Thursday, October 31, 2019

191031 - Early start

Day: 14
Date:  Thursday, 01 November 2019
Start:  Liffey
Finish:  Deloraine
Daily Kilometres:  33.8 
Total TT Kilometres:  385.4
Weather:  Cool early, then mild to warm and partly cloudy (Total Fire Ban in southern and eastern Tasmania)
Accommodation:  AirBnB cabin
  Breakfast:  Trail mix
  Lunch:  Meat pie
  Dinner:  Pizza and ice-cream
Aches:  Feet sore by the end of day
Highlight:  It was a beautiful and peaceful early morning climb up the Liffey valley, passing by attractive little farms overshadowed by towering forested mountains.
Lowlight:  None really.
Pictures: Click here
Map and Position: Click here for Google Map
I didn't sleep all that well, perhaps because I went to bed so early (7pm) to escape the cold wind, or perhaps because of the sound of distant farm machinery that woke me around 2am (sounded like a buzz saw ….. what were they doing?).  Anyway, when a nearby rooster began crowing shortly before 4am and magpies began warbling (a beautiful sound) shortly after, I gave up trying to sleep and packed up in the dark.

I began walking around 5:20 am when it was just light enough to see without a headlamp, and followed the very quiet road (3 cars in 3 hours) up the Liffey River valley (see above).  I enjoyed walking past these relatively remote farms set amongst fabulous scenery. I doubt that any of them make enough money to survive through farming, so I guess you have to be well-off to live there, or have a day job somewhere else.  One of the joys of this whole hike has been wandering the farm back roads and observing the derelict old buildings and machinery, often juxtaposed with well-kept farmhouses with fabulous gardens. Apart from some orchards, vineyards and hops down south, the farms have mostly been pastoral, grazing cattle and sheep (the latter generally with young lambs), and more rarely, horses, fallow deer and llamas.

Eventually, I climbed steeply out of the valley into a dark and ferny forest, with some pine plantations thrown in, which lasted for about an hour, before I began a gentle descent northwards through farmland towards Deloraine.  It was a very pleasant morning with little road traffic, and I wandered along looking at the world around me while listening to the radio. With about 10km to go, I left the official TT for my detour to Deloraine, and after more farmland, reached the town at 1:30pm, considerably earlier than planned because of my early start.  

I bought a pie for lunch at a fast food shop adjacent to the town's two schools, and while eating, messaged my friendly AirBnB host to see if she would give me early access to the cabin I had booked for two nights.  She responded affirmatively, and I arrived there around 2:30pm. The cabin included a washing machine, but no drier, so I hastily put all my laundry in the machine, with the exception of my barely worn long-johns and my down jacket, and set it going.  My hope that at least some of the clothes had air-dried by dinner time (so I could walk into town for dinner without being arrested, or being an object of local curiosity ….. although it is Halloween) was fulfilled, and I walked to a nearby pub for dinner.  There, I had an excellent, and too-big, pizza, marred only by the guy on the next table suffering from a formidable bronchial cough that had me holding my breath for a minute or two after each episode.

I have a day off tomorrow, and since the Tasmanian Craft Fair is on in town (touted on local radio as "the largest in the southern hemisphere"), I may have a look around, although it's not really my thing.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

191030 - Down off the plateau

Day: 13   
Date:  Wednesday, 30 October 2019
Start:  North of Cramps
Finish:  Liffey
Daily Kilometres:  28.3  (40.6 TT less 12.3 saved by short-cutting Bracknell, an option suggested in guidebook)
Total TT Kilometres:   351.6
Weather:  Cold at first, then mild and partly sunny with strong winds in the afternoon.
Accommodation:  Tent
  Breakfast:  Trail Mix
  Lunch:  Trail Mix
  Dinner:  Soup and rehydrated meal
Aches:  Feet sore, but not as bad as other days.
Highlight:  It was nice to finally leave the road and follow an old eroded track down off the Central Plateau.  The going was slow, but it was through beautiful forest and fern gullies, and even passed a large cave, before finally emerging into farmland.
Lowlight:  None really.
Pictures: Click here
Map and Position: Click here for Google Map
The ground was hard on the firetrail where I was camped, but at least there were no rocks sticking up in awkward spots and I slept OK, if fitfully.  I was on the road at 7:30am and eagerly anticipating reaching the point 4km on where I would leave the road and join an old track. I wasn't disappointed, and although the track was eroded and covered in loose rock, I enjoyed the peace and forest as I descended from the plateau.

At the bottom, I emerged into very green sheep and cattle pastures and followed quiet rural back roads for the remainder of the day, with the high bluffs of the central plateau's edge to the west and south.

