Castle Ruins & Blackheath’s Grand Canyon

My time here in the Blue Mountains is coming to a close. I’ll be leaving from The Channon to get my Permaculture Design Certificate tomorrow morning. Miranda left for Melbourne this afternoon to visit her friend Melanie, and I’m looking forward to hearing about the trouble they get into down south.

Anyways, there are a few great hikes that I have to catch you up!

The Grand Canyon

We worked are butts off to get our work done early enough to do this 3-4hr hike before the sunset. The trail starts in Blackheath which is a couple towns over from Katoomba. We caught our bus around 1:00pm, and met a couple nice old men who looked totally suprised when we told them we were off to do the hike. I don’t think they’re used to seeing people set out after noon. The bus driver was nice enough to drive us down to the car park, which saved us a good 15-20min of walking.

When we got down to the trail head there was crime scene tape strung across the trail. It was accompanied by a sign that explained the top part of the loop was closed on weekdays due to trail reconstruction- no Sherlock Holmes adventures for us! This was a bummer because we’d heard that the beginning of the trail went through caves and at some points simply walked you down a dried up stream bed.

Instead we ended up walking down to the other end of the trail, and walking in for an hour or so and then turning around. From the little bit that we saw, it was absolutely gorgeous! As with all the trails in the Blue Mountains, the beginning was a steep decline into the valley. Then the trail started to follow a small creek, and wound through a tall narrow canyon. The “grandness” of the canyon is reflected in it’s narrowness (almost cave like), the massive prehistoric-esk ferns that cover the ground and any crack of moisture along the steep canyon sides, and the beautiful waterfalls. The exact opposite of America’s Grand Canyon.

Ferns of the Grand Canyon

Ferns of the Grand Canyon

Through the boulders! I hope more don't fall down off the cliff!

Through the boulders! I hope more don't fall down off the cliff!

After we climbed back out of the Canyon, we started along a cliff top trail. Beautiful views again of the valleys, but we were also lucky enough to watch the mountains’ shadow crawl up the face of the other side of the valley as the sun fell lower in the sky. The most striking thing about the cliff top trail was the remnants of forest fire burned into the landscape. The ground cover had all grown back, and most of the trees had green foliage, but the bark on almost every tree was black as night – only the tree tops maintained their natural white bark.

View from the cliff top trail

View from the cliff top trail

Shadows creeping

Shadows creeping

A burnt tree; photo: Blue Mountain Journal

A burnt tree - the forest we walked through was almost all burnt; photo: Blue Mountain Journal

We made it back to Blackheath before night fall, and caught the train home – exhausted, again.

Castle Ruins

We had heard from Tom that the Castle Ruins were entirely unspectacular, but that continuing on to Mount Solitary for amazing views looking back towards the Three Sisters was well worth the 6hr hike. At this point we should have remembered that Tom was the one who fell for Ross’s tricks and ran behind his car for blocks – should we take his opinion seriously?

After work we got a ride to the trail head, which shaved off a couple hours walking so we’d be able to get back before nightfall. Down another steep set of stairs etched into the canyon wall and along on a pleasantly flat trail along a ridge, we got to the Castle Ruins turn off in 1.5 hours. We couldn’t just ignore the ruins entirely, so we scrambled up the steep embankment and reached a pile of rubble within 15mins. Not believing that this was all there was to see, we persisted along the trail through the scattered rubble. Finally we arrived at the base of three massive rock pillars! They are reminiscent of turrets, so I guess that’s why it’s called the Castle Ruins.  A wee bit of bouldering, a dash of scrambling, and we were at the top of one of them. The most fantastic view EVER – 360 degrees of unimpeded Blue Mountain magnificence.

At the top of one of the Castle Ruin 'turrets'

At the top of one of the Castle Ruin 'turrets'

Happy we made it to the top

Happy we made it to the top

me and view

me and view

We never made it to Mount Solitary… we sat on top of those rocks for over an hour. Tom SO did not make it to the Castle Ruins! He had mentioned that he had gotten a bit lost, and didn’t think that he’d found them because he was expecting actual castle ruins. Then someone else had said unenthusiastically, “Oh, they’re just a pile of rocks, not an actual castle.” So he had assumed that one of the unassuming piles of rocks he’d passed must have been the Ruins. Nope nope nope…

On the way back we ran into a two other guys from the hostel – lost. We turned them around, and they followed us back out and up the Golden Stairs to the trail head. In return for saving their lives they shared their Tim Tam cookies on the walk home. These are THE BEST cookies in Australia/New Zealand… I’ve heard their similar to Penguins in England. Pure chocolaty goodness.

The farm I’m headed to is solar powered, so my internet connection might be out for a few weeks! Adios amigos – I’ll update you in a few weeks when I return to an internet cafe… hopefully somewhere near the warmth of Cairns.

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1 Comment

Filed under Travel, Uncategorized

One response to “Castle Ruins & Blackheath’s Grand Canyon

  1. Karen Parusel

    tim tams.
    drool.

    ’nuff said.

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