Bushfires and Hiking Don’t Mix: Mt Greville – Moogerah Peaks

Fire

“It leapt across the flowing streams

And raced the pastures through;

It climbed the trees, and lit the boughs,

And fierce and fiercer grew.”

Henry Lawson – The Fire at Ross’s Farm

Mt Greville teased me for years. Many times I gazed at the deeply fissured monolith from across Lake Moogerah and wondered what it was called and how I could access it. However, upon returning home  I would forget about it until once again I was back at the lake conversing with this cheeky kookaburra.

Cheeky kookaburra at Lake Moogerah

Cheeky kookaburra at Lake Moogerah

After much non-productive pondering, I finally made inquiries with Dr Google and discovered the name of my tormenter and how to access it. Mt Greville is a  rhyolite volcanic plug, named after the English mycologist, botanist, artist and bryologist, Robert Greville.  He was also one of  four vice-presidents  at the World Anti-Slavery Convention so it appears he was passionate about people as well as plants.

A challenging destination for rock climbers, Mt Greville is actually part of Moogerah Peaks National Park, in South East Queensland and rises 720m above sea level. My post Mist and Magic has more details and photos about this beautiful region. The traditional Ugarapul owners referred to Greville and other areas as “Moogerah” (meaning thunder). It is interesting to ponder how Robert Greville,  a man concerned with the freedom of humans may have felt about having land named after him that was taken away from the traditional Indigenous owners, or how he would have viewed the use of Indigenous people as  cheap or slave labour.

Mt Greville

Mt Greville

They say that curiosity killed the cat and perhaps one day this chunk of rock will be the death of me. I’ve made three separate trips with the intention of completing the challenging class 5 summit walk, but each time I’ve aborted my plans. The distance given is only measured in walking time ( around 3 – 4 hours) and there are three possible routes which are mainly unmarked and  involve  rock scrambling and navigational skills.   One site estimates the SE Ridge option to be about 6km however this depends on what options you take to descend.   Hikers have raved about the views from Mt Greville summit. There are some who have described it as one of the hardest walks they’ve ever done – “a grueling climb” – citing the scree as being particularly difficult and dangerous to negotiate. From across the lake it certainly looks like an interesting challenge.

Car park sign

On my last attempt, I had a close encounter with a potentially deadly foe and it left  me to ponder whether it’s really a goal I need to accomplish. In fact, after reading more about the Indigenous history of the area, I feel a sense of unease about my desire to summit this peak. Moogerah Peaks were spiritual places for the ancestors of the Ugarapul people and to show respect they were forbidden to climb them. However, Europeans ignored the wishes of the traditional Indigenous owners. Is it really so important that I summit this peak just for a sense of satisfaction?

Whether or not you choose to summit Mt Greville, it’s still a lovely quiet spot to visit, with my favourite part being Waterfall Gorge. There are no amenities at the grassy car park though and signs issue strong warnings as to it being a remote area with unmarked trails so you really need to be self-sufficient. It’s about 100 km south west of Brisbane and can be accessed via the scenic Boonah route or by taking  the Lake Moogerah exit from the Cunningham Highway near Aratula. The last short section of road is gravel and a little corrugated but still accessible with 2WD. My ancient little green sedan managed to negotiate it without complaining too much.  For more details check the Moogerah Peaks National Park site or  the Aussie Bushwalking site.

I usually prefer to take the scenic Boonah route where you’ll see rolling green hills or in the dry months, fields of gold like this…

fields of gold

There are often plenty of kangaroos about so care must be taken on the roads.

Kangaroo

On one visit I was greeted by this tiny jumping spider in the car park. It reminded me of the time I was an entomologist’s assistant researching the jumping spider population in a field.  After working on the project for 6 months we returned to collect data at the site,  only to  find  it completely bulldozed. Field research can have its ups and downs!

Jumping Spider

The walk from the car park to the branching options is rather deceptive. This is definitely not an indication of the difficulty level of the trails!

