Thursday, March 29, 2018

Happys Hut to Four Mile Hut, AAWT, Kosciuszko National Park - November 2017

The rustic Four Mile Hut, I had one of my best nights on the AAWT here tonight.
Some days on the track are good for the great scenery, sometimes for nice company, at other times the weather makes everything feel joyous and sometimes it’s pushing my limits that makes for a great day. Today turned out to be a great day for none of those reasons specifically, yeah the scenery was nice enough but it was hardly stunning. The only conversation that I had was with myself, so it wasn’t great company that made today a good one either. The weather for a fair chunk of the day was bordering on dangerous, so that wasn’t what made the day a memorable one, and while the day was hard enough it didn’t really push my limits so that wasn’t it either. No it was something really simple that made today one to remember, the highlight of today was spending the afternoon and evening in the beautiful, rustic Four Mile Hut. Sheltering in this old hut, with the fire going as storms lashed at the walls was one of my favourite memories of my whole AAWT journey.
Leaving Happys Hut this morning things conditions were looking a little ominous. The AAWT runs along the ridge  line in the distance, but the direct route up is a bit of a scrub bash.
With last nights hut mates being on a bit of a race to Melbourne there was no sleeping in for them this morning, they were up at 4am shuffling around, cooking breakfast and stoking the fire. I was a little bit more relaxed and stayed in my sleeping bag trying to steal a little more sleep, eventually everything went quiet and my new mates had disappeared into the early morning half light, somewhat ominously for them I reckon around ten minutes after the last rider left it bucketed down for the next hour, I certainly made the right call staying in the sleeping bag this morning I think. With a bit of daylight starting to filter through the cracks in the wall and the rain not drumming on the roof anymore I decided that all good things must end and emerged from my down filled cocoon. With only myself for company I enjoyed pottering around the hut, taking my time over breakfast while I cleaned up a bit (that was another thing with the mountain bike guys, I don’t think that they realised the etiquette when it comes to using a hut, I didn’t see much cleaning of the huts or fire wood gathering going on).
Crossing back over Happy Jacks Plain I got my last look at the distant Mt Jagungal.
Way to soon really I decided that I’d better pull on my smelly walking clothes and make a mile this morning. Leaving Happys Hut this morning I had a choice again, to rejoin the AAWT I could climb up to the ridge to the north of me or retrace my way back across Happy Jacks Plain to rejoin the AAWT where I’d left it yesterday. Climbing off track up to the ridge top would save me around 5 kilometres and should be a lot quicker - in theory. The problem was that the bushfire regrowth was meant to be pretty thick and there were plenty of entries in the log book backing that up. I also had Anne’s words ringing in my ears, when we’d crossed paths back at the border she’d warned me about this little off piste short cut. With plenty of rain around which would of guaranteed me a miserable time pushing up hill through soaking wet scrub, I decided to retrace yesterdays route in along the old fire track, it might have been longer but I wasn’t really in much of a hurry today anyway and at least I wouldn’t be scrub bashing.
Heading back towards Tabletop Trail this morning along the grassy Happys Hut Trail.
By the time I’d reached Tabletop Mountain Trail and rejoined the AAWT the rain had arrived, climbing up onto the ridge top I managed to get a photo down to Lake Eucumbene and a bit of a glimpse across to Tabletop Mountain before the weather got serious and I stashed the DSLR away in its dry bag. Now when I say that the weather got serious I mean it, trudging along the rain was now getting pretty heavy but that wasn’t the issue really. The big problem was the amount of lightning and thunder around, with the AAWT basically tracking along a ridge line along here it wasn’t the ideal place to be with lightning all around. With the storm reaching what I hoped was a bit of a crescendo I took cover for awhile crawling into my big plastic bag for a bit of protection. After around 40 minutes, with lightning and thunder still crashing uncomfortably close to me I decided that I may as well head off as really I was just as much chance as getting struck by lightning while on the move as I was sitting here.
Re joining the AAWT on Tabletop Trail, the weather was closing in on me now.
I managed to get one photo down to Lake Eucumbene before putting the DSLR away in it's dry bag for awhile.
Tabletop Trail
I was slowly arcing my way around to eventually cross the flanks of Tabletop Mountain.
Things got a little grim this morning.
Trudging on the track was now two rivulets of flowing water, I was walking up steam or down stream depending on the slope. I’ve done a lot of walking in dodgy weather over the years, from blizzards in the highest of our mountains to baking hot days in the desert in summer, but never have I been as concerned with my own safety as I was this morning with the lightning all around me. With the approaching Tabletop Mountain looming ahead out of the cloud the storm raged on, there would be no climbing this peak today, something that was becoming fairly common on this walk it seems.
With lightning flashing around me I was more than a little concerned...
Even with the dodgy weather around the scenery was still pretty good, well in a water logged, soft focus kind of a way.
It's not the easiest walking when the tracks like this, walk in the ruts and even gortex lined boots get soaked pretty quickly, walking on the uneven grass along the middle is hard work on the ankles though.
Tabletop Mountain, I think I'll give the climb a miss today.
Finally as I rounded Tabletop Mountain and dropped into a bit of a grassy saddle the storm started to break a bit, it’s funny but when I was out in this kind of weather I got hyper sensitive to any change in the conditions. By the time I’d shuffled another kilometre to meet Four Mile Hut Trail there were patches of blue sky emerging, my mood once again lifting with the cloud. Four Mile Hut Trail doesn’t actually head to Four Mile Hut, although there is a refuge a couple of kilometres down there in the shape of Broken Dam Hut, with the weather now on the improve though I gave this detour a miss, it would of been handy a couple of hours ago though.
By early afternoon the rain was starting to break a little.

