Trip Report by Zoe Austin-Crowe
We found finding an overnight hike that is suitable for a kid doing their first overnight hike a bit tricky. Trail Hiking Australia gave us the best tips, but still there was some guess work. This contribution outlines my friend and my success of walking to Keppel Hut from Lake Mountain with our ten year old sons.
Lake Mountain in February is a fantastic destination. The higher altitude makes it a bit cooler so we beat the February heat, but weren’t snowed in either. Lake Mountain was terribly affected by the intense fires in 2009. The taller trees almost all died and are now grey ghosts in the landscape. But from just above head height to the ground level, the bush is rebounding with trees overcrowding each other. As you walk with your eyes on the path ahead you experience more greenery the grey ghosts, although there is something spectacular about the starkness of the trees when you look up.
We started with a car shuffle leaving one car at Gerratys car park and then driving back to Snowy Hill Car Park. The first part of the walk was a bit of an uphill climb to Sherlock Lookout. However we hadn’t started very far along the walk before we came across a net climb from an obstacle course. An instant impresser for our 10 year olds as they tested their muscle to scale the net. It seemed to take quite a while to get to Sherlock Lookout, but Taggerty Valley view and Marysville Lookout appeared in quick succession. The mountains that we looked out to had us laughing with their uninspiring names: Mt Despair, Mount Terrible. This stretch was on a narrow path used by the occasional daring mountain biker. The last stretch of the path passed another obstacle challenge and the flying fox that operates during Winter before arriving at Gerratys carpark.
At Gerratys carpark we left some things in the car, signed in for our overnight hike and otherwise pretended that we hadn’t really entered civilisation.
We took the Royston Trail which is just to the East of the lower cafe building. This is perhaps the most mundane part of the trail, but is on a well mowed ski trail so is easy walking. It is a fairly gradual ascent to Triangle Junction. One aspect that helped keep us going was that the trail poles countdown from about R30 to R1 as you approach Triangle Junction.
From Triangle Junction we thoroughly enjoyed the scenery as we walked to Crossways and then out towards Boundary Hut. This was easy walking and we were surprised by how quickly we covered the terrain.
We turned onto the Boundary Track for the final stage of the hike. Although probably the most beautiful part, this is the hardest part of the walk, with lots of fallen down branches and logs, a few black berries to pick past and a fairly steep descent for about a third of the track. Jelly legs started to set in and we were thrilled to reach our destination of Keppel Hut.
Keppel Hut is a great little campsite for a few tents. The hut itself is a bit smoky and dusty, but would be a great refuge in damper weather. There is one campfire, one picnic table and a toilet. The nearby Creek had clear running water that we filtered to drink. (The only other water we saw was a very poor trickle at the start of the Boundary Track and a larger stream when we were nearly at Keppel Hut.) 4WDs can access this campsite, but we had the company of another hiking party the night we stayed.
Food and a good night’s sleep made the return walk to Boundary Hut much easier than we had predicted. Although it was a steep climb, the kids were in great spirits and showed great perseverance as they climbed the fairly constant ascent. Once at the top we took a detour along the beautiful Panorama Trail to the Panorama Lookout and then a quick peak at Lookout Rock.
The Lake Mountain cafe facilities were in full use with a mountain bike activity when we returned. One of the kids had a go at the tubing on offer and we enjoyed a treat at the cafe as a reward for our efforts. We jumped into the car at Gerratys and picked up the other car at Snowy Hill.
So what did our ten year olds think? Despite some initial reluctance, once on the trail they loved it and said hiking was better than camping because there was a sense of purpose. It gave us a great amount of time to be with our child and to chat uninterrupted.
We think the first day’s hike was about 12kms and the second was about 8kms, making it a 20km overnight hike. What a great achievement for a first hike!