Mount Warning

In driving to and from Lennox Head, Kingscliffe and Brisbane, I went past the turn off to Mount Warning a few times. I wasn't sure which one it was in the jumble of peaks you can see from the highway but I assumed it was the tallest of the group It is the first to get the sun in the morning. I initially had planned to get to the top for sunrise and be one of the first to see the sun that day but that requires getting up at some obscene hour and making the drive out there and the hike up in the dark. It seemed like a great plan at first until it came to actually doing it.IMG_2482I made it out there around 12 and thankfully it wasn't smoking hot. The few days before had been quite warm and I was not looking forward doing the steep ascent in the heat. It begins with more stairs than I can count and then turns into steep switchbanks peppered with rocks and more stairs. I made a point of going as fast as I could on the way up to see how hard it would be. It turned out to be just regular, pretty hike up a big hill until you get to the rocks near the top.IMG_2495About 300 metres from the top the trail goes from dirt to rock and seems to go straight up into the bush. They've kindly installed a chain railing the rest of the way up to help anyone silly enough to do the rest of the climb.  Being impatient about getting to the top, I hopped onto the rock on all fours and motored past everyone. I paid for that little show of faux athleticism though, and spent a couple minutes buckled over at the top catching my breath.Once my breathing returned to a healthy rate I could enjoy the incredible 360 degree view from the top of the mountain. There are 4 viewing platforms at the top so you do have to circle around to get the full view but it was definitely worth the battle to get up the hill. Out one side you can see off into the rest of the mountains in the area and a valley or 2 and then the other side looks out towards the ocean and Byron Bay on the coast.IMG_2507A quick lunch at the top and I was ready to begin my final assault on the trail. I did find the trail beautiful and the people fun to talk to on the way up but there's always something nagging at me to go as fast as I can, just to see. The climb up the trail is tough but it's different muscles than the way down. I find there is different thinking involved on the way down. All that's involved in climbing the trail is keep going, keep going, keep going. On the other hand, heading down is much more fast-paced and exciting. One slip and you're bones become well aquainted with rock, one trip and you're heading over the cliff into the brush. It took just under and hour to get up to the top, and coming down less than 40 minutes.I smiled at the many comments on the way down that masked the "WTF!" expressions on the other hikers. Near the end is always a battle to continue the pace. Every muscle is tired and just placing your feet requires intense concentration. The rapid fire stairs didn't help either. They were an awkward distance apart and either were too close or to far to allow comfortable running.Sweating bullets and grinning like a fool, I emerged from the trail to the carpark and stopped to catch my breath and cool down. One more hike completed and one more summit to add to the Summit List.[gmap]

Into the Grampians

When I planned my trip I thought it would be fun to go down the coast to the Great Ocean Road and then back up the coast all the way to Cairns and then back to Sydney. After talking to people and seeing some photos, I decided to head up through the Grampians to Adelaide and then back across to the East Coast.So, after a quick stop in Port Fairy, I'm now in the Grampians, at Hall's Gap. What a beautiful place. The Grampian themselves rise up out of the plains so abuptly they decided to name the first big one Mount Abrupt. Just North of Dunkeld, Mount Sturgeon and Abrupt look over the city. From here it looks to be a gently climb to the top. Nope! It's not the steepest pitch I've been up but it's certainly not flat. The views from the trail near the top and the summit are extremely rewarding being on the edge of the Grampians. Apparently Mount Zero on the north end is similar. It feels like you can see forever over the plains to the ocean.STE_1016Further up the road to Hall's Gap is the turn off to Silverband Falls. Not a bad little set of falls and a welcome sight after the dryness of a lot of Australia, even right now. It's hard to imagine they are attempting to claw their way out of a horrible drought. The rain in Apollo Bay and here seemed to indicate otherwise but those of the lakes that actually have water in them are at their lowest levels in a long time. The interesting part of Silverband Falls is that the water pours over the edge and hits the ground but hardly creates a pool at all. The majority of the water goes straight into the ground. About 100 metres "downstream" it reappears and forms a small stream with what appears to be all the water that comes over the falls.IMG_1031Further up the road is Hall's Gap, a tiny town in the valley of the big peaks here. There's an information centre, general store, a tiny outdoor store, a few restaurants and that's about it. You could almost drive through and not even notice this place was here. It reminds me of small mountain towns that swell with the seasonal ski crowd but there's no ski season in these mountains. Just a wet-ish winter and a dry hot summer. Feels like home. With so few people, there is almost a trail in the surrounding hills for each of them. This my kind of place.With a quick look at the information centre on my way in, I was armed with a few pamphlets and a map that was $3.00. I was getting used to finding all the free information. Apparently the trail system around here warrants a map that you need to pay for. The signs at the parks point out all the trails with good detail but I wouldn't be able to plan which ones I wanted to hit first or at all so I went for it. Already I've referred to it many times in the hostel, in the car and in the bush so it was $3.00 well spent.After getting orientated at the hostel, I headed back to Silverband Falls to check them out and then to the Nature Centre to go for a walk around Fyan's Creek. It's a small 2k loop that circles part of the creek and it was definitely a nice way to end the day. The creek is fairly small but just enough water to keep everything moving. On my way there, I was distracted from the trail by 3 emu's wandering around the park. I had seen a few from afar at Tower Hill but hadn't been so close. They were moving pretty quick in the other direction so I didn't get to close but I was happy at the distance I was at. I've heard some crazy near-death (not really) experience with those large birds. Near the end I spent some time with a herd of Kangaroos on one of the fields. They seemed very content with me sitting very near them and just watching. I'm assuming they're used to people wandering around the park and gawking at them. Even photos don't seem to phase them much.IMG_1064I spent the end of the first day recuperating on a comfy couch beside a nice warm wood fireplace. I'm not going to say it's very cold here but it wasn't warm. It can't get much better than a comfy spot beside a wood fire.[gmap]