Beginning path

After a short walk you’ll come to these three options for accessing the summit.

sign

Attempt 1: Via Palm Gorge Circuit

My first attempt started with the Palm Gorge option. The walk begins with a smooth dirt track  but quickly turns into loose rocks. I have the world’s dodgiest ankles and realised that my trainers were not giving me enough ankle support so if I had continued on this track I was likely to end up with a sprain or break. I didn’t have mobile phone reception either which was a concern. Here are some images of the terrain. The path disappears under rocks and piccabeen palm leaves.

Rocky path

The path disappears under rocks and piccabeen palm fronds.

The path disappears under rocks and piccabeen palm fronds.

I’d been warned about snakes in Palm Gorge and wasn’t keen to expose my bare legs to a pair of venomous fangs.  My hiking partner wasn’t interested in close encounters of the slithery kind either and suggested we ditch the walk for a lazy meal at Lake Moogerah instead. Yes, I know we don’t sound like dedicated hikers but  sometimes the call of a good coffee and a hot meal is stronger than the call of the wild! You also need to be kind to your hiking partners…  (Let’s just forget that I wrote How to Torture a Hiking Partner a few weeks ago!)

Palm Gorge

Palm Gorge

Attempt 2:  Via SE Ridge Track

My second trip was with my daughter, “Tough Cookie,” so giving up the walk without some serious effort was never going to be an option. We decided to try accessing the summit via the SE ridge track. Once again I was foiled by my lack of ankle stability on the loose dirt and rocks. I did ponder taking my shoes off but remembered the warnings about venomous snakes in the area. One of these days I’ll buy more supportive hiking boots or strap my ankles.

Going up to the SE Ridge

Path up to SE Ridge Track

Path up to SE Ridge Track

Scrambling down

We did however make it up to one large slab of rock that gave us a reasonable view. Unfortunately my camera battery was flat though and of course I’d left the spares in my backpack lower down on the track! Just try to imagine some pretty blue hills and farmland in the distance. Tough Cookie isn’t as ankle-challenged as me and went much further but we decided it wasn’t a good idea for her to keep going alone as we had no mobile phone reception so wouldn’t be able to communicate easily with each other.  We descended and decided to attack the summit from the third option, Waterfall Gorge. On the way down I was surprised by this well camouflaged lace monitor.

Well camouflaged lace monitor.

Well camouflaged lace monitor.

I’ve a fondness for goannas after seeing them frequently in the outback. While they do have a penchant for eating hen eggs, they are also good at controlling  rabbits, rats and snakes. I vividly remember seeing one swallow a large venomous brown snake. They are also carrion eaters and extremely strong. I’ve seen one drag a large dead red kangaroo hundreds of metres. Here’s a picture of Fred, the goanna who lived in our house yard at Roma. Fred liked popping out unexpectedly from time to time to give me a fright.

I stopped to take pictures of some pretty lichen and  interesting coloured brick-shaped rocks along the descent.

Attempt 3: Via Waterfall Gorge

The track to Waterfall Gorge goes upward along a rough path and then down again into the gorge. The approach was much easier than the beginning of the SE Ridge Track

Going down to Waterfall Gorge

To be honest, once I got down to Waterfall Gorge I really didn’t want to leave. The tranquility and shaded respite of the rock pools made me ditch the summit idea. Plans are made to be changed. That’s my motto. Sometimes…

Entrance to Waterfall Gorge

Entrance to Waterfall Gorge

Reflections

Gold reflections

Water pool

water

Jane

If you take the left hand branch of the Waterfall gorge path this is what you’ll see. There are lots of boulders to negotiate! It wasn’t a hard decision  for us to make  to explore the rock pools of the right hand branch of the  gorge instead. While I failed to reach the summit once again, I don’t regret the hours spent in Waterfall Gorge watching the birds and enjoying the tranquility.

vertical columns

 

