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Note: The reports have been scanned in as written. I have included the height and distance indications, e.g.:
(1000'- 12m.- 4.45p.m.)
which read as follows: height in feet - miles for the day - time.
|Plans for Christmas 1955 had included availing
ourselves of the air drop to Cox Bight, ascending several of the peaks in
the Port Davey Area and possibly some of the Arthurs and then walking out
via the Huon Track to Geeveston. The party comprised Bob Rusher, Alan Pitchford
On Friday, Dec. 23rd., complete with 8 days' food in pack and another 6 days' supplies for air dropping at Junction Creek, we left Launceston at 6.30 p.m. and travelled to Hobart, spending the night at Claremont. We were at the Cambridge Aerodrome early on the Saturday morning, just as another party of Hobart walkers flew off for the same destination. Very shortly they returned owing to bad cloud conditions, so we all hung disconsolately around hoping conditions would improve. Despite our patience, and despite our perseverance when patience was exhausted, the clouds closed in thicker and the aerodrome was closed. In the afternoon we returned to Claremont, hoping for better luck on the morrow.
Sunday (Christmas Day) brought no respite from the low cloud, but we journeyed out to the 'drome hoping for the best. About mid morning, as conditions were reported good at Port Davey, two plane loads of walkers left for Cox Bight and we were advised to stand by and be in the next party when the planes returned. We were obliged to wait until after dinner before we set off about 2.30 p.m.. The clouds seemed to be worsening again just then, but the planes were able to keep below them at about 1000'.
Instead of taking the customary direct overland course or the less direct but shorter route over the Huon valley, we were obliged to follow the south coast all the way around. We had plenty to interest us en route, although the clouds greatly restricted visibility. All the high peaks of the south were enveloped in clouds, the first clear height observed being the Ironbounds. Here we tried to distinguish the course of the South Coast Track with little success. Our eyes roved hither and thither, trying to tabulate the numerous features, but the journey reached its end too quickly and we dropped down on the hard white beach on the western section of Cox Bight (3.50 p.m.).
The firmness the almost cement like solidity of this quartzite sand intrigued us. It was so unlike the golden sands normally met on our beaches; it more closely resembled that of similar origin on Lake Pedder. The aeroplanes were off again as soon as the cargo was removed and by 4 p.m. we were saying farewell to the Hobart party which was proceeding on to King's and Lake Pedder. We followed the beach along to the eastward, leaving it temporarily to skirt Point Eric, and on the other side we established a cache, consisting of all food not required for the next couple of days. With our colossal burdens now reduced to reasonable limits, we were off again at 4.45 p.m. along the eastern section of the broad beach of Cox Bight. We crossed three creeks a tiny one, then Cox's Rivt. and finally Buoy Creek and then swung inland, locating the South Coast Track just behind the beach, a few yards from Buoy Creek (1¾m. - 5.10 p.m.). The track followed up the plain of Buoy Creek northwards for a couple of miles, the remaining stakes being broadly spaced but followable. Turning to the east around a corner, the track became more obscure and we added many additional stakes, whilst the track began ascending the steep ridge on our east. Continuing to strengthen the track, we passed through some light gum and scrub and emerged upon the clear summit of the ridge (700' - 4¾m. - 6.45 p.m.). From the top of the pass, we descended down clear ridges that had been denuded of growth by many fires of the past. The stakes were still few and far between and our work of clarification continued. We chose a camp site about half way down the slope toward Louisa Creek on a flat shelf near a tiny creek (210' - 6m. - 7.15 p.m.). We were comfortably settled in by 10 p.m. with the sky fairly clear, the night warm, but a sense of unreliability pervading.
The morning of Boxing Day was fine and calm, with clouds in evidence eastward. Our plans for the day were to climb the Ironbounds and return to this camp. The strengthened line of stakes showed out plainly behind us up the green, button-grassed quartzite hills westward. I arranged a few more stakes in the vicinity of our camp before our departure at 7.38 a.m. with one light pack between three. Mt. Louisa and the Ironbound Range were clear of cloud but shaded from the sun. The former lie at 45 deg. mag., the latter 95 deg. and the pass to the west 244 deg.
