Tag Archives: outdoors

Noosa Trail Network – Day 2

Sunrise from Tablelands Lookout

Sunrise from Tablelands Lookout

The moon was so bright overnight that it was like someone had forgotten to turn the lights off. I woke a couple of times during the night wondering whether it was already daytime. But it wasn’t and I went back to sleep. Ironically, by the time I was ready to get up, the moon had dropped low enough in the western sky to make it darker than in the middle of the night. It felt special to be out under the moon instead of locked away in a house.

Shortly after I woke, the sun rose to the east. For a short period, both sun and moon were equidistant from their respective horizons.

Setting off down trail #3 from Tablelands Lookout

Setting off down trail #3 from Tablelands Lookout

I set off at 6:15am, following trail #3 heading towards Kin Kin. I warmed up by following a gravel road through pretty farmlands before turning off to follow a rugged and rutted fire trail into the rain forest. I lacked the skills to ride the whole trail; so deep were the washouts. But I enjoyed the serenity of a morning in the bush.

Gorgeous gums

Gorgeous gums

While I spent most of my first day on the trail getting used to being out on the trails, on day 2 I was able to enjoy the total experience of being immersed in the wilderness. It’s almost as though waking up in a tent puts me in a different state of mind: a relaxed and adventurous one in harmony with nature.

Into the rainforest

Into the rainforest

Trail #3 is as beautiful and diverse as it is challenging. Fortunately, the ride from Tablelands Lookout to Kin Kin is almost all downhill. The rainforest included some rock gardens and tree roots, as well as mostly following single trail.

Views from Johnston's Lookout

Views from Johnston’s Lookout

That's the trail running along the ridge

That’s the trail running along the ridge

And then I popped out at Johnston’s Lookout. One minute I was riding in rainforest, and the next I was blessed with this fabulous view out over the range. Don’t let the green scenery trick you, it was pretty hot and dry. The trail from Johnston’s winds down a steep descent before reaching a gate and then dropping sharply downhill and along a ridge. I felt like I was cycling in the UK; or at least what I imagine cycling in the UK would be like.

There’s a trail marker missing after you exit the farm from Johnston’s Lookout. Turn left at the road and follow it for a few kilometres until you reach a sharp bend to the left as you head uphill. On the right you’ll see a locked farm gate and a trail network pedestrian gate. The trail network gate is locked shut because the fence posts have separated over time. I had to throw my bike over the farm gate and slide under the barbed wire.

This is NOT the trail

This is NOT the trail

I walked up and rode down that; it was NOT the track

I walked up and rode down that; it was NOT the track

Once I reached the main road, I turned right into Kin Kin instead of following the 5km loop into town. I was hot and needed some electrolytes. I forgot to pack them in my gear; a mistake I won’t make again. The shop in Kin Kin has been done up since last time I was there. Eight years ago it was still just a country store with a fuel bowser out the front. Now it’s a lovely cafe with massive outdoor seating area. I can highly recommend the thick shakes.

I stopped at the camp ground in Kin Kin to collect water. While there, I had a yarn with a group of horse trail riders who were on holidays from Beaudesert, south of where I live. They often ride in my local area so I told them about the Bayview trails because you can ride horses there too. I also told them about the broken gate because they were hoping to go up towards Johnston’s Lookout from Kin Kin, and you can’t just throw a horse over a fence like you can a bike.

From Kin Kin I tried to follow the signs along trail #4. I lost it almost immediately on my way to the road because I started following farm pads. I ended up climbing up the back of a steep grassy knoll only to have to ride down the front of it and joint the road. From here, I again couldn’t find any signs to the trail so followed the Gympie-Kin Kin Road for a couple of kilometres until I got lucky by stumbling across the track. The only map I had was an enlarged version of the trail network brochure and it contained insufficient detail to navigate off accurately.

Massive goanna

Massive goanna

Views from Cootharaba Views Lookout

Views from Cootharaba Views Lookout

Views from Cootharaba Lookout (in the other direction)

Views from Cootharaba Lookout (in the other direction)

The trail started to climb uphill towards Cootharaba Views Lookout. On my way up, I managed to capture a photo of a massive goanna scrambling up a tree to get away from me. It was just one of the many goannas I saw over the weekend but was probably the largest. It hissed menacingly at me from it’s perch metres above me.

The views from the lookout were as amazing as the other views but this lookout is on a ridge so it has 360′ views. To the north and east east are Lake Cootharaba and the Cooloola Sandpatch. To the south and west west are the mountains. You can camp up here; it’s an official campsite with water but no sanitation.

Dropping down the ridge

Dropping down the ridge

Perfect rural roads

Perfect rural roads

Heading to Twin Hills Lookout

Heading to Twin Hills Lookout

From Cootharaba Views Lookout, the trail flows down along the ridgeline until it pops out on a perfect country road that winds it’s way over the hill tops until it reaches a dairy farm. From here the trail is unformed but follows the farm’s fenceline until it reaches Two Hills Lookout. It’s a challenging uphill climb across the farmland because the cows use this as their pathway to be milked. But again, it’s novel and fun to ride across a field of grass.

Such diversity of trail

Such diversity of trail

I rode this section twice

I rode this section twice

After Twin Hills Lookout trail #4 splits from trail #2. I followed trail #4 steadily downhill towards Lake McDonald. This section of trail is abysmally marked, with missing signs at critical track junctions. When I finally did find a sign, it was the ‘Alt #4’ sign indicating the alternate dry weather route. I followed it only to discover that I traveled back on myself. Fortunately, after riding about a kilometre in the wrong direction I recognised an intersection so I took out my  mobile phone and used my new favourite app (View Ranger) to work out exactly where I was and how to get to Lake McDonald. Fortunately, the track was beautiful.

