Junction Lake Circuit Mar 2021

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Junction Lake Circuit Mar 2021

Postby rwildman » Fri 02 Apr, 2021 10:55 am

March 8th 2021 – March 13th 2021

Last night’s dinner, a couple of hours after we all flew in to Launceston, being late, big and spicy, cushioned us into an easy, almost tidal awakening this morning, the first day of our planned seven day walk in an area unknown to all of us; the area nestled between the Walls of Jerusalem and the Overland Track. The others, Marc, Michelle and Helen, had all done several longish walks with me over the years and, once we’d broken our fast on hand picked field mushrooms, eggs and generous amounts of coffee, were ready for anything I was going to subject them to.
The walk was supposed to follow a big figure eight and included some big names in the walking business: Grail Falls, Junction Lake, the spine tingling Never Never and an exit route which took in the climbing of Mt Ragoona. I was the leader and I’d never walked any of these tracks before. In fact, I had to question whether there would be any tracks at all? For the next few days, were we going to be bashing scoparia, ripping the skin from our knees and struggling into camp so late that dinner was a disaster. Would we be meeting bogs so deep you almost lose your boots extracting yourself or would it be glades of moss covered rocks under sweet smelling pines? As always, in Tasmania, it was all of these and more.
First minor hiccup: two kilometres from the Moses Creek car park a tree had peeled over and blocked the road. There were many vehicles which were also in the same predicament as us and I was starting to wonder if this was going to be the remote bushwalking experience I had hoped for. Oh yeh, I hadn’t looked at the Tasmanian public holidays so this was a long weekend, and everyone was out.

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Assembling on Mersey Valley Road


The track, and its a good one, from the end of Mersey Valley road to Chapter Lake (Grail Falls) is a real gem. I had expected a very boggy start given how it meanders around the base of the hills and across a few streams but except for some very small sections, it was a delight. Once it ascended the first real hill, it sauntered up through a beech and pine filled glade – I kept thinking I would see hobbits spring out from behind trees – until it finally reached the start of the last section which would take us over the saddle. Just prior to the saddle is this mysterious patch of grass in a clearing which took us by surprise so we decided to just laze back in the sun and have lunch. Michelle, the carrier of all lunch things, was urging us to help her get rid of some weight.
After the saddle, and the quite steep descent into Chapter Lake, we bumbled our way past the “Junction Lake Sign”, which sits some 100 metres before you get to the camping spots and the Falls themselves. This is unexpected but absolutely correct so I thank the person who placed the sign in this position very much. We were then drifting around trying to decide whether to go, as planned, up to Chalice lake or not. “Come on, let’s do it!” from the ebullient Helen was all we needed to force ourselves up the steep but straight forward ascent of Grail Falls, which was flowing extremely well at that time.

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Grail Falls


Once across the stream, half way to the lake, the track sidles many large rock platforms and opens out to vistas of the lake, with Twin Spires and Cathedral Mountain on the horizon. While it was overcast and a cool breeze drifted in from the west, the prospects looked good for a camp on the lake shore. Well that is, if you could find one. There were so few flat spots anywhere, and we had three tents, but we did find the Hilton outcrop complete with its own pond at our side. Down near the lake shore, we saw another two guys at various times wandering this way and that hunting down somewhere to spend the night. One actually carried a small blowup kayak and decided to test out the island some 80 metres off shore – only to be confounded by the scrub and slopes. By about 8 pm they had found their Xanadu on the far shore of the outlet stream.

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Hilton camp spot on Chalice Lake


At dusk, after the wind died completely, Chalice Lake encapsulated why it is a drawcard. You can’t stop clicking away but also often just sitting watching the night approach as the occasional fish would send silent ripples across the water.
Next morning we did what everyone else seemed to be doing or had done – take the rough well cairned track to the top of the Cathedral Range near Twin Spires. From there, you get views over the valley in which the Overland runs from Pelion to Du Cane gap and all the surrounding hills. Even Cradle Mount at 25kms distant was prominently visible with its sister, Barn Bluff, unmistakable at its side. Getting back with plenty of time to spare, decided to head back to Grail Falls and camp in the rather murky spots at the end of Chapter Lake. We had been told by a young, fit couple that the track down to Junction Lake from there was going to be very difficult so I thought we would grab a few extra hours in case. The only other walker we met on this section was a Red Belly Black right at the point where you crane your neck back to try to see the Falls. It didn’t move far out the way but just enough for us to cautiously shuffle past.