As the afternoon progressed, the wind became stronger, and I was reminded of the Australian Championship Marathon I ran about 40 years ago as part of the Victorian team at nearby Cressy.  The wind was brutal and the field became a long snake as runners tried to shelter behind each other. The other thing I remember about that race is that I didn't run very well.

The official TT route went through the small village of Bracknell (where there is a store) but there was a short-cut to Liffey, my goal for the day, that was recommended in the TT guidebook if a store was not needed, and I took that.  The TT campsite is in the grounds of the old Liffey School, and I reached there at 3:30pm. It is a lovely spot on the side of a hill with good views, but it's very exposed to a cold wind that is blasting through as I write this. It could be an early night.

I now have about 33km to Deloraine, where I will be staying the next two nights, using a revised TT route which has apparently been devised to avoid private land where the landowner no longer lets TT walkers/bikers pass.  Deloraine is not on the actual TT, which sort of skirts around it, but I have decided to stay there, and have time for a day off.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

191029 - Lots of road

Day: 12
Date:  Tuesday, 29 October 2019
Start:  Miena
Finish:  North of Cramps
Daily Kilometres:  37.3 (38.7 TT, less 1.4 saved due to bushfire detour)
Total TT Kilometres:  311.0
Weather:  Cool early, then mild to warm and mostly sunny with strong winds most of the day.  There was a Total Fire Ban for southern Tasmania.
Accommodation:  Tent
  Breakfast:  Cereal, toast & jam
  Lunch:  Trail mix
  Dinner:  Soup and rehydrated meal
Aches:  Good up until noon, then right foot PF worsened during afternoon.
Highlight:  None really.
Lowlight:  Difficulty finding water, then a campsite, at the end of the day.  Water had been plentiful earlier in the day, mostly seen flowing through culverts under the road, but when I needed a couple of litres at the end of the day, all the culverts were dry.  I eventually found a trickle and small pond and got water from there. Likewise for places to camp. I had seen many possibilities earlier in the day, but by the end of the day I had entered a very bouldery area, with no flat spots for camping.  Finally, I found a firetrail leading off the road, and camped on the hard stony firetrail about 100 metres past a locked gate. It may be an uncomfortable night.
Pictures: Click here
Map and Position: Click here for Google Map
I woke around 6:30am and hit the road about 7:45am after an unrushed breakfast.  It was a fairly major road, which I had to stay on for the morning. The official TT route used some fire trails via Tods Corner, to cut out about 11km of the road, but according to the TT website this route was closed because of a bushfire.  Smoke from the fire dominated the scene as I approached the turnoff, but there was nobody stationed at the corner or any signage indicating the road was closed. I was tempted to try it to avoid the logging and gravel 18-wheelers on the road, but was worried that I might go some kilometres and then be turned back. I stuck to the road.  Despite the traffic (and there were long periods with none), the scenery was pleasant forest and there was a long descent off the plateau to Wiley's Marsh with some views, where I turned north onto a narrower, but equally busy sealed road.

Eventually, I reached a turn-off down to Arthurs Lake and followed a difficult loose bluestone road that paralleled the lake shore and was the service road for some high voltage power transmission lines.  I believe most of the "lakes" in this area of Tasmania are actually dams built by Hydro Tasmania and there are often pipelines and transmission lines visible, along with the occasional power station. As I walk, I often wonder what the place would look like without the dams.  (The only protest march in which I ever participated was way back in the 70s against the damming of the Franklin/Gordon River in Tasmania. It was eventually stopped by the Federal government in a court case, and I think history has demonstrated that the dam would have been redundant.  I later spent about 8 days rafting down the wild Franklin River, a trip which is still vivid in my memory.)

I didn't find the walk under the powerlines particularly interesting, but at least it got me away from the trucks for about 6km.  Then, it was back onto the road and a long steady climb back onto the Central Plateau, accompanied by the smell of bushfire smoke, and the Great Lake's eastern shore.  My goal for the day was to reach a locality called Cramps, where there was boat access to the lake off the main road, but I didn't want to make the detour to get water from the lake and guessed that camping might be forbidden anyway.