We descended gradually for about a mile, replacing fallen and missing stakes, to cross the western branch of Louisa Creek near a confluence with a major tributary (40' - 1¼m. - 8.10 a.m.). The track then led us across some undulating rises, where a little scrub was met, to cross the eastern branch of Louisa Creek (2m. - 8.25 a.m.). A short climb then brought us out on to a broad button grass plain which led us steadily eastward until, nearing the Louisa River, it veered up the Louisa Plain to the N.N.E. soon crossing a substantial affluent of the Louisa (5m.), and leading up towards the base of Mt. Louisa. This plain was somewhat marshy in places and consequently did not provide real easy walking. At last it swung down to the Louisa River where the fringe of forest was at its thinnest and we halted at the stream for a snack (140' - 7m. - 10.20-45 a.m.).
Continuing packless, the track led directly to the nearest ridge of the Ironbounds and soon we were climbing along the steep crest of the ridge, freely perspiring in the humid, easterly atmosphere. At some running water near the crest of the range, we had a drink and rested (2200' - 9¼m. - 12.0-5 p.m.). The range rose gradually eastward as we moved forward through the clear leads or low scrub. The clouds were barely clearing the range as we left the track and wormed our way from quartzite boulder to boulder or through hampering scopari until at long last we gained the summit (3350' - 12m. - 1.27 p.m.).
The surrounding clouds strictly limited our view. The New River Lagoon and beaches of its sand barrier were the main attraction below to the east, along with Deadman's Bay and the Isle de Golf. Federation Peak, Western Portal and Mt. Bobs showed out clear in the clouds, whils the remainder of the Arthurs, the Speros, the Norolds, Mt. Louise, Cinder Hill, Ray R., Bathurst Ra., S.W. Cape Ra. And the Propstings all were discernible. Cox Bight showed to advantage whilst, from a point farther west, Louisa Bay and the rugged coastline and off-shore islands nearby were a grand sight. Ultimately, Precipitous Bluff, V.C. and Wylly appeared from beneath their vapoury mantles. A small black-water lake could be seen about half a mile down the slopes to the S.E..
At 2.10 p.m. we commenced our return along the tree-less range-top. It had taken us much longer to climb than anticipated and our earlier optimistic hopes that we might be able to include Mt. Luoisa in the day's march were vanishing. We had our long delayed lunch at Louisa River (140' - 17m. - 3.55-4.40 p.m.), finding our food and rucksack teeming with ants which took no end of eradicating, with the unpleasant smell still persisting for days. Our sandwiches were none too palatable, especially after the need to immerse them in water, but hunger had to be satisfied.
Then we were off again down the Louisa Plain, crossing the Louisa affluent (20m. - 5.38-45 p.m.), the eastern branch of Louisa Creek (60' - 22m. - 6.25 p.m., the western branch (40' - 22¾m. - 6.40 p.m.) tp reach camp (210' - 24m. - 7.5 p.m.). Our additional stakes, placed at various points, made the track very easy to follow home.
It had been a trying day under humid conditions. There had been a little sun early in the day, but generally it was rather cloudy, developing to overcast in the afternoon with a few sprinkles. There had been few signs of animal life in the area. The green ground parrot appeared occasionally and there were plenty of small native fish in the streams. Near our camp was the nest of a dusky robin with chicks. I was induced to search for it after the hen had turned on the usual diversive antics of feigning injury and endeavour to lure us away from the nest. Although the only tree-growth lay along the streams and in occasional gullies and some of the mountain slopes, many flowers of interest were encountered on the open plains and moors. Hewardia and artichokes bloomed on the Ironbounds, white waratah and hair-triggers and blandfordia dotted the plains, and sun-orchids enriched the open areas (mainly Thelymitra nuda, but occasionally the Thelymitra ixioides shone out). All rather tired, we courted slumber at 9.10 p.m..
A light sprinkle fell during the night and Tuesday morning was heralded in on an increasing southerly wind with low clouds hovering only a few hundred feet above. We had decided to abandon all hope of returning to Mt. Louisa owing to time limitations and agreed to push on to Melaleuca Inlet. We left camp at 8.20 a.m. and commenced ascending the bare ridge westward. We spent a little time botanising on the way, the main find being the Calochilus. The track was simplicity itself to follow now and soon we were down at the beach at Buoy Creek (4¼m. - 10.20 a.m.). A quarter hour rest was taken at Cox's Rivulet. The wind was a strong sou'-easterly now, but a high westerly counter stream was evident at 3000' altitude.
