Trip Report -Goulburn River National Park, August 6-7 2011.

Participants: Bruce (leader), Catherine, Anne, Peggy, ….

After collecting the walkers in Sydney (and myself on the Central Coast), we then headed to Maitland for an overnight stay at Catherine’s parents’home, where we bedded down for the night in the loungeroom. In the process I discovered that I hadn’t packed my sleeping bag in my pack! Fortunately Catherine’s mother came up with an alternative, albeit more heavier than my down bag, but it worked well.
Next morning, after breakfast and inspecting the resident chooks, we then set off along the New England and Golden Highways for an uneventful drive to Merriwa, where a stop was made for coffee and a few “extras”for the walk, such as chocolate.
Then it was along the Golden Highway for another 8km then into Ringwood Road for the drive to Lee’s Pinch Lookout in Goulburn River NP. We arrived at Lee’s Pinch Lookout parking area and parked the 2 cars. We then set off SW along the road until reaching a small bypass loop (at approx point 215220 on Mt Misery Topo). Then it was a matter of just heading off into the bush.
Goulburn River does have some easy entry points, but most are effectively blocked by private property. So generally entry invariably needs a bush-bash, as in this case.
The walk plan for the two days was straightforward: enter the river gorge via a gully, walk along the river, where the going would be easy, although with a few river crossings, and exit back to Lee’s Pinch by another gully to the north, either the one explored on a SUBW trip by myself and Anthony Dunk in 2001, or another unexplored one a but closer to our entry point.
I had also planned for enough time to allow a return via daylight following the Sandy Hollow Line via the very scenic Bylong Valley and the Upper Hunter Valley (including the northernmost part of Wollemi NP).

The way in involved following a dry watercourse/gully to access the riverbank. At the start Ben took out his brand new GPS and established his first “waypoint”. I requested a latitude/longitude fix – helpful in the thick brush when it is difficult to find landmarks. The route involved passing through scrub of varying thickness although at one point we passed through a mass of Boronia bushes with their profuse purple flowers and pleasant scent.
As we continued along the gradually sloping (and narrowing) gully route, it became progressively more cluttered with fallen logs and branches and thickets of scrub. This made the walk rather tortuous (in more ways than one) as we went up and down and zig-zagged across, around, and under obstacles. It was slow going, but eventually I noted the presence of Riverine vegetation in the gully and knew the river was not far off. I also noted that we appeared to be following animal paths which invariably lead to the river.
The first of Peggy’s photo’s (attached) paint the picture. At that point we came to a 10 metre drop in the gully, and after some brief scouting a bypass was found. At this point also, Ben declared that his GPS was telling him that the river was 3km from the start point, and it showed that we had now travelled 3km but the river was nowhere to be seen. Were we lost? I explained to him that it was 3km in a straight line but we had definitely not been walking in a straight line – hence the discrepancy.

Anyway, after the abovementioned bypass, the passage to the riverside became easier and about 10 minutes later we arrived at the upper bank of the Goulburn River. The upper banks all along the river have the appearance of being mowed but inreality it is the grazing animals – kangaroos and wombats – which are doing the job.
Here we rested after the hard slog to have lunch. At this point, Ben declared that this was a great campsite, so we should just camp here, and walk up and down the river banks without packs, and return the next day via the way we came in. I advised that this was but one of many (and better) great campsites along the Goulburn River. As the Club’s motto is “Press On Regardless”, we did, as per plan. After lunch we started northwards along the River, and soon came to our first river crossing. Off came the shoes and socks, and into the river. Right along the river’s course there are long stretches of deep pools linked by narrow points where the river was running quite rapidly over pebbly shallows. The river was at the deepest I had ever seen, thanks to the heavy rains earlier in the year locally and further up the catchment.
We picked one of these shallow crossings and soon felt the icy cold water on our feet. All crossed without drama, and we continued along the western bank for another couple of KM. All along both sides were towering cliffs up to 100 metres high. Meanwhile I was noting the dark clouds that from time to time were appearing up above, but fortunately thye rain held off in fact till very early sunday morning. A sharp curve in the river necessitated another water crossing and then for a km along a sandy bank to a third crossing, all negotiated successfully without drama. Meanwhile, Ben had announced that beside the sandy bank was a great campsite, so let’s stop. The sound of distant thunder, however, told me otherwise. I think that a li-loing trip down the Goulburn River is feasible next summer if the river stays at its present level. But a tent-loing trip? I don’t think so! Best to avoid bank-side campsites on inland rivers – you never know! Anyway the magnificent river scenery beckoned us on.

