So I’ve had a little trouble with words lately, and haven’t written much… Also a few of the last walks I’ve been on have been repeats, or more personal in nature and not really something that everyone needs to know about! Forgive me if the words are still a little forced…
People sometimes tell me I’m strong and brave, and yet I feel anything but. Small, tired, fragile, about to break, or perhaps already broken? I wonder if I’m completely insane, how else can I be living in a world that seems to differ so much from the world everyone else sees? I go out and do the things that people think are brave maybe in denial of that, or because it’s the only place I can trust that there’s a small determined something within that refuses to be defeated. But what happens when I lose the energy or desire to do that? What happens when even the mountains, ‘from whence cometh my help’ (and that has been largely true), are silent..no longer calling my name, no longer able to sooth a restless soul? Do I push harder, further, faster? Or go in search of Leunig’s two large green trees (See his A Herbal Remedy for Lifeache)? Or just stop? I’m working on an answer…
This particular weekend, I didn’t have much of a choice. It was another one where the Sunday (the ‘middle’ day of my weekend) was looking pretty foul weatherwise. Initially I wasn’t sure I’d go anywhere at all, though that changed at the last minute. I already had a walk on to Adamsons (for the forth time, it’s a good one ;)!) for the Monday, so opted for the northeast, where the Sunday was likely to be mostly decent. There were three peaks up that way that I hadn’t yet explored, so I set my sights on Scott and Maurice, with Forster (and Cathcart) as extras if I felt energetic and the weather was being good.
Shortly after 6 I raced out of work – the rising sun was turning the bottom of the cloud cover nice and pink, and I wanted somewhere where I could take a photo. I didn’t have anywhere particular in mind, so I just drove towards Granton (but on the northern side of the river), prepared to stop wherever looked good. I never did get a photo of the clouds, but found a nice little spot and got a stunning view of the sun lighting up the Wellington range.
That done, I continued on my way, anxious to get to Old Beach before too much more time passed. One little errand, and I was back on my way. The drive up passed quickly, though I needed a little bit of GPS help to get through Launceston (why are cities so much harder to navigate than the bush?). Navigating the forestry roads (some of which didn’t even appear on the maps) was much easier.
I hadn’t done much research on either Scott or Maurice. I remember doing a little a year or so back when I first thought about climbing them, and hadn’t found much on Scott, with Maurice being described in the Abels. I’d forgotten to bring my book with me, and hadn’t read the description before leaving, so that made it somewhat useless!
I did know that the LISTmap had a track heading up to the summit from the west, and back down the eastern side, connecting with the same road, but some way along it. I hoped it was still followable – I’d heard something that had made me think it was not so well maintained. We’d see!
But Scott was first, and in recent weeks I’d been given a GPS track, and had had a flick through NatureLover’s blog on the mountain. I got a bit confused with directions, so reverted to following roads on my gps until I got as close as I could to the start of the walking track. Just as I had to turn onto a road not marked on my gps, it was nicely marked with a great big green sign indicating a right hand turn for Mt Scott Walking Track. Not far along that road is a much smaller, inconspicuous sign on the left hand side, indicating the actual track. If you do as I did, and come to an old open boom gate, reverse a few hundred metres ;)!
With everything sorted, I set out. The highly taped track leads through fern forest, and I got a little distracted with all the different types, particularly their new shoots.. the smooth versus the hairy, conformist and symmetrical versus nonconformist, green versus brown…
A little way in I disturbed half a dozen yellow tailed black cockatoos (not the only lot for the day), and they screeched their insults at me ;), but stayed really quite close. I stopped to take a photograph or two, and caught more than I bargained for. One more cockatoo decided to join the party, but chose the wrong branch to sit on. He landed on one that was not so rotten that it couldn’t support one bird, but rotten enough that his extra weight broke the branch with a loud crack, and the two of them went tumbling in a flap of wings, while the others, startled by the noise, also took off. Two seconds later, order was restored, and a new branch had been chosen!
I continued on, enjoying the ferns – it’s not often you get to walk through such an extensive fern forest! But as I wandered, I started to wonder if I wasn’t going too far north, and if the track went where I wanted it to.. A quick glance at the GPS surprised me. The track I had deviated from the path a few metres ahead, so obviously those whose ‘electronic’ footsteps I was following had thought a similar thing. I hesitated, then figured things looked open enough, so why not go straight up.
Up I went.. slowly the ferns gave way to myrtles and other, larger trunked trees (I didn’t actually look up to check their foliage), which seemed to have a preference for growing out of rock! Mind you, as if in turn, their trunks were also covered in mosses and lichen and the like.. Life feeding on life :).
Higher up, where the ground seemed to open up, and you could sense that you were coming to the top of the climb, the pepper berry trees made an appearance. I don’t think I’ve seen quite so many of them in one spot!
I ran back into the tapes.. and half heartedly tried to follow them along the top, but got frustrated with their sparsity and decided instead just to go with what felt right, and stay as close to the highest point as possible. It was funny, for no track, it felt very much like walking on an unmarked pad for most of the time, and I wasn’t sure if that was from human or animal traffic.
Most of the walk along the top was through tall skinny trees and on light green grass and mosses. Quite pleasant to say the least!! The last little bit was a trade off. The tall trees disappeared and the views opened up, but instead slightly more dense scrub started. Not an issue though, it was only knee-waist high, and there were so many pads going through it, you could spend all day tracing different routes through without having to do any actual scrub bashing.
