Start - Huon Bush Retreat
Length - 6.9km (Loop)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track
Vertical Climb - 346m
Time - 2-4 hours
Signed - Yes
Cost - Donations Encouraged
Date Hiked - 29th October 2018
Best Time - All Year Round
Directions - Located 45 mins from Hobart, take the Huon Hwy south until you reach Huonville. From here take Wilmot Rd out of town then left onto N Huon Rd. The Bush Retreat is located up the hill on Browns Rd.
The Hike - With my first full day of exploring the Huon Valley I had scheduled in three hikes for the day starting with a visit to Mount Misery, a place that sounds nothing like it is. After a lovely breakfast at my accommodation I loaded up the Outlander with the essentials for the day and began the lovely drive to Huonville where the turnoff for Mount Misery is. I had read about the drive up to Mount Misery before I visited but I didn't actually expect to need to lock the diffs getting up there. Having booked an SUV just to see what the new X-Trail was like (and being slightly salty at not getting one) I didn't think I would actually need the extra capability over a hatchback but thankfully I did.
Mount Misery is located within the grounds of the Huon Bush Retreat and as such is a privately maintained track. Once you reach the entry point of the bush retreat there is a manual on what to do with your car depending on what type of vehicle it is (2WD, 4WD etc). While not a muddy slope or filled with large ruts, it was steep enough and bumpy enough to make me wonder if a hatchback or sedan could make it up without getting stuck spinning the wheels or beached on one of the many bumps. After spilling a little bit of my coffee I eventually made it to the bush camp and followed the signs to the walk trail parking. A BBQ area and a registration booth mark where the hike starts and as a reverse tadpole (loop trail with a return section halfway through), you can choose to walk either way if you want. It is more logical to start at the registration booth and follow the trail from there but free will is a lovely thing. Having registered my details I entered the rainforest and began my journey up to the summit. While the hike is up to the summit of a hill, the beginning takes you through the temperate rainforest that was a little unexpected driving up the hill. With plenty of green around this was a great start to the hike. Large Man Ferns, thick Stringybarks and moss everywhere creates a lush playground that is a delight to walk through.
Boardwalk sections provide respite from the muddy trail although on my visit the dry weather I'd experienced since leaving Hobart continued and there wasn't much mud around. The sunny conditions were not that favourable with photographing the rainforest either and unfortunately the photos don't really do the place justice. The stark contrast between light and shadow looks fine in person but doesn't translate well when you try and photograph them. There wasn't much I could do about it now so just continued to enjoy the walk as I came across one of the biggest Stringybarks I'd seen in Tasmania. This particular example has an information board next to it and a cool scientific way of measuring how tall it is using PVC piping. With an expansive girth I couldn't capture it in one shot so created a vertical panorama to try and portray the immense size but again, it doesn't really translate to being there in person. A couple of massive fallen Stringybarks, one resting on the other in a criss-cross pattern provides a cool tunnel to pass under and is one of the prettiest places on the trail. This fortunate placement of trees along with the surrounding undergrowth of ferns and mosses provides a moment to stop and appreciate how good an ancient rainforest can be. I just wish that I'd come on a cloudy day to be able to better capture it.
Up ahead was a resting point of boardwalk and wooden barriers where an information board tells you all about the history of the rainforest and has a guess at the age of this pocket (around 400 years from the last big wildfire). I'm sure if it had been wetter the streams and gullies that are hinted at with rock piles would be flowing but alas it was not to be for me on this day. This area also marks the start of the sustained climbing out of the rainforest and up towards to summit. A series of rocky steps and switchbacks ascends through the still lush rainforest and it was here I had an unexpected wildlife encounter. Sitting in the canopy was a pair of Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos having a bit of a snuggle and play. Being a big fan of the Black Cockatoo varieties we have in Western Australia it was nice to see their eastern states cousins playfully going about their business in much the same way. I spent a while here trying to get photographs of them both together, preferably with their tails showing their full colour but without my other lens the quality of the photos is a bit grainy.
