Farmhouse Creek Track - Judds Cavern
(a long time ago...)
This is now within an area of Aboriginal Land and
access is restricted.
The Farmhouse Creek track is the closest access
point to Federation Peak so while I had a few days off work and I was keen to do
a walking trip in this area of South-West Tasmania. My initial plan was to
do a 2-3 day walk towards Federation Peak on the Farmhouse Creek track.
When I reached the end of the road on the west
Picton Road I crossed the car bridge and headed off (this bridge is now closed
to cars but at the time of this trip the car park was across the bridge).
This was the first time I had done any walks on this track.
The track heads west along the southern side of
Farmhouse Creek for about 90 mins at a moderate walking pace. I was
disappointed that it started raining just after I started walking but I put my
coat on and I was warm while I was walking.
During the first 90 mins there were 3 cleared
areas big enough to camp - spaced about 30 mins apart, with one just before the
crossing of Farmhouse Creek at the 90 minute mark. I also crossed 2 small
side creeks flowing into Farmhouse Creek during that first section.
Farmhouse Creek was rising quickly - on the next day
heading back to the car it had broken its banks and the track was under water.
After crossing Farmhouse Creek there was about
45 mins mud and water dammed by tree roots on the 'track' and cutting grass, before climbing in the forest to
the South Picton Saddle. The rain was heavy and steady but I didn't notice
it as much as I walked under the rainforest tree canopy.
From the South Picton Saddle I continued to the
west, downhill, following irregular track marking tapes. The track wasn't easy to
follow and at that time I hadn't realised that I wasn't on the correct track.
There was a new track from the South Picton Saddle - and I wasn't on it.
The new track turns to the south-west (to the left'ish) at the South Picton
Saddle. This new track is now well worn and clearer but at the time of
this walk the 'pad' that I was following on the ground looked quite clear
heading straight ahead on the old track. It turns out that I was following
'the old track' to Federation Peak, via Cracroft junction.
I continued downhill and reached an open
buttongrass plain. There was still heavy rain and mist reducing the
visibility to about 100 metres. I trudged across the plain, dodging the
really deep mud following the 'track'. The track eventually turned to the
right and headed towards the trees again - away from the buttongrass plain. I entered the tree cover and
found a cleared campsite and set up my tent.
Rather than just hiding in
the tent for the rest of the afternoon I went for a short walk without the
discomfort of my pack. It was only at this time, when looking closely at
my map that I worked out that I was on the old track and not the new one.
This was before GPS's were common and I had been working on map & compass.
The heavy rain and mist had made it very hard to establish where I was. I
couldn't see surrounding hills or mountains.
I headed along the creek next to the camp and
found a cave entrance. Checking my map I worked out that it was Judds
Cavern - which consisted of a rapidly flooding creek disappearing into a dark
cave. I couldn't see inside so I returned to get my torch from the tent
and shone it inside. With so much rain, I couldn't get inside.
I looked around for a while but headed
for my tent when the rain became very heavy. As I sheltered in the tent I
listened to the old trees around me creak and groan. It was scary because
no-one knew that I was camping there and had visions of being killed or trapped
by a tree falling. I dozed off during the afternoon and had woke later
thinking it must be close to morning. I was disappointed to find that it
was only 11pm (I think this trip was in May - when daylight hours are short).
I lay there listening to the heavy rain and wind for hours, occasionally dozing.
At dawn it was still raining and I lay there
longer hoping the rain would stop. I fell asleep again. When I awoke again
at 11am I was alarmed because I knew I would run out of light and the rivers
were still rising.
I packed as quickly as I could and headed out of
the trees - still raining heavily. I re-traced my route across the buttongrass bog/plains to the edge of the forest again. It was very hard
to find the route back up the hill and I had to look around carefully as a lot
of the tapes were on the ground.
I eventually found my way back up to South
Picton Saddle (which was a relief) but it took longer than I hoped. I continued down to the log
crossing of Farmhouse Creek and I was alarmed to find that water had broken the
banks and I could see the raging torrent flowing just over the top of the log
crossing. I watched for a few minutes. I could see where the log was
because it was causing a wave in the water. I decided to try and cross it
by holding onto branches above the log. I made it across hanging onto the
branches above for my life.
It was only mid-afternoon but the sky was very
dark due to the thick clouds and rain and the tree cover. I had to get my
head torch out to try and find the track. The main problem was that
Farmhouse Creek was now in flood and was covering the track in many places that
runs alongside the creek for much of the way back.
I had to 'bush bash' in the thick scrub just above the new
river edge until the track appeared again. The scrub bashing took forever. I also
got a bit lost for a while when I came to the two side creeks that flowed into
Farmhouse Creek. These side creeks were now also big and wide. These
didn't have log crossings so I had to wade into them. The water was very
cold and I lost my footing in the first one and made a panicked scramble for
tree branches to save myself.
I climbed from the water, cold and tired with a
waterlogged pack. It ended up taking about 6 hours to do what took 2 hours
the day before - when the creek wasn't a flooded river. It was a massive
relief to finally get back to the car but then I noticed that Farmhouse Creek
was so high that the car bridge was under water. Another car was stopped
there waiting, unable to cross. They said that they had been there for
hours waiting for the river level to drop a bit to check if the bridge was still
I quickly got changed and sat in my
car, trying to warm up.
After an hour or so it stopped raining. We checked the
creek/river level every half hour and sometime after midnight we noticed that
the water was gradually falling. By about 3am the bridge became visible
again and we were relieved to see that it was intact and hopeful that it
wouldn't collapse when we drove over it. Before trying to drive on it, we walked over it and it seemed
sturdy. The other guys then drove over first and I followed. I made
it home just before dawn and had the best hot shower that I have ever had
followed by a long sleep, very relieved to have come out in one piece.
The cleanup wasn't much fun either. My
down sleeping bag had gone for a swim in the muddy river when I lost my footing
and I had an interesting time washing it in the bath, trying to get the mud out
of it and not to break the baffles in it when I lifted it out.
[When I think back to this trip now, I had just started
bushwalking and this really was an adventure. I was following a very rough
route only & was using a $60 dome tent and a dodgy 2nd hand nylon pack that was
splitting. I had no knowledge of thermarest matresses either and had a
foam roll-up matress attached to the pack - you know the ones that keep getting
shredded each time you push through dense scrub. I also had a crappy head
torch with very limited battery life and was walking at night, crossing flooded
creeks/river after the track was also flooded over. In hindsight I could
have come unstuck in lots of ways.]
Matt's Trip Report Pages
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