Day Walk – Watagans NP

Date: Wed. 27th Aug. 2014
Route: Heaton Loop Track + Boarding House Dam Circuit
Distance: 1-2km + 650m
Time: 45min + 20min
Pack: Bill gave his new pack a test run
Weather: Overcast, lots of rain over the past fortnight, only a few drops while we were walking
Party: Bill, Cassie, Eleanor (4), and Harriet (2)


12.30pm @Home

We have been wanting to take the girls for another walk for weeks, finally we had a clear schedule but the weather was miserable (cold, wet, a bit windy). We had planned to camp the night but decided that the girl’s first real camping trip would be better in nicer conditions. It was drizzling a little as we were driving up, but nothing came of it. It turned out to be really nice conditions for a walk.

This was the first time either of us had been to the Watagans NP (not actually true, but I will get to that later) so we enjoyed the scenery and took the opportunity to check out the area. We stopped at Watagans Headquarters (A ugly looking camping ground), the Heaton Lookout (breathtaking) and then drove down to the Boarding House Dam (I have been here before!!).

1.30pm @Heaton Lookout

First stop was the Heaton Lookout. The girls were amazed as they got out of the car, and for the first few minutes all we heard was “Wow”. We ate sausage rolls (I made them the day before and we reheated them before we came up) and took in the view.

Then, after changing into our gear, we set off in search of the Heaton Loop – which we struggled to find. There was a single marker, an arrow, hiding behind an overgrown tree. The arrow had obviously once been part of a larger sign, which had been removed (a large post hole was evident). This was our only clue. We walked along the road a bit further, but found nothing, so we walked back to the arrow. The track was obvious enough that I felt confident walking down it. It was beautiful and the girls were excited to head in.

I loved walking on the track, I expected something wider, clearer, more defined, instead it was strewn with leaves and sticks and small plants starting to grow. In short it was wonderful, I love a walk like this. Nature is so close, and it is very easy to pretend the track isn’t even there.

We did reach a single section of the track where I almost had us turn back. The path became a little unclear and I wasn’t exactly sure where the track was heading. Bearing in mind that I was somewhat concerned that we were not on the 2km Heaton Loop Track but instead the much longer one-way track to the other lookouts. Add this stage we were only about 500m from the road, so I wasn’t overly worried, but the track just kept going downhill. Bill noticed a green wooden sign ahead, so we decided we would walk to that and make a decision. We were glad to see that it said “Heaton Loop Track” and pointed us in the right direction. We had only gone about 15m when another person came up behind us and took a detour down behind the sign. He told us it was the old Loop Track, and then gave us some more details about the track that we were on. It was very reassuring and his descriptions helped us when we excited this section of the track and crossed the road to the next section.

The major portion of the track is in what I would describe as a “brush” type bushland, the track crosses the road and follows the ridgeline back to the carpark. Some very lovely views, and a bit scary too. The landscape change to bush grasses, and Eleanor got a leech

I have looked online and haven’t been able to find any details of the track that we were on.

3.20pm @Boarding House Dam

It was only mid-afternoon so we decided to checkout the moss-covered wall at Boarding House Dam. The path was much more defined, and there were lots of wooden bridges and steps to identify the track. The wall was lovely after all the rain, but so was the entire walk with moss covered rocks and logs all around us. About half-way into the walk I had a feeling I had been here before… and indeed I had forgotten that I had come to the Watagans when I was 16yo on a school trip. At lunch time myself and our little group (including a mix of yr11 and yr 8 students) decide to eat lunch in a cave that we had seen. I remember all being in this cave well under a rock ledge having a great time. One of the teachers came looking for us (honestly, it didn’t occur to us to tell someone, in fact even at that age we had learnt it was better to ask forgiveness than permission). She was worried that we all might be hiding out having a smoke, but everyone pointed at me declaring that I would never allow that to happen (because I was a definite square) and we were allowed to enjoy our lunch. I looked for the cave but didn’t find it, I am sure I will next time.

