After our successful walk in 2016 on the Kepler Track, in 2017 we selected the Heaphy Track, once again expertly organised by Mary. The Heaphy Track is an easy, scenic 80km walk located in Kahurangi National Park in the north west corner of South Island. The final day is a stunning 17 km walk on the wild South Island west coast. … [Continue reading]
We can’t remember who had the idea to walk the historic 46.5km Six Foot Track in a Day. A mix of single track and fire trails, the total ascent on the Six Foot Track is some 1600m. Hours after we set off from Katoomba, high up on the Black Range, we are tired and freezing from the wind and snow flurries. Our support crew feed us hot tea and homemade anzac biscuits. We don’t stop long, as we want to reach the finish line, Jenolan Caves House, before dark.
There are eight of us, all women. Supporting us are two family members in 4WDs, and another on a motorbike. After a night in the hospitable Katoomba Youth Hostel, we set out from the Explorers Tree at dawn, around 6:30am. The Six Foot track drops down the escarpment to Nellies Glen, then crosses paddocks in the Megalong Valley to reach the Cox River. We cross the swing bridge one at a time. Our first brief stop is not long after, at the 15km mark at the Cox River campsite, where we have something to eat and refill out water containers.
From Cox River, there is a long 10km climb up the Black Range to the Pluviometer. It’s a tedious uphill slog. One of our group takes ill and hitches a ride in a truck. At the top, around the 27km mark, our kind support team have chairs ready for our use and water on the boil. After our break, its about 10km to Black Range campsite, and we have all types of weather along the way: wind, ice, snow flurries and rain.
After Black Range campsite, it gets very cold, and we all layer up. The distance is adding up, but we’re still smiling. There are a lot of trees down across the path from recent storms. Our support team surprise us by appearing in a couple of unexpected spots to feed us chocolate.
Finally we start the steep descent to Jenolan Cave, and arrive before sunset to enjoy a hot shower, a drink and tasty meal in the restaurant, and a good sleep.
After that good sleep, we wake up in the morning ready to plan the next adventure, and no, it wasn’t my idea.
Thanks to our families for their support, and our great, fit walking mates for their good natured company.
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Stair climbing intervals are a quick and effective way to improve your fitness. Walk them, run them or bound up two at a time. To liven up my Sydney CBD workday routine, I went looking for some lunchtime stairs in Sydney, exploring Barangaroo, Millers Point and Dawes Point west of the Harbour Bridge. The rule I set myself was at least 50 steps with a nice recovery run or walk to link the sets of stairs into a circuit…. [Continue reading]
Like many people, I have a day job that involves too much sitting. However you couldn’t ask for a nicer place than Sydney CBD on a sunny day for a lunch time stroll. I thought I’d be a tourist in my hometown and test some apps for Sydney urban walks. A quick search of the appstore found three, which I downloaded onto my smartphone, and then headed out the office. … [Continue reading]
The Blue Gum loop walk in Old Man’s Valley, Hornsby, includes fern filled blue gum high forest, creek crossings, and irresistible opportunities for hill climbing intervals up side tracks. It is easily accessed from the lovely park at the end of Rosemead Rd, Hornsby, or from Quarry Rd down the Heritage Steps.
Hill climbing on side tracks
The 4.2km Blue Gum Walk circuit is relatively short, so we add in some steep side tracks to increase both the training distance and improve the cardio workout.
The lovely Heritage Steps, originally built during the 1930s depression era and recently renovated, link the park at Rosemead Rd with Quarry Rd. Intervals here will get your heart pumping. A flock of resident cockatoos provide a noisy soundtrack amongst the leafy trees.
After approximately one kilometre on the fire trail from Rosemead park, you will reach a junction. The Great North Walk towards Galston has been re-routed since the closure of a section of track in the valley below the Rifle Range. The GNW track crosses a wooden bridge over small creek and climbs steeply towards some houses. This provides a great opportunity for some hill intervals.
Returning down the hill to the Blue Gum Walk, we head towards Fishponds and cross the steeping stones. Not long after the crossing, is another junction and Pogsons Link trail. This trail heads up to Pogsons Trig. More hill climbing! Pogsons Link Trail has also been recently renovated with new sandstone steps.
We return across the stepping stones and continue on the Blue Gum Walk. There are lovely rocks at the crossing of Waitara Creek which remind me a spa bath or perhaps a laundry tub. Sadly for such a lovely spot, the water is quite polluted. It can also be impassable in heavy rain, so take care.
Over the creek, the track climbs another hill towards the ridge line and turns left at the junction. A nice sunny rock makes a good spot for morning tea. Phew, a rest.
