experience 07

19-21oct14 — d+k+e — lake cressbrook

Our first trip of the 2014-15 season was to another big, popular campsite — Lake Cressbrook. I mentioned last time that this type of campsite isn’t my favourite, and I was reminded why again this time. The thing about big, popular campsites is that they often have far too many humans. And not all of those humans have the same attitude towards peace and quiet as I do. I’m reminded of the line “How’s the serenity?’ from The Castle — no actual speed boats involved, but a group of people who LOVE to talk … talk LOUD … for a long time … a looonnnnggg time. Not so much serenity.

But everything else about Lake Cressbrook was pretty much perfect. The Toowoomba Council do an awesome job of keeping this place pristine. There are quite a number of semi-secluded sites nestled amongst the trees, but these get taken quickly. We ended up on the large grassy central area with huge, flat sites. There are also designated areas for campervans.

E says : At Cressbrook Dam we set up our camp, then we realised we forgot the floor mat :( Then K and I went fishing — we had no luck. Then it was 4.00pm and we read for a little bit while dad was getting ready for a fire. We had damper on a stick. Then it was bed time then I saw a kangaroo next to our camp :o On Sunday we learnt about this plant called algae. It gives people itches. Dad made bait out of sausage. After that I read while eating chocolate — Yum! We had stew for dinner. Our last day we went fishing one last time. Then dad packed up and we went home. I like Cressbrook Dam, it was a nice place to camp with nice cool breezes.
E's Cressbrook drawing

Our fireplace was very small, but I’m not really into massive roaring fires, so it suited us just fine. Boiling water, cooking sausages, toasting marshmallows — it did the job. The grassy site was beautiful to walk on in bare feet. There’s a big camp kitchen here with HOT water to wash up with and gas barbies. This is easily the cleanest, neatest campsite we’ve been to — even the fireplace had been swept! The toilet block is big and clean and there are even hot showers — not proper camping at all.

But the main reason we came up here is that the kids wanted to try their hand at fishing. Queensland Fisheries regularly stock dams like Cressbrook, and there are certainly fish up here, but we had no luck. The weed around the edge of the lake was pretty thick and made things difficult, but the kids just had fun casting out. Even a small boat like a canoe would have put us out amongst them. But you have to be careful, because the wind gets up quick and strong.

K says : At Lake Cressbrook we went camping for two days. At the camp we started to unpack then I found out the toilets had heated showers. Soon we ventured to the lake where we saw pelicans and fish (but we did not catch any) and heaps of kangaroos. It felt like Kangaroo Island. The second day we went to try to catch some fish but we failed then we went to get some proper bait but did not get any because the shop had sold out. The lady at the petrol station told us there was a waterhole at a National Park. When we got back we went fishing but did not catch any fish. Then we saw some more kangaroos and joeys. The next day we got up, had breaky then started fishing then went back home. It was the best.
K's Cressbrook drawing

It’s not a good idea to swim in Lake Cressbrook — algal blooms are common and not good for humans. So we decided to go 15-20 minutes up the road to Crows Nest National Park in the hope of finding a waterhole. I went camping here one easter when I was a kid, but I don’t remember much about it except that someone saw a snake in the toilets and one of the dads threatened to kill the easter bunny.

It’s quite an easy walk along Crows Nest Creek and we reached the first potential swimming spot in about five minutes. But The Cascades weren’t cascading. We crossed over and did a bit of boulder hopping among the awesome mountains of tumbled granite before heading back to the track for a safer descent. We fared no better at the next spot — Kauyoo Pool. Very little water, but a great place for me to feed my fetish for photographing ‘rock and root’ formations — where plants sometimes seem to grow right out of bare rock.

Our last hope was Bottlebrush Pool, because the only other swimming hole — at the falls — is now a restricted access area. Luckily we were in luck. Lucky! Bottlebrush Pool is a gorgeous swimming hole surrounded by more granite and … you guessed it … lots of bottlebrush. It was really surprising how much clear, fresh water remained in this pool, given how little we’d seen everywhere else. There’s quite a bit of shallow water and a couple of deep spots.

The kids splashed around for an hour or so and only had to share the place with one other family. The timing was just right too — just as we were leaving a bunch of teenagers turned up with booming music. But, we had our small dose of serenity.

Lake Cressbrook is west of Brisbane, just north of Toowoomba. It takes a bit over two hours to get there once you hit the Centenary Motorway. You cannot book sites in advance — self-registration is required upon arrival. Firewood is not available onsite, so you need to bring your own. But check before you go because this area is subject to total fire bans during dry spells. Then you can only use fuel stoves or the onsite barbecues. There’s a boat ramp at the day use area, within earshot of the campsite. The day use area also has a small playground for small kids.