After another km or so a good campsite came into view, complete with a medium sized cave into which to retreat in case of rain (which was looking likely now) and being on the western bank, sheltered from the northWest wind which was starting to pick up. Like most camp sites on this River it was on a wide swathe of lawn-like grass, with access to plenty of dead non-standing wood for the fire.
By coincidence it was also directly opposite the exit explored by Anthony Dunk in 2001.
A small campfire was lit to cook on, and tents raised in the waning light of the late afternoon, with the sunlight gleaming brightly on the tall sandstone cliffs opposite.
As darkness set in we settled down to our various dinners. I prepared a mix of istant mashed potato (flavoured with some fire ashes which fell in) and Tom Piper Braised Steak. I had also brought along a small (375ml) bottle of 1985 Jacobs Creek Claret. When I announced that the cork had partly broken up and had fallen into the wine, there were no takers, I was determined it was to come out empty, so I had it to myself – and very nice it was.
About 11pm we settled into our tents, and it must have been some time after midnight when the sound of heavy raindrops started pattering down on the tents. It continued on and off through the early hours, but by daylight it had let up.

DAY 2:

Morning revealed a valley with low hanging clouds around the cliff faces giving the valley a romantic effect. After breakfast we set off again up river along the grassy river banks, with the clouds clearing as we went. Another three river crossings were negotiated. On the last one, Cathy threw her shoes and socks across the gap, as most of us had done at the crossings, but this time one shoe and sock rolled back off the river bank and into the water. This required a quick dash by Cathy into a deepere section to rescue the shoe, but sadly the sock sped down the river and was lost. Never mind, it isn’t a proper wilderness bushwalk if there isn’t at least one spill!
By late morning we had reached the proposed exit gully. It actually had three potential branches to exit, according to the map, but one looked a bit too good to be true. And an exploratory climb by a couple of our nimble members confirmed this.
So off we went along the main longer gully. This turned out to be slightly easier to negotiate than the entry gully, but even so it was still hard going.
We found an exit from the gully which required a scrample up a short steep section which required some pack haulage. Once at the top the scrub became very thick, and careful navigation was required as we were aiming at a small gap between two cliff lines. Fortunately we found it and the way up through the gap was through fairly open country. Hooray, we thought – no more scrub! But our hopes were dashed when we encountered more and even thicker scrub at the top.

So it was just a matter of “press on regardless” through the scrub, gradually heading south-east with the intention of reaching Ringwood Road. In the scrub the numerous twists and turns meant that we suddenly came to a cliff line, indicating that we had come a few hundred metres too far south. Oh well, these things happen in the scrub! And anyway from the cliff top we had a great view of the surrounding countryside.
It only took a walk of about 300 metres however to find a good pass down the cliff line. Down we went and shortly struck some more very thick scrub, which told me that the road must be imminent (thick scrub seems to like road verges!).
And indeed we burst out of the scrub onto the road, for which we all gave thanks and inspected our scratches.
Then it was an easy 1 km back to the cars at Lees Pinch lookout. After a light lunch we drove down the hill to Coggan’s Creek, and from there we followed the railway more or less all the way back to Sandy Hollow. The road took us through the Upper Hunter, which occasional superb views of the cliffs of Wollemi NP, and wattle in profuse bloom all along the road and the railway.

After a short stop for petrol for Ben (he had thought back at Lee’s Pinch that he was running low). Then it was on to Singleton, where Ben and his passengers decided to stay for a pub dinner, but Cathy headed off as it was still a long drive home for her (she was dropping me off home on the way).

This was a great trip through a remote area and was quite an educational experience for many of our trip members.

My pictures:

Peggy’s photos: