Another Pandani day walk, which I always love! This one was set to be particularly relaxing and not at all challenging, a short 1.5-2 hour walk by the information we had (from bushwalk.com, by bluewombat). I think we all expected it to take a fair bit longer, as there were supposed to be 17 of us going, a record number for a ‘Simon walk’ (certainly since I started walking in any case!). I wasn’t complaining: as usual I’d had less sleep than I’d have liked during the week, and I had to work for my boss on the Sunday morning, so I’d been up since 3.30pm on the Saturday afternoon. A short walk and a chance to have a good yack to some friends I hadn’t seen for a while was perfect!
A fun and productive night at work, followed by a chance to relax a little at home, before (another!) generously offered lift in to our meeting spot at Granton. We did the usual catch up chat in the car park, before heading off to Maydena where we were set to meet 4 from Launceston. We arrived, topped up on food and drinks, and waited. When there was no sign of the others after the arranged meet time, we tried to get into contact, but no such luck. So we waited some more but eventually had to head off, hoping that they were at least ok.
We weren’t far from the start of the walk, but as predicted, the getting to the start would prove the hardest part of the day!! Just as well we hadn’t raced off to an crack of dawn start, as quite early on we came across two Parks guys removing a tree that had fallen across the road. We had time to get out, offer to help (surely thongs aren’t inappropriate foot wear!), and then watch briefly as they moved enough of the freshly sawn up sections off the track to allow us through. For the rest of the road, Simon had two sets of notes, one from bushwalk.com from 2010 and another from a Forestry person, only a few days old. The first had us turn onto Jacques road, the second turn at the Andromeda Link road (which isn’t marked on any maps, nor does it appear on satellite imagery). The first plan of attack seemed to be Jacques road (it looked decent on satellite imagery, and being on the map we actually knew where it was!) We accidentally drove past because it wasn’t sign posted, until I stupidly opened my mouth and had us turning around (I’d put a rough route on my GPS, so I knew we’d gone past it). So back we went, onto Jacques Road, and along it.. until whoa, the biggest tree you’ve ever seen, straight across the road.. Bigger almost in girth than the height of Jack, the 9 year old walking with us!
I should have just kept my mouth shut, because as it was we back tracked again, back to where we had been, and along a bit further, until sure enough, off to the right a new road in great condition, with a sign post letting us know it was the Andromeda link road (about 25km from the start of Styx road, it appeared on my gps not as a road but as a dotted ‘track’). So along we went, and eventually intersected Jacques road again, just over 1km from where the tree was down! Turning left, we found the quarry quite easily, checked out the deteriorated 4wd track that you follow for about 500m and decided it was better walked. So we drove back down to the quarry, followed Simon’s fine example and did a donut or two for fun (the last time I remember doing that was in my cousin’s Datsun 180Y in the gravel car park of a nearby train station, on the rare occasion he babysat us while mum was at work. I’d forgotten how fun it was :p!), then decided we’d better get a bit serious and kit up.
We eventually wandered up the old 4wd road, which is better walked (more from a parking than driving perspective, and it is quite a short distance). The track off to the right is very well marked, with a selection of pink and orange tapes. You can’t miss it. We climbed up through forest, the size of the group meant we walked much like an accordion is played, sometimes quite closely with a few people, and a large gap between your immediate group and the next. Sometimes alone. We had relatively frequent regroups as a result, to make sure we were all sticking together. This also allowed for changing of the order, and the chance to talk to someone else. The route was so well taped and cairned that it was quite easy to follow, and again, this only further facilitated our chatter!
As we climbed the vegetation changed, and we were soon out of the forest, and onto small scree fields broken by sections of more alpine-style scrub. We paused and regrouped on most of these scree fields, enjoying the view, chatting some more, checking out the small butterflies dancing around furry flowers (“fine frilly heath” aka Pentachondra involucrata), or admiring the weather-beaten snow gum skeletons, with their grey and wrinkled skins, each unique.
As we got higher I got itchy feet. I’d already been jokingly told not to go racing off, so I sought permission to do just that. It was granted ( :)! ) and off I went, bouncing off the last of the scree fields, weaving through typical alpine scrub including scoparia, boronia (some lemon scented, I hadn’t realised because they weren’t in flower, but was delighted to breath in that lovely and familiar scent when some was held up to my nose!), and pineapple grass. It was flat along the top, and the large cairn was easy to spot. As my half skipping half running half walking (you can have three halves to a whole!) mix took me closer to the summit, I stopped looking for the cairns and pad, and just made a beeline for it (I don’t understand that saying, bees don’t fly straight, though they do have elaborate dances!).
My reward was a decent chunk of time sitting there in the wind, on the cairn, looking out over the mountains particularly to the north. The first I looked for, however, had been PB. It’s funny how some mountains just orient you, and I just had to spot PB. And there it was, popping up behind a ridge, a little bit further round than I’d expected. I smiled, satisfied, and turned to enjoy the rest of the view, then watch as the others approached. As they got to the same point where I left the pad, most continued along it, but a few did exactly as I did, two appearing to be racing one another. It made me chuckle, I knew that I’d have been amongst them if I hadn’t gone ahead!
We sat behind the cairn for lunch, attempting to find some shelter from the wind. The chatting continued as we munched away, and of all places, where else by Styx would you meet a lady who’d been into the Spires, and nearly (had the weather allowed) on to the Prince of Wales range!!! She earned our respect in a matter of seconds, and I wondered if one day I’d be in a similar position, sitting on a mountain top and chatting to newer, younger bushwalkers about a few of the places I’d been over the years, about how bushwalking might have changed, about whether it might be easier or harder. Hmm, only time will tell!
A 10 minute warning, a final few photos, and we were moving again. I sat mostly at the back, enjoying a chat with Jack, who’s just a bundle of energy. I watched him explore the pineapple grass, a new plant for him, try to avoid the worst of the scoparia prickles with his little legs, slide down sloping rocks in a squatting position, say hello to a sun-baking lizard, take photos of Pandani (which we talked a fair bit about) and later on commandeer my GPS and lead the two of us down (after each regroup we had quickly dropped off the back, because there was lots to explore and talk about, which meant Jack was essentially in the lead).
I didn’t know how long we kept the group waiting at each stop, but having read an interesting blog on the different way children walk (http://adventurebeforeavarice.com/2014/01/28/how-children-walk-differently-to-adults/) I saw no need to push to go faster, and I had no need myself to go any faster either. I hoped they didn’t mind.
Back on the road, then back to the cars, and while the rest of us started to free our feet and change clothes, Jack had only one thing in mind, to climb the giant gravel piles in the quarry. And so I watched, gaining a slight understanding of what I must have put my mother through as a kid (and still do!!), and deciding to keep my boots on until Jack had made the top of the first pile or fairly coarse gravel, walked along the top, then surfed down a pile of much finer gravel. That was clearly the highlight, and I’ll admit, it was tempting!!
One car load headed straight home, while the other two decided to go and check out the Styx big trees walk, followed by the Styx river walk. Both short little delights. The first, a definite plug for the importance of forestry’s existence, but we did a good job of joking about it and lazily enjoying the beautiful forest, bearded ferns, and the ‘big’ and then ‘bigger’ gum trees, that swayed significantly in the wind. I was in a relaxed, slightly doped (lack of sleep), but quite happy mood, and it seemed like no one else was in a hurry either. At the second, ‘bigger’ tree, some of us sat on the seats, a couple of us lay on our backs and watched the shadows of gum leaves dance on the side of the ‘bigger’ tree, admired the stringy bark lower down and the smooth grey higher up the trunk, and listened to the psithurism (never thought I’d actually use that word!) and the quiet and intermittent chatter of the others.
Eventually we wandered back to the road, then explored the other side down to the river. There were three different access points to the river, and we went to all three, taking photographs, just sitting and enjoying, chatting, scavenging or watching two of the boys compete against one another in rock skimming and throwing competitions.
It made for a pleasant end to the day. As we sat along a log that lead out onto a rocky island in the middle of the river, Catherine let out a shout and pointed into the water, and we looked down to find a crayfish! Looking at it in the water wasn’t good enough, so guess who stuck a hand in and pulled it out :p! The poor guy didn’t seem to be liking all the attention, and stayed mostly with his pincers held up high and backwards, above his head, occasionally lashing out forwards. He became somewhat of a celebrity, as we admired in particular his antennae, proboscis (I didn’t know crays had these!), and pincers, before we popped him back in the water and left him to find a dark spot to hide in amongst the rocks.
What a day!! For Styx: 1.30 to get up, 50 minutes on top, and 1.50 back down (just over 4 hours all up), for a sum total of 4.4km. Brilliant way to spend yet another wonderful day with some special people!!
PS. PLEASE SEE http://bushwalks.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/mount-styx.html FOR AN UPDATE ON ROADS. CLEARLY WHAT’S OPEN AND CLOSED CHANGES QUITE RAPIDLY. ALL THE BEST :)!