North East Highlands Trail (The Snail Trail)

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North East Highlands Trail (The Snail Trail)

Postby NickD » Tue 11 Oct, 2011 9:08 pm

From the 26-30 of September this year my girlfriend, two friends and I undertook the North East Highland Trail proposed by the Friends of the Blue Tier which leads North from Mt Victoria to the lower slopes of the Blue Tier. This walk is ordinarily a 7 day walk, as I had only 5 days we cut out two days, which was done easily. The walk has also been coined the 'forbidden trail' due to Forestry Tasmania refusing to allow it to be advertised as a walk. The trail however is mostly in reserves and crown land and therefore is not illegal to walk. The walk is an incredible journey and quite unique to Tasmania as the country it passes through is not always to the same wild standard as many of our other amazing areas, but holds its own in rainforest beauty and grandeur against the areas like the Florentine & The Tarkine.

The walk conveniently has camps situated at road access points each night, some at already established tourist spots others such as Rattler Hill - Night two - is accessed by rough 4WD roads. Night three we spent at Weldborough pub, one of Tasmania's most quaint country pubs stocking a massive collection of Tasmanian beers and serving a hot meal using very local produce.

Luckily enough for us one of our walking companions was Leslie from Friends of the Blue Tier who has created this trail and walked it 11 times in its entirety. Her amazing knowledge of the North East area in terms of historical, flaura and fauna and general local makes myself a Tasmanian guide entering my fourth season feel very humbled. And passion comes in bucket loads.

The walking takes place through largely rainforest, with truly your first real Eucalyptus sighting not taking place for the first couple of days.

Day 1 - Mt Victoria to Ralphs Falls
An appropriately cool morning greeted us at the start of the walking trail, gazing up to the Dolerite summit towers of Mt Victoria gets one in an energetic mood. The climb begins almost immediately, through terrain that looks like the South West more than the North East, past a true array of Tasmanian classic trees such as Sassafras, Celery Top Pine and Myrtle Beech. Myself, Anna my girlfriend and Leslie all jockey for time to interpret our rainforest species knowledge onto our newest Tasmanian friend, Shelly, who has just moved to Launceston. The light is ever dull making for great rainforest photography, and very little undergrowth exists. Once at the 'Victoria Hilton' a rock providing amazing overhanging protection in bad weather, the large backpacks can be dropped as our destination leaves to the left around to Ralphs Falls, however with the weather looking solid we venture up the slopes. We ventured up through some of the scratchier of Tasmania's alpine species such as Pink Mountain Berry, Mountain Currant & Richea Scoparia. In Summer the Mountain Berries & Scoparia make the scene very pleasent and during Tasmanian Waratah season a classic shot can be taken with Victoria's summit tower lurking behind the striking red plant. However at this stage our eyes focus on the beauty of the summit. From the summit the view from Victoria shows off many aspects. To the North our route is explained by Leslie, gazing our eyes across the Star of Peace forest to the Blue Tier. From this vantage point the North East's most prominent mountains are viewed, Mtns Maurice, Saddleback, Ben Nevis, Barrow, Cameron and Young are visibile. Ben Lomond also takes up probably 20% of the views, showing off its large Northern side. Often also Wedge Tailed Eagles are spotted around the summit as they curiously fly over the walker. The other aspect to the summit is the views of the Forestry cleared land, scaring the views especially near Mt Young. It gives the walker an introduction of the reality of this walker, as despite its beauty you are truly mixing it within a land ravaged by industry.

We venture back downhill and have lunch out the front of the 'Victoria Hilton' before circling the mountain on the gentle slopes of the Mt Victoria rainforest. This is some of the walks most enjoyable walking within the trail as the track easily follows tape round to the Northern side of the mountain, passing by tiny streams. You can enjoy the unbelievably easy walking due to the low levels of undergrowth, its true rainforest at its best. The first nights camp is at Ralphs Falls where a tent can be placed around or within the rainforest close to the Picnic Shelter. Unfortunately I realized here that my MSR Stoves fuel line was missing due to myself removing it earlier to clean it before a flight!! To conserve the other fuel that we had on the walk, we cooked our Lentils using the heat from the BBQ! You beauty! Leslie had some firewood brought in prior to the trip so we had a small fire and had disgusting amounts of Marshmellows.

