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Brokenback Range, Yellow Billy Cave, Yellow Rock. (15/16th May 2010)

Map:-

Brokenback 1:25000

Party:-

Trevor, Helen, Frank, Charmin, Dug

Yellow Rock, rock platform on a May evening.  Pic by DugFriday night

I couldnít find an overnight walk for this weekend, but NBC had a navigation training walk on in the Brokenback range, so why not. I have had a couple of half hearted attempts to fine an aboriginal art cave in the general area several times over the past few of years, without success. Even when were brought Snowy Brickman up for the day, just after the 2007 Navshield. I could also sleep at the big exposed rock platform with great views of the Hunter Valley, at Yellow Rock, a noted aboriginal ceremonial site.

Trevor and I drove up while the others travelled with Frank. We parked at a side track just below the Communications towers on the Cessnock side of the range. Trevor briefed the novice navigators to lead us down the track to a slight saddle then take us off the road down a watercourse and up the other side to a saddle on the next ridge. No problems to these guys and we were soon finding our way down the steep slope into the creek , where we stopped to compare notes. Can you see the bend in the creek and find it on the map, can you see that gully marked on the map on the ground, is it this gully or that gully, can you make out the saddle on the ridge above? Of course no problem.

A pleasant sunny May day not too hot not too cold, alright. This bush is easy walking, nice compared with some of the places Iíve been recently. I have often seen this , that State Forests treat there land with respect so that it is a pleasure to walk through it, compared with NPWS parks which tend to be badly overgrown and difficult to walk through. I guess parks just donít have the resources to keep things right.

On the ridge we have magnificent views of the Hunter Valley to the coast, we can see lots of wineries just down there past the foot of the steep, rocky escarpment. NBC does lead good walks to the wineries for those interested. Our novice navigators must lead us along the winding, rocky ridge top over a couple of high spots, north then west. Delightful walking easy underfoot as there is a foot pad most of the way. Fascinating rock formations to maize our way through, while admiring the views, while also watching our footings. We pass a number of places where people have camped in the past, a delightful place we would think. Beaut forest, perched up high to watch the sun set and be awakened by the sun rise, there was even water in the creek at the foot of the ridge, only a short way down.

Round about now we heard loud bangs, some times in groups of two, three of four, some times single sometimes prolongs as if several separate at the same time. At first the consensus is mine blasting rather than gun fire from the army base over to our right in the Valley. Eventually we see the smoke and then hear the bangs. It is the army out there training to kill Afghans. I donít know why they are ordered to kill Afghans it somehow doesnít seem right.

Our new navigators take us to the spur with a narrow rocky end, to continue is possible but probably difficult. Not to worry we know Yellow Billy cave is just a scramble down to our right. We all scramble down to the overhang to investigate this bolt hole. Just an ordinary looking hollowed out rock, but there is a rough stone retaining wall on one side. Once inside we find that it goes back deeper than you would think, and there is even an escape hatch or two to the back and off to one side. The remains of a pallias made of bush timber and some kind of canvas delimit the sleeping quarters. A good bolt hole but Iím not sure Iíd prefer to live here for any length of time. An added interest is that a colony of micro bats has taken p residence. It seems they are not partial to our torch light and flit about while we are there.

Map reading where are we?  Pic by DugNext itís up to the sunny rock platform at the end of the spur for a pleasant lunch admiring the scene all around us and using the maps to identify features we can see. Very pleasant and laid back afternoon.

Our way back is along the ridge lines to the saddle we first came to but from here we continue along the same ridge line and up to the base of the communication towers. Not difficult navigation but there is some rout finding up the rocky outcrops Ė all part of learning to navigate. Back at the cars at a reasonable time the others pile into Franks car to return to Newi while I go west to start my quest for the cave. I drove out Beehive ridge tail and investigated some side trails, on foot where necessary. I found an excellent camping spot for an extended group but no caves.

Time to drive out to Yellow Rock, the road is in good condition now. After the 2007 storms, this road was blocked by land slip, all made good now. A place I loved first time I saw it and it still gives the same pleasure. I will camp out tonight to enjoy this spot to the utmost. I parked my car at the near end, driving on the rock platform as little as possible.

Brokenback rang road winds its way across the landscape. Tall trees, deep valleys, rocky ridges radiating, out to who knows what delights. I pass a large area that has been adopted by a groups of? (I was tempted to say a church group, but didnít stop to find out). As I go west the road narrowed to a single vehicle trail. Luckily the only vehicles I pass know how to drive and there is no drama. Yellow Rock road, even narrower just here goes straight ahead up the hill, while the main track turns and goes down hill.

