The Hume and Hovell Track thru-hike that Gill and I commenced on Saturday 31 August has come to a premature end due to a physical injury. On the morning of Friday the 13th (I just noticed the date), and after much soul searching, we walked off the track. We recently released a post on Calling it Quits on a Hike and in all honesty, I never thought this would be a consideration I would ever need to make with my body always managing to respond to whatever I have asked of it previously.
Those who have known me for a number of years will know I have an obsessive personality and am one of those people that puts in 110% effort, finding that extra bit of something from seemingly from nowhere to get through just about any situation. For a number of days I had been having an issue with my right knee whereby I could spend the first few hours of the day averaging around 4.5km per hour walking speed (depending on the terrain) but at around the 2-3 hour mark, my knee had swollen considerably. The pain would get to the point whereby my walking speed was at around 2 km per hour on flat easy ground and while I was managing to walk anywhere up to 26 km per day I was doing so on regular applications of Voltaren and doses of ibuprofen. The masked pain was leaving me with a hot sweaty nauseated feeling that impacted my focus – not good from a safety perspective or enjoying the walk.
The decision to stop was days in the making and an extremely hard one to make. I mean, how could I manage to walk over 1000 km last year with no physical pain or for that matter no real effort, but this year struggle with a walk less than half the length and at a reduced daily rate? Eventually I came to the decision, with some not so subtle prompting from Gill, that the correct choice was to end to hike and get the issue fixed.
So now our thru-hike has turned into a section hike having completed around 310 km of this 426 km walk. I will complete this walk and am already making plans for Autumn 2020 to finish off the last 116 km.
Both Gill and I would like to thank everyone for their support throughout this hike. We have one more podcast left to release on this stage of this walk in the upcoming week whereby we will discuss the final few days, talk about our opinions and recommendations on this walk, as well as go into more detail on the issues that occurred.
It’s day 12 and we’ve had another frosty night this time at Junction Campsite. We woke to find ice on the outside and inside of the tent. As lovely it is sleeping beside a babbling creek, the combination of moisture and cold temperatures has its consequences. This morning was in no way as cool as yesterday so there is some good news. The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 Platinum
three season tent is surviving it all!
We have a morning routine but it was easier today to swap tasks. I packed up the inside of the tent and Gill collected the (icy) water to filter for the water bladders and our morning cuppa.
Junction Campsite is a really nice spot and we were sad to walk away around 7.30am. We headed off to Henry Angel Track Head only 6.5 km away and arrived in time for an early morning tea in the sunshine. We have been impressed with the campsites but especially the track heads on the Hume and Hovell Track. Henry Angel is no exception. The facilities are great and there is also some really interesting interpretive signage too.
We now head off towards Mannus Lake Campsite and fingers crossed, our food cache! The hike to Mannus Lake takes us through farmland and past the remnants of late 1800 gold mining operations. We’re also now very much walking in the footsteps of Hume and Hovell.
We follow the creek which rages beside us and Gill stumbles upon one of our favourite things – an echidna. It takes a bit of time to notice her and then it tries to hide when it sees me with that ‘oh crap I’ve been spotted look’. By hiding I mean moving six inches to the right and burying its face in soft soil … a case of ‘if I can’t see you, you can’t see me’ as well as ‘l’m sharp and pointy’.
We soon encounter the steep and long ascent through the Bugandyera Nature Reserve. The ascent was flagged as hard but given what we’ve encountered in previous days, it wasn’t too bad. The temperature today was 18 degrees Celsius and we were in full sun which did make it tough.
Once the ascent was out of the way, we meandered along to discover more of our favourite things. Gill notices a native hooded ground orchid and then another. I then see a different species and once we have our ‘eye in’ we see dozens and dozens. So many so that we stop taking photos. What a great day this is!
We see Mannus Lake from the distance and continue the long descent through rural properties. We get to the campsite and notice a couple who have set up their caravan on the other side of the camp site. We have two priorities now 1. dry out and set up our still sopping tent (a byproduct of the ice from the morning) and 2. recover our food cache. Gill handles the tent and I recover the food. Both tasks are completed with minimum fuss.
