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save the Blue Tier

north east highlands track

A 7-DAY ADVENTURE - by Lesley Nicklason

In January this year 35 people took part in a 7-day adventure - walking the northeast highlands track.

The trip started at Mt. Victoria - the mountain plateau covered in Mountain Rocket, Tea Tree in full flower - a sight to behold. After clambering up the lichen-spotted boulders to the summit we spent a couple of hours taking in views of the northeast highlands. After lunch we skirted the summit through ancient myrtle and celery top pines to camp for our first night at Ralph Falls - our trailer of gear and supplies having been left there on the way through to the start of the track (the trailer was to magically appear each evening at our various campsites, towed daily by a roster of supportive friends).

The following morning we set off around Cash's Gorge with its dramatic cliffs and fabulous views, meeting the ancient forests of Rattler Range after a couple of hours. The magic of Rattler Range has to be experienced to be believed ... the mist hanging in the moss clad ancient trees, ferns and more moss and lichen covering the ground ... we spent most of the day travelling easily under these magnificent trees - emerging at Rattler Hill in plenty of time to set up camp above the Cascade River.

A night under the stars dawned into a beautiful day and after packing up camp we set out over Rattler Hill. Heading east towards the Star of Peace we wandered through a sea of Trigger Plant which had turned the entire hilltop into a purple carpet.

The afternoon was spent at Maa Mon Chin Dam, the first of us in lucky enough to swim briefly with 4 platypuses. Camping beside the Weld River we again spent the night out under the stars.

Sunday was hot but the walk was under the canopy of the tall wet eucalypt forests of Emu Road - arriving at the Frome River for a quick dip after 1.5 hours. Our next swim was at the lunch stop at Wyniford Weir, the ancient celery top pine weir a reminder of an era long past. The sparkling waters bubbling over moss covered rocks, myrtle and flowering tea tree dripping from the banks - it was hard to leave but the day had more to offer as we slowly approached the Blue Tier plateau to camp at the site of the old township of Poimena.

A lazy morning allowed time for a sleep in and climb to the summit of Mt. Poimena with its views of the entire northeast corner of Tasmania, including Flinders and Cape Baron Islands. Heading off again we climbed Australia Hill to view the ancient petroglyphs before descending to Crystal Creek Bridge. The descent from Australia Hill is steep in places but fascinating, particularly for historians as it follows the path of the old aerial haulage line - from the Australia Mine, the bull wheel, the boiler and on to the Don Mine before emerging onto Lottah Road near the beautiful fern lined Crystal Creek.

Another fantastic night out under the stars, more walkers joined us after breakfast for arguable the climax of the trip - the Groom River Valley. Leaving Crystal Hill we descended to the upper Groom through rare and ancient forest (glacial refugia), stunning moss fields and old mining tunnels. Crossing the Groom the forest type changes dramatically from the drier slopes to towering tree ferns and giant trees. For those in the group who hadn't experienced Tassie's 'fat' trees it was the highlight of the trip ... we indulged in an exciting bout of 'big tree hunting' the forests revealing a new giant - it took the 11 of us with outstretched arms to circle the tree. We travelled on through the huge forests visiting the unique Cradle Tree, another stretch of the Groom River and finally - the Blue Tier Giant with its awesome girth of 19.4 meters. That night we set up camp beside Lehners Ridge Road and camped among the tree ferns and sassafras ... sleeping out on the moss with owls and sugar gliders calling throughout the night as we dozed under the canopy.

We awoke to another spectacular day, our last ... the group reluctant to rejoin the world! An easy stroll down Lehners Ridge Road brought us back to the Groom River for lunch. A quick swim and we crossed a small, forested hill to arrive at the old Weir above Halls Falls. Time allowed us to enjoy the Falls and spend the afternoon soaking up the warmth of the rocks before plunging into the ice waters below the falls.

The trip was a huge success, proving beyond doubt that this part of Tasmania is worthy of an extended walk ... walkers comments are full of words like ... 'awesome', 'spectacular', 'brilliant', 'blissful', 'astounding', 'a wonderful journey' ... and it is!

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