Maxwell’s Track and Surveying (13/02/21 – 14/02/21)

This was to be my first trip off into the bush since the South Coast Track almost a month ago. This is an unusually large break from bushwalking for me, but a combination of my last walking experience, and being horribly busy kept me from venturing out. Since returning from the South Coast, I have moved out of my Hobart house, helped my housemates move into their new house, fought to have our rental bond returned (we got it back by the way), and moved to Strahan on the west coast of Tasmania.

Living on the west coast opens up a whole heap of new bushwalking opportunities, and I’m excited to spend a lot of time exploring old tracks and roads through the bush. My first overnight walk here ended up being up in the North West though, around the foothills of the tremendous Black Bluff. The purpose of this trip was to survey a soon to be logged section of native forest halfway up Black Bluff, but we also camped for a night, intending to have a long scenic walk back out.

We started the walk from the car park for the popular, but un-maintained Winterbrook Falls track. To get to the car park for this walk, you have to weave through a maze of forestry roads in a large section of plantation forest south of Nietta, with hardly any signs to guide you. The current car park for the walk is 800 metres back from the original car park due to some serious road erosion (really big holes in the ground) and the start of the walk is indicated by some scribbling on an old road-works sign. Supposedly, management of this track has recently been handed over from forestry to Parks and Wildlife, so we may see some work done on it soon (although maybe not).

We quickly diverted from this track along an old forestry road heading North-West. This road leads through some young regrowth forest and at a few points had some nice views up to Black Bluff.

Looking up towards Black Bluff

While it was young forest, it had clearly been left long enough for the bridge across a Winter Brook tributary to have completely collapsed. The creek was crossable, but considering my recent experiences with creek crossings on the South Coast, I wasn’t too keen on that. We managed to utilise the remaining logs of the fallen bridge to cross “safely”, though it did feel as though the logs were going to collapse underfoot.

We continued onwards, slowly ascending until we reached the junction of our road, Maxwell’s Track, and an even older logging road that leads down to Loongana, close to the Leven Canyon carpark. Here we set up our camp and headed off into the logging coupe for many hours. The coupe is predominantly rainforest, with a section of eucalypts to the south. We found some surprisingly large eucalypts and myrtles that must have been spared when some of this area was originally logged 60+ years ago.

A huge eucalypt in the coupe

A huge myrtle in the coupe


An upside down fungus


A canary worm (Fletchamia sugdeni)


A bracket fungus not being a bracket on a fallen eucalypt


Looking up through the trees


Some trees in the coupe


A beech orchid (Townsonia viridis)


(I think) a dog vomit slime mould

We stopped to have some dinner before heading back out until it got too dark. I spent some time wandering around looking at moths and other insects before we went into our tents and fell asleep listening to the calls of ringtail possums scrambling in the trees above us.

An orange-rimmed satin moth (Thalaina selenaea)


A Kinemania ambulans on my tent


A eucalyptus leaf beetle (Trachymela rugosa)

The next morning we spent a few more hours out in the coupe before returning to have a bit of lunch and pack up camp. I said goodbye to the eucalyptus leaf beetle that had hung around my tent the whole time we had been here and we headed off along Maxwell’s Track for a lengthy, scenic return back to the cars. I don’t know any of the history of this track, or where the name Maxwell comes from, but I can only assume it was once used as access for selectively logging king billy pine in the past, as the Winterbrook Falls track follows an old tramway used for that purpose.

Maxwell’s Track follows an old road for a while, meandering slowly uphill through a lot of thick bauera scrub before one by one, giant myrtle trees appear. As the track entered the regional reserve, it thinned out into a real bush track, and the understory opened up, with the cover of the looming myrtles blocking out the sun. This section was an absolute joy to walk through, and we took a lot of time to admire the trees and look at fungi, devil poo, birds, native snails, and moss.

A native snail (Caryodes dufresnii)


Big strong myrtle

A huge bracket fungus on a fallen tree

As the track kept ascending, we noticed some long spiky things on the ground. We soon realised that they had fallen from king billy pines, and we looked up to see some king billys extending their arms out over us. As they prefer higher elevation, we naturally encountered more and more of these spectacular, and strange, trees as we kept rising. We also spotted some huge yellow gums off in the distance.

