Townsville Hike & Explore’s inaugural overnight hiking and camping adventure turned out to be one of the best weekends of hiking and adventuring I’ve experienced. With full packs and 2 days of excitement and adventure ahead of us, we set off for the Mount Halifax Summit. We were extremely fortunate to have Michael Mohring (Mickle) and Wilfred Karnoll along on this adventure, with a wealth of experience and knowledge of the area, along with a couple of our fellow adventurers from the TBWC.
We set off at 6.45am and the first thing we noticed was how low the water levels are in this section of the NP. The Gorge and Rope Falls were no more than a trickle and by the time we hit Flat Rock, the water had all but dried up. A Boyd’s Forest Dragon watched our every move as we made our way past the Loop Falls Junction. Trey began to complain of cramps, we later found out this could have been something to do with the 10 Great Northern Cans and Icepack he had in his pack along with just about everything else known to man including a coffee plunger and enough meat to feed us for a week.
The roped sections tested us with heavy packs and we were glad to drop our packs at Camp 1 and do the short walk to Bridal Falls which surprisingly had a good trickle of water for topping up the water bottles before the push onto the summit. After a nice rest at the falls it was time to get back to Camp 1 to don our heavy packs and scramble up the rope assisted steep slopes to get to Camp 2 for another well-earned rest.
Making our way up past camp 3 along the ridgeline with the summit clearly visible, we were treated to the customary breeze and views of the coastline and the adjacent mountain ranges hikers are so thankful for at this stage of the hike. After leaving Echo Hill we began the seemingly never ending grind past the 4 false crests to get to the edge of the rainforest where we broke for lunch at 12.40. It was then just a quick dash down to the final saddle before making our way up to the summit at around 1.30pm. Trey just had to hang over the edge of the lookout for an infinity shot.
We were all very eager to confirm we could get water from Dave’s Spring, a water source close to the summit at 980m elevation which is a very rare find in this area. After taking in the summit views, off we went with a quick stop at Rings Lookout to the West of the summit with views of the Upper Reaches of the Star River, Pinnacles National Park, Hervey’s Range and some of the most remote and rugged country I’ve seen in the Paluma Range NP.
Thankfully Dave’s Spring delivered however it was the lowest Mickle had seen it in the 12 years he has been coming here.
We made our way down through the Roly Gorge which has a steep section of well placed rock steps to quickly drop 6m down into the creek bed. After another 15min of scrambling down the steep rocky dry creek we came to the upper reaches of one of the main tributaries of the West Branch of Rollingstone Creek. Although water was low, it was there, mostly underground but we managed to find a couple of beautiful swimming pools which we took lengthy advantage of!
We made our way back past Dave’s Spring to collect our water for the night then back to Camp 4 to set up camp at the summit. I made my way out to “Wobbly Rock Lookout” and witnessed one of the most impressive things I have seen – a cloud inversion. For those of you wondering, A cloud inversion, also known as a “temperature inversion”, occurs when the air near the ground is cooler than the air above it. The phenomenon gives the effect of a stunning fog sweeping across the affected area. The air above the cloud inversion is significantly warmer than the air below it. We were literally above the clouds and this lasted until well after dark.
We sat around the campfire and Mickle cooked us steak and snags over the coals on a wire griller. This was washed down with our personal choice of beverage (or 3)…What a dinner at nearly 1100m elevation! Our friendly native bush rats kept us company and the howling of dingoes was heard by some during the evening and early morning. Another event never witnessed before in all the camps Mickle has had up here.
The night was breezy and the wind picked up, however the temperature stayed cool and didn’t reach freezing cold thank goodness! It does get very cold up here between April and September.
We were up early and after marvelling at a beautiful cloudy sunrise, we packed up and made our way from Camp 4 to Godwins Peak. This is a section I hadn’t done before and these trails are a credit to Mickle, Trevor Cheeseman and Leo (the Hermit) that have had a lot of fun making tracks in this area over the years. We had morning tea in the Halifax to Godwin’s Saddle then made our way onto Godwin’s Peak before lunchtime. The 360 degree views from Godwin’s were spectacular as always and a couple of the group witnessed this for the first time.
We could feel the heat of summer returning as we made our way down the ridgeline and into the creek line with a swim at Pick or Twin Falls on our mind! Again, water levels in the creek were the lowest ever seen but we managed a swim in the pool at Pick Falls which were just a trickle.
We made our way out beside the Forestry Pine Plantation to arrive at the highway a little after 3pm. We were amazed to see Trevor waiting for us with an esky full of cold water, soft drink and of course a few beers! What a marvellous end to the weekend!
Many thanks go to Mickle, Trevor, Leo, Dave and Stan for their efforts in this area over the past 14 years. We now plan to re-open other sections of trail in this area that haven’t been open since prior to Cyclone Yasi in 2011.
The drought has now broken, our group has completed its first overnight hiking, exploring and camping weekend and I can assure you there’ll be plenty more to come!
**Written by Michael Pugh & Mickle