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Widden to Lithgow, 12 – 21 July 2006

Maps :- Mt Pomany, Coricudgy, Coorongoobra, Gosphers Mountain, Mount Morgan, Cullen Bullen, Rock Hill, Ben Bullen, Lithgow.

Party:-

  Ken H, Dug F.

Introduction

A cold, wet, bleak, grey, stormy day, plodding down the Glow-worm Tunnel road towards Lithgow and a car with two people in it pulls up ”would you like a lift?”.  A look of amazement when we say “yes of course”.  We have already walked ten days, along creeks, through bush, on roads and fire trails, the next 14 km through pine plantations did not register highly on our list of things to do (also a lift now would mean we arrive in Newi at a reasonable hour).  

I planned this walk over three years ago, so long ago in fact I was starting to feel like a guna.  Just the one window of opportunity this year, after helping to set-up and run Navshield took a lot of time (May, June, July) and soon we start preparing for “Trailwalker”  25th 26th 27th August (first meeting tomorrow).

The Widden and Blackwater resemble glacial valleys, long and straight, U bottom and cliff sides.  Very fertile (compared with the rest of this nominally sandstone country) due to the rich soil brought down from the numerous “holes” and other volcanic intrusions in this area, (“holes” are diatremes: volcanic intrusions through the sandstone in the early Jurassic period).  We pass three small holes along the Blackwater Creek during the walk and another beside our pass into the Capertee later in the walk.  In addition there are a series of volcanic rock topped hills nearby, Mt Coricudgy, Mt Coriaday, Kerry Mt, Middle Hill, Mt Davis, Mt Darcy, Mt Duran Duran, Mt Boonborowrow.

Shane and Daenam have driven up with us so that they can return the vehicle, big thank you to them.  The drive through Widden Valley and Blackwater Creek valley is always inspiring.  This is just one of those places people are meant to be, a renewal for the soul.

Day 1 – Wednesday 12th July

We left about 9am, to arrive at Blackwater Creek at 12pm to start the walk.  Away and walking by 12:30 after a quick group lunch of Artisan Bread Role and Chorizo sausage.    The packs are heavier than I like, mine 9 kg and Kens at least 25 kg (but then he did end up with surplus food at the end).  A delightful warm sunny winter day, although the forecast mentions rain for the weekend and more next week.  Perhaps not the time to be starting out but you have to go when you can and prepare for the worst.

The walking is good, still some open overgrown farm land, then fairly open creek, good water flow (remember this is still a drought).  As we walk we pass: a few boulder jambs, many pools with trees and vegetation overgrowing the water, short sand stretches, many good camping places.  About 4:30 we stop on a partly grassed sandy bank to camp with fly and cooking fire, about 200m short of our plan.  Beautiful spot with tall smooth white barked gum trees, further back each side of the creek tall cliffs partly obscured by the vegetation.

The Blackwater Creek Valley really is a wonderful place to be.  Wide fertile floor, bordered by tall colourful sandstone cliffs, rich vegetation, prolific bird and animal life.  We see flocks of parrots, a couple of wombats, several roos.  Gradually the valley narrows and the cliffs become closer and seemingly taller, but with just as colourful sand stone.

Delightful night with moon and star-shine.  In the morning I do my usual trick of making the camp site disappear, back to the pristine bush setting.

[click here] to link to the photos from this days walking.

Day 2 – Thursday 13th July

Away 8:15 am mostly easy going until the creek flows east/west for a ½ km or so, it then becomes very scrubby and hard going, also lots of vine to curse at or too. 

A little past the next bend, we find a long ago abandoned camp.  Collapsed dome tent,  aluminium chair, sun lounge, esky, drums, lots of garbage bags in the original packing.   A bit down-stream a hose leads from the creek up towards rocks. Further up-stream the remains of a blue plastic bag sticking out of the ground.  Strange place for a permanent camp; couple of km from the road to Putty and part of that down an overgrown creek bash.  It seems to be even further to the Coriday track, even if it comes that far.    We checked the collapsed tent and glanced around, to make sure that no one was still inside before we continue.

The map suggests several open spaces, these turn out to be small “holes”.  Beautiful fertile flat areas with tall white barked gum trees and other rich vegetation, surrounded by tall straight cliffs.  Gradually now as we advance upstream the valley narrows and the tall cliffs are closer, occasionally quite narrow sections usually with boulder jambs to negotiate.  Walking still mostly ok (for a creek), just the occasional vine or thicker scrub.  I do like seeing the pools with the overhanging trees with reflections. 

About 4pm we spot an overhang on a bend with a flattish area in front – good place for the night, not tall enough to stand in but just right for sleeping.  The weather is still kind to us cool in the creek out of the sun, but pleasant in a sunny spot for lunch or a nibble.

In the morning I make the evidence of camp site and fire site disappear again.

[click here] to link to the photos from this days walking.

Day 3 – Friday 14th July

Away about 8:30.  Overcast, cool day, creek walking much the same as yesterday but gradually narrowing with some constrictions, in fact got feet wet to knees at one place (have more or less decided not to get wet definitely no swims – too bloody cold).  Passed a number of caves suitable for camping and lots of flat spots suitable to pitch a tent. .  Some light drizzle during the day but not wet yet.  More tree ferns now, quite lovely. Many bird calls, including bell birds at creek junctions, passed some lyre bird mounds and a couple of old scrub turkey nesting mounds.  We frequently pass fresh dog tracks and what could be older footprints in the sandy.

More delightful creek walking, we really appreciate the beauty of place and time.  Some of the boulders in the creek take on strange imaging; - here a prehistoric animal family group drinking at a shaded secluded pool, here a historic stone castle, there the strange animal bones.  I guess this is a Jurassic scene in its own right, these places don’t change much over the millions of years since they formed.  We find our way up or through a couple of blockups and past small waterfalls with ease

We camp in a big overhang just past where I hoped to spend the second night, (that creek junction seemed to be a full-on canyon exit but we didn’t investigate).  Pleasant treed spot with room to sleep several at different places, separated but close enough for company.  The cliff face towered above our overhang, another tall cliff just the other side of the creek.  There is another cave opposite us but we don’t investigate (would get wet feet or have to backtrack too far).  Dried wood stacked on some of the fallen rocks enables us to have a good cooking fire on this cold night and still leave collected wood for any who may come after. Just as well because it rained in the evening,  heavily during the night. 

Still pouring rains in the morning we.  As before we make signs of habitation disappear.

[click here] to link to the photos from this days walking.

Day 4 – Saturday 15th July

Away about 8:30 despite the rain and wet scrub, as we expect a long day.  This morning our plan is to continue walking upstream about 1 km and if conditions stay bad, exit up a spur that looks possible after studying the map.  

Water levels in the creek do not seem to be rising but it is cold and wet pushing through the scrub.  Hyperthermia is a concern for these conditions, so we exit.  This creek junction seems to be at a fair size “hole” to the west but we don’t investigate.  The spur up is negotiated easily with only minor scrambling through the pagoda rock formations.  We follow the obvious wavy ridge towards the Coriday to Coricudgy service road.  Progress in these wet misty conditions is slower and more difficult than expected, although normally you would have said the ridge was fine to walk. 

Ken was shivering most of the time now, so at about 3 pm we found a small overhang below the saddle leading to the service trail and lit a fire.   I had seen what seemed to be a cave from above the cliffs, further along and walked on to investigate.  This proved not to be suitable but I could see an inviting looking cliff line opposite.  From 80 m away I could see the flat sand floor characteristic of important aboriginal caves.  This is what it proved to be with a number of rock paintings, together with faded white, red and orange hand stencils (the red and orange seemed to be older).  It hasn’t been disturbed much, if at all.