The Maxwell’s Track crossing of Winter Brook


King billy pine (Athrotaxis selaginoides)

Maxwell’s Track crosses Winter Brook just before it connects with the Winterbrook Falls track. Thankfully on that day the Brook wasn’t flowing too heavily and we could safely rock hop across. The Brook itself was quite picturesque, with dark brown water stained from the buttongrass up the top of Black Bluff and moss and small plants skirting its edge. We turned down the Winterbrook Falls Track, heading back to the car. We didn’t visit the waterfall today as we were already running a bit late, but I will one day return for it. 

The section of track just after the turnoff was, at the time of writing, quite badly covered in fallen trees, and some serious acrobatics had to be done to weave through them in places. This was made up for though by some enormous king billys. We even found one with a circumference of at least 7 or 8 metres! Some of the king billys in this area, which were thankfully spared from logging, are estimated to be over 2000 years old.

Some foam spread all over the rocks near a creek from when the water level was much higher a few days earlier

After most of the fallen trees were weaved through, the walk was very pleasant, and leads through some of the most beautiful rainforest I’ve encountered in Tasmania, certainly on par with some areas protected in the World Heritage Area. 

Closer to the carpark, the track flattened out, and evidence of the old tramway was more obvious, with some parts of the tramway still intact. This whole flat section was more open huge myrtle forest. It’s quite strange to stand in a temperate rainforest and be able to see more than 100 metres all around you. It was very easy walking through here, with solid flat track and boardwalk leading all the way out to the old Winterbrook Falls car park. From here it was just another 800 metres along flat road through regrowth forest to the car. The young myrtles regrowing here are all growing close together, interestingly in a hedge-like formation along the side of the road. This made me think about how great growing a hedge of myrtle would be as opposed to the non-native hedges that people surround their houses with at the moment.

Open myrtle forest close to the old carpark


Some big myrtles

If you’re ever around inland North-West Tasmania, or are visiting the Leven Canyon and are hungry for more, it is certainly worth looking up the directions to the Winterbrook car park and walking either to the falls, or just the rainforest loop (up to Maxwell’s Track and back to the car park along the Winterbrook Falls Track).

This area is not just under threat from logging, but also from a new power-line project that will cut straight through the Loongana valley. The towers in these lines will be almost as tall as the Wrest Point Casino in Hobart and a continuous 90 metre wide, 11 kilometre long strip of forest will be cleared, dividing Black Bluff from the Loongana range. These towers will be visible from Black Bluff and the Leven Canyon lookout and have significant impacts on the ecology, tourism, and residents of the area. The group: SOLVE Tasmania is dedicated to stopping the project and have much more information available on their website.

The South Coast Track (14/01/21 – 19/02/21)

For over a month now I have held off writing about my experience on the South Coast Track: An 85km, 7 day walk from the isolated old mining settlement of Melaleuca to Cockle Creek, the southernmost drivable point of Tasmania. The track itself is fine, certainly challenging (and muddy) in parts, but an easily followable route that is most often meandering through incredible buttongrass plains and juicy coastal rainforest. But my experience with this walk was one enormous reminder that weather doesn’t care about you, and it can kill you. Easily.

I’ve certainly never felt as threatened by the natural world as I did during the 6 days we spent on the South Coast. While it is terrifying, there is something exhilarating and almost satisfying about being beaten around by weather. I take it as a reminder that we, as individuals, are just a tiny speck in the universe and that our arrogance as a species is unwarranted, as we are no match for the power of nature.

We went into this walk knowing we were going to be excessively rained on. But our flights with Par Avion had already been booked for weeks, so the walking dates were fixed. In any other situation my Dad and I would not choose to walk in these conditions and would have arranged another date, or called the trip off. But when you require a plane ride to the start of your walk, last minute cancellations are a bit more of a hassle.

Day 1

I woke at my parent’s house on the 14th of January to my Dad frantically telling me that our flights had been moved forward from 2:30pm to 10:30am. It was 9am and my parents live an hour from Cambridge Aerodrome. So, after 30 minutes of frantic last minute packing and consuming only a single apricot, we set off down the Midlands Highway and arrived just in time. We said our goodbyes and climbed aboard an upsettingly small 6-seater plane. Thankfully, as the flight had been moved forward, the worst weather of the day was avoided and the ride was relatively smooth, with incredible views down to Hobart, the Channel, the southern forests, and the stretch of the south coast that we would soon be walking back along.

