Sunday, 15 January 2017

Six Foot Track 5&6 November 2016

Well that was fun !

This year has been a struggle in some ways.  Changing jobs has meant no more school holidays (boo hoo).  Instead of sneaking off for some much needed quiet time, it has been go go go most of the year.  As I have survived my daily train commute, I have stared longingly off towards the Blue Mountains, wishing I were there instead of rattling along off to the daily grind.  The fact it has taken so long to finish this post is an indication of life at present.  Not enough time !

A new staff member began talking about the 6 Ft Ttrack.  To make matters worse I have just finished a great read about the  6 Ft Track which had given me very itchy feet.  I have done the trip four times before and loved it every time.  I have done a two day solo 90km return trip, also a two day slog fest in searing summer heat with friends, as well as running the 6 Ft Track Marathon with hundreds.  

Eventually my wife the Lovely Cait said "go for a walk".  Love ya Babe (actually she said "you are driving me nuts talking about it.  Just  bloody do it !").  Of course track work was scheduled so my initial plans went south immediately.  Enter Cait the lovely wife.  "Take the car !".  Love ya Babe.

I decided to catch the Saturday 10.30am Trolley Tours bus to Jenolan, walk 30km to Cox's River campground, then a leisurely 15km out on the Sunday.   Easy Peasy.

Of course I spent useless hours perfecting the ultimate iPod playlist which I never used.  Not at all necessary when the bus was driven by the lovely and oh so chatty and informative Rebecca.  She narrated the entire way, making musical distraction completely unnecessary.  She kept pointing out "the gentleman at the back" who was going to be walking home (me).  I felt like a bit of a rock star.  It was great just sitting in a bus, centre of attention, watching the world go by .

At Jenolan Caves I had a last toilet stop, a big long drink to camel up (from a tap, not the toilet bowl), then shouldered pack and set off up the long uphill stretch to start the walk.

Some experienced walkers rate the 6 Ft Track lowly.  I totally understand why, but each to their own.  Yes, it does have long endless stretches where all you do is walk, but I have a fondness for long endless sections where all you do is walk.  This trip was really about clearing my head.  I had the ultimate playlist all ready to go, but as usual, once I started walking, I couldn't bear to break the silence.  I embraced it.  It was heavenly.
A nice cool breeze was whipping around.  Apparently Sydney was being hammered, but it was just an occasional chilly blast up here.  I was wandering along and working up a nice sweat.  Yet I passed so many walkers completely rugged up in multiple layers, as I wandered along in shorts and t-shirt.  Could they really be that cold ?  

After about 3 hours I arrived at the Black Range campground.  I had thought to top up the water supply, but as a nice tea coloured water came out of the rain tank, I decided to just make do with what I had, and take a little as an emergency back up.  I have tempted fate and drunk it before with no problems, but not today. Then it was time to start the Black Range.  Some folk dread the Black Range not because it is particularly hard, but because it is flattish 10.5km slog through unchanging open forest.  Very few views.  However, I love it.  As I wandered along, I appreciated that all I had to do was walk.  No navigation required.  An occasional blast of wind tried to knock me over, then it would be still again.  The skies were perfectly clear, and the occasional glimpses back towards Katoomba revealed the Hydro Majestic (possibly freshly painted) standing out blazingly white.  Walking like this clears the mind, which is precisely what I was after.
Hydro Majestic
Yes, the Black Range can be boring, but it is in some ways a fascinating stretch.  It is like a highway, and many many feet have trodden it.  Hellcat Ridge drops off to the south and connects to Kanangra Walls.  At the end is Cronje Mountain which drops to the Cox's River and up to the end of Narrowneck/ Medlow Gap and a whole world of possibilities.  Or, as I would be walking, it drops down the Mini Mini saddle and heads towards Katoomba.  It also makes other connections that interest only nerdy nerd walkers like me.  

The Black Range finally done, left turn at the pluviometer, it was time for a long slippery walk to the Cox's River.  The surface of the road was like walking on rolling marbles, and I kept embarking on long slides, hoping not to land on my butt or disappear off the trail into a gully.  A few close calls.  Saw a disgusting rolling lump of caterpillars that I tried not to slide into and land on.  It was a relief to reach Little River, have a break, drink a few litres of flowing mountain water, and play with the camera.  I tipped out my brown emergency water, and replaced it with clear water.  I had planned to fill my Nalgene water flask as well, but that was a problem as I realised that it was still at home on the chair next to my pack where I couldn't possibly forget it.  oops.  I had a small bottle, and could squeeze 1.5 into my hydration bladder, so 2L would just have to do.  
kinda gross
Little River

