Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Mount Wellington - 25th June 2011

Had a nice walk on Mount Wellington with Isaac. We walked up the Zig-Zag Track, then down the Panorama Track and back below the Organ Pipes. Isaac hadn't done all of the tracks before. The light on the river around Cadburys was quite interesting.

Derwent River from Mount Wellington - 25th June 2011

Monday, 8 August 2011

Friendly Beaches - 11th to 13th June 2011

Having returned to work at the end of May, the long weekend was a good excuse to have a couple of days away. Among other activities at the Friendly Beaches, I walked to the southern end of the beach, where a four-wheel drive track comes down to the beach. There is a sequence of interesting rock formations along the beach, which I may attempt to identify some day. Not sure if someone has written about them, although I haven't been able to find anything yet.

Anyway, lovely place to stay, and the sunrise and sunset is often marvellous.

Rocks on Friendly Beaches - 11th June 2011

Seagulls, Friendly Beaches - 12th June 2011

Friendly Beaches - 12th June 2011

Earlu morning, Friendly Beaches - 13th June 2011
Early morning, Friendly Beaches - 13th June 2011

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Quick Book Review - The Abels Volume Two

This book has finally been published. I've been waiting about 12 years since I bought the first one, but it's 15 since that was published. Anyway, it is terrific, and worth every penny, especially when you're lucky and catch Fullers on a "20% off everything"day!
They've put a series of articles about Tasmanian mountains in the front, then there's a good article about each Abel, mostly more substantial than the articles in the first volume, and some additions and changes to articles from the first volume. The photos are really well chosen, and all-in-all a lot of work has gone into this. Most heartening for me is the recognition of Sharlands Peak as an actual Abel, no doubt as a result of my extensive campaign for this status...;-)

I strongly expect that the Parks and Wildlife service have attempted to keep this book unpublished. It provides a good number of walk descriptions which are not easily obtainable elsewhere, including that for Nevada Peak which I provide on email request. (More importantly for that walk, it provides road directions for navigating the bewildering array of forestry roads out behind Lonnavale.) P&W have put quite a lot of effort in past years into stopping the publication of walk descriptions for walks that were rated as 4 or 5 (as I recall) under their track rating scheme. Many of the walks in this book would be rated as such. On balance, while I might personally like to hide Nevada Peak to protect its fragile alpine plateau, it's not possible to stop the publication of walk descriptions. Probably the answer is that we need to manage all these places to maximise both the capacity for people to visit them and their capacity to withstand that.

Nevertheless, the book is great, and should stimulate some expeditions with its enthusiastic and evocative descriptions of such wonderful places. $39.95 at Fullers Bookshop, Hobart, and other sellers of Tasmaniana.

Freycinet - 26th and 27th May 2011

Pacific Gull, Larus pacificus, Hazards Beach - 27th May 2011
The plan was for a three day walk - down to Cooks Beach to camp, explore Bryans Beach and a little further south to Schouten Passage, then return to Wineglass Bay over the hills, maybe climbing Mount Freycinet on the way, and then back to Coles Bay. It wasn't to be.

Wineglass Bay Beach, Freycinet - 26th May 2011

The weather was very nice, cool and sunny. I made good time over the hill to Wineglass Bay, and then out onto Hazards Beach. Here I saw five pelicans along the beach ahead of me. They were very wary and set off across the bay before I got anywhere near them.

Pelicans, Pelecanus conspicillatus, Hazards Beach - 27th May 2011
South of Hazards Beach I realised my left achilles tendon was somewhat tender, and it continued to become more sore. I've had this before, on the Overland Track years ago in both achilles tendons. By the time I got to Cooks Beach it was quite painful. I set up camp, and hobbled about. Soaking it in the very cool water relieved it somewhat and I slept on it. Next day it seemed worse, feeling swollen and very stretched, as if it wanted to break. My choice was therefore sit quietly at the beach or slowly and carefully walk out, minimising uphill stretches. I chose the latter, Cooks Beach might be gently attractive, but it's not the most exciting venue, and I didn't even have a fishing rod, so I wasn't keen on a whole day of sitting about.