You can find more information about Lake Cressbrook at the Toowoomba Council website.

Fishing permits are available from Fisheries Queensland. You only need one permit per couple and people under 18 can fish without a permit.

Happy camping.

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experience 06

14-15feb14 — d+k+e — cedar grove
After hearing about our great Neurum Creek experience, K decided she wasn’t going to miss out again, so we finally got to do our first two-kid adventure. This gave J (who we never talk about because she doesn’t like camping) a weekend to herself.

One of the big attractions of this trip for the kids was a day off school. I was hoping that a Friday nighter would prove to be a quiet night in camp — no such luck. Cedar Grove is a popular camp site and was already quite crowded by the time we turned up mid-afternoon. More people continued to turn up into the evening.

This isn’t really my style of camping. For me, the whole point of getting away is to, well, get away. What I really don’t need is some idiot playing FM radio in the next campsite — there’s no place in the bush for shitty pop songs and crappy ads from harvey-bloody-norman. We had music coming in from three different neighbours. But this is the trade-off for camping in an easily accessible place with toilet facilities — not to worry — at least there were no generators. Lesson 12 — big, popular campsite = more humans : more humans = more noise.

Cedar Grove sustained serious damage during the floods in early 2013 but underwent major reconstruction works later in the year. This campsite now has the most outstanding toilet blocks you’re likely to find anywhere.

But the real attraction of Cedar Grove is the superb waterhole — very cool, very refreshing and chock-a-block full of cute turtles. And we ended up in the site right next to the walkway that leads down to the creek.

K says : Dad, E and I stayed at Cedar Grove for two nights. The first night I slept in the tent. The boys slept outside. Then the second night I slept outside. We went swimming four times. Dad got in once — we forced him. One other time he just sat in the shallow. We also went on two bush walks and we had to scavange some termite-infested wood from the side of the road for the fire. We sprayed the wood to kill the termites and we had termite smell in the car.

We saw heaps of interesting wildlife such as monitor lizards, turtles, fish, black cockatoos, deer and turkeys. There were also lots of cows and bulls. We had an amazing time and we were sad that we had to leave. But I was a bit glad because we got to see mum and we also got to get away from heaps of mozzies. Yes :)
K's Cedar Grove drawing

The ground on our site was a shocker. It was level and reasonably grassy, so it looked perfect. But we destroyed quite a few tent pegs in trying to get our shelters up. We made a doomed attempt to sleep all three of us on one mattress under the tarp the first night. K was the first one to crack and decided to spend the night by herself in the tent instead.

Saturday morning we went back up the road to the Amama day use area. Here there’s a nice little rainforest walk into the cascades. This would be quite spectacular after a decent amount of rain but was still pretty cool. I got to test out my new tripod in photographing my particular obsession — the juxtaposition of the organic and inorganic — rock and root.

I also got a couple of great pics of what I thought was a dragonfly because I believed dragonflies are distinctive in the way they rest with their wings outspread. But it turns out that some damselflies do this too. The other things which show this is not a dragonfly, on proper inspection, are the ‘x-formation’ of the wings and the way the eyes are set apart. No doubt an entomologist could point out half a dozen other differences as well. I did a little research and it looks like this might be the Common Flatwing (Austroargiolestes-icteromelas). I don’t really care what humans call it — it’s an awesome little critter.

Later in the day we were walking along the creek bed back at camp and saw something odd looming in the distance — it looked a bit like some kind of jungle treehouse :
strange structure in the distance

But once we got closer it became obvious that this was something even more awesome. A massive tree brought down in some previous catastrophe — taking with it the huge deck that had been constructed around its base. This is a great testament to the engineering skills of the builders, but an even greater testament to the ability of nature to reclaim itself.

E says : At Cedar Grove Dad, K and I went camping. We went swimming and we jumped off a cliff. For the first time we used the portable stove and we ran out of gas. I saw some bulls and cows. I thought the bull was going to charge us.
E's Cedar Grove drawing

In between our occasional walks, we spent most of our time down at the waterhole. Our second night’s sleep was more successful — all three of us on two mattresses under the tarp. This gave us the chance to watch the nearly-full moon glowing through tall trees and wispy clouds as we fell asleep — fantastic.

The kids reckon they were eaten by mozzies, but I think it’s more likely that they got attacked once we got home, as they weren’t itchy in the morning. There was only one little downer at the end — we’d run out of gas — so it was a cold breakfast. But a final splash in the waterhole before the return trip made everything right.

