Annie Rowan Creek – November 2nd to 5th 2009


Mount Morgan, Rock Hill 1:25000


Monika, Dug.

Saturday Sunday - getting there.

SAR advanced rigging course day 3 at NarrowNeck.  Photo DugI had a busy time leading up to this walk.  The week before I participated in the "Advanced Rigging, Safety and Rescue" Course lead by Bill Proctor and Rob Stringer and that was full on for the 5 days.   (Photo of some of the scenery we were working in opposite.)  I slept in the mountains Sunday to Saturday.  At Glenbrook on Saturday morning, I managed to fix Bobs roof leak (in between showers :-).  Then drove home to sleep and pack for this trip.  On Sunday evening drove back to Newnes, stopping for the usual pizza at Richmond.  I did feel that it wasn't as tasty as usual, (authentic Italian recipes).  I hope they are not trying to cater for "ostralian tastes" by taking the authentic taste out :~). 

I was driving real slow and careful by the time I arrived at the camp area because I was so tired.  As usual on a less driven road I had to be on the lookout for suicidal wombat and roos startled by the car lights.  I have found that the Honda lights shine off the side of the roads so animals can see away from the car, and thus less inclined to run into the blinding car lights.  A fair amount of road works is in progress with big expensive signs advertising the Federal Labour Governments contribution to local roads.  (Cynical me wonders if local roads here would have got a mention from the Labour Government, without the Multimillion dollar Emirates 7 star resort just opened).

To quote from the web page: - “Opening 2009. Bounded by the Blue Mountains World Heritage site, secreted in Australia’s Great Dividing Range, less than three hours from Sydney, sits Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa. Formed when the Grand Canyon was a narrow stream, the Blue Mountain’s wide valleys, sandstone cliffs, deep canyons and rivulets have justifiably earned it the reputation as one of the most breathtaking places in Australia. You can’t believe you are so close to the metropolis of Sydney! The seclusion of Emirates Wolgan Valley gives travellers the opportunity to experience a haven of wildlife, natural beauty and relaxation. Here guests can soak up the rich heritage of the region while experiencing the Australian wilderness”

For we Ozi backpackers, a beaut moonlit night to stop in this cleared grass area surrounded by tall bush trees, with the whole enclosed by the tall sheer cliffs of the Wolgan Valley.  A couple of wombats feeding at separate places beside the track in this grassed area ignored me as I drove past only 2 m away, the wallabies and joeys further over took no more interest either.  This area abounds in natural beauty it is no wonder that Emirates opened Australia’s only 7 stare Ecological Resort near here.  As usual it takes outsiders to recognise what we have here so close to Sydney.  I guess there will be the copycat "would be if we could be" ventures following soon.   I slept on the car seat, without a sleeping bag tonight, to save unpacking.  Not 7 star luxury but similar surroundings :-)

Monday – way in to Annie Rowan creek

Wolgan River Just down stream form Newnes Camp area. Photo Monika I awoke to the usual dawn bird chorus, what a place, Australia really is the home of the bird – so many different species, so many different calls and sounds all musical in their own way.  The morning call of the magpie the most beautiful sound I know, clear and sharp in the crisp clean air.  Gradually bluing sky above, the light gently revealing the colours, red, yellow, brown, black, white, of the vertical cliff faces as it lightens with the day.  No discordant sounds or sights or stink, man I love this place.

Monika was the other car active when I arrived, last night, but a little further up than where we usually meet.  We breakfast and prepare packs for the four days.  Monika had been canyoning with ANU at Bungonia over the weekend, before driving up, and so still has some packing to do.  Away about 9am with reasonably light packs, sharing gear as we can, I have a stove; Monika takes her new light weight sinylon fly, to give it a go.  The Wolgan is fairly low despite the fresh rain puddles we passed coming in last night, but I choose to take my boots off to cross (keep them dry as long as possible).

Our intention was to follow the Parks Service Road as far as possible.  One map shows this down to the Rocky Creek junction about 11 km along, the other shows it continues to Annie Rowan Creek junction another about 10km further on (we found it went halfway to Annie Rowan (gr approx 543 248), but on the northern side of the Wolgan, not southern as shown). 

Wolgan Valley Cliff Lines - Devils Pinch Canyon exit. photo Dug The Wolgan Valley is magnificent, formed as the river cut 300m to 400m down through the plateau, to the present day floor, leaving spectacular, high vertical colourful sandstone cliffs, cut here and there by watercourses, leading back to hidden Blue Mountains Canyons.  The whole area cloaked by the typical Blue Mountains Bush Forest, big trees along the river’s edge, smaller more rugged growth on the valley slopes and ridge tops (scratchy Lithgow boxthorn scrub in between).

