So I finally did it! The Six Foot Track. Sure, I finished the walk over a month ago so this blog is a little overdue, but as Nick likely said after he finally posted his photos from Japan, better late than never.
As you all know, the Six Foot Track is a 45km or so track between Katoomba and Jenolan Caves that one normally completes in 3 days. When I left Jenolan Caves for Katoomba it was my intention to finish the walk in 3 days, but, well, I kind of changed my mind.
I started the walk bright and early, leaving Wollongong at some demonic hour so that I could reach Katoomba, collect an EPIRB from the police station, park my car, and make the bus that would take me to Jenolan Caves where I would start the walk. I ended up arriving well over an hour before the bus departed, so in addition to walkig the 2 to 3km between the Explorer Tree and the Katoomba train station, I also wandered down the main street a couple of times, purchasing food along the way. Buying food was a good idea; adding another 2km or so to my day, probably not the best way to waste a little time before an extended walk.
Anyway, I collected an EPIRB from the police (where I was told that finishing the walk in 2 days would be tough) and after a time I jumped on the mini bus. It was a Monday so I was the only person heading out to the caves. I had a good chat with the driver on the way out to Jenolan Caves, and I was somewhat relieved when he said that he would taking 5 people back to Katoomba on the return leg (I know that I paid my way and that he would have been going out there anyway, but I still couldn't help feel a little guilty about being the only person on the bus).
We made it to Jenolan Caves just before 11, and after a quick pit-stop I captured what was the first of many photos of signage along the track (see Facebook in a day or two) and then set off for Katoomba! I somewhat stupidly powered up the first hill, an act that was legitimately questioned by an older couple who were taking their time along that section of the track. Once at the top of this section I continued along the track, crossing the road to Jenolan Caves and joining the fire trail that would eventually take me to the Coxs River.
Once on the fire trail I maintained a fairly steady pace. I reached what was my intended campsite for the night at about 1.30pm, some 10km from Jenolan Caves. At this point I stopped, had a bite to eat, fended off a couple of cheeky magpies that were gunning for my chocolate muffin bar, and decided that 1.30pm was too early in the day to stop. This meant that I would have another 12km of walking to complete before I could camp, but I felt up to the task.
When I left the Black Range campsite I felt good and was ready to take on the world. 12km of fire trail walking later I was almost a broken man... What may easily be managed with a day pack on your back can become a bit of a bastard with a hiking pack carrying food and gear for 3 days, and I wasn't helped by the descent that wreaked havoc on my calves. Once at the bottom of the descent I came across my nemesis - Little River. I had to ford Little River 3 times. The first time I managed to find away across with my boots still on my feet, but the second and third times I had to brave the bloody cold water. Oh, and at this point I discovered that my heels have both developed gargantuan blisters, both of which had broken with one leaving what seemed like a cup worth of blood soaked through my sock. Anyway, the river successfully forded (and one platypus sighting later), I limped along the trail till I reached my campsite, Alum Creek Reserve.
I reached the campsite at about 4.30pm, which left enough time to set up my tent (my newish tent, the tarptent, made its Blue Mountains debut), cook myself a meal and down a litre of water laced with electrolyte replacement powder. I also boiled up some river water to replenish my stocks, but truth be told I think that I could have survived drinking the water from this part of the track without boiling or any other form of treatment. By 6pm I was pretty much done so I retired for the night in the expectation that my body would recover somewhat for the final day.
I was up early the next morning. I was still in pain but the pain was bearable, so with a forced grin on my face I left just before 7am. After about an hour and half of walking I reached the Coxs River campsite. Here I stopped, treated my blisters (which, I should say, only added to the pain I was otherwise feeling) and enjoyed a second breakfast. Whereas there were no other hikers at my campsite, the Coxs River Campsite had a reasonable number of people in attendance. Unlike me they seemed to be taking their time, which I must admit was probably the best way to approach this walk.
I enjoyed a 30 minute break at the Coxs River campground. It had been my intent to ford the river (if the water level allowed this), but after looking at my damaged heels and taking stock of the pollution in the river, I decided to tackle the swing bridge. The swing bridge was an interesting experience. I'm much like Pratchett's character Ricncewind in that I have a fear of hitting the ground rather than a fear of falling, so walking across the bridge rattled me a little. Thankfully the army engineers built a good bridge, so I survived the crossing and continued along the walk.
