea birds and more fur seals, and well worth a lap around on the kayak. A small sandy beach opposite provided a convenient landing spot before we headed north up the east side of Sloping Island and across to Lagoon Beach where we landed in the shelter and shade of a small sandstone outcrop. After walking down the beautiful and deserted sandy beach, we had lunch on the sandstone outcrop overlooking the north end of Lagoon Beach. Finally, back in the kayaks, the light north wind had completely abated and we paddled back across Flinders Channel to Renard Point passing Green Head along the way. 

 Lunch spot overlooking the north end of Lagoon Beach

When we got back to Primrose Beach, the ice had melted off my kayak, but, it really didn't feel that much warmer. 

Clear calm water near Green Head,
D. Brown photo

Friday, July 3, 2015

Listening To The Silence: Chauncy Vale

The world is quiet here. Lemony Snicket.

Chauncy Vale is a private conservation area about 30 km north of Hobart, named after Nan Chauncy, a well known Tasmanian author of children's books, which straddles an area of low hills and forests between two valleys. There are a few constructed trails, and several old road beds, now used as trails, and, mid-week and mid-winter, you are pretty much guaranteed solitude. 

I used this map for my walk which was more than adequate, although there are quite a few old roads that branch off and are not shown. The main blue route on the map to the Eastern and Western lookouts is marked with blue flagging tape.
Although it was 9 am when I started walking, it was still chill in this dark valley so I skipped the interpretive signs and headed straight out on Winter Walk, which runs east up the main valley by Browns Caves Creek. At the track junction, I wandered up the Caves track which runs along beneath a short series of heavily lichened sandstone cliffs and caves before dropping down to join the appropriately, though not imaginatively named “Old Road Track.” The pass to the north of Devils Elbow is the next major landmark. You could easily walk up the open forest to the top of Devils Elbow but there is no view. 

 Sandstone Caves

Instead, I carried on along the gently climbing road to a marked junction with the Eastern Lookout to the right and the Western Lookout to the left. If I could have seen over the hills in front of me, I might have seen our house-sit near Campania from Eastern Lookout, while Western Lookout had a view down the Derwent Valley to Mount Wellington. Apart from the wallabies I scared up, and the three echidnas that waddled across the track in front of me, the bush was timelessly silent. 

 Listening to the silence at Eastern Lookout

On the way back, I did a loop around Guvy's Lagoon which was dry, as I suspect it frequently is. Back at the track head, it was warm enough to view the interpretive signage and find out a little about the park, although my hands were so stiff with cold, I could only scrawl my initials in the visitor book. 

 Familiar view down the Derwent Valley to Mount Wellington