After the success of last weekend’s Lower Portals walk, I decided to invite Mum to come with me on another swimming hole walk: the Upper Portals. As you might have guessed from the similarities in the names, the Upper Portals walk is in a similar area as the Lower Portals walk. In fact, the Upper Portals are situated further upstream on the same creek: Barney Creek.
The route information for the Upper Portals states that the final five kilometres of the drive require a 4WD vehicle. Usually, this type of statement is a bit misleaading, with 4WD vehicles only being needed in wet conditions. However, you really do need a 4WD vehicle to access the start of the Upper Portals walk because the final five kilometres travel up a steep gravel road that goes straight up the side of a spur that climbs steeply to Cleared Ridge. It doesn’t twist or turn – it just goes straight up. The gravel is loose and the road is prone to washouts. The drive itself was a little bit of an adventure and a fun warm up for the walk to come.
Once up at Cleared Ridge, we boiled the billy while enjoying the peaceful mountain views.
I know I am at an age where I should start watching what I eat, lest the mid-30s sprawl start to set in around my waist. But there really is nothing quite like enjoying a jam donut and hot chocolate at the top of a hill. And I don’t hike for hardship – I still want my little luxuries (so long as they aren’t too heavy to carry).
The start of the Upper Portals walk is well-signed. Once on the walk, there are a couple of signs to point walkers away from private property and in the direction of Barney Creek but once at Barney Creek the signs disappear (probably because there’s no private property to be protected). After you pass the signed Yamahra Creek campsite, turn left on Barney Creek and follow it downstream (there is no path) to the Upper Portals.
The first couple of kilometres of the walk took us steeply down the side of Clear Ridge to Yamahra Creek. It’s a pretty flowing creek that meanders it’s way casually to Barney Creek further downstream. We crossed the creek half a dozen times – Mum managed to keep her feet dry while I ended up just plowing through the refreshingly cool water. I only wear joggers when I bushwalk so they don’t get too heavy when wet.
The short walk took us through tall trees on the descent from the 755m high Cleared Ridge, through some dense forest along Yamahra Creek and then through open forest as we made our way further down towards Barney Creek. This country was obviously farmed for a long time before becoming National Park and weedy grasses dominate the undergrowth, making a pretty green blanket. While our eyes feasted on the green surrounds and flaking gum tree bark, our ears were treated to a chorus of bellbird calls ringing through the trees like small church bells sounding for mass.
Once at Barney Creek we rock hopped our way downstream for about 300m. The long clumping grass bushes softened the hard rocky creek bed, cooling the atmosphere and offering hiding places for lizards and insects.
Neither of us knew what to expect from the Upper Portals. But we didn’t expect anything as spectacular, rugged or picturesque as what we found. The water has slowly carved smooth channels through the hard rocky gorge. We stayed up at the top of the portals, rather than risking a difficult climb back out.
Clear water tumbled down rock faces into the pools below.
And of course we had to go swimming. After-all, that’s why we came here. Well, Mum went swimming (she is wearing swimming togs in this pic – I just realised it looks like she’s not). It took me about half an hour to submerge myself because the water was cold and I’m soft. The water was cold, clear and clean; perfect for cooling down on a summer’s day.
We shared some blueberries, speculaas (Dutch spiced biscuit) sandwiches and boiled eggs for lunch on the rocks beside the flowing creek. Blue dragon flies flittered around as we ate, inspecting the newcomers and a tiny water snake made it’s way downstream.
We made time for some playful fun building a small cairn.
And then it was time to walk back to the car. The final kilometer or two required a steep climb back up to the top of Cleared Ridge. The fire trail was easy to follow and the walking was easy (if steep). But of course, “someone” had to ham it up for the camera.
And then we were back at the top of the ridge enjoying views of the surrounding mountains and flat lands. Of course, we used the opportunity to plan future hikes to the summits of surrounding peaks.
The final task for the day was to drive back down the road on the spur to the highway and home. It was a fantastic day out and I am glad that I’ve started doing some of the shorter walks in my local area because it’s opening a whole new universe of possibility and natural wonders. I used to think that I had to do extreme or long walks, and it resulted in me doing less walking. This year I am hoping to change that.
Here’s a short video I made of the walk:
Total: 8km bushwalk