Finally our almost never-ending summer has ended, so with the cooler weather it was time to get back on the trail. At our family Christmas gathering, my brother Al expressed an interest in joining me on one of the legs, so our plans were hatched for today’s walk. Coming from Camden in south-western Sydney, it was a pre-dawn start for him, but he made it to our meeting place on Mt Faulk Road in good time and followed me up what has become a very corrugated climb to our finish place at the Watagan HQ Campsite.
Leaving his car there, I drove us down Heaton Road and west to the Congewai Valley where I’d left off last November.
Crossing the stile, we headed gently uphill through farmland, with plenty of cowpats to avoid along the track. Once into the forest, the climb became a lot steeper with sections of steps, necessitating regular rest breaks.
Catching our breaths, we made it to the ridgetop where views back over the Congewai Valley opened up through the trees.
Our climb wasn’t over, though, as the track continued to weave its way uphill along the ridge, passing a grove of impressively tall grass trees. With their snail-pace growth rate, these specimens were probably well-established at the time Captain Cook came visiting our shores.
Finally at the top, the track joined a dirt road, taking us past an old logging hut that might best be descibed as a handyman’s delight.
Soon we arrived at the Barraba Trig rest area where we signed the walkers’ register. I’d considered topping up my water bottle from the rainwater tank but, after taking a taste, decided I probably had enough to get by.
On the eastern side of the rest area stood a grove of even more impressive grass trees. They must really thrive in this mountain environment.
Rested and refreshed, we continued our trek east, passing below a cliff line with many impressive caves. Our thoughts turned to the Aboriginal inhabitants who might have once resided here.
With stomachs starting to rumble, we took a short detour south to the 125r lookout, a place I’d visited three years ago on a geocaching adventure. This time we made a beeline for a different sort of log for our lunch break.
Stomachs pacified, we ventured over to the cliff top to soak up the amazing views down over the Congewai Valley. Al suggested it’d make a good golf course, so I said they should put the clubhouse at the lookout with a chairlift up and down.
Back on George’s Road, our next stop was the Narrow Place, a cliff-top lookout offering amazing views north across the Hunter Valley and beyond.
From there, the remainder of our walk was along the mostly level dirt road which looked to have been recently graded. It was certainly in much better nick than when I’d taken the Corolla out there on my previous visit in 2015. I was almost tempted to start singing The Road Goes Ever On and On but thought it mightn’t be appreciated.
In any case the road didn’t go ever on and on, and just over six hours and seventeen kilometres after we set off, we came to Al’s car at the Watagan HQ trackhead and the end of our day’s journey.
The final leg of my Watagan Mountains traverse will take me cross-country to Heaton’s lookout and then down to Freeman’s Drive at Heaton Gap. Following that will be the descent to Teralba railway station and two more legs along the northern fringe of Lake Macquarie and up the coast into Newcastle city and the finish at Queen’s Wharf.
My thanks to Al for joining me today and making it such an enjoyable stroll.
Coming up next: Watagan HQ Campsite to Heaton Gap.