Day Two - Ralphs Falls to Rattler Hill
I'd recommend the 10 minute walk to Ralphs Falls to start your day!!
The walk starts of by using the tourist boardwalk to Cash's Gorge, quite an amazing spectacle in the cool early morning. From there the walk traverses through the Rattler Range rainforest, occasionally opening out into tea tree with some good views of Ringarooma from the ridgeline, but mostly is through very beautiful rainforest once more. No sighting on a Eucalyptus has been made on this walk so far with Northofagus Cunninghammii the dominant tree, often coated in the beautiful Kangaroo Paw fern, and sprouting in all sorts of creepy shapes. Club mosses, one of Tasmania's more ancient plant species grows from within the forks of the Myrtles, looking like tiny pines, a shadow of its once primal self. Towards the end of the day the walk meets up with an old 4WD road which has been illegally used by motorbikers and have made a terrible mess of this area, however despite the ground scars and mud the rainforest is a silent and beautiful landmark. Finally the walk opens out underneath Rattler Hill where the next camp is made. A beautiful sunrise can be viewed the following morning.

Day Three - Rattler Hill to Weldborough Pub normal route is only to Ma Mon Chin Dam
The morning starts on old 4WD trails across small creeks to the summit of Rattler Hill at just over 900 metres it offers amazing views of Mt Victoria, Mt Cameron and out to the Bay Of Fires region. Leslie assured me that during January and February the summit slopes are blanketed in Trigger Plants beyond a reasonable imagination. A photo confirmed this, the place literally is blanketed in pink, making for amazing photography!! The road dips very steeply and then the trail leaves the road and ventures into the Star of Peace Forest, another section of beautiful rainforest again dominated by the Myrtle Beech, but also provides some of the best Dicksonia Antartica in Tasmania! The myrtles here grow big and proud as you walk along the threatened catchment of the George River. Shortly the pleasant nature of rainforest walking begins to change as some undergrowth is encountered before the rainforest ends and pops out above the township of Weldborough. From here we used the road to descend into the town and set up camp behind the pub. Of all the walking I've done in Tasmania I cannot think of many places where mid walk, you can get a pub meal, a beer, play some darts and meet up with other walkers who tourists. The return to civilization can be avoided mostly by the extra day to Harridge Falls, however who could pass up a Hazards Ale?

Day Four - Weldborough to Poimena
The walking now utilizes the same old road that mountain bikers do use, however typical to Tasmania the only riders we saw were mates. We climbed up as the first rain fell for the trip! Soon that rain got harder and harder and then a clap of thunder and lightning so loud it embarrassed me (okay my reaction embarrassed me!) passed over. The rain continued to fall very hard and a couple of the usual small (sometimes dry) creeks became a mid thigh wade as we climbed onto the Blue Tier. The walking here is through mixed forest and pops out near Poimena which is usually accessible for any vehicle however the road has been damaged by rainfall of late. The ground was now under quite a few inches of water, so feeling damp and not keen for a night swimming in our tents, a call was made to Leslie's son, who lives just down the road - and he picked us up shortly after and we instead slept at her house! You can sledge our woosey efforts for leaving the trip early, but when the option is there, its easy to take it and I'm not at all regretful!! :lol: Poimena for those who don't know has plenty of lovely walks avaliable near the carpark including the Goblin Forest Walk, a wheelchair accessible walk.

Day Five - Blue Tier exploration
Moving away from any of the walking schedule plans but still keen to see some highlights Leslie took us in to see the North East Giant and the Groom River Valley. This is off Lehners Ridge road and the walk normally passes this magnificent Eucalyptus Regnans on its 2nd last day. The tree is fantastic, but has tough competition for the best tree in the Valley from the amazing Cradle Tree which with its gigantic lion pawed trunk/roots literally wraps itself around you. And also another tree nearby which probably also qualifies for the Big Tree Category meaning it would be protected by a 40metre buffer, regardless of any pending peace deals. The Groom River itself which the taped trail leads down to is very photogenic, with its deep tanin waters surrounded by Tree Ferns and smooth boulders.
The last highlight was Halls Falls, a short walk from the road on the way to Poimena, where my brave girlfriend took a swim! The falls were pumping due to the rainfall, and under lower flow and low light would be a photographers dream.

Assessment

The walk captures something within that hasn't been done yet in Tasmania, it provides an excellent wilderness experience in its own North East way. It gives walkers the opportunity if done with a helpful support crew the ability to walk the trail with only day packs. Commercial operators would lick their lips at the ability to develop a truly appealing walk, showing off the unique rainforest and then providing hospitality via a Trailer Support which can utilize the theme of North East produce which is *&%$#! excellent. The local Tasmanian would also be interested in this walk, especially those who've done the tougher classics and are looking for a week of easy walking. Accompanied by a rich mining heritage this area has the potential to suit international walkers, especially the growing Chinese tourist market due to the Chinese Miners history in the area. If the area were to be developed Tasmania could have stumbled upon its answer for the Northern Territory's Larapinta Trail. A walk that can be completed in entirety, bits and pieces of even just 15 minutes here and there, I'd urge you to see some of the areas for yourself.

