Cycling + Bushwalking + Camping + Koalas

You are the leader of this trip

Date:20/06/2015 – 21/06/2015
Leader:Felix Ossig-Bonanno

Looking at doing an overnight trip this weekend. Hopefully with cycling and koalas – but might do something else (so let me know either way).

Would like to do some searching for some koalas to contribute to the Blue Mountains Koala Project (
Alice has used the vegetation from existing koala colonies to predict other possible locations; both for studying existing populations and also for potential rehabilitation/release (Alice gave the recent Koala Workshop).
I want to visit one or two locations and have a go at some koala spotting!

The trip I dreamt up yesterday involves a 13km cycle on firetrail. We will then move our gear from panniers to backpacks and have at least a 11km off-track walk…
Similar distances on the return trip – possibility of a canyon. Never been there before, so will be of an exploratory nature!
Will be an early start on the Sat. Maybe people would like to catch the train into the Mountains with me on the Friday night? – otherwise a 3am train on Sat :S

If there isn’t enough interest in the cycling component I will do a an overnight walk instead. But this will also mean no koala prospects 😦

Hope to see you there πŸ™‚

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Party: Jemma and I
Jemma and I caught the train to Lithgow on the Fri night. Spent the night upstairs at my parents.
Sat 20th:
  • We woke relatively early and after a breakfast of eggs on toast we where on our way.
  • Refueled at Lisdale and after a short stop at the lookout continued down into the valley.
  • Saw lots of roos at the newly named roo flat
  • Arrived at the Newns Hotel just before 9am and where greeted by the song of a lyre bird
  • After a group shot we where on our way to almost immediately face our first river crossing.



Β  Crossing the Wolgan.
  • I made a bit of a mess navigating through the ruins, my short cut meaning quite a lot of strenuous of track pushing. In one steep section we even had to have both of us on the one bike!
  • The Wolgan trail wasn’t quite as flat as I would have hoped. In several places there where steep uphill sections. There was also a lot of downhill which would be ‘fun’ on the return trip.
  • After talking about Rounded Earth Stars the night before, Jemma spotted one on the track. Later in the day we saw another 4, then one at our camp (plus many more on my walk the next day).
  • As we cycled we named the canyons as we passed them. Past Starlight I was in new territory and soon we reached the old farm sheds. There where some old beer bottles (1966/67) and what looked like an old fridge.
Β An old tractor next to the dilapidated farm sheds.
  • Being mating season for the Lyre birds they where quite active and we got to see one cross the track on two separate occasions. Both had an impressive array of plumage.
  • Passed some newly learnt edible Lilly Pilly and again tried the not so tasty white fruit.
  • As we cycled I discovered a new found appreciation of the varying vegetation. It reminded me of a similar study on birds showing that the more people knew about the birds, the more species they could recognise (or thought they could), the more the birds where appreciated. We spotted, the red gums and grey gums mixed with the other trees such as stringy barks and iron barks that koalas aren’t as keen on. In some of the trees where large burls which often brought koalas to mind and where hence named koala decoys.
  • There where a number of animal cameras, traps and sand pits on the way out.
  • Soon we reached a steep downhill section winding its way down to the Rocky Creek crossing where we found a number of nice campsites
An amazing hollowed boulder


Β Lots of Stink Bugs on a tree above Rocky Ck.
  • The river crossing looked like you would need a serious 4WD to get through. Some umming and arring followed whereby we discussed leaving our bikes. In the end we proceeded with a bicycle portage taking several trips.
  • Once we where finally across Rocky Creek, it turned out that the road crossed the Wolgan! I couldn’t remember this being on the map, but thought maybe I had missed it and it crossed back to the southern side quite quickly… We had lunch and decided to continue on foot – we found a crossing a hundred meters downstream.
  • We had about 5km of walking on the Northern side of the valley before the track finally crossed back over. It was getting late and we decided to make camp at a great spot with a fire place, cut wood and a kitchen sink – obviously national parks must use this site (more on that at the end). For once I was happy for the abundance of nettles as I would finally get to cook some up πŸ™‚
  • During the walk we heard many more aeroplanes than I recall was normal – perhaps something to do with the altered flight paths.
  • We made camp and then continued down the track. It was only about 7-800m to the end. We took a bearing and headed up the scree slope towards some impressive columns of rocks that had broken off the cliff. It turns out that the road finished in a different spot to what the map suggested (the map had a dam marked just south of end of the road) so the bearing wasn’t leading us towards our koala hotspot… We did however find some of the nicest Elkhorns, and up quite high we found one of the rings National Parks usually fill with sand – not sure what it was doing up there…
Strange blue fungi – I can’t remember seeing these before!
  • After some wandering, it was getting late and we needed to to turn back. With a lot of effort we coaxed a fire alight and spent a very long time before we had some coals and some solid stuff burning.
  • I shared some vegetarian sausages, and Jemma made a great soup to which we added the collected stinging nettle leaves. I wasn’t sure if the nettles where natives but after the trip I found that there is a native species of nettle called β€˜scrub nettle’ (Urtica incisa) (which is also endemic to eastern Australia) although the European introductions of Urtica dioica (large leaf) and Urtica urens (small leaf) are also about.
Sun 21st:
  • I woke early (around 4am), but it was still dark so I postponed my morning walk down the valley
  • I woke later, and and headed off at around 6:30am. I was hoping to find the Totem Pole..
  • The first kilometre from the end of the road was quite slow. Boulders seemed to stretch from from the base of the cliffs all the way to the river and up part of the other side. I did a bit of boulder hopping, but stuck mostly to the bank.
  • The going soon became easier with some flatter open sections and I made quite good time
  • Having done some reading on the Wip bird calls I was listening for the answering call for the female and for the first time recognised/heard the chew-chew return call a number of times.
  • It took a little longer to reach Annie Rowan Ck than expected. After an easy crossing, I drank gladly.
Probably the nicest rounded earthstar I’ve ever seen!
  • The stretch from here to Houstons Ck was a fairly serious bush bash. The densely packed saplings where home to lots of noisy Bell birds. I was close to turning around because the scrub meant I would be back much later than I had intended (= angry Gemma??)
  • I was quite weary by the time I reached the vicinity of the Totem Pole.
  • I took a quick break to eat a couple of sorely needed oranges. Thinking about the time, I decided I’d have to head back without a proper search for the 😦
  • I thought I’d try staying higher up on the way back to Annie Rowan, but it proved just as slow higher up due to a loose scree slope that increased the chances of an injury.
  • After alarming quite a lot of Minors I finally reached the Ck crossing.
  • I hurried back and found Jemma be the camp fire – I had been walking (quickly for about 4.5 hours). I had a rushed breakfast and quickly packed.
  • The trip back went much quicker (about 2hrs according to Jemma)
  • On the way back we noticed quite a lot more animal cameras. I also noticed parallel horizontal slots in some gums that I think where made by Bell Minor birds (I’m not the best at identifying birds)… There where three birds on one of the slots and they had their beaks inside.Β  Apparently looking either [for] insects or yellow-bellied gliders depends on the trees and the nature of the scars/slots”
  • I was quite tired after doing 50km of walking/cycling
  • Got stuck talking to the guy who runs the Newns Hotel when we got back – I think he noticed our car had been there for a while. He said he had heard of a koala population down the valley.
(left) apparently this was done by Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (between Rocky Ck and our camp) (right) this was on a previous trip to Zorro Canyon – apparently also cockatoos.


