April 2017 - Bicentennial Path, Mt Nelson

On a beautifully sunny Autumn day, ten of us gathered at the top of Lambert Ave, Sandy Bay at 11am.  We last walked the Bicentennial trail as a group in June 2012, so we thought it was time to take another look.  The combination of easy access, small amount of time required, sunny day, and the lure of a cafe at the top for lunch, brought out the gang in force.

It was a pleasant walk up the hill (naturally, it's all uphill to the top of Mt Nelson!), through well managed bushland.  There were a lot of other friendly walkers called to the track by the sunny weather, and some of us ran into good mates (it must be Hobart).  The well-marked paths were dry, the sky a solid blue, and the views pretty. 

It was good to be able to natter as we walked, catching up with what our friends have been up to since we last saw them.  And for some of us to share our imminent travel plans to escape a little of the southern winter.

We reached the cafe at the top in an hour, glowing with our effort(!).  Our booked table (easily done via FB Messenger), was waiting for us, nicely laid with linen cloths and glasses at the ready.  What had been a cafe on our last visit is now the licensed Signal Station Brasserie, with (as we discovered) a concomitant markup in presentation and prices.  Think: entree size dishes for main course prices.  My tip: I reckon the seafood chowder was the best value. 

As we were starting to seriously cool down, we didn't linger after eating, but headed back out into the sunshine.

Today's Top Ten


It was an easy downhill return along the same track.



We got back to our cars and bikes in Lambert Ave at about 2.15pm. A nice day out with old friends.



February 2017 - Ralphs Falls

Our official walk for February transmogrified into a bike ride to MONA (Angie, Robert and Di) to enjoy some music and the market, and then a performance of Music for a Warming Planet at Moonah Arts Centre (Angie, Robert, Di and George).  So as a substitute, here is a description of a walk by Di and Robert to Ralphs Falls earlier in that month.

Ralphs Falls is one of Tassie's Great Short Walks and is also well described in Thomas and Close's excellent 100 Walks in Tasmania.  It is accessible by gravel road either from Ringarooma or from Pyengana.

Thanks to 100 Walks in Tasmania
We fortified with coffee and stocked up on cheese at Pyengana, where we also got reassurance from a couple of locals that the gravel road would be navigable by Wanda. Coming from this direction, the turnoff is to the right at the foot of the road up to St Columba Falls.

Our first discovery was this sturdy old wooden bridge, over the beautifully clear New River, with a potential cosy campsite nearby.

 



New River

The gravel road is minor (one vehicle wide only) but in reasonable condition.  Drivers seemed to be pretty careful and courteous, which was nice.

Mount Victoria Road is used by the logging industry, but there was no logging on the day we went through.  There are lots of logging access roads, large and small.  We first got confused on the brow of a hill where a tree sported a hand painted sign to Ralphs Falls (great) but you couldn't tell which road it was referring to (not great).  We followed our noses to the right and then a little further on we ignored another tempting possibility to the right. Thankfully this turned out OK.

The carpark for Ralphs Falls is large and very well set up, with a toilet block, covered picnic tables and barbecue.



We set off at 1.20pm, walking the loop as described in the map above, clockwise, straight into a pretty, dense nothofagus forest.  We took the short diversion to the left to the lookout, and found out that it gives views over the sleepy valley and back to the lovely Ralphs Falls.  In fact this is the only way to (safely) see the Falls.  Sadly, vandals have destroyed the binocular telescope which had been thoughtfully provided by the locals!


Ralphs Falls is a sinuous thread of water falling 100 metres along a curving slash in the dolerite.

 
There are no signs inviting you to walk the full loop.  My theory is that this is because there is no fencing when you get to the vertiginous cliffs above the falls, and National Parks are worried about public liability claims.  What a shame that things have come to this.  Anyhow the walk is easy, attractive and interesting, from a sheltering tea tree forest to a duckboarded section over montane buttongrass plain.  With stops for photos, and another short diversion to look at Cash's Gorge, we got back to the carpark at 2.40pm.

We trundled on towards Ringarooma, mostly downhill at this stage, stopping to admire the old hand made drystone retaining walls constructed in the 1920's and still reliably holding up the road.  It was time for a picnic lunch in fact!