Resting at Lake McDonald

Resting at Lake McDonald

I reached Lake McDonald in the mid afternoon. I’ve been here before during both the 2012 and 2013 Adventure Race Australia. I ate lunch, enjoyed the view and relaxed for a few minutes.

Trail #7 heading back to Pomona

Trail #7 heading back to Pomona

Ancient tree

Ancient tree

Then I hit trail #7; my final trail for the day and one I’ve ridden and run as part of Adventure Race Australia 2012 and 2013 (I certainly hope we don’t take it again in 2014 because, no matter how beautiful the track, that would be boring for adventure racing).

Cruising back to Pomona

Cruising back to Pomona

I made the most of that final 15km stretch back to Pomona. I felt strong and confident on my bike and actually got up some speed on the downhills. I also worked out my packing issues. Both my handlebar and seat post bags were rubbing against the wheels when I rode over jumps or through bomb holes. But after I removed my clothes from the handlbar bag and the waterproof from my seat post bag the rubbing stopped. I now now that I have to carry my clothes in my backpack.

One last look at the trail

One last look at the trail

One last section of trail to enjoy and drool over.

It's all over but the 4hr train ride home

It’s all over but the 4hr train ride home

And then it was done. I got back to Pomona, bought some food and cold drink to enjoy under the shade of the same tree in the same park as I snoozed in yesterday. Then I cleaned and lubed my bike chain before my 4 hour train ride home.

As challenging as it was, it was a brilliant weekend and I’ll be back to ride the Noosa Trail Network again in November.

Total: 60km MTB

PS: Sorry for being so pick heavy but I wanted to share a good selection of images to showcase the trail network. My internet searches only revealed a relatively small number of images that made the trail network seem like they were just fire trail and gravel roads, not the diverse and beautiful experience they really are.

Not quite Mt Superbus

Setting off into the mountains

Setting off into the mountains

After a 3.5 hour drive, including 20km of slow slippery four-wheel driving down Emu Creek Road with it’s seven creek crossings, I parked the ute, slung my pack on my shoulders and set off to find the Lincoln Bomber and camp at Mt Superbus South Peak. The title of this post should alert you to the fact that I didn’t quite succeed in that mission. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a fantastic weekend of mountain exploration.

Emu Creek

Emu Creek

I couldn’t drive the whole way to the end of Emu Creek Road due to some deep crossings. That just meant I could start my walk by listening to the water gurgle its way downstream through the rocks. I also had to negotiate a few creek crossings.

The fork in the road where I (wrongly) turned right

The fork in the road where I (wrongly) turned right

The instructions I had for the hike (written in 1991 but still used by many walkers) said to follow Emu Creek Road until I reached a fork. It said the left side would head downhill and to take the right side. I reached a fork in the road. The left side went downhill. So I followed the right side a couple of hundred metres until it ended.

Making the ground fit the map - Um mah!

Making the ground fit the map – Um mah!

The route instructions said that there should be an old logging track leaving the end of the road. I didn’t see any real tracks but put it down to the instructions being over 20 years old. There’s been some very wet seasons here in southern Queensland over the past few years and that would naturally lead to a lot of regrowth. That was my first mistake. The second mistake was that I didn’t listen to my brain when I saw that the ground didn’t match the map. It rose too steeply. The Steamers’ Prow was directly opposite me. There were cliffs high up to my left. None of that should have been there.

These cliffs shouldn't have been there

These cliffs shouldn’t have been there

But still I pressed on. I know it’s because I am still insecure in my own navigation skills so I rely on other peoples’ advice (including the old route instructions). I need to stop doing this. But that’s just a lesson I’ll learn in time. At least I’m not over-confident.

So I climbed and climbed. I hiked directly uphill like I would have if I were in the right place. It was too steep to be right, but still I climbed. I climbed for about an hour until I reached the base of a rock face. It wasn’t quite  a cliff but just a big pile of really big rocks. I starting to scramble up them but then looked down and saw that I was exposed. I’m not that good with heights of exposure so decided to call it quits. Then I looked at the map and realised that I was totally in the wrong place – I was exactly where the map said there were ‘rock faces’. So I stared to descend.

The Steamers

The Steamers

The benefit of being in the wrong place was that I had fantastic views of The Steamers. This iconic group of outcrops are rarely due to the difficulties in accessing them and there are no marked tracks to visit them. But, from my vantage point up on the unnamed mountain, I could enjoy their magnificence to my heart’s content.

I made my way back down the mountain to the end of the road where I had started. On my way down, I found a creek line that was amazing. It didn’t turn out in my photo but the creek line was about 20m wide and up to 5m deep. It was like a massive wall of water had once forced its way down the mountain. I suspect it happened during the 2011 floods, which is consistent with the level of regrowth. There were huge trees that had fallen over and there was grass high up in the trees that remained. It was truly epic and would have been scary at the time.

Back at the end of the road, I tried again. This time I turned more to my left to head up a spur. Again I ended up under the cliffs but this time they were proper cliffs, not rock faces. At this point I admitted my initial mistake and located myself on the map. Trouble was, it was a long way across to where I wanted to be and I didn’t want to descend and climb again. The 16kg pack was starting to get really heavy. Besides, I still didn’t know that my starting point was wrong – I just thought I was walking off too far to the right.