Initially we wander past remnants of the old oil shale works abandoned in the 1930s.  Not much left now, the remains of a crib hut, a line of beehive retorts, a few bits of iron and pipe.  We take the road above the disused rail line.  Interesting historical reminders (well worth a wander, if you haven’t been here).  As we proceed I point out the access route to Firefly, Looking Glass and Twilight Canyons. There are adits to a couple of the abandoned shale mines.  We pass and comment on the Pipeline track, exit to:- Pipeline, Devil’s Elbow, Starlight and other unnamed canyons on the northern cliff line.  The exits to the other mentioned canyons further down on the south cliff line.  We pass abandoned small holdings on some of the spacious rich river flats, still the odd fence, shed or hut, mute reminders of someone’s dreams and aspirations, long gone.

"Lost Dreams" abandoned one of the small holdings on rich river flats along the Walgan  Photo Monika The wild life is never far from view or hearing, we pass black wallabies, lyre birds, bell birds, vividly coloured king parrots, a number of other species of parrot, black or white cockatoos, corellas, butterflies, moths, brilliantly coloured fungi.  Of course the usual proliferation of flowers on the sandstone soil, lilies, bottle brush, Banksia, orchids to please the eye.

Walking very pleasant on this beaut sunny day we arrive at Rocky Creek Junction about 12:30 in time for lunch.  Because it is a good hot day we take a midday snooze, very civilised.   Away walking about 13:45 still a great place to be watching the cliffs and bush as we pass by.  About 14:30 we reach the extent of the road in a patch of, what looks like bush regeneration and weed eradication.  (Rod one of the participants in the Rope access course last week said he was going to Annie Rowan Creek for Bush Regeneration project – probably here; or they will have to make a track to Annie Rowan).

(I believe that in the past this road went much further, but has been disused since this area became a declared wilderness, in the 1980ies (it only added to the World Heritage List in the year 2000)).

We started walking down the river when the cleared area ran out, but this proved a tad slow, so we opted to take to the slopes above the bank.  In theory this should have been the shortest route even with a little up and down.  But, we hadn’t factored in the Lithgow Boxthorn there to greet us in profusion and one might suppose glee, well it didn’t look very sorry :-) Camp on Wolgan oposite Annie Rowan Creek.  Photo Monika   

To add to our “glee” the little puffy white clouds of 2 hours ago began to develop to giant white fluffy clouds which developed that ominous purple bottom.  Every now and then a rumble – that a jet plane – isn’t it.  Then flashes of light above followed by rumble, then a much closer ccclllaaasssshh over head.  The first drops of rain were cold, round and hollow like melted hail stones, but only a few.  As we walked a drizzle drifted down wetting us and the bush, which helped wet us even more.  Still not too bad really compared with what was possible.  About 18:30 we arrived at the junction of Annie Rowan and Wolgan, and set up camp on the ne bank of the Wolgan opposite the junction.   The going has been much slower than hoped 5km in 3:30hr, due to scrub and terrain, still very pretty though.

Good place to camp flat, clear, trees just in the right places to tie the fly.  Space for a fire and firewood.  Clean water in the Annie, just across the way.  The scrub and wood a little damp but we soon had a cooking fire going and hot drinks and dinner on.  The storms continued to thump away ne and sw of us but we were in the clear.  In the end a great night sitting round the fire eating and drinking, telling tales, tall and true of bushwalks and canyons past.

Tuesday – aim to investigate Annie Rowan and side canyons

Annie Rowan near the Wolgan junction.  Photo Monika We plan to walk Annie Rowan, to find camp site further up upstream and investigate the canyons, such as Reverse, Inverse, Bull Ring.  The scrub we found getting here doesn’t fill us with a lot of hope to fulfil our objectives.

Again a pleasant place to awaken with tinkling of the river beside us, enhanced by the usual swealing dawn bird chorus as the day gradually lightens.  We are in a deep valley so it will be a while till the sun gets to us.   Breakfast in the sunshine and getting ready for the day with day packs.  

Away about 0800 we cross the Wolgan and head south up the Annie Rowan.  The creek not much different to yesterday still plenty of vegetation and only the occasional sandy stretch.  A number of places we could have camped but no real advantage over last nights.  We kept to the creek despite the slow going as we wanted to investigate it, very pleasant and some stand out lovely spots.  Late in the morning, as we were clambering through boulder jambs, we found a place that would make an excellent camp spot (gr 553 197 GDA 94), level, flat, covered in leaf litter, elevated on a rock/boulder island, big enough for a party of 10 or more and close enough to the cliff lines to be useful.  There were a few other places further along also.  The creek here is largely boulder jambs and pools, still relatively slow going.

