“It was tragic how life had sucked her down to the bones, all her spontaneity, her laughter and freedom had vanished. I knew then that I didn’t ever want to be like that. Whatever happened, life was something too precious to give up on so easily.”
– Belinda Jeffrey, One Long Thread
I must acknowledge the role of cheese and potatoes in the writing of this post. What do these foods have to do with a hike? Well, as soon as the chilly nights arrive my body which was naturally reed-like in my 20s suddenly craves potatoes and cheese in vast quantities. If I waited until I could find a walking partner available to fit in with my odd schedule, by springtime I’d have to be lifted out of my house with a crane. Death by lack of exercise is riskier than death by murder in my case. Having now defended solo hiking let’s get down to what actually happened on what I have dubbed The Unplanned Hike.
Being mildly extreme, I decided after my carefully thought out Mt Maroon walk to make my next trip completely spontaneous. I planned not to plan. Hmm…does that mean I did make a plan though, so it’s not unplanned after all? This is a hiking blog not a philosophy class so let’s not get too pedantic here. For my purposes it’s a spontaneous adventure.
A free Saturday morning dawned and after wrestling with that gnawing feeling of guilt that as a woman I shouldn’t hike alone, I threw my hiking bags in the car and headed off to brave the axe murderers.
Which direction to take? That’s an easy decision as I have a city traffic phobia so I headed inland towards Boonah, a picturesque farming area, south-west of Brisbane. I let my daughter know which road I was taking and planned to text her at various locations. (I mention this to avoid consternation from other hikers.)
Along the way, I spied the sign to Flinders Plum Picnic Area and remembered it was an alternative route to tackle Flinders Peak. After hitting a gravel road I was met with these impressive signs.
Having lived in the outback and dealt with some crazy roads I wasn’t too fazed but my little green sedan shuddered so I promised her I would be careful and turn back if it looked treacherous. Not long after, I came to a fork in the road and a choice between these two small puddles.
Neither were deep but since the road was narrowing I thought it best to head back while I could. Without a 4WD I’d get bogged turning around if the edges were muddy.
A native flower and a tree in the centre of the road stopped me briefly before I continued along back to Boonah Road.
Hunger pulled me over to a creek at the tiny township of Peak Crossing. Out came the healthy crunchy fresh apple, roasted chick pea snacks (high in protein and calcium) and the water bottle. Nearby, a post-soccer game family group were barbecuing. As I chewed my dry crunchy chick peas carefully, I tried to ignore the tantalising wafts of barbecuing steak and onions. I also regretted not bringing a thermos for a cuppa. Hot drinks are my other must do winter activity. To take my mind off the teasing smells of their highly planned meal, I found something to photograph.
I came across fossilised wood under the bridge as well as empty freshwater mussel shells.
Still salivating, I got back in the car to escape their cruelty. Next, I spied Milbong Lutheran Cemetery. Regular readers will know I am fascinated by old graveyards. The sky started out bright blue and turned ominous within minutes. I took the hint and continued along.
On the outskirts of Boonah I spied a sign that got me all a flutter. A World Environment Day Festival was being held. That meant coffee and tea! Of course I was also curious to see what was on display. I didn’t just go because of my gustatory desires. There just happened to be hot baked potatoes and pumpkin soup on offer so being the generous supporter I am of community projects I consumed a reasonable portion before checking out the displays.
I have some German heritage but have never actually eaten proper sauerkraut. I learnt all about the health benefits of this food during a display and also how to make enormous jars of it. It’s important to really play with the stuff and jam it in the jars to break it down properly. Strangely, my kids are not as enthusiastic as me about mega-size jars of fermented cabbage…
I felt less guilty about buying Montville organically grown coffee from this ECO van that runs on solar power.
The knitting nanas were very welcoming and willing to chat about their cause. They also showed me how they make bags from empty dog, cattle and chicken food bags.
Later on I found a whole stall devoted to selling products made from recycled packaging. Note the guitar bags made from cement powder bags.
As I left I took note of this very eco-friendly source of transport. What an amazing invention. I think someone should inform the authorities.
Filled with potatoes, soup and warm fuzzy feelings of good will, I decided to drive on to nearby Mt French to see how my beloved grass trees, Xanthorrhoea, were faring after a Phytophthora attack last year. I featured this remarkable plant in my Grass Tree Romance post where you will find some unusual variations.
It’s a glorious drive out that way and the sky was no longer threatening. Overhead, helicopters buzzed. Later, I found out they were doing aerial surveys of the introduced pest, fire ants.
Arriving at Mt French I discovered that many of the very old grass trees had succumbed to Phytophthora infection I was relieved to see a forest of babies though. Since they only grow a few centimetres each year it will take a couple of hundred years before Mt French looks how it used to.
I was curious about the naming of Mt French. In 1827, Captain Patrick Logan named the area Mount Dumaresq after Governor Darling’s son-in-law, however, unbeknownst to him, the explorer Cunningham had also named another peak the same name. Logan renamed it Mt French after Dumaresq’s country of origin. I often ponder the European naming of our land features. When you look at Indigenous Australian names they tend to relate to the feature of the place or a story behind it which seems far more interesting to me. For example, Mt French is actually part of Moogerah Peaks and Moogerah means “thunder” or “rumbling” which could have referred to the impressive thunderstorms in the area or even ancient volcanic activity which formed the peaks.
Mt French has two peaks, ‘Punchagin,’ the southern peak and ‘Mee-bor-rum,’ the northern peak. It has two main graded walks. The class 1, North Cliff Track leading to Logan Lookout is a 720m wheelchair accessible path which offers spectacular views of the Fassifern Valley and Main Range. Along the path I came across a juvenile golden whistler, an orb weaver spider and native flowers.
There is also a dirt track that branches off to the left and is used by climbers. The white rhyolite vertical columns formed by volcanic activity make Mt French a popular rock climbing destination and Frog Buttress is internationally known for its “crack climbing.” While I was there one day I stalked a couple of climbers. There are warning signs of course and the path is steep and slippery. The rock cliffs are magnificent though. I would only recommend these paths to experienced bushwalkers.
The class 3, 840m Mee-bor-rum circuit takes you out into completely different terrain – open heathland replaces the gums and grass trees. A seat set in a stone platform lets you rest and enjoy the numerous birds. On that day I saw or heard rainbow bee eaters, golden whistlers, robins, wrens, spangled drongos and even a wedge-tailed eagle.
Apparently Mt French has two species of endangered lichen that have only been found at this location. From my James Bond post you would know how much I enjoy lichen and moss so of course I took many pictures, hoping that one of them might include the endangered species.
A few wildflowers caught my attention as well.
Another impressive golden orb weaver called me over.
And a delicate green spider.
Camping is allowed again at Mt French and they’ve built the most luxurious toilets I have ever seen in a national park! They aren’t long drop pit toilets or composting ones. They actually flush. I don’t know what will happen when the water tank runs dry though. All camping needs to be pre-booked online, by phone or in person at an office and camping tags need to be attached to tents. I’m heading there for an overnighter as soon as possible so I can view a sunset and sunrise over the mountains. I’m refusing to acknowledge that my aging joints don’t like cold hard ground at this point.
The Unplanned Hike turned out to be one my best days out. No expectations led to plenty of surprises. I must plan another unplanned trip soon before the cheese and potatoes render me immobile. Or perhaps I could just develop some self-control when it comes to my belly cravings…