JONES CREEK, ETTREMA TOPS – 13 -14 March 2021
This trip started out with a cast of thousands, but when the weekend rolled around we were down to just the three of us, Ali, Trish M and me. My head mustn’t have been screwed on correctly as when Trish asked me what topo maps we would be on, I sent her an sms with “Marriage and Tough I think”, bloody predictive text, didn’t proof read it, should have been “Nerriga and Touga”. Trish got a good laugh out of it!
Trish and I drove down on Friday night, Ali rolled up at 7.30am on Saturday morning and we headed off, perfect weather for this trip, lovely day Saturday, not so lovely Sunday.
So, why were we heading out to Jones Creek six months after the last trip? Back in August when we did a recce out to Jones Creek, we were pleasantly surprised with the lovely pools and cascades in the upper part of the creek. We’d walked downstream for a couple of k but didn’t get to the waterfall that I’d visited (walking up to it from Ettrema Creek), so I determined to go all the way down to the waterfall this time, hoping for lovely slab rock sections in the creek, similar to Moore and Plain creeks.
The 13k walk on the Ettrema Tops/Pauls Pass fire trail was pretty uneventful, except for a 200m section of fire trail that’s been taken over by these voluntary wattles, some parts of this track which was like a moon scape, will be challenging over the next few years with this sort of re-growth. These saplings were head-high.
We’re now on the Jones Creek Fire trail, and those hunting for the pink flannel flowers (Actinotus forsythii) , eat your hearts out! We were told that the best display of these were on Narrow Neck in the Blue Mountains, well, we have it on good authority from Ali who went to Narrow Neck that the display here at Jones Creek was 1,000 times better than on Narrow Neck. There were drifts of them as far as the eye could see. For those who don’t know of the pink flannel flower madness gripping everyone at the moment, these little natives only appear after a bush fire immediately followed by wet weather (thank you La Nina). I’ve been bushwalking for 25 years and this year is the first time I’ve ever seen them.
We were oohing and aahing for the first half hour or so and then it was a case of “oh yes, more pink flannel flowers” and whilst we started trying not to walk on them, eventually we just ignored them. There they are just beside the remnants of the vehicle ruts on the trail, flannel flowers as far as the eye could see.
We arrived at our campsite at 11.30 left Trish there to settle in and then Ali and I headed downstream.
I took a shortcut, cutting off a few hundred metres of the good part of the creek, and then dropped down to the creek level hoping for nice easy walking such as this.
Very easy walking at the moment, and the cliffs are negotiable up to this point (you could easily get out).
After another 100m or so, the creek became more canyon-like with cliffs on either side.
And then we got to the lovely slab rock sections, if it had been warmer we would have frolicked in this section, but whilst we were sweating, it wasn’t warm enough for a swim.
More slab rock.
And then it closed in a bit and became bouldery, after 200m of trying to get over and around big boulders we decided to give the side of the creek a go.
So walked up near the cliff base, the slope was quite steep down to the creek, and was easy going for a while, and then there were more boulders so we opted for the creek again. By this time we’d passed where Heather, Murray and I had turned back the last time. I seem to recall Murray saying that there were more slab sections ahead, I was holding out for those, I was pretty much over the boulders.
Ali, very excited about finding some flat rocks to walk on!
The rock that was wet was very slippery, I slipped here and am now sporting a dinner plate sized bruise, Ali agreed to a photo op though to prove that we had some nice sections to walk in.
And then the rock changed, as though it had been turned on edge, so we were now walking over very sharp rock (lots of trip hazards). See the size of the rock on the left, well, that’s pretty much like what we’d been walking and making our way around for most of the trip. We were pretty much over the rocks.
We headed up to the cliff-base and miraculously I found the pass that Murray found on our last trip, so we took that out to get to the top (and fire trail), it would be a quick route back to camp.
Dropping back into the creek near our campsite, this is what I was hoping for, very disappointed that this lovely creek formation didn’t reappear downstream.
Much easier walking upstream!
We got back to camp around 4pm, Trish was lazying around on the rock shelf in the sun, Ali and I were hot and sweaty.
I hopped into the spa bath (you can just see our camp overhang, top of the photo in the right hand corner, and the nice pool at the front of it.
Looking upstream from the spa bath.
Trish and Ali relaxing on the rock slabs.
The pool in front of our overhang, looks idyllic, sadly though the pool has a lot of charcoal and soot in the bottom of it, needs a good flush out to get back to the lovely yellow sand that it would have been pre-fires.
Trish had collected wood for our camp fire, we enjoyed dinner around the fire, and it wasn’t until 7pm that the forecast showers rolled in, and sitting around the fire wasn’t so pleasant. Interestingly after a night of rain, this campfire area was a running stream from a small creek/waterfall that is behind Trish.
One could say that we were bloody lucky there were only the three of us, any more and the overhang would have been crowded! As it was, when the wind blew the wrong way, there was a mist blowing in, thankfully that didn’t happen too often.
The little waterfall beside the overhang where we were able to collect water. On Saturday afternoon there was the odd trickle of water, this is as it was on Sunday morning, full on flowing!
While we were off having fun on Saturday afternoon, Trish had sussed a new route for us to take back to the Jones Creek Fire Trail, easy as and cut off quite a bit of fire trail, and probably about 1/2 an hour of additional walking.
Back in the land of the pink flannel flowers. It was light rain when we started from the camp overhang, and the drizzle continued for an hour or two and then eased off.
We started walking at 8.45am and were back at the cars at 11.45am, soaking wet! We virtually stripped off our wet clothes hopped in our vehicles and headed off, Trish heading for Bungonia/Marulan/Hume Highway and Ali and me heading down to Nowra with a short stop at Tianjara Falls to ascertain whether or not it was worth abseiling (maybe?). As my car is still at the panel beaters (having the door fixed) my son had very kindly lent me his big-arse Prado – when he gave me a run through of the features, he said “here’s the seat heater button but you wont need that”. Well, I’m here to tell you with the temperature outside when we got back to the car at 9 degrees C, that seat heater was switched on very quickly, have never been so thankful of a seat heater in my life!
So, am I disappointed that I didn’t get to the Jones Creek waterfall? A little bit, but then Anna assures me that even though we didn’t make our objective, it was a worthwhile trip, after all, I’ve determined now that I never have to go back to Jones Creek, didn’t have any redeeming features downstream, the camp site was nice, but not nice enough to do a special trip (particularly walking that 13k of fire trail). On a positive note though, pretty sure we saw more pink flannel flowers than anyone else this year!
Thanks so much Ali and Trish for going with me, couldn’t have done it without you, you were both such good company and great sports!
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