October 29, 2017
With classes complete and a three-week exam period in my future, I was super glad to go out on an adventure today before having to review endless lectures and pages of notes for final exams. Today, my friend Julie, who explored Reef HQ with me, also came on along on this bush walking adventure to Hermit Creek. Today’s hike began like most with a 6:30am pick-up out front Uni Hall. Then, we had a two hour drive out past the Paluma rainforest to a spec of a used-to-be-town called Hidden Valley, which is now a small family-run EcoResort.
As we drove past the old school building and along a dirt road leading beyond Hidden Valley, we passed cows and calves grazing in the already hot morning sun, a dingo dashing behind a kangaroo on the run, and a wild emu wandering around like he owned the place. My brain is still getting used to the fact that because the seasons are opposite in the southern hemisphere, it also means that baby animals are born half a year late, or is it considered early? After the cars were parked and the 14 of us began the day’s journey, it was already 9:30am, which was a late starting time compared to usual, but the morning drive was going to prove itself worth it throughout the course of the day. Today we were hiking Hermit Creek. Last year, the club president and secretary came on an exploratory hike through the area. But today was the first time that the club had hiked this area together. In the pre-hike email, the president had said this would be a shorter and easier hike. But, all of us who read the email knew to expect otherwise. And it was a good thing we did because as we began, the president, who was the hike leader today, informed us that he had been “studying the satellite maps” which was all we needed to hear to know that this wouldn’t be as short or easy as originally stated. But hey, if we all wanted to go on short easy walks, we would head to the public parks for a stroll. This group doesn’t drive two hours to stick to a track. Everyone was geared up and ready to go on an adventure!
After walking along the road for a short ways, we crossed onto Australian National Forest land and then came along the creek. We walked along the side of the creek and did some rock hoping and zig-zaging back and forth as we pleased. Although the walking was pretty easy going, the hot sun was the biggest challenge so far. We all reckon that it was over 30 degrees Celsius (~86 degrees Fahrenheit). Julie appreciated the tip from an experienced bush walker that dipping your hat into the water is a great way to cool off. I was pleased to actually be hiking with a hat as well. I found this great one downtown at a thrift shop. It was already making a huge difference, mostly by shading my eyes since I don’t wear sunglasses. As we hiked up stream, we came across some smaller waterfalls. When we came around the bend and found a slightly larger one with shade at the base where a few of us sat down ready for a break. But, our hike leader encouraged us onwards, promising that around the next bend would be an even better spot for morning tea. Never quite sure if he is pulling our legs, but always reckoning that he may be, we continued on semi-hesitantly but hopeful that he was indeed being truthful.
With relief we found that he was right! The rocks opened up wide and a wonderful waterfall could be seen not too far ahead. It made for a perfect spot for an hour’s break to enjoy morning tea and some swimming. We had made it here surprisingly quickly. It was only 10:30, an hour after we had begun hiking. Julie and I had a great swim. The water is always cold when you first get in, but once you adjust to it, it always feels perfectly refreshing. We swam over to the base of the waterfall and felt the power of the water coming down. The rain that fell a few weeks ago sure was adding to the impressiveness of the falls. After enjoying our rest, we refilled our water bottles right from the creek and climbed up and around the waterfall to a view that was beautiful. We had to walk down a bit of a steep boulder to get this view of the waterfall, but it was worth the risk. The cascading waterfall looked as though it was right at our fingers tips. Next, we climbed to the top of the falls where the landscape leveled out for a bit. We did more rock hopping and creek crossing as we continued to follow our hike leader along the track he had mapped out via satellite. He was leading us towards the place he thought would be a great lunch spot. I personally thought it would be hard to beat the spot where we had morning tea, but I was excited to keep exploring somewhere new for all of us and see what we could find. Around 12:30 we came to a large granite rock wall on one side of the creek and a smooth-ish, downward-sloping flat rock that was declared the lunch spot. It was a great view with the creek flowing below and boulders balancing along the rock wall before us is positions that make you wonder how they could possibly be balancing there.
We spent another hour or so eating lunch. After eating, a few people wandered around and did some rock climbing. But, I am pretty sure that most of us took a nap on the warm rocks in the sun. Here my hat also came in handy to lay over my face while napping. I wish I would have gotten a hat ages ago for bush hikes, but at least I have one now for the last few I will go on. During our naps, we started to hear a bit of thunder roll in the distance. As I peaked out from under my hat I saw dark clouds looming above in one direction and patchy blue sky in the other direction. Once we got back onto our feet and consulted the map for the best way back to the cars, we ended up hiking towards the dark clouds. There were some sprinkles that fell on us, and I was actually surprised that we didn’t get caught in a down pour.
Our hike back to the cars was mostly through the bush. At times we had an animal trail to follow, but when we didn’t it was still very easy walking. We hiked 3.1 km through the bush and then popped out onto the road. The hike leader looked and me and asked left or right. I studied the map as he read me the coordinates of where we were located. I found it on the map and he showed me where we parked the cars. I tried to pick out where the sun was shining behind the clouds to determine which way was North. In the end, I knew I had a 50-50 chance. So I picked right. But, luckily for me, I wasn’t betting my life savings on it because the correct answer was left. So, left we went along the road until we arrived back at the cars around 3:30pm. In total, today’s hike along Hermit Creek was 11 km (~7 miles). We had a total ascent of 309 meters (1,013 feet) and descent of 328 meters (1,076 feet). So, it was a bit shorter and easier than usual, but I didn’t mind. The falls were beautiful and I loved getting to explore a new place that the club had never been to before.
On the drive back to town, we stopped at Frosty Mango as always and enjoyed our well earned ice creams and chatted about the numerous hikes that the club wanted to go on in the coming weeks. I love how as soon as one hike ends, plans for half a dozen more are already in the works. With people as adventurous as the Townsville Bush Walking Club, there is always somewhere known only by satellite image that is waiting to be explored on foot, and they are the people that are always keen to be the first to do it.