Hauling my pack up a steep watercourse

Hauling my pack up a steep watercourse

I started to contour around the mountain, hoping to find a way to get to the area I was meant to be walking. Along the way, there was a deep gully I had to cross. It was quite sketchy and the only way out of the other side was up a slippery watercourse. The rocks and scrub underfoot was precipitous, and the angle was almost vertical. I was grateful that I threw a length of Telecom rope into my pack at the last minute because I could take off my pack, scramble up and then haul the heavy load up behind me.

Not rolling stones

Not rolling stones

I kept contouring my way around the mountain. It took hours and still I didn’t get anywhere near where I was meant to be. The ground steep and sketchy but the views were amazing all day. While I wasn’t where I wanted to be, I was never lost because I could see the Steamers and knew that all I had to do was scramble back down the mountain to reach the road. See, I’ve only this year started to really get into map and compass navigation so I am trying to practice in places with defined boundaries so that I always have an escape.

In the rock field and having blast

In the rock field and having blast

At about 2pm, I passed a small flat space on the side of the mountain. It was perfect for camping. So I took note of where it was and took a photo of the tree line at that place in case I needed to come back to it (which I did). I continued on my trek around the mountain. After about 20 minutes I came to a big rock field. It was eerie: the rocks were not covered in moss and there were huge crevasses between some of them. The field was probably 50m wide and it was quite a challenge to cross it. Once across, I could see that I was still not even close to getting past the steep cliff-topped section of the track and it was getting close to 3pm.

My campsite

My campsite

I decided to err on the side of caution and return to the campsite I’d seen. It was a huge confidence boost when I found it easily amongst the trees and rocks. I set up camp in the afternoon sun and settled back with the book I’m reading: Pemulwuy.

How I pack my meals

How I pack my meals

Then it was time for food. I carry all my meals in labelled clip lock bags. I have to say that I am not a fan of the new zippers that Glad have put on their bags so this is definitely not an advertisement for that brand.

Coconut curry soup

Coconut curry soup

First was coconut curry soup: coconut milk powder, vermicelli, freeze dried peas, dried Chinese mushrooms, dried fried shallots, ginger powder, stock cube, garlic granules and curry powder. Just add water, boil and eat.

Ginger noodles

Ginger noodles

After reading a few more chapters of my book, I made my main meal, ginger noodles: dried egg noodles, freeze dried vegetables from the Backcountry range, stock cube, ginger powder and soy sauce. Just add some water, boil and eat. It would have been better with some beef jerkey in it so I might add that for my Great North Walk hike.

Hot chocolate custard

Hot chocolate custard

Finally, just before retiring to the warmth of my tent, I mad some hot chocolate custard. This is my mum’s recipe and one of my top five favourite foods: 1/2tbs cocoa, 1tbs cornflour, 1 1/2tbs sugar, powdered milk and 300ml hot water. Mix well, bring to boil and allow to thicken.

Brrr

Brrr

It was a bit cold last night up in my mountain camp. Not snowing cold but still cold by my soft subtropical standards. I ended up in my thermal long johns and top, trousers, socks, t-shirt, 100 weight fleece, Goretex jacket, buff and beanie. Suffice to say, I didn’t stay out in the cold for long – my bed called me so I curled up in my sleeping bag and settled in with my book as the moon rose.

Mornings at camp rock

Mornings at camp rock

I slept fairly well despite being on a slight incline. I did have some strange experiences of the mountain rumbling under me. I think perhaps the rocks in the rock field aren’t as stable as they seem and that some might have fallen during the night. Who knows. I did have something large bump into me too – perhaps a wallaby or something. But other than that, I slept well listening to the wind in the trees.

Gourmet breakfast porridge

Gourmet breakfast porridge

I woke early, read a bit, watched the sky turn orange over The Steamers and cooked up a gourmet breakfast porridge: oats, mixed dried fruit, sugar, cinnamon, ground almonds and powdered milk. Add water, bring to boil and eat while hot.

Morning scamper

Morning scamper

Then I set off up the mountain to explore my location and get a better feel for the place. I left my tent and pack at camp, and scrambled up to the base of the cliffs. I followed them around until I came almost to the end. I saw a blue tag in a spot where it was probably possible to scramble to the top of the plateau and I did start. But then I realised that I’d have to find a way down, so I decided no to continue. I really am not that good with heights when I’m alone (I can do it when I follow someone though).

Morning in the mountains

Morning in the mountains

I had a ball of a time. Especially because mornings in the mountains are just so spectacular. The air is clear, the views are always magnificent and the contrast between the cool shadows and warm sun is delightful.

Another view of The SteamersThe views of The Steamers in the early morning light were gorgeous. They made the long hard hour of uphill scrambling worthwhile. And it’s mornings like these that keep my heart in the outdoors.

Soft and hard

Soft and hard

But it isn’t just the big views that I love so much. It’s also the simple things: the soft flowers growing in the cliff face.

Paper daisies high on a cliff ledge

Paper daisies high on a cliff ledge

And a patch of paper daisies growing up high on a ledge. So high that this photo was the closest I could get with my 5xoptical zoom on my camera.

This is living

This is living

I went back to camp and packed my gear before setting off down the mountain. Overnight I worked out exactly where I was and where I’d taken the wrong track. So I set off to where the road I should have taken was. I took a route that led me to a nice open spur that made the going easy.