As I dropped down to pass the old gold mining diggings at Nine Mile Creek the rain stopped altogether. There is a large open cut scar on the side of the hill below the AAWT and near the creek their is a little evidence of the old mining history, although with the goldfield dating back to the 1860’s most of the old gold mining history has now been reclaimed by nature. Tabletop Trail now continued it’s gently undulating journey northwards, I was now starting to get a few glimpses to the grassy slopes of the Mt Selwyn Ski Resort in the distance. Now I’m not normally happy to see a ski resort but I figured that with the resort now within sight I’d probably get a mobile signal. So after reaching the turnoff down to Four Mile Hut I dropped my pack for awhile and had a bit of a break, pulling out my phone I did indeed have a signal and while I was happy enough to get a message through to Sam that I was still going OK, I was a little more perturbed to see that it looked like a pretty serious weather event was heading my way in a few days. It seemed that a lot of rain was going to be falling on me and a little rough calculations had me thinking that I wouldn’t be able to avoid it, the best I could hope for would be to go fairly hard and try and get across the rivers in the Australian Capital Territory before the rain came and cut me off, my days of ambling along with no real time constraints were now over by the look of it.
Dropping down to cross Nine Mile Creek, there is some good camping here.
Nine Mile Creek, if you poke around a bit you can find some old gold mining relics around here.
When the 2003 fires came through here the did a lot of damage, the country is still struggling to recover.
At least I didn't have to go far searching out water on this AAWT walk.
Mt Selwyn Ski Resort is not that far from the AAWT along here.
Pulling on my pack again I dropped down the old grassy track towards Four Mile Creek. When Mr Chapman researched his guide book this intersection wasn’t signposted but now days it’s not only sign posted but there is also a fairly obvious side track down to Four Mile Hut, a bit over a kilometre off the official AAWT route. The pad dropped to cross one of the arms of Four Mile Creek before climbing over a low spur and dropping down towards another arm of Four Mile Creek, the rustic Four Mile Hut coming into view as I emerged from the scrub. This is the site of the old Four Mile Gold Diggings which date back to the 1860’s. Dropping down to the creek the old water races and mullock heaps are still fairly obvious even today.
There is a clear well marked track over to Four Mile Hut now days.
Four Mile Diggings
Four Mile Hut
Four Mile Hut is tiny but was a nice spot for me to spend the rest of the day.
Conditions outside were somewhat variable!
Four Mile Hut is also a gold mining relic, this beautiful old hut was built by a gold fossicker named Bob Hughes. For the rest of the day I got to experience a bit of what Mr Hughes would of experienced back in the 1930’s when he lived out here, his charming old hut providing warmth and shelter as a few storms raged through. Sitting on the bed (this hut really only sleeps one comfortably) watching the rain come down outside, getting up every now and again to stoke the fire and make something to eat, my candles flickered a soft yellow light on everything, life was pretty sweet!

