June 8, 2006

Freycinet Peninsula Walk

Marian Harradine
The morning was cold and we left the car park at 8am after signing the book. We made good time up, covering the 1.5kms to the top of the saddle (about 200 meter elevation) between Mt Amos and Mt Mayson in twenty minutes, passing those interesting large boulders and small eucalypts on the way, and with good views of Coles Bay behind us. Those boulders were a feature along most of the circuit in greater or smaller numbers.The track was very good, formed steps, steeper at times but mostly nicely graded. There is a good lookout a couple of minutes to the left, but we did not deviate there as we would be getting good views further on.
Then came the descent down towards Wineglass Bay and sea level, arriving there at 8.40.
Crossing the 1.5 km Wineglass Bay beach was not as bad as it sometimes is, as the sand was a bit firmer, and only took 20 minutes. It was so soft once that it took us 35 minutes of hard slog. So we made good time in the first hour. The other end of Wineglass Bay looked very lovely, a sheltered quiet spot.
We went behind the beach on a timber ramp, nearby was a toilet, and crossed the creek along the track and started the climb up Quartzite Ridge. The climb up was quite steep for the first quarter of an hour and then eased off for 5 minutes before becoming steeper again for about 8 minutes. Then it went slightly downhill for 200 meters or so and then up steeper again.
At about 9.45, where the track levels out for a bit, we came to the big lookout rock to the left of the track, which looks out northeast towards the Hazards. There are also good views to the north west side of the track too, Mt Mayson, Hazards Beach, Maulting Lagoon and Oyster Bay. The views are good anywhere up the track for a look and a rest. We did not rest much though, as we were either feeling very fit or it was the cold air that kept us moving.
We climbed on and after another 15 minutes, passed a part of the track that goes along a narrow rock pass above the gully which is not dangerous but needs a little care. Wineglass Bay looked like a lovely jewel of jade blue through the trees.
At 10.05, after climbing 3.5kms from Wineglass Bay, we got to the top of the ridge where the track crosses the gully and Graham Creek and climbs out onto the plateau. We stopped at the creek for a while and had a drink and filled our bottles with the lovely water and also had a bit of a snack. There was not much water in the creek as this winter has been very dry in Freycinet, unlike last winter. The cold moved us on after about 10 minutes.
We passed a small camp site not far away from the creek and climbed onto the plateau. There we walked for about 12 minutes along a bowl shaped small valley which was damp and had small trees growing and rather rocky, then we climbed out of that and into another area with button grass and rocks. Very pretty. Plenty of birds about. After 8 minutes we climbed out of that into another area, again rocks and button grass and wet on the track in parts for another 6 minutes. This gradual climb was about 2 km and took us to the start of the Mt Graham ascent. It was 10.47, a little over half an hour from Graham Creek. The track does not go to the top of Graham, but there is a deviating track a couple of minutes to the top, which we reached at 11am. The views were great, but it was cold and windy up there so we did not dally and continued on.
The track then descends steeply down Mt Graham, losing 240 meters in elevation, to the saddle between Mt Graham and Mt Freycinet. It isn't pleasant going down so steeply in places, but its probably better than going up!
We reached the turn off to Mt Freycinet at 11.25. Climbing Mt Freycinet is very scenic, especially in the second half of the 290 meter elevation climb. It is not difficult, if one can find the dots on rocks or the ribbons in shrubs or trees or the orange markers on tree trunks. We reached the top at 12 pm. Again lovely views. Matsuyker and Maria Islands looked great and we could see Mt Wellington with a layer of cloud above it. To the north west we could see St Pauls Dome and Stacks Bluff and Elephant Pass Hill to the north coast, plus the Peninsula looking spectacular. On two previous occasions when we have been there we have seen two eagles floating above us but not this time. We found a sheltered spot with a view and had lunch.
We left the top of Mt Freycinet at 12.35 and reached the main track at 1pm. From there on it is mostly descending, reasonably graded. In the first 15 minutes there were a lot of trees blown over by recent winds. That whole area is rather messy with fallen trees from past topples. Then we came across a nice ferny area, those little ferns that florists like, and we crossed a creek with almost no water and a camping spot. Then we climbed out of the creek gully into prettier bush, walking between the Mt Freycinet foothills and another ridge, lots of birds still around. We stopped here for ten minutes then continued on.
At 1.55 we saw Cook's Beach down below and then the track got very steep and rather slippery with the loose gravel and stones. This only lasted for about 10 minutes and then continued on descending at a more comfortable grade. We came across another creek, with some water soon after this and and reached Cooks Beach at 2.23.
We stayed there for a while, having another snack and a drink
We left Cooks Beach at 2.35, and arrived at Hazards Beach at 3.20, a pleasant part of the walk, fairly flat and about 3.5 km in length. We walked the 2.5 km along Hazards Beach to where the isthmus track starts, going over the dune at a sign easily visible on the beach. The track is quite flat and pleasant walking, helped by duckboards across some boggy parts nearer to the start of the track. After 20 minutes we came out onto Wineglass Bay, looking lovely as always.
We climbed up to the saddle, coming across a school group of ten children and two teachers who were camping for 5 days on the peninsula. They would have had to have hurried to get to the other side of Wineglass Bay and set up tents before dark. We also met a jogger who was racing along keeping fit or training for something.
It took 45 minutes to get back to the car park from Winelass Bay, 25 minutes up to the saddle and 20 minutes down the other side. It was 5 pm when we got back, 9 hours from the start. The walk was about 29.5 km. A long day, but very pleasant winter walk. Actual walking time was about 7hrs 50 min.

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