The track from the end of Chapter Lake to Junction Lake, as Mr Chapman assures us in his writings, roughly follows the lake shore, heading up into the scrub and back down to the edge when it can and passing through the flat boggy section before you get to Cloister Lagoon itself. I am entirely confused now because the more we saw of this track we more we enjoyed it. It meandered from beautiful mossy beech forest to dry sclerophyll gum forest and then to wet spongy swampy bogs on its amble over the saddle and down to Junction Lake. The last few kilometres down the creek bed to the lake was one of the most serene walks I’ve done.

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Crossing the flats before Cloister Lagoon

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View from Junction Lake campsite


We had originally planned to be real adventurers and head up to Artemis Lake and then follow this, find our way across the Traveller Range to Du Cane Gap and then back through the Never Never. But the campsite at the lake and the hut itself were so magical we completely bonked out and decided instead to stay for two nights, do a day walk down and up the Never Never (or as far as we could get) and then see what else later on. We came across two walkers at about 7pm near the hut trying to ascertain the start of the Lake Artemis track; one attempting to find it at water level and the other up the hill somewhere. They looked exhausted and one even fell in the cold river to chest high depth in the stumble to find the route. After they eventually found the cairns up the hill and were out of earshot, we pondered on this edgy style of walking and the potential it had for real disaster.

As part of the preparation for this walk, I volunteered to prepare all the main meals, drying and devising tasty delights, and then distribute them to each person as equitably as possible. After a couple of nights of curries, it was spag bol tonight followed by a chocolate milk dessert and then, the peach brandy and cigars to round off. And yes we carried out the butts! These were real chat starters as we were resting on the one big rock overlooking the lake as the sun fell over another still and placid surface. Nothing was off the agenda. Families, because we all had them, work, walking stories and some attempts at the dire political situation were all in there. And there was a red sky so tomorrow was looking good already!

So, the Never Never. If you trawl the net there are boundless stories of the traverse of this part of the Mersey river from Junction Lake down to Hartnett Falls and most of them are stories of scrub bashing, bogs and getting lost. I can very well understand how this route can, in severe weather, be treacherous, especially as it involves a log crossing over a swiftly flowing river. But on our day, with sun shining for most of it, it was a real pleasure. Sure, there were several sections where the pad disappears or there are several pads at the same time, but there is only the river on your left and the mountain on your right – you are going to stumble on the pad sometime. Even the log crossing had several options all close to one another. The pad generally sticks close to the river, especially in the lower section below McCoy Falls (which is one of many spectacular features) but when trees have fallen and the track is blocked, walkers have made their own diversions, some of which head off into infinity and some which do work their way back to the river and the original pad.

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Dinner with Junction Lake Hut as background


We had given ourselves until two o’clock before we would turn around and luck was with us as we strolled into a mass of Overland walkers at the top of Hartnett Falls, who were surprised to see us, with five minutes to spare. Many were doing the ‘luxury’ walk and travelled with just day packs and were soaking up the water and the sun before heading on to Windy Hut.
Twenty Two years before, I had walked the Overland with my, then fifteen year old son, Min. I had prepared a very short memorial to his memory as he had died almost one year previously. We all struggled to read the prepared letter and poems and by the time we were finished, other people were looking askance as they strolled passed this small bunch of weeping, hugging walkers.
The return trip was just as enjoyable and because we were now experienced, we cut almost one hour off the time. But the English garden look of the river downstream from the falls with flat, moss covered edges and a crystal clear babbling brook running in between, was something I’ll never forget.

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Mersey River below McCoy Falls


The next day we decided that we should also head up to Lake Artemis to see what we missed out on and to look at the country beyond. The track, difficult to find at first, lounges through a beautiful beech forest on its way to the crest over which was swampy ground and then about a kilometre of scratchy and narrow climbing before breaking out onto the ridge overlooking the lake. After seeing the scrub which surrounds the lake, we were very glad we didn’t attempt the high route we’d planned before. The camp sites at Lake Artemis were positioned atop a flat space on a spit of land jutting out into the lake. The lake was very clear and this area would have made a wonderful night’s camp.
Having returned from this enjoyable short trip (its less than 3kms to the lake), I’d heard or read that it was possible to camp on the southern shores of Lake Meston, the lake to the north of Junction Lake. As we approached this lake it became very obvious that this was not going to be our next camp. Thick bands of melaleuca covered the shores and the excellent track we were following wasn’t having anything to do with the lake itself, just skirting it. So we pushed on to the fairytale Lake Meston Hut which was every bit as ‘goblinesque’ as the Junction Lake hut. Marc found a short track which lead down to the actual shore of the lake where we threw ourselves into the water and then threw ourselves out just as fast.