Luckily further along I located another cave suitable for camping.  Because of the cold wet conditions and Kens state I had no choice but to relocate here.  Water was going to be a problem, until Ken located a pool of sweet water in a hole at the base of a small overhang a little further along.  In some ways it looked like a wombat hole filled with water but I rather feel that it may have been an aboriginal well.  Just as well because we didn’t have anything suitable to collect the rain water (and it was only drizzle by now), billies and cups in the drip zone collected little, the next choice was down the nearby creek and my guess was we would need to go 100m down down, not along down.

Interestingly I could see a certain amount of the art work with the naked eye but much more through the camera view finder.  Unfortunately much less is discernable in the photos.  One particularly interesting group was a little separated from the main gallery, this consisted of some bigger hand prints with three white lines (it has been since suggested that these may be a kangaroo legs stencils ?) and above these an upward pointing arrow head ^.  I wonder whether this is the marks of an escaped convict who joined the tribe?  I accidentally move a rock and found ground red/orange ochre under it.  Small piles of charred sticks and charcoal suggest where the original inhabitants had ceremonial fires in a few places out towards the drip line (been there a long time if so).

This is a wonderful scenic place with tall trees and flowering plants everywhere.  The cliff and overhang above us, below dropping down a treed gully, disappearing into the  mist.  Unfortunately we are a little more exposed to the cold wind which eddies around us now and then. 

When I empted my pack I found that water has penetrated the two glad garbage bags so some of my gear is slightly damp.  The clothes I was wearing were certainly wet.  My thermals are wet even under the rain pants and new gortex coat; I guess you can’t keep dry in heavy rain pushing through wet scrub.  It’s good to dry off in front of the fire and get our feet dry again.

The ridge system we negotiated today was interesting in many ways (as well as the navigation).  There were pagoda formations which is just as well as they provide small overhangs where we could shelter to eat or to read the map.  Views into the “hole” to the north of us were misty but we could still see the shadowy shapes of tall, very big, white barked gum trees.  The rock we passed lower down was probably of volcanic origin, while higher up it was weathered sand stone.  Vegetation varied greatly, with a quite few food plants noticed, green native currents (very sour), cream and purple lily pilly ? (not really to my taste), a number of bottle brushes and banksias to lick nectar from, a goodly number of blackboys but these are well out of season (good to lick nectar from when flowering).

A pleasant enough night despite the outside conditions.  In the morning I could not completely obliterate the signs of the cooking fire but it would be preferably for people to use this place in the future (if they find it and then hopefully they will use some where else to reduce damage to the site).

[click here] to link to the photos from this days walking.

Day 5 – Sunday 16th July

Away about 8:30 despite the conditions, as we expect another long day.  We push through the wet scrub up the spur from the saddle and round to link up with the Coriaday - Coricudgy service trail.  We wander on the fire trail along the ridge over Mt Coricudgy and down the country roads the other side to past Red hill.  Where we take the Old Army Road to camp at the Glenn Alice Fire trail junction. 

The first part of the walk on the vehicular tracks, through open ridge forest, then up over Mount Coricudgy with its tall white gum forests, lots of tree ferns on the richer volcanic soil, then on through the pagodary rock farm land.  The walk over Mt Coricudgy was particularly cold and wet and we were glad to get to the slightly warmer lower slopes to the south.  The gps would not give a readying at all on the Mt Coricudgy ridge, probably due to the wet tree canopy high above and the rain (luckily we don’t need a reading).  Forestry is logging in the area and the road from the south has locked gates to keep the public out of danger.

A pleasant enough walk, except the very cold misty rain conditions over Mt Coricudgy.  Reasonable height gain and loss for the day.  The camp site is shown on the map as ruins, there has obviously been some sort of timber depot here in the past but we didn’t find any building remains.  A good place to have roaring fire with all the trash wood left lying in the area.  Ken had to walk back for a while to collect drinking water from a puddle in the road we had passed; made sure to boil it but. 

Drizzly night and cold too.  We tidied the camp site and spread the ashes to minimise the evidence of our being there but the past intensive use of the area made this a little pointless really.

No pictures taken today, too cold and miserable.