After a smooth landing on the gravel Melaleuca airstrip, single-handedly constructed by Deny King, we collected some canisters of gas for the trip, greeted the Melaleuca caretakers, and went to investigate the bird hide. Stepping into the hide and looking out at the bird feeders through the huge glass pane, we joked that it would be funny if an orange-bellied parrot flew straight in front of us. Not even a minute after this was said, an adorable little orange-bellied parrot flew down to one of the feeders and had a good 5-minute nibble. I was beyond excited to be able to see such a beautiful bird, of which there are approximately 50 wild individuals remaining. Unfortunately, my phone chose this time to crash completely, so there were no photos taken. Though I still am ecstatic to have been able to view the bird for an extended period of time.

From here we set off along the track, through the endless buttongrass plains of Melaleuca. The rain started almost immediately, though it was nothing too heavy yet. The visibility was still good enough for us to have a great view of Melaleuca Range to the west, and the impressive rock-faces of New Harbour Range directly in front of us. The first day of walking was a relatively relaxing time, and I took plenty of time to observe plants and watch and listen for birds. I heard the incredible ascending whistle of an eastern ground parrot, and watched a flock of beautiful firetails (Tasmania’s only native finch) singing while perched in a dead tree. There also was, as there always is, the constant chattering of crescent honeyeaters.

Pandora Hill
Looking out towards Cox Bight
Walking towards New Harbour Range through the buttongrass
New Harbour Range getting closer

It took us just 3 hours to reach the campsite at Cox Bight for the night and by then the rain had fully cleared. This left plenty of time to set up and explore the beach. I spent some time watching an olive whistler whistling and hopping through the melaleuca trees, and some hooded plovers and pied oystercatchers skittering along the sand before I had an early dinner (at this point I still had only eaten an apricot all day).

The beach at Cox Bight
Our campsite for the night
Looking out across Cox Bight from the camp

I spent some more time exploring and meditating on the beach before heading to bed quite early, while it was still light.

Day 2

It had rained again in the night, destroying our hopes of packing up dry tents in the morning. This was soon made up for though, as my Dad, awake before me as always, excitedly told me to get out of my tent. I unzipped the fly to see a very cute eastern quoll just a couple of metres away from us, sniffing out my Dad’s breakfast. It hung around for a short while before going to visit all of the other campers.

We slowly packed up our wet tents, not yet knowing that these tents would not be dry again until the end of the walk, and got going along the beach towards Point Eric. Then again through endless buttongrass, up towards our first real ascent, the Red Point Hills. Keeping in mind that the next day we had to climb 900+ metres, the climb up these hills felt quite relaxing. Halfway through the climb a small friend greeted us. A tiny freshwater crayfish attempted to ward us off the track it was scuttling along (fair enough) and raised its claws at us, which made for a good photo.

Walking towards Point Eric
Looking back at Point Eric after climbing over it
Much butongrass
Looking back at Cox Bight
A southern hemisphere crayfish. Suspected Spinastacoides inermis

We soon reached the first of many river/creek crossings at Louisa Creek. This crossing was quite relaxing compared to the crossings we came across later on, being only ankle deep. Not long after this, the big rain began. As we continued walking through the buttongrass, we were hoping it would just be a short shower, but the drops kept falling, for hours… and hours…

The Ironbound Range beckoning us closer
Mt Louisa looking pretty menacing
A Lesser Tasmanian Darner (Austroaeschna Hardyi)
The Louisa Creek crossing
Some stairs to help you out of Louisa Creek

We continued non-stop for the rest of the day, keeping our heads down as we trudged towards each stand of trees hoping we were approaching our campsite at Louisa River. Though every time it was only another creek we had to cross.

We finally reached the Louisa River camp and the rain was still falling hard. To get to the camp though, we had to first cross the river, which had no doubt risen significantly since that morning. Though by stepping slowly and carefully, and by holding tightly onto the rope set in place across the river, we made it across. Once at the campsite, we stood around for a while, wondering if we would get a small dry window where we could pitch our tents. But no, we had to perform every bushwalker’s favourite task of setting up a tent while it rains, and attempting to keep everything dry. As an upside, the rainforest surrounding the Louisa River campsite was particularly beautiful in the wet and the many huge myrtles along the riverbank made for a picturesque setting.

Drying my dishes in the small amount of sunlight we got
You can see how powerful this river can get from the height of the bank
The campsite
Some of the luscious vegetation by the river
A huge Eucalyptus tree at the camp
More forest
Looking up a huge myrtle

After a few hours of lying around in our tents, the sun eventually came out and the rain began to settle. Which gave us a small opportunity to cook dinner, take photos, and feel nervous about how high the river was rising.

Day 3

The day of climbing the Ironbound Range is the classical ‘hard day’ of the South Coast Track. But, ‘hard day’ was a bit of an understatement for our experience.