Cedar Grove is inland from Gympie, just a few Ks back from the other campsite (Amamoor Creek) where they hold the annual Gympie muster. As with most National Park campsites, there are flushing toilets, running water (boil before drinking) and fire rings. It’s easily accessible, but not quite as well sign-posted as other sites — so it makes sense to have a good idea of where you’re going before you set off.

Close-up section of Amamoor State Forest map
click to view full Amamoor State Forest map

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experience 05

14-15dec13 — d+e — neurum creek

We finally got everything right for our fifth expedition. Nothing missing, nothing left behind, nothing broken — we didn’t even have to stop for firewood on the way, as we had been collecting bits and pieces over the previous few months. We were planning our first two-kid, two-night trip but K decided she doesn’t like camping any more, so it was just the smelly boys for the first weekend of the school holidays.

Neurum Creek is one of two vehicle-accessible government campsites in D’Aguilar National Park. This time last year E and I stayed at the other one — Archer Camp — which is also a beautiful spot with numbered sites. On that trip we were assaulted by the loudest cicada choruses I’ve ever heard and this trip we had another awesome cicada encounter of a different kind — more about that in a moment.

From Brisbane, we went through Samford and Dayboro towards Woodford along Mount Mee Road, turning off onto Sellin Road before Mount Mee. We stopped off for lunch at the site of the old timber mill — The Gantry. The last leg into camp is 6kms of pretty good dirt road.

(you can click on any of these galleries to see a larger slideshow)

As usual, first priority was to get the billy over some heat for a cuppa. E was in charge of fire lighting and did a top-notch job first go. It’s a good idea to get kids ‘playing with fire’ — they learn a lot about the beauty, power and danger of fire just by watching and interacting with it in a safe way. It’s also good fun. This time we had our first go at damper — we made the dough in the morning before leaving and just plonked it over the fire. It was pretty good. But damper is heavy-duty stuff and we could have easily got away with one half the size.

Then it was time for a quick scout around to see what we could see. There’s one short walk on the far side of the creek, but the highlight is the creek itself. The waterhole is not huge and not deep enough for ‘swimming’ but it’s very cool and refreshing on a hot day. It butts right up against a rock face with a few underwater ledges — perfect for cooling off some drinks. The only critters we encountered in the waterhole were thousands of water bugs, thousands of tiny fish (which like to nibble at your toes if you stand still long enough) and one big black leech (unfed).

We again decided to forego the tent and just sleep under the cool tarp. We had no drama with mozzies and, although we saw a bunch of march flies, we didn’t get bitten. About three hours after I reassured E that we were unlikely to get any rain that night, we were surrounded by a quite impressive thunder storm which, somehow, E managed to sleep through. Luckily it was all crash and bang with very little rain and no wind — so we stayed cool and dry all night.

In the morning we played some footy, cleaned up a ditch which some feral-bogan-idiot-wankers had used as a rubbish tip (E actually suggested the cleanup), and ‘rescued’ a cool looking bladder cicada from the creek. If you look close, you can see it’s looking happy for our help (but that wasn’t our awesome cicada encounter — more about that in a moment).

E says : At Neurum Creek Dad and I went for walks and to a good waterfall. At the water hole dad and I jumped off a cliff and into the water! I saw a lace moniter, it was a metre long. At the camp site Dad saw a cicada hatching out of its shell. I wish I could go back again.

E's drawing of Rocky Hole

E’s drawing of Rocky Hole

2km further along from the campsite is the awesome Rocky Hole. Last time we were here, Rocky Hole was a bit manky and not great for swimming, but this time it was very cool (in both senses of the term). After seeing a few other people jumping off the rocks, E decided he wanted to have a go too. This is a very risky practice. The water wasn’t all that clear, so there was no certainty at all that it was completely free from submerged danger. But after watching much bigger people repeatedly jump in and around the same spot I decided the risk was acceptably low. Some will say I was silly to be so cautious, and others will say I was crazy to risk the welfare of my son. But this is the nature of life, any worthwhile experiences involve some kind of risk. The sense of joy and power that E got from this simple pleasure was well worth the calculated risk.

For the first couple of jumps I was standing on a (quite visible) submerged boulder a couple of metres from the splash zone. Later, when I jumped myself, I found that my skinny six-foot body still didn’t touch bottom. Lesson 10 — when jumping from a high point into a waterhole, always hold your nose to prevent the in-rushing water from washing your brains out through your ears.

