Nathan Gorge June 13 - 15 2023
  last memory of Auburn River, a Noisy Friarbird.

A bit of a lack of bird life. But perhaps we have been spoiled at other spots.

A small flock of red-backed wrens passed by. A bit like a shoal of dolphins, appearing for a short flight above the grass. A few parrots high in the trees. Four ducks. Just enough to keep our attention.

  After three nights we moved on. A misty day.

Headed to Nathan Gorge.

  We weren't too sure about the dotted lines on the map so took a detour on minor roads through Cracow. Then turned south.

The narrow "road" was sign-posted to Taroom.

Followed the valley. Past Cracow Station.

  And Fairylands Station.
  Then a junction for the last few km to Nathan Gorge.

There's a sign post.

Not a well publicised, or well visited gorge. Not a national park or a conservation area. A point and a label on a map.

  The track is stony, occasional very short sections of sand, and some black soil to make it impassable if there is rain.
  Variously described as "nice scenery but difficult climb down" and "don't waste your time".

It looks like there may be a steep way down to the bottom, avoiding cliffs, at the very end of the track. We don't feel that ambitious.

  At the campsite there is an old concrete pad. Perhaps for a hut. No evidence of mounting bolts for machinery.

As we walk from the end of the track, which incidentally has a nice camp spot, we follow the eastern side of the ridge. The Dawson River flows through the gorge on the west side of the ridge. There is a tributary on the east side.

A few artefacts. A rusty length of 3/4" wire rope, some rusty bits of steel, including an old oil filter. And this old silencer from an exhaust.

  And with a bit of effort, a glimpse of the gorge.

The attraction is that we have entered "sandstone country" which has lots of gorges. This is an opportunity to explore one of the most easterly. Our plan is to explore as much of it as we can.

Auburn River National Park was granite. In 70km we now see sandstone. The landscape began to change just before we reached Cracow.

  The campsite is good. Nothing special. Just good.

As I said to the surgeon when he was explaining that the lens insert, to replace cataract, was not quite right but some people like perfect and we can implant an insert in front of the first one  .... "should we let perfect get in the way of good".

In both cases, campsite and eye, the answer is clearly no.

We are camping and exploring rather than waiting for things to heal after medical interventions.

I figure the lens implants are fixed focus. I'm using a very old pair of noddy glasses (varifocal) for anything closer than about 3m. I would hate having to take reading glasses on/off, and still only fix one distance.

I'll visit optometrist on return home for an up to date pair of noddy glasses.

And we realise that so far none of our campsites have been festooned with used loo paper ... how sad is that? (that we notice).

  An afternoon stroll. Just me.

Let's see what happens if I look at the edge of the gorge a little south of our camp.

Slow but steady through tussock on rocky ground.

Then a surprise.

Running along the edge of the cliff is an old vehicle track that has obviously been formed. Cut into the sloping ground.

Many years old, there are largish trees growing in the middle.

Its very vaguely discernible on google's satellite view as a darker straightish line.

  I followed it north a bit. To what I shall call "my lookout".


Looking north along the gorge.

  And a little further on.
  The track didn't last long. It stopped at a gully.

So I bushbashed towards the campsite and tripped over a water tank.

A disconnected steel pipe to the top of the tank. I couldn't find an outlet pipe. The door was long gone.

  Early morning. A trio of peaceful doves?

With a display of tail feathers that the camera caught the (tail) end of.

They were spread quite wide.

Not sure if it was a display targeted at one of the other doves. It was looking the other way, in blissful ignorance.

  We really didn't notice until we started walking through it.

Is it spinifex we asked ourselves.

Mostly tussock, but yes, spinfex.

  Ali and I together this time.

We found the old vehicle track again. Even more pronounced, I wasn't imagining it.

  And the gorge looking north was more or less the same. Just morning light instead of afternoon.
  We followed the old track south, but as it left the gorge edge, to avoid another gully, it simply disappeared. Overtaken by time and vegetation.

Though we did see what we think is a Rufous Whistler at the gorge edge.

  After being pushed away from the gorge edge by several deep gullies we walked out to the road. Followed south. Then bush bashed due west to where we estimated we would overlook the bend in the Dawson River.

Just a glimpse really. Looking west. There was no view north.

It did satisfy our curiosity. We weren't quite sure from the map which bit was "the gorge". We decide it all is.

It looked like the way down to the bottom was not so steep here, and perhaps no cliffs.