I continued on another 3km, eventually finding water and a campsite (see above).  Apart from the increasingly painful plantar fasciitis in my right foot during the afternoon, I had a good day. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

191028 - Not much to report

Day: 11
Date:  Monday, 28 October 2019
Start:  Miena
Finish:  Miena
Daily Kilometres: 0.0
Total TT Kilometres:  272.3
Weather:  Cold and mostly sunny
Accommodation:  Lodge
  Breakfast:  Cereal, toast & jam
  Lunch:  Toasted ham, cheese & tomato sandwich and chips
  Dinner:  Chicken Parmigiana, chips & salad
Aches:  Nothing to speak of
Highlight:  Lazy day
Lowlight:  Lodge washing machine broken so had to handwash most of my clothes
Pictures: No pictures today
Map and Position: Click here for Google Map
I slept well and long, perhaps confirming I was very tired last night. After getting up at 7am and making breakfast in my room, the morning was spent researching hiking/running shoes and next year's big hike, along with catching up on some email, bills and TV.

After lunch in the very quiet hotel attached to the lodge, and learning that the lodge's washing machine was broken, I hand-washed most of my clothes, hanging them to dry in front of the heater, and looked at my itinerary for the next few days to Deloraine.  I'll be camping either two or three nights, depending on how far I want to walk each day.

Originally, instead of having a day off here at Miena, I was going to have Friday off at the small town of Deloraine.  However, when I decided to have a day off here, I cancelled the first of the two nights I had booked at an AirBnB in Deloraine (the only accommodation I could find in town when I originally booked - it's a long weekend and there is a major craft fair in town).  That decision now seems premature, but maybe I'll leave it for another day or two, then contact the AirBnB property again to see if the first night is still available.

After dinner at the hotel, I plan an early night with the goal of leaving by soon after 7am tomorrow for a day that will require more roadwalking as I detour around the nearby bushfire.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

191027 - Bleak at times

Day: 10
Date:  Sunday, 27 October 2019
Start:  Bronte Park
Finish:  Miena
Daily Kilometres:  31.4 (35.0 TT, less 3.6 because of bushfire detour)
Total TT Kilometres:  272.3
Weather:  Cold all day with a chilly wind and mostly overcast with a few showers of wintry mix in the afternoon.
Accommodation:  Lodge
  Breakfast:  Apple crumble
  Lunch:  Trail mix and meat pie
  Dinner:  Beef rissoles and vegetables 
Aches:  I swapped to wearing my camp shoes (a very old pair of Nike Pegasus) for today to see if that made any difference to my feet.  I think they were marginally better at the end of the day, though I did score a blister on my left heel. I'm thinking now that the Brooks Cascadia I have been wearing are aggravating my feet for some reason.  It's hard to say how/why. I generally have a high opinion of Brooks, having been sponsored by them during my marathon career and having worn them for most of my Appalachian Trail thru-hike in 1986.
Highlight:  None really
Lowlight:  Things got pretty bleak while crossing the vast plain surrounding Little Pine Lagoon, with a cold wind coming off the lake and a wind-driven wintry mix adding to my discomfort.
Pictures: Click here
Map and Position: Click here for Google Map
I woke at 6am, ate what was left of last night's apple crumble for breakfast, and after watching the news headlines left my very comfortable cabin for the cold outside (3°C without the windchill) and the 31km to tonight's stop at Miena.  After reading about closures on the Tasmanian Trail website, I decided to keep it simple and just follow the road to Miena rather than risking unexpected detours while trying to follow the published route. Even the published route was mostly along the road anyway.

Although cold, the early walking was peaceful and enjoyable through alpine forest on a formed-earth road with almost no traffic.  Most of the time, the road seemed to be crossing a forested high plateau and was relatively flat, though there were no views. I just coasted along, listening to some music on the radio and trying to judge whether my feet were better because of the change in shoes (see above).

As the day wore on, there was more traffic, but still long periods of nothing.  Several people stopped to ask if I wanted a lift, but I politely declined. Further north, there was clear evidence of a severe and recent fire, with no signs of green shoots, gnarled and blackened trees, and bare red earth and rocks.  It had a kind of stark beauty, despite the devastation.

After about 20km, the road reached Little Pine Lagoon and crossed a vast scrubby plain.  The weather seemed to worsen (see above), though it may have just been because I was more exposed, and the long straight stretches of road seemed never-ending in the harsh conditions.

Finally, I reached the Miena General Store about 2:45pm and stopped in to warm up with a hot meat pie, as well as buying a few snacks to take with me to the lodge where I will be staying, which was another 3km along the road.  Somewhat refreshed, I set out for the walk to the lodge which followed the shore of Swan Bay, part of the Great Lake. There were quite a few weekend shacks and clearly fishing is the big thing around here.

I reached the lodge just before 4pm, and they checked me in for two nights despite there still being some demand for rooms from the bushfire fighters tackling the blaze nearby (see yesterday's blog post).  They also handed over my self-mailed food parcel (they are the Post Office as well), so I'm set for the next few days after I leave here. I'm looking forward to a day off tomorrow.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

191026 - Bring back the heat!