And here’s an animation (click to view) :
E jumping at Rocky Hole

Now for our awesome cicada encounter …
Adult cicadas are beautiful, amazing and LOUD creatures. Eggs are laid in slits made by the mother in tree bark. After a couple of months the nymphs hatch and drop to the ground. They dig down and live off the sap of the tree roots — for years! They moult several times underground before finally emerging for the final moult and transformation into a winged adult — then they live for only another few weeks. So, cicadas live most of their lives underground, which is just as well because the nymph stage is not nearly as attractive as the adult.

Usually the final transformation occurs at night but WE got the chance to photograph one transforming from a nymph into an adult during the day! Lesson 11 — if you’re even remotely interested in half-decent photography, get yourself a tripod. If only I’d had a tripod …

Not to worry, the results are still fantastic. I thought the emerged adult would simply pump up its wings and take off to complete the metamorphosis somewhere safe. But this thing stayed put for hours and hours. Changing gradually from that pink and green monstrosity to the fully developed adult. I particularly love the changed from 12:47 to 2:29pm.

Judging by the fine white hairs and the dark spots near the tips of the wings, I’d say this is a floury baker cicada :

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I chose Neurum Creek because it has numbered sites (16 in total, we chose site 11) and I was dreading a packed-out campsite, but the school holiday camping extravaganza must be delayed til after christmas. There were only two other campsites occupied on our first night, and one other on our second night — peace.

Signs and the website suggest that this is 4WD territory only but unless there are really heavy rains, or it’s been a long time between gradings, there’s no real problem getting a 2WD in. The trip takes less than two hours from Brisbane’s western suburbs.

The site has clean flushing toilets and hand basins (cold water only). Plus a whole bunch of taps (boil before drinking). Open fires are permitted in the fire rings only.

This is a beautiful, secluded, heavily vegetated camping area. Not really suited to big groups who like to spread out a lot, but perfect for us. We’ll definitely be back. And best of all … after our awesome experience #05, K wants to come with us next time.

Close-up section of D'Aguilar National Park
click to view Neurum Creek Camp map
click to view full D’Aguilar National Park map

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experience 04

19jan13 — d+e — charlie moreland

This one turned out to be our most successful camping trip yet. Four tries in and we’re finally working from a camping checklist and managed to pack all the essentials … almost. Lesson 08 — when checking off your camping checklist, make sure each item actually IS amongst your gear. But more about that in a moment. :-)+)

Even though this campsite was the furthest from Brisbane we’d been on our camping jaunts, the only thing we needed to pick up on the way was firewood, so we had time to stop off at the beautiful Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve in Maleny. This place is special for another reason — in May 2005, J and I planned to get married in this marvellous sub-tropical rainforest. But we got hit with torrential rain, so we had to content ourselves with standing in the doorway of the information centre instead. The rainforest is still behind us in the video — but, admittedly, it wasn’t quite the same.

I wanted to get married beside the twin rose gums that are a feature of the forest. These things are awesome — about 500-600 years old and totally out of place. They usually do not grow in rainforest and the theory is that they started growing when the climate (and, therefore, surrounding forest) were quite different, but were well enough established to keep on going when the climate changed to support a sub-tropical rainforest. Two trees growing strong, independently, but inseparably fused at the base — a perfect metaphor for a successful marriage.
(click for a larger slideshow)

Charlie Moreland is a big campsite on the banks of Little Yabba Creek in Imbil State Forest. It is easy to get to and it has a fabulous waterhole — this makes it super-popular … which has its downsides. Crowding wasn’t a huge issue but the RUBBISH was — it’s unfortunate that occasionally you’ll be stuck with a site previously visited by feral-bogan-idiot-wankers. We collected a full bag of junk before starting to set up our site. Particularly disturbing was the stuff in the fireplace — glasses and bottles (partially melted), lighter fluid tin (burnt out), aerosol can (exploded) and a hammer head. And, of course, the fireplace was surrounded by stuff that could have been tossed in if only the wankers had tried — ring pulls, bottle tops, cigarette butts, etc, etc, blah, blah. But, as discussed in the last post, the bush has an amazingly calming effect — usually this sort of thing would send me on a psychopathetic rampage (yes, that spelling is deliberate) — but, instead, we simply filled our bag and put it aside — ahhh, peace.