Camp set up and dinner done. I now have a late night planned doing the (late) podcast but at least I have 4G connectivity at Mannus Lake.
Last night was a very cold one and while I don’t have a thermometer with me I estimate we reached about -5 degrees Celcius. The water in my pack bladder had frozen and the condensation on our tent fly was also ice. Gill had almost every bit of clothing on she was carrying and I had put on my thicker layers to sleep in. We decided on waking just to have a quick bite and have a cup of tea later in the morning which is a rarity for us.
We are of two minds this morning whether to stop at our planned stopping point of Junction Campsite at around 22 km or press on to the Henry Angle Track Head which is a further 6.5 km but will see how we go. The walk today isn’t difficult but it’s long and winding our way in and out of the gullies and hills although moving downwards out of the snow zone very, very gradually. The vegetation changes as we go lower and also on the sunny and shady sides of the hills. We start to see tree ferns and ground ferns and the undergrowth increases as we descend. We also see seven horses today and while they are wary of us they don’t race off like they do in the Alps.
While it’s not difficult walking it’s long and and there is the occasional treefall, one of which we take about 10 minutes to get around because of its location. We realise that if we want to reach the Henry Angel Track Head we are likely to be walking in the dark so opt against that.
We enter the private forest area where the Junction campsite is located. There is a sign telling us that logging activities are in progress and to contact the operators (text only as there isn’t enough signal for phone) on the number provided. This seems to be an old sign but we do it just in case. We hear back and they confirm they aren’t logging at present.
We press on and reach Junction Campsite around 4.00pm. So far this is the best camping site (with the exception of the track heads) as there is no 4wd access being a private property. There are plenty of good flat areas next to a creek as well as the usual picnic tables and toilet. Also lots of wombat holes.
We are in bed by 6.00pm having set up and eaten in the sun today. I was hoping for enough signal to do the podcast but no joy so it will be late this week (which I hate) but outside of my control. With luck I am hoping for tomorrow night. Only eight days to go if things go to plan.
We were a bit more organised this morning and after another rainy, but mild night were up early, packed and away by 7.30am. Our plan today is to get to Paddys River Campsite but we will see how we go as that’s just on 29 km including a morning of hard terrain.
We head down the hill in bushland before walking on management road for a short period and then it’s back into walking through rural properties. All the weaned calves are in a couple of paddocks and they expect to be fed but aren’t quite sure if we are the ones. A young bull calf mock charges a few step before running away and we are followed by about 40 of them until we move on to the next paddock and it’s another walk straight up the hill to bushland. There is some snow on the southern side of one mountain which shows we are nearly into the high country.
To start with we are walking around the hills following the gullies on a steady but mild incline so we make good time. The terrain starts to get steeper and we can hear the sound of water which turns out to be the Lower Buddong Falls. We cross the falls at this point and now it starts to get hard; and I mean really hard. The gradient is less than 1:10 at this point and as bad as 1:3 in some areas. The track is very narrow and has been washed out in a couple of points so care and attention is needed with our footing. We pass the upper Buddong Falls and skip the side trip for the better photo opportunities. From any angle the falls are impressive!
We stop for lunch at the Buddong Picnic Area at just on 4.5 hours after we start which is not bad going since the recommended time is 5 hours.
The going gets easier at least from a perspective of the slope but now we are back on management road and the week of 4WD use has left its mark turning sections of the road muddy. We reach Buddong Hut not long after which tends to be a typical high country hut. We stop for a quick visit before pressing on.
We are starting to ascend again and the landscape is charging and we come across our first Brumby. It’s small and doesn’t look well and the fact that we get as close as we do is an indication it’s not well. It finally decides to move and in the process falls over before getting up and quickly moving off.
The other thing that starts to appear is snow, gradual at first but by the time we reach the high point we are walking through solid snow and the trail becomes hard to follow. We expected snow on this trip given the time of year but this year’s falls have been light.
The choice of white trail markers becomes questionable at this point and at one stage we had to take stock of our location before committing to a direction. There is really no opportunity to stop early with no water (apart from melting snow) and no flat ground so we press on making good time. We exit the bushland and while the snow is still around we are back on management road on heading straight to Paddys River Campsite.
