Hume and Hovell tracks: resources and track updates: May 2019
My partner and I walked the complete Hume and Hovell track in early May 2019, from Yass to Albury. These notes are written especially for end-to-end walkers.Should I walk the Hume and Hovell track?
This question is the subject of a separate thread on bushwalk.com, but given the strong views on the topic, I thought I would make some observations.
This is not a ‘wilderness walk’. It traverses cleared farming land, pine plantations and significantly modified native vegetation. In a number of places, the track is adjacent to, or runs between, large expanses of blackberries. Significant sections of the walk are along sealed roads or management trails.
There were certainly sections when we felt we were ‘trudging’, but this has been my experience on other long tracks. On balance, I am pleased we did the walk and enjoyed most of it; it was great doing this with my partner. I liked the rural character of much of the walk, and there was also some very pleasant walking in natural settings. This included both large sections of native forest as well as walking through narrow corridors of native vegetation. We saw a lot of wildlife. We certainly had the track to ourselves; we did not see any other walkers and nearly every night we had the campsites on our own (the log registers suggest there are only about 10-20 parties walking the track end-to-end each year and relatively few people just doing sections). The choice is yours, but I suggest appreciating the walk on its own terms.Resources
1. The official website https://www.humeandhovelltrack.com.au/
This provides some illustrative photos and a text overview of the walk. I didn’t download the maps (under ‘Downloads’), which have little detail.
I would definitely download the gpx file, which seems to be up-to-date (other than temporary detours). (My strong caveat here is if you are using a GPS or GPS app, know how to use it, and have some grounding in navigating with map and compass. Otherwise, a GPS can give novice navigators unfounded confidence).
You can also order the map/pamphlet sets. I used these for these planning, overview and context, and carried the relevant maps for each section. They are, however, generally not suitable for route-finding, being too small a scale and lacking in detail. The one exception to this is that the ‘Inset’ map of Albury was very useful for route-finding.
The updates under ‘News’ are also useful, which include information about detours and forestry operations affecting the track. These updates are also available through the official Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/humeandhovelltrack/
If you want specific information about the walk from the track managers, you are unlikely to get this by ringing the Crown Lands department number. I tried it and the switchboard could not track down a person with any relationship to the track. Instead, I suggest sending a message through the contact form on the website or message through the Facebook page. I found Felicity extremely helpful in responding to my queries.
2. Track notes by John and Lyn Daly
These are included at the back of their Take A Walk in Southern New South Wales & the ACT. I would consider these notes almost essential, again mainly for planning before setting off and for reading at the start of each day. To use as a route-finding tool, I think you would need to follow the notes closely, ticking off each feature and junction. We did not do this, and found that when we were uncertain of the track location or direction, it was hard to identify where we were from the notes. This is not a criticism, so much as a suggestion on how to use these notes. Note that the maps in Daly appear to be hand-drawn, and the shape of the track presented is a simplification of the actual route, smoothing out some bends and curves.
Note that the figures given in the text for ascents is the altitude gain, which would be the difference between the highest and lowest points for any section. The total climb, including all large and small intermediate climbs, for any section could be considerably more than the given figure for ascents. The profiles provided in the Daly notes are very useful. (I would note here that GPS device estimates of climbs can vary considerably. I have seen two estimates of the total climb for the walk: one was a bit more than 5000 metres and the other was over 10 000 metres!)
3. 1:25 000 maps
These would be bulky to carry in paper form for the whole trip, and expensive to buy. Fortunately, these can be downloaded free. I am a big fan of Back Country Navigator and used the Crown Land gpx file with the NSW Government digital 1:25 000 maps for the whole walk. Note that the Hume and Hovell track as marked on the 1:25000 maps, at least the downloadable versions, diverges in several places from the gpx file, and in most of the cases we checked, the gpx file was correct.Planning
1. Daily distances
This will, of course, depend on fitness, preferences and the available day length. We decided to stay at the recognised campsites each night, as outlined in the daily sections in Daly, although on four days we combined two of the Daly sections. Do not think the walk is a doddle. The sections outlined in Daly are up to 32 km in length, and some have large climbs. During the first 12 days, our days were mostly 25-29 km, but we found that we ended up walking ‘to get there’, and later reduced our daily distances back to about 20 km.
