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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