I have been looking forward to a walk in the Gardens of Stone National Park for ages but all the walks I have read about sound very hard. This is probably because there has not been much development of sign posted tracks or fancy camping areas. The October long weekend was a good opportunity to go for a reasonable walk there to stretch my legs after a hard walk on Thursday.
The meeting time was 8am meaning I would have to leave home about 5.30am! I made it just in time and there were some 4wd vehicles needed to reach the beginning of the walk. My ute isn’t 4wd but is high clearance so they thought it would be fine. There has been a lot of rain lately and the dirt road was not in very good condition. There was a diversion around the first BIG waterhole and when I tried to get around the muddy patch, I hit the wet grass and then the mud underneath it and then stopped. Everytime I tried to go forwards or backwards I slipped further and further down the slope towards the swampy area. Of course everyone had advice to give but the only way out was to go forward. Luckily some more blokes turned up and with the help of some sticks and logs in front of the wheels and plenty of pushing and toing and froing, I managed to get out and go forward. I quickly found a place to park, left my car and found a seat in another car. The waterholes on the road got bigger and bigger, there was no way I would have got through. I might buy a Subaru next time, they went through all the water easy as anything.
Finally we arrived at the start of the walk and the wind was howling and it was so cold. Luckily I had brought an extra set of thermals as well as beanie, gloves, coat and a thermos. The beginning of the track was marked by some sticks on the edge of the road, very cute. We were walking along a ridge towards McLeans Pass and hopefully to Mt Jamison with not a lot of track to follow and plenty of scrub to bash. McLeans Pass is a large gully with lots of moss, tree ferns and a sandstone vaulted roof looking a lot like a cathedral roof. Apart from the cold wind howling through it was a beautiful spot. To get there we had to scramble down a rock face and the same on the other side. I always have had a fear of large exposed sloping surfaces like that but I seem to be getting better. Having a walking pole helps I am sure.
From here we could start to see the rock formations which make this such a unique place. There are round topped rocks reminiscent of the Bungle Bungles in Western Australia, sandstone which erodes leaving one hard piece on top, sheer rock faces and the beautiful golden sandstone cliffs of the Blue Mountains. The views were spectacular over the Wolgan and Capertee valleys and towards Pantoneys Crown. The thick scrub made progress slow but it was not hard going and I was able to take large steps over all the timber on the ground.
Next there was a slot to negotiate. We could slide down the wet spot or do a bit of a crab crawl down, I didn’t want a wet bum. Another spectacular gully and up the other side trying not to slip of the wet branches and rock. It was decided that we were not going to get as far as was hoped so we found a nice spot for lunch with a view and out of the wind. Then we returned more or less the same way, depending on whether we found the same path or not and eventually the sun came out to warm us up a bit.
The drive back was not quite as eventful as on the way out and I drove through the big waterhole easily and got home not too late but very tired. Thank goodness tomorrow is Sunday.