After setting up and having the first crucial cuppa it was time to hit the waterhole. On our way we met up with the first of many lace monitors — basically harmless critters unless you hassle them (ie. poke them with a stick). This waterhole is a beauty — big, beachy, shallow bits, deep bits — perfect. We also ran into some friends from Ipswich — P and O — such is the popularity of this place. We spent pretty much the rest of the afternoon here :

Someone had rigged up a rope swing close to our campsite (there’s often one of these) and E hung out there for a while before hooking up with another kid and going back to his campsite. This is another great thing about family camping — kids get a taste of the sort of freedom their parents used to have as kids — before parents learned to be so paranoid. I wandered down to check that it was OK with the hosts that E was hanging around and then left him to it.

So I got into finishing setting up the campsite and this is when I learned Lesson 08 (as mentioned above). Somehow we had managed to leave the tent poles behind. When I say ‘we’, I mean ‘I’ because I was the one telling E what to mark off on the list.

O … K … what now? Well, luckily for us, it was looking like a pleasant enough night and there were no mozzies about, so I just dropped one side of our shelter tarp to the ground to form a lean-to. E wasn’t too impressed with this solution and opted to sleep in the car. But he managed to freak himself out in there by himself and soon joined me under the tarp. This is actually a great way to sleep — not stuffy like inside a tent, we had a cool breeze refreshing us through the night. Lesson 09 — things not going to plan is just part of the adventure. It did start to rain a bit, but this sounded much heavier than it actually was and only added to the experience. In the morning, while we were eating breakfast, a big lace monitor walked right across our beds :

E says : At Charlie Moreland we went swimming at the waterhole. I didn’t like the people stealing the log off me. I liked the fire twirlers. I made a new friend and played on his DS. A bush turkey tried to take our chocolate. There were a lot of lizards. We forgot the tent poles and dad and me made a new way to camp which was fun. I want to sleep like that again. There was a swing. The swing was fun. On the way there we saw an eagle and stopped where mum got married. There were interesting birds and nests and a giant wood moth where mum got married. And interesting statues.

After breakfast we went for a short wander along the Little Yabba and Piccabeen track, but didn’t do the full circuit. On the way we learned about the Giant Stinging Tree. It looks like just another rainforest tree, but the leaves have tiny hairs that give an excruciating sting — the sting can last for months and has been known to kill horses. Awesome — even the plants in Australia can get you. Note to self: add women’s waxing strips to first aid kit. When we were packing up we noticed a jumping jack nest — it was interesting to see all the empty egg cases lying around — these guys are good little cleaners, but also really aggressive. As I was pointing to the egg cases, these little buggers were jumping up to try and bite me (hence the name). Glad they didn’t get me, like all bull ants, they hurt like hell.

Charlie Moreland is easy to find — from Maleny we took the Maleny-Kenilworth Rd through Witta, Conondale and Booloumba. We picked up some firewood at the Cambroon Caravan Park. This stuff was so good we bought some more on the way back for next time. A few minutes further on is the turnoff to the other major camping ground — Booloumba Creek. Then a few minutes more to the Charlie Moreland turnoff — Sunday Creek Road. The majority of this is dirt — but quite wide, mostly flat and well maintained — easy going :
Charlie Moreland map
click to see Charlie Moreland camping area map
click to see full Imbil State Forest map

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experience 03

05jan13 — d+k — coochin creek

Our previous camping experience taught us an important lesson — Lesson 05 — for sanity’s sake, make yourself a camping checklist. Although ‘taught’ is not entirely correct — in order to be ‘taught’ one must ‘learn’ — and some people are slow learners. Having successfully failed to make myself a camping list, it was pretty much inevitable that this trip would involve the absence of an important piece of equipment — the billy. Unfortunately, I remained unenlightened by this epiphany until half way to Coochin Creek. Then I was faced with a choice — find another billy, or suck dry teabags and crunch dry noodles — mmm…

It’s actually quite difficult to find a billy in a foreign town, and having traipsed around Beerwah for far too long I came to the crazy conclusion that Woodford would save me. So, I drove half an hour in the wrong direction — back to the good people at Home Hardware who furnished me with the hatchet during our first experience. And, thankfullly, they came through for me again — they’ve got everything. Then I fumed back down the mountain, almost apoplectic with rage at my own stupidity (always driving carefully of course) — plus one billy but minus the better part of two hours. But then calm descended as we entered the campsite.

This is one of the main attractions of camping — anger, angst and aggression melt away in the overwhelming peace of nature — even in a man-made campsite with a bunch of other humans around. The stress and tension and worry of everyday urban life becomes diffuse — everything becomes slower, less urgent, less catastrophic. Those of us who are uptight become down-loose.

Coochin Creek, is a neat little camping area with only 21 sites. Some sites allow you to camp right beside your car, others have separate car spaces. K found the toilets intriguing. They look just like a normal toilet block, but as you approach you get the unmistakable whiff of the long-drop. I was surprised to find my daughter take this in her stride — I was expecting her to be too grossed out.