Reaching our cache at Pt. Eric (10' - 5¾m. - 11.15 a.m.), our rucksacks were filled to capacity. Leaving at 11.32 a.m., we encountered the track to Melaleuca Inlet a little behind the beach, skirting a slight rise. We followed this track as it wound around the western edge of the foothills of the athirst Range, halting at Conliffe Creek for lunch (100' - 8½m. - 12.30 p.m.).
We dallied after lunch, experimenting with fish traps, but the honours were with the mountain trout. At 2.20 p.m. we resumed but dropped packs after a few hundred yards and decided to climb Mt. Counsel. Moving in to the nearest spur, we ascended a hopeful gully and came out on the crest of a hill only to find to our dismay that quite a deep gorge separated us from the main section of the range. Descending steeply through bauera and thick low scrub, we found ourselves in the bed of a branch of Conliffe Creek, and a hard struggle ensued in battling up the opposite wall through just as trying vegetation.
The bauera and 2' high scrub was aided in its resistance by a colourless, slimy, moss-like growth which covered the ground wherever room permitted. It seemed a growth peculiar to the southern mountains and never have I experienced it in such abundance as here, where it had us slipping and sliding all over the place. The going improved as altitude was gained and, likewise, the grade eased. Continuing onward, we reached the summit of this big western peak - "Slimy Peak" (1900' - 10½m. - 4 p.m.) - to learn that the high peak must be farther over to the east. Visibility wasn't very good and we were able to see only a few points of the plain below, plus a few nearby heights.
We had to retrace our steps for a few yards in order to gain the low col which linked up with the section of the range eastward. It was a short, sharp but easy climb up the other side and similarly easy going continued as we turned along the crest, finally swinging round in a big arc to locate the old trig. cairn of Mt. Counsel (2626' - 12m. - 4.50 p.m.). We were in thick cloud-mist and, consequently, there was nothing to see. For a fleeting moment, the mist relented and we had a glimpse of the Western Arthurs, Bathurst Harbour and Mt. Rugby.
Away at 5.5 p.m., we endeavoured to retrace our steps in the gathering mist and experienced quite a deal of trouble before locating the low col. From here we tried a more direct route down "Slimy Peak" to the S.W. in order to avoid the gorge. All went well and we reached the base, crossed the creek and struck out to gain our pack dump (110' - 15m. - 6.42 p.m.). Then we hastened onwards, hoping to reach the isolated homestead of Dennis King before dark. The track continued quite plainly although stakes were few. Slowly it led us past the Bathurst Range and, as we passed a wooded hill, the well-worn foot-pad was no longer with us and the widely spaced stakes became extremely difficult to see in the fading light. We persisted until dark but found it wisest to abandon our plan to reach King's and made camp (150' - 20m. - 8.30 p.m.).
We settled for a camp-site about ¼ mile east of the track under the lee of the northern spur of the wooded hill and on higher ground than the soggy plain. Our camp was remarkably comfortable in the circumstances of our inopportune selection in the darkness. We were settled in at 10.35 p.m. after the evening chores. The clouds were very low and there was a light sprinkle.
The low clouds were still there at daybreak on Wednesday but the weather still remained fine. The clouds were breaking as we left at 8.45 a.m. The red roof of King's house was plainly visible from the hill shelf just behind our camp. Melaleuca Inlet and the tin diggings farther south also showed out. To these we directed our steps, crossing the boggy plain to its western side, and seeing an occasional stake en route but no continuous pad. We crossed Moth Creek and reached the diggings where we contacted Dennis King and Trevor Burrell at work (1½m. - 9.15 a.m.). We learned that we had missed a lift in a boat which had left the previous evening but Trevor offered to provide transport that afternoon. The offer was gratefully accepted and we spent portion of the morning assisting with the removal of a heavy motor.
After lunch, which we had at the diggings despite Dennis' invitation which we declined as we didn't wish to encroach too much on his hospitality, we visited the King's home, met Mrs. King (Margaret) and the two small daughters, enjoying a pleasant chat for an hour or more. About 2 p.m. we left with Trevor in the motor launch, cruising down the narrow waters of Melaleuca Inlet, planning to be dropped near the base of Mt. Rugby. It was whilst passing the Mines Dept. quarters that we decided to accept Trevor's invitation to stay with him for the night for, after all, there was little to be gained by rushing to Mt. Rugby as an early start in the morning could catch up the leeway and ensure at least one night's rest under first-class conditions. We were surprised to see such a good garden around the huts in the midst of button grass which seemed only to need heavy liming. The afternoon was cloudy, cool and breezy. We took advantage of our opportunity to inspect maps and aerial photos. of the nearby areas, do some washing, cook our first damper and have a bath, whilst Trevor insisted upon treating us to a bumper repast. We yarned away until 11 p.m. before turning in.
