I cross Hat Head Gully, and hike up into a patch of cream flannel flowers rippling in the breeze. They are breathtaking in their simple elegance. After pausing briefly to try and capture the scene in a photograph, I continue down the track. With the image of the flowers still fresh in my mind, I am stunned again by the site of a field of Kangaroo Tails, their moist green leaves shining in the sun. I contemplate the reasons for the two fields of such diverse plants – perhaps this is a product of the fires – the scrub burned away so other plants flourish.
I push on and my pace quickens as the trees become bigger. There is less scrub now, and more wet green grass between the trees. First my trousers become wet, then the toes of my shoes, and then my socks. Wet socks means blisters, but I feel nothing yet.
Tall slender blue gums reach upwards and the light dims under the thick canopy. I look for signs of the highly controversial fires of 2006, in which it is was feared that this forest – the centrepiece of the Blue Mountains National Park, and for some the birthplace of the modern Australian conservation movement – was lost forever. There are signs of the fire, but not the devastation reported. All I can see are these beautiful trees.
I walk onwards, ever expecting the forest to end and my campsite to appear. I pass the exit along the track to Perrys Lookdown – an alternate route I took on a previous walk in this vicinity with some friends, walking in the opposite direction from Evans Lookout. We missed so much of the forest last time. Signs appear – tracks are closed as a result of the fires and I have only two options for my hike out of the valley in the morning. The track I want to take in the morning to Du Faur’s Buttress is still open.
500 metres further down the track the Blue Gum Forest officially ends, and I arrive at Acacia Flat to find that the campsite of our last trip is occupied by two giggling young men. I take my shelter for the night – a light fly-sheet – from the pack, and transform it into a rain and wind shelter with the help of logs, pegs, and guy ropes. I set it up and hope that it will hold in the gusting winds and rain showers.