Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Six Foot Track

We did the first section of the Six-Foot Track back in May (see May Meander). On Saturday we continued on the next section, hiking to the Cox's River and back again, a total distance of 15 kilometres. Our group this time was composed of members of the National Trust, who were interested in the track's historic character. Blazed in 1884 to allow access from Katoomba to the famous limestone caves at Jenolan, the track fell into disuse after 1904 when a road was pushed into the valley by another route. Although six feet wide when it was constructed (to allow two laden horses to pass each other with ease), it is now no more than a single-file trail.

We began in the Megalong Valley, where the track crosses private property towards the river. It was lovely weather, and the open paddocks allowed us some fine views across the valley

Recently, farmers in the area have begun to plant grapevines in paddocks once occupied by cattle and horses.

The track undulated over dry slopes,

before entering open forests of eucalypts where huge rocks lay among the undergrowth.

Under one boulder we discovered the hanging combs of a wild bees' nest. Fortunately, the residents were elsewhere.

Interesting fungi, not unlike a horizontal version of the bees' nest, decorated some of the tree trunks.

As we approached the Cox's River, we could look down on the watercourse from a high bank. Native she-oaks (Allocasuarina littoralis) grow all along the riverbanks, often in the most unlikely places such as these fissures in the rocks.

The most exciting experience of the day was negotiating Bowtell's Swing Bridge across the river. The bridge sways alarmingly as you approach the midsection, and several of our party decided to get wet fording the river rather than face its perils. One woman confided to me after making the bridge crossing that it was the most terrifying thing she had ever done. I rather enjoyed it myself.

We ate our lunch on level ground at a campsite beside the river, within sound and sight of the water flowing over rocks in the dappled shade cast by the she-oaks.

Michael, who had forded the river on the way in, braved the bridge on the way back.

As always in the terrain here, the route back to our starting point was uphill. By the time we reached our car, we were both feeling the challenge of such a long and strenuous walk. We had set off at 9:30 and it was after 4:00 when we said goodbye to our companions of the day.