The track I stumbled on

The track I stumbled on

Then, almost by magic, I found a well-trod track up the mountain. I followed it for quite a way until I reached a small campsite that had obviously been used. Some grot had left their toilet paper lying around the campsite instead of burying it or packing it out. From the campsite, the track disappeared but I knew that it must make it’s way up along the cliff line because I saw a tag up there in the morning. I tried to find my way up there, but with the weight of my pack it was just too sketchy and I didn’t want to end up like the guy in 127 Hours so I tracked back down. Besides, I knew that I didn’t have to climb the cliffs to get to Mt Superbus and the Lincoln Bomber.

The track I was meant to take

The track I was meant to take

I retraced my steps and followed the track back down the spur until it reached a clearing near Cryptocarya Creek. Here I saw the obvious old forestry trail and another trail heading up along Cryptocarya Creek past a National Parks sign. This trail is very well walked and actually matches the map (not like my attempts yesterday to make the land match the map).

There is a track through there

There is a track through there

The track took me into the rainforest. This was more of what I was expecting from the topography that I was meant to be traveling through and also from other reports of the track. Unmaintained rainforest tracks can be tough to follow, especially after a few good years of rain. It’s surprisingly challenging to lift tired legs over vines without tripping (fortunately I managed) and to squat down under fallen trees with a heavy pack. But that’s nothing compared to the effects of stinging nettle. I’m going to start walking with gloves in the rainforest in future because the stinging nettle isn’t much fun.

Typical rain forest track

Typical rain forest track

The track through the rainforest was muddy. Try as I might, I couldn’t avoid the mud so I just traipsed straight through it.

Still smiling

Still smiling

I followed the trail for about 40 minutes before turning around and heading back. I could have kept going but the walk to the Bomber is a long hard full day and it was already 11pm when I turned around. With a 3.5 hour drive home after the hike, I decided to stick with my turn around time so that I could get home on time to clean up and have dinner with my partner.

I set off on Saturday morning to do a recce of the Lincoln Bomber hike that we’re taking our Scout troop on. I didn’t quite make it to the Bomber but I did find the track and also found an easy-to-make wrong turn. Not to mention the fantastic campsite and views.

And just to finish this post. Here’s a short 15 second video clip that I took so that you could hear the bell birds ringing through the valley.

Total: 10 hours strenuous hiking over two days with 16kg pack. Distance unknown but probably about 15km.

Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane 2013 – Trail marking

Trail marking kit

Trail marking kit

A small army of volunteers hit the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane trail today. Our task: to hang the markings that will guide the 1,100 walkers through their 100km odyssey. The army consisted of seven teams of three to four volunteers. Each team walked one stage of the course hanging numbered yellow markers every 100m and big red arrows at every intersection.

Views on the way to the trail

Views on the way to the trail

I started the day by riding my motorbike up to Mt Glorious over the Mt Nebo Scenic Route. After a week of rain, the sun was shining and clouds hung low in the valley, promising a perfect day for walking.

Volunteering made fun

Volunteering made fun

There’s no easy way to mark the trail: we volunteers simply had to walk our section of track. Not that it was a hardship – rarely are there volunteering opportunities that both help a fantastic charity and get you outdoors hiking in the bush. It was certainly worth taking one of my annual leave days off work.

Lunch at England Creek (Right Branch)

Lunch at England Creek (Right Branch)

I only met my walking companions today at the start of the trail. But over the course of the next seven hours we got to know a little about each other, shared some laughs and found a delightful spot for lunch on the banks of England Creek (Right Branch). I knew this lunch spot was here from my walk down here the other weekend when I completed a recce of the first half of the section of the Trailwalker course that we marked today.

Views from the trail

Views from the trail

The first half of our walk traveled downhill through dense forest. We then crossed England Creek, which was about calf deep. Then we spent the rest of the walk climbing back out of the valley to the top of the range. Actually, the photo in my ‘About me’ page of me sitting on the track in the Oxfam Trailwalker 2011 was taken in the same spot as I was standing when I took this photo of the view. How things have changed. But one thing hasn’t: that view made the long uphill grind worth it.

For the next two days I’ll be out at the event supporting my sister’s team of walkers. I can’t wait.

Total: 17km hike

A long time between trail runs

Trail running by Andrew Gills
Trail running, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

I dragged my sleepy body out of bed two hours before the sun. The ground was wet from overnight rain and the track through the grass paddock had turned into a creek. It didn’t take long before my feet were soaking wet.

I was meant to do a 24km training run late last week but after my 11km mid-week run my hip and back played up a bit so I took the rest of the week off.

This morning I decided to go for a 2-3 hour run / walk along the bush trails near home. It was just what I needed before work: some time out amongst the trees.

For almost two hours I ran in darkness, my vision restricted to the narrow beam of my Ayup headlamp. I ran along single track and fire trails, getting soaked by the water drops that I brushed off the tree branches I ran through. The she-oak forest was the worst – the furry leaves like car wash brushes soaking my skin and clothes.

As the sun came up I followed a new single track I’ve not noticed before. I thought I was heading home but ended up running an extra three to four kilometres instead. Not that it mattered – I was enjoying myself.

Tonight my shins are a bit tender and my sacroilliac joint is a bit twingy. So I will take another day off tomorrow to recover. I doubt my body will ever be up to high mileage (it’s never handled it in the past) but I enjoy running so I’d rather keep working on my base fitness and inching my way towards the Brisbane Marathon. Even if I do end up running at 8:00 kilometres like I have been training at.