Overcast and calm weather prevailed on Thursday morning, but once again the clouds were breaking under a light westerly drift as we set out in the small craft at 8.35 a.m.. It was an enjoyable cruise down the remainder of the inlet, past the Celery Top Islands into Bathurst Harbour. The surrounding mountains added interest and were mainly identifiable, although generally cloud-capped. Mt. Rugby looked very imposing, although the clouds were reluctant to give us a full view of its magnitude. However, any peak that rises abruptly for two and a half thousand feet out of the sea must be attractive. We closed in on Rugby, approaching the narrows and beaching the boat in a tiny bay under a likely climbing ridge.
At 9.23 a.m. we left the boat and Trevor, who had agreed to wait for us and transport us across Long Bay, and started off up the clear, zigzag ascent ridge which seemed the ideal route to Mt. Rugby's summit. We gained the top of the ridge in fine style as the sun broke through the clouds, and hastened across the face of the mountain on a diagonal ascent, eager for a good view from above. The final ascent was made from the S.W. where the mountain growth was lightest, partly due to a fire of a couple of years ago. The new re-growth contained many species peculiar to the South-West and included the Richea dracophylla, Hewardia, blandfordia, geums and a pretty bush heath, all in bloom. We had to skirt some thick, sprawling ti-tree near the summit by keeping to the large quartzite-conglomerate slabs. The clouds descended again as we climbed and fine rain was falling ere we gained the summit cairn (2520' - 2½m. - 10.50 a.m.).
We lingered on top for only a few moments. It was cold and there was little prospect of the mist clearing soon and we must not keep Trevor waiting unnecessarily. The mist accompanied us almost to the link with the climbing ridge where warm sunshine greeted us again. We took a few photos of the limited area in range - mainly the Bathurst Harbour and Long Bay localities. We sighted two small ships nearby - one in Long Bay and one coming through the Narrows - making us feel that the remoteness of this sector is exaggerated.
Back at the boat (5m. - noon), we started off through the Narrows. The sou'-westerly had whipped up quite a swell and our small boat pitched and tossed and shipped some spray as we entered the Bathurst Channel. Thus it was with some relief that we beached our craft on a tiny beach on Long Bay opposite Balmoral Hill and not far from the base of Mt. McKenzie (12.55 p.m.). Lunch was taken on the beach but all visited Critchley Parker's grave, a short distance away, whilst seeking water. A sailing vessel slipped past after lunch and finally we took our leave of Trevor. What a great help he had been and what a true friend of the outback!
At 2.50 p.m., Bob and I set off to climb Mt. McKenzie, Alan choosing to rest at the lunch spot. It was quite an easy climb up the steep, lightly-covered button grass slopes. From the summit (909' - 1m. - 3.25 40 p.m.) we saw very little owing to the low cloud. The wind was cold and we left in mist and drizzle. Balmoral Hill seemed the main attraction from the slopes. Mt. Rugby had not the same appeal from here as from the eastern side, whilst the other features were too far away or cloud-covered.
Back at the beach (2m. - 4 p.m.), we decided to carry on northwards with the intention of locating the Port Davey Track and establishing camp along it in the vicinity of Mt. Berry. At 4.15 p.m. we shouldered our packs and found easy walking across recent "burns" and open plain for some time, but we encountered low scrub approaching the mud flats of Long Bay. By-passing a gum clump, we unexpectedly entered the fringe of the mud flats and followed the edge around along its ti-tree border until a successful probe located better going and, almost immediately, we located the track. We started seeking a camp-site then as Mt. Berry was almost opposite, but it was some little time before a reasonable site was discovered (30' - 5m. - 5.50 p.m.). This site was admirably placed right at the base of what appeared to be the best climbing ridge to Mt. Berry. We were settled in quite early and abed at 8.30 p.m..