Day: 09
Date:  Saturday, 26 October 2019
Start:  Victoria Valley
Finish:  Bronte Park
Daily Kilometres:  33.3
Total TT Kilometres:  238.3
Weather:  Cold and mostly overcast with occasional rain and snow/sleet showers.
Accommodation:  Cabin
  Breakfast:  Snickers and Mars bars
  Lunch:  Trail Mix
  Dinner:  Ravioli and apple pie.
Aches:  Feet still sore  🙁
Highlight:  Getting to the cabin, escaping the miserable weather, and watching the rain and wind through the window of my heated cabin as I write this blog.
Lowlight:  Not long after I decided it had warmed up in the early afternoon, I stopped and removed my thermal top (keeping on my heavy-duty rain jacket) and beanie.  Within about 15 minutes, the temperature dropped and it began raining, then hailing, then snowing. Soon I was very cold (just wearing shorts as usual), but with nowhere to shelter, didn't want to stop and get stuff wet as I retrieved warmer gear and rainpants from my pack.  I soldiered on as long as I dared, hoping it would blow over, but in the end stopped and put on the thermal top and beanie again. In changeable weather, it's always a challenge working out what to wear and when to change, though I knew that if worst came to worst, I had all the gear I needed in my pack to get warm and safe.
Pictures: Click here
Map and Position: Click here for Google Map
Today was always going to be a bit of a grind.  The TT was to follow a minor gravel road for about 30km, then a sealed road for another 3km.

I got up at 6am and was walking by 7am on a cold morning.  Knowing the route, I decided to try and maintain a good pace, have limited breaks, and get to the cabin I had booked for the night at a reasonable hour.

None of the roads were busy, but there was some traffic and the road easement was wide, meaning there wasn't that sense of closeness to nature that you get from the logging tracks.  Mostly, I passed through forest, but there were also some cattle grazing properties, several large reservoirs that were clearly popular for fishing, and some small groups of weekend shacks.  I'm now in the Central Highlands of Tasmania, and there was a more alpine feel to the vegetation. There was also lots of smelly roadkill, mostly wallabies and wombats, to hold my breath as I passed.

There wasn't much else to report on for the day, apart from the weather (see above), and it was mostly a case of just getting from A to B as quickly as possible.  I reached the cabins at 3pm in light drizzle and was greeted by name by the proprietor (apparently, I'm the only booking for tonight) who also kindly drove me to the local store (barely qualified for the name), 800m away, later on so that I could feed myself tonight and tomorrow.

During the day, I decided that rather than wait until next Friday for my next day off, I would try and stay an extra night at Miena, which I reach tomorrow night.  A phone call has tentatively set that up, though it may depend on the nearby bushfire (see yesterday's blog) being extinguished/tempered by the weather, so that the firefighters staying there go home tomorrow.

Friday, October 25, 2019

191025 - Mixed bag

Day: 08
Date: Friday, 25 October 2019
Start:  Ouse
Finish:  Victoria Valley
Daily Kilometres:  24.2
Total TT Kilometres:  205.0
Weather:  A bit of everything with a strong dose of wind
Accommodation:  Tent
  Breakfast:  Bacon, eggs & tomato, and a milkshake
  Lunch:  Salad sandwich
  Dinner:  Soup and rehydrated meal
Aches:  All good, apart from tired/sore feet towards the end of the day. 
Highlight:  The afternoon walk on a forest trail, when the worst of the wind had passed, through the Lanes Tier Conservation Area, with old growth eucalypt forest and a bracken understorey, was very pleasant.
Lowlight:  The worst of the windstorm, which hit while I was crossing open grazing land on a gravel backroad, was very unpleasant, with wind-whipped dust making it very hard for a contact lens wearer.
Pictures: Click here
Map and Position: Click here for Google Map
I slept in until 7am, then packed up and walked into town at 8am and bought myself a cooked breakfast at the roadhouse.  By the time I finished that, and bought some drink and snacks at the store, it was nearly time for the Post Office to open.  It duly did and I received my mailed food pack to see me through to my next resupply in a few days. I was on the road out of town by 9:20am in pleasantly warm conditions but with ominous clouds building in the northwest.

The day's hiking was really divided into two parts, the first half was to be through hilly open grazing land as I climbed up to Lanes Tier, and the second half was to be through forest including the Lanes Tier Conservation Area.  It also turned out to be a day of two halves weather-wise with the morning quickly deteriorating into gale-force winds, with occasional wind-driven rain and dust, making it quite unpleasant in the open. Despite that, there was virtually no traffic and only one farmhouse in about 10km, so I had the place to myself.