March 2017 - Meander Falls

Meander Falls is one of the highest falls that tumble down from the Great Western Tiers.  It is also one of Tassie's 60 Great Short Walks, and it was time for us to check it out.   National Parks describe it as  "A full day’s walk that gets you away from the more popular areas and into the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area".  They rate it as 4.5 - 6 hours return, and Grade 3.

As it is about a three hour drive from Hobart to Meander, we decided an overnight stay was in order.  Di and Robert opted to take Wanda for a cosy home away from home, and George decided to visit Deloraine, staying at the Deloraine Hotel.  He reported that the rooms were comfortable, the bathrooms recently renovated, and it was a bargain price.



Getting there: finding Meander village is pretty straightforward.  However there is no signage as you leave the Meander village centre, so here are some important notes:  wave at the nice old lady standing on her verandah (we did, twice);  when the sealed road runs out, keep going straight ahead (don't turn left towards the dam);  after the Huntsman's Lake picnic ground, follow your nose and veer right on the new unsealed but smooth road.  Once you're in the pretty myrtle forest, there is bright new signage to go with the new roads and the two new bridges.  There were massive floods here several years ago, and the two old bridges and the old picnic area were washed away.  The new infrastructure is very impressive. The old picnic area has not been rebuilt but it was still a good spot for a self contained motorhome to camp.

We had arranged to meet at the Meander Falls carpark at 8.30am. George was early and (ahem) Di and Robert were late!  There was no mobile phone coverage up in that area, so it was lucky that our paths crossed as George was driving away thinking about a game of golf instead. We hit the trail at 9.15am.

Our first impressions of the trail were fabulous, it was lovely temperate rainforest, with myrtles, sassafras, leatherwoods, mountain pepper, ferns, even King Billy pines.  It had rained a little the day before so the trees happily dropped their morning dew onto us.


The track was damp and the rocks and roots a bit slippery, but conditions were pretty good as befitting the time of the year. The trail was simple, with little obvious grooming and only occasional additions of steps or bridges, but seemed well looked after.  There were a few diversions around treefalls, so the leader had to be sharp at wayfinding and spotting the next triangle pointer or surveyor's tape amongst the trees.




It was quite Tolkienesque - we half expected to see hobbits and wizards stepping along in front of us over the the leaf littered rocks and tangled tree roots.

A resident

With the river babbling away on our right, it was heavenly.  The forest was pretty moist, even though it was late summer.  We had a lovely sunny day, so the sun was dappling through the trees, and the humidity of the forest was pretty high.








We discovered that the path to the Falls is all uphill, with the gradients fairly gentle for the first third of the way, then getting steeper... 

Spot the hobbitses

A snack break at the two hour mark was a good idea.  A pool here, at the base of the Falls, would be a good spot for a swim on a hot summer's day.

 

The last third of the trail seemed to lead us away from the river and up a very steep pinch, which seemed both odd and unfair!?!  We gritted our teeth and pushed on.

Heritage signs!

Finally!  We reached the lookout to the Falls at 12.20pm, just about at our physical limits, and congratulated ourselves and our 50 and 60 year old bodies for making it.  There seems to be a track leading onwards and upwards into the Tiers, no thanks!

The Falls were in full flow and powerful, a lovely sight. The sun was shining, it was just perfect.





After a light but yummy picnic lunch and a bit of steaming off in the sun, we set off on the return trail at 12.55pm.  The downhill going, over the afore-mentioned rocks and roots, required good concentration, and our knees and ankles were put to the test.

We filled our water bottles at a rushing creek on the way down - George described the taste as nectar.



One for Bob!

It was a great relief to return to the lower level of gentle grades, soft leaf litter paths and tinkling river rapids off to the side. We made it back to the carpark at 3.30pm (total walk time, including lunch stop - 6h 15min), well pleased with ourselves and very glad that we had seen the beautiful track and Meander Falls.  There are a number of other tracks in that area that might bear investigation at another time....




  


January 2017 - John Smith's Monument, Mount Wellington

Apart from a miscalculation about the time this walk would take, it was a lovely day on the Mountain for us - Di, Robert and George.  About the time: TasTrails had this walk pegged at 2 hours, when we got to the start of the track the sign suggested 1hr 30 mins each way, and we actually took 3 hrs 40 mins (including a 15 minute stop at the monument).  Hmmm.  I think we need to be more careful these days about estimating how long walks will take us (or get a lot fitter!).