Be aware that the distances cited in Daly sometimes differ from those on the Crown Land map/pamphlets and the signs on the walk. Occasionally this might be due to the signs pre-dating track realignments (such as between Lankeys Creek and Tin Mine). Otherwise, I can not reconcile the differences, other than to say that such discrepancies can flow from the vagaries of the exact path taken on a route and how devices measure distances. I noticed similar discrepancies on the Great North Walk.
2. Time of year
We walked in early May and found this a pleasant time of year; certainly, it was great for seeing fungi! I think the ideal times of year would be April and September/October, giving mild temperatures and good day lengths. Spring would likely also provide wildflower displays.
3. Direction of travel
It is likely to be much more feasible to travel from Yass to Albury, mainly because of the ferry across Burrinjuck reservoir. You need to be able to confirm the trip beforehand, and you might not have mobile access approaching from Wee Jasper. You would need to be confident as to where to wait for pick-up. Coming from Albury, you would also need to predict confidently your best time for the ferry ride some weeks into the trip.
Going from Yass to Albury is also convenient as it the sense of the Daly notes. Finally, you will climb about 300 metres less going east to west.
4. Walking the track all in one go or in sections
Again, this comes down to personal preference. Daly sets out some public transport options, but I suspect that you would be relying on being dropped off or picked up by private car if you want to start or finish sections at other than Yass or Albury. I have previously preferred doing walks such as the Australian Alpine Walking Track in sections, as it allows the body and mind to refresh. We did the whole walk in one 18-day push, which felt a long time to me be walking in one stretch, but this is a matter of personal temperament.Facilities along the route
1. The ferry across Burrinjuck Dam
The ferry from Burrinjuck Waters is a key logistical element of the walk. I recommend in the strongest terms that you do not just turn up and expect to get across at short notice. You might well be disappointed; at the time of writing, the ferry was not operating for a six-week period. I suggest you ring Dean on 0427 278 114 (rather than the Burrinjuck Waters office). The trip cost us $80 for two people, and included our camping fees. I think Dean prefers people to cross on Mondays or Thursdays, but I get the impression he is very flexible to customer needs.
2. Shops and restaurants
The walk goes right through Yass township with its shops and restaurants. We stayed at the caravan park just west of the river.
After that you will have very few chances to spend money. Most will stay at Burrinjuck Waters. There is a small shop there, but it closed early the day we arrived.
There are now no shops or restaurants at Wee Jasper itself. Duck’n fishes (http://ducknfishes.com.au/
) is situated next to the track a few kilometres north of Wee Jasper but is open limited hours; do not rely on it being open without checking.
After that, the next shop is at Great Aussie Resort. This mostly supplies treats such as ice cream, sugary drinks and chips, but it did have one type of breakfast cereal and a few dehydrated packet meals. (They also have wine and beer if you ask.) I would not suggest planning on stocking up there for the remaining days of your walk. Beware that the café is only opened seasonally; it was closed for winter when we went through.
It is feasible to go into Tumut and Tumbarumba from the track by taxi (I gather only to Tumut) or hitch-hiking or pre-arranged lift from an accommodation provider. Safarihiker in his bushwalk.com post indicated that this was how he restocked his food. I gather Tumut has a specialty camping store, but the ‘camping store’ we saw at Tumbarumba was at a service station and did not really cater for bushwalkers. If you need such things as gas canisters, I would ring first to see if these are available.
3. Official Hume and Hovell campsites
These are a real bonus on the walk. Given the modified nature of the areas, they did not detract from the ‘naturalness’ of the sites. Most campsites had a shelter with a table, a separate ‘picnic table’ and a toilet. Water was often provided from a tank, or otherwise was available from an adjacent stream (see my further note on this below). The Daly notes set out what is at each campsite. The campsites are generally pleasant and in secluded areas.Water
As mentioned above, there is water available at the official campsites, but I would strongly recommend treating it in all cases. At some places (e.g. Horse Creek, Lankeys Creek and at Mannus) there is no tank, and you will need to take water from the adjacent creek. Some of these creeks have flowed through grazing land and/or plantations. While I don’t know whether any filters can remove chemicals (such as herbicides), you at least need to kill the pathogens in the water. While the thought of using water that might contain bacteria from livestock is unappealing, we used Micropur tablets and seem to have had no problems.