From this point I can only really say that I was in pain. Along this stretch of the track (and at this point it was largely a track, not a fire trail) my only thought was "if, and I mean if, I reach Old Ford Reserve I will collapse yet be very happy". Unfortunately Old Ford Reserve always seemed to be just out of reach, and my dodgy GPS map that I had downloaded the night before the hike didn't help by misplacing the reserve by some 2km or so. I was even swooped by a magpie as I scratched my head wondering when my ordeal would end.
I finally made it to the old cemetary and Megalong Valley Road, which meant that Old Ford Reserve (and a precious toilet) was just a mere 400m or so away. I set off along the road to visit Old Ford Reserve, but after a couple of minutes I turned around on the basis that despite my pain, I would be better off finishing the walk sooner rather than later. I also knew that there would be an appropriate time and place for a bathroom break along the way, but the signage warning against using private property for this purpose did give me reason to wonder whether I would be able to capitalise should the opportunity arise. Thankfully I found a decent and appropriate spot, and I was saved the hassle of creating a situation that would bring about the return of the dreaded rumbing bowels.
After a time of shuffling along the firetrail I passed the old Megalong village (now just a horse paddock) and continued my inexorable trek to Nellies Glen. For those not familiar with the track, Nellies Glen is the near vertical water soaked break in the escarpment that links the valley floor with the Explorer Tree. Funnily enough, I found this part of the track more manageable than the endless fire trails - it seemed that the full movement of my legs as I climbed somewhat relieved that pain that I had suffered/caused by shuffling along the flat sections of the track.
Much like with Old Ford Reserve, the track was always giving me false hope once I reached the top. The thought "That's where my car is parked! Oh, maybe not..." came to mind a number of times after I left Nellies Glen, and to say that some choice words were uttered to the world at large along this stretch of track would be an understatement. Eventually I spotted the information hut and then my car. It was 3.20pm, and I had made it.
After taking a little time to recover, I returned to Katoomba (by car! Sweet, sweet car) and returned the EPIRB. I walked into the police station with a look of abject pain, and this didn't go unnoticed by the duty officer (who, unlike the officer on the Monday morning, said that the only way to walk the track is in one day with a day pack). The EPIRB returned, I went back to my car, turned on some tunes and steered my car through the never ending road works and went back to Wollongong where I continued to suffer for almost another week.
I am very happy to have finally completed this walk. Truth be told it was fairly boring in parts (it's mostly firetrail walking) and the ongoing pain was quite annoying, but it's a must do hike for any serious hiker from Sydney so I'm glad that I was able to cross it off my bucket list. I'd be keen to try it again at some point, and perhaps make it in two days without destroying my body. Other options are to tackle the hike in one day (day pack filled with water) or just take my time and complete the walk in a leisurely 3 days.
Anyway, I'll throw some photos of the many signs along the track up on facebook before the end of the week. I'm also going to post this somewhat epic entry without re-reading the above, so here's to hoping that everything above this is both awesome and not an affront to the Eglish language.
Published on Wednesday 03rd October 2012Comments (2)
Last weekend Tex and I went on a hike down in Namadgi National Park, south of Canberra. Starting near the former Orroral Tracking Station we walked up to Cotter Flats where we camped overnight before returning along the same path the next day. Overall it was a good hike, if at times a little wet.
So, on Saturday morning i picked up Tex from the deep south of Canberra and we made our way the Namadgi Visitor Centre. There we picked up a PLB for the weekend before making our way down to the start of he track at the former Orroral Tracking Station, which was part of NASA's former tracking network down in the ACT, i believe. From here we had a 5km or so walk along the slowly ascending firetrail before we hit the Australian Alps track.
From this intersection we climbed up the track to the Cotter saddle which had a maximum height of about 1350m. The track was overgrown in many places, and the recent rain made for an interesting walk - as the person out in front on day 1 my pants were drenched within 5 minutes of walking along the trail, and my shoes and feet were pretty much soaked by the time we hit the saddle. At the saddle we crossed a low alpine swamp with an amazingly clear creek, at which point we lost the track by all of 4m. After some backtracking and circling we relocated the track and continued on our way.
