My employer was awesome enough to approve an afternoon of leave so I decided to make full use of it and head out for a ten km stroll through the valleys around Berowra, NSW. I practically ran out of the office! I had carried my poles and boots to work and caught a glimpse of myself in a window. The contrast of hiking gear and work shirt was quite funny. I changed clothes at work and strolled through the foyer in full gear. Just call me “Adventure Dad” from now on!
I’ve been working my way along the great north walk over the past year but would need a full day to hit the next full sections so I examined the map and remembered that some section hikers will treat the track between Mount Kuring-gai and Berowra as a proper GNW section (as shown in all the guides books). I avoided doing this as only 25-30% of the trail actually uses the main spine of the great north walk. It didn’t seem worth it, but for an afternoon stroll it fits in perfectly! As it turned out, it was beautiful too!
Leaving Mount Kuring-Gai station the trail began properly at the entrance to Lyrebird gully. Immediately the sound of cockatoos and other birds was deafening. There were tree hollows all around, an important habitat, and a huge variety of wildflowers out in bloom. I kept thinking that this place has to be protected at all costs – it felt amazing to walk through.
As I descended into the valley, the wildflowers thinned, the birds were less numerous (related I assume) and the sound of running water grew. I met an older gentleman who can set up a tent in a clearing. He was camping for two days but was worried about the wild weather predicted. Not wanting to head home he weighed his tarp down with rocks. For now though the weather was spectacular.
The stream beside me grew wider as I walked deeper into the valley, forming small waterfalls along the way. Eventually the creek (Calna Creek) became wide enough to hold pools wide and deep enough for swimming. At times the trail crossed the creek via steps carved directly into the large boulders that had somehow found themselves in the middle of the water (see pictures below). Interestingly the boulder size grew as I descended, reaching the scale of a large house. Other areas of the creek contained beautiful moss covered stones or circular pools arranged in a striking pattern. There was a set of large overhangs that could really be considered to be caves as they were big enough to camp inside if one was permitted. I couldn’t take enough photo’s and none of them show it the way it felt.
The banks of the creek transitioned from rock and soil to sand and salt marsh. There were two reasonable sized campsites that looked tempting. One could imagine strolling along the banks of the river, watching for birds, and discovering the other wildlife that lived around the marsh. Another time perhaps. The walk then joined the main spine of the great north walk and immediately took one across the open salt marsh via a wooden boardwalk. I had been here once before as I walked from Thornleigh on an earlier section so I knew now what to expect. It was still very lovely and there was a lot more water hiding beneath the tall grass than before. The trail returned to the banks of Berowra creek and worked its way along to a lovely clearing that served as a final rest spot before beginning the climb out of the valley. I powered up with an apple, muesli bar and lots of water.
I crossed Sam’s creek, a confusing mess of false trails that tripped me up on my previous visit. I had no problem this time though. The climb up was very tough as expected, though I didn’t struggle as much I had done the last time. I paused for “photo opportunities” only twice this time and was able to reach the top, 300m up, in a very short time. Must have been the apple. Either that or taking four flights of stairs every time I entered the office instead of taking the elevator was actually paying off!
I joined the Berowra link track heading towards Berowra station and was struck by the unimpressiveness of this part of the trail. It was mainly a fire trail and felt somewhat like regular road walking. It wasn’t until the trail rose higher that it became a walking trail once again and started entering some interesting terrain. There were many short trees, all the same height, that were indicative of a fire some years back. If I had a feel for the growth rates I could have estimated the year of the fire. It could have been a simple hazard reduction burn but it was interesting to see the effect on the plants, including the young Banksia trees that were all chest high. I spied more tree hollows and wildflowers and the birdsong returned. I could also hear dogs barking and knew that the walk was at an end. I had not seen any wildlife other that birds on this walk except for one large rabbit. That was very unusual as I usually see a brush turkey at least. I emerged onto the road and headed home having completed the 10km’s in only 3hours 20 minutes.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Mount Kuring-gai to Berowra Creek link track but was not excited by the Berowra link track. I’d recommend highly to any section hikers to plan to walk the Mount Kuring-gai track but skip the Berowra track in favour of carrying on to Berowra Waters and even Cowan to complete the section. As a half day walk however, it is fantastic and well worth the effort.