The clouds were quite high at 6 a.m. on Friday. Dec. 30th. - well above the peaks and apparently breaking. The sun was out and prospects of a fine day seemed certain at last as we started off at 8.15 a.m.. The low, clear ridge, running south from our camp, was used until it brought us under the steep ridge of the mountain. We zigzagged and perspired up this until we reached a high plateau on the range-top from which the summit of Mt. Berry showed clearly to the west. We continued ascending a fairly clear ridge which brought us under the scrubby summit.
This final elevation possessed an unusual boulder arrangement, with huge quartzite-conglomerate boulders loosely and erratically arranged, providing cavities, tunnels and culs-de-sac and, to heighten the effect, pandanni, myrtles and other rain forest growth were wedged into each substantial hollow between the boulders. Penetrating the ti-tree clumps around the top we reached the old wooden trig. pole (2132' - 3m. - 10 a.m.) to receive the first reasonable view so far obtained on our trip. There was still plenty of cloud about, but it was high and broken enough to permit an uninterrupted inspection of most landmarks in the vicinity. It was our first glimpse of Payne Bay, a surprisingly large and long stretch of water, and we managed to pick out the tiny habitation of the family at Kelly Basin. The rugged splendour of Davey Head, Hilliard Head and Breaksea Island was another outstanding attraction. We checked in the more salient features as follows: Hilliard Head, 210; Pollard Head, 250 (the two heads of the Port Davey inlet); Mt. Hean (De Witt Ra.), 295; next range to north, 310; Propsting Ra. (highest peak), 325; Cinder Hill, 353; Frankland Ra. (highest peak), 4; Mt. Wedge, 12; western high peak of Arthurs, 28; Mt. Hayes, 32; BK 1-3 of Arthurs, 34-36; Federation Peak, 73; Rugby, 99; Precipitous Bluff, 101; Ironbounds, 108; Mt. Counsel, 120; New Harbour Ra., 135; S.W. Cape Ra., 145-151; Balmoral Hill, 133; and Mt. Misery, 190.
At 10.53 a.m. we left the top, returning by much the same route back to camp (30' - 6m. - 11.55 a.m.). Quickly gathering clouds induced us to hasten over the latter stage as we had left sleeping bags and spare clothes outside to air. Our luck held good and we tossed them inside the tent whilst awaiting the boiling of the billy. Light rain set in during lunch, despite the clouds remaining high, and we adjourned to the tent.
As the shower eased, we packed and started off at 1.15 p.m. along the Port Davey Track, planning to make as much progress towards Junction Creek as time permitted. The track is very much overgrown where all thickets are met. We did quite a little scrub-bashing, and had difficulty keeping the track in sight, once losing it for about ¼ mile. Still we felt happier about this when we noticed our predecessors, the Hobart party, had been off the track for a mile or more. With the track becoming better defined, we took our first spell on the bank of the Spring River (90' - 12m. (i.e. 6m. from camp) - 3.45-57 p.m.). Ten minutes after our resumption, we passed the H.W.C. camp at the next stream.
After crossing a few more small tributaries of the Spring in quick succession, the track climbed away from the river and mounted a high open moor, "The Lost World". Here it became indistinct, most of the stakes being down, and soon we lost it altogether. We struggled on for nearly a mile, sortieing to left and right, but to no avail. To make matters worse, the rain was now pouring down steadily, and visibility was receding with lowering clouds. Thus we halted (350' - 16m. - 6 p.m.) on this appropriately named Lost World plateau near a Spring River tributary, and searched for a campsite.
This was no easy task as the whole surface of the moor was covered in water. We selected the crest of a tiny rise and had difficulty in securing tent poles and firewood, which had to be carried some little distance. Wet through, we gathered an abundance of shrubbery for bedding. The small stream alongside our camp almost trebled its volume during our first two hours' residence. This circumstance accounted for our soap and pot mits, which had been inadvertently left on a rock alongside the stream. After a hot dinner inside the tent, we snuggled into our sleeping bags at 9.10 p.m. with the rain still steadily falling and the tent leaking slightly (due to the necessity of folding it damp at the previous camp).
New Year's Eve began with a fine morning and broken cloud, but the barometer had fallen ominously low. Whilst opportunity knocked, we dried out our wet clothing and the tent as well by the fireside. We could see the track cut into the hillside about two miles ahead, so one minor worry disappeared. It was sprinkling again as we set off at 8.42 a.m. The creek has fallen little since the lull in the downpour. Just a few yards over the creek, we located the track in the "trench cut" formation commonly found on the button grass. Using our tent poles and drying framework with some hastily collected reinforcements, we commenced staking the track, which soon became clear again, where it was cut into the hillside.