We arrive around 5.00pm, tired but pleased we have reached our destination. There are 4WD vehicles around so we pick a site away from everyone else under some low trees. Two fisherpeople pass by and while they haven’t had any luck they have seen a Platypus so we are hopeful as we continue on in the morning.
Back to our evening routine of setting up camp and cooking and by this time the cold has set in so we eat inside our tent. We record for the podcast and we can see our breath so know that it’s going to be a cold night. We discuss what we going to do tomorrow which is just under 22 km to Junction Campsite. We may add another 6 km to get us to the Henry Angel Track Head but that’s a decision for tomorrow.
It’s day nine of our Hume and Hovell Track and I’m feeling much better after yesterday’s bad day. Everyone has bad days in long distance hiking and usually for me it’s on day two. Today I felt much more myself as we covered just on 26 km and at least for the moment we are back on track; when the maps describe a section as hard, they mean hard and with it the average speed drops. The one downside of last nights sleep was I had the weirdest dreams I have ever had (dinner related perhaps?) which Gill thought was quite funny when I told her. It’s so good when you can make your wife laugh!
Another day being swooped by birds but this time it was a pair of Welcome Swallows who had built a nest in the toilet. Don’t know why they didn’t care yesterday but they did today. The magpies on this section of the track don’t seem to care about hikers so at least from that perspective we were safe.
We spent until lunchtime walking a forest road along the shores of Blowering Dam and reached our planned destination for yesterday, Yellowin about 2.5 hours into the morning. There are so many possible campsites along the dam shore that we could have easily walked on yesterday but I was just so exhausted our chosen stopping destination was the right one.
The forecast rain for today only amounts to some very quick showers and that’s a blessing but the red clay soils one the road stick to your footwear which can be annoying. The forecast for rain is easing from now. One thing we notice is the warmer than expected temperatures with sub zero temperatures being the norm just two weeks ago. Can’t not like that.
Immediately after lunch we started a 300 metre ascent up a hill but on a road with a good gradient so it wasn’t as bad as some of those we previously walked on this track. By now we are approaching Talbingo Dam and the only time that I have been here before is to do diving work on the Dam wall; but that’s another story. The scenery is ever changing with different vegetation types being present. A lot of the park-like areas that make up the camp sites along Blowering Dam look like they were planted in the 1960’s-1970’s based on the plant selection. There are groupings of plants I just haven’t seen together for that long.
We finally reach Ben Smith Campsite just before 4.00pm and that’s us for the day back on schedule although we may change it up depending on the terrain over the next few days. As we walk down the valley to the campsite I see one Deer and hear another, the first for this trip. While very cute they are becoming a major pest in Victoria and progressively moving into NSW in bigger numbers.
We set up camp, filter water, eat, and then we are in bed for an early night and to catch up on social media. Thanks to everyone for the support and comments as we progress through this trip; it’s greatly appreciated so keep it up. Time for bed goodnight.
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As promised by the weather forecast another day of rain. The morning wasn’t too bad with just the occasional shower but as the day wore on it got heavier and more frequent. Today we walked 21.5 km around Blowering Dam and didn’t quite reach our designated stop point of Yellowin falling short by about 9 km. The rain and on my part a lack of energy have set in. I usually find that I struggle as I start dropping weight and my body fights me on my need for energy … at the moment my body is winning. That will change over the coming days but it just makes things harder. Gill is powering on and helping me through.
We had some great views over Blowering Dam today and for some reason I know most of the other big dams but this one just slipped my mind.
About mid morning we stop for a rest and I check my phone signal and hooray it’s strong enough to post. We spend about 40 minutes on the side of the track playing catch up on social media before heading off. We press on to Browns campsite which is typical of the camps on this track and have an early lunch under shelter.
On we trudge through the mud and the rain and while the dam level is very low, a few good days of rain in this large basin will help raise the dam level. There’s an image on the Hume and Hovell website that I’m pretty sure shows the dam at full height and boy is it different. A highlight for today was when I saw an Emu dad and his chicks – very pleased!
We decide to stop at Windy Point as there is an area to camp as well as a toilet. Pretty basic as far as campsites go and it’s a 500 metre walk to the water.