Packing up predominantly wet items in the morning, we were at least happy that it wasn’t raining anymore. We set off quite early, knowing that we had a long day ahead. This day of the walk is relentless, beginning with a big creek crossing, and almost immediately ascending straight up. The weather for the day started off quite mild, but overcast, but soon picked up.

The only picture I took on the way up the Ironbounds, just before the bad weather hit. A white waratah (Agastachys odorata) in flower.

As we ascended the range, the rain started to get heavier, the wind stronger, and the angle of the rain shifting more and more horizontal. By the time we had reached the first big ridge of the range, we were being smacked in the face by rain that appeared to be coming up from the ground below the ridge, and almost knocked over by the sheer force of the wind. Up on the ridge where shelter is non-existent, things began to get a bit scary, and very cold.

An intensely thick mist rolled in over the range, and we were soon unable to see more than a few metres ahead of us, making the end of this seemingly eternal climb appear even further from us. Further up the range in particularly exposed parts, the wind gusts were so strong that it became difficult to even take a step without being knocked over. At times we had no choice but to stand with our legs apart, and try desperately to remain upright while a big gust came past. There were points where we would enter into a small patch of sheltered alpine vegetation, and we would think we had finally escaped the exposed mountainside, only to be sent straight back out into it.

When we did finally start to descend the range, things were no better. The track leading down the Ironbounds is often referred to as ‘the drainpipe’ with good reason. ‘Walking’ down this track was more akin to clambering through a huge pipe full of debris, with a torrent of water rushing down underfoot. The rain was still coming down heavily (though at least it was vertical) and it was still dangerously cold. The conditions, combined with very slow walking speeds (and me not wearing enough layers…), led to me developing a short bout of hypothermia. I had started to feel a bit nauseous while up on the range, and descending, the feeling only got worse. I eventually had to stop and rest when my thoughts were no longer making sense to me. Thankfully my Dad was only a few metres ahead of me and he stopped to come and help.

Neither of us initially knew I was hypothermic. But my Dad eventually figured it out when I couldn’t respond properly to the things he was asking me and I was desperately reaching for his hands for warmth. He managed to take my raincoat off to fit an extra jumper on me, and put a beanie on my head and sent me back walking again to regain my body temperature. While still delirious for some time, I somehow was able to keep walking and get warm.

The day wasn’t done with us yet though, as we soon came across a creek we had to cross that had fully flooded. The creek, which typically doesn’t even get a mention in walking notes for the South Coast Track, was a full white water torrent. Thankfully, someone from the big group ahead of us had stuck around to help people across. I managed to get across with his help without too much trouble, but the force of the water against my feet in the creek was immense, and getting across without help would have been a real challenge. Multiple others who crossed after me had their feet washed out by the water and were lying horizontal in the creek, being pummelled by water, incredibly held in place by the grip of the man who had waited around to help. Without him there I am sure many people would have been washed a significant distance down the mountain.

From hereon we were able to relax a bit, as the walking got easier and the rain let up slightly. The final part of this walk took us through quite open half coastal forest, half rainforest, with good views out to the rocky cliffs and caves on the shores of Deadman’s Bay. We arrived at the Little Deadman’s Bay campsite completely exhausted, and we were soon in bed.

Some Melaleucas in the coastal rainforest
A small stinkwood (Zieria arborescens).
Some cliffs and caves at Deadman’s Bay
A cute and powdery unidentified moth
A small cove in Deadman’s Bay

Day 4

Many bladderworts (a semi-aquatic carnivorous native plant) growing out of a patch of mud
A Sprengelia plant doing something strange

Today HAD to be a better day. We decided we were only walking as far as New River Lagoon to have a bit of a rest day. Much of the famous mud in the buttongrass plains at the start of this day was avoided thanks to the boardwalk, and we were soon out on Turua Beach. Turua Beach boasts some very impressive rocks that have been cut by the strong winds

Well carved rocks on Turua Beach
Rocks defending the shore on Turua Beach

The track quickly headed inland again, but up a short ascent through coastal forest. I quite enjoyed this section of the walk, meandering around the cliff edges through some picturesque forest and impressive views.

Menzies Bluff (I think)
Some type of Persoonia, I think Persoonia gunnii

We eventually were sent back onto a beach. This time to the much more impressive Prion Beach, stretching a full 6km. Thankfully we only had to walk 4 of those kilometres, which was still rather exhausting as our feet kept sinking into the wet sand.

