Sunday, 28 June 2020

Hiking - 2020 06 - Ballow Creek Junction (Mt Barney NP)

Thought it was time for another over night hike as it had been a few months. Managed to convince a few others to go with me too which is nice. Had perfect weather; crisp clear Brisbane winter day. Blue skies abound. 

I had thought Barney Creek Junction would have been nice. A good 8km, Lower portals along the way. Goat track all the way to camp. Sadly when I went to book camps it was already half full. Scratching for other ideas I found Ballow Creek. Sparse information but some old notes said established rainforest camp so sounded good.  

Only a short 6km to the camp so we decided to have a later start. Leaving from the Gold Coast through Canungra, took a bit longer than expected but we reached the bottom of Waterfall Creek camp 20 past 12 and headed up to Cleared Ridge. Camp sites were fairly full, I guess lots of people getting out post covid, and there were a few walkers on the 4wd track to the top. The condition of the track has deteriorated a lot since I was last up here. Just over a year ago.  

Eventually we get going and knock over the 4km to Yamahra Creek pretty easy before we turn off for the 'short' 2k to camp. We started with a fairly well defined goat track but it disappeared after 200 or so meters. From there it was following the creek as best you could. Swapping sides, hopping up the centre, finding the path of least resistance. There were lots and lots of fallen trees making it very difficult to push through. Vines slippery rocks and a few hesitations on crossings made for tough, slow, going. The last 2 km took us almost 2.5 hours.  

We got to the Junction, with only my pair of shoes still dry, but didn't spy the 'established' sites. We found a few semi-suitable and they definitely had been slept at before but they were over grown and fairly tight amongst the other trees. In the valley is was starting to get dark before we finished setting up and just as we were done it was head torch time. Cut it a little close, but we made it.  Temp dropped a bit but its actually warmer that I expected. Sun was gone for a good 1.5 hours before I reached for my puffy.  

The 4 of us set about for dinner, various easy to eat meals like Mac n Cheese, pasta, CousCous and 2min noodles. We stayed up chatting for a little bit before retiring to our tents. Temperature didn't drop too low over night. Min/Max Thermometer read 5°C as the coldest (outside the tent) but I felt pretty warm inside. It was only in the wee hours of the morning, just after sunrise, where I felt the chill of the cold morning.  

We had a very easy morning, lying in bed until past 8am, unheard of at camping usually! With breakfast out of the way the sky decided it was time for these smelly hikers to have a shower. I'll have to have a worth with the folks over at BOM as it was meant to be a clear sunny weekend!  

With a fresh coating of rain, on top of the morning dew, the rocks were even more slippery than yesterday! It was really slow going for a while and we decided that maybe we could cut across a small ridge to avoid one of the worst bends of the river. It looked goood for about 5 min but then we hit vines... and prickles. Lots of prickles. They weren't new ones to me but I can't remember seeing them often. They had really small, splinter sized burs on a larger head. As soon as they got you the little spurs broke off and dug into your clothes and started to scratch away at your skin.   

After being covered in them, thinking that was bad, we reached some rainforest vine, wait-a-while and even, just for good measure I guess, some thickets of Lantana! It made getting back to the river quite a bit more difficult. Eventually down the other side of the ridge though and once again into the creek. It was my turn to take a misstep and feel just how cold the water was... not too bad. From then on it made things easier for me, they couldn't get more wet. The creek was still hard work though, rocks still slippery and many many fallen trees.

It was odd, there were some parts (seemingly random) along the creek where trees had been cut by chainsaws. No obvious trail near them and we couldn't work out why some were cut and others (that looked to be the same vintage) were left untouched. It wasn't just one or two close to the nearest Vehicle access (Yamahra Creek for Rangers) but some much further up, while closer ones went wanting. 

We actually made better time heading down stream, getting back to the main Upper Portals Track just on the 2hr mark. We stopped for a bite for lunch, some camped in the nearby campsite were still in the process of packing up. Others had obviously left just before... and left a smouldering fire. I had a bit of extra water so doused what I could before we set off back up to Cleared Ridge. 

The hill is just about how I remember it. Long and steep. We took our time going up (though Callan and Thomas seemed to power on!) and eventually made it back to the cars. After this trip, the fact that they were already well loved, and the numerous (like thousands) of little spur prickles I decided to retire my hiking shorts. Even after a shower I can still feel the spurs in the back of my leg. Hopefully just phantom pain though... or they might be with me a while.  

Certainly a more difficult off trail hike and probably should of picked a slightly easier one to ease a few people into it. Despite the prickles and soggy shoes I'm keen to head back and see if I could make it to the next camp (a further 2km up the creek) to a place called T Junction. Would definitely need an early start for it though! Maybe even night hike into Yahamra, then had a full day to get up the creek. Some other time though!

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