About the same time that I left the farm for the forest, the wind seemed to drop a little, but maybe I was just more protected, and there were periods of sunshine.  It warmed up enough to resume hiking in a T-shirt and there was no more rain, though the wind continued to howl in the treetops. Partway through the forest, I came on some signage warning that the road I was on was closed for logging, but I heard no machinery and ultimately saw no-one as I pressed on through.

At a break I checked messages on my phone and found one from a member of the Tasmanian Trail organisation warning me that the trail near Miena, where I will be in a couple of days, has been closed because of a bushfire.  I was aware of the fire through radio bulletins and knew that although it was a couple of days old, it had flared up in the strong winds. Given there is rain in the forecast, I suspect the trail will be open by the time I get there, but there is a roadwalk alternative if not.

After the joys of the Lanes Tier CA, the trail rejoined a more major (though still minor) gravel road and I walked through the hamlet of Victoria Valley, which seemed to comprise just one house, and found the TT campsite a little further on, arriving just before 4pm.  There's a toilet, water tank and picnic table, but no shelter and it's on the crest of a ridge meaning it is exposed to the strong and cold winds as I write this. I think I will be in the tent early tonight.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

191024 - Bogged then washed

Day: 07
Date: Thursday, 24 October 2019
Start:  Jones River
Finish:  Ouse
Daily Kilometres:  26.4
Total TT Kilometres:  180.8
Weather:  Mostly sunny and very warm
Accommodation:  Tent
  Breakfast:  Picnic and Mars bars
  Lunch:  Trail Mix
  Dinner:  Hamburger with the lot, chips and a milkshake. 
Aches:  Feeling good apart from tired/sore feet near the end of the day.
Highlight:  The ford of the Broad River, which while quite challenging (flowing strongly and groin deep), came at exactly the right time to wash my shoes and socks which were caked in greasy grey mud after I got caught in a bog while trying to get around a big puddle a couple of kilometres earlier.  After ten minutes slowly and carefully negotiating the rocky river, shoes and socks were clean (relatively).
Lowlight:  It's a public holiday in southern Tasmania (Royal Hobart Show Day) that I hadn't counted on in my planning.  I hoped to pick up a self-mailed food parcel at the Post Office in Ouse, but it was closed, and I'll have to delay leaving Ouse tomorrow until after the PO opens at 9am.  I had also hoped to get an evening meal at the town pub (and, forlornly, accommodation) but was told no accommodation and no meals because of the public holiday. Not a big deal, as the camp area in town is fine and I got an early dinner at the town roadhouse.
Pictures: Click here
Map and Position: Click here for Google Map
I woke to a beautiful mild morning and took my time packing up to give the tent flysheet some time to (partially) dry.  I was hiking on the gravel backroad following the Jones River westwards by 7:45am. I had about 4km to reach a more major road, and for most of that distance, a ewe and two lambs, who must have escaped from a paddock somewhere, trotted fearfully along the road in front of me.  They tried a few gates without success, but would not let me sneak past and end their trek. The last I saw of them, they were trotting off into the distance along the sealed road to Hobart.

Apart from feeling some guilt about the plight of the fleeing sheep, I enjoyed a beautiful morning walk with wisps of mist in front of some of the hills with the rest of the peaceful valley bathed in sunshine.  It was already T-shirt weather, despite a cool night.

After the short sealed road section, came a long stretch of old logging tracks through mostly regrowth pine forest.  It was a bit scrappy and boggy in parts, with the route chosen to avoid a forestry road, perhaps unnecessarily. In one of the bogs, I badly misjudged the depth of the mud and before I knew it was sinking to calf level and in fear of having my shoes sucked off.  I finally extracted myself and was lucky that the Broad River crossing came soon after (see above).

From there, the trail returned to civilisation, crossing the Derwent River just below Lake Repulse and the Repulse Power Station.  There followed a long hot walk along a baked clay road to Ouse. The scenery was pleasant and the road pretty much deserted, but it was hard work and I was sweating buckets.

Happily, I reached the tiny village of Ouse, my goal for the day, at 3:30pm and quickly bought an ice-cream and cold Diet Coke at the town store, which I consumed in the shaded town bus shelter.  Later, I struck out for both accommodation and a meal at the town pub, so had an early dinner at the town roadhouse and then trekked the 0.5km to the former town sports field, now used as a campsite for the TT and for grazing sheep.  The camping facilities are good, and I'm happy.  

There's a severe weather warning for tomorrow, with gale force winds preceding a cold front bringing rain and snow down to 800m.  No doubt I'll soon be dreaming of T-shirt hiking again.