The valley of Four Mile Creek.
Four Mile Hut is lined by old, flattened out tins.

The Dirt.
I walked 20 kilometres today and climbed around 470 metres on what was another hard day on the AAWT. After 34 walking days so far on the AAWT I’ve walked 606 kilometres and climbed 25,395 metres. Like a lot of the NSW sections on the AAWT there were no real problems with navigation, finding water or camping spots today, probably the best spots for camping and water are either Nine Mile Creek or dropping down to Four Mile Creek like I did. I got a Telstra mobile signal at the intersection of Tabletop Trail and the pad down to Four Mile Hut, I also got a signal from the top of the spur between the two arms of Four Mile Creek above the hut. I used John Daly’s and Chapman’s notes for this section along with Rooftop’s Kosciuszko National Park Forest Activities Map Jindabyne -Khancoban map.

Relevant Posts.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Bogong Creek to Happys Hut, AAWT, Kosciuszko National Park - November 2017

Looking back towards Mt Jagungal first thing this morning.
After having showers scudding through for most of the night I was pretty happy to climb out of the tent this morning to find clear sky above my head. Being in a decent sized valley I was yet to actually feel the sun on my skin though, so breakfast was a bit of a chilly affair this morning. While it might of been a little cold the conditions weren’t hurting my photos, the view back to Mt Jagungal being particularly good. After eating breakfast while I fruitlessly tried to get a bit of boot drying happening I decided to pack up the wet tent and slip on my wet boots and set off. I was already thinking of where I’d get to tonight, with the mountain bikers coming in from Adaminaby along Tolbar Road I’d decided to go for the shelter of Happys Hut tonight, the theory being that with Happys Hut was a few kilometres in the wrong direction off the mountain bikers route I might get the hut to myself and get a bit of drying action happening, I suppose time will tell.
I was kinda glad that I pushed on to Bogong Creek last night and didn't stop at O'Keefes.
Bogong Creek

