We set out from Govett’s Leap in the Blue Mountains for an overnight hike down into the Grose Valley. I’d somehow managed to talk The Climber into coming with me and three lovely Dutchies and an adventurous Englishman made up the rest of the crew.
Our plan was to head to Acacia Flat, camp there and then come back up by way of the Grand Canyon and Evan’s Lookout. It’s an easy two-day trip (the long ascent and decent requires reasonable fitness but you don’t need to be ‘fit’) and the trail doesn’t require any navigation skills other than knowing how to turn left and right. Of course it’s sensible to take a map, PLB and be prepared for any kind of weather.
I love the stairs and the path into the valley from Govett’s – it’s pretty cool how you basically walk down a sheer cliff but don’t really feel all that exposed.
There are a series of gorgeous views of Bridal Veil falls and out into the valley as you descend. The falls send waves of sparkling gossamer silk cascading down and down into the valley – a few drops kissing our foreheads as we passed underneath.
We saw a few friendly little birds as we descended into the huge ferns that shelter in the curve of the valley’s sides. The ferns are a riot of green – as they drape over your head it’s easy to imagine that you’ve somehow shrunk down to fairy size…if fairies had giant lumbering backpacks.
We followed Govett’s Brook as it turned into Govett’s Gorge until we came to Junction Rock. The Englishman was typically chivalrous and offered to carry my pack over the creek jump. Unfortunately, the universe rewarded his good intentions with wet boots, which was very unfair. Luckily it was delightfully (and unexpectedly) mild, with a nice bit of sunshine, and over a leisurely lunch on the rocks socks were more or less dried off.
Stretching like lazy cats, we eventually roused ourselves to continue. The trail follows the meandering Govett’s Gorge along the flat of the valley floor. The water widens at a few points, glittering in the sun, with soft green banks and overhanging bush. It almost feels like a stroll in the English countryside but with the colours toned down and muted into soft blues, greys and golds.
After half an hour or so of easy walking we arrived at Acacia Flat, somewhat surprised to have arrived so quickly. It was still early in afternoon so we set up the tents then went for a little explore and a water top-up down through the Blue Gum Forest and to the river.
The forest is incredible – huge tall trees brushing the roof of the world, their sturdy trunks grey and cream and smooth. You stand at the base of one of those giants and look up and up into an entire universe of tree and light and air. It’s wonderful.
The little stroll through the forest pops out onto the Gorge creek. The creek is fairly wide at this point and the cold water sparkles over the multi-coloured stones. We filled up our water bottles and half of the group decided that we hadn’t really ‘finished’ with walking for the day so decided on a jaunt up to Perry’s Lookdown.
So off we went. It’s a fairly long climb back up to the plateau from Blue Gum forest but we took it easy, with a few chatty breaks resting on convenient logs and stones. It definitely helped not having to carry packs! The view from Perry’s is really great – a wide vista back across the Grose Valley. We had a delightful cup of tea and a snack while we took in the view.
The descent back to Acacia was surprisingly easy – it’s all on well-maintained stairs and our feet just floated us back down the hill to the river. The Climber and I stopped for a bath – it was absolutely delightful, fresh and clean and bubbly. We couldn’t entice the others in though. Something about it being too chilly. (Dirty) wimps.
When we arrived back at Acacia Flat we were welcomed by a wonderful little campfire and an empire of tents – so many people had arrived in the afternoon. Other than the impact on the toilets this didn’t really matter. It’s an easily accessible campsite so you have to expect to cheerfully share with a few people.
We had a (seriously over-catered and delicious) dinner and settled back to talk and laugh and watch the embers spiralling up into the milky way.
The next morning we set off back towards Junction Rock. There was an opportunity for a delightful little swim and relax in the ‘spa’. The group split here – some of the group choosing the shorter path back the same way we’d come and the rest of us heading up towards Evans Lookout.
We followed the creek along Rodriguez Pass and the valley floor. It was incredibly pretty – the wide shallow creek sparkled in the sun and was edged in soft friendly greens. After half an hour or so the path began a steady ascent. We were rewarded by a gorgeous series of waterfalls and rock-pools.
After crossing the creek for the last time the path became much steeper and it was a long steep climb up towards Beauchamp falls.
The path through the Grand Canyon has been closed for the last year or so to improve the track after rock-falls. I assume this included the lower section. I really hope this is an ongoing piece of work – it seems very makeshift for such a popular route, with plastic markers and quickly eroding paths. There is one slightly exposed section that has a chain handrail – it’s total overkill and the geologist amongst us remarked that it’s all heavily bolted into a rock that is evidently shifting downhill…so not a great long term solution either.
The ascent continued and it really is spectacularly beautiful. I especially liked the last quiet places before the Grand Canyon – dark and cool and carpeted with ferns. The Grand Canyon was packed with tourists, as is only to be expected, and as pretty and impressive as ever. The tall walls of the canyon shade the green paradise within. The canyon creek bubbles along and a riot of plants grow and cling to every conceivable crack and crevice.
We paused for a snack in the last little curve before the end of the canyon. It was a delightful spot with the creek by our feet, some smooth sand to rest on and a handkerchief of blue sky high high above us. Someone before us had left banana peels and other fruit bits behind though, which was thoughtless, we carried out the least-gross bits.
The final ascent to the plateau took us past some smooth and interesting rock formations…and a lot of very tired walkers! We finally reached the plateau and walked down to Evan’s Lookout for the beautiful and rewarding view back down into the valley.
At this point we were all fairly tired but I encouraged the team by reminding them that the walk back to Govett’s was nice and flat. Now, this was my honest recollection. It was also entirely incorrect.
While I’d accurately remembered the beautiful views of Bridal Veil falls, the tall trees and the occasional black cockatoo or darting lyrebird as well as the lovely little curve where the warratah’s grow (not quite out yet), I’d entirely forgotten the rather long (some complaining voices shrilly accused ‘endless’) stairs back towards Govett’s.
By the time we arrived I was quite unpopular. Fortunately, after the classic ‘arrived!’ photo we headed to Gardner’s Inn where some hot food and a well-deserved beer or two helped to fade certain memories. It was a good walk.