There was a trig on top, which surprised me, and views out towards the other northeast peaks, though most still had their heads in the cloud. Unfortunately that just drew further attention to the logging coups, some of which looked rather recent :(. Always a sad sight.
Not having any company, and not being lunch time yet (or more like dinner no. 2 by that stage), there wasn’t much reason to stick around, so I headed back along the top. When I arrived at the spot where I’d come up, I thought I might as well see where the taped track led, but after searching round for the next two tapes and getting frustrated with the slowness of the process, I gave up and just beelined again! Oh well!
Back at the car, it was time for some food, before starting the part I like least about walking.. finding my way along forestry roads that might well be dodgy.. I hate the worrying that they might not go through, that I’ll come to a non-driveable section (tree down, major erosion, bridge out etc) and have to reverse for ages to find a suitable spot to turn around (and I hate reversing, especially on pretty rough roads).
Having said that, I did something unusual. There’s two possible access points to get to Maurice, as the track leaves the road to the west of the mountain, climbs up and over it, and comes down the eastern side to hit the same road. I had a vague recollection that the Abels route described the western section of track, as an up and back walk. I knew from Naturelover’s blog that this involved a long road walk, and otherwise unimpressive climb. I knew from my GPS that this way was a longer distance, and as I was already half way through the afternoon, time was of the essence..
Sooo… I put my money on going for a longer drive, part of which was going to be on ‘interesting’ roads (dotted lines on my gps map, rather than solid), and a shorter walk. I hoped I could drive the whole way, and I hoped that the eastern section of track was still well marked and not too overgrown/degraded. If either were the case, I’d likely be doing Maurice the following morning from the other side.
So I made the call and drove along, cursing the nastier sections of road, which had deteriorated as soon as I’d hit the ‘dotted’ line on my gps. I let out a sigh of relief as I got quite close, close enough that I’d be happy enough to walk the last little bit of road if I couldn’t drive the whole way. Whoops, shouldn’t have had that thought!! As soon as I did, I got to a particularly well eroded section, and, sitting perched at the top of a downhill run, had to make a call as to whether I thought I could get down, and then back up. It looked like there was a bit of a drop near the bottom, and I didn’t want to be reversing back up the eroded stuff either!!
The call was to reverse the short distance I’d already come. That was easier said than done, as tyres just didn’t want to grip, but I managed somehow, and found a spot to pull over to one side. I figured just over 1km of road walk wasn’t too bad. So off I set, and decided as I walked over the dips and ‘rivers’ in the road that I’d made the right call. The car might have done it if I’d got it just right, but coming back up would have been harder, and if I’d had trouble reversing up the less eroded and less inclined section I didn’t like my chances.. 4WD only for that bit!
As I walked, I tried not to entertain doubts that the track wouldn’t be there, or would be so overgrown as to not be much of a track. Not to mention the fact that I didn’t actually know exactly where it came out, I only had a rough idea from the LISTmap, and know from experience that is sometimes very rough (i.e. track in to Cathedral). Oh well, only one way to find out…
I was surprised to come across a guy on a dirt bike travelling in the opposite direction, but that explained the tyre tracks on the road, and a couple of 4WDs I’d seen earlier off the side of the road. I was later to discover that not only were they off the side of the road, but that there was a full on 4WD/dirt bike course thingy that they were at, complete with jumps and even a burnt out, upside down car!
A little further on, just as I was thinking I should be at the start of the track, I happened across an old sign, indicating the track start and 3 hour return trip to the summit, and another, warning that areas of the track were exposed and that the weather could change at any time. There was also a much newer plaque in memory of the disappearance of a female who’d last gone walking on the mountain.
I started off hesitantly, the track taking the form of a cleared path through openish dry forest. It was obvious where to walk, but there were no markers here, and I wondered how things would be further up, or if the track became less distinct. I needn’t have worried, further along there were tapes and markers, some newer than others, but all fairly old. Though there wasn’t much sign of the track having been maintained at all recently, or walked for that matter, it had clearly been made decently to start with, and that meant it was still quite good, if a tad overgrown in spots.
The forest was eventually broken up by a few more open sections, and finally, quite close really, I had a glimpse of where the summit might be (well, the lip over which it lay). Directly in front of me though, was a sea of scrub! The pad wove through it, but it was still pretty scratchy, and I was glad to be through and approaching the top.
The views now stopped me, as all of the earlier cloud was gone, and everything from Arthur, Barrow, Ben Nevis, Saddleback, Ben Lomond, Albert and Victoria were visible, and looking nice. But now that I was up, I got to enjoy them all as I wandered the last little bit across to the trig, as well as the sound of frogs who inhabited a number of little tarns.
On top, I checked out the great white plastic Visitors Book container (the newest and biggest I’ve ever seen).. only to find it contained no book! A few more photos, and then, conscious of the time (late afternoon), I headed back down. On the way I checked out an updated weather forecast for the morning, and was most unimpressed to find that the rain was now extending further east than expected. I wasn’t particularly keen on walking in it, and didn’t like my chances of a nice sunrise on the beach even further east before heading home, so decided to just head home then and there.
That made for quite a long day in the end, and I felt rather flat getting home, but was probably the right call to make.
All up: Scott: 7.1km, 3 hrs, 431m ascent; Maurice: 11.7km, 3 hrs, 385m ascent. Quite funny the distance vs time ratios there, for mountains with relatively the same amount of height gain!!