Be aware that currently the water in Mannus Lake (which is separate to Mannus campsite) is undrinkable (due to algae contamination), although I am not sure if there are tanks with rainwater at that campsite. From memory, Henry Angel and Thomas Boyd water was extracted from their adjacent watercourses without treatment and also need to be treated (you will, however, enjoy access to the hot water on tap there).Food drops
My impression is that most land managers turn a blind eye to leaving food drops, recognising they are a necessary part of making the walks viable, even if they are probably legally dubious. Hiding food drops is more difficult on this track due to the altered vegetation and busyness of passing car traffic. We left food drops near the campsites at Blowering Dam and at Mannus with no problems. This meant we could access the barrels in the afternoon and stash them again the following morning, allowing us some treats for the evening meal and to charge our devices overnight from powerpacks we could return to the barrels. We also left town water in old fruit juice containers, so we did not need to use the water from Mannus Creek.
Please leave notes with your barrels which specify dates, as outlined in the book by John and Lyn Daly. Please do not leave food drops unless you will return to remove them and their contents.Telephone coverage
We have Telstra telephone plans and had access to phone and data about half the time. You will have periods of two days at a time without mobile coverage.Route finding
The signage is generally very good along the whole route; perhaps slightly less so west of Henry Angel trackhead. The final day through Albury there is very good signage as you wend your way through the city and suburbs (although we lost track of the signs about a kilometre from the end).
Mostly the signs are on plastic planks about a metre high, which look a bit like the markers on the edges of country roads. In places, there are also solid ‘totems’. But keep alert to other types of markers; in some places the directions are given on street sign poles. At one point in Albury, there are large yellow painted Hume and Hovell markers on the footpath, to take you around a former alignment which has been developed for housing.
You can generally rely on a marker just before a road/track junction and just after, but not always. Sometimes the markers might be obscured or some distance from the junction. So, it is sometimes a matter of just walking a short distance along the likely direction to find a confirming marker.
The ‘planks’ have small stickers with the Hume and Hovell symbol, but some of these are getting very old and have faded, and you can only just make out the outline.
A different problem is that in places stickers with arrows have been put on the planks to indicate direction. Unfortunately, some of these have curled up, obscuring the arrow.
We did not follow the Daly notes closely as we walked, and just relied on the markers. Only rarely did this lead us to not being sure where the track was. On these occasions, we checked the gpx route on my phone and were able to work out where to go.
We found the detour in place was well-marked.Track condition
Much of the route is along a foot-track (rather than roads or vehicular tracks) and is in good condition. I suspect the managers have limited funds for maintenance, but nonetheless it is clear that the track is maintained. There are inevitably tree falls and branches across the track in places, but new pads had formed around these and the track could readily be relocated beyond the obstacles. As on all tracks, there are in places low branches which are hazardous if your vision is narrowed by wearing a wide-brimmed hat or having your rain jacket hood closed up. The other slightly unusual hazard is from blackberries. Don’t just look in front of you at ground level; in some places there are blackberry canes hanging down at head height into the track. Beware!
Some bridges are due for replacement and are clearly marked as such, but represented no problem to progress or safety.
There is one area past Samuel Bollard camp where land-clearing has obscured the path, as outlined below.Reservoir levels
Be aware that reservoir levels might have some impact on your walk, beyond the aesthetics. At the time of our walk, Burrinjuck was less than 30% full. Maps will indicate the reservoir as extending to the full level. I think the water level probably added a few hundred metres to our walk after the boat ride; I think a low water level would rarely if ever add kilometres, as some sources suggest.
Blowering Reservoir is also currently at less than 30 % full. The main impact here was accessing water from Island Forest Park. It meant walking about 500 metres east of the camp; this would have taken much longer if I had walked south as the map might have suggested.
The biggest effect is, however, at Hume Reservoir, which is at 14.5% full at time of writing. The notes by Daly mention the option of camping in the Ten Chain Stock Reserve, just past Great Aussie Resort. When we were there, this would have entailed walking about a kilometre to the lake’s edge through possibly swampy ground with thick undergrowth, making it pretty unviable. You could pick up water from Fowlers Swamp Creek or a dam, but I would find that thought pretty unpalatable.Specific notes on the track
The distances I have used to locate places are the cumulative distances Daly uses in their guide book.
22.4 km The bench mentioned in Daly was fenced off without explanation. While it would have been a nice place for lunch, it is also within view of a house just up the hill.
50.5 The benched track continues above the highwater mark, so most people will take a short-cut across Carrolls Creek to re-join the track on the other side. Please be careful not to cause erosion in so doing.