A much needed gentle recovery stretch through the beautiful ferns and tall blue gums follows the tea rocks. The single track through the forest eventually meets a fire trail – and yet another opportunity for hill climbing! We go right at the junction with the fire trail to climb to the top, before returning down to Ginger Meggs park, the Rosemead Rd park, and back up the Heritage Steps to our cars.
All told, we’ve climbed over 500m on a mix of steps and fire trails, and the muscles in our legs are feeling better for the workout.
Layers of stories
Stopping for a quick breather at the top of the Heritage Steps, I notice a plaque in the a rock – with stories of the Higgins Family. I have climbed these steps many times, but never noticed the plaque. Too often we are moving too quickly and so narrowly focussed on our fitness goals that we fail to notice the environment around us. This area is rich in layers of stories – geological, fauna and flora, Aboriginal and European activities.
Thomas Higgins was the first permanent settler in Hornsby in 1824, in the fertile Old Mans Valley, which he supposedly named after a local kangaroo. The Higgins family lived in the valley until 1960. Their house was demolished, but the Higgins family cemetry remains and has heritage status.
The Blue Gum High Forest is a rare and critically endangered ecosystem, for both the trees and other plants, and the habitat it provides to animal and plant life, such as the powerful owl. A Biobanking biodiversity scheme is operational in the area to address the habitat degradation.
Other walks nearby include the GNW to Tunks Ridge.
Lighthouse 2 Skillion (L2S) is a 27.5km coastal walk between two iconic Central Coast landmarks, Norah Head and The Skillion (Terrigal) that traverses beaches, rock platforms and a National Park headland with good whale watching lookouts. We signed up thinking how hard can a flat beach walk be? Quite hard, when there is 17km of soft sand walking and a steep headland climb to the finish line.
Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the slice of an English Mum! We have some creative and healthy cooks in our group. This recipe is for Fee’s delicious and healthy muesli slice. … [Continue reading]
Anna’s delicious, fruity, nutty treat to give you an energy boost while outdoors on the trail. Easy to make and even easier to eat and share with your hiking friends!… [Continue reading]
This 9km circuit walk explores the Great North Walk from Fullers Rd Bridge to Epping Rd Bridge over the Lane Cove River, with a climb out of the valley on the River to Rail trail before descending the Blue Gum forest back to the start. This is a route with something for everyone: death, pleasure, pain and recovery.
There is parking near the steakhouse at Fullers Rd Bridge. The path immediately climbs straight up a hill before wandering alongside the North Suburbs Memorial Gardens and Crematorium. The crematorium dates from 1933, and is heritage listed.
Fairyland Pleasure Grounds
Leaving death behind, the path descends towards Fairylands, a pleasure ground from 1913 until the 1970’s. Signage in the area tells the story of the market gardens and recreational usage of this area on a pretty curve of the river. The fairy characters have long gone, the bush has grown back, and increased river sedimentation from development up river has replaced beaches with mangroves. It’s hard to imagine the noisy revelry of a hundred years ago in this now quiet and peaceful spot.
It’s a quick and pleasant walk from Fairylands to Epping Road Bridge. Crossing the river, we enter Mowbray Rd Athletics Park, and follow the path around the oval to a nice set of stairs. Packs on or packs off, it’s time to get the heart rate up with some stair intervals.
Leaving the athletics oval near the river, we pass an artwork acknowledging the Camaraigal Clan of the Guringai family group, whose middens have been found in this area. There are handles on a rock scramble alongside the river, but today the tide is very high, and we decide to backtrack and take the high path. There are a number of walking paths in Mowbray Park, nicely mapped by Willoughby Council.
The route we follow passes through swamp oak floodplain forest, one of a number of sensitive ecological communities we will see today. Eventually, after a few detours to climb away from the river on high paths, we reach the golf course.
Ferndale Creek and Blue Gum Reserve
Taking care due to the risk of flying golf balls, we carefully cross over to OH Reid Reserve. We climb up the track along Ferndale Creek, another old aboriginal route down from the ridge towards the Lane Cove River.
We exit Ferndale Creek at Greville St. It’s a hot surburban road bash along Greville St and across Fullers Rd to pick up the trail down the Blue Gum Reserve and back to our cars at the start. This valley has a varied past including logging and dairy farming. It has been inundated by weeds from surrounding development, but still provides a significant wildlife corridor sanctuary for plants and animals. The valley has pockets of endangered and protected Blue Gum High Forest.
Willoughby Council have mapped the walking trails in Ferndale Creek and Blue Gum Reserve.
The Kepler Track is a 60km circuit, starting from Te Anau. It is one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks supported by the Department of Conservation to protect and preserve the unique and delicate natural environment in which these walks are located. In February a group of seven Sole Sisters (Caroline, Debra, Marna, Susan, Mary, Louise and Liz) set off to tramp the Kepler Track circuit over 4 days with 3 nights staying in the huts on the track…. [Continue reading]