But we are tired, so we beat a retreat. Two km trudge along the road to the truck.

The bread maker has one hour left. The yeasty aroma of bread baking welcome.

  But of course, the day is never over until its ended. Part way through the afternoon I became restless. We are doing quite well at traveling more slowly. But it means we have more time to be still.

I'm a slow learner!

While Ali practiced playing her mandola I had another look at the end of the ridge. And possible ways down to the bottom of the gorge.

Turned out to be not so hard as first thought. A bit less steep than a New Zealand Fjordland mountain side.

According to gps, top is 230m, bottom 160m, making the gorge 70m deep.

This is looking east along Downfall Creek. The confluence with the Dawson River is about 200m south west.

  Older copies of the flowers we noticed at Auburn River crossing.

First part of descent was rocky, with little vegetation. Just enough to hang on to in the event of a slip. Some loose soil.

It flattened out about half way down. More, and different trees. And grass.

Then same steepness again to flat bit a couple of metres above river level, with thick green grass, and fallen palm leaves. Had to be careful where I put my feet, feel for solid ground under the grass with each foot fall. Much like New Zealand tussock, but not as shiny and slippery.

  Looking south west, towards the confluence

Very different vegetation to that on the ridge.

  The cliffs on the northern (opposite) side of Downfall Creek. It was these cliffs, and similar which made us nervous about descending, lest we became bluffed. They form a large arc for a 180 degree bend in the creek.

Steady as she goes. Take a look. Digest. Investigate a bit. Get used to the terrain. Think a bit more.

I was really embarked on a bit more investigation, a bit more probing. A bit of a surprise when I realised it was really quite easy. Just steep.

Not so happy when I realised I was in Downfall Creek and not the Dawson River.

  Naturally, what went down has to come up.

Looking (longingly) upwards from about half way.

A bit of a grunt.

The good news is that I reached the top by simply plodding my way upwards. Not really feeling any strain in my legs. Breathing good. I should have believed the doctor who supervised my last coronary stress echo test when he asked how I kept fit .... renovating our swimming pool which is about 30m below our house on a slope a bit like this one. The test was post coronary by-pass, the op in March last year.

I guess by now you may begin to think how happy I feel. The simple part of just being here, camped in rough country. Without having to worry (too much) about health. The occasional unfortunate concession to age. We can't walk as far, or for as long, as we used to.

Cup (more than) half full.

  Day three. We are becoming a little familiar with the lie of land.

Despite previous observations of cliffs we explored the potential for following the end of a ridge from our campsite directly to the confluence. We had enough internet to see a satellite pic and obtain coordinates.

But we were beaten back by steepness, if not cliffs. We could see the confluence below us. Looking about north.

  So off to the end of the vehicle track, and follow more or less yesterday's route to the bottom of Downfall Creek.

Then south westerly along the creek. A little way from the edge where kangaroos have made tracks and the grass is thinner.

Soft soil.

Ali's knee still good.

  Less than 100m to the confluence.
  Getting closer.
  And finally there. Looking north along the Dawson River from the little tip of land that occurs when two rivers meet. I had to sit down to look under the trees.

We stopped here, and turned back.

  We haven't quite figured out why the Dawson River seems to be flooded, but there is not flow. Maybe satellite images will reveal a blockage further north.

And so it does..... there's a weir, about16km due north of us as crow flies, a bit further round the bends of the river. About 12km west of Cracow.

And while looking for the blockage I also looked at Precipice National Park. If I thought this area was rough, the park looks really rough. And more inaccessible (if such a thing is possible).

  A last look at Downfall Creek, looking east.

Shortly after this we retraced our steps, climbing back up the hill to the end campsite.

A couple of hours, including sitting looking.

While we've avoided cliffs, and broken rock, its quite possible there are rock shelters. Perhaps more in the Dawson River than the creek.

We may never know as we can find little information about the gorge (which doesn't mean there is no info).

  The red line is the brief walk to the end of the track and beyond.

The blue line is a combination of the short walk just described, and tomorrow's longer exploration.

"my lookout" is on that little bit of vehicle track along cliff top.

The road followed the ridge between the Dawson River and a tributary, Downfall Creek.

We are camped where red and blue meet. Another site and way down to gorge where red and yellow meet.

There's a green line, an exploration to the bottom of the gorge from the end campsite.

And then a yellow line, followed the green line, then along Downfall Creek to the confluence.

Isla Gorge National Park June 16 - 19 2023

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