The walk instead of just National Park style boardwalking and policing could become part of a fantastic Community Management Program which would encourage employment and tourism into the North East area which will struggle with Forestry reform. Obviously we are a long way from having people flooding to see these forests, but I wonder if anyone knew the Overland Track was going to be a classic in 1920?

Photos to come - sorry - I may be 23 but I don't know how to get my pictures a smaller size - will have to ask my 61 year old Step Dad!!

For more information on this walk feel free to PM me or contact Friends of the Blue Tier - friendsofthebluetier@bigpond.com

Peace!!
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Re: North East Highlands Trail (The Snail Trail)

Postby gayet » Wed 12 Oct, 2011 6:49 am

Sounds wonderful - must add to the 'must do' list.

Thanks for the report. Looking forward to the photos! :-)
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Re: North East Highlands Trail (The Snail Trail)

Postby Son of a Beach » Wed 12 Oct, 2011 7:01 am

Thanks for this excellent report. I really enjoyed a very brief look through a couple of the Blue Tier's short day walks. I wasn't aware of this longer trail, and will now have to add it to my mental to-do list. Looking forward to the photos.
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Re: North East Highlands Trail (The Snail Trail)

Postby Taurë-rana » Thu 13 Oct, 2011 4:52 pm

Thanks, that was a great report. Having done a fair bit of (reponsible) 4 wheel driving in the NE and some walking as well, I have long thought that using the place for forestry instead of for another iconic long walk was ridiculous so it's good to see that it's happening. It has got some beautiful country.
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Re: North East Highlands Trail (The Snail Trail)

Postby shazcol » Thu 13 Oct, 2011 5:21 pm

there is more info here: http://www.bluetier.org/tourism.htm for those who may be interested on the walk.
If common sense is so common, why don't you see more of it?
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Re: North East Highlands Trail (The Snail Trail)

Postby NickD » Sat 15 Oct, 2011 3:40 pm

Here are some pictures, hopefully it works!!
Attachments
P1040573.jpg
Trees in love, Mt Victoria's North Western slopes
P1040575.jpg
Ralphs Falls
P1040589.jpg
Beautiful Club Moss near Cash's Gorge lookout
P1040622.jpg
The fungi was pretty good - imagine during Fungi season!!
P1040627.jpg
The North East Giant in the Groom River Valley
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Re: North East Highlands Trail (The Snail Trail)

Postby NickD » Sat 15 Oct, 2011 4:02 pm

Good. It works. This walk is mostly rainforest and I find that rainforest is the hardest to photograph, especially given my point and shoot Lumix. I'd like to walk this trail before going away in February and if I do i'll be sure to drop a quick word with the good people on this forum to see if there are any keen folk!!
Attachments
P1040632.jpg
The North East Giant with its 19+ metre diameter
P1040638.jpg
The Cradle Tree, a tree which doesn't make the big tree category, but stands proud with its Lion Paw base and will hug you!
P1040642.jpg
P1040649.jpg
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Re: North East Highlands Trail (The Snail Trail)

Postby taswegian » Sun 30 Oct, 2011 10:13 am

Thanks for the enlightening report - beautiful area for sure.
A great promotional post.

Re the 'big trees'. One can only stand in awe under ones so huge.
Personally haven't seen any so big and largest I saw mention of, was an early survey at Beulah where one of the boundary corners was a 'gum 20 metres diameter'.
That 19 diam. tree is a beauty.
Its hard to imagine a tree that the trunk spans the full length of a cricket pitch or is about 4 times the width of an average rural bitumen road - sort of puts things in perspective.

I just hope we can appreciate big trees for generations to come.
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Re: North East Highlands Trail (The Snail Trail)

Postby gayet » Sun 30 Oct, 2011 3:04 pm

NickD wrote: I'd like to walk this trail before going away in February and if I do i'll be sure to drop a quick word with the good people on this forum to see if there are any keen folk!!


HI

If I can get time off and shake off the aversion to climbing, I'd love to join your walk!! I'll keep an eye out. Took me a while to find this again, I've been out in the area for 8 days of hard slog. Love the photos.

Thanks
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