A whole world on your doorstep, if you only go looking…
It’s been interesting times of late, to say the least, but it’s also given us the opportunity to explore our own backyards like never before. Whether you’ve taken advantage of that, or not, is entirely up to you but we reckon there might have been a good bit of exploring going on amongst our readership. And so, we’ve decided to run a competition*.
We’d like you to tell us about your favourite day walk.
Could be something close to home. A walk you do a now and again to brush away the cobwebs. Could be a weekend spot where you found a trek to put a spring in your step.
Whatever it is – tell us all about it, let us know what makes it special and we’ll give a prize to the three we think are the best. Judged by our panel of experienced guides, the winners will receive a $500 voucher* to use on one of Strolls many walks.
If you have some images from the walk we’d love to see them, and we’ll publish the winner right here. OK, I’ll go first…
40 Foot Falls, Only Four Hours Return
We’re fortunate enough to live in the Southern Highlands of NSW, and, having moved here a few years ago I’m slowly making my way through all the walks I can find. From short river walks I can squeeze in at lunchtime, to longer day walks like the Box Vale Track. A rather punishing six hour trek with a fair bit of elevation change, including a scramble down an old skip line, built to haul coke & coal up the side of Mount Alexandria back in 1875.
Most of these walks I do on my own, or with a friend, but 40 Foot Falls was completed just a few months ago with my entire family. Wife, kids and even ‘Morris’ in tow, a cocker spaniel who joined us at the beginning of lockdown. And it now holds the current title of ‘favourite local walk’.
If I told the kids it was going to be a four hour hike there might have been dissent in the ranks. The younger one would happily cartwheel and pirouette throughout, but for our eldest, the thought of doing anything for that long that’s not hanging out with friends would have been an issue. But if we go for a short walk, and it just happens to keep going everybody generally enjoys themselves…
So we packed a lunch, snacks and a flask of coffee, then drove ten minutes to Lake Alexandria in Mittagong.
Originally a dam, created to supply water for the steam engines in the Fitzroy Iron mines almost 150 years ago, the lake is now a parkland with picnic tables and a playground, and a reserve with a variety of ducks, cockatoos, ibis, turtles & goannas.
It’s a lovely spot we’ve visited often, so no eyebrows were raised as we parked in familiar territory.
“Let’s go for a walk before we have lunch, only an hour or so, I’ve heard there might be a nice waterfall down here….”
The walk begins at the West side of the Lake, leaving the circuitous path and heading off on the dirt beside a little creek that winds its way North. Lots of little nooks and crannies for red bellied snakes to hide in, so best to keep the kids away from it…
We steer them, instead, towards a massive tree that must have been here longer than the lake itself. A towering eucalypt with a dangling frayed rope swaying in the wind, which is now swinging pendulously because our kids are hanging on to the end.
Snake creek successfully negotiated, we all happily traipsed over the little wooden bridge, and we’re immediately immersed in the wilderness. Civilisation seems a million miles away, and it’s lovely.
The walk follows the creek bed for a while, through what feels like a lost world or magical fern gully from a kids movie. It’s a hot day but we’re shielded from the intensity of the sun by the canopy above, and the tightness of the valley.
The vegetation is lush and dripping with water as we meander across the creek, and my forehead begins to do the same, with beads of sweat turning into torrents as we reach an hour, and stop for a drink and some snacks.
“Are we going to turn back now?”
“That’s enough, I’ve had enough. Can we go home now..?”
This is the way it always goes. We walk. They squalk. Eventually I snap, and then everyone settles down. And this time was no different. Good, now that’s over we can get on with it.
The valley widens quite considerably, and suddenly we’re in an area I recognise from a previous hike. A huge, building sized rock sits in the of middle of the creek, forcing the water to part and I recognise it as ‘Moby Dick’, as named by a Polish fellow I met out this way about a year ago.
I was on the verge of getting a bit lost when I came across a spritely eighty year old who guided me back on track. His name was Henry, the same as my dad, he was extremely funny and swore within the first thirty seconds of meeting him. I liked him immediately.
Anyway, I had a wee smile to myself remembering his chat as we passed.
We met a few other family groups, but for the most part it was just us. Splendid isolation,
as it’s been for millennia out here. And then, almost out of nowhere you walk under the enormous concrete towers that hold up the Hume Highway.
You can hardly hear the cars above as it’s so high, and then as you descend and turn a corner, it’s gone completely.
The path is tighter now. More clambering over fallen branches and trunks. Nothing too insurmountable, but enough to keep it interesting for everyone. And Morris was loving it almost as much as our eldest by now – who hasn’t realised that we’re almost two hours in, and she’s actually enjoying herself…
We’re surrounded by the sounds of wildlife. The echoey bellbird sounds like she’s being harangued by the cackling kookaburras. Now an again we hear the long distinctive whistle followed by the high pitched crack of the Eastern Whipbird, and then the Golden Whistler chimes in with a shorter, sharper version of the call.
We march over lizards at the side of the path, but no snakes are spotted. Although I’m sure they’re around, just sensibly disappearing out of sight when they hear the singing and shouting rabble rumbling through the forest, dragging a four legged carnivore along with them.
Then we’re in a clearing on the approach to the falls, the ground is wet and slippy on the exposed rock and you can hear the thundering just up ahead. Phew! At last. If we had to go on much longer I was going to lose the crowd, but we’re here just in time. We stop. Unpack the lunch boxes and before we get stuck in, it’s time for a dip.
That delightful ‘shoes off’ walk into a shallow rock pool, a dipping of the head into the cool, dark and sparkling water – and relax.
After lunch we scramble up over the last bank of rock, and the waterfall’s right in front of us – all 40 feet of it. You can clamber over to let it wash over you if you like, but given our group, I think it’s best to leave the baptism for another time. I’ll be back on my own, no doubt, before long.
It always seems quicker on the way back, and my eldest even says she knew what was going on all along – and despite the fact, she actually really did enjoy herself.
It was just long enough, and just that little bit ‘wild’ enough to feel like a real adventure
with the family, and yet we were only ten minutes from home. All starving by the time we reached the car, and the treat for the girls was a nice lunch on the way back.
A beautiful sunny day, a wonderful walk through a glorious forest with a sparkling waterfall at the end. My new favourite walk, although perhaps not my daughter’s…
Let us know what you’ve found in your area lately. They say you have to travel before you can truly appreciate your own home. Well, if you’ve taken the opportunity, you might have discovered more round the corner than you ever knew was there. And perhaps that’s the silver lining we all need from 2020…
*See here for full term & conditions.