Beach detail, Freycinet - 26th May 2011
I dosed up on panadol and hobbled out to Coles Bay, via the coastal track rather than over the hill. from this point of view, I achieved some small success, as I have never bothered with the coastal track before, so I did a new track that I wouldn't have otherwise been along. The heel was annoying and tender the whole way, but the drugs helped.

View south along Hazards Beach, Freycinet - 27th May 2011
While resting the heel at home later, I read on the net that a sore achilles tendon cannot be properly relieved by making the swelling go down or taking anti-inflammatories - these merely mask the damage you have done and are doing. You actually have to rest it so that it heals itself.

Anyway, apart from the pain, the walking was easy and enjoyable. There is plenty of interest to see, and the Cooks Beach campsite is a good one. There is a composting toilet and a water tank. You need to check with the rangers whether there is water in the tank, but there generally is unless it has been very long dry spell. The rangers tend to be pessimistic about it too - "there probably is", "we haven't checked ourselves, but we've heard there is water in the tank", etc. The views from the tops of Mount Graham and Mount Freycinet are really the highlight, so from this point of view I just didn't make it this time. Never mind, there's always next time.

Banksia flower, Banksia marginata, Freycinet - 26th May 2011
At the south end of Hazards Beach are these rocks, great to sit on for a snack or lunch. However they are also an intrusion of dolerite lamprophyre (per. Leaman, Step into History, 2001) into the granite, and the first photo shows the gross intrusion of the darker lamprophyre into the lighter pink granite. This latter rock is the same as that which makes up The Hazards. The second photo shows a detail of a much smaller streak of intruded lamprophyre on the margins of the main intrusion, with an included quartz crystal from the granite. It's really worth a look as you take a rest. There is also a campsite here, and sometimes the creek even runs to provide nearby fresh water. Isaac and I camped here for an night years ago.

Lamprophyre intrusion into granite, south end of Hazards Beach, Freycinet - 26th May 2011

Detail of intruded lamprophyre in granite with large incorporated quartz crystal,
south end of Hazards Beach, Freycinet - 26th May 2011

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Ridgeway Circuit - 25th May 2011

Sixpence Cave, Ridgeway - 25th May 2011

Trying to catch up on my blogs here. In the same vein as my last post, this walk is a short one, low down on Mount Wellington, and I'm going to include it in my Mount Wellington Walks. It's good in dubious weather, and OK for a bit of bush exercise in all but the worst weather, and there are some interesting things to look at.

The walk starts at the Ridgeway Reservoir carpark and takes in Sixpence Cave, Halls Saddle, the Pipeline Track and the Chimney Pot Hill summit. Overall it takes 1 1/2 to 2 hours if you spend a bit of time looking about as you go, but can be done in around an hour if walked briskly. The walk description I suggest is here, but feel free to get the Taroona 1:25,000 map and work out your own route.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Ferntree and The Springs - 23rd May 2011

The week started off with some poor weather, rain and chilly winds. This was a good opportunity to try to piece together the best walk around Ferntree and The Springs to take in the various interesting and historic sights. This sort of walk can often be done when walks further up the mountain are likely to be uncomfortable or inadvisable due to the weather. I have provided a detailed description (PDF) of a walk that takes in O'Gradys Falls, the Octopus Tree, Sphinx Rock, The Springs, Rocky Whelans Cave, Silver Falls and other items of interest, and minimises backtracking and climbing hills twice. My current plan is to put up a website with about 15 to 20 Mount Wellington walks, including a few you can't find a guide to elsewhere. This will be one of them. Feel free to print out the PDF and take the walk if you wish. The Mount Wellington Recreation Map is strongly recommended for use with this walk, and others.

O'Gradys Falls, Mount Wellington - 23rd May 2011

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Collins Bonnet - 21st May 2011

The Saturday was a nice looking day, so I chose Collins Bonnet hoping for views into the valleys of both the Huon and Derwent, as well as some good views to the west. This walk is a good climb, and I was pleased to discover that recent weeks of much walking had greatly improved my fitness. Very nice walk from Myrtle Forest behind Collinsvale, with a chilly breeze on the summit. Only spoiling factor was the group of people on the summit who assumed that everyone else wanted to hear their attention-seeking, histrionic discussion of recent exploits. I must be getting old and crotchety.

