I’m back at McPherson State Forest near Kulnura again, this time exploring the lesser-known Crane Ridge Trail with Matt and hopefully finding some of the Aboriginal rock art sites trail in the area. It’s not the most welcoming start to a bushwalk, with multiple “forest closed” and “do not enter” signs on the gate at the start of the trail which are yet to be removed. I assure Matt the state forest is officially open again. I’m not sure if he really believes me… The good news is we have the firetrail to ourselves, as we follow the top of the ridge.
There’s still a few flannel flowers around; they flower from August through to March, although peak numbers tend to occur in early spring.
By comparison, the Gymea Lilies are well past their “best by” dates, with only the occasional red flower remaining on the side of a hill that’s covered in these plants.
On both sides of the Crane Ridge Trail are many caves and rock overhangs; some of them contain Aboriginal rock art and many more of them would have been used as occupation shelters by the Darkinjung people.
The Crane Ridge Trail finally starts to descend, initally quite gradually and then increasingly steeply. Although I’m not looking forward to the climb back up, for now I’m enjoying the tall forest and dense carpet of ferns.
At the bottom, the Crane Ridge Trail crosses Warre Warren Creek, and despite some recent rain we manage to get across with dry shoes. So far, no leeches.
There’s some interesting channels in the rocky creek bed, formed by water erosion.
The trail follows the creek for a short distance, narrowing from a firetrail to a walking track and requiring another slightly trickier creek crossing (this time only one shoe stays dry). Although we are are deep in the forest and miles from “civilisation”, a car tyre embedded on a fallen tree is a sad reminder of how far rubbish can travel.
While the Crane Ridge Trail continues along the creek, we soon turn off and follow an old logging trail. This trail is shown on my map, and sometimes there is still a sign that this was a road… but most of the time it’s completely overgrown.
There are the occasional reminders that this area was logged; we remark that some enormous trees have been spared from logging (perhaps they were the wrong type?) while some tree stumps were cleanly cut many years ago.
Matt points out a mistletoe in one of the casuarina trees… it’s nice walking with someone who unlike me is observant, and sees many things I would have missed. These semi-parasitic canopy-dwellers are a fascinating plant. There are about 1,500 species of mistletoe in the world, and all 92 of those in Australia are endemic. They are what’s called a keystone species; one that has a disproportionate influence on the ecosystem, being a food source for sugar gliders, koalas, possums and butterflies. Matt explains that birds are the main distributor of the mistletoe seeds, wiping their bums on tree branches to get rid of the sticky seeds after they’ve digested them. Even more interesting (I think) is that mistletoe, like a chameleon, is able to mimic the host tree it’s living in. The mistletoe below looks exactly like the leaves of the casuarina tree that is its host.
Nearby is what I think is a Guinea Flower (Hibbertia scandens) or “snake vine”, a flowering native plant endemic to eastern Australia, which was first formally described in 1799 by German botanist Carl Willdenow. It appeared on an Australian postage stamp in 1999, which sounds quite special – although over 180 Australian plants have featured on a stamp! Just in case this question comes up in a trivia quiz, the South Australian Proclamation Tree stamp of 1936 (a River Red Gum or Eucalyptus camaldulensis) was the first flora on an Australian stamp, and the first featured flower was the Flannel Flower (Actinotus helianthi) in 1959.
As the logging trail completely peters out, we head directly down into a small gully, crossing an unnamed creek at the bottom. We then climb up the other side of the gully and head for some small shelters above the creek. As we remove a few leeches from our shoes and I re-check the map, I discover that we are nowhere near where we are supposed to be. Or to be more precise, we are exactly at the spot I was aiming for…. but I entered the wrong coordinates in my GPS.
So, keeping a close eye for any more undesirable leech-y hichhikers, we head back the way we came. Down the side gully, across the creek and back up the old logging trail, and then all the way up the Crane Ridge Trail to the top of the ridge. As we follow the ridge, I’m determined to find at least one of the Aboriginal art sites we set out to find. After re-checking my notes and coordinates as we trudge up the Crane Ridge Trail, I figure out the rough location of at least one site. Heading into the bush off the main trail, we end up finding two shelters; one of them has an impressive panel of charcoal and red ochre drawings, which includes two snakes and a wallaby or kangaroo.
Near the shelter, Matt points out a cut in one of the burnt tree stumps; another small reminder of logging activities in this area.
We’re soon back at the car; it’s been another pleasant bushwalk in McPherson State Forest – despite the wet weather and my navigation to a random location in the middle of nowhere.
More information on the Crane Ridge Trail
One of many firetrails within McPherson State Forest, the Crane Ridge Trail follows the Crane Ridge from the end of Murraba Road. It descends steeply down the end of Crane Ridge to Warre Warren Creek, and then follows the creek before meeting the Airfield Trail. It’s possible to do a long-ish (20km) loop combining the Crane Ridge Trail and Airfield Trail, although to “close the loop” you’d need an off-track traverse of a valley or a 3.4km walk along Kyola Road.
- ABC – Unveiling the misunderstood magical mistletoes of Australia
- Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research – Australian Plants on Australian Postage Stamps