2007 Budawangs - Hidden Valley

summary: For a change we decided to head into The Budawangs from the North and try and find the elusive Hidden Valley
date: 25-26 February 2007
distance: 33kms
views: 1670


After inviting a large number of people on this weekend’s trip to The Budawangs, once again it was down to just me and Eddy. Not that people weren’t interested in walking with us, but of course they simply have their priorities wrong!

Prior to leaving we check all the forecasts and warnings for the area we are travelling to. Once again the weekend forecast was for a few showers, but this usually means nothing in the areas we walk, read on to find out what a few showers means in a rain forest!

Day 0 – Friday

We managed to leave the office by 4:15pm which was an excellent effort for a busy Friday afternoon, with Justin urging us on to complete the first of our test cases a day early! We headed south through Nowra, and then west along Turpentine road towards Braidwood. There wasn’t much traffic on the road so we made pretty good time, and arrived at our Sassafras turn off about 6:00pm. From here the park entry was about 6km of fire trail.

We reached the entry to the park about 6:30pm, and one of the many park rangers we spoke to about the distance to the camp site was actually correct! The camp site was 600m passed the locked gate, so we made the simple decision to camp on the road before the gate tonight, and feast on spicy chilli and imported beer.

The night was very mild, although we had a very good fire. The beer was cold and strong, and I think we were both a little tipsy before we started eating the first serious chilli that I had made this season.

As usual out here, the sky was amazing, with more stars than you can poke a stick at. Eddy brought along a star map which we decided to look at tomorrow night, since our beer goggles were starting to affect the speed at which the stars were moving around the Earth!

We had a big day ahead of us tomorrow, but we still managed to stay up until the clock passed midnight. Little did we know, the next night would be just a little earlier…

Day 1 – Saturday

The day had already started when we both got up. It was a cool morning, but with clear skies, we had no doubt that forgetting to bring the sunscreen would be our first mistake!

We packed up and left camp by 9:00am and walked the 600m to the National Parks campsite. It is a shame it is away from the park entrance as the campsite is a very good one with plenty of space, some tables, shelter and water supply.

The track from here was still regular fire trail so there was no problem with our progress. Although it was stopped for a moment as a group of mountain bikers came riding through.

The day was already turning out to be very warm, and as we were walking through low scrub, there was very little relief. We found a spot amongst a few trees to take a short break and morning tea at 10:30am.

Shortly after morning tea, we passed through Newhaven Gap. We are still not sure exactly when we passed through as there isn’t much of a gap to gauge its location very well! We also managed to pass the old Sawmill without finding it too! But eventually we arrived at the second National Parks gate that indicated the entry into the older part of the park. At this stage, the track had become a little steeper so we were finding the going a little tougher.

From here, the trees started growing a little taller, and we could tell we were getting closer to a rain forest. We crossed a beautiful creek and small waterfall just before passing Camp Rock.

We then missed Red Johnny’s cave and decided we would pay it a visit on the way back tomorrow. We had really entered forest at this stage and so we decided to break for lunch. While eating, we heard the first signs of a storm brewing as the thunder started rolling around the valley.

After lunch we found the start of the detour to Quiltys Mountain. So we stowed our packs in the hollowed out trunk of a massive tree, to protect them from any potential down pour that continued to threaten us. The track to Quiltys Mountain was easy to follow, however the track up the mountain to its summit was much more difficult. But Eddy’s keen sense of what was a rock cairn and what was just a pile of old rocks kept us on the right track! And just as I was about to kick over what I thought was yet another redundant pile of rocks, we realised we had stumbled upon the old Aboriginal rock monument!

At this time, the thunder was continuing, and we could see lightning all down the valley from our vantage point in the clouds…..

We decided at this point that this would be a great spot to catch an early morning sunrise as it came up across the valley. Obviously not something we were going to do on this trip, but quite possibly in the future. From the top of Quiltys you can see right down the valley to Pigeon House Mountain.

Returning to our packs on the main trail was achieved without problem. Which is quite a feat in this park as we get lost pretty much every trip we take into The Budawangs? After a short break, we set off towards our camp site for the night, it was now 3:00pm and our aim was to find camp by 4:00pm.

The track from here took us through some amazing rain forest. The track follows the old loggers trail which has not been used for a long time. There were plenty of fallen trees blocking the track, and it made for very slow progress. At one stage we crossed a large creek with a massive tree across it, perhaps for braver hikers than us to walk over! We took the easy way out, and slid the few metres to the bottom of the rock face and climbed up the other side.

Shortly after this, the rain started! And being in the rain forest, when it rains, it really rains!! It didn’t take long for us to get covered up in Gore-tex® and walking through the wet forest. And of course once the rain started, out came the leeches! They didn’t seem to be too bad at this point, but they proved to be intrepid little hitch hikers!

We were looking for the head of the trail to Hidden Valley as this would be our camp for the night. We ended up walking right past the sign carved into the trunk of a large tree fern and pushed on to wetter, darker, and more leech infested areas of the forest! So we switched on the GPS and used it to help us locate the trail head. The rain had eased a little at this stage and we decided to erect camp, and then extract the blood sucking hitch hikers!

We then fired up the new stove, and it worked very well in the bad conditions, and we had a nice hot dinner paired with schnapps and tawny port ☺

Of course once we started eating, the rain got heavier again, so tonight we decided it would be a good idea to retire early to the comfort and warmth of our dry, leech proof tents.

Day 2 – Sunday

The day was already underway when we exited the warm dry tents. The rain had continued all night, along with the leeches crawling across the outside of the tent!

I started the day with a hot cup of coffee, and a short stroll around the camp. Eddy then woke and rose from his tent with some complaints about the end of his sleeping bag getting wet. While we pulled the tents down, we investigated the alleged design flaw, and came to the conclusion that the problem was more user related than design.

We got going about 9:00am. We had dismissed the plan of investigating Hidden Valley due to the weather conditions. There was still a few drops of rain about, and the area would be too wet to do much climbing and investigating, so we decided to leave that until the next trip.

Walking back along the logging trail, the creeks had swollen considerably over night. We still had no trouble crossing them, but they presented us with some amazing photo opportunities. We even spotted a large Yabbie in the creek as we crossed over.

We had a few more drops of rain during the morning, but mostly the weather was improving, and it looked like the sun would be out again for our trek along the low scrub section. But before that, we hit the main trail at 11:30 and had a short break to remove the last of the hitch hikers, a little food, and a little rest. After this, we had no trouble locating Red Johnny’s Cave. It looked like a good spot to camp in future with a nice rock overhang for protection.

We pushed on through the National Park gate and on towards New Haven Gap before stopping for lunch at 2:00pm. With only 3.7km between us and the car, we were showing signs of severe exhaustion! Although the track itself had not been too difficult, the conditions had made it very tough going, and our bodies were now telling us just how difficult the last two days had been!

The last surprise we received on the walk back to the car was a black snake sunning itself in the middle of the track. It quickly got out of our way though as it could sense that we didn’t have the energy to avoid its sleeping place! We arrived at the car at 4:30pm, tired, but satisfied with another successful and eventful trip into The Budawangs.

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