Yellow Rock road winds its way across a wide plateau dissected by deep steep sided valleys. Dryer so not as many tall (big) trees, but pleasant land to travel. As I progress north and west the land narrows, until Iím driving along a narrowing ridge with great views glimpsed between the tree cover. I pass the location of the land slide, all clear now but a narrow road with steep drop on my right-hand side. Next I came to the short steep rough track leading to the long rounded rock platform that is the delight of Yellow Rock from this ridge top.

This rock platform is 200m long and 50m wide rounded on top to slope gently to my left, but rounded growing ever steep to my right, ending at the base of a 200m cliff (if you donít watch your driving, walking or running). The first time I saw it a few years ago I said this has to be an aboriginal site. And I found a few groups of axe grinding grooves just to prove it. The Yellow Rock that lends its name to this place can be seen from the Hunter and Wollemi Valleys but not easily from up here. During the Navshield we set a flag in a natural arch right at the end of the much narrow ridge, just before the steep descent down the nose. I also found an overhang off to one side with hand prints and paintings. I believe this rock platform has been a favourite place for millennia, The sets of axe grooves I located, support this. I would think that there are many more, now hidden by moss and lichen and the patches of shallow soil scrub.

Tonight I will camp on the near end of the platform to save driving on the rock and possibly damaging it more. I can see a few places where parties have had fires (Iíll make them disappear before I leave, and clean up the rubbish). I make a cooking fire on the ďhiddenĒ side of the ridge and lay out space blanket ground sheet with air bed on a clear grassy area. I did leave a better place because it was too near a wombat burrow Ė prefer to disturb them as little as possible.

Axe grooves on the rock platform at Yellow Rock.  Pic by DugA beautiful place to be on a beautiful late afternoon, gradually changing to twilight, then night. The cliffs opposite glow in changing hews as the sun drops and its colours deepen. Sky to the west down low red becoming lighter to orange to yellow to yellow blue to darker blue to grey. Tree covered hill/rift to the east the light coloured cliffs picked out brighter by the setting sun low in the west. Further east still the towering fluffy clouds stretching from the mouth of the Hunter River south. A feature of the late autumn sky-scape in these latitudes are the line of thunder storms that form over the continental drop off where a warm current goes south and a cold current passes travelling north. Way up north over the Barrington tops I can see more thunder clouds.

Gradually the glow fades to black and a starry night evolves. As the dark intensifies stars emerge in the back emptiness, first Venus in the northwest sky bright even in the afterglow of the set sun, then gradually more and more twinkle down on Yellow Rock.

Absolute silence in this dusk air, then rent by pweeting prweeting of a lyre bird, unanswered. A little later another call. As the light gradually fades I imagine that I can hear the faint calls of insects, very faint ambient white sound. Some silshh slishh, other wherr whirr whirr. The last chirpur chirpur of a lyre bird just up to the north in the bush.

Slight cold adiabatic drift of air from top towards bottom of the slope, tending on the nippy side of pleasant. The small cooking fire helps to take that nip away.

The valley below gradually darkens and lights materialise. The odd erratic brownian lights movement out in the Hunter Valley, I would guess are army playing war training. The lightening display after dark was spectacular with sheets lighting up part of the sky, or the to me, even more spectacular, were the points of light so bright that I lose night vision each time I look at one.

Tea for tonight is lentil, bean, mince stew, delicious. I enjoy wandering about this rock platform watching the changes of the night, in the sky, up on this ridge, over the horizons and down in the valleys below. My bed just right with the lilo courtesy of the car camp (too heavy for normal bushwalking).

By 6:30 pitch dark, I hear the occasional faint rumble of an airliner overhead. I couldn't hear these during the day :-) After dark the broooom, brooooom of artillery starts again as the war training continues. Luckily only till about 8:30 or should that be 2030 hours. Out to sea in the distant east sky flashes or pinpoints of lightening from the typical opposing sea current induced line of storms. I'm not expecting it here now. From the rock ledge I can see the spread out lights of Singleton, Hunter towns and mines. Below in the army training ground I see lights moving here and there and then darkness. The gunfire is no more.

Hunter Valley from Tellow Rock early on a May morning. Pic by DugSunday

Pleasant night under the stars, delightful to awaken with the first hint of dawn in the east. Not much packing to do, just pull the plug out of the air bed and stuff the sleeping bag into the pack. Then wander around and clean up other peoples rubbish and make the fire places disappear. No hurry either just going around the tracks seeking the elusive art cave.

First I checked out a track system Ĺ km before Bees Nest Ridge. Pleasant walking on the nearly overgrown track but no signs of cliff lines that could hold a cave. Next I drove to the first track north east up off the Bees Nest Ridge road. This lead to a narrow spur over looking Monkey Place Creek valley. A foot track lead down the spur to a magnificent lookout on an exposed rocky vantage point. I could see a foot track lower down but couldn't discover a way down to it, that I cared to use, but I had a good look round. On the way down I investigated a couple of small overhangs in the cliff to my right, but the rock would seem too soft to house an art gallery. The floor was too sloped and rocky for a camping cave.