The track down the other side of the saddle was equally interesting - we crossed a couple of creeks and at times it seemed that the track itself served as a creek. Thankfully we made it down without any incidents and eventually we joined an old firetrail which appears to have been in total disuse as a path for vehicles since the Canberra bushfires. At theend f this old trail we encountered a current firetrail and were greeted by the sight of Cotter Flats - where a river flows through an open expanse of grass nestled between the lowlying peaks of the ACT.
Once on the flats we looked at the river ford and rightly decided that there was no need to cross. We then located a good spot for the tents and went about establishing a campsite for the night. Tents up, we settled in to eat some food, drink some wine and wait for the light rain to stop. Eventually the rain stopped and we set about cooking some dinner before turning in for the night. Over all this time we were monitored by the local residents - a group of kangaroos. They were quite inquisitive, something that was even more apparent the next morning.
The morning brought some fog, and despite expectations it wasn't all that cold. As noted, the kangaroos continued their watch, and they became so interested that they actively interrupted our bathroom breaks. I even had a group follow me up into the hills when i went to drop a deuce without interruption - thankfully the kangaroos turned up after all was done!
Anyway, once packed up we set off on the return leg of the walk. Nathan took the lead this time and though the track was a little less wet on day 2, his pants were still drenched before we had reached the Cotter Saddle. My pants and shoes, of course, were still soaked from the day before so i also had a pleasant time walking up that hill.
The second day of walking was largely uneventful - we managed to return to the car in good time, passing some crazy mountain bikers on the fire trail. We then made our way back to civilisation and all the pain that a long hike brings.
In total we walked for about 32km. Overall it was a very pleasant walk, and one that could prove to be quite good in the winter if there's a low level snow fall. Key lessons learned on the hike included - less than a bottle of red per person works well; cheap hiking boots aren't worth the overall monetary and non-monetary price; water proof pants would be a good investment; we really have to learn how to properly read topographic maps using the prercise references provided on a GPS unit; and, a lesson from this report rather than the hike, I really need to work on story telling skills.
Published on Wednesday 25th April 2012Comments (2)
So Nathan and I went on a hike. Cotter Flats, down in Namadgi National Park in the ACT. Leaving aside the close encounter with trenchfoot I think that it went well - even the overly inquisitive kangaroos were, in hindsight, a hilarious plus!
Tomorrow night I plan on typing up a proper blog, complete with a google map view of the track.
Published on Sunday 22nd April 2012Comments (1)
So I was driving down the M4 one day
When a rock came a-flyin' my way
It hit the windscreen
spoiling the new car sheen
what a way to ruin the day
Building on that hopeless little rhyme, on Saturday I was driving on the M4 when a rock of some sort was dislodged by an SUV and hit my windscreen at speed. The windscreen of my new car, the car that I had only picked up 25 hours before. I now have to spend however much to replace the windscreen... My car insurance may help, but me being a tightarse of epic proportions (when it comes to additional features, anyway!) won't make it easy - when I changed my policy a couple of days ago I stupidly decided against including the windscreen option. $45 a year and this could have been a non-issue.
Anyway, if you leave aside the above I am really enjoying the new car.
Published on Sunday 04th March 2012Comments (5)
So I bought a new car. A Golf Comfortline wagon. I'm collecting the new car (and droppig off the Getz) this Friday. It should be a good car for years to come with plenty of space for bikes and hiking stuff and whatever else the future may bring.
In the end it was a choice between the Golf and the Peugeot 308 wagon. The Peugeot seemed quite good on the test drive but the Golf had the slight edge. I also thought that the Golf would likely be a tad more reliable, but I must admit some minor regret at the Golf not having the Peugeot's glass roof as standard and the option to come in babylon red.
Anyway, I pick up the car on Friday morning and then it's off to Sydney for the weekend. Highway and proper city driving on the first day in the new car... I can't wait!
Published on Sunday 26th February 2012Comments (4)