Attempt 4: Via the SE Ridge Track again

On my last summit attempt with a hiking partner some months later, strange sounds caught our attention. It seemed like some kind of large creature was periodically crashing through the undergrowth,  but I had difficulty locating the direction of the noise. The sounds appeared to be coming from all around us and were strangely familiar. It was only when I started to smell smoke that I realised why. It was a bushfire! I’ve helped with controlled burning on properties in the past and the crackling, branch falling sound was all too familiar. Being surrounded by dry eucalyptus forest was not the ideal place for us to be if there was an approaching bushfire.  We decided to dash to the car park hoping that it was just a controlled burn at a nearby farm. At the car park we were confronted by a wall of smoke billowing from a farm just over the road.  We left in a hurry and made our way to a road on the opposite side to the direction the smoke was blowing. These are the views of Mt Greville obscured by smoke  as we drove away.

 

 

Smoke over Mt Greville

 

Fire

If we hadn’t left when we did we would have been enveloped in  that suffocating cloud of smoke. In the blustery conditions  the fire could have easily  jumped the road to the thickly forested national park.  We found out  the fire had begun as a controlled burn but when the wind suddenly sprang up, the farmer had difficulty controlling it. I’ve tried not to think about the consequences if it had crossed the road before we’d had time to get back to the car park and  escaped the area. We heard fear-crazed cattle bellowing from the direction of the flames and smoke and hoped they were safe.

It was a strange trip home on this occasion. My hiking partner and I were both rather subdued. The smoke in the area contributed to a beautiful sunset which was a peaceful way to finish the trip. How strange though that the colours of a beautiful inspiring sunset can also represent the destructive and powerful force of fire.

sunset

As I’ve mentioned, there are a few ways to tackle the summit,  so if it’s on your radar and you’ve got better ankles than me, I would suggest checking out the climbing/hiking sites online for detailed instructions. Aussie Bushwalking is one place to start and you’ll see photographs of the views I missed  by not reaching the summit. I don’t know if I’ll attempt the summit again, but Mt Greville is definitely a place that will stay in my memory for a number of reasons, one being how quickly you could become the victim of a bushfire while hiking. Waterfall Gorge is a delightful spot for birdwatching and soaking up the serenity and was the highlight for me.

I was searching for an appropriate poem about bushfires to end this post and then remembered one written by my son when he was was just a   boy living on an outback property. He’d spent most of his young life seeing drought and fire devastate the land. Fortunately, fires were often followed by drought-breaking rain, which transformed the blackened landscape into a bright flush of green. His poem describes the initial devastation that drought and fire bring. It certainly had an impact on his  young mind at the time. For my next trip report, I’m hoping to bring you some snow, as I suggested in one of my previous posts. It will be a much needed contrast to my dry, hot recounts I think! That’s the plan anyway. You may have noticed I am a little unpredictable. 🙂

Drought

Drought surveys his barren realm;

Its ever widening walls,

Leafless trees,  his watchtowers,

Dry creek beds, his palace halls.

The land and all its life

Tremble before dust and heat,

Most submit, but some defy him;

His kingdom is not yet complete.

A scheme of terrible cruelty,

Is forming in his mind.

The crows echo his laughter,

To them the master is kind.

As distant clouds march closer,

Impatiently he waits,

And as they cross his border,

He feeds them malice, feeds them hate.

One bolt smites its target,

An old and crippled tree.

And as spark turns to fire,

Drought looks on with glee.

Flames tear down defiant gums;

Through dry grass they make haste.

Brown and green turn to black;

The land is laid to waste.

Drought surveys his blighted realm;

But finds no more to do.

There is nothing left to torment,

None living to subdue.

As drought vacates his throne,

In search of more to destroy,

He leaves behind what is now,

Just another broken toy.

(c) Samuel

burnt forest

18 thoughts on “Bushfires and Hiking Don’t Mix: Mt Greville – Moogerah Peaks

  1. Wow. I am so glad you and your hiking partner got out on time.

    But on note with more levity, you might need to change your blog name. This all sounded rather extreme to me!

