With a week’s break for my soles to toughen up again after all the gravel last time, it was back on the trail for the much easier 10km walk from Wondabyne to the Old Pacific Highway bridge over Mooney Mooney Creek.
After leaving my car at the finish, I was driven back to Woy Woy station by Allan Savins to catch the train to Wondabyne. Upon arrival I had to wait at the crossing for a steam train to pass. Glad I got through the Woy Woy tunnel before it did!
Once across, it was back up the steep climb and along the fire trail to the track junction where I’d left the GNW spine last time.
Very soon I came to a vantage point looking south-west along the lower reaches of Mooney Mooney Creek.
The fire trail continued for another kilometre before reaching the locked entrance to the rifle range. Here, the GNW turns left onto a narrow walking track leading out along the next ridge west of the range.
A little way in was another walkers’ register which I duly signed, noting that a large party of scouts was also out and about today.
The steep climb up Scopas Peak (230 metres above sea level) gave me a nice view back to Mount Wondabyne where I’d had lunch on the previous day’s hike. It’s views like this that make me appreciate the territory I’ve covered.
On the other side of the peak, the track crossed open rock shelves along the saddle to the western flank of Leochares Peak.
From there, I caught glimpses of the M1’s high bridge over Mooney Mooney Creek, which is just north of the old bridge I was aiming for.
All the while, the sound of gunfire from the rifle range had been growing until, on the northern side of Leochares Peak, it came into view across the valley. While I’m not particularly fond of the idea of having rifle ranges inside national parks, at least this one hasn’t completely closed north-south access through the park like the one at Horsnby has.
Soon the track began descending towards Piles Creek, lessening the sound of the gunfire a little. Rock steps were now the order of the day.
At the bottom of the descent the track crossed a small side stream with a nice little flow through some potholes and cascades.
On the other side, it headed steeply uphill again through a series of switchbacks as it negotiated its way past another side gully. But what goes up must come down, and as I was heading for the sea level crossing of Piles Creek, there were plenty more steps ahead.
Along the way I passed this hoary old eucalypt bearing the scars of many fires past. I couldn’t help wondering how many walkers it’s seen go by.
More steps led down into the lush forest above the creek, with spring wildflowers in abundance.
Soon I reached the junction with the east bank of the Girrakool Loop, meaning I was getting close now to my lunch stop.
With a final loss of altitude, I reached the suspension bridge over Piles Creek, erected a couple of decades ago after the old timber bridge washed away in a flood.
A short flight of steps led up onto the bridge decking for an easy stroll across to the other side.
Just upstream is the creek’s tidal limit along with the remains of the old bridge.
Downstream, it broadens into a tidal estuary heading south-west to join Mooney Mooney Creek.
Just over the bridge is an open picnic area with some makeshift log seats around a fire pit. I’d been going to host a geocaching event there yesterday but the heavy rain forced a postponement for a couple of weeks.
With lunch eaten, I followed the track along the creek bank past mud flats and mangroves.
A boardwalk crosses some of the lower lying wetlands.
The creek broadens further as it approaches the junction with Mooney Mooney Creek just around the next corner.
Turning right along the bank of Mooney Mooney Creek, I soon had the Old Pacific Highway bridge in sight. Now the explosions of gunfire had given way to the roar of motorcycles.
Another hundred metres or so and I was at my destination for the day.
The next leg crosses the creek on the highway bridge before following the west bank north for 17km to the Somersby Store. While there’s a bus service from there back to Gosford, it’s very infrequent with only a handful of morning runs and one afternoon run on weekdays only, so I’ll no doubt arrange a car shuffle to access each end when I come to do it.
Coming up next: Mooney Mooney Creek to Somersby.