Looking along the extensive Prion Beach
A seagull party
The expanse of Prion Beach

The end of the beach is marked by New River, and hiding behind the beach is the huge New River Lagoon. To get across to the campsite, the lagoon must be crossed by boat (thankfully at a narrow section). The wind was very quickly picking up so, being the one with the superior rowing skills, my Dad took charge of the crossing to get it over with quickly. We arrived at camp around lunchtime and were very ready to stop walking and relax for the rest of the day. The campsite by New River Lagoon is a great, wind-sheltered spot beneath melaleuca trees, and made for a nice place to have an afternoon chill-out.

Native currant (Coprosma quadrifida)
The boats used to cross New River Lagoon
A pademelon visiting our camp

Day 5

This day seemed to go on and on and on… Though it was likely because we had had such a short walk the day before. That said, this day was certainly the most beautiful and varied day of the whole walk. We walked through coastal vegetation, buttongrass, luscious old eucalypt/near-rainforest, along a sandy beach with impressive wind-cut rocks and the across the strange blue and grey sand of Granite Beach.

To start the day, we had to finish off the full length of Prion Beach, except by following it from up in the bush behind. Knowing that this was only 2 kilometres of walking, we felt that it was going on for far too long. Both of us being rather tall, the many fallen or overhanging branches along this section of the track were slowing us down (I whacked my head at least three times).

Prion Beach extending past the lagoon
A flowering celery top pine (Phyllocladus aspleniifolius)

We happily said goodbye to Prion Beach as we ascended up into buttongross plains. Though, we were immediately smacked in the face by some serious wind (the water at Osmiridium Beach in the photo below shows how windy it was pretty well).  After the turnoff to Osmiridium beach, the track also intensely ramps up the mud level. If you’ve never attempted to navigate through waist deep mud in gale force winds with zero wind cover, I can tell you it’s not particularly easy. At one point I went all the way in up above my waist (sinking into the Earth is never a nice feeling) and I just managed to scramble out grasping onto blades of buttongrass.

A choppy Osmiridium Beach

I pushed on through the wind, encouraged by the sheltered forest I could see coming up. The next section was possibly my favourite part of the walk. Unfortunately my photos can’t really do it justice, but the next section of the walk weaved through some incredible rainforest with some enormous eucalypts (like really massive). Moss covered almost every surface and blechnum ferns brushed against our legs. The track was a real mudbath, but it was made up for by the beauty of the setting.

Some of the beautiful forest after Surprise Bay
A huuuuge eucalyptus in the forest before Surprise Bay (I could easily pitch my tent inside that hollow for reference)

We stopped to have lunch before the track began to descend down to Surprise Bay. Heading down, I looked up towards the sky and noticed many brown balls of foam flying overhead. For a moment I couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing, but I eventually realised that this foam was being blown up over us from the beach below. We knew we had some more wind to contend with at the bottom of the bill.

The bay certainly offered up some surprises. The first was a cliff that seems to have had a perfectly sliced chunk removed, the second was that the wind had picked up even more. That horrible feeling of sand grains blowing like bullets against your skin accompanied our whole walk across the beach. Then, another surprise, the Surprise Rivulet was flowing strongly and was rather deep. Leaving us wondering how we would wade across, especially with gale force gusts.

Coming out onto Surprise Bay
A hole in the rocks at Surprise Bay
Some well cut rocks on Surpise Bay
A closeup of the rocks
A dark and gloomy Shoemaker Point, with South Cape behind.

Bracing for the wind each step, trying not to fall over and get swept away, we eventually found the most shallow path across the rivulet and put our feet back on dry sand. Almost immediately we were hit by the strongest gust I think I have ever experienced. My Dad and I were both knocked over, and Dad’s sunglasses zoomed off of his head, disappearing in an instant.

Now feeling quite vulnerable, we scrambled up the bank into the shelter of the bush. From here it was just a short and sharp climb over a hill to Granite Beach. I guess from the adrenaline of being beaten up by the wind, I was able to power over the hill, only sliding down the slippery roots on the other side a couple of times.

The steps leading down to Granite Beach
The cool colours in the sand of Granite Beach

Climbing down the rope and plank ladder to the sand, Granite Beach was quite an odd sight. This beach is a real standout with its grey and blue sand contrasting against the classical white sandy beaches scattered around the south coast. For a while the beauty of the beach distracted from the assault of the wind, but I was soon struggling again when there was no choice but to scramble on the rocks further up the beach due to the aggressive waves. Much to my delight, Granite Beach offered up another crossing at Sandstone Creek, also flowing pretty hard.

