Meeting Old Joe

31 Aug

I’m after a Canberra hill or mountain I haven’t done before; one that’s close to home, and one that I can knock over quickly. My very good friend (who happens to be a surveyor and knows all the mountains in Canberra) suggests Old Joe, near the border. I’ve never heard of it. On reading about it, it seems like the Mt Ainslie that no one’s ever heard of. I expect a return walk in an hour or so, through a nature reserve – Goorooyarroo (confusing number of Rs and Os) – I’ve never set food in. Win, win!

I’ve uncharacteristically (for winter) already walked around Lake Ginninderra this morning but there’s so much sunshine and Vit D that’s begging to be absorbed that it’s easy to lock in this afternoon for an easy stroll up a hill. G and I wait for the weather to cool a little (what can I say? This 18 degree business is a killer) and then set out towards Horse Park Drive, where there’s a simple area to pull in to start the walk towards Old Joe.

Canberra Nature Parks vary in terms of dogs being allowed (Mt Painter yes, Black Mountain no, Mt Taylor yes and so on) but unfortunately Goorooyarroo falls into the strictly no dogs category. One of the reasons is that there’s quite a bit of bait lying about.

Turns out those sticks lying against the sign at the start of the walk aren’t to help your amble, but to warn off magpies. I learn the hard way.

We’re also disturbing a few wallabies, relaxing amongst the thick brush and gums at the start of the walk.

Can you see us?

It really is a gorgeous day

Our path today starts off straight and mostly flat, before we meet a number of gates as we make our way north. Old Joe is very steep approaching it from the west; the map has us walked around its back and going up that way.

Slightly rocky fire trail

Uh oh – how do we get through this gate?

Ah – it lifts up!

Or… we could just open the gate.

Eye on the prize: Old Joe in the distance

The slog along the fire trail from here is straightforward, crossing a small river and curling around the side of Old Joe. As we get closer and closer, it seems further and further away.

Looking back towards Canberra, and the Brindabellas

Hullo Telstra Tower

Finally, the road diverges and we take the one less travelled by.

Old Joe, we’re coming for you

It’s a reasonably steady slog, but again we’re heading further and further away from Old Joe. We check the map (there’s reasonably phone coverage here, being so close to Gungahlin) and see the path first has to take us to the Gooroo Hill lookout at the fence (aka NSW/ACT borderline) before we follow the fence up to Old Joe.

Gooroo Hill lookout

The Gooroo Hill lookout is lush … and yet, the trig is over on the NSW border!

Gooroo Hill trig (I think) on private land in NSW

Despite how bright it looks, the sun is setting fast. We turn back towards the fence line, and follow it towards Old Joe. It’s steep but not killer. There’s plenty of grass and rocks to assist in balancing.

Follow, follow, follow, follow (check out those looong shadows)

Looking towards Gungahlin

And then…

We’re here!

And yet the trig – again – is on the wrong side of the border! Tsk.

It’s a glorious view, even though it’s slightly tainted: it’s past 5pm, it’s still winter, and the sun’s about to set. And we’re almost two hours into a walk which is only half done.

But that can wait: photo time.

Fires or burn-offs? (Looking towards Mt Majura in the centre of the pic)

G determines our exit strategy… it’s getting dark

Obligatory photo of the author (my best side)

Can you spot Mt Majura, Mt Ainslie, Mt Tennent, Mt Taylor and Black Mountain in this photo?

Back to strategy. We could go back the way we came, but it would mean we’re back at the car close to 7pm – it’ll be quite dark. The other option is to head down the steep side of the mountain.

The last time I agreed to take a shortcut, I ended up a) falling over a lot and b) crying (you can read all about it here).

But, ever the optimist, I agree. Steep side it is. With luck, we’ll make it to the bottom just as the sun sets, and have a few of the fading rays guide us some way back to the car on the much clearer fire trail.

There aren’t many photos from this part of the walk BUT I’m happy to record it’s quite simply, and reasonably steady – and being able to hold onto the fence does a lot to assist.

Down we go

There’s quite a bit of fence wire – both chicken coop wire which is rolled up, and other wire which can look deceivingly like branches – to dodge, but it’s not so prevalent that it’s a problem – particularly while we have light.

There’s a bit of a trail, but this is certainly not the first time I’ve thought that I’m wearing the wrong shoes. I know I’ve already one blister but it’s later revealed I have four (including one on top of the other – gross). Tara’s top tip: wear the right shoes.

As the sun sets, we hit some gates and work out that it’s a simple matter of heading left, then straight, and then the fire trail is ahead of us. The sun is setting and around one of the hills we see the colours peeking through. G is much faster than I, so agrees to hightail it to see what images he can get (while I find the most direct route to the firetrail along the principles of Pythagoras’ theorem).

G delivers

Can you spot me (if you’re not blinded by the beautiful sunset)?

We meet back near the firetrail and resume our walk back to the car. We estimate 40 minutes based on some landmarks and remembering our conversation about how long we’d walked when we came across them (helpful if not entirely technical approach), and make it back in just over 30 minutes with enough fading light so that we’re not walking in pitch black – and it’s not entirely cold, either. Of course, we could have been a lot quicker if I hadn’t stopped to take so many photos of the sunset. But then I wouldn’t have got these.

While Goorooyarroo is hard to spell and encourages some roundabout routes to get where you want to go, the payoff (replete with blisters) is worth it. The longer the days get, the more I encourage you to get out there and enjoy the light cast over north Canberra and the view of some of our special mountains – it’s a view you can’t get anywhere else.

This post is dedicated to Kurt Steel. Kurt was the source of so much light, colour and vision – he was simply a bright star; his energy, passion, drive and talent touched so many of us in the ACT. I will never forget your cheeky grin, Kurt – it’s burned in my vision; and I promise I will never forget you.

Date: Saturday, 30 August 2014

Where: Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve, off Horse Park Drive in Gungahlin

Distance: 12 kilometres return (including with shortcut)

Cost: None

Value for effort: High

Worthwhile factor: Highly worthwhile

Want more? Try this brochure from the ACT Government. If you want to be able to look at the photos better and zoom in, you can check out the Facebook album here.

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8 Responses to “Meeting Old Joe”

  1. Johnny Boy August 31, 2014 at 11:01 pm #

    I can take you to a few hills you haven’t heard of πŸ™‚

    • inthetaratory August 31, 2014 at 11:05 pm #

      I know you can… but how many of those are ‘easy’? πŸ˜‰

      • Greg Hutchison September 2, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

        Ah yes John Evans will surely give a couple of beauties like Mt Gingera, or straight up Stockyard spur or a short ramble over Mt Tennant

        I don’t see a picture of the historic wooden border marker south of Old Joe. You need to go back and find it (Hint its along the fence and on a right angled corner)

        Always “Stinging Nettle Hill”, again on the border but its over Murrumbidgee in Woodstock Nature Reserve

  2. Gary Lum September 1, 2014 at 6:07 am #

    Great post Tara but where’s Cooper?

    • inthetaratory September 1, 2014 at 7:12 am #

      No dogs allowed – there’s bait 😦

      • Gary Lum September 1, 2014 at 8:02 am #

        Oh, well that’s good for Cooper then that he wasn’t there. The photographs looked great Tara πŸ™‚

      • inthetaratory September 1, 2014 at 8:18 am #

        Thanks Gary! The light and location made it very easy.

  3. Tracey September 1, 2014 at 11:25 am #

    Looks like a great walk! Might be a project for next weekend..thank you!

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