Mt Barney looms over the surrounding farmland like an ancient guardian. The multiple peaks and rocky outcrops warn of the dangers associated with climbing the mountain’s peaks. I’ve rarely explored the national park here because I’m not much of a climber and there’s something foreboding about the prospect of climbing her. I can’t explain it but something tells me that we’re not meant to be up there; at least not without permission. But I don’t feel the same sense of foreboding around the mountain’s base.
With a heatwave hitting Brisbane and temperatures forecast to be in the mid-40s centigrade (104F – 116F), the Audax ride I had planned to do overnight was cancelled. I decided to walk down to the Lower Portals on Barney Creek. No sooner did I mention my plans to Mum than she invited herself along. She picked me up at 6am and we were on the trail by 8am to get to the portals before the real heat hit.
The trail to the Lower Portals is exposed and rugged. At a little over 2 miles it’s deceptively challenging. The landscape is constantly undulating with washouts and dry creek beds more common than smooth walking. Mum and I both love this kind of country. It is reminiscent of the Outback Australia with scrawny trees, little shade, red dirt and ancient boulders. If ever you thought Australia was a young country, you only need to walk to the Lower Portals to get a sense of just how ancient it really is.
While the rugged slopes were dry, the deepest sections of the gullies offered some respite and grass even managed to grow there. Mum and I each carried 4L water to get us through the 8km return hike. On our return journey we came across a British family (two adults and two boys) who were carrying about 1.5L water between the four of them. They were extremely dehydrated with bright red faces and the mother was wavering all over the trail. We tried to tell them to turn back and that they were carrying insufficient water to be safe during the (by then) midday heat but the father gave us the “don’t tell me what to do” look. So we had no choice but to leave them to their wobbly shuffling and hope they refilled their bottles at the creek some 2km further along. The sweat on my shirt above was from the 8am heat. By midday it was 47’C in the shade (116F). If you come from overseas to walk in Australia, carry at least 2L (4 pints / half gallon) water per person even for a short 2 mile hike and more in summer. Dehydration is a killer.
After an hour of walking, including stops to take photos, look at a giant goanna, watch a native wasp try to carry a dragon fly into it’s nest and enjoy the couple of bubbling creeks along the way, we reached the Lower Portals. Over the course of two hours we were joined by others who were there to enjoy a swim. I took a short video because it shows the portals better than a photo can.
After two and a half hours picnicking and swimming at the Lower Portals, Mum and I scrambled back across the rocks to the end of the trail. We were in bare feet, having left our shoes with the others piled under a bush where the trail joined Barney Creek. It was only about 100m of scrambling but the rocks were like burning coals. Every time I dropped my feet into soothing cold water, I am sure they sizzled. Mum is smarter than me – she cooled the rocks with water from the creek before walking on them. That’s what she’s doing in the photo above.
We walked back to the car in the middle of the day. We’re experienced walkers and took things easy. We had plenty of water and stopped in the shade along the way to take rests and enjoy the landscape. At the final creek (about 1km from the cars), we stopped again to cool off. I took a short video of the running water to capture the music created by the water and cicadas. As you can probably hear, the cicadas were deafening.
It was a brilliant day and I can’t wait to come back to Mt Barney National Park to explore more of the creeks and also some of the campsites.
Total: 8km bushwalk