Dragging myself away I continued up the hill but looking back down into the valley I saw my two friends still on the same branch. Taking more photos of course I thought that these had to be the best cockatoo models I've come across as every other one I've seen either sit too high in the canopy or fly away too quickly. With the rainforest canopy starting to thin out a little it was becoming apparent that the climbing would soon be over and I'd hopefully get to enjoy some summit views. While still in the rainforest I was presented with another Tasmanian pool gate indicating that a lookout was near. Regnans Lookout was on the other side and provided some limited views (thanks to the canopy) of the surrounding landscape looking east towards the farmland surrounding Huonville. Exiting the last strands of rainforest you ascend into the open forest and look skyward towards the final rocky section. A crown of mature eucalyptus trees provides an excellent photo opportunity and with clear skies it certainly looked the business.
Arriving at a small rock face there are more interpretive signs explaining the aboriginal heritage of this area and the rock art that is located nearby. It is not near the sign out of respect and to avoid damage so please refrain from going off to look for it. There is a picture there for reference so you can still enjoy and appreciate the culture. Climbing up a small set of stone steps you reach the plateau of the summit as the trails leads you through low lying scrub to a rocky viewing platform called Flat Rock. This scenery is in stark difference to the rainforest you experience climbing up but provides an opportunity to gaze upon the wild peaks of Southwest National Park to the west and Hartz Peak to the south west.
I spent a bit of time here because of the amazing views, taking panoramas and trying to guess which peaks were which mountain ranges. If the hiked ended here than I would have been happy but the summit is a further kilometre to the east through more scrub and eventually dry sclerophyll forest that is still recovering from recent bushfires. Having dubbed myself the echidna whisperer thanks to two sightings this trip I was confident of another encounter given the abundance of ant hills dotting the trail. There would be no better spot for a spiky fluff ball to live than here but it was not meant to be. I soon reached the official summit and climbed up onto the rocks to get a better view.
While not as impressive as the views from Flat Rock thanks to the tree coverage here (and not that much higher in altitude), the summit can be appreciated in a different way. More interpretive signage is located here and tells the story of the land division between neighbouring tribes. At this point you are standing on Melukerdee country and the sign tells you the names and locations of all the lands you can see from this point. Imagining this place without colonial influence and what it would have been like was a stirring thought as I enjoyed a break on the rocks. With another couple of hikes to get through that day I didn't linger long and headed back down the path towards Flat Rock.
Enjoying the views for the last time I headed back down to the rainforest section, just soaking it all in rather than snapping a million photos. I eventually reached the loop section again and was in new territory for the rest of the hike. Walking for a short while through the rainforest, I came to the side trail for Hidden Falls and the Lightning Tree. Given I was only here once I decided to check it out and after a bit of a descent I arrived at the Lightning Tree. So named because it was struck by lightning in 2006 that flash boiled all the water in the trunk, causing it to explode halfway up and catch alight before rains put out the fire. What remains is a blackened carcass that you can walk through and admire this natural phenomenon.
At the end of the trail is a boardwalk platform where you can view Hidden Falls. Having dragged my tripod around for the entire hike, having it clipped awkwardly to the outside of my pack, I was a bit disappointed to see that Hidden Falls were more hidden than falls. The reason for this is explained in a number of information boards about climate change and rainfall totals. A pretty dry year in the 2000s along with continuing drops in rainfall ever since have left the once year round falls as mostly a trickle unless there has been heavy rain. Before the dip in rainfall it was fed by an underground water supply (hence the name and year round supply of water) but this has all but dried up.
With that reflective point I moved on and carried on back up the path to the finish. Once you join up on the path again it is back to the picnic area via one of the vehicle access roads where I ran into one of the caretakers of the bush retreat. He saw my pack and asked what the conditions were up on the summit as he hadn't been up there in a while to do maintenance. I reported back that everything was very acceptable and there weren’t any major concerns. Passing the bathroom block I noticed a sign pointing towards the luxury spa option. Checking it out (after making sure no one was using it) I found an outdoor bath with a deck that guests can book out and enjoy a relaxing hot bath under the stars. What a lovely touch for the guests but as I wasn't staying here I continued on to my car and signed off in the registry (also donating some money for the upkeep of the track). Another lovely hike in the bag it was off to the next adventure.