Bushwalking / SUBW

A weekend in the Wild Dog Mountains

Party: Tim Vollmer, Nigel Butler, Mary Merlo, Lisa Jonas – photos

I’d been itching for an overnight trip for a while, and a conversation with Rocky got me thinking about the Wild Dogs, so I decided to organise a trip to check out a few of the places on Dunphy’s sketch map that had intrigued me.

A stomach bug and diary errors whittled the group down from six to four by the time the weekend came, but despite a fairly miserable weather forecast the rest of us weren’t deterred. After driving down through the Megalong Valley with the temperature registering -2.5C – and in places a frost so thick it looked like snow – everyone was keen to get walking as soon as possible.

We were barely 50 metres from the car when we saw the first sign warning that poison baits had been placed in the area to kill wild dogs, which has a certain irony given the name of the area. We punched along the fire trails, past Carlons and Glenraphael Heads, to not far from where the powerline (an appalling abomination from decades past) crosses the track, slipping off into the trackless bush.

There was one patch of scrub, but otherwise the Glenalan Spurs offered very pleasant walking. The biggest challenge was making sure we stayed on the right spur, which was why I was so happy to hear the sound of a waterfall as we came to the end. Scrambling down a loose slope onto a rock jutting out above a sheer cliff we had a stunning view of Glanalan Falls plunging into a lush green chasm.

Glenalan Falls in upper Breakfast Creek

We skirted around and scrambled down to the creek, admiring how the jagged, angled rock made the area seem like a miniature version of the creeks around Kanangra. After some photo pfaffing we were off up Faithful Hound Ridge, which like our route in is one of the few Breakfast Creek spurs without some kind of footpad.

We ducked over a small creek and were quickly on the superhighway that runs to Mobbs Soak. I was saddened to see how huge the clearings had become at the junctions with Black Horse and Blue Dog Ridges, with the dirt scoured clear of plant life, trees graffitied and rubbish lying around.

Once we were walking on Blue Dog it was more pleasant, with the track much less pronounced and the bush quite pristine. We eventually made it to Knights Deck for a late lunch, racing past the enormous cairn – which comes complete with a shiny reflector – and out to the northern point.

Stunning views over Scrubbers Hump from Knights Deck

The weather was lovely, and we enjoyed a relaxing feed and cups of tea while admiring the huge expanse in front of us, which included a great view of tomorrow’s target area. Eventually we moved on, heading for the Coxs River to camp. While I’d originally wanted to head further south to camp, we ended up following the well worn foot pad down to Breakfast Creek.

Our knees endured some serious punishment, but a large open camp site, quick skinny dips in the cold river and nice warm fire soon had us suitably relaxed. So relaxed, in fact, that a cheeky possum almost escaped with Mary’s jaffle bread for the next day. After being chased from the fly the little bugger decided to stay close by, checking for any other food whenever we turned out backs.

We had a lazy start the next morning, and were still sitting around the breakfast fire when the first rain shower of the weekend hit. Along with the creepy little worm things which had appeared out of the sand (which we speculated had spent the night burrowing into our brains via our ears) it signalled time to get moving.

Mary got rather excited as she examined an animal skeleton we discovered

We left packs behind, walking upstream on the Coxs River, crossing several times, and admiring the bluffs towering above us on the way to the Jenolan River. The lower section of this river is so much prettier and more pristine than the Coxs, with some great little camp sites and swimming holes for a warmer day! And Nigel kept us entertained in his attempts to stay dry, at one point using a vine Tarzan style to swing across the river. Amazingly it worked.

Moving upstream we could see the gorge forming, with towering broken-rock cliffs eventually coming all the way to the water. At one point there is a compulsory wade, but after pushing through myself I looked back only to see three frowning faces and crossed arms. Eventually they decided to strip off and cross over, but only after the camera was banished!

We continued a short way further before decided it was time to pull out. I knew we were well short of Scrubbers Saddle, but figured we may be able to skirt higher up. The loose scree was most unpleasant, and we were very happy when we made it onto a spur of sorts. As we climbed we could see the saddle, some distance away, so decided we might as well push on to the top.