You can fish in the creek, which is more the size of a river, so we came prepared with rods and whatnot. What we didn’t come prepared for was the mozzies. These things were in plague proportions and they were BIG. We’d never encountered such an onslaught before so we were caught short in the insect repellent department. This leads us the Lesson 06 — always take heaps of insect repellent — you never know when you will come under siege. The mozzies we get in Brisbane are tiny little buggers that itch like hell. But these big Coochin Creek mozzies didn’t seem to itch (and we MUST have been bitten). So, although they were annoying, they didn’t send us berko-itcho.

The fishing was a bit of a debacle. We spent a lot of time caught in the trees (even the ones on the other side of the river) and other snags. And I spent fully half the time re-rigging. There are definitely decent size fish in the creek — we saw them jumping right out in front of us. But they weren’t going to fall victim to our incompetent angling attempts — so, no fish for dinner.

Setting up camp was a little problematic this time. We bent a few tent pegs beyond recognition. I’m not sure if this was due to hard ground, or rock or roots — but it was too difficult for me, so I left it to K :

You may have come to the conclusion by now that the billy wasn’t the only thing we forgot this trip and you’d be right. Lesson 07 — always take your camera — there are bound to be memories you’ll want to capture. These dodgy shots were taken on a phone. Which again reminds me of Lesson 05 — for sanity’s sake, make yourself a camping checklist. And this is exactly what we did after this trip. There’s a lot of stuff you need for an overnighter, but you don’t need to expand it much for two or more nights. You’ll see the most important things are in all capitals :
(click to get the full list)

Again, we chose a tent site on the periphery and in the morning we were rewarded with a beautiful, uninterrupted dawn glow. There’s something very peaceful about long shadows :
(click for a larger slideshow)

K says : There were a lot of mozzies and they were huge. We could also fish but we did not catch anything except leaves and weeds, etc. There was not a lot of wildlife except mozzies. I did not like the long road to the campsite, but on the way we saw an eagle. On the way home we went to Bribie Island. We had chips and a crusty sausage for lunch — it was yummy. We also went to the beach for a swim and another go at fishing. There were lots of blue jellyfish.

Despite the mozzies, lack of camera, running out of insect repellent, and the whole billy thing, we had a pleasant enough stay at Coochin Creek. But it won’t be top of our list of campsites to revisit. If you’re into fishing (and mozzies) it’s a great little spot — and would be especially beautiful if you had some kind of boat or kayak or whatever to get out on the water and putter or paddle around the various nooks and crannies. There’s bound to be crustaceans in amongst all those mangroves too. There’s a boat ramp close by.

Coochin Creek is a bit over an hour north of Brisbane. Past the Bribie Island turnoff but before you get to Caloundra. The instructions on the government map say you can’t turn right off the Bruce Highway into Roys Rd, so you should continue to the Caloundra turnoff and then turn back south. But, if you haven’t got a super-high vehicle (eg. a bus), you can actually exit left at Roys Rd and there’s a little highway underpass. The site is well signed and easy to find. As with the other National Parks campsites we’ve been to so far — you book before you go through ParksQ :
Coochin Creek Map
click to view Coochin Creek campsite map
click to view Glasshouse Mtns map

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experience 02

08dec12 — d+e — archer camp

So, we got lucky with the choice of campsite for K’s first camping trip. How would we go when it came to E’s turn? Thankfully, we got lucky again with Archer Camp in D’Aguilar National Park. Well, it’s not quite true that we ‘got lucky’ — extensive research was really the key to the success of our first two adventures — this made it easy to choose sites that the kids would love.

Unlike K, E doesn’t get car sick, so we decided to go the back way — through Samford, Dayboro and Mount Mee. This beautiful drive is so much nicer (and actually quicker from Brisbane’s western suburbs) than barrelling up the highway. The easiest way to get to Archer Camp is from the northern end, via Woodford — there are only a couple of kilometres of dirt track. Whereas coming up from the south along the Mount Mee Forest Drive is a bit hairy for 2WD’s. Certainly doable in dry weather, but not a particularly relaxing trek.

The thing that grabbed our attention the most as we descended the last km into Archer Camp was the noise of cicadas. Now, we all know cicadas are loud — the summer din can seem deafening until you get used to it, and then the sudden silence seems numbing — but this was something else — this was LOUD. Archer is exactly the type of campsite I love — cruisy, uncrowded, pristine — and no mozzies. There are only nine numbered campsites and we had chosen number one, so we only had neighbours on one side. This was fortuitous in another way too — most of the creek front had been fenced off for rejuvenation when we were there — so you could only access the creek from our end and the far end, where the swimming hole is.