Day 6 – Monday 17th July

A decision is made not to take the planned ridge to Tam OShanters Glen, we have had enough of wet scrub bashing, take the old army road instead.  Away about 8:30.  About 2.5 km to start the slow plodding climb up Mt Darcy, Mt Duran Duran and Mt Boonbourwa, a cold, rainy, miserable, misty place it was on this day.  Beautiful forest though with the great trees appearing and disappearing in the mist seemingly at will.

Past this the lower elevation track along the ridge was intermittently cold and windy or pleasantly sunny.  Reasonable going with the occasional spectacular views.  A rather pleasant piece of country to walk (if it wasn’t for the cold).  The pagoda rock formations always make a trip worthwhile. 

We are concerned about our lack of progress today, we seemed to be pathetically slow.  Both of us were quite stiff in the legs which is odd, for me particularly, considering the number of days I have spent bushwalking recently, with Navshield set-up and dismantle and a couple of rogaines (Paddy Palin and NSW Champs).  We can only conclude we were a bit dehydrated yesterday, so made sure to drink plenty today. 

We passed a number of roos, wallabies and paddy melons, scrub turkeys, lyre birds including one with full display tail, a big flock of yellow tailed black cockatoos, of course many other birds. 

About 4, we stopped beside the track to camp.  Ken dropped down into a nearby creek for water and was away nearly an hour, thanks Ken.  He reported a camping cave but it was ¼ hr away and there wasn’t much light left and I had already set the fly and had a good fire going.  It was a bit drizzly on and off but we managed to cook good meals (I need extra for breakfast and lunch tomorrow too). 

Another cold, drizzly night, overcast and cool morning.  We remove evidence of the camp and depart about 8:30.

[click here] to link to the photos from this days walking.

Day 7 – Tuesday 18th July

Easy walking again on the Old Army Road.  The drizzle continues till 13:00 after which we had patchy sun.  Nice scenery so we concentrate on that, the wild life and wild flowers.  Just before lunch time we arrive at the T junction marked on the map between the road that continues south, from the east/west Geebung Ground to Gosphers Mountain road. 

Chris warned me that this road south is very indistinct and some parties have turned back because they lost their way.  We plan to concentrate on following the ridge and walk on the road, if it is where we are.  In one ore two places the road seems to be marked on an incorrect ridge, as we found the ridge too rocky for a road and the remnants of a track left before and join up after.  GPS is very handy to confirm location in some of these situations.  You would need to be cleverer than Ken and I to follow the road track, as it disappears under vegetation in places and we couldn’t locate it on the other side confidently.  

As we progress south we encounter rich looking country with tall trees and lush grass growth.  I would surmise that this is of volcanic origin and it has been used for grazing in the past, Chris did tell me that the pass we will try to find to the Capatee was used to herd cattle up and down (I doubt the old timers could have used the way we used due to the scrambles but I could imagine that there were easier ways near by).

 

We eventually stopped to camp, on a comfortable flat spot amongst the crappy regrowth, about 1 km from the end of the marked road.  Again camp set up falls to me, while Ken went for water.  This was found well down in the creek system, just as well the first pool in the canyon was usable (with difficulty hanging onto a tree branch) because the next one required an abseil into the canyon proper (and presumably prussic out).   At least today we have a sunset, although it is cloud overhead.  In camp we entertained listening to the prolific bird life of this area, bell birds, parrots, lyre birds, cockatoos, boobook, cowell. 

A pleasant night mostly starry for a change but still very cold, with cold drafts from the very strong wind we could hear in the trees.  Again we make traces of camp completely disappear.

[click here] to link to the photos from this days walking.

Day 8 – Wednesday 19th July

We depart at 8:20 on an overcast morning.  Our second hand advice is the strange dogleg ridge southeast of the end of the marked road “goes” and that the space to the west of this is a “hole”.  We find our way down through the cliff lines towards the cliff.  On the way I recognise some yellow leafed red cedars trees in there autumn colours well below or position.  These cedars seem to be big mature trees but we don’t go all the way down to investigate, today, (I’ll make another trip here with canyon ropes to investigate the canyon that Ken found and look at this “hole” on the way). 

