August 21, 2016

If you go down to the woods…

Lamington National Park lies on the Lamington Plateau, part of the McPherson Range on the Queensland-New South Wales border. There are two sections: the Green Mountains Section, centred on O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat; and Binna Burra Section, where we had stayed once before, in Binna Burra Mountain Lodge. Their Sky Lodges are well-designed, built of slate, stone and wood, and nicely furnished, with stunning views. They're cosy, with efficient heating if the wind is whipping up the valley.

We escaped Brisbane for a night and a day on the city's Ekka public holiday. Everyone should experience the Ekka, but once is probably enough (see The Ekka, August 2011). These days, I would get upset about the innumerable plastic show-bags all over the showground and beyond, as well as wild birds in small cages.  

We left town late Tuesday afternoon. It should take about an hour and a half to Binna Burra, either via the Pacific Motorway or the Ipswich and Beaudesert roads and Mt Lindesay Highway as far as Jimboomba. We chose the latter, but many sets of traffic lights in the rush hour and then winding roads up the mountain in the dark extended the journey beyond two hours.

The early morning light created blue landscapes from the balcony of our beautiful Sky Lodge. And the Gold Coast was lapped by a burnished ocean.
After breakfast and a quick visit to the Ranger station to check the walk we'd chosen (from many in Lamington), we started out from the trailhead along the Border Track at about 10, heading ultimately for Dave's Creek Circuit: 13 kilometres return; walking time 4-5 hours; Class 4. This is regarded as one of the more interesting walks in terms of variety of vegetation. Along the Border Track there is warm and cool subtropical rainforest, where the trees are descendants of the rainforests of Gondwana. There are fine examples of buttress roots, Strangler Figs, epiphytes and, in damper patches, Picabeen Palms.
After you turn off for the Circuit, 2-3 km down the Border Track, there is a small area of Antarctic Beech, believed to survive here in a cool pocket. There are increasing tracts of dryer, more open eucaplypt and casuarina woodland until eventually, on the top of Dave's Creek ridge, there is mallee woodland and then heath. As ever, backlit greens and filigree ferns were irresistible.
Beyond the woods were lookouts – to border country, ocean and valley. There was Molongolee Cave and the aptly named Surprise Rock, a volcanic dyke made of erosion-resistant trachyte.
Not far from the Rock was another lookout, over a beautiful variation of montane (above the tree line) heathland, where we had lunch and spent time with a bold Grey Shrike-thrush. He relished muesli-bar crumbs that fell by chance.
There's nothing quite like gazing to the sky via the trunk and spreading crown of an ancient forest dweller. There's something perspective-providing and calming about it. Brisbanites are fortunate to have such forests close at hand in which to lose themselves for a few hours. I found myself wondering, however, how well these giants will adapt to a more challenging climate. And I worried about the fate of millions of trees not park protected from clearing and awaiting the success or failure of imminent vegetation management legislation in the Queensland Parliament.