We set up the tent in one of the rare moments of sunshine but still needed to dry off the tent because we didn’t have a chance this morning. We have an early dinner and are in bed by 6.00pm.
We hear a car enter the camping area and it seems to be driving around in circles before it pulls up outside our tent and then turns off its lights and drives away. We hear a gunshot shortly after and realise that the hunters are out even though it’s not allowed in this area. The rain has finally stopped but we aren’t sure for how long. The rain I don’t mind but it makes the track very muddy.
Tomorrow is planned as a 14 km day so we should be able to make up some distance and time but that will depend on difficulty of the upcoming section. Time for bed.
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We wake earlish at 5.00am and one thing that comes to mind is the mild weather. We are forecast for some cool nights but nothing below zero degrees which surprises me. Jut a few weeks ago there was ice on the trail.
We are slow to get moving after yesterday’s epic day and leave the Thomas Boyd Track Head around 8.30am. The day starts out pleasantly enough travelling through rural NSW weaving our way through farms as we go; sometimes through, sometimes around.
We cross three suspension bridges during the day, the first at the campsite which is solid and pretty stable as is the third. The second is very unstable bridge without wooden slats and as a result it’s a but scary. If you have a fear of heights, don’t look down!
We press on continuing to walk through some lovely rural landscapes and then it’s back to both bushland and farms. Again we are swooped by magpies who think that 100 metres is too close to their nest and continue to do so all the way up the hill.
By this time it’s raining. I have had the opportunity to do social media posts standing in the middle of a paddock but pouring rain and strong headwinds are not conducive to getting the electronics out of my pocket.
We keep on going expecting we won’t reach the Blowering Dam campsite as the going has been slow but we hit the Snowy Mountains Highway and move a lot quicker. In addition there really is no other camp option so we press on. We reach Blowering Dam and get excited because we can see a large park and think that we have reached our destination. We were a bit confused because we were convinced we would be camping on the Dam itself. It turns out that this area is a just a park and camping is prohibited.
We have one more climb to the top of the dam wall and then it’s down again for about 500 metres on a gradual descent and we finally reach our campsite, still in the rain, just before 6.00pm for a 10 hour day. We pitch the tent as close to the shelter as we can so we can at least get out of one door without getting saturated.
After a bite to eat it’s just on 8:00pm and it’s time for bed and by now the rain has really set in.
We both get a good nights sleep less than 10 metres from the Micalong Creek. This creek is bigger than many rivers that I’ve seen and I try to search the dim dark recesses of my mind for my geography lessons about what defines a river but fail. It appears it’s gone the way of calculus and trigonometry.
As we pack, our fellow camper Sarah and her dog Bella are up and about so after we have eaten we go and say hello. Sarah is kind enough to talk with us for the podcast and tells us this trail is one of the only ones in Australia that allows dogs (but not in all sections). So Sarah is hiking with Bella where she can and a family member will pick her up for sections where dogs aren’t allowed. It’s interesting to hear Sarah talk as she is a vet and lets Bella set the pace. They’re carrying two first aid kits, one for her and one for Bella.
We finish packing and press on. The plan is to reach the Thomas Boyd Track Head but we know that doing so will depend on the terrain. If need be we will stop early.
We reach the first campsite in good time before lunch despite a diversion due to a destroyed bridge which requires us to get wet feet so we stopped for an early morning tea. The middle of the day gives us a false sense of hope that the ups and downs have finished. After making good time we hit the hills again, by this stage we have entered Kosciusko National Park and again the terrain changes but it’s feels for both of us very familiar and provides a feeling of being home.
We foolishly think that our current pace we will get us to the Thomas Boyd Track Head at around 5.30-6.00pm but then we get the hills again. And by hills I mean serious hills. Mainly down hill to start with, which my knees hate, but also with some steep treacherous sections, many of which require negotiating around blackberries, wombat holes, and tree falls. Lots of trees falls. And then it’s up again on a gradient of about 1:3.
There aren’t any options for stopping early due to private land so our only choice is to press on. We arrive at the campsite at 8.00pm for our hardest day of the trip so far. We are both stuffed. I’ll never start a hike this unfit ever again! Having said that this trail continues to be the most physically demanding we have ever done.
