If you’re feeling energetic, the Goomburra section of Main Range National Park has six excellent walks to choose from.
We camped at Manna Gum campground and took on four of these walks. We’ll have to come back and try out the other two! We’ve done a summary of each one, to give you an idea of what to expect.
The first walk we chose was the hardest by far. The Ridge Track Walk is steep, really steep…
Baptism Of Fire
Wow, what a walk to choose first!
Picture this. Christmas is over and you’ve just spent a couple of weeks house sitting. The most intense physical activity you’ve done is to walk to the fridge and back. Then you hop in the truck, drive to Main Range NP, set up and decide to go for a walk.
Unwisely, you decide on the Ridge Track walk. Now if we’d have thought about it, the word “ridge” should have been a red flashing light. After all, we were surrounded by steep mountains. But no, we ignored all the signs. So off we went.
We did this walk anti-clockwise. But either way would be the same. You see it climbs and climbs and climbs.
We way we went, it climbs straight up the side of a steep mountain, then follows the ridge line up and up and up. From the campground to the top, you’ll ascend about 450 metres… with no break in the ascent. Are you getting the picture?
If you go the other way, I think it would be worse. The track follows steep bushfire trails for ages as they wind up and around insanely steep country. They go on… and on and on.
Either direction, it’s a case of head down, one foot in front of the other. For this reason we think the best way is to go the direction we took, ie anti-clockwise. Why?
Well the first and steepest part is dry eucalypt bush. Yes it’s beautiful but not unique. Really you won’t see much of this. You’ll be too busy concentrating on each step forwards, and wondering if your heart’s about to jump out of your ribcage!
Worth The Effort
Once you get up onto the highest parts of the ridge line though, the scenery is sensational. And it just gets better as you start your descent, gradual at first, getting steeper as you go.
You’ll start to see grass trees, some of which had recently flowered. Then you’re into fern country, with carpets of ferns covering the ground under the big trees. As we followed the ridge line, the wind became stronger and was quite cool on our sweaty clothing.
Finally at the top! From here you start to descend, gradually at first then progressively getting steeper.
At this point the rainforest starts. Being on the eastern side of the ridge it’s protected from the westerly sun and winds. Pretty soon you’re surrounded by grass trees, ferns, lichen-covered vines and a canopy of sub-tropical rainforest.
Then the track joins an old fire trail and you’re into thick rainforest, often joining over your head to form a beautiful green tunnel. This walk has one more surprise… a thick stand of hoop pines clinging tenaciously to a steep slope.
A Direct Connection
Hoop pines are direct descendants of ancient Gondwana plants. So you’re basically looking at living dinosaurs. Same goes for many of the ferns growing here. It’s easy to see why this region is Heritage listed.
It’s quite dark under the hoop pines and a little other-worldly. We half expected to see some mythical creature from Tolkien’s active imagination come lumbering towards us with a giant stone axe.
And because these hoop pines form such a thick canopy, nothing much grows under them. Rather, the ground is covered in a thick bed of pine needles. This has the effect of muffling any sounds which just adds to the other-worldly feel.
The descent is a steep bush fire trail and quite slippery, with a deep bed of damp leaves. And this is why we were glad to have walked in the direction we did.
There’s no doubt this side of the ridge is the most scenic. If you were walking up and not down, by the time you reached the hoop pines your leg muscles would be screaming and you’d most likely have your head down rather than looking around at the delightful scenery.
After a while the track meets the Cascades Walk and you follow a steep fire trail down for ages until at last… Manna Gums campground is a welcome sight! This section descends through open eucalypt forest, quite dry and open.
Time To Rest
Once we reached our campsite, the sweet pleasure of removing our shoes and releasing our tired feet was the best feeling on earth!
Reflecting on this walk, no doubt it’s challenging. I wouldn’t attempt this one on a hot day. But the rainforest so high up the mountainside is totally unexpected. And the strange world created by those hoop pines is something unique.
Was it worth the exertion? Most definitely. But maybe be a bit smarter than us. Do a couple of the other walks first (like the much easier Dalrymple Circuit walk for example) and ease yourself into it!
Main Range National Park is on Barunggam and Bundjalung Country.
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