    Also, as a thought on the weak ankles thing (I have weak ankles too and am a netball player… not a good combo. Should probably give up netball), I have worries about high ankle shoes being too stiff around the ankle and actually increasing the likelihood of a sprain. Leaving my ankles free (but supported by a brace when it’s feeling especially weak – the elasticated bandage kind) means they can flex if/when they have to. Hope that makes sense?

    • Oh another weak ankled person! You understand then! Yes, I agree about the high boots which is another reason why I haven’t got them yet. I thought I was being silly though as everyone keeps telling me I need to get them. I’m glad you have a different view. I like the flexibility of runners. I must look online for a vid about how to strap them properly or else go to my local physio or podiatrist for guidance. My dodgy ankles are my nemesis on rough hikes. Thanks for the advice! I’m sure it will help!

      Hahah…most of the time I am only mildly extreme. Occasionally I do weird things though. I can be very stubborn sometimes. Not always a good thing. 🙂

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I hope life is good for you at the moment. Lots of projects to get your teeth stuck into I suspect!

  2. I too have weak ankles however I have climbed Mt Greville. It was almost 20 years ago though and was the first time I met the Garden Gnome’s family. His brother in law is a local park ranger and he led us up south east ridge and then down Palm Gorge. I made a scene when I slipped, rolled my ankle and sliced my right hand on a rock. Still have the scar lol.
    My fitness levels aren’t what they used to be. A couple of months ago we went walking the fire trails of Mt Barney and I nearly died. I really need to work on my fitness.

    • Wow, how interesting that you still have the scar from Greville and are reading this post. Yes, I dare say 20 years ago I probably would have coped better with the walk, although my ankles were not great then either. Yes, I think it pays to have a guide in places like Greville who can take you through the best way. Even so it seems you didn’t come away unscathed! Sounds nasty. I dare say if I kept going I probably would have come back with some scars too!

      I’ve been to Mt Barney but not done any extended walks there as my time was limited but I hope to go back.I’m in my 40s now and I’ve been trying to keep my walking up as we have a family history of heart problems and my little brother died of a heart attack. The bushfire incident gave me a cardiac workout I can tell you!

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting. How interesting that you’ve also had an intimate encounter with Mt Greville. 🙂

      • My Garden Gnome has climbed Barney in the past and a few months ago he went into the Lower Portals. My fitness isn’t good enough to be able to join him but walking the fire trails around the base was fun (once I got past the first climbing part).
        I need to start walking again but the heat is so horrid even at 5.30am when I get up in the morning right now.

        • Oh, I know what you mean about the heat! Winter is when I do most of my walking. I don’t cope well with the summer months at all, despite being a Queenslander for most of my life. I tend to look for cooler walks in the Springbrook area, although they can be humid. 🙂

  3. I enjoyed your journeys and your photographs, and I am elated that you and your hiking partner made it out in time! Scary!

    I used to hike the hills and mountains in Southern California. It was very dry there too, and we had many forest fires every summer. Thankfully, I was never on trail when they occurred! When I was young our fires were fewer and farther between. They didn’t used to be in the class of ‘fire storm’ as yours there can be. We never witnessed tornadic flames that spiraled up and raced to eat everything in their path. However, this has become a reality there in California, both north and south, and it has only gotten worse in this several years of drought they have experienced. I am grateful we have moved and no longer have to smother in the smoke and heat of the summer.

    (LOL! now we cower in our underground shelter when the tornado sirens go off in spring!)

    • Hi Lynda,
      Wow, you’re in a tornado area now? We see reports of them and I’ve watched documentaries about them. Truly frightening the power and the speed at which they move. We had mini tornadoes when we lived in the outback. One was strong enough to embed iron roofing sheets in tree trunks, but they weren’t at all on the same level as your tornadoes over there!

      Most times I’m not in danger from bushfires although that last experience did make me think about it more. Even though I live in city suburbs, the sky is often smoky from bushfires and the nearby nature reserves usually have small fires which threaten some housing near me. We are really quite safe where we live though. I am thankful I don’t have to worry about tornadoes though, like you!! The power of nature, hey.

