Having led a club walk to Bradys Sugarloaf on the Saturday, I had Sunday and Monday free for whatever I wanted. The only problem was I couldn’t quite make up my mind what to do. I was still a little under the weather with a cold which didn’t help, and was emotionally occupied with another matter or two. In the end, on Sunday morning, I decided friends and a hug was what I wanted. So I rocked up unannounced to attend Simon’s walk to Arthur (I’d already been, so I was going purely for the company).
It was a really nice day, stunning weather too, and I was glad I’d made the choice. I had driven my own car up, so I could stay up and do something else on the Monday morning, before heading back down. Jess kindly offered me a place to crash, which was very tempting (I was knackered), but as a result I didn’t think I could manage meeting new people, so I headed off to the Meander Falls picnic ground, having decided on checking out Bastion the following morning.
I didn’t get there. The bridge a few hundred metres before the ground is out (not surprising, funnily enough), so I pulled over and decided that right there was going to have to do. I was glad I’d left that night, as it meant I could leave earlier in the morning, knowing I had a longer road walk, which could be done before it got properly light.
I set up my mat, bag and pillow, got in to get warm, and thought I should probably do some translating seeing it wasn’t yet 6pm. I never got that far either. A ‘I’ll just close my eyes for a minute’ turned into several hours, and when I woke around 11 I decided it was probably just best to stay asleep. For once, that wasn’t hard. In fact, nearly 12 hours after having drifted off, I still didn’t want to wake when my alarm sounded.
I lay there until it lightened up a little, then decided it was time to move if I wanted to get back to mums at a decent time. The bridge down only added a few extra kilometres (and would be drivable, if you had a 4wd and the river wasn’t flooded), which passed rather quickly. The only distraction was when the sun painted the cliffs of Mother Cummings Peak red, and I tried in vain to get a photo through the trees (I did wish I was a little higher at this point).
I passed the old car park, now redundant, and continued on, arriving at the sign indicating the start of the Stone Hut track. I decided I’d head up this way, over to Bastion, then come back down via the Bastion Cascade track. The track was well marked, thankfully, as it was more pad like and a little vague in one or two places. Or perhaps that was just that I was distracted?
For some reason I’d chosen this particular time (or maybe it had chosen me?) to ponder choices, sacrifices, fairness and love, and the deeper I got the less attention I paid to where I was walking. Having eventually arrived at a mini resolution (to be open to temporarily giving up that which I care about most, regardless of how difficult that might be), I slowly started to return to the walk, and began to notice the beautiful myrtle forest, hear the olive whistlers, spot the fungi…
I didn’t spot a stone hut on the Stone Hut track, but did come across the Gnome Home, which made me laugh. It was a little recess into some tall rocks by the side of the track, and in it were two gnomes, with a little puppy gnome. A sign read,
THE GNOME HOME
I have given pleasure for many years
When I am not here, many hikers will be in tears
Please leave me in my specially grown home
– Your contented “Bush Gnome”
This was the first sense that I had of this walk being less about the mountain per se, and as much about all the other features I was to discover on the way. Further along, I finally set eyes on Bastion Bluff. By now I was out of the trees, on to the flatter stuff, which also happened to be wetter (I had wet feet in no time, thanks to my holey boots), and poorly marked.
You could read ‘pad’ into half a dozen directions, and I think it was only sheer luck, and a rough visual guide, that kept me running into what was now tiny bits of faded white (once pink, I believe) tape. Not the kind you could spot from a distance, but the kind that once on top of, you MIGHT just notice. I was glad I had my GPS to follow on the way back (and it was needed, without the visual reference to walk towards, I wandered off ‘track’ a number of times).
I was surprised, then, to arrive at a fallen tree turned signpost, and discover new orange tape marking a pad in the direction of ‘Ironstone’ (Bastion wasn’t one of the signs on the tree, but I figured it was the same direction as Ironstone ;)!). Through more myrtle, across a number of small scree fields, and then into some more boggy terrain and low scrub that scratched the knees despite the pad. Here was a small clearing and waterhole, clearly well frequented by the wildlife.
Unfortunately, that meant there were pads everywhere, and no sign of tape where it was needed most. Unsure IF the pad continued, and reluctant to try every possibility on the off chance one was the ‘proper’ route, I checked out my options. A scrubby green lead straight up; a scree slope further right… I liked the scree slope best, but it seemed like there was a bit of green stuff to get through to get onto it… much further right, further than I’d have liked, there was more scree.. and I was close enough to the start to avoid much scrub. It looked a little steep near the rim of the plateau, but I thought probably manageable ;). So up I went.
A beautiful and sunny day, I thoroughly enjoyed the rock hop, and even the short steep climb up through scrub to make the plateau. I let out a laugh once up, and opened out my arms as if to embrace it all! I could make out the trig on Ironstone (which didn’t seem like a mountain at all from across the plateau, barely even a slight raise!) and the views towards Mother Cummings Peak and Head, Quamby Bluff and Stacks were all quite nice (though the sun made photographs interesting).
I wandered along the edge to the high point, and then a little further to a third rise, just to get a better view towards Wild Dog Tier, and then over towards the Walls and Overland Track area. I found and enjoyed a fruit chew that Catherine had given me the day before, and that I must have put in my pocket and forgotten about, and then chatted to mum on the phone as I wandered back along the edge.
This time I stopped at a great big cairn marking the ‘proper’ way down, which happened to be the scree field I had liked the look of. Whoops.. Oh well! Down I went, a little bit of scree, a hello to the hoppers who looked like they were still dressed in their Sunday best, not realising it was Monday, and then into the scrub. There was a pad through it, but it was overgrown and scratchy on bare knees, and part of me was glad I’d gone up the way I had.
I retraced steps, enjoyed water from the streams I crossed and smiled at the sound they made when they ran under the scree, like a deep warm continuous chuckle. A little while later I was back at the turn off to the cascade, and so I turned right. Before the cascade, though, is Crowden’s Croft. A lovely little (or BIG!) surprise, this turned out to be an area of massive boulders, many of which were eroded at the bottom to form shelter like sections. It was pretty cool!
Then there was the cascade, which I checked out first of all from the top, and a little while later, from below. Not too bad either ;). A bit of experimenting with shutter speeds, and I was on my way again. It was time to get home, so the head went down and I walked, one foot in front of the other.
The day ended seeing family and a friend, and a beautiful sunset :). Almost perfect.
All up: 18.4km, 7.21hrs, 1095m ascent.