For reference, Collins Bonnet and Trestle Mountain together are known as Sleeping Beauty in the Huon Valley. Collins Bonnet forms the hair, forehead, nose, long horsey upper lip, lower lip and weak chin, and Trestle Mountain forms the bosom. I understand the mountain has also been known as Boars back to people in the Derwent Valley.

Trestle Mountain from the summit of Collins Bonnet

Trestle Mountain with Mount Weld and the Snowy Range in the distance.

Sleeping Beauty's "nose", looking south from the summit (upper lip!) of Collins Bonnet

New Norfolk seen from the summit of Collins Bonnet

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Walls of Jerusalem - 16th to 19th May 2011

Westwall and King Davids Peak from Solomons Throne at sunrise

The weather forecasts were becoming quite changeable and less reliable, so I was trying to pick a suitable window to have a few days at the Walls, aiming to get some good opportunities for climbing mountains and taking photos. I settled on a few days and headed off.

Trappers Hut, part-way up the climb to the Walls of Jerusalem

The walk starts off forestry and hydro roads out behind Mole Creek. The carpark was previously known for car burglaries and vandalism, and there is still a sign there warning of this. I haven't heard of any problems recently. The day was slightly drizzly, but I headed off up the hill. Camping is now firmly recommended for Wild Dog Creek, rather than Solomons Jewels, inside the Walls or even Dixons Kingdom. There is a composting toilet and really good tent platforms at Wild Dog, and it takes just five minutes to walk up the hill to Herods Gate. There are also removable toilets at Dixons Kingdom, so it seems the PWS expect people to camp there. Talking to two blokes who walked in the same day as me, they had camped in a tent, and used the hut to cook in. They reckoned they were much warmer in the tent than in the hut, which was like a big fridge. Wild Dog Creek was fine for me, and it's only a little further from most of the central features than camping at Dixons.

View to the Du Cane Range from the slopes of Mount Jerusalem

Anyway, the weather was cold and a bit damp, nightfall arriving early. Very comfortable in the tent though. Day two dawned cloudy, but not raining. Went off and climbed Mount Jerusalem via Dixons Kingdom. Views were quite good eastwards, but the Pelions and Du Canes were largely obscured by cloud to the west. Climbed The Temple as well, but the weather was basically dull without being wet.

Ice on a pond, near Lake Salome

Day three was similar, and after some wandering around the Pool of Bethesda, I climbed Solomons Throne in the hope that the cloud would clear off while I was there. The cloud wasn't very thick, and at the summit the sun almost managed to break through and actually shine, although the wind was very chilly. Later, after some wanderings the sun did come out nicely at Dixons Kingdom for a while. After returning to Wild Dog Creek, the weather really did improve towards evening, so I headed back and climbed part way up the temple for some sunsett-y shots of the area inside the Walls. they weren't great, but the walk was very nice compared to the dull and windy walks earlier.

Sunrise across the Central Plateau's lakes, from Solomons Throne

The next morning dawned clear, so I set off very early. After having to change my headtorch batteries by cigarette-lighter-light part-way (duuuh!), I managed to arrive at the top of Solomons Throne a few minutes before the sun rose beyond the expanse of the Central Plateau. The views all around were superb, and I started to think the trip had been worthwhile despite the three dull days to this point. A quick climb part way up The Temple affords a good clear view of the Westwall and internal Walls area. The last photo is a stitched panorama form there.

St Davids Peak, Lake Salome and Clumner Bluff from Solomons Throne

Du Cane Range from Solomons Throne at sunrise

Stitched panorama of The Westwall (Solomons Throne to St Davids Peak) from The Temple, early morning.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

South Cape Bay - 14th May 2011

With a warning about dangerous surf and forecasts of eight-metre swells for Saturday 14th May, there was only one place to go: South Cape Bay. There are probably others, but walking to the bay also provides some good exercise. Never mind the attendant forecasts of rain, the seas promised some spectacular sights.  In the event the weather was a bit windy and occasionally drizzly, and it was certainly chilly out on the south coast, but overall the weather wasn't too bad. The waves were spectacular too, although I'd hoped to see them washing deeply across the entire beach. The beach was quite walkable, with only the occasional large wave managing to touch the little rocky projection in the middle with a few inches of froth. I note in hindsight that the tide was actually lowest during my visit. When walking on the beach however, the waves as they broke, hundreds of metres out, were clearly higher than where I was standing. Probably what we need to make it really spectacular is eight-metre swells forecast during an actual storm. Not sure how you'd manage to take photos of it though....

South Cape Bay washed by eight-metre swells, viewed from the cliffs - 14th May 2011

The view between Lion Rock and Coal Bluff, South Cape Bay - 14th May 2011

Foam in a wave-lashed South Cape Bay - 14th May 2011

Mount Wellington - 10th May 2011

Walked from Ferntree heading for the summit. From the city a dusting of snow across the upper half of the mountain was visible, which often means quite deep snow across the plateau, at least deep enough to make walking uncomfortable. Having reached the Springs via Fern Glade and Radfords Track, I headed for the Icehouse Track. Near the top of this, the snow became evident. It wasn't very deep generally, but in places it would have been deep enough to make walking more difficult, except it was really firm and dry, even providing a nice grip. Made for very nice walking across the summit plateau. I met two blokes on the plateau who reported the Zig-Zag Track was really quite icy, which confirmed as best my intention to return via the Panorama Track.

Up the Icehouse to the south and down the Panorama in the north makes for a sort of "Grand Tour" of Mount Wellington. There's a bit of road walking required to use the Panorama, but on a weekday it was fairly quiet and safe. I completed the walk with a descent to Junction Cabin down Hunters Track, ascending to The Springs and finishing with the short descent back to Ferntree. Two (different) blokes at Junction Cabin had ascended via the Old Hobartians Track from Lenah Valley, and I think being an old Hobartian, I should probably do that one sometime. It has a side connection (roughly, I think) to the bottom of Lost World, which might make for an even "grander" tour.

Boulders on the summit plateau of Mount Wellington - 10th May 2011

Boulders on the summit plateau of Mount Wellington - 10th May 2011

Friday, 20 May 2011

Nevada Peak - 6th and 7th May 2011

In a week of variable weather, the Friday and Saturday looked like providing the best opportunity to camp at high altitude in reasonable conditions. Off to Nevada Peak for the first time since my last overnight trip there. This is however, a day walk if you wish, taking around six to eight hours depending on your route and general speed. The tarns and the alpine plateau are lovely though, and an environmentally-sensitive overnight stay at the Snowdrift Tarns is great. I have some more information about the walk here, which will direct you to email me for the complex road directions and a walk description, including details for returning via Woolleys Tarn.

I climbed to the tarns in overcast, chilly and misty conditions. The clouds seemed to consist of a huge amount of very fine, but very wet, drizzle, and I was quite chilly by the time I got to the tarns. Once in the tent and with a coffee and nibbles inside me, all was well. The drizzle persisted until dark though, with the view consisting of the inside of the cloud and a small area of foot-high alpine herbfield around the tarn. I was hopeful that the weather would remain calm at least, in high winds the plateau here is a harsh environment despite some shelter from westerly weather afforded by the mountain ridge.

Waking quite early, my first look outside suggested that the cloud remained. However, once out of the tent I realised that the peak was out of the cloud, and the sun was rising beautifully. I set off to climb Nevada Peak immediately, camera in hand. Views were great and the following photos give a taste. The views of the Anne Range are particularly fine from Nevada Peak. Having returned to the tarn for breakfast later, the clouds again closed in, and by the time I had retreated across the plateau to return to my car, the peak was only occasionally visible through swirling clouds again. In the end, it was worth the walk for the views from the peak and plateau, but I had been dubious about it on the Friday evening huddled in my tiny tent.

Eastward view across the lower Snowdrift Tarn from upper slopes of Nevada Peak - 7th May 2011
Eastward view across the lower Snowdrift Tarn
from upper slopes of Nevada Peak - 7th May 2011

My own personal triple-rainbow appeared just above me in the misty morning air, Nevada Peak - 7th May 2011
My own personal triple-rainbow appeared just above me in the
misty morning air, Nevada Peak - 7th May 2011

Snowy South and the upper Snowdrift Tarn from Nevada Peak summit - 7th May 2011
Snowy South and the upper Snowdrift Tarn from Nevada Peak summit - 7th May 2011

Anne Range from Nevada Peak - 7th May 2011
Anne Range from Nevada Peak - 7th May 2011

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Mount Field West - 3rd May 2011

Mount Field West seen from the Rodway Range. K-Col Hut visible on the left - 3rd May 2011
Mount Field West seen from the Rodway Range. K-Col Hut visible on the left - 3rd May 2011

With good weather forecast, at least for most places, a good mountain walk was in order. I chose Mount Field West, a walk I have always enjoyed, if always found to require a good deal of effort. The walk is 16km and requires about 750m of climbing, including the climb back over the Rodway Range on the return. A significant portion of the walk is on boulders which require care and extra effort, and once you are beyond the Tarn Shelf turnoff, the track is mostly quite rough, even where it's not on boulders. The summit plateau at Mount Field West is lovely though, and views to the west and southwest can be terrific, Florentine Valley forestry operations notwithstanding. On this day I got pretty good views for much of the day, but the cloud came in while I was at the actual peak, so no westward views this time.

Walk Description: The track is well marked for use in clear weather, but may be difficult to follow in rain and fog. Be aware that once in the vicinity of the peak, the return is over several kilometres of extremely exposed route. There are no more sheltered alternatives, although there is a very small hut at K-Col which would provide shelter in an emergency. This hut has no stove. This walk is not worth attempting in poor weather. Cloud, rain and wind should all give pause. Be prepared to alter walk plans at Lake Dobson, or even once in the vicinity of Tarn Shelf if weather conditions seem poor. You will get a taste of them on the top of the Rodway Range, and if weather there makes walking uncomfortable, be aware that this will persist for the remaining distance of the walk until you are back below the Rodways, or even until you are back below the Ski Village.

The walk commences at Lake Dobson, following the track around the lake and then quite steeply up the ski lodge access road. Where the first ski lodges are found, I prefer the walking track that passes in front of them and then winds up to the plateau through boulders and alpine gums. This emerges on the main board walk which heads along towards Tarn Shelf and the main bulk of the Rodway Range. The track again climbs quite steeply onto the Rodway Range, starting a lengthy traverse on boulders. These slow progress somewhat and require greater exertion. Being somewhat unbalanced, I always find them more awkward. The way is marked with cairns and poles and winds along the top of the range through a depression known as The Lions Den before eventually crossing to the western side and descending towards K-Col. The hut will be clearly visible a little way up the far side of the col. K-Col is so named because of the shape of the topography - the col joins the Rodway Range to the peaks of Tyenna, Florentine, Naturaliste and Field West, making a sort-of "K" on the map. The hut used to have a water tank and coal stove, but these are no more. Possibly to discourage camping, as the hut is now clearly signed as being for emergency use only. Water can be obtained a little way beyond the hut from Clemes Tarn. I don't vouch for the quality of the water, but I didn't catch anything from it.

Clemes Tarn in a misty mood - 3rd May 2011
Clemes Tarn in a misty mood - 3rd May 2011
Beyond Clemes Tarn the track climbs steadily along the ridge towards Naturaliste Peak, before passing alongside this eminence and emerging onto the large summit plateau. The pools and vegetation here are very attractive, and it is a lovely place on a sunny and clear day. The actual summit is at the top of a ramp rising to the west from the northern end of the plateau, and the track is marked across the plateau and up the ramp. There is a good sized cairn at the summit, and space to sit on flat rocks if the weather is conducive to eating lunch there. At the summit, you are 8km from the carpark, so a solid return walk including the bouldery traverse of the Rodways is required. The only variation I sometimes make to the return is to follow the boardwalk all the way to the ski village and then descend the uppermost section of road to rejoin the inward track.

Looking back towards Naturaliste Peak across the Mount Field West summit plateau,
from the summit of Mount Field West - 3rd May 2011
Looking back towards Naturaliste Peak across the Mount Field West summit plateau,
from the summit of Mount Field West - 3rd May 2011

Mount Wellington - 2nd May 2011

Dolerite boulders on the southern end of the summit plateau, Mount Wellington - 2nd May 2011
Dolerite boulders on the southern end of the summit plateau, Mount Wellington - 2nd May 2011

It was a middling sort of day, cloud around the mountain but not raining. Had a nice walk from the Springs to the summit on the Zig-Zag Track, and then across the plateau, returning via the Icehouse Track. The breeze was light, and made for a good walk.