Total: 17.27km trail run / walk

Motorcycle camping long weekend

Mum and Dad on their bikes

Mum and Dad on their bikes

We had a long weekend here in Queensland, so after half a day at the high ropes course, I met up with my parents for a few days motorbike camping. Mum and Dad recently bought new motorbikes, and this was their first time taking them out touring. It was nice to introduce them to one of my favourite activities and to have an excuse to go motorbike touring for the first time in almost a year.

My wheels

My wheels

We met at the Bearded Dragon down in Tamborine Village for a late lunch on Saturday afternoon. After huge meals we set off into the cold afternoon air for the short ride down country roads to Rathdowney and then onto Flanagan’s Reserve, near Mt Barney. With clouds rolling in ominously, we were expecting a wet camp but, fortunately, the rain never eventuated.

Camp at Flanagan's Reserve

Camp at Flanagan’s Reserve

Flanagan’s Reserve is 28 acres of bush camping. There are hot showers (20c/min) and toilets. The campsite is located along the upper reaches of the Logan River under the watchful eyes of Mt Barney and Mt Maroon. With plenty of trees for shade and steel drums to use as fire places, this site is beautiful all year round. You can just hang out at camp or drive up to nearby Yellow Pinch day use area to do some hiking around Mt Barney.

Morning walk near Mt Barney

Morning walk near Mt Barney

After a pleasant night around the campfire, I slept like a log. On Sunday morning I walked up the road for an hour, enjoying the country scenery. I thought about going for a run but decided to rest my body because I was sore after my 11km jog earlier in the week and a month off won’t do my body any harm.

Logan River at Flanagan's Reserve

Logan River at Flanagan’s Reserve

At the end of my walk I wandered through the campground to look at all the other campers’ set ups. While my parents and I had tiny little hiking tents, most other campers had huge arrangements: massive canvas tents, dome tents the size of small mansions and caravans that might make a Mac truck look small. I wonder whether the person who invented tents realised there would be such an array by the year 2013.

Riding up Mt Lindsay

Riding up Mt Lindsay

We started our ride on Sunday by heading south-west over Mt Lindsay. The roads were quiet and winding. As we crossed the mountain and state border at 1,195m we could see rain in all directions. The temperature plummeted and the roads got wet (though fortunately from rain that had already fallen earlier). Having only ridden less than 2,000km in total including their lessons and licence tests, the combination of wet and winding roads was a bit of a challenge for my parents. But they made it down into Woodenbong safely for a Tim Tam break.

Lunch at Killarney

Lunch at Killarney

From Woodenbong we rode north west back across the state border to Killarney. The Mount Lindsay Highway was a rough and rugged ride that took all our concentration to travel safely. I think we were all happy to see Shirl & Sandy’s takeaway shop in Killarney where we could escape the cold drizzle and buy some food. Shirl & Sandy’s is an unassuming little place but it was doing a roaring trade when we arrived. Six or seven car loads of men and their young sons were placing orders and eating. They were on “Secret Men’s Business”; a boy’s camping weekend. The food was honest and tasty, the service was friendly and the dining room was warm.

Back of the range

Back of the range

At Killarney we decided to head over to Goomburra and take our chances at one of the commercial camping grounds there rather than staying at the National Park. We are usually National Park people but with the cold weather and threatening skies, my parents decided that hot showers would be a lovely thing to have at the end of the day.

The only blue sky we saw all weekend

The only blue sky we saw all weekend

So we drove north behind the Great Dividing Range along quiet roads that gave us plenty of time to enjoy the views: mountains to our right and farmlands to our left.

Goomburra Valley Campground

Goomburra Valley Campground

None of us had ever been to Goomburra before. I don’t know why because we camp quite a bit and Goomburra is only 175km (110 miles) from home. After looking at the three commercial campgrounds in the Goomburra Valley, we decided to try our luck at the Goomburra Valley Campground. It was a long shot because all the campgrounds seemed to be quite full this long weekend. But they had a no-show, leaving space for us in a prime spot right next to the river.

Cute little fellow

Cute little fellow

There’s a shop about 500m from the campground so I went for a walk to buy cold drinks and chocolate to enjoy while we kicked back for the afternoon. Along the way, I came across a very cute little pony who couldn’t decide whether he was friendly or coy. He’d come up to let me pat him and then back off shyly. We played this game for a  little while before I continued on my way.

On my return, Mum, Dad and I sat around the campfire sharing cold soft drinks, chocolate and then, later, soup, dinner and French cheese.

The creek at Goomburra Valley Campground

The creek at Goomburra Valley Campground

I got up in the morning and took another one hour walk to explore the area. The creek next to the campground was pretty and would be a fun place for kids to play in summer.

Check out the horns on him

Check out the horns on him

Further up the road, I came across a herd of cattle, including a big bull with impressive horns. I couldn’t help but stay well away from him and keep an eye on him as I walked past. Sure, I know he won’t do anything. But those horns still demand respect.

Loving life

Loving life

After my walk, we had breakfast, packed our gear and hit the road for the ride home. In fine weather conditions, we would have stopped heaps to take photos but it didn’t take long before the rain started to fall. And it only grew heavier the closer to Brisbane we got. The first half of the ride was still nice though. We took the northern route back to Brisbane along the New England Highway and then the shortcut through to Gatton. Along the way we stopped at the Thies Memorial Park to make coffee and eat some simple snacks.

The ride home from Gatton got a bit miserable. The only highlight was the burgers we ate at the Ozie Fuels diner on the highway. They were not bad at all.

It was fantastic to play tour guide for my parents and I enjoyed their company for the weekend. I hope we have another chance to go motorbike touring.

