TAGGERTY WEEKEND – Friday March 31 – Sunday April 2nd

On the weekend of March 31 to April 2, a group of 24 walkers gathered at the Taggerty Holiday Park for a weekend of walks in the Cathedral Range State Park. The Park had been closed for some months, and we were most fortunate for it to be open in time for our weekend, with a variety of walks available.

Saturday April 1st began with a cloudy sky, but gave way to patches of sunshine periodically in the afternoon. Each of the three grades of walks started from the northern end of the Park, at Neds Gully. The easy and medium walks involved joining several walks together to make for an enjoyable day of walking.

The easy walk began with the Little River Track, which follows the river between Neds Gully and Cooks Mill. The completion of this almost three kilometre trail allowed the group time to undertake Saint Bernards Track to Jawbone Car Park. This walk winds through open eucalypt forest, and is a three kilometre return walk. The two kilometre Friends Nature Trail is an easy loop walk through Manna Gum Forest, which is nearby to the 1940’s and 1950’s saw milling heritage site.

My group of medium walkers undertook the Neds Gully Track, Neds Peak and Little Cathedral Track to make an estimated 8.5km day walk. We took the obligatory photo opportunity of the group at the start of the walk. The intention was to return with the same number of walkers. I wasn’t really concerned if they were different walkers, as long as I had the same number at the end.

Neds Gully Track begins by crossing the Little River footbridge. The track begins gently enough, but as you get closer to Neds Saddle it become steeper. We met up with the walkers undertaking the hard northern loop for morning tea. They had stopped in an area with suitable places to sit whilst watching the most nonchalant lyrebird we have ever seen. This bird didn’t realise it was meant to be elusive and shy, and contently scratched about in the undergrowth. After our morning tea break, we continued our hike.

Neds Peak is a very short, but steep walk, with some obstacles to navigate. The summit provided good views of the Park in all directions. I obliged the group with a lolly snake as reward for coming this far. In the distance we could see other walkers hiking the challenging Ridge Track. We had arrived at this point after ascending about 450m, over almost 3.5km, to reach an altitude of almost 780m. After admiring our surroundings, we descended back to the saddle.

From Neds Saddle we began to walk towards our lunch destination, along Little Cathedral Track. We followed the side of the range, which descended a little before gradually rising. We came to a junction where one trail goes to Cathedral Peak along the more difficult Ridge Track, while the other trail led to our destination, Little Cathedral Peak. This 825m peak made for the perfect lunch spot, as clouds gave way to sunshine, and we admired the views of the Park, it’s unique rock formations and surrounding open land.

After an enjoyable lunch it was time to retrace our steps back to the start. Our return allowed us to pass numerous other walkers who all adopted unique walking protocols. These included no packs, little or no water, inappropriate clothing, and in one case no shirt (calm down ladies). Our medium grade walk concluded at the cars, where my GPS recorded a walk of almost 10km for the day.

Meanwhile, there were nine walkers who completed the Grade 5, hard walk of the Northern Circuit. Starting at Neds Gully, we crossed the suspension bridge, and passed through the Neds Gully camping area, then followed the Little River Trail for a short distance before turning onto the Neds Gully Track. Not too far along the track we came across a Lyrebird scratching about, and with its tail feathers on display providing us with a wonderful photo opportunity.

The track continued upwards towards Neds Saddle, and we stopped for morning tea between Ten Fathom Ridge and Neds Saddle, where we were entertained by another Lyrebird and joined by the walkers completing the medium walk. After morning tea, we continued to Neds Saddle, and then took the Little Cathedral Track to the junction with Ridge Track. Taking the Ridge Track, we continued onto a lookout with views to the west followed by the North Cathedral Trig, and then to Cathedral Peak for lunch. Ridge Track was rocky which made for slower walking, but also provided us with excellent views pretty much all along the escarpment.

We continued along the ridge before descending to The Farmyard, and then followed the Jawbone Creek Track with its many stone steps, tree fern gully and reached the Jawbone carpark. From the carpark we continued on the St Bernards Walking Track to Cooks Mill Camping Area, then the Little River Track, following the Little River back to the suspension bridge at Neds Gully. The challenging hike took most of the day, and was over 13km in length.

Sunday April 2nd was the most perfect walking day with clear skies and sunshine all day. Today all walks began at Cooks Mill, taking in the Messmate Track. For the easy walk option this involved turning back along the 4.4km track at any point the group desired. This track becomes steeper the closer you get to the Sugarloaf Saddle visitor area. Along the way the messmate forest is particularly tranquil, and another illustration of how the vegetation of this Park is so diverse.

My group of medium walkers took morning tea before reaching the visitor area to enjoy our dense surroundings. Once again, we were wondering whether the bird calls we were hearing were that of the mimicking lyrebird.

After morning tea, it wasn’t long before we were at the rather full Sugarloaf Saddle car park. Any idea of doing a short detour to the Canyon Track or Wells Cave Track was quickly dismissed by me after reading the signage, and degree of difficulty in navigating such walks. So, we sensibly continued with Plan A which necessitated walking along Cerberus Road towards the Jawbone carpark.

Walking along a dirt road isn’t always marvellous, and on this occasion, it was to engage a loop walk. It did however offer the opportunity to see both rugged South and North Jawbone Peaks from good vantage points along the way. After walking about an hour, we reached our lunch destination of the Jawbone Carpark, which joins the Jawbone Creek Track and Saint Bernards Track.

We chose to eat lunch a little along Saint Bernards Track, to be amongst mother nature rather than a park full of cars. From here it was less than an hour back to Cooks Mill where the group said farewell to each other.

At the same time, eight walkers started the Southern Circuit, Grade 5 hard walk. We began at Cooks Mill Camping Area, taking the Tweed Spur Road before taking the Messmate Track into the bush. The Messmate Track climbed through a beautiful forest to Sugarloaf Saddle where we had morning tea.

From the saddle we decided to check out the Wells Cave Track. The track leads to a near vertical rock face used for freeclimbing. Being bushwalkers, we decided to return to the saddle and take the Canyon Walking Track which included a steep rock section, not as challenging as the Wells Cave Track, but challenging, nonetheless.

After reaching the steep rock section not all of our group wanted to continue with this route, so our group was split into two, and some returned via the Messmate Track to Cooks Mill Camping Area and completed the Friends Nature Trail.

Those who continued on the Canyon Track scrambled up the rock face, enjoyed lunch with the amazing views before scrambling up yet more rockfaces and continuing on to Sugarloaf Peak. Sugarloaf Peak rewards you with fantastic 360-degree views from the highest peak on the Cathedral Range.

After photos at the peak, we continued on the Razorback Ridge Track, an appropriately named jagged rocky track along the top of the range. We arrived at The Farmyard, then taking the Jawbone Creek Track continued to the Jawbone carpark. The Southern Circuit was a far more challenging walk than anticipated, but rewarding, nonetheless. Michael collected us, and returned us to the start of the walk at Cooks Mill Camping Area.

Michael Braendler (medium walks report) and Jeanette Farquhar (hard walks report)

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