Mount Maria - 29th April 2011

Mount Maria from the track near Counsell Creek - 29th April 2011
Mount Maria from the track near Counsell Creek - 29th April 2011
(The track turns left just beyond the bridge.)

Mount Maria is a good solid walk from Darlington. I previously climbed it as a sidetrip on my return from camping at Encampment Cove. The track runs up a ridge as a sidetrip off the Inland Track. Mount Maria is 709m tall, so this represents a significant climb for those not used to such ascents. The distance is 16km, so all up the walk requires more effort than Bishop and Clerk. A moderate level of fitness is recommended before attempting this walk. Note also that while much of the walk is on a well-made track with surprisingly few obstructions for Tasmania, the last section is across boulders and a little easy scrambling is required just before the summit.

Walk Description: Leaving Darlington, head south towards the Painted Cliffs. Cross Counsell Creek and take the left-hand turn ahead. This is clearly marked to Mount Maria. From here the track heads pretty much straight for the peak, gradually becoming steeper throughout its length. A little way up the hill there is a track intersection. Mount Maria is to the left and the right fork continues southwards as the "Inland Track". Pushbikes can be parked at this point if you have ridden them here. The track continues to climb, and is easy to follow. There is a good spot at the top of a small sandstone cliff for a morning tea break. Eventually the track emerges on to a sizable dolerite rock scree and the way is marked across and then up. This scree is not nicely laid out with a windy track like the one on Bishop and Clerk, but requires a bit of clambering. The trig point will become obvious above from here, and a bit of easy scrambling will see you on the summit enjoying views of The Isthmus, South Maria, the mainland and more. The return is basically a retrace, and most people will find the boulders take about as long to get down safely as they did to climb up laboriously. Overall, most parties will take the advertised 5 to 7 hours for this walk, and some will take longer.

The Isthmus and South Maria from Mount Maria - 29th April 2011
The Isthmus and South Maria from Mount Maria - 29th April 2011

The Painted Cliffs, Maria Island

The Painted Cliffs at sunset - 28th April 2011

This is a nice easy walk over the hill to the south of Darlington. From the top of the hill, you can see these cliffs at the far end of Hopground Beach. When you get down to Counsell Creek, with the new bridge, you can either head along the beach or continue along the road. If using the road, there are some steps at the far end of the beach taking you down to the start of the cliffs. These cliffs are best visited when the tide is low, and I think if you went at high tide, you would have a greater chance of getting damp as you clamber around the cliffs. You need to go around the first and second little points, and make your way along in front of the taller part of the cliffs. The cliffs are Triassic sandstone, the rich patterns caused by minerals in the rock and the way in hich they have subsequently weathered. I visited them a couple of times on my recent trip, once at sunset, which was very attractive.

Maria Island Historic Walks

The convict barn above the jetty at Darlington - 30th April 2011.

You can easily spend a day (or more) just wandering around Darlington and taking in the various historic buildings, remains and sites. The Parks and Wildlife Service have several publications available that provide basic information, and several of the buildings contain information, displays and books that will provide more info. The parks.tas.gov.au website has a lot of info, and most of the historical information is in this part of the site. More general Maria Island info is here, and there's a downloadable pdf specifically about the history around Darlington. You may find other stuff if you ferret about.
There are a number of books with good information, perhaps most easily found and accessible being Maggie Weidenhofer's "Maria Island, A Tasmanian Eden". You can sometimes find this in second-hand bookshops, on eBay or on Biblioz. (Note that Biblioz tends to be very expensive!) If looking for secondhand Tasmanian books I recommend: Just Tassie Books, Astrolabe Booksellers and the Imperial Bookshop. The third of those is a true experience, just don't expect tidiness!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Fossil Cliffs, Maria Island - 28th April 2011

Bishop and Clerk from the shore below the Fossil Cliffs - 28th April 2011
Bishop and Clerk from the shore below the Fossil Cliffs - 28th April 2011

I had a relaxing day around Darlington - fossils, human history and a sunset visit to the Painted Cliffs (later). I've visited the Fossil Cliffs many times, but have actually never ventured beyond the little "quarry" plateau. On this occasion, having been shown the track by another visitor, I went down to the shoreline east of the quarry and along the platforms and bouldery shore at the base of the cliffs, which was well worthwhile. Note however that you need to take great care if going beyond the quarry - the day I went was low tide with a very gentle sea. This is clearly a place where large waves can and do sweep everything below the cliffline. You will need to carefully choose low tide to visit, and not venture too far down if the sea is dangerous.