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The 'goblinesque' Lake Meston Hut


A middle aged couple we met had nestled their tent onto the very edge of the lake and taken off to fish the northern shores of the lake during the unexpectedly good weather. This lake is famous for trout fishing and the lakes to the north and east right up to Lake Malbena are special areas for this activity. I can understand the fly fishing community’s objection to the prospect of rich, helicopter fishing tourists invading this pristine place.
Today, the second last, was to walk to the saddle on Mt Ragoona and then follow the cairned route to the top. We had, again, a spectacularly brilliant morning, with a fine soft mist on the surface of the lake but which had now disappeared and left us with the prospect of just getting sunburned. The tracks we were following now were all very good; properly made and maintained trails. While the Mt Ragoona route came and went it also never really left us for long, taking us to a high point one ridge away from the actual summit of Mt Ragoona. We could have done the dip and last climb to reach this but we could see an amazing skyline as it was and looking down on Lake Myrtle, our next destination, was just a treat.

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View of Lake Myrtle from Mt Ragoona


After talking to some other walkers on the track, and not having heard a weather forecast for over a week, it seems we were going to be in for some weather, even snow, over the next day or so. But heck, we had the gear, we had plenty of shelter and we were walking out. The only unknown was that we were unsure of the standard of the ‘short cut’ – the Jackson’s Creek track. Given very bad weather was predicted, the prospect of walking out via the Lake Bill track was looking likely. Marc, in his usual investigative style, did a short trip around the lake shore and gave us the thumbs up for going out via Jacksons Creek. But that was tomorrow.
The Lake Myrtle camp spots are too numerous to count and we felt like royalty making our choice of a preferred spot. Another quick swim, a Madras Lamb curry with saffron rice, an Aunty Betty self saucing pudding, a cigar and some whisky left us continuing the regal theme. How could this get any better?

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Final evening at Lake Myrtle


The rain held off until we were all packed and ready to go in the morning and even then it was just mild, mistily drifting in through the forest and bogs. After a kilometre or so, we passed what looked like a route which would join up with the Cloister Lake walk so we mentally tagged it for later. The track descended for a long way through taller and taller fern forests until we were down at the registration station, almost out. The regeneration of the ground level vegetation in this area felt luxuriant and we, sadly, single filed across the suspension bridge and down to the car.
What surprised me about this walk was how good all the tracks turned out to be. I had heard reports of scrub bashing and bog trawling and when it came to it, I would take these tracks any day ahead of some of the routes I’ve walked in NSW.

Of course, a trip like this is, for me, all about the people you have on board and their willingness to be there with you in this wonderful country. From the surreal scene of all four of us hugging each other during the memorial for Min to the laughs we had just ribbing each other over dinner, we all have something special to remember.
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Re: Junction Lake Circuit Mar 2021

Postby ILUVSWTAS » Fri 02 Apr, 2021 11:39 am

Nice report.
Fantastic area and good route choice.

Interested in hearing there's fish in chalice lake now?? Up to 10 years ago it was trout free.

Also snake would have been a tiger. There's no red bellies in Tassie.

Mt Rogoona is spelt with an O instead of A too.
Nothing to see here.
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Re: Junction Lake Circuit Mar 2021

Postby rwildman » Fri 02 Apr, 2021 1:12 pm

Thanks for the corrections ILUVSWTAS. You are dead right about the snake now that I think about it. There was a report of seeing Brown snake by a young couple in the Cloister Lagoon area but we didn't see it. The guy that had the inflatable kayak probably could have told you about trout being in Chalice. We weren't fisher people - just heard the sploshes every now and then.
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Re: Junction Lake Circuit Mar 2021

Postby Mechanic-AL » Fri 02 Apr, 2021 1:52 pm

Did any of your group leave a hat behind at the "mysterious patch of grass" ? I found one there a week or so after you had been there.

It's a beautiful part of the world and worthy of multiple visits. Hope you get back there again soon !

Al
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A reed shaken in the wind"?
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Re: Junction Lake Circuit Mar 2021

Postby ILUVSWTAS » Fri 02 Apr, 2021 2:31 pm

No brown snakes in Tassie either!
Most likely a whip or copperhead.

Brown trout are very clever at moving between waterways. Grail falls would make it tricky though.
Unfortunately fisherman have a habit of stocking remote area lakes to have their own personal fishery. The IFS here in Tassie are under fire for over stocking most lakes resulting in fish being in poor condition. Less is more.
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Re: Junction Lake Circuit Mar 2021

Postby deadwood » Fri 02 Apr, 2021 6:25 pm

It looks a little chilly down there already - although I guess even in January down jackets could be needed in Tassie for those of us from further north!
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