Rock pools boulder jamb Annie Rowan Creek. Photo Monika We reached our target Bull Ring creek junction about 12:30 – time for lunch and a pleasant place it is too.  Weather is still kind to me but Monika does find it a little too warm when out of the shade.  There is a very strong westerly wind blowing above us in the cliff tops 200m up, but only occasional gusts down here.  After lunch we decide to head back because it took so long to get here (4:30 to travel 3km) and we would prefer not to be caught short of camp by dark.

We took the spur to our west down to the Junction with Reverse/Lyrebird Canyon Creek.  This proves to be scrubby and scratchy but much quicker.  From the junction we scramble up on the eastern bank and this proves to be the right move.  Open, with very little scrub we make good time and are back at camp by 15:30 (just over an hour to do what took 4 this morning :-).  Time for a leisurely Exit of Bull Ring Creek into Annie Rowan. Photo Dug clean up and numerous cups of tea or milo.  Monika continues downstream in the Wolgan a way.  The footprints we saw yesterday continue on down.  We also find paw prints of a “very large” cat about 100mm across in the river sand.  Of course there are lots of other animal prints, lyrebirds, wombats, roos, goannas, and dogs (including some big ones).

A very pleasant lazy camp for the rest of the afternoon and night.  Again great meals prepared and consumed under the stars with interesting conversations.  We have decided that there is no real benefit staying here tomorrow so we plan to take our time getting back to Rocky Creek Junction.  We are both a little sick of pushing through slow scrub and Monika's knees are showing the signs (she brought shorts).

Wednesday – back to Rocky Creek explore there

Monika surveys the scrubby way ahead in Annie Rowan Creek.  Photo Dug Again, a good night and great way to waken to the new day.  We pack and clear the camp site by 08:00.  Our aim was to leave things so that others will not see we have been here.  I doubt there will be much sign after the next rain shower.   We wandered on down the creek initially on the northern bank but then in the river when this became steep.  The river has lots of long sandy stretches with easy walking punctuated by boulder jambs that need negotiation, under, over, round, through, but always on.  We reached the track river crossing about 11:30 so our time was not much different to the way in.  The main difference was that Monika’s knees got a rest from pushing and scratching through the scrub without any protection.  Views from the creek tended to be clearer, to the sky above or cliff lines on either side.  

From here we followed the road to Rocky Creek.  At the junction we made a bit of exploration up Rocky Creek.  Monika down the centre of the creek I up on the eastern bank and slopes.  Very pretty in the creek but scrubby, the banks were also scrubby.  A few places to camp if required but mostly needed some gardening of the scrub.  We chose to camp at the obvious camp site right at the junction, much to the displeasure of a young lyrebird, which complained off and on all afternoon, evening and next morning.  Other lyrebirds nearby joined in solidarity with their kind, (perhaps a role over from the unionism at the oil shale site in the older times:-).  We did get a little drizzle while exploring but this soon cleared and didn’t make the bush too wet.

A second slack camp in two days washing of the grime of travel or slurping hot drinks in the cool shade.  Very pleasant place, to prepare dinner, listening to the water splashing past us.  Although we did find that the shale rock used to contain the fire heat tended to explode threatening dire injury until it was moved away from the heat. 

Thursday – way out

Four very enjoyable nights in a row, what a place to be.  We wandered along the service track back to Newnes again admiring the cliffs and canyon exits – I even thought “wouldn’t be bad to do Nightmare, Devil’s Elbow and Starlight canyons again” but common sense soon came back, thank goodness.

Wolgan River near end of Service Track.  Photo Dug I will go back to the canyons into Annie Rowan but from the Mt Cameron Fire trail next time.  (the fire trail is disused so it will be a long walk in still, and would require a base camp).

All to soon back at the cars to clean up ready for the trip to Sydney to meet up with Pat and Allan my Pommie relatives.

Thank you Monika for your great company, it is a good trip that I have wanted to do for a few years now.  I could have done without some of the scrub but enjoyed it never the less.  Monika went on to do some canyons on Newnes plateau with Dave Carmichael, Amie and others (bit too early in the season for me yet (cold water)).  Till next time © Dug Floyd November 2009.


Photo album below:-

What was I doing the weekend before Bill Course? Volunteer Rescue Association Verticalof course!  On a high line.