The beautiful Lower Jenolan River

The slope is consistent the whole way: steep. As we got closer, and my legs got more tired, I was spurred on by the joy of being able to declare that “I’ve mounted Scrubbers Hump”, which sounded almost dirty enough to be printed on a Fat Canyoners T-shirt. The views, while cloudy, were great, and the ridge walk from the peak down to the saddle was particularly nice.

From here it was a steep plunge down to the river, which was done in good time, and before long we were zigzagging back and forward across the Coxs back to camp. We’d not long got the lunch fire burning when a group from SPAN wandered in on a day trip with non other than SUBW member Marta Bello in the crew.

After a pleasant catch up they set off up Ironmonger, with their trip leader saying we’d never make it back to the cars by dark up Breakfast Creek. Nigel muttered something unrepeatable under his breath and we accepted the challenge! Despite that, there was no hurry, and we finished having jaffles and tea and noodles before we turned to packing up out gear for the trip home.

Breakfast Creek was pretty as usual, with a small flow of water making the dozens of crossings nice and easy (unless you were Mary who had a spectacular fall onto her bum that left her not only wet, but with the responsibility of buying the first round at the pub).

Nigel makes his way across the compulsory wade / swim in the Lower Jenolan Gorge

It seemed no time at all before we were turning up Carlons Creek and on the final stretch. Here we were slowed slightly by the thick blanket of stinging nettles, not to mention slick mud which the Volleys didn’t much like. Then with a final push we were up the hill, over the top stile, and striding down to the cars a full 20 minutes before sunset and right as the SPAN group were turning up. Nigel’s grin said it all.

We packed up and set off to Lawson for a beer, with Mary’s final parting words being to check for leeches after she pulled a big one off. As I drove I could now feel my legs tingling, and ignored it as being all in my head, but after about 10 minutes I finally reached down and found one of the little blood-suckers on my ankle, classily pulling him off and tossing him out the window.

We were all a little seized up by the time we got to the pub, and had to wait half an hour for food due to some traditional folk musicians, but the beer certainly hit the spot. It was a great trip with good company, much better weather than forecast, and strangest of all a route that was almost exactly the same as the one I’d planned. Now there’s a first!

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One thought on “A weekend in the Wild Dog Mountains

  1. Thanks to Joseph Mack who emailed me this interesting response to my joy at being able to say “I’ve mounted Scrubbers Hump”:

    A scrubber is an escaped/feral head of cattle (not just one that hasn’t been mustered for 4 yrs – that was normal 100yrs ago. I assume you have to be at least 1 generation out of captivity to be a scrubber).
    Early in the colony some cattle escaped from Sydney to be found a while later at Cow Pastures in Camden. (I assume decades) Later 2 orange bullocks and 4 orange cows were found in Megalong/Kanimbla (forget which) that were recognised as being from the same herd (I don’t know how people know this, but back then people knew enough about cattle that this was obvious. Nowadays people wouldn’t know one cow from another and have to match DNA). They’d walked up the Warragamba and Cox, through Kill’s Defile and had crossed the mountains before Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson, with a lot less effort and without making a big deal about it. Presumably they were doing 3 Peaks on weekends. Possibly they’d already explored up Kanagara Walls and the Wollondilly and on the day they were discovered, were just minding their own business relaxing in Megalong and were caught unawares, otherwise they’d still be out there. These were the original scrubbers. (Conspiracy theory advocates claim that friends of B,W&L hushed up their discovery, so it’s not taught in primary school.)
    Scrubbers hump is next to scrubbers saddle, which was the preferred route for moving stock, rather than taking them through the gorge. Where the route was too/from I don’t know – presumably between Kanimbla and Megalong. I take “preferred” to mean that people had actually taken cattle through the gorge. People and cattle were tough back then.
    What the connection between the original 6 scrubbers and the cattle that were moved over Scrubber’s Hump, that lead to Scrubber’s Hump being so named, I don’t know.

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