High ropes course

Walk the swinging plank

Walk the swinging plank

One of the best things about being a Scout leader is the opportunity to do some really cool activities that I otherwise wouldn’t get to do. Sure, it’s all about the youth members, but that doesn’t mean that we adults can’t have some fun while we’re at it.

Spider's web high in the sky

Spider’s web high in the sky

On Saturday morning, eight Scouts and two Leaders went to the Thunderbird Park high ropes course to challenge ourselves to some games high off the ground.

Two caribbeaners for safety

Two caribbeaners for safety

With just two caribeaners and a harness to prevent us from plummeting to our deaths, the experience seemed to be simultaneously fun and scary for many of the youth members. Sure, there were those who made it look easy. But there were others who overcame great fears being suspended up in the air completing the games.

Slat bridge

Slat bridge

It was a pleasure to see the unbridled joy on their faces after they conquered their fears. I even got a high five after one of the Scouts crossed a long and fast flying fox that had caused him to almost freeze up in fear.

Tight rope walker

Tight rope walker

As a novice leader, this was a wonderful learning experience. As an outdoor adventurer, it was a great chance to play amongst the trees.

Total: 4 hours of high ropes adventure

Running before the dawn

Running before the dawn by Andrew Gills
Running before the dawn, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

Starlight pricks through the black curtain across the sky. There’s not a sound on the air except my feet patting the bitumen as I run through our neighbourhood. It’s still dark when I hit the gravel road. So dark that I can see the orange glow of the street lights that are a whole kilometre away and over a small hill. I crunch along the gravel at a nice slow pace.

There’s almost no sign of life until after the turnaround point when the kookooburras start to laugh. Suddenly the world starts to come alive. Other birds start to sing. The horizon starts to grow lighter. I see first one, then two and more cars driving down the road.

By the time I am home the sun has climbed higher into the heavens and the day is bright. Despite having lived here all my life, I am always surprised that the transition from day-to-night and night-to-day is completed within 15 minutes.

Total: 11.5km road run

England Creek (Right Branch) hike

Our route is in yellow highlighter

Our route is in yellow highlighter (map courtesy of Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane)

Yesterday, I led my first ever off-track hike. I haven’t done any off-track walking since I was a member of the Brisbane Bushwalkers Club about a decade ago but since being involved in adventure racing and rogaining, I’ve gained quite a bit of confidence in navigation. I put it to the test at England Creek (Right Branch) yesterday in a low risk navigational exercise. I invited my fellow Scout leaders along on the hike and one said ‘yes’.

Morning views from Joyners Ridge Road

Morning views from Joyners Ridge Road

We started out walk at the top of Mt Glorious. The skies were overcast and a light drizzle fell, but the views to the north as we dropped down off Joyners Ridge Road were fantastic. Clouds hung low in the valleys and the mountain peaks were almost like drifting islands.

England Creek (Right Branch)

England Creek (Right Branch)

The walk down to England Creek follows the first 7.5km of the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane route so it will be familiar to many local walkers. It follows Joyners Ridge Road and then turns left onto England Creek Road at a major intersection. Once down at the creek, my friend and I stopped for a brief picnic on a rock before leaving the track to head upstream into the jungle.

We were still trying to keep our feet dry here

We were still trying to keep our feet dry here

At first we rock hopped carefully, trying to keep our feet dry. I never know why I always do this on trips or events when I know that there’s no chance of staying dry. It’s like I’m putting off the inevitable. But it must waste so much energy.

Trying not to fall into the water

Trying not to fall into the water

By the time we got to this deep pool bordered by dangerously slippery rocks, I had given up keeping my feet wet.

I need to get to the other side so might as well jump in after all

I need to get to the other side so might as well jump in after all

That was fun

That was fun

And then when I realised I needed to get to the other side, I just jumped straight in.

There were lots of little gorge sections

There were lots of little gorge sections

The creek runs relatively low at this time of year after all the summer rains have finished and washed through the catchment area. But through each of the little gorges it was obvious that water often rushes through here much more quickly and at a higher level: just check out all the wear on those rocks.

What a beautiful part of the world

What a beautiful part of the world

As we trekked upstream I couldn’t help but think about how beautiful this part of the world is and how lucky I am to have it on my doorstep.

Impossibly tall palm trees along the creek

Impossibly tall palm trees along the creek

Dwarfed by the palm trees

Dwarfed by the palm trees

While rock hopping, it can be tempting to focus all your attention on your footing and on the creek itself. But when you look up and around, you can see what a complex ecosystem places like this are. Check out the impossibly tall palm trees that looked over us as we tiny humans meandered our way upstream.

One of the many swimming holes that would be amazing in summer

One of the many swimming holes that would be amazing in summer

England Creek (Right Branch) would be an even more amazing walk in late spring or early summer when the weather is warm (but not yet oppressively humid or wet). It’s dotted with these beautiful swimming holes and rock slabs that would make perfect places to have a picnic and swim.

A pretty series of cascades

A pretty series of cascades

It also contains many pretty cascades. I am sure that in late summer when we’re in the middle of our wet season, these would be imposing and scary. But yesterday they were just plain pretty. That’s not to say they weren’t treacherous.

Scrambling up some slippery rocks

Scrambling up some slippery rocks

My mate just walked across the log

My mate just walked across the log

Even the rock slabs that look dry were perilously slippery and required careful negotiation.In many of these cascades, we scrambled up the actual falls where the flowing water stopped moss from growing.