After crossing a substantial creek (1m. - 9 a.m.), it became necessary to remove one tier of Alan's boot sole (9.20-25 a.m.), and soon we reached the point of the track seen from our camp (2m. - 9.30 a.m.). Still pursuing the hillside course, we passed the H.W.C. lunch fire of three days ago (2¾m. - 9.45 a.m.), and a large crowbar used as a stake (4m. - 10.15 a.m.) and halted for a snack at a tiny creek on the plain at the base of the hillside (5m. - 10.40-55 a.m.).
Here we found a second crowbar, and had recourse to further staking in order to strengthen the track as it ascended the rise opposite. We continued along a narrow footpad, still adding a few stakes here and there, steadily climbing until we gained the Spring-Crossing divide about noon. At the first Crossing tributary (9m. - 12.30 p.m.), we located the H.W.C. campsite of Dec. 28th. Rain squalls could be seen swinging in from the north all morning, but we had been fortunate in escaping with only a few sprinkles. However, the afternoon started with a heavy squall right on us, and not wishing to lunch in the rain, we continued until it ceased, halting at a tiny stream under the peak near which the Spring River rises (700' - 11m. - 1.15 p.m.).
A little sunshine brightened our lunch and we resumed at 2.5 p.m. Every little creek was racing at flood-level, but we managed to leap across them all dry-footed. Descending to a plain, we crossed a substantial tributary of the Crossing (12m. - 2.30 p.m.) and five minutes later reached the bank of the Crossing itself. The river was running very fast over a shingle bottom, and this seemed as good a fording spot as any. Aided by a solid pole each, we waded cautiously across through the cold, waist-deep, swirling torrent, reaching the other bank (2.40 p.m.) and, espying bright red paint, headed for it, and discovered a newly erected H.W.C. mail-box (12½m.) left by Jim Brown at 9.50 a.m. on the previous day.
Leaving a note behind, we resumed at 2.52 p.m., observing that new stakes had just been added and realised that Jim Brown and Dennis Seymour had done some good work. The track started to lead across an open plain under the western base of the Arthur Range, and soon we distinguished a tent perched over to the east under the base of the range. We called hopefully and were pleasantly surprised to receive an answering hail from Jim and Dennis who were descending from the range. Continuing along the track and making a slight deviation, we met (13½m. - 3.15 p.m.) and much chatter commenced. Ultimately the others decided to transfer on to Junction Creek and join us for the night, their objective being to return via the Huon Track.
We left them to return to their tent and pack at 3.40 p.m., and started on our way to Junction Creek. We found it advisable to halt for a little nourishment at a small creek (15m. - 4.10-20 p.m.), and then passed the H.W.C. camp-site of Dec. 29th. (16¼m. - 4.45 p.m.). Doubtlessly, they would be at Lake Pedder by this, and there was not much prospect of us meeting again. A steep climb brought us to the top of the Huon-Crossing divide (17m. - 5 p.m.). The weather was still dull, but the rain held off. We descended to open plain country again, and then crossed a branch of Junction Creek (18¼m. - 5.25 p.m.), and shortly after the other branch in thick scrub (18¾m. - 5.35 p.m.). The track led up to more open plain and at last the extravagantly blazed junction was gained (820' - 19m. - 5.45 p.m.).
We erected our camp at the lower site and set to work with the usual evening preparations. Our tent was up and bedding spread before the rain started, although it interfered with later duties. Of course, we lost little time in gathering our two air-dropped bags, which were a welcome sight as we had harboured doubts as to whether the weather over the past few days had been clear enough for the planes to get through. Upon inspection, we found that half the sugar and half the lemon butter was lost through tins bursting, and that most of the biscuits and raisins were sodden owing to water seeping through the "waterproof" wrappings. A party of six Sydney walkers bound for Federation arrived soon after us, with Jim and Dennis appearing a little later - a whole community of eleven males. However, the steady rain gave little opportunity for much fraternising, and likewise there was no New Year's Eve revelry.
