matty's tasmanian adventures - index
Farmhouse Creek Track - Judds Cavern
(a long, long time ago...)
This is now within an area of Aboriginal Land and access is restricted.
The Farmhouse Creek track is the closest access point to Federation Peak so while I had a few days off work and I was keen to do a walking trip in this area of South-West Tasmania. My initial plan was to do a 2-3 day walk towards Federation Peak on the Farmhouse Creek track.
When I reached the end of the road on the west Picton Road I crossed the car bridge and headed off (this bridge is now closed to cars but at the time of this trip the car park was across the bridge). This was the first time I had done any walks on this track.
The track heads west along the southern side of Farmhouse Creek for about 90 mins at a moderate walking pace. I was disappointed that it started raining just after I started walking but I put my coat on and I was warm while I was walking.
During the first 90 mins there were 3 cleared areas big enough to camp - spaced about 30 mins apart, with one just before the crossing of Farmhouse Creek at the 90 minute mark. I also crossed 2 small side creeks flowing into Farmhouse Creek during that first section.
Farmhouse Creek was rising quickly - on the next day heading back to the car it had broken its banks and the track was under water.
After crossing Farmhouse Creek there was about 45 mins mud and water dammed by tree roots on the 'track' and cutting grass, before climbing in the forest to the South Picton Saddle. The rain was heavy and steady but I didn't notice it as much as I walked under the rainforest tree canopy.
From the South Picton Saddle I continued to the west, downhill, following irregular track marking tapes. The track wasn't easy to follow and at that time I hadn't realised that I wasn't on the correct track (the new track towards Federation Peak). There was a new track from the South Picton Saddle - and I wasn't on it. The new track turns to the south-west (to the left'ish) at the South Picton Saddle. This new track is now well worn and clearer but at the time of this walk the 'pad' that I was following on the ground looked quite clear heading straight ahead on the old track. It turns out that I was following 'the old track' to Federation Peak, via Cracroft junction.
I continued downhill and reached an open buttongrass plain. There was still heavy rain and mist reducing the visibility to about 100 metres. I trudged across the plain, dodging the really deep mud following the 'track'. The track eventually turned to the right and headed towards the trees again - away from the buttongrass plain. I entered the tree cover and found a cleared campsite and set up my tent.
Rather than just hiding in the tent for the rest of the afternoon I went for a short walk without the discomfort of my pack. It was only at this time, when looking closely at my map that I worked out that I was on the old track and not the new one. This was before GPS's were common and I had been working on map & compass. The heavy rain and mist had made it very hard to establish where I was. I couldn't see surrounding hills or mountains.
My camp site under the creaky trees near the cave.
I headed along the creek next to the camp and found a cave entrance. Checking my map I worked out that it was Judds Cavern - which consisted of a rapidly flooding creek disappearing into a dark cave. I couldn't see inside so I returned to get my torch from the tent and shone it inside. With so much rain, I couldn't get inside.
The cave was flooded.
I looked around for a while but headed for my tent when the rain became very heavy. As I sheltered in the tent I listened to the old trees around me creak and groan. It was scary because no-one knew that I was camping there and had visions of being killed or trapped by a tree falling. I dozed off during the afternoon and had woke later thinking it must be close to morning. I was disappointed to find that it was only 11pm (I think this trip was in May - when daylight hours are short). I lay there listening to the heavy rain and wind for hours, occasionally dozing.
At dawn it was still raining and I lay there longer hoping the rain would stop. I fell asleep again. When I awoke again at 11am I was alarmed because I knew I would run out of light and the rivers were still rising.
I packed as quickly as I could and headed out of the trees - still raining heavily. I re-traced my route across the buttongrass bog/plains to the edge of the forest again. It was very hard to find the route back up the hill and I had to look around carefully as a lot of the tapes were on the ground.
I eventually found my way back up to South Picton Saddle (which was a relief) but it took longer than I hoped. I continued down to the log crossing of Farmhouse Creek and I was alarmed to find that water had broken the banks and I could see the raging torrent flowing just over the top of the log crossing. I watched for a few minutes. I could see where the log was because it was causing a wave in the water. I decided to try and cross it by holding onto branches above the log. I made it across hanging onto the branches above for my life.
It was only mid-afternoon but the sky was very dark due to the thick clouds and rain and the tree cover. I had to get my head torch out to try and find the track. The main problem was that Farmhouse Creek was now in flood and was covering the track in many places that runs alongside the creek for much of the way back.
I had to 'bush bash' in the thick scrub just above the new river edge until the track appeared again. The scrub bashing took forever. I also got a bit lost for a while when I came to the two side creeks that flowed into Farmhouse Creek. These side creeks were now also big and wide. These didn't have log crossings so I had to wade into them. The water was very cold and I lost my footing in the first one and made a panicked scramble for tree branches to save myself.
I climbed from the water, cold and tired with a waterlogged pack. It ended up taking about 6 hours to do what took 2 hours the day before - when the creek wasn't a flooded river. It was a massive relief to finally get back to the car but then I noticed that Farmhouse Creek was so high that the car bridge was under water. Another car was stopped there waiting, unable to cross. They said that they had been there for hours waiting for the river level to drop a bit to check if the bridge was still intact.
I quickly got changed and sat in my car, trying to warm up. After an hour or so it stopped raining. We checked the creek/river level every half hour and sometime after midnight we noticed that the water was gradually falling. By about 3am the bridge became visible again and we were relieved to see that it was intact and hopeful that it wouldn't collapse when we drove over it. Before trying to drive on it, we walked over it and it seemed sturdy. The other guys then drove over first and I followed. I made it home just before dawn and had the best hot shower that I have ever had followed by a long sleep, very relieved to have come out in one piece.
The cleanup wasn't much fun either. My down sleeping bag had gone for a swim in the muddy river when I lost my footing and I had an interesting time washing it in the bath, trying to get the mud out of it and not to break the baffles in it when I lifted it out.
[When I think back to this trip now, I had just started bushwalking and this really was an adventure. I was following a very rough route only & was using a $60 dome tent and a dodgy 2nd hand nylon pack that was splitting. I had no knowledge of thermarest matresses either and had a foam roll-up matress attached to the pack - you know the ones that keep getting shredded each time you push through dense scrub. I also had a crappy head torch with very limited battery life and was walking at night, crossing flooded creeks/river after the track was also flooded over. In hindsight I could have come unstuck in lots of ways.]