As it climbed, the trees closed in around the creek

As it climbed, the trees closed in around the creek

We knew we were starting to get into the upper reaches of the creek when the forest closed in more tightly around us and the light grew dimmer. The water volume reduced, the creek bed turned to stones and the going was more slippery than lower down where we had the option of walking on gravel. But by now we’d been in the creek for about three hours and it had become our entire existence, making the change in terrain feel natural.

The rocks in the upper reaches are slippery and seem constantly wetI can imagine the water rushing through here in the wet season; it must be spectacular. Now, in the dry, it’s just plain beautiful.

At these cascades we decided to exit the creek

At these cascades we decided to exit the creek

After following the creek for almost four hours, we reached our critical decision point. We had to decide whether to swim across a water hole and climb through the flowing water or whether to make our escape out of the creek back to the ridge 600 vertical metres above us to finish the hike along Joyners Ridge Road. We could see from the map and terrain that from this point there would be many more cascades than there is flat creek. We also knew from our descent and map that the forest would close in more densely the higher we traveled. It was also between 1:30pm – 2:00pm, which was the time at which we agreed we would start looking for an escape route so that we could be sure to get out of the bush by dark.

Bashing our way uphill through the jungle

Bashing our way uphill through the jungle

So we turned north-west and started to climb through the thick jungle and lawyer vine.

My mate is only about 20m behind me but is barely visible

My mate is only about 20m behind me but is barely visible

We climbed until we could see patches of grass starting to dot the ground, knowing this meant we were nearing a ridge or spur.

We have to go that way

We have to go that way

We just kept traveling uphill until we came to a clear spur and then we climbed some more. Occasionally we saw evidence that other humans had been here: a mug half-buried in the ground, some lantana that had been hacked with a machete months ago and was starting to grow back, and the odd section of small landslide where a group of people had obviously all slid the same way. The evidence of humans was subtle and could have been made months ago by a single group. But it was still a good sign for us as we climbed the seemingly endless spur.

For those unfamiliar with lantana ... it has prickles

For those unfamiliar with lantana … it has prickles

At the top of the spur we reached a ridge that was totally infested by lantana. The horrible weed rose like a two metre high wall in front of us and it was at least ten metres deep. We knew that the track should have been at the top of the ridge so it took us by surprise that the terrain dropped off again. But instead of panicking or second guessing myself, I told my mate to stop for a minute so we could get our bearings. I tracked a few metres north on the ridge until I could see further west and there it was, the big wide track meandering it’s way up to Mt Glorious. We were on precisely the ridge I had thought we were on as we climbed and, as I suspected, this was the only place where the track ran just off the ridge line. The reading and mental practice I’ve been doing paid off in real life.

Back out on the track for the final few kilometres

Back out on the track for the final few kilometres

We followed Joyners Ridge Road the final few kilometres back to the car, having thoroughly enjoyed a day out in the bush. I have plans to do some more local off-track hikes to continue to develop my navigation skills, both for my own enjoyment and for the adventure races / rogains team Whoops Witch Way are going to tackle later in the year.

Total: 15km off-track hike

Scouts Australia’s 1st National Adventurous Activities School

I’ve decided to have a rest week to ensure I’m fresh for the 400km Audax road cycle that I’m attempting this weekend but I haven’t been slacking off on the adventure front. My mind’s been actively engaged in the outdoors all week and I’ve ended up nominating for Scouts Australia’s 1st National Adventurous Activities School.

The 12-day camp is being held near Sydney from 13 January 2014. It’s open to Venturers, Rovers and Leaders (that’s me).

The most challenging part of the nomination process was deciding which activities to select in each of the two adventure blocks.

In the first block, I could choose from:

  • 3 days hiking in the Budawangs
  • 3 days canoeing at Kangaroo Valley
  • 3 days abseiling and caving at Bungonia
  • 3 days Abseiling and canyoning at the Blue Mountains.

Then in the second block, I could choose from:

  • 4 days sailing on Sydney Harbour
  • 4 days hiking in the Snowy Mountains

OR any four days comprised of a selection of:

  • 2 days vertical rescue course
  • 2 days abseiling and canyoning at the Blue
  • 2 days abseiling and caving at Bungonia
  • 2 days multi-pitch abseiling.

I’ve applied to do the 3 days abseiling and caving followed by the vertical rescue and caving activities. I’ve done rock climbing before. I have also joined a university climbing club so will hopefully be able to go climbing again once a week from June so that I don’t go to the camp cold.

Hopefully my application is accepted and the options I have selected are available.

Total: 0km training but plenty of day dreaming

 

Adventure Race Australia, Qld 2013

Bike drop

Bike drop

After camping out at the Pomona Showgrounds, we woke early to clear starry skies. Sure, it might have been cold, but that was good news because it meant the day would be perfect for adventure racing.

It was still dark when we left camp to drop our bikes near Lake McDonald, just a quarter hour drive away. By the time we got there, the kookaburras had finished their dawn song and the sun was shining; it was still cold though. We found a spot near the edge of the park to make it easy for us to find our metal horses and drove back to race HQ to collect our maps.

Using my shoelace as a map measurer

Using my shoelace as a map measurer

The maps seemed a little strange at first review. There just didn’t seem to be 6-7 hours of racing there. And some of the transition areas were too close together with no checkpoints in between. We and the teams around us were asking each other whether anyone had extra maps. But it was all a ploy: the In2Adventure course setters were up to tricks that would test teams’ navigation skills later in the day.