Leaving the grassy surrounds of Bogong Creek, Grey Mare Trail climbs a short but relatively steep little pinch up to the site of the old Farm Ridge Hut. Climbing up here this morning I met the first of what once again today, would be a fairly constant trickle of mountain bikers heading south. The old homestead site is now all but reclaimed by nature, with very little remaining of the old buildings and just a bit of fencing left around. The old Farm Ridge Trail leaves Grey Mare Trail here as well, this faint track that heads across Farm Ridge towards Round Mountain and is a good emergency exit if needed. With it’s lush green grass I’d actually been considering climbing up here to camp last night but with the rain around and the fact that I had good access to water down on Bogong Creek, not to mention the fact that I was pretty well shagged out meant that Bogong Creek was my best option last night.
The old Farm Ridge Hut Site, I was thinking of heading up here to camp last night.
The soft grassy Grey Mare Trail was pretty good walking for the most part.
By the time I left Farm Ridge my good fortune with the weather was already starting to change with dark clouds on the horizon. I was now heading along Grey Mare Trail towards Mackays Hut, the walking along this section of Grey Mare Trail was pretty easy really, the grassy trail rising and falling a little bit but generally being pretty good. The AAWT is now crossing what is more or less a high tableland, a geographic feature that would now basically last until I entered the ACT in a few days. This country is comprised of a few higher peaks and ridges with long sections of alpine grassland in between, these open grassy plains make for beautiful walking in my opinion. Passing the turn off to Mackays Hut I kept going, I’d been lucky so far with the showers but I was pretty keen to get as close as possible to Happys Hut before the inevitable drenching arrived today.
Doubtful Creek, it was boots off for this one.
The weather was already starting to look a little threatening. 
Mackays Hut
After winding around over a few low hills Grey Mare Track dropped down to cross a feature that I’d been looking at in my guide book for awhile, the grandly named Crooks Racecourse. Unfortunately the rain that had been threatening me for the last couple of hours finally arrived as I was dropping down to the racecourse so I couldn’t take too many photos, well too many photos that were any good anyway as I was able to use my waterproof camera but the results in these types of overcast conditions are always a bit under whelming. After imagining what Crooks Racecourse looked like for the last few days I arrived to find a broad open snow plain with a fence running across it, we are not talking Flemington or Randwick here! According to my map the land to the south of the fence line is actually private land, the AAWT kept to Grey Mare Trail on the north side of the fence still traversing the huge Kosciuszko National Park.
There are a few old fence posts left around Mackays Hut to remind you of it's sheep grazing heritage.
These snow plains make for very nice walking.
After leaving Mackays Hut, Grey Mare Trail climbs a little before dropping down to Crooks Racecourse.
The weather was now of the grey and dreary variety as I climbed a little away from Crooks Racecourse. My spirits were still pretty good though, I didn’t have far to go and I’d reach Tolbar Road and hopefully be free of my mountain bike brothers, after a couple of days in the rain I was looking forward to drying out a bit at Happys Hut later this afternoon. Grey Mare Trail dropped down to cross McKeahnies and Barneys Creek in quick succession now, both of them requiring a little imagination to get across with dry boots. After successfully crossing Barneys Creek I climbed up fairly easily to cross the substantial Jacks Road, Grey Mare Trail now heads of across another wide open snow plain, Happy Jacks Plain.
Dropping down to cross the snow plain, this is Crooks Racecourse.
That's private land on the other side of the old fence line.
Looking down off Grey Mare Trail towards Happy Jacks Plain.
Grey Mare Trail
The grassy valley of Barney Creek.
Crossing Barneys Creek required a bit of exploration to keep my boots relatively dry.
Once crossing Jacks Road, Grey Mare Trail suddenly becomes a lot more faint, it looks like this old track hasn’t had any type of vehicle down it for many years. It didn’t really matter too much today though as the way ahead is pretty obvious, my main concern wasn’t navigation it was trying to get across numerous creeks ands boggy sections with reasonably dry boots, after two days of inclement weather it was battle that I was starting to lose. Now I’ve mentioned that navigation wasn’t really a problem on this wide open snow plain, well it wasn’t just the open country that made things easy, there is also a huge electricity line crossing the plain and conveniently for me the AAWT follows it faithfully up to meet Tolbar Road at the top of a ridge.
Striking out across Happy Jacks Plain along the now very grassy Grey Mare Trail, I soon picked up the power lines striding across the plain and followed them all the way up to Tolbar Road so navigation wasn't an issue.