The dogleg spur proves to be a very steep, knife edge, volcanic rock scree slope similar in some ways to the Allyn Ridge.  This goes ok and soon eases into a gentle spur that takes us to the Capertee River.  Absolutely magnificent scenery with colourful sandstone cliff, bluffs, gorges, forest and a bright blue sky with fluffy clouds.

A pleasant stroll along the Capertee brings us to the relatively new Coorongoobra Camping Ground, (accessed from a new road by passing the shale ruins).  We see one pop-top van down on the flat by the river junction, while up beside the old powder store we speak to Roger who has a big onsite van here.  Over a very welcome cup of coffee Roger tells us he was the lessee of this area for 37 years until NPWS told him they were not renewing the lease.  He still comes down here regularly to wind down from his job as a tug captain.  Roger insists on driving us the couple of km to the shale works ruins gate, from where we walk through the ruins and on into Glenn Davis.

Glenn Davis has a wonderful camping ground, for two grubby smelly fellas, hot shower, running water and seats!  We even wash the clothes, which will dry overnight, such as thermals.  My blisters welcome the clean again feeling. 

Still over cast with a cold wind we opt to sleep under the roofed part and dry off the fly.  A quick phone call home to let them know all is well.  Then an opportunity to cook up a treat and eat from a plate, while sitting on a seat. 

A pleasant night under the shelter.

[click here] to link to the photos from this days walking.

Day 9 – Thursday 20th July

We are away at 8:20 to find the pipeline track.  The sign says it’s to the south behind the town; apparently the camping ground isn’t the town because it is in fact west of the camp ground then south.  After an interesting sidle round steep scree slopes we eventually start on our way proper.

The pipeline track is very pretty and quite an easy walk, a good way to get to the Wolgan River and Newnes.  We have lunch beside the river in bright sunshine before wandering up the old railway line.  This is another great easy walk in very scenic surroundings; there are a few washaways through the old line to add a little spice.  We turn up the Old Coach Road another very scenic way to go.

Initially pleasant sunny but gradually becoming colder and over cast.  We stop for tea just at the top of the pass but just as we light a fire it starts to drizzle, so we have to continue.  A short walk on we find a shallow overhang beside the track and light a fire between stones (as we can’t camp here and don’t have time for a proper cooking fire with glowing coals).   It takes us too long to cook but beggars can’t be choosers, eventually we start again about 6:30.  We walk on in the dark, with gale winds and drizzle.  About 8 pm we reach Deans Siding and stop to camp in the car park.  At least its clear of scrub and flat. 

Dull, drizzly night with very strong, very cold wind.

[click here] to link to the photos from this days walking.

Day 10 – Friday 21st July

Away about 8:30 for the final road bash to Lithgow.  Cold blustery drizzly day we walk on.  Again collecting water from a puddle (just in case).  We see numerous kangaroos.  A big flock of yellow tailed black cockatoos was feeding on the pine cones in the pine forest and we could see them flying to a gum tree beside the road where a mob sat eating them, we must have approached too close because next thing bonk, bonk, bonkbonk, it was raining pinecones too.  Wouldn’t have liked to be under the tree.

Just about to the turn off to Waratah Ridge a 4wd pulls up beside us “would you like a lift” with a laugh.  “Of course”, amazement! “We’ve been walking 10 days through the bush and a road bash through pine forest in a storm is not our idea of enjoyment”.  “Oh, we see, of course”.  We did enjoy the ride in to Lithgow, thank you Phil and Jarrod.

I sent Ken into the public toilet to put some pants on, (hell we're in civilisation now and his swimmers will not do!).  I grab some quick take away food and we just catch the 11:22 train.  This means we are home at a civilised time for Jill to pick us up at Hamilton, I even scored tea, thank you Jill. 

[click here] to link to the photos from this days walking.

An excellent trip with good company, thank you Ken. We have a mystery abandoned camp to clear up, some cave paintings to investigate, and a number of new walks to do some time, overall a well worth few days.  © Copyright 2006 Dug Floyd.

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