This write up is a concatenation of three walks I’ve been on (please forgive its disjointedness, and slight distance as a result). The first was in April 2012, and it was my first overnight walk. It involved a 2 hr walk in to Shadow Lake on a Friday night, followed by a 9.5hr day walk traversing from Little Hugel to Hugel then Rufus, then the short walk out on the Sunday. The second was a snowshoeing day trip to Rufus in August the same year, and the most recent, was a weekend trip to Rufus.
I hadn’t written this up previously because I didn’t have a GPS track, and I still don’t for all three mountains, though the route is pretty obvious from the map. It’s an absolutely lovely walk, with excellent views north to all the mountains that I still have to explore near the Labyrinth, but also out to Frenchmans, and south to King William 1 etc. I remember having no idea what anything was the first time, and knew it’d take a while to learn what was what. I was slightly amused and definitely felt better after watching Simon and Shaz try to work out what was what from the top of Hugel!
The second time we had limited views (but we did have all the fun snow comes with), and this time was very different again. I still couldn’t name everything off the top of my head (looking north) because I haven’t been there yet, but there was a definite sense of familiarity: I didn’t feel like I was in a strange place, or I was a stranger to the place. There was also a lot of new-ness and greater depth to the experience, although it was me, not the place, that had changed.
I was hearing the olive whistlers as they teased with song, but stayed out of sight; I was rubbing lemon scented boronia through my fingers to bring out their familiar and refreshing smell; smiling at the vibrant purple of the odd trigger plant; and imagining how the scoparia garden would look if it was still in bloom. I don’t remember hearing the birds the first time round, or taking note of the different flora.
I digress.. There’s a number of different routes you can take to get to Rufus, and the track is well marked. There’s also a track up to Little Hugel. Hugel is the slightly harder one to get to, but I’d definitely recommend it. The circuit from off the top of Little Hugel involved walking across open ridgelines, finding a refreshing tarn or three, over boulders (some big for little legs) to the summit, and then back down boulders on the other side, through a little bit of scrub, before intersecting the track up Rufus. If you didn’t want to climb Rufus to complete the three peaks you could head down the track through some lovely Pandani groves back to Shadow Lake, then the visitor’s centre.
This most recent time I was tired. I’d got back from the Western Arthurs, thrown myself into work and trying to write the trip up, and probably hadn’t rested enough. But I can’t seem to go very long without a walk, and this one required minimal planning and preparation. Perfect!
After an overnight shift and an early start I was feeling ok. I was able to keep up on the hills relatively easy, though I had to be careful to watch where I was putting my feet as my right ankle was feeling the unevenness. I haven’t often repeated walks, because I love the sense of adventure, the unknown, and the wonder at what you’ll find around the next corner or over the rise of a new mountain, but I’m increasingly finding that even the same track can be a very different experience.
As we stood on the ridge that leads up to Rufus, having done most of the climbing, and took in the views, I marvelled at how different the experience was, at how grateful I was for being out in the mountains instead of sitting at home, and vowed that not going on a walk because I’d already done it would never be a valid excuse.
Frenchman’s Cap was looking grand, and the Eldon Range too.. my gaze was also drawn to the nearby Mt Gell, which I also haven’t done. And then there was all those mountains to the north. I looked at them eagerly, wondering when I’d get the chance to explore their mysteries, and deciding I’d do some research when I got back.
More delight was had in the discovery (or rediscovery for me) of the sandstone rock, which had been molded into waves, or had had circular wells etched into it at the hands of the wind and rain. I’d forgotten about this from the first trip, and the snow had covered it the second time round. Highlights from the second time instead had been the building of a mini snowman, creating snow angels (not possible with snowshoes on), testing out running in snowshoes (interesting!), and finding our own toboggan run and giving it a good go, several times each!
Memories also came back as we followed the boardwalk through the pandani garden, though it was very different without all the snow. I was feeling pretty tired by this stage (ok, exhausted), and was having serious doubts about my ability to get up Little Hugel (we had decided we’d try to give it a shot), and it must have been clear, because Graham suggested I have a nap by Shadow Lake while he had a bit of an explore. I’m not usually one to miss out on walking (and yes, I would have like to have seen his echidna and tiger snake), but I needed a lie down. It was quite soothing, except for the swarming march flies, though I still managed to doze off, and was much better for it when it came time to get going.
We met a number of people on the next section, and it was good to see such a diverse range getting out. I remembered this part of the track for all the fungi growing by the sides. There wasn’t any this time round, we were a few months too early. It didn’t, however, prepare me for the number of campervans in the Cynthia bay campground. That was a bit of a shock. Camping at Shadow Lake is definitely the better option!!