You reckon that conditions don't get a little bleak out here sometimes hey. I'm not sure what this structure was but it's been bent like a pretzel by the wind. The local Wedgetail Eagles are now using it to nest.
Stopping for a bit of a break on Tolbar Road I pulled out my map in-between the showers, the good news was that I now only had around four kilometres to go before I’d arrive at Happys Hut, the bad news is the view from the ridge told me that the showers wouldn’t be stopping any time soon. I’m thinking Tolbar Road was built for the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme as this is a very substantial gravel road. What ever it’s reason for being, Tolbar Road made for a pretty easy stroll for a kilometre, after the somewhat swampy and damp Happy Jacks Plain it was good not to be shuffling through wet grass for awhile. Meeting Tabletop Mountain Trail I left Tolbar Road (and hopefully the mountain bikes) and headed off along the minor track, looking for another side track that I needed to find to get me to Happys Hut, not 100% sure whether this side track would be sign posted or discernible.
The overhead conditions weren't optimal but at least Happys Hut Trail was sign posted and clear.
Once again I had good luck as I arrived at the turn off for Happys Hut Trail to not only find it sign posted but also obvious and clear. Once I was heading down Happys Hut Trail I was now off the official AAWT until I’d re-join it tomorrow morning. Happys Hut Trail drops down through the Snow Gums to once again emerge onto the wide open expanses of Happy Jacks Plain, unlike the AAWT further south Happys Hut Track winds around the dampest sections so I didn’t have to worry about keeping my boots dry. Not that it mattered much now as after meandering my way across Happy Jacks Plain for a couple of kilometres I arrived at the deserted Happys Hut, happy days indeed!
Dropping down Happys Hut Trail the rain stopped for a bit.
It was mid afternoon when I pulled up this afternoon so I had plenty of time to kick back, dry some damp gear out a bit and check things out. With a bit of a breeze blowing the verandah provided the perfect spot to dry out the tent and my wet weather gear this afternoon, as well as being a pleasant spot to sit, eat dinner and do a bit of reading. By 6pm and with a bit of a chill descending I headed inside and got the fire started to dry off my socks and boots a bit, at least I’d be starting the day tomorrow with dry feet. After reading the hut log book I was getting reading to crawl into the sleeping bag early for a relaxing night of reading when I heard the dreaded sound of cleats on the verandah….. Yep, even though I was kilometres off their course these guys really needed the shelter, the first on arrived at 7pm and by 8pm I had 5 new mates bunking in with me! There would be no early night now as each new arrival banged around cooking dinner and hanging their wet riding clothes over the fire, thankfully I only had boots and socks to dry (and they weren’t exactly soaking wet) as by the time 5 wet and bedraggled mountain bikers had hung their wet riding gear over the fire there wasn’t a lot of room left over. Now once again don’t get me wrong, these guys were all polite, nice blokes and they had as much right to be here as me (actually I’m not sure whether the race through the national park is strictly legal, but who am I to worry about technicalities, I’ve been known to creatively interpret certain rules and regulation myself). What was a concern was how under prepared they were for this environment, we were lucky in the fact that while the weather was wet it wasn’t very cold. I watched as one of the riders pulled out a disposable, emergency bivy bag (you know, the ones that look like a large garbage bag), a three quarter mat and then climbed in, wearing his knicks - no sleeping bag and no long pants, a little too hardcore even for me! Needless to say he slept close to the fire that night!
My first look at Happys Hut on the far side of the plain.
Looking back towards the brooding Mt Jugungal, that's a fair days walking for an old bloke I reckon:)

The Dirt.
I walked 24 kilometres and climbed 670 metres on another hard day on the AAWT. Over the 33 days of walking the AAWT so far I’ve walked 586 kilometres and climbed 24,925 metres. Navigation, water and camping are all pretty straightforward today with no real problems. I got a Telstra signal today from the intersection of Jacks Road and Grey Mare Trail and again from Happys Hut. Mr Chapman’s notes suggest that Happys Hut can be a bit difficult to find but coming in down Happys Hut Trail the route was obvious. This old hut has a lot of that somewhat indefinable quality, character, and it makes a very nice little detour off the AAWT for the night. I used John Daly’s and Chapman’s notes for this section along with Rooftop’s Kosciuszko National Park Forest Activities Map Jindabyne -Khancoban map.

Relevant Posts.
AAWT, Day 1, October 2017.
AAWT, Previous day, November 2017.

Happys Hut, the verandah was not only handy for drying a bit of gear but also made a nice spot to sit and enjoy dinner.