I just managed not to fall over crossing the creek and continued scrambling on. After the crossing, the only way to walk is over slippery rocks with a steep cliff face to the left, and roaring waves to the right. With worse luck, I could have easily have been slammed against these cliffs by a wave, but I was spared with only a mild drenching.  The track eventually left the beach, straight up the cliff beside Granite Beach Falls; an impressive waterfall that pours over the cliff edge onto the beach.

Wild wild waves at Granite Beach
Looking out over where we walked along Granite Beach

I waited for a while up the top of the cliff in the bush for my Dad, but the wind and spray eventually got too much (I think the above photos show why). Confident he would be okay as he was walking with a few others, I headed 100 metres up the track to tonight’s campsite.

Even though the camp was very sheltered under a thick melaleuca overstory, we were still ‘rained’ on all night by the sea-spray being blown up and over the cliff.

Day 6

We never expected on this morning to be sleeping in a real, warm bed by night, but somehow we walked from Granite Beach to Cockle Creek in 9 hours. I really don’t remember a lot of this day, which isn’t helped by the fact that I hardly took any pictures.

The first half of the day was occupied by the South Cape Range, a pretty tough 460m climb. The forest was again quite beautiful and sheltered, before ascending into some more open vegetation at Flat Rock Plain, where the track became a mudbath. We had the most clear weather we had had for the whole walk today, and we had some nice views out to the Southern Ranges.

Looking out at the Southern Ranges
An example of the sort of mud we were walking through

We slowly descended down the other side of the range, through much mud and nice mossy forest. An unexpected buttongrass plain met us halfway down the range, from which we saw our first sign of being close to civilisation again: A clearfelled logging coupe off in the distance.


The last photo I took for the trip. From here on we just wanted to get out.

Beyond the plains was a long, undulating, muddy, and slippery track that I don’t have great memory of. The next moment I remember clearly was stepping out onto the sand at South Cape Rivulet. The rivulet flows from a lagoon behind the beach, over the sand and into the ocean, and the water level fluctuates with the incoming waves.

From the rapidly changing water level of the rivulet I knew that crossing it would be trouble. I waited around for my Dad to catch up, and a few others from another group showed up too. We all discussed for a while how we would get across, and waited for a low water level. Two guys from the other group went ahead first, then me, and then my Dad. The first three of us succesfully got across. But, as soon as I had gotten both of my feet out of the rivulet, I remember looking down at my feet as I heard somebody yell “watch out!”

Before I could even react, water rapidly shot across under me, submerging my ankles and tipping me over. I hadn’t even registered what had happened by the time I was being very quickly washed, face down, up the rivulet. The water must have only been about half a metre deep, as I was scraping my hands and feet on the sand beneath me as I was being washed away. Attempting to keep my head out of the water, I tried desperately to get a hold of something, or dig my feet into the ground, but the force of the water was far too great to gain any stability.

I have no idea how long I was in the water for before I felt something pulling me up. I managed to ground my feet and was dragged up onto the sand, by the same guy who had helped me across the roaring creek 3 days earlier!

I managed to stand and looked over to see my Dad being dragged up onto the sand as well, he had cleverly flipped over and was floating on his back, with his pack fully submerged in the water.

I didn’t see it at all, but supposedly a massive wave came in just as I had finished crossing the rivulet, and had washed us up the rivulet all the way up the beach. The force of the wave was so strong that it had pushed sand all the way up the sleeves of my thermal top, extending to my shoulders. The inside of every layer of clothing I had on was coated with sand. My Dad, floating on his pack, had large amounts of sand force through the zipped closed pockets of his pack.

After thanking the people who had saved us. My Dad and I, dripping wet, cold and exhausted, agreed almost instantly that we wouldn’t be camping tonight, we just wanted to be out.

So we walked, without stopping, all the way back to Cockle Creek, slowly drying out and warming up. Thankfully my good friend Ben who we had asked to pick us up was coming down to Cockle Creek a day early to camp the night, so we had a ride waiting for us.

What happened during this walk has left quite an impact on me, and I think I am still resolving my thoughts about some of the experiences I had in these 6 days. My hypothermic episode and being washed up South Cape Rivulet has made me wonder about what could have happened were I on my own. I think I now have a greater understanding of the risks of bushwalking, particularly walking solo.

I can only hope that writing this blog post will help my process the experience. I hope you have gotten some enjoyment from reading it, and that I haven’t put you off walking this magnificent track for yourself.

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.