On yet another supurb day of adventuring to remember, a select group of 5 hikers and explorers set off well before sunrise on another classic, carefully designed and planned Townsville Hike and Explore adventure that hasn’t been attempted to date!
Our plan was to hike in from Toomulla through the Clemant State Forest, summit Godwin’s Peak (780m), drop into Godwin’s Saddle and hike to Mount Halifax Summit (1063m). Just before we reached Halifax summit, we planned to take a diversion, dropping a couple of hundred metres elevation and hike into the headwaters of the Rollingstone South West Branch, reach Camp 5 on the way to the PRB, hike back up to Mount Halifax Summit and then hike out via Paces Pineapple Farm in Rollingstone.
As we hiked through the Clemant State Forest under a cloudless, starry night sky, the weather was looking perfect so the stage was set! I noticed a couple of Ghost Bats (Macroderma gigas) around the thickly wooded state forest area just before sun up.
Water levels in the lower creek lines were noticeably lower than our last visit to Godwin’s a month or so ago, however by the time we hiked past Twin Falls and Pick Falls, there was a decent flow present. A stroke of luck saw the sunrise in just the perfect place and we managed to capture some of the best sunrise creek line imagery I have seen at Pick Falls.
We exited the creekline and started the grueling climb to Godwin’s Peak at 7.15am. As the walk leader, I always carry extra supplies and equipment for the group in case we were held up and had to spend the night in the upper reaches. Hiking at a moderate pace with a heavy pack including 6 litres of water, 2 litres of juice, plenty of extra food, first aid, communication and other equipment made for a tough climb to the summit of Godwin’s Peak which we reached at 9am. It always amazes me to see Australian Brush-Turkey (Alectura lathami) and their impressive mounds at close to 1000 metres elevation near the summit of Godwin’s Peak.
My fellow adventurers had not summited Godwin’s Peak previously and were obviously in awe of the 360 degree vistas and magical views this bald summit in the Paluma Range National Park offers the hiker and explorer. After we captured some imagery and a live feed, we surveyed what was in front of us for the next few hours as Mount Halifax Summit is one of numerous points of interest clearly visible from the Godwin’s Summit.
We were well and truly into the Godwin’s Saddle by 10am. The trail, although needing some minor maintenance was in relatively good shape to this point which is great considering only a handful of adventurers use the Halifax to Godwin’s Loop Trail each year. The terrain in the saddle is thick rainforest with some stunning strangler figs (Ficus watkinsiana) visible along the edges of the trail.
The Eastern Whip Bird (Psophodes olivaceus) greeted us as we gained elevation, hiking through some muddy, steep terrain as we made our way out of the Godwin’s Saddle towards Mount Halifax.
The Red Bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) that I almost trod on was basking in one of many spots where the morning sunlight pierced the canopy atop the narrow, overgrown trail. This particular snake was also one of the largest in size I’ve seen in the Mount Halifax section of the National Park.
We stopped for morning tea at over 1020 metres elevation, south east of Mount Halifax Summit at 11.15am. I noticed a beautiful little Willie Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys) doing a sun dance a short distance from the trail. The group commented on how beautiful the ‘new seasons’ leaves were on the rainforest flora – the bright reds and pinks stood out among the canopy and were a delight to witness.
Just after 12pm, we were within 550 metres of Mount Halifax Summit, well ahead of schedule. We’d already hiked 16 kilometres with well over 1000 metres elevation gain. We left the Halifax/Godwin’s Loop Trail, hiking south west, dropping over 200 metres elevation as we bush bashed our way into the headwaters of the Rollingstone South West Branch.
It’s extremely rare to find a permanent water source at close to 1000 metres elevation, but this stunning rainforest creek line offers exactly that. The water levels in the creek were higher than I have seen previously, which made the experience even more enjoyable as the creek line came to life with numerous waterfalls and other water features I had not yet seen.
We called it quits just past Camp 5 at 1.15pm. Camp 5 is a feature of this stunning creekline and was one of the camps our fellow trail builders made when opening the numerous trails in this area many moons ago. If the adventurer was to follow this disused trail for another 2.7km from Camp 5, you’d break out onto the PRB, south east of where we have been working on re-opening a different section of the PRB recently.
After a snack and an icy cold swim in the headwaters of the Roly SW, we started the climb back up to the Halifax/Godwin’s Loop Trail. We hit the summit of Mount Halifax at 2.30pm and we knew then that we were very close to accomplishing our goal, still well ahead of schedule.
Mount Halifax, at 1063 metres elevation, on a clear day offers some of the best views in the region. As we sat around at the summit, chatting about our adventure and taking in the views, I pointed out Toomulla, the Clemant State Forest, Godwin’s Peak, Godwin’s Saddle and much of the terrain we had hiked through during the day and it then became apparent to this group of epic adventurers exactly what they had all achieved for the day!
Hiking down the Halifax Trail past Gorge, Rope and Loop Falls, we hit the finish point at 5.30pm, still in daylight hours. All in all, we had hiked 26.5 km over 12.5 hrs with close to 1700 metres Elevation Gain.
I was extremely proud of this small group of adventurers and what we had achieved for the day on this unique and thoroughly enjoyable adventure! What a team!