The New Year rolled in with more rain. Low clouds enveloped the Arthurs, our tent started to leak again, and the stream had risen further. We re-packed our air-drop during the few brief intervals between the showers, but delayed our departure until 12.50 p.m. on account of the rain. Each little stream was running very high and a freshening breeze buffeted us from the west. The rain eased off as the afternoon progressed. We followed the track right through to the Huon, discovering that the trackless route I had taken on my previous journey in 1951 was via a different valley altogether. Coming down to the Huon Plains, where the track was practically non-existent, we re-staked it at frequent intervals down to (S)crubby Creek, the swollen waters of which we crossed via a log we erected (9m. - 3.50 p.m.). The familiar ti-tree campsite was passed (9¾m. - 4.5 p.m.), and then Jones Creek had to be waded at a suitable ford (10¼m. - 4.15 p.m.). A little further afield we halted for a snack (10½m. - 4.20-28 p.m.), to be followed by a long grind across the soggy button grass plain around Mt. Solitary. A suitable campsite just wouldn't appear and we were well past Solitary before we settled for a site amidst a clump of young eucalypts, slightly elevated above the boggy plain (910' - 15m. - 6.15 p.m.).
The afternoon had been fairly fine, although we were obliged to keep our groundsheets on. The tent was up in time to dry out a little before the evening showers appeared. A large owl and a ground parrot paid us a visit. Soon after tea, a shower had us scurrying into the tent at 8.35 p.m., and plans for drying out wet gear were abandoned.
A dull, overcast morning and low cloud was our first acquaintance with Monday, Jan. 2nd. The weather was almost fine as we started out at 8.30 a.m. We reached the edge of the forest (1½m. - 9 a.m.) and soon arrived at the Huon Crossing (950' - 2½m. - 9.25 a.m.). As was to be expected, the crossing log was well under water but, happily, the rope hand-rail had been erected as a safety precaution. Otherwise, the crossing would have been quite a hazardous affair. As it was, two of the party fell in but, luckily, little of the gear was soaked. A change of clothes on the other bank and time lost in trying to start a fire delayed our resumption until 10.25 a.m.
Upon reaching the Manuka Swamp, we had to wade along through a foot of water, trying to follow the flooded track. Fortunately, we located the position of the submerged log which normally bridges the Manuka Creek (5m. - 11.25 a.m.) and soon were on dry land again for a while. Sandfly Creek ( 980' - 5¾m. - 11.50 a.m.) was easily crossed, despite some more wading on the far bank. On the plain beyond, more wading followed, and light rain set in. We halted opposite the "island of timber" (1080' - 6¾m. - 12.30 p.m.) for lunch. A fire helped us to warm up and dry out a little during a lull in the rain.
At 1.45 p.m. we started the ascent up the button grassed slopes towards Mt. Bowes. Upon reaching the top of the climb through the forest (2100' - 8¾m. - 2.45 p.m.), the freezing S.W. wind and increasing rain added to our discomfort. Plodding onwards, we passed the 4m. peg under Bowes, near the turn-off point for the climb (10¼m. - 3.25 p.m.) and struggled down to Cot Case Creek (1800' - 10 5/8m. - 3.40 p.m.). It was freezingly cold now and our saturated garments kept us on the verge of shivering. At the 3-mile peg (11¼m. - 4.5-25 p.m.) we thawed out under the luxury of a button grass fire, but were just as cold again shortly after resumption. At last the sodden scrub was left behind and a clearer track gained. We rested at the South Gordon track junction (1620' - 14¼m. - 5.35-45 p.m.), and then hastened on to Damper Inn (1400' - 16½m. - 6.60 p.m.).
Ah, welcome sanctuary from the cold and rain! We lit the fire, gathered wood and bedding, cooked, ate, dried out, and retired about 10 p.m. It was a cold night, but our worries of leaking tents and uncomfortable cooking were at an end.
It was still raining as we arose at 4 a.m., planning to reach Maydena in time to catch the 1 p.m. bus for Hobart. Away at 6 a.m., we set a fast pace, passing the 6m. peg at 8 a.m. with the worst half of the track behind us. Near the 3-mile peg we met three M.U.M.C. walkers and stopped for a chat. At Rylett's Hut we stopped for a few adjustments (860' - 12m. - 10.20-30 a.m.) before proceeding along the roadway. Within sight of Maydena we stopped for lunch at 11.40 a.m., making a fire and changing into our most presentable attire. At a few minutes to 1 p.m. we reached Maydena only to learn that the bus did not leave until 2,45 p.m.. We spent the remainder of our time at the railway station, sheltering in the waiting room from the cool blast and showers. We reached Hobart late in the afternoon and journeyed home next day.
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