I drove back a short way and parked the car to walk a blocked off track to the east. This lead to an interesting looking, northeast pointing spur. Pleasant walking on this wonderful warm bright sunny day. This spur also had lots of cliffs and I could spy an overhang further along. When I investigated, that overhand didn't seem suitable, the rock being too soft and crumbly. However looking back the rock ledge I had been standing on a short while before was undercut about 20m in an impressive overhang (glad it held up my weight:-). The floor of the cave had a number of boulders and fallen rocks indicating that, if it had been used as an art cave that was a long time ago. I couldn't see a way to get to the cave as the slope looked too steep and slippery. There were marks on a couple of the walls that could have been stick figures but I was too far away to see for sure. Stick figures don't seem to be common art form in this area, so probably not an art site

Lunch in a beaut sunny spot enjoying this glorious autumn day, then the drive home, initially along the narrow one vehicle tracks. I did meet two drivers who did not know how to pass. They stopped in the middle of the track and expected me to drive over the edge to get out of their way, even though I had stopped right off the edge of the road and there was enough room to get past. Luckily eventually they worked out how. I might add that I passed a number of other vehicles who didn't have a problem, including one 4wd tour group who clearly had inexperienced drivers that had been briefed well.

A beaut couple of days in the bush. Thank you Trevor, Frank, Helen, Charmin for your company on Saturday. I didn't find the cave but I did enjoy the outing :-) Till next time.† Copyright Dug Floyd May 2010.

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Cave over Monkey Place Creek.  Pic by Dug

Axe Grooves, Yellow Rock May 2010.   Pic by Dug

Bees Nest Ridge and Hunter Valley from Yellow Rock ridge. Pic by Dug

Hunter Valley and Bees Nest Ridge looking NE from Yellow Rock Ridge

Looking north east to the Hunter Valley from Yellow Rock, platform.  Pic by Dug

Bees Nest Ridge and Yellow Rock Creek, from Yellow Rock Ridge.

Views of Hunter Valley. Pic by Dug

The rock platform roles over the edge, giving good views of the Hunter Valley

Views of Bees Nest Ridge. Pic by Dug

The other way the roll of the rock platform shows good veiws of Bees Nest Ridge and Yellow Rock Creek.

Lengthening shadows over Yellow Rock Creek. Pic by Dug

Lengthening Shadows over Yellow Rock Creek

Later afternoon sun on Bees Nest Ridge oposite. Pic by Dug

Later afternoon sun on the ridge oposite.

Rock platform looking south. Pic by Dug

Rock platform roleover looking south.

Rock plaform looking north. Pic by Dug

Rock platform roleover looking north.

Rock platform at Yellow Rock, note vehicle damage also axe groove lower lefthand corner. Pic by Dug

Yellow Rock rock platform showing vehicle damage. Notice the axe grinding groove in lower left.

Longer shadows in the Hunter. Pic by Dug

Longer shadows over the Hunter Valley.

Hunter Valley merging with twilight. Pic by Dug

Hunter merging with the mist of twilight, and highlights from the nearly set sun.

Sunset lighting cliffs oposite, note storm clouds out to sea. Pic by Dug

Early morning mist. Pic by Dug

Very early morning mist in Yellow Rock Creek Valley

Early morning mists. Pic by Dug

The early mornig mist in the Hunter Valley, possibly accentuated by army camp fires.

Early morning light picking out Yellow Rock Ridge. Pic by Dug

Early light picking up Yellow Rock Ridge looking southeast.

Cave overlooking Monkey Place. Pic by Dug

Cave overlooking Monkey Place Creek.

What are thos marks on the walls of the cave?. Pic by Dug

Cave overlooking Monkey Place Creek, what are those marks?

Cave near Monkey Place, fairly old rocks on floor. Pic by Dug

Another view of the same cave, the rocks on the floor are probably not all that old.

Cave overlooking Monkey Place Creek, note the amount of overhang. Pic by Dug

I camped out under the stars, but on an airbed. Pic by Dug

Morning glory, mist in the Hunter Valley. Pic by Dug

Setting sun picking out the light cliffs oposite. Pic by Dug

Setting sun picking out the light coloured cliffs. Note the storm clouds out to sea in the background.

Rock platform at Yellow Rock looking south. Pic by Dug

Rock Platform at Yellow Rock looking north. Pic by Dug

Rock platform at Yellow Rock.

Yellow Rock beut place to be for many years. Pic by Dug