Walk Description: To visit the Fossil Cliffs, head towards the jetty, and then beyond up the obvious tracks, or just straight across the hillside towards the barn on the hill north of the silos. There are various historic sites along the track to add additional interest, but in general follow the track (old tram line) as it contours very easily northwards alongside the airstrip towards Cape Boullanger. The track curls around to the east and arrives at the low end of the Fossil Cliffs with views to Bishop and Clerk. The track heads downhill onto the little plateau where limestone was quarried. Here there are boulders and a large sign explaining some of the fossils you can see.

The rocks here are interesting enough, but to see the fossils at their best, continue to the far end of the plateau. Here a scrappy little track heads steeply down a short way onto the large boulders and rock platforms of the foreshore. Be very careful here. I don't think there is any official sanction for proceeding here, so you need to take responsibility for checking the sea condition. As will be obvious, a large wave could turn you and your family into a tragic statistic very quickly. At low tide in gentle seas, you can easily spend an hour or two exploring the base of the cliffs. I didn't go too far around the cliffs, as there comes a point fairly quickly where you have to get wet feet. I also have no idea where you would find safety as you progressed further around the base of the larger parts of the cliffs. With a little more information, there is probably a heap of exploring you could do. Anyway, to avoid becoming a statistic, I stopped at the point where another group decided they need snorkels and flippers to proceed.

The walk is very short and very easy, but can occupy time very effectively if conditions are good for explring the shore at the base of the cliffs. I would suggest if you can time it for low tide on a calm day that you allow 3 hours or so depending on your capacity for avid investigation of natural features. Also, I note that this location appears to be outside the "no fishing" part of the marine reserve, so might offer some good rockfishing opportunities.

A section of a bed in the Fossil Cliffs, Maria Island, composed almost
entirely of fossil shellfish - 28th April 2011
A section of a bed in the Fossil Cliffs, Maria Island, composed almost
entirely of fossil shellfish - 28th April 2011

The rocks are fascinating, and confusing. I have found a great document on the web explaining the various layers that are present, but you would need to have it in your hand as you explored to fully understand the rock layers here. I'll take it with me next time I visit. This document is in the Mineral Resources Tasmania database, and gives lots of Maria Island geological info in a pretty detailed way. The Fossil Cliffs are described starting on page 9 (Basal Beds). There are beds of fossils here, metres thick, in which the entire bed seems to be composed of fossils. There are other beds with wildly varying sizes and types of boulder/pebble inclusions. All very interesting.

I will put some more photos up on Picasa as I find time to edit them a little.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

The Isthmus, Maria Island - 27th April 2011

Riedle Bay, Maria Island - 27th April 2011
Riedle Bay, Maria Island - 27th April 2011

The south end of Maria Island is generally best visited (if walking) from a camping base at either French's Farm or Encampment Cove. This is what I did on my previous trip. You can get to these places either by walking from Darlington or being dropped at Encampment Cove or Chinamans bay by boat. I believe one of the ferry companies may offer this service. You can also cycle, but if you are biking, you may find that you can visit South Maria in daytrips from Darlington. Just be aware that the track across the Isthmus is very sandy and I think cycling on it would be very difficult - these few kilometres might be a push.