The top of Mount Wellington was a little cool at 10am when we set off, but the clouds burnt off and we warmed up as we walked, so we were quickly removing layers.  Soon we were bathed in sunshine. 

The turnoff to Smith's Monument walk was only a short way along, and would be easy to miss - luckily a helpful person has scratched a directional arrow onto the sign to make it clear that this is where we turn off!


Sooner than expected (i.e. immediately) the track becomes rough and rocky, marked by snow poles. Stiff-soled boots are a prerequisite for rockhopping all along this track, also gaiters as the low growing scrub is prickly!  We were all glad we had walking poles too.

There were many flowers out, which was lovely, and the dolerite columns were spectacular.

The grandeur of the rocks

 And check out that interesting outcrop on the right, as seen by Mark Clemens in about 1985:

Mark Clemens, 1985
The views over the Derwent and into the west were terrific.

Looking over the Derwent

 
Enjoying the view


Looking to the west


Turn left for the Rocking Stone


Rocks everywhere, on the roof of the world

 Skinks were lazing on rocks all over the place, even on the path!

A walker's self portrait

It was actually a bit muddy in parts, as both George and Robert discovered at the cost of a wet foot each!   Many of the little pools were busy with tadpoles.


It was wetter than we expected up on the plateau

The trail dropped down from the top plateau into a rocky field.





We found the new sign to Smith's Monument:

George shows the way


and then the old sign.


The track now passes through a sketchy cover of windblown E. coccifera, and the rocks get larger.  Thankfully the snow poles continue here, as it would be difficult to find the rock cairns alone amongst the bushes. 





It is a bit odd to come across this shrouded object in the middle of nowhere:

Booh!

until you realise that this is it!






We had a short snack break - the march flies were a bit annoying - and set off on the return trek towards the Pinnacle.  This was mostly uphill but not too difficult. 

We were impressed with how many other walkers were on the tracks, and the Pinnacle was crowded with both locals and tourists - taking photos from the summit, enjoying the views, walking, and riding.  The Mountain is a wonderful natural asset for all of us, we must keep it safe.




November 2016 - Timbs Track to Florentine River

Angie organised and was our guide on our second visit to this lovely track just inside the World Heritage Area.  Just a year ago not many of us could make it on this walk, so it was good that we increased our number this time around.   Angie, George, Lyn and Di set off from Hobart at 9.10am on a warm and sunny spring day.

It was a two hour drive (including a quick call into the NP office at Mt Field) to the carpark at Timbs Track.  We booted up and hit the track at 11.10am.

The track off Maydena Rd

Umm, you might get the picture
The track had seen some rough weather and a number of large trees had come down (worse than last year, apparently).  Navigating these was a bit of a challenge.

Angie always adds colour to the scene!

There was also a bit of scrub across the track to contend with, and some excursions around water-filled sections.  But it was a peaceful walk with fairly easy grades, including some beautiful hushed and mossy myrtle forests.  The cloud cover was making it hard for the sun to come out and play, but otherwise it was a perfect day for walking.

The track is a popular meeting spot for wombats, as you can see from their presents at the bottom of the sign to The Lookout, which we reached at 12.10 (so, one hour in).


Here, at the midpoint of the walk, the bush opens up to give views to the south west.



These pictures don't do the scene justice

We continued on towards the Florentine River, mostly downhill from here.
Just near the river is the Ewes' Inn, a recently rebuilt shelter hut.


We reached the pretty river at 1.05pm, where we found the lovely mossy and open picnic spot.



There are a couple of mossies here, but we also saw and heard a Scarlet Robin, and heard a few Olive Whistlers.  

After a half hour R&R, we returned along the same track, catching some different scenes as we negotiated our way around the track obstacles. 

Shades of Lord of the Rings

Back almost at the road, National Parks have recently (since last year?) upgraded a short loop walk which takes you to Twisted Sister, a huge twisted E. regnans.    Taking this loop adds only about 10 minutes to the walk.

Twisted Sister

And from there the track takes you past the Florentine demonstrators' protest site and camp, now decaying back into the bush.  Let's hope the forestry wars don't get inflamed again to the point that protestors have to chain themselves to logs, perch in trees, and sit in front of bulldozers.


We were back at the carpark at 3.40pm, making a total walk time of 4.5 hours.  And home in Hobart a couple of hours later, we were tired but happy, chatted out and kink-free.