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Tuesday 2/2/10… sunny and hot

It was about 1pm and 28 degrees when we set off from the car park for the Walls of Jerusalem. Hot, dry and lots of uphill. Trappers Hut was a welcome lunch venue after a solid hour and a bit. With a little more uphill we arrived on the plateau. King Solomon’s Jewels – a series of pristine tarns (lakes formed from snow melt) beckoned and I couldn’t resist. The mud was thigh deep and refreshingly cool, the water was shallow, but I managed to sink into it for my first real mud bath. It felt incredibly soft and left my skin feeling really clean. Thankfully the mud came off easily!

We walked through a sculptured valley with meadows of button grass and heath bordered by the Western Wall from King David’s Peak to Solomon’s Throne (aren’t the names fantastic!). The Walls are massive and imposing and the valley carved out by glaciers so many millenia ago is awe inspiring. The landscape is at once starkly rugged and bounteous and green. In our 5 hours of hiking we were fortunate to encounter echidnas, wallabies and (blessedly) the tail of a rapidly retreating black snake.

Arriving into the ancient Pencil Pine forest of Dixon’s Kingdom in the evening was like walking into a Tolkien setting. The Pines are a marvel of nature – 1000 year old lignotubers. They are quite freaky in appearance, forming multiple trunks on the one tree if the original crown of the tree is lost (it is responsible for the hormone which keeps the tree intact). But by that time of day (with 9.1kms under our rather heavy backpack belts) thoughts of the spectacular scenery were facing strong competition from “are we there yet?” and Dixon’s Hut was a welcome sight. A small group of hikers had set up their tents nearby the hut but we were lucky to find the little hut vacant, so that became our cosy home for the two nights.

We cooked dinner beside a little stream in the foothills of Mount Jerusalem catching the last rays of the day’s sunlight setting on Jaffa Vale and Lake Ball. Washing up the dishes in the stream, I discovered that dried up wallaby poo was really effective in cleaning the burnt remains off the pot. Damien came over and pointed out that there was a scourer right beside me which I could use. “Nah, the scourer’s shit” I replied without realising the double meaning of my comment. We got a good laugh out of that… please pardon the French.

Wednesday 3/2…. windy and overcast

After a lazy bacon and eggs kind of start to the day we set off to climb up Solomon’s Throne. It was such a pleasure to walk without a 20kg backpack weighing you down. The climb up involved a fairly hairy scramble across a massive rock fall, but the route is well formed and fine so long as you don’t look straight down the rocky slope.

Rising up through a small canyon at the top, there was a remarkable view of the mountains in Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. Despite the cloudy conditions we could see Cradle Mountain, Mt Olympus and even Frenchmans Cap in the distance. At the top of Solomon’s Throne there’s a great view of Mt Jerusalem and the valley leading up from Herod’s Gate. Tarns and lakes are dotted throughout the spectacular 360 degree view. Feeling like we were the only people on earth, we found a sheltered spot at the top to take out the map and work out exactly what we were looking at. Then from nowhere we started hearing voices. “God, is that you?” I thought – seeing as we were surrounded by all this religiousness and truly in God’s own country. Not quite. Rather it was the Sunshine Coast Bushwalking Club ambling down from King David’s Peak. Five gents; Brian, Glen, Phil, Don and Bernard, all in the vicinity of 70 up on top of a mountain. And in fine form too. Damien and I felt like wimps when we heard what their itinerary was – basically they were hiking across from the Walls of Jerusalem to Lake St Clair and Pine Valley, then transferring down to the Tasman Peninsula and lastly on to the Bay of Fires – hiking for 3 weeks with nary a night in a hotel to rest their old bones. We took our hats off to them. They were the campers set up near the hut who we hadn’t had the chance to meet the night prior.

We parted company at Solomon’s Throne and Damien and I followed the top of the Wailing Wall down to Damascus Vale where we ate our picnic lunch under a solitary Pencil Pine.

Once again we dined on the grassy banks of the pristine stream at Dixon’s Kingdom looking out over the Western Arthur Ranges at sunset. And once again we pinched ourselves at the realisation of how truly privileged we are to be able to spend time amongst such natural beauty.

Thursday 4/2…. wet and blustery

Wild windy conditions made for an unsettled night’s sleep for us in the hut and for our Sunshine Coast friends. We were visited by Eastern Quolls and a giant brushtail possum during the night and by Brian ready to brew his coffee in the hut at sparrow’s.

So it was an early start to the day. The Sunshine Coasters packed up their drenched camping gear in the hut to get out of the cold and rain. They were none too keen to get out into the weather for their big day’s walk and kept seeking reassurance from Damien about Tassie’s weather patterns. It was so interesting hearing some of the tales from their decades of hiking together. And before leaving they gave us some good recommendations for hikes they’ve particularly enjoyed over the years (Travers Sabine track in NZ, Lord Howe Island and the Larapinta Trail especially).

We set off at 9am in the rain. The landscape looks totally different under a veil of fast moving cloud. Damien finds the drama and atmospheric qualities of it inspiring – I love it too, but it comes at a price to one’s knees from the slipping and sliding. A small misstep and you hit the ground like a sack of spuds when you’ve got a laden pack on. When your view is reduced by the weather you focus on the little things like the beauty of the gnarled wooden stems of the alpine heath and the crimson colours of the gum leaves.

We made good time on the return downhill journey – about 3 hours back to the car with just the one rest stop at Trappers Hut…. where we left the camera! Poor Damien – we arrived back at the car exhausted and he drew the short straw and had to double back for a pleasant hour and a half powerwalk up to Trappers Hut where to our great relief, the camera was still sitting where we hung it. It was a very happy end to a wonderful walk in the Walls.

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