Damon and I parked the car at the carpark next to Huon Camp, and registered our names at the sign-in booth after disconnecting the car battery. I couldn't wait to get moving as the foreboding profile of the glaciated quartzite ridge of the Western Arthur's, that we had passed as we drove towards Scotts Peak Dam, had left me filled with a great deal of excitement and anticipation.
We started hiking at 15:30, making our way South-West up the stairs along the Port Davey track, and passed a boot-cleaning station soon after. These boot-cleaning stations have been built for hikers to clean off mud and soil from their footwear, in order to curb the spread of dieback disease (Phytophthora cinnamomi
), a pathogen that lives in the soil and kills plants by attacking their roots.The station was located at the beginning of a myrtle beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii
) forest. As I walked along the moss-lined path, I caught myself wanting to slow down and just immerse myself in the forest. I had been hiking in and around Western Australia for so long, that I didn't realise until then how much I missed forests - the fresh, oxygen-rich air, the lingering moisture, and the crepuscular rays that always left me spellbound as the sunlight flitted through the gaps in the trees. I had had one of my molars extracted early that same day and the post-extraction ache had left me a little concerned, but walking through the forest ensured that any concerns that still lingered were quickly forgotten.
The forest ended way too soon for my liking and we were forced to emerge from the trees and onto a wooden walkway that was honeycombed with wiring that was meant to give our shoes some extra grip. This walkway soon gave way to a gravel path that meandered up and over the gentle hills that were to give way to flat buttongrass plains. I was keenly aware of the sounds that surrounded me - buzzing insects, birds that twittered in the afternoon warmth, and the soft sounds of trickling water - only because of the complete lack of wind; sounds that would not have been given a chance to reach my ears otherwise.We entered another forest once again after approximately 300 metres, the trail winding around tufts of moss, and the shade of the forest canopy dropping the ambient temperature significantly. The trail continued on for just over a kilometre before emerging onto the plains once again. The silhouette of the range loomed ominously ahead of us, a challenging target that seemed to be fixed to the horizon. The path alternated between wooden walkways above the swampy heath, and stony gravel, but constantly flanked by button grass (Gymnoschoenus sphaerocephalus
The path seemed to get progressively muddier approximately 4 kilometres in. We entered a grove of trees again and I found myself slowed considerably by the mud as I took great effort to keep my shoes as dry as possible. I don't use hiking poles as I find that they get in the way of my photography, and the lack of which left me constantly teetering and tottering, always on the verge of losing my balance each and every time I tried to skirt around the mud patches. Damon, who had finished the South Coast Track just before tackling this hike, was very used to the Tasmanian mud by then and just walked straight through the middle of the track, seemingly oblivious to the ubiquitous mud.