After more rain yesterday, this morning dawned with the sun breaking through a little low cloud, and with a forecast of partly cloudy with a slight chance of an afternoon shower, I decided to take the train up to Cowan for the next leg of my walk.
By the time I reached the trackhead, the cloud had burnt off to a bright sunny day with no wind, perfect walking conditions.
A short way in, the track crosses the M1 motorway on the Jerusalem Bay footbridge high above the traffic.
From there, it’s a rocky descent to Jerusalem Bay, with a fair bit of water on the track from yesterday’s rain.
Once at the bottom, it becomes a delightful stroll along a leaf-litter covered dirt path, with moss-covered rocks adding to the mystique of the valley. Barefoot hiking at its best!
Soon the view across Jerusalem Bay opens up, with the tide still sufficiently in to cover the mudflats.
From there it’s up, up, up the rocky steps, giving those leg muscles another workout.
About half way up the designers took pity on us, providing a bench to rest and take in some water.
Strength recovered, it was back to the steps again until finally reaching the top of the ridge. Behind this sign hides the narrow overgrown track out along Govett Ridge to Taffy’s Rock where the Panorama Cache is hidden. I did that epic walk on a much warmer day just on a year ago – boy was I exhausted by the time I got back!
I was going a different way this time, though, following the clearer GNW track down off the ridge and losing all that hard-won altitude as I descended towards Campbell’s Creek.
At the bottom, stepping stones cross the strangely orange water. The guide book also mentions the colour of the water here so I suspect it’s a natural phenomenon, but it still doesn’t look too inviting. No topping up the water bottle here!
The creek crossed, the track then heads back up, working its way around the top of a spur past some nice wind-eroded sandstone caves.
The final climb up to the top of the ridge is via another set of rungs in the rockface.
At the top is another walkers’ register, which I dutifully signed.
From here, the sound of traffic on the M1 and freight trains passing by became much louder; soon I saw why.
At this point, the track joined a gravel electricity maintenance road. Suffice to say this isn’t my favourite barefoot hiking surface, but I guess I’m going to strike a lot more of this once I get into the Central Coast hinterland, so I’d better get used to it.
I soon caught the first glimpse of my destination, the railway bridge over the Hawkesbury River at Brooklyn. I could taste that fish-and-chips lunch already!
After about a kilometre of fairly level walking, the track descended rather steeply. Had a car come along going down the hill, I’m not sure if I’d have been able to resist the temptation of taking a ride to escape the worst of the gravel, so just as well none did.
At the bottom of the hill, the track joined a broader road heading east to the old Brooklyn dam, built in the late 1800s to provide water for steam locomotives. I’d been thinking about taking a swim here, but by the time I arrived it was heavily overcast and just starting to rain so I decided I didn’t need any further cooling down.
Past the dam, the rain became heavier as the track climbed onto the next spur. Just when I was beginning to think I’d be soaked by the time I reached Brooklyn, it stopped, although the sky was now completely overcast.
The final steep descent into Brooklyn is surfaced in corregated concrete, easier on the feet than the gravel but not by much. Concentration was required to avoid getting a toe caught in the grooves.
At the bottom of the hill I was suddenly in the township, with a short stroll along George Street and Bridge Street to the trackhead at the railway station. I’d reached the Hawkesbury!
Time for that much anticipated trail tucker down on the rocks at the water’s edge.
From here, the Great North Walk resumes at Patonga, on the northern side of the river and about 7km downstream around this headland and the next one.
The guidebook provides a few options, including a water taxi (expensive), a train to Woy Woy and bus to Patonga (the latter are very infrequent and slow), or a train to Wondabyne and skip the Patonga-Wondabyne leg of the track. I’ve sometimes wondered whether a pedestrian bridge across the river using the old railway pylons then a new track along Cogra ridge to join the existing GNW track above Wondabyne might be an elegant solution, but in this era of budget constraints I can’t see it happening.
So, I’m thinking of doing something different for the crossing, weather and tides permitting. Stay tuned!
Coming up next: Brooklyn to Patonga.