We had bought a map measurer just before the Rogue 24 Hr Adventuregaine in April but after the race I threw it in the wash with my dirty clothes. So I was left measuring out distances on the map with my shoelace for ARA (my shoelace was the only string I could find). We found it worked quite well: our navigation was almost all spot on during the race. Though I will be buying us a new map measurer before next season.

Ready to race

Ready to race

We packed our gear, attended race briefing and then boarded the bus to race start. As we boarded the bus, a marshal handed us an extra map containing a surprise foot rogaine leg. We still didn’t know where we were going to start the race and the map was only a small extract of the larger map we’d been given earlier. But we quickly identified where it fit into the large map and developed a plan of attack.

We pushed ourselves right from the start by running more than we walked in the trek legs. Our navigation was spot on in the first foot rogaine and we hit all the checkpoints fairly easily. Instead of following the crowd, we stuck to the game plan we had devised on the bus and it worked for us. The other teams’ plans seemed to work for them too but for us the important thing we have been working on is sticking to our own game plan.

We love to kayak

We love to kayak

The foot rogaine took us to Lake McDonald where we could see iAdventure’s kayak trailer waiting for us. We quickly carried the heavy and awkward Voyagers out of the steep trailer down to the water to collect the checkpoints around the lake’s edge. We worked hard to overtake other teams in our strongest leg while still enjoying the scenery. We’re quite fortunate that I’m a little bloke because many teams with bigger men in them (especially the all-male teams) really struggle with these Voyagers the cockpits are quite small and they tend to take on water quite easily. Being small means we can get a rhythm and paddle properly.

The water was cold so I was glad my sister is our paddle ferret. She did an awesome job jumping into waist deep water and fighting her way through water plants to attack the checkpoints instead of making us wait until other teams had moved their kayaks out of the way. This way we could stay out of the melee and I could turn the boat while my sister grabbed the CP. She is great at getting back in the boat in waist (and sometimes chest) deep water.

It was muddy

It was muddy

After a short run to the bike TA we hit the trails. It was a mud-lover’s dream out on the course. While my sister just barged her way through all the mud and water, I have to admit to riding like a nanna (actually, I ride slippery tracks so poorly that it’s an insult to nannas to say that 🙂 ). During the race I decided to take the clipless pedals off my bike and to ride with flats for a while to build confidence and skills. I still had a ball though.

Mountain biking

Mountain biking

When we first checked the map at HQ we thought we’d be in trouble today with so much of the course being on the bike. But as we made our way around, we realised that it was definitely a navigator’s course. Through some good tactical decisions and strong navigation we were able to keep up with teams who would usually be far ahead of us in the course (i.e. teams who ride like pros and who don’t have to wait for my nanna-like riding).

Urgh! Not the powerlines again

Urgh! Not the powerlines again

Much of the course traveled through trails and bushland that we traversed in last year’s Adventure Race Australia. Unfortunately for our legs, we had a repeat of the hills along the power line. But at least it made the navigation here easy because we knew exactly where to turn off (after pushing the bikes up of the nasty hills).

Loving life on the course

Loving life on the course

Despite (or perhaps because of) the prospect of the powerline hills, my sister and I were having a brilliant time out on the course.

Marking up the map for the surprise bike rogaine

Marking up the map for the surprise bike rogaine

The race had plenty of surprises for us, including five surprise rogaines (three on foot, the kayak leg and one on the MTBs). My sister did a fantastic job marking up the maps for us. This has been a big development for us – being able to share the navigation. In our first few races, I was in charge of the maps but over time my sister’s confidence has increased and now she navigates us on the bikes and kayak while I navigate on foot. We split it based on our strengths. I am our rear seat paddler on the water and she has better eyes than me on the bikes (I wear reading glasses), while I love navigating and find my eyes manage ok on foot.

A beautiful day for trekking

A beautiful day for trekking

Just as we thought we were nearing the finish of the race, the In2Adventure folks threw a really nasty surprise our way.

Climbing Mt Cooroora

Climbing Mt Cooroora

We had to climb Mt Cooroora of Pomona King of the Mountain fame. To make things more interesting, they placed a checkpoint half-way up the mountain on the main hiking track. Unfortunately, we were one of many teams who took a steep shortcut up the mountain only to realise we had to run about 700m back down to get the CP on the main hiking track and then trek all the way back up. It was a piece of course setting brilliance.

Mt Cooroora from Race HQ

Mt Cooroora from Race HQ

Once we were almost near the top of Mt Cooroora, we got to stop to take on the best adventure leg of the race: a happy snap by a professional photographer. We played silly buggers for ours so I look forward to seeing how it turned out. The views from the top were fantastic (as you might imagine from the photo of the mountain above).

From Mt Cooroora we ran back to our bikes, rode to Race HQ. The final surprise foot rogaine was a short sharp effort, culminating in my turn to swim when I ended up waist deep in water to collect a checkpoint in the middle of a creek. That was heaps of fun and had me laughing.

Wet and muddy shoes are a sign of a good day out

Wet and muddy shoes are a sign of a good day out

We finished strong and had a great day out on the course. We have no idea how we went results-wise but it doesn’t matter. We know we raced hard and had loads of fun. We stuck to our game plan and did our own navigation, rather than following the crowds. This is our last adventure race before November. There are only three or four more races in South-East Queensland in the coming months but we have commitments for each. So now we have a few months to hone our navigation and mountain biking, and improve our fitness.

Total: 6 hours of adventure racing made up of 29.1km MTB, about 12km trail running and 4km paddling.