Little River
As I set off, the sun was beginning to fade, and kangaroos were starting to appear.  Some fled in terror long before I was anywhere near, some just popped their heads up to play peek-a-boo, and then got back to nibbling.  Some burst out of nowhere and scared the crap out of me.  I passed Alum Creek with it's new water tank and toilet.  I had thought to stay here, but I was still travelling well, and happy to wander on.  The day began to settle into a nice twilight, and it was lovely to wander along and listen to the birds start singing.  After about five hours of walking, I began doing sums in my head about when I would reach the Cox's River, and came up with the wrong number.  I was tired.  The stretch over Mini Mini was way longer than I remembered.  Way longer.  Thankfully it was cool, the evening was beautiful, and the bell birds were lovely to listen to.  I mucked around taking shadow shots wasting even more time.  I was in no hurry.
spot the 'roo
perfect for a lovely twilight stroll

I eventually reached the Cox at about 7pm, after seven hours of walking, pleasantly stuffed.  There was lots of water in the tank which I could boil, so plenty of water for cooking.  Sadly my previous tent site had been used as a fire ring, so I was forced to scout out a new spot.  As usual, the soil was rock hard and a bugger to get pegs in.  However, for the first time ever, I lay out my swag tent right perfectly first time.  I love my little swag tent friend, but after a long day, I always bugger it up and it does my head in.  My spot was also next to a bench, which was nice touch of luxury, and helps prevent losing stuff.
home sweet home with bench - luxury
coffee's ready
As the sun set, and I began mucking around with food, a couple with all the gear under the sun began cooking.  They had driven in, and they had set up a light which you could see from the moon, up under the covered area.  It naturally attracted every winged bug in the area.  I left them to their cooking and swatting and waited until they were done.  When they had finished, they kindly offered to leave the light on for me.  I thanked them, but politely declined.  Once they had gone, and they went back to their camp site with their big ass light, taking all their bugs with them and spraying and swatting furiously, I was able to cook in peace by the light of my head torch on low power and no bugs.  Occasional burst of music from the Eco Lodge nearby.  I munched happily in the dark, watched the stars and satellites pass silently overhead, then off to bed.

Having knocked over 30km yesterday, left me with 15km today, and no need to rush.  From the direction of the Eco Lodge I watched a huge 4WD (plus trailer) pass by with two men in camo gear which matched their truck.  Interesting.  I had a morning wander, thinking how nice the river looked.  Some folks had camped out on an island spot.  Very creative, and very lovely.  An idea for the future.
The Cox

The Bowtell's Swing Bridge was extra swingy this morning, and extra fun.  I wandered along passing slower walkers, and being surprised by trail runners appearing out of nowhere.  In no hurry, I was determined to locate "Toad Rock".  I wandered off trail a few times to explore various perspectives.  Artistic license may have come into play, but I think I found it.  The original sketch seems to have impossibly placed "wing rocks" which makes me suspect a bit of exaggeration. 

a bit toad like from this side

come on, it's a toad !
After this bit of buggering about, I got walking again.  All went well until I came across my worst fear - cows.  I screwed up my courage, tried to show no fear, and walked through the valley of death.  Large bovine eyes gazed upon me as I passed by silent as a ninja.  Once more I emerged unscathed, living to tell the tale. 
deadly cow creatures
home stretch
Took time out to wander about the historic Megalong Cemetery.  A lovely place to meander about.  The signs warning against camping there were totally unnecessary though.  As if.  Took time out to play with the timer on the camera.  Then it was up Nellie's Glen.  From the base of Nellie's I began encountering human wreckage dressed in Active Wear.  No hats, no sleeves, no sun protection, dying in the heat (which was really kicking in big time).  As it turned out, these were the group partying at the Eco Lodge, and were part of a outdoor adventure boot camp type group on the last stretch of their death march.  A few fitness types in camo gear were doing their best to get them to the end short of fireman carries.  At least they were out giving it a go (but I suspect that their love of the great outdoors was fading fast).  

I wandered off track to find Bonnie Doon Falls.  It is hard to imagine what this area looked like before a million tonnes of fill was dumped down here in a failed attempt to build a road down into the Megalong Valley.  Not the most spectacular falls, but who knows what they used to look like.

Then it was a blazingly hot walk back to the car, got the air con cranking, then off to Mountain High pies to purchase dinner for the family.  Another trip done.
Mission accomplished !


  1. The caterpillars are sawfly larvae. They like the safety in numbers thing.

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