The first two priorities were the same as last time — get the tarp up for shelter, this time from the sun, rather than from the rain — and get the billy boiling for a quick drink before a look around. You can’t drive onto the campsites at Archer, but the individual carparking spaces are close to the sites, which are quite big and well spaced :

There’s an excellent waterhole at Archer Camp — good size and easy access. But we’d forgotten to pack our togs and were disinclined to go skinny dipping with so many others around. This taught us our next two lessons : Lesson 04 — always remember to take your swimming kit — you never know when you’ll find an oasis. ; and Lesson 05 — for sanity’s sake, make yourself a camping checklist.

So we went off on another adventure instead. This is where you really find out how much your six year old son doesn’t trust your driving prowess. E was quite anxious on the drive south along Loveday’s Road, and fair enough too — ‘road’ is a bit of a stretch, but I guess ‘Loveday’s Bush Track’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. There were heaps of trail bike riders testing their skills along the way — yes, that type of track. A sensible driver in a 2WD with reasonable clearance will have no trouble with this road in dry conditions, but it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Exploring is almost always rewarding — just being in amongst the green and rock and smells and sounds is awesome enough, and you’ll almost always see, smell or hear something new if you’re paying attention to your basic senses. But sometimes your exploring will lead you to a real ‘wow’ location. After twenty minutes of driving through dust and gravel and dust and bumps and dust we arrived at the oasis known as Rocky Hole.
(click to get a larger slideshow)

On the way back we stopped off at the day use area just across the road from Archer camp — this is another beautiful place to explore. As with all the watercourses we saw this weekend, it would have benefitted from a heap of rain and a good flush through.

Next was the real ‘camping’ bits of the day — setting up the tent, lighting the fire, getting dinner and, of course, roasting marshmallows. I think the marshmallow attraction is probably more about playing with fire than about the sticky mess that results. I know it’s a cliché, but there really IS something magical about fire — this non-living thing with a life of its own — this pure destructive energy-animal that can so easily turn into a rampaging beast if it’s mishandled.

E says : We saw a bushfire when we were driving to Archer. We were in the first campsite and there were lots of gum leaves to throw on the fire. At Archer I liked seeing the platypus and turtles. I didn’t like going on the dirt track. The cicada shells were cool but they were annoying when we were sleeping. I went skinny dipping at Rocky Hole but dad was too scared to. We had noodles for dinner and for dessert I had marshmallows. I give Archer Camp 100 out of 100.
I made a funny video to show you guys.

Before heading off in the morning we went down to spend some time just watching the creek and saw kingfishers and other small bush birds, turtles and platypus. Then we headed back south to spend a couple of hours in the area around The Gantry — the site of an old sawmill that’s been transformed into an awesome day use area. Close by are a number of walks of varying lengths and difficulties. First we did the Piccabeen Palm Walk — an easy half hour circuit. We saw a few little bush critters and heard the eery catbird — being green, it’s hard to spot, but the sound is unmistakable and explains the name, but we thought it could just as easily be called the crying-baby bird. Next we did the Falls Lookout walk which is, again, an easy stroll. The walk itself is underwhelming but the destination pays big dividends.

Getting to Archer can be a bit confusing, and I wouldn’t want to try it in the dark on the first go. Coming in from the northern end is definitely easier than up from around The Gantry. I missed the Delaney Creek Road turnoff and ended up going through Woodford and back down Stanton Road — no big deal. Once you’re on Rasmussen Road you just follow it until it turns into Lovedays Road at the entrance to the National Park — then you’ve only got about another kilometre or so down to the campsite.

Close-up section of D'Aguilar National Park
click to view Archer Camp map
click to view full D’Aguilar National Park map

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equipment 01

the billy

After shelter, your most important bit of camping equipment is the billy. Brewing tea, boiling veggies, cooking stew, even baking damper – or so I’ve heard. But mostly we just use ours to boil water – this covers our basic needs of food, drink and washing.

The original billy cans were just cleaned out bully-beef tins with fencing wire handles attached. Some bright spark decided lids would be a good idea — and the technology was perfected.

So, choosing a billy isn’t too complicated — make sure the can is the right size for your needs and look for good quality construction (you don’t want the handle breaking off when you’re hoisting a billy full of boiling water). But, most importantly of all (only because it is the thing most often overlooked), check how well the lid fits.