We eat dinner and set up camp and by the time we get to bed it’s 10.00pm which is the latest finish to a hike I’ve ever had. I’m definitely looking forward to a good night sleep.
We start the morning the same way as yesterday going ever up. For some reason I thought we weren’t going to summit Mount Wee Jasper but we did for a morning gain of about 500 metres in altitude and a chance to catch up on social media. The view was fantastic.
During this walk we go through a couple of changes in landscape into a more open forest which is what we like. While the government is progressively killing off the blackberries dead or alive, they still manage to snag us. We head downhill and come off Mount Wee Jasper onto forest road.
We road walk for a few kilometres before heading back into bush again following a creek (the only chance for water on this section before the creek) before we reach Log Bridge Camp. Log Bridge is the typical set up with a shelter and toilet nestled in a valley on a creek. The roof and one wall are missing from the shelter but it’s still a pleasant little site all the same. We press on to Micalong Campsite and get there just in dark at around 6.00pm. We are greeted by another hiker, Sarah and her dog Bella. By the time we are set up for the night and have dinner we head to bed around 8.00pm.
This campsite is right on the river and our tent, in fact the edge of the camp is only 20 metres away from the water. This is an indication of when it was built as that wouldn’t happen these days. We have the flattest campsite possible so are looking forward to a great sleep.
The pit toilet has been used for someone’s garbage (mostly empty beer bottles and cans!) but at least they had the decency to put it in a rubbish bag. It always amazes me that people won’t take their rubbish out.
It’s the start of day 4 and we both had a good night sleep in our cabin at Reflections Holiday Park on Burrinjuck Dam; it’s amazing the difference a mattress and a hot shower makes. This morning I need to get up early to head up to the office to post on social media only to discover I have good signal in the cabin so I am very pleased about that as it’s a cool morning. This morning the birds have been replaced on our porch by kangaroos wanting to be fed. The kangaroos are fat and lazy, and I even saw one eating laying down with about as minimal effort as possible. It is no wonder they’re so plump.
This morning we meet Dean the park manager at 8.00am for an interview for the podcast and then he will drive his boat and us across the lake to the start of our walk for the day. The boat ride is nice and smooth and takes us around 10 minutes to our drop off point at Cathedral Rocks. Dean tells us that the dam level is around 32% and that at full water the Cathedral Rock is under water by about 5 metres. Dean also tells us there is another group of hikers following behind us which must be the group I was aware of prior to starting.
The start of the walk sets the scene for the day as we gradually make our way uphill away from the dam. We only see about five cars for the entire day and most of those are on the outskirts of Wee Jasper. Very pleasant walking at this stage. We also pass through our first private property and there are trail markers everywhere to make sure we stay on track.
We stop for lunch on the crest of the hill and enjoy spectacular views over the rural valley. After lunch we press on to the Fitzpatrick Track Head. We arrive there just before 2.00pm and while this is an exceptional campground that has showers as well as a potable water tap we decide to press on after topping up our water. The army has a training course on and at the time we get there they are all out bush doing rock climbing and abseiling but we talk to the designated chef who is minding the camp and is kind enough to give a piece of fresh fruit each. Even with this large group the campground is big enough to hold everyone comfortably.
We top up our water bladders as well as one of our 2 litre spares just in case we don’t find water. This section is 11.3 km until the next campsite and water source, and is rated hard which is an understatement. To start with the trail is a bit confused just as you leave the campground but we follow what we think is the obvious route and find the trail proper not that far away. The track is almost all up will with a gradient of about of 1:10 or worse for much of it. I’m carry just on 21-22 kg of pack weight which includes my share of 8 days food and 5 litres of water and given how unfit I am at the moment I’m feeling it.
In addition to being a steep section, the track is narrow with steep drop offs in some areas. In heavy rains this section of the trail would be treacherous and would require slow and deliberate foot placement. At around 4:15pm we reach a flat area below the saddle having done just over 5 km of very very hard track and decide to call it quits as we are both well and truly stuffed. We camp on an area that has very obviously been used before as it’s been cleared of sticks and rocks. There may be other sites but I doubt that they would be better. We set up camp, have dinner and are asleep just before 7.00pm which is a late night for us.
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