The south end of the north island and South Maria itself are very interesting. Many walkers to French's Farm just walk a further very short distance to Chinamans Bay, which is the northern curve of Shoal Bay and is a very calm sheltered spot to sit for lunch. I walked on a bit further to The Isthmus, as I wanted to visit Riedle Bay. This is the ocean beach on the eastern side of The Isthmus. Just be aware that walking this far is around 14.5km each way, and can make for quite a long walk for those not used to such distances. Other walks possible from Darlington, but also quite lengthy, are to Encampment Cove, Point Lesueur (convict cell ruins) or the beaches north of there. These beaches include Four Mile Beach, Soldiers Beach and Bloodstone Beach. It is apparently possible to walk to Point Lesueur via the roads and tracks and then return via the coast to Return Point (track from there to the main road) or Four Mile Beach. This might be a walk for my next trip.

Walk Description: It is around 11 km from Darlington to French's Farm. Further walks beyond there will extend the total walk to 25-29km. Make sure you really want to walk this far in a day. There are few hills, and those which exist are quite gentle and low, so your exertions won't be added to by vertical ascents. The road heads south out of Darlington, over the first headland on the same track as the Painted Cliffs walk. There are few navigational problems, and the track proceeds southwards, undulating over the low headlands and around the coastline. At Four Mile Creek/Beach the track heads a little more inland, before arriving at French's Farm. From here you choose to walk on to Chinamans Bay (very close by), Encampment Cover or The Isthmus. The Chinamans Bay track heads off to the right just beyond the bridge. To walk on further to the wilder ocean beach of Riedle Bay you have to walk about 35 minutes on the softish sandy track until you find an obvious track crossing the main track. Turn left and in a couple of minutes you emerge on the large beach which in heavy weather can be quite wild. I estimated that the total walk, not including any wandering up and down the beach was 28 or 29km.

Riedle Bay may only be good for swimming at certain points or in very calm weather. On each of my visits (three now) it has appeared to have very significant undertow and rips, and could only be recommended to the very experienced. The far northern and southern ends of the beach may be safer and more sheltered. The centre of the beach can certainly be subjected to large waves sweeping up to and even into the dunes when the weather is rough. However, this also makes this an attractive place to visit. If you want a gentle paddle and swim, maybe the western side of The Isthmus would be preferable.

Bishop and Clerk (Maria Island) - 26th April 2011

Bishop and Clerk from the Fossil Cliffs - 26th April 2011
Bishop and Clerk from the Fossil Cliffs - 26th April 2011

Bishop and Clerk is the prominent peak at the northeastern extremity of Maria Island, obvious on the approach from the sea, and visible from many points around Darlington. It provides superb views of the northern end of the island, Freycinet Peninsula to the north and the mainland. Views can also be had along the eastern side of Maria Island.

The walk will take most people 3 1/2 to 5+ hours to complete including some time to sit on the summit and take in the view. It is a solid climb of over 600m vertically, so a moderate level of fitness will be useful. The highest part of the mountain has a small amount of rock scrambling which occasionally defeats people otherwise comfortable with the walk. Along this walk and on the summit there are very large unprotected cliffs, so care is required. Most importantly, children need to be closely supervised when walking near the Fossil Cliffs.

Walk Description: Take the track behind the penitentiary out of Darlington, heading east towards the reservoir. Avoid the turnoffs for the Reservoir Circuit walk and continue north out onto open grassy slopes up to the Fossil Cliffs. These are unfenced and have steep rolling, crumbly, slippery edges. Keep children close at all times. The track turns eastwards and climbs on grassy hills towards Bishop and Clerk. There are fine views of the peak and the cliffs at various points, with the sea far below. The track enters the forest and continues to climb steadily. (There is a point here where you have to leave pushbikes.)

The track is easy to follow and mostly climbs steadily and occasionally steeply through the forest then across some scree. At the top of the scree you are getting close. There are some steep bits here in bouldery gullies, and one little scramble which can be tricky for those who can't work out where to put their hands and feet to maintain balance. Children may have to be helped - I had to "put" my children up this bit some years ago when they were big enough for the walk but small enough to lift. A bit of clambering right at the top, and you emerge on a quite small flat platform with cracks and very steep cliffs to north and east. This sits above the other peaks which are obvious and picturesque to the north, and the height according to the map is 629m. The views on a clear day are superb and worth the climb. The return walk is a retrace, but can be varied by returning around Cape Boullanger to arrive at Darlington from the coast rather than from inland.

The lower peaks of Bishop and Clerk, and Freycinet Peninsula,
seen from the summit - 26th April 2011