The simple purpose of the lid is to keep some of the heat in and all of the ash out — so it does not need to fit firmly. A tight fitting lid is a dangerous liability — struggling to remove a billy lid is bound to get you in hot water (ha). You should be able to remove the lid from an empty billy with one hand – if you can pick up the whole billy with the lid handle, then the lid’s too tight.

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experience 01

10nov12 — d+k — peach trees
The idea was to ease the kids into camping. I didn’t want to freak them out with anything too extreme and we really couldn’t have got any luckier than with Peach Trees in Jimna State Forest for K’s first ever ‘real’ camping experience. Well, it might have been nice if it wasn’t raining most of the time but, hey, that’s just part of the adventure.The trip from Brisbane took far longer than necessary because we still didn’t have a full kit of gear — we needed to pick up a billy, fuel stove, hatchet and firewood. Lesson 01 — make sure you’ve got everything before you go — otherwise you and your child will go berko. Thankfully, K was very patient. We stopped off at Anaconda for the billy and fuel stove, but their hatchets were way too expensive for our humble requirements. After a few more stops we eventually picked up a cheap hatchet at Home Hardware in Woodford. This is a great little family business that I would come to call on again in the not too distant future.

Peach Trees is a couple of hours north of Brisbane, just the other side of Kilcoy. The last few kilometres of road are dirt, which K didn’t like too much. But her tension disappeared when we drove into the site and immediately saw a mob of kangaroos grazing and lounging around.
(click to get a larger slideshow)

Peach Trees is a beautiful, green, rolling site which was not at all crowded the weekend we went. There were quite a few people at the far end so we decided to camp nearer the entrance, where only two other campers were within sight. We quickly set up a tarp to give us shelter from the drizzle. Lesson 02 — make sure you know, before you leave home, how your equipment works and how to put things together. The plan was simple — attach one side of the tarp to the car and use poles and ropes on the other side — and the result was fine insofar as it achieved its main purpose — shelter. But it was loose and flappy — giving us a loose, flappy and noisy problem in the middle of the night when the rain and wind picked up. Oh well, another lesson learned.

This type of weekend is exactly why you should always make sure you have an alternative way of heating water or cooking — there’s just no way we could have got a fire going when we first arrived — and delaying a cup of tea and a hot milo was simply not an option. Our alternative is the hex stove – more commonly known these days as a solid fuel stove — cheap, light and compact.

We did two of the three walks. The Yabba Creek circuit starts at one end of the campsite and finishes at the other end. This is an easy twenty minute stroll along the far side of the creek. It would be a great walk to do early morning or at dusk – you’re just about guaranteed to get a good view of platypus from the high vantage point.

The Eugenia circuit is a little more challenging but still quite an easy one hour hike and well worth the effort – absolutely gorgeous. We started at the far end – out the entrance to Peach Trees and across the causeway. The first half of the walk is pretty much flat and meanders along the creek. K and I made up stories as we went along – this is where the fairies live, this bit is protected by a dragon, over there is called ‘gnomesville’, etc. – in other words, it’s quite enchanting. At the half-way mark you cross the creek and start the ascent to a spectacular lookout.

The walk would have been absolutely perfect … except … the leeches. K just freaked when she saw the first leech flilipping around on her leg. Fair enough too — they’re creepy little buggers, and this was a big one. Luckily, none of the leeches we got on that walk were attached, so we could flick them off pretty easily. Lesson 03 — if you go walking in wet conditions, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get leeches. Leeches aren’t really that big a deal. If you’re not too squeamish, you can just let the leech get a gutful (about 20 minutes) and it will drop off by itself. If you prefer to get rid of it straight away you can use salt, vinegar or a flame. The jury’s out on whether or not you can just pull them off once attached — some say there’s a danger of jaw parts being left behind, others say this is rubbish. I prefer to just scrape my finger nail along my skin and nudge the jaw end (that’s the thin end) sideways until it’s away from the wound and then just pull it off. Best to whack a bit of antiseptic on the wound too.

K says : It was exciting. I didn’t like it when I lost my thong – I only lost one of the thongs in the creek. You could also swim in the creek, but only in one place. There was also a swing. It went very high. There was a swinging bridge that led to a long path. There was another long path and altogether me and D had fun.

To get to Peach Trees we drove through Woodford and Kilcoy. After Kilcoy you head towards Murgon and you’ll hit dirt before the Peach Tree Road turnoff. It’s all clearly signed and very easy to find. Take it easy once you hit the dirt, because there’s quite a bit of wildlife about.
Close-up showing Peach Trees campsite
click to view full Jimna State Forest map

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