Four years ago I walked the inland end of the Dalrymple Track (see Wikipedia for its history) with Wildlife Queensland folk, then took a quick look at the coastal end by myself. As I said in a blog post at the time, I always hoped to complete the rest of the walk eventually, and last week I almost made good on that plan, walking from the coastal end to its highest point a couple of hundred metres past the old Stone Bridge.
At that point the track begins to descend, following Dalrymple Creek down towards Broadwater, but I stopped. That much, with the return trip, is a two or three hour walk, and that’s all the time I had. The section I still haven’t seen isn’t very long but it includes half a dozen bouldery creek crossings, back and forth over Dalrymple Creek, so I expect it would be relatively slow going.
The Track begins a kilometre from the highway near Damper Creek and rises quickly from the dry coastal eucalypt woodland into rainforest. The path is what remains of the 1860s bullock track so it is reasonably wide and well graded but it’s strenuous; Derrick Stone’s ever-useful Walks Tracks and Trails of Queensland’s Tropics says that the elevation gain from carpark to range crest is 260 metres and notes that the easiest walking (if you’re doing the whole track) is from the other end.
Rainforest is an enclosed world of green and growing things, with comparatively little wildlife to be seen. I did enjoy watching the Ulysses and Orchard Swallowtail butterflies in the clearings, and there were plenty of smaller butterflies on the path (mainly Bush Browns, Evening Browns and Chocolate Soldiers) but there weren’t many birds to be seen.
That makes the Stone Bridge, built in 1864 and apparently the oldest surviving civil engineering project in North Queensland, even more of a highlight than it would be otherwise. Spanning a deep but narrow rocky creek bed (it is right up at the top of Damper Creek), it would be notable enough anywhere; being so far from any other construction work doubles its impact. Its brick culvert is about 1.5 metres in diameter and must create an impressive waterfall at its lower end in the Wet season.
At this time of year even the biggest creeks are barely running but one section about halfway up the range is still worth exploring, as huge boulders just upstream from where Damper Creek crosses the path form beautiful miniature waterfalls and pools.
The Red-bellied Black Snake, Pseudechis porphyriacus, I saw peacefully hunting among those rocks was a special pleasure – once I had assured myself that it wasn’t too close to me or frightened enough to attack me. Actually, it seemed to be hardly aware of me, continuing to flow between and around rocks for a minute or two before vanishing into a crevice.
The Australian Museum Fact Sheet on the the species notes that it is a “shy snake and will generally only deliver a serious bite under severe molestation,” and that, “For its size, the Red-Bellied Black Snake is probably the least dangerous elapid snake in Australia. Despite the number of bites received every year, very few human deaths have resulted … Many bite victims experience only mild or negligible symptoms.” I didn’t know all of that at the time, of course, but I did know enough to be able to relax and enjoy watching this beautiful creature.