Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Long Approach To Nowhere: The Corn Trail

This was another of my somewhat optimistic plans, walking - or at least attempting to - what turned out to be 30 km (not 24 km as widely quoted on the internet) down then back up the Corn Trail. The big east coast low of June 2016 had knocked down enough trees that the lower parking lot was closed and only the top parking lot at the Dasyurus Picnic Area was open. Now you might wonder why I wouldn't think that there could be the odd bit of blow-down on the walking trail as well, and, as I was climbing over, under and through giant blow-down on the lower section of the trail I had plenty of time to ponder this. 

History buffs wax lyric about about the Corn Trail which was an early trade route between the coast and the southern highlands. Indigenous people likely also used the route which follows a long ridge from near Murrengenberg Mountain down to the Buckenbowra River. By the 1920's, after the construction of an alternate route to the coast, the trail had been lost to overgrowth and it was only much later that it was reconstructed as a walking track. 

Mongarlowe River

On the topographic map, the trail starts at the end of a short dirt road south of Clyde Mountain off the Kings Highway but signs on the highway direct you to River Forest Road and a parking area near the Mongarlowe River. Immediately I had to take my shoes off to ford the Mongarlowe
River which felt almost Canadian cold in the early morning. Later in summer you can probably rock-hop across. 

A trail has been cut through dense coral fern heading generally east and around the northern side of Murrengenberg Mountain to join the Corn Trail coming in from the Kings Highway, which adds 3 to 3.5 km (one way) to the walk. This section is getting quite overgrown and the coral fern pulled my shoe laces undone at least half a dozen times as I walked through. 

Old wheel

I had expected a downhill walk, at least to start, but for the first hour or more, the trail gains elevation steadily until you reach a dry ridge north of the Buckenbowra River and begin a long steady descent to reach patches of rain forest along the Buckenbowra River. Among the patches of rain forest are patches of blow down, or, more accurately there are patches of clear trail among long stretches of blow down. 

One of the more minor blow-downs

The first kilometre along the Buckenbowra River is through pleasant rain forest, thereafter, the trail is above the river in somewhat scrappy forest, completely viewless and almost featureless. My enthusiasm to continue all the way to a non-descript parking lot in the middle of gum forest simply to turn around again and walk back was waning as quickly as the blow-down was becoming tedious. 

Beside a side creek, I managed to get a clear enough view of the sky to see where I was, still a depressing four kilometres to go which, if the blow-down did not miraculously blow away, would take me perhaps 1.5 hours, each way. There's a reason why (a) I am not an endurance athlete and (b) trail running and hiking has been called the long approach to nowhere. Hardier folk may have kept going, but I'd had enough, I turned around and walked back.

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