Inside the mouth of Federal Falls cave, Mount Canobolas
I spent Sunday morning researching places in our local area to explore. I found a surprising amount of open caves, a great amount of bush walks, chances for kayaking, horse riding, mountain biking and abseiling. It’s going to be a busy year!
For our Sunday adventure, we decided on Mount Canobolas, outside Orange, about an hour’s drive in total from Bathurst. After winding roads lined with orchards, vineyards and small farms, we arrived at our destination; the Federal Falls camping grounds. Our plan was to scale the summit and then do a loop of the valley, where we could see Federal Falls.
The path to the summit was a hearty climb lined with unusual alpine flowers and trees. Our view at the top was spectacular, despite the heavy white rainshadow to the northwest. The mountain was noticeably the highest peak in sight, at 1397 metres. In fact its summit is the highest point in the line between Sydney and Perth, a distance of over 3000 kilometres. Not impressed? See for yourself.
Having chilled ourselves it the slightly cooler summit breeze, Ryan and I returned to the camping ground. The sun was a little stronger on the way down, making for beautiful scenery. I whipped my leg a couple of times on a plant I can’t tell you the name of, and though it left no mark it stung quite alarmingly and could be felt for hours afterwards. The plant, which was low and capped in little spiky tufts, is prolific on the mountaintop. Water cooled the sting but did not remove the sensation of something under the skin. Happily today it has cleared up :b
Back through the camping grounds and down we went. The path was immediately wider, the hillside thick with grass and ferns. The mountain is classified as an alpine area, receiving several dumpings of snow per year. Snow gums and silver bark gums grow thick on the mountain’s upper slopes, the latter gum unique to the mountain. The plant life is incredibly rich and diverse. I’ve rarely seen any bushland with four storeys – grass and small plants, ferns, taller plants such as Queen Ann’s Lace, and gums. We saw plenty of crimson rosellas, fat skinks, tadpoles, even a very friendly echidna close to the camping ground!
The track to the falls was rough and steep. It looped down the face of an eternally falling gully, to an offshoot road to the bottom of the falls. Another, longer track returned to the camping grounds. Looking back, I’m glad we descended the way we did – I’m not sure we would have made an ascent that way! Though the water course was flowing, it was not flowing fast, and had become essentially a chain of ponds. Tadpoles thrived in the ponds, numbering in the hundreds in each small body of water.
I wondered what became of many of the tadpoles, unable to swim upstream, as we approached the rugged foot of the falls. The railing coupling the last hundred metres of the track was very necessary, although holding it came with the price of burnt hands. A black basalt cliff rose beside us, the heavily wooded valley dropping away to our right. We could feel the water fifty metres from the falls. Wind tossed the trickling water far over the basalt foot of the falls and all around, providing us with highly appreciated relief. Instead of a pool at the falls’ foot, the ground sloped sharply downwards and dropped again into the valley. There would be no hope for any tadpoles who were sucked over the edge! We sat for a while, admiring the many monarch butterflies fluttering around the cliff, and the fat black skinks who risked becoming our dinner to sunbake on the rocks. Just enough of the falls’ spray reached us to keep us cool.
But that wasn’t it. Though the rocks around the falls’ foot were built up, the underside of the cliff had been hollowed out by water, forming a shallow, long cave. Rested, we decided to explore further. It was cool and damp inside the cave, floored with ferns. There was sign of a fire, long ago, and the usual human hand of mandarin peel, cans and broken glass, although hearteningly little of each. Standing stooped under the cliff, we were met with an odd combination of sensations – one, that we should be wearing helmets, and two, how little use helmets would be with tens of thousands of tons of rock above us. Sunday’s photo of the day is taken from inside the cave, looking up towards the falls.
Our respite over, we began the steep ascent back to the camping grounds. We passed a few other hikers on the way and wished them luck. Rather than returning along the track we descended, we took the longer path connected to the Hopetoun Falls track. Unfortunately, while the ascent was a more gradual path through shaded bushland, we were running out of daylight and water by time we reached the Hopetoun turn, and so promised to trek it another day.
The camping ground was a welcome sight through the trees. We didn’t hang around for long, taking just a few victory snaps before piling back in the car and heading for Orange. We’d conquered the mountain! From top to bottom, in the steepest way possible. Hopefully we’ll return soon to do the Hopetoun Fallls track.