A bicycle portage – much more efficient on the way back!

Animal Cameras:
1 on the stretch of road we walked
at least 3 more on the cycle after Rocky

Left the Newns Hotel just after 9am
Old farm sheds around 11am
Wolgan Crossing 12:30

Left for walk 6:30ish?
Annie Rowan Creek 7:50
Returned to camp (from Huston Ck) 11ish
Left Camp 11:50
Rocky Ck 12:45
Car 3:30ish

Info on the Wolgan Totem Pole:
“The Totem Pole appears to be a conglomerate erosion residual that has been protected by a large cap stone. There is a smaller column nearby, similarly protected by a cap stone. Similar but smaller erosion residuals, complete with cap stones can be seen on the eastern slopes above Annie Rowan Creek.
Further upstream along the Wolgan River there are other pinnacles that don’t have the protection of the cap stone. These pinnacles resemble some of the hoodoos found in Canada.”

“Located in the Wolgan Valley below the Annie Rowan Creek junction – about 1km downstream on the true right (south bank) – about 50m up from the river.”

(left) Joe Mack next to the Totem Pole. This photo was taken on the trip when Joe found the Totem Pole – circa 1975
(middle) Another photo of the Totem Pole taken in 1979. Jayne Hibbard is looking up at it.
(right) the next morning, Joe noticed this interesting feature – he called it the “Totem Pole”

In NSW Government Geologist, Joseph Edmund Carne’s field notebook number 3, Carne included a dimensioned sketch of what is now termed the Totem Pole.
A photo taken soon after, duly records it as the β€˜Earth Pillar, The Pinnacle, Wolgan Valley, c1908.’ Later named the Totem Pole by Joseph Mack in 1975Β  (actually 1974 according to David Noble’s website)

The link section between the surveyed land portions, 2, 3 and 11, which comprise the former cattle holding, Binnings Hole, is now difficult terrain to negotiate.
during the 1970s several 4WD groups attempted to push a road down the Wolgan RiverΒ  beyond Annie Rowan Creek

Now the road extends about 6 km below Rocky Creek. From Newnes to Rocky Creek it is on the south side of the river, then crosses just downstream of Rocky Creek and follows the north bank for about 5 km, then crosses again to β€œSink Camp” and continues for almost another km on the south bank to just below some rock towers. The road is being maintained to allow for NPWS pest control. The Wolgan Valley is the home to a large colony of now rare rock wallabies and they are threatened by foxes. So NPWS contractors lay 1080 to reduce fox numbers. As well, NPWS have been surveying the rock wallaby population for a number of years – and use β€œSink Camp” as a base. It is named because it has a sink set up on poles.
The walking downstream from the road terminus seems slower than I remember from the 1970’s. I think more scrub – notably blackthorn, has grown on the banks over the years.
On our trip, we walked down the road, stopping at a nice campsite under Big Glassy for lunch. β€œBig Glassy” is the rock climbers name for the massive cliff north of the river. It is one place that the half way ledge is so thin that the burra-moko and banks wall sandstone layers have merged. A lot of the rock on Big Glassy is rotten, brittle rock called β€œchoss” by climbers and there is a large roof near the top of the wall – making it a serious proposition for climbers. A friend, the late Andrew McAuley had achieved a number of bold first ascents here.

part of the old Binnings Hole Farm, just upstream from Annie Rowan Creek.Β Β 

The road used to go all the way to Annie Rowan Creek, but now it does not. It crosses the Wolgan River at the Rocky Creek junction, then stays on the north side for a fair way, then crosses the river again and goes on the south side for a short section – this is used as access for the wild dog and fox control program – as there is a large colony of rock wallabies living near the current end of the road. Altogether, the road goes for about 6 km below Rocky Ck. Past the end of it – it is quite slow going – off track bushwaking. Sometimes it is better to climb up on terraces a fair way above the river.


Puy-de-DΓ΄me, FranceΒ  –