53.0 km Burrinjuck Waters sprawls over a large area, and it is not obvious where the office is. You might want to print off the site map in advance: https://reflectionsholidayparks.com.au/ ... 19-WEB.jpg
(note the map has north at the bottom of the map!). Reading Daly would suggest you go south to get to the office and check in. In fact, you go north; the office is at the entrance to the park as the road comes in from the north. Note that there are several separate camping areas. Enjoy access here to hot showers (which require 20 cent pieces), kettles and electricity outlets to recharge devices.
93.7km Micalong Creek is very pretty at the Micalong Creek campground and could be used for a dip in shallow pools.
126.3 There is an $8 per person camping fee at Thomas Boyd campground, collected nightly by a ranger. Note that they prefer you do not camp under the trees.
Just before 138.0 km. Once you start walking along the water race, keep a keen eye out for a bridge across the creek to your right. The arrow indicating to go right on the marker plank has curled and is now not visible.
177.7km A toilet has been rebuilt at Island Forest Park. See my notes above about getting water there.
Just before 204.7 km. The paddock has now been ploughed, making progress very slow. I suggest walking along the fence on the western edge until you reach the stile.
277 km Mannus campground. I don’t think there is still a rubbish bin there. Walkers should work on the basis of carrying their rubbish out.
292.8 km We missed the foot track just after Blue Hills Road, possibly due to the rain at the time, so look carefully for this.
307.1 km The track-makers had been very diligent in putting in bridges over even the smallest creeks in the east, but there was no obvious bridge over the relatively substantial Coppabella Creek. You should be able to keep your feet dry using stepping stones.
316.5 The Lankeys Creek campsite is now pretty basic, as the table has been removed from the shelter (the track managers plan to replace it). Note that the toilet is a couple of hundred metres south of the shelter up a signed benched track.
About 366km. Currently you reach a sign indicating that you are leaving Woomargama (I think it says flora reserve). Adjacent is a stile which has been removed from the fence and is not secured into the ground. It appears a new fence has been put in, with major clearing and windrowing of vegetation on both sides of the fence. It is not a pretty sight. It appears that the track used to cross the fence but that now that landowner is wanting to prevent walkers doing so. So, you must follow the outside of the fence for about 1.5 km to the corner post Daly mentions. In places you will find markers, some of which have been uprooted and are propped up on the ground. This section includes an awkward creek crossing and in places finding a path through or around the windrowed vegetation. (It is not clear that the gpx file is correct in indicating a short cut to the corner post, missing the earlier fence corner.)
At the corner-post mentioned by Daly, the stile has been put over the fence but would be dangerous to use. Instead, we climbed over the corner post. This is awkward but feasible. It might be difficult for a shorter person on their own.
415.1 km. As mentioned earlier, there is a short re-routing of the track here; just follow the large painted Hume and Hovell symbols on the footpath.
At about 428km. It seems that the track alignment has changed since Daly was published; the shape of the route does not conform with that in Daly’s map, nor does it seem to follow the text description. I think the gpx route is correct. You walk generally south from Mungabareena Road, walking for most of that distance with a branch of the Murray on your left. You then walk over a small bridge and continue slightly uphill. You will see the track zigzagging uphill on your right. Strangely, there is a Hume and Hovell totem indicating that you should continue straight ahead along a different, well-worn track. Possibly someone has unscrewed the arrow and mischievously rotated it around to point straight ahead, rather than to the right. From here, the track goes uphill to meet the ridgeline. Follow this until you reach the car park.
430.0 km Again, it appears that the route has changed. You do not head left 30 metres after the car park, but follow the road downhill with reasonably frequent markers. From here, the notes in Daly appear to be out-of-date.
You will then reach suburban streets. There is not a sign at every junction along Walsh Street, but you will generally find one not much further along. For this section, the inset map on the map/brochure is very helpful, as is the gpx track.
From Walsh Street, turn left into Schubach Street, then right into Amatex Street, to cross over the Hume Freeway and the railway line.
From this point the map/pamphlet route and the gpx route diverge. We lost the markers just past the railway station, but it doesn’t matter much as you can follow any of the parallel streets west until you hit the Murray river, and then walk north to the Hovell Tree. I suspect the gpx route is the nicest and actually reflects the marked route, providing an attractive route to the tree, finally following the Murray river. The Hovell tree is not right next to the river, but just the other side of the road.
It seems to me that the distance from Mungabareena Reserve to the Hovell tree is (now) probably a lot shorter than the 8.9 km mentioned in Daly, possibly due to changes of the alignment.