Eleanor (4yo)

Over the past month Eleanor has been asking me to stop the car so she can go climb a hill, or a tree, or just head into the bush. I understand that dreamy feeling so I have been promising to take her for a bushwalk. On the way back from Sydney a few weeks ago we did stop into Ku-rin-gai NP and did a 2km boardwalk, but she declared it not good enough because she was on a track… She was desperate to get off the track. So today she found this trail very appealing. Being a state forest I didn’t mind her going off the track and about 30m into the walk she looked into the bush and asked if she could go in “Yes!” I said, and she took a tentative 2m detour off the track. She took several detours along the way, occasional seeing something that took her eye and asking me if she could wander off track, never more than 2m from us, and always with a bit of fear as she did it (It is a good foundation for me to begin explain about safety on walks, what do to when lost, etc). Later she told me how much she enjoyed it because, in her words “Sometimes I can see the track, and even though it is dirt and very small I still know its there”, and went on to say how much she enjoyed being allowed to go off the track. I am glad she is enjoying herself, and I am hoping I can get the family interested in Rogaining and Orienterring when they are a little older.

Eleanor had a stomach pain for the entire walk and began crying before we began it. I asked if she wanted to continue (because we were happy to just take her back to the car) but she was so keen to do the walk that we continued. At some stages of the walk she was moaning and doubled over twice. I asked her if she wanted us to go back (honestly happy to) but she would say “no”, and if I asked if she wanted to keep going she said “yes”. Toward the end of the walk (with the car in sight) she was still in pain, so I asked her if she wanted to do the Moss Wall Walk, or to go home. But she wanted to do the walk (and thankfully the pain was gone by then). We suspect it was a stitch.

Toward the end of the first walk Eleanor complained of something prickling her foot. I put a finger down her sock, expecting to pull out a bit of itching grass but instead I came up with a leech. It was very tiny, but she was fascinated and carried it with her for quite a while. When we got home that evening Bill discovered a much bigger leech had been happily feeding on him. He put his foot up and waited until he dropped off, satiated, and it is now in a jar to be put into our terrarium.

Harriet (2yo)

Hands plunged deeply into her pockets, copying Eleanor, the walk was fun to start with. Toward the end she wanted to be carried. Of course we would carry her if needed (clay covered boots aside), but we are wanting to avoid having her think that being carried is an option. Instead we walked slower, held hands and played some games to help pass the time. For quite a while the game was trying to decide on a game to play, with Eleanor coming up with all sorts of crazy games. Harriet did not like any of them (though obviously was enjoying the process of choosing) until she final took a liking to some game involving pretending a giant kangaroo was in the forest.

Notes for next time

We only unpacked all our old camping/hiking gear a few weeks ago. It has been so long since we have been. I did try to go on a few walks when Eleanor was young but couldn’t find a group willing to let me come along (despite my combined pack, including her, weighing much less than what I carried around NZ), so we kind of gave up and focused on being new parents (and to be honest… who has time for more than that?!).

I know we were only going up for a 2km walk, but for us it is all a trial run for bigger and longer walks, which means taking it seriously. We did an unplanned 2km walk a fortnight ago and on the return leg my daughter asked for a drink of water and we realised we had completely forgotten the water bottles. So we packed things we knew that we wouldn’t need, such as our little emergency kit containing a signalling mirror and some powerbars that are 4years out of date!), and made sure we had a firstaid kit in the car. It is really just dress rehearsals because going through the motion shows us all the things we are missing (including some high-calorie long-life food that is not past it’s use by date). I dusted my hiking boots off… and off we went.

We are working towards some simple checklists for various types of walks. We treated the packing of the bag as a bit of a dress-rehearsal. Honestly neither of us have enough experience in the bush to know what is overkill yet, but I would rather exercise a bit of caution given that we are travelling with the two girls. So what follows is a little list of things that we need to work on:

  • Neither girl has a rainjacket or pants, their shoes were inadequate, and there clothing could be worked on (a pair of small gaiters would be awesome).
  • The emergency kit needs to be refreshed
  • Pen and Paper for leaving walk intentions in the car
  • A basic first-aid kit to carry, and one for the car (remember to include not just emergency things, but also stuff that makes life less miserable, such as bandaids for cuts)
  • At some stage camelbacks for the girls needs to be considered, but for now a decent drink bottle is needed
  • Pack the Ergo, for emergency carryout or just a child who can go no further).. At least until they are old enough not to reach that point
  • Trail mix!

I was surprised that we had mobile reception, but the Strava profile is not very accurate. Strava.


The view from Heatons Lookout.

A 360degree look at the Heatons Forest Park picnic area

A 360degree look at the Boarding House Dam picnic area

An out-of-focus video of us walking…honestly boring for anyone but the family

A look at the moss wall

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