We synchronised watches and were up before dawn, light packs and hiking boots, sandwiches and waterbottles. We drove into the mountains to the township of Faulconbridge, veering right off the highway past Norman Lindsay’s scandalous art gallery down Grose Road, veering off into the bush down a firetrail that ends in a locked gate. We parked, armed hiking poles, and began.
The firetrail offers glimpses of the steep valleys to either side of Faulconbridge Ridge, but only glimpses. Another fire (or a chainsaw) could create some astonishing vistas, but that would offend not only me but many others. Still, a viewing platform at the midway point out over Linden Creek would be spectacular. But instead, scrub and more scrub. And pretty rocks!
We’re having a very wet summer (ie a non-drought/bushfire summer) which means there’s plenty of new green growth springing up, ready to dry off into tinder next year. The track continues, rising and falling but mostly rising for about 4.5 kilometres from the gate to the point where the Grose River walking trackhead appears. Plan A had been to drop off the map here, dropping 650 metres in less than 2km to the river, to camp overnight and return tomorrow. Various pressures I’ll just lump under “stuff” meant Plan B was activated, and we journeyed on to Faulconbridge Point.
I’ve been here eleven times, and never get sick of it. One day they’ll do exactly what I half-suggested they do at the midway point, create a proper viewing platform and kill the beauty with guard rails and warning signs. I’ll stop visiting when that happens. Glad to see the Grose River in high water, boiling over some pretty hairy rapids I’m told even crazy-ass kayakers are told to reconsider. Can’t see the Engineer’s Track, but that said I’ve never been able to find it. A sandwich or two to savour the moment, and some obligatory photography, then we turn back.
I don’t have the requisite botanical knowledge to name all the flora and/or fauna we encountered, but my oft-repeated warning (that everything in Australia wants to bite, scratch or sting you to death) remains law. I had Jack Jumper ants rearing at me every second step, and the arachnidae lurking under the so-pretty strips of paperbark meant keeping my fingers to myself.
The walk back was in bright sunshine, with my son teaching me stuff about mushrooms and me cracking weak dad-jokes (“Why was the mycologist so popular? Because he’s such a fun guy!“) which was a bit hit-and-miss given my son’s blocked ear meant he misheard many of my best jokes (“Why don’t cannibals eat clowns?” became “Why don’t CAMELS eat clowns” and so the hilarious punchline (“Because they taste funny”) didn’t make any sense).
We marched on. We met a fit, young lady dressed neck to toe in a coat of black paint cycling up the ridge. Overtook a fat, old guy not wearing a shirt (ugh)
jiggling jogging at walking pace back down the ridge. A mum and insanely-giggly daughter duo were kept at giggle-dampening distance ahead of us. The random Thursday crowded morning in the bush, just goes to show how popular this track it. I brought my emergency beacon, but it was nice to know that help was at hand if the yowies came for us!
I was glad to see the car. I had forgotten to trim my toenails, and one was biting into the side of another toe almost from the first step. You weak bastard, I muttered to myself, feeling the legs begin to ache. My feet registered every one of the 16,000 steps, which goes to show that I need to get out more. This is an easy track. It shouldn’t hurt at all, but it did. I’m glad we opted for Plan B, because the descent into the river would have been my undoing. I’ll get fitter and go back for that camp I promised you. Just need to get some miles into these legs first.