      I used to have a penpal in California and so am aware of the heat and fires there. I’m a cold weather person so I understand why you moved away from the dust, heat and smoke!

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Lynda. So interesting to hear the experiences from across the globe. 🙂

  4. Hi Jane, if I was in your area that mountain would prove irresistible to me, despite it looking almost forbidden and sacred. But then again, I think that is mostly I am drawn to summiting high mountain peaks: that sense of ascending into the higher world. Thanks for sharing your lovely words and pics again! 🙂

    • Yes, Greville had me curious for a few years. The deep fissures look daunting but also strangely enticing. It was inevitable that I would hike it one day. I’m not sure whether it’s my physical limitations or more so just actual fear that has had me abort my plans. Maybe I am just being sensible for a change. I think I will probably head back there again one day. As for summiting it, we’ll see… Yes, there is certainly a strong attraction to feeling “on top of the world.” I know what you mean. Thanks for commenting again! 🙂

  5. It is commendable that you kept on trying to make that climb! I know what that is like and what it takes!

    Avoiding that brush fire was a good bit of luck! Wildland fires aren’t quite like that in this area, in that they are more easily avoided, but they are also awesome and nasty when they get into the forests.

    Every time I read one of your posts I wish I was closer so I could experience seeing your area in person. I’m not prone to doing much travel, but if there was another place in the world I would like to visit, it would be Australia.

    • Thanks for judging my repeated attempts as commendable! I wonder though whether I am just plain stubborn and should be more sensible sometimes. 🙂 I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I can imagine making it to the top of REAL mountains in your region of the world would require a great deal more time and effort. The scenery from your blog is spectacular!

      Given your landscape, traveling to Australia would certainly offer you a contrast. I have yet to explore much of my own country. It is so diverse with tropical rainforests, the harsh outback, wilderness coastline, the Australian Alps, the New England Highlands and of course, Tasmania. I hope to travel more one day when funds allow it.

      Thanks for your continued interest in my blog. 🙂

  6. I really enjoyed reading this post Jane. I have ankle issues to. Have rolled them pretty badly a few times and torn the ligament once. Ow. Hurts just remembering!
    As for the fires, it’s a very primal feeling when you are out walking and smell smoke isn’t it? I’ve been caught out near controlled burns in Kakadu and by the Gwyder River and it’s an awful feeling of panic until you realise you will be safe.
    Loving your posts. Keep them coming 🙂

    • Hi Amanda,
      Sorry to reply late to your comment. I’ve been away at Springbrook National Park for a couple of days. I did the 17km Warrie Circuit in the rainforest gorges. A few boulders to cross on the creek crossings so my ankles had a work out again!

      It seems there are more people around than I thought with ankle problems! I’ve torn ligaments as well. Not nice at all.

      Yes, when you are surrounded by forest and smell fire, there’s always a bit of an initial panic. Having lived on properties where “controlled” fires got away, I’m always a bit nervous about it. One property owner managed to destroy a vast area when his spinifex burn escaped. Many kms of fencing and grazing land was destroyed. Like the weather, fire can be very unpredictable!

      I’m glad your enjoying the blog Keep your own blog posts coming. They are great. 🙂

  7. My dad wanted to relocate to Australia when I was young, I’m glad that my mom talked him out of it. It’s beautiful from what I see in your photos, but the natural heat sounds bad enough, without some one trying to roast you in a fire! 😉

    • Hi! I hope I haven’t turned you off Australia too much! 🙂 For most of my life I’ve lived in regions that are quite hot (Queensland and NW New South Wales). I generally don’t cope well with heat. I have friends who live in the cooler south. There are areas of Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania where the climate is less extreme, and many coastal areas have milder temperatures as well. When my commitments here are completed, I hope to move to a cooler area.

      Yes, the heat is bad enough, without being scorched in a bushfire! Wow, you may have been an “Aussie” if your father had moved you. 🙂

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