Mt Zeehan and Henty River Forest (21/12/20 – 22/12/20)

One of the wonderful things about walking on the West Coast is the vast expanse of wilderness and the many secret, often overgrown, tracks that are spread through it. However, it takes a lot of research and exploring to find some of these, and sometimes you just need a real track to walk on. Staying in Strahan, Mt Zeehan was my target for the day as it is the only track coming off Henty Road that is actually advertised as a walk. I have many plans for the other mysterious overgrown tracks coming off the road, and this trip was partially to investigate the entry to some of them along the drive.

The track to Mt Zeehan is incredibly easy to miss, as there isn’t even a remnant of signage and the old mining road you have to turn into isn’t visible until you’ve driven past it. There is a small 2WD-accessible area to park before the rough road heads up to the site of the old Oceana mine. Beyond here is a tangled mess of gravel roads, with no clear way to head. However, you’ll soon know if you’ve gone in the wrong direction if you meet a dead end, or end up at some buildings. Once the maze of roads is passed, the track turns into an eroded 4WD track up a section of (perhaps recently) burned vegetation. Mt Zeehan doesn’t seem like the most impressive mountain from the road, but this was an intensely steep climb, beginning almost as soon as I hit the old 4WD track.

Mt Zeehan (to the right) and its children
Mt Zeehan (to the right) and its children
Looking across Henty road at the Austral mine
Looking across Henty road at the Austral mine
A gorse wall
A gorse wall

Eventually I reached a small saddle, where the 4WD track petered out to become non-vehicular and the scrub closed in. From near the top of this saddle I heard some strong flowing water down Pyramid Creek in the valley. Given the steep gradient, it’s possible there is a small waterfall, or at least some cascades, worth checking out down there. I was quite lucky with weather, and the view from the saddle was already impressive

The view from halfway up the saddle, looking out over the burnt section, with Mt Dundas in the background.
The view from halfway up the saddle, looking out over the burnt area and Mt Dundas in the background
White flag-iris (diplarrena moraea)
White flag-iris (diplarrena moraea)

The Mt Zeehan track could certainly benefit from some trackwork as the scrub from this point onwards was rather thick. At this point in time though, the scrub can be pushed through and the track can still be followed. I dealt with the steepness in short bursts, stopping every 10 to 15 minutes to catch my breath, look for birds, and gaze out at the only improving view. During one break, I spotted a striated fieldwren (the first time I’ve seen one!).

After more of the same steepness and scrub, I eventually reached the summit and appreciated the old gate placed across the trig-point base that I had a (rather uncomfortable) nap on. I got back up again and admired the clear 360 views. Most amazing was being able to see the Professor Plateau from above, it’s daunting steep slopes follow the Henty Road, and lead up to what seems like a perfectly flat plain. I could also see out to Mt Agnew and Trial Harbour to the North-West and Henty Dunes to the South. I got my binoculars out and spotted some landmarks of the town of Zeehan, such as the United petrol station and gorse.

Mt Agnew
Mt Agnew
Looking down on Zeehan
Looking down on Zeehan
The view out to Ocean Beach and Henty Dunes
The view out to Ocean Beach and Henty Dunes

As I was eating lunch on the summit, a family of 4 wedge-tailed eagles started gliding over the mountain. It was an incredible sight, and I am always grateful to witness such beautiful birds.

An awful photo of two of the wedge-tailed eagles
An awful photo of two of the wedge-tailed eagles

Before heading back down I went to investigate the (telephone?) tower and spotted many flowering blandfordias. They seem to do quite well up here despite the windy and exposed environment.

Tasmanian Christmas Bells (blandfordia puicea)
Tasmanian Christmas Bells (blandfordia puicea)
The (telephone?) tower on the summit
The (telephone?) tower on the summit
The view out to the West Coast Range and the Professor Plateau
The view out to the West Coast Range and the Professor Plateau
A cicada of genus Gelidea
A cicada of genus Gelidea

The walk down was significantly more pleasant, and only took about 40 minutes, compared to the hour and a half it took to get up. Mt Zeehan is a great short day walk, provided it is a clear day and you are willing to face an unforgiving climb.

The next morning I was inspired to follow a road I had spotted on the way back to Strahan which heads out to the Strahan radiata pine plantations. Sandwiched in between the pine plantation and the Henty River is a 96 hectare section of native forest set to be logged in the near future (coupe YD018A) and I wanted to check it out (being some of the only non-pine forest in the area).

I followed Rayner Road on foot through some Pine Plantation, to the Tully River conservation area. The Tully River is a particularly beautiful spot, especially given its setting surrounded by radiata pine. The river itself is deeply brown from tanin, and has a sandy shoreline along its banks.

Radiata Pines on Rayner Road
Radiata Pines on Rayner Road
The Tully River
The Tully River
The Tully River
The Tully River

A road just to the left after the bridge heads straight up into the coupe, but first I walked up the hill along Zepilin road, through the recently logged section of plantation. Here I found a fairly large stand of blue gums, an old ride-on lawnmower, a green machine and a decent spot to lookout on the northern part of the coupe. After listening to the call of olive whistlers echoing down through the logged area, I headed back down to the Tully river and up the road to the coupe.

Some young blue gums on the edge of the logged plantation
Some young blue gums on the edge of the logged plantation
Logged plantation
Logged plantation
An old ride-on and a green machine
An old ride-on and a green machine
A view out to the north of the coupe from the logged plantation
A view out to the north of the coupe from the logged plantation

From here I found a wet section of forest, containing many myrtles and tree ferns before it opened up a bit further north into melaleucas and eucalypts. The track which skirts the edge of the coupe eventually got too overgrown and I headed back. This is quite a nice area, particularly along the Tully River, where much more exploring could be done. Although, care must be taken as this area borders on private property.

The western border of the coupe
The western border of the coupe
The western border of the coupe
The western border of the coupe
A fungus yet to be identified
A fungus yet to be identified
The western border of the coupe
The western border of the coupe
The western border of the coupe
The western border of the coupe
Southern border of the coupe
Southern border of the coupe
The southern border of the the coupe. Looking up from the regrowth.
The southern border of the the coupe. Looking up from the regrowth.

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