Monday, September 7, 2015

Cape Pillar: Long Drive, Longer Walk, Totally Worth It

Although it is only the day after we did this walk, I can't say I remember a whole lot about it as, with 30 km of walking and three hours of driving, all to be accomplished in daylight hours, the day passed in a bit of a blur of rapid travel. The Cape Pillar track starts just before the first camping area at Fortescue Bay and sidles around a hill side to cross Agnes Creek on a sturdy bridge. Once across Agnes Creek, the track climbs gradually - I did not notice until our return journey that we had even climbed at all - until it reaches about 200 metres elevation where it passes to the east of Snake Hill and takes a steady southward track across open moorland. 

Fancy new track work leading out to The Blade

As is usual for Tasmanian tracks, it's a wee bit overgrown with scratchy bush, somewhat muddy underfoot, and punctuated by random stretches of duck-board. Conscious that we had 30 km to walk, we motored along as quickly as possible, and, truthfully, for the first couple of hours there is not much to see. 

Looking west from The Blade

Somewhere near Bear Knoll, an industrious slasher had been along and the track was much easier to travel when not getting whacked in the face by bush. After about two hours, we came across a scattering of small campsites situated in tea-tree scrub, and, not long after, a four way junction where the new/upgraded Three Capes track joins in. The westward track to Arthurs Peak is closed for construction as is the old track, undergoing upgrades, over Mount Fortescue, so, there really is only one way to go and that is out to Cape Pillar on the new track. 

 Looking out over Tasman Island

The new track allows fast travel even if it does not feel quite like bushwalking. Large sections are boardwalk and the remainder is wide, well-graded gravel. Although it allows for quick walking, some feeling of being in the bush is lost on such a well constructed path. Just before Lunchtime Creek, we were turfed off the new track back on to the old as the way ahead was barred and access to "unauthorised persons" forbidden. So, on the old rocky, rooty, twisty, overgrown path we descended steeply into Lunchtime Creek and back out again to wander a twisted path through stunted tea-trees until we rejoined the boardwalk again. As you have probably guessed, the section of track that is blocked off is where the huts for walkers are being built. 

 Cape Huay

Back on the new track we could resume our rapid sprint across the heathland of Hurricane Heath where views of the coast arose. After about three hours of walking, we reached the section of track that runs southeast along the impressive dolerite cliffs of the Tasman Peninsula. There are stunning view points all along this section of track and, it would have been nice, to have more time, and less wind, to enjoy them. 

 Spectacular dolerite cliffs

At the base of The Blade, a big fin of dolerite columns, the track splits and new, well built steps lead up to the top of The Blade and a dizzying view across to Tasman Island. We had lunch in a slot among the dolerite columns, a cold and windy, but nonetheless scenic lunch. It was a surprise when four women day walkers/runners arrived, two of whom, we had last met on Mount Anne Circuit. The women, perhaps wisely, headed back from The Blade, while Doug and I tunnelled on a steep wombat track out to the Chasm Lookout where we got much the same view but with considerably more effort. 

 The view from The Blade is certainly eye popping

The return trip was only slightly more leisurely than the walk out, which essentially means that we interrupted the forced march pace of the trip for a thermos of tea at the four-way junction. Really, quite a grand walk, although I am glad to have done it before the opening of the Three Capes Track when 60 people per day will be shuffling along. 

More stunning scenery

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