Hiking Overland Track South (Day 1&2)

Kristy drove me to the end of the Mersey Forest Road, and dropped me off at Thursday evening 25th November 2021. We just finished the Cradle Mountain hike 4 days earlier and she still struggled with her knees. Thus, she decided not to come with me on this 3 nights hike. I started walking at 18:30 o’clock, and just had 2h hours left until sunset kicked in at 20:27 o’clock. The first 8km to Lees Paddock hut I already knew from my last hike on the Overland track during winter. This time I saw the sign post to the Oxley Waterfall, as I was walking in and not out, and made a quick detour to it. The Mersey river seemed to have quite a bit of water, and it was quite big. After more than 2h I reached Lees Paddock hut, just after sunset. And still had 2km to go to Reg Wadley Memorial Hut. So I was hurrying up, as it got really dark now.

Mount Pelion East glimpses through the bush
Oxley Falls
Mersey River with Mount Pelion East
Lees Paddock Hut at sunset

You basically follow the Mersey river upstream, but there are no trail indicators. During daylight the track is not hard to find, as it is used for cattle during the summer months. But once you’re at the end of dusk, and looking for a hut in the dark, things started to get a bit more complicated. And once you leave the forest the track was fading away. So, I was just looking around for the hut with my torch. And just one step before I saw the hut, I stepped into the swamp and got wet feet. Well bad luck. I entered the hut and was now looking for fresh water. There was a water basket and less than a minute behind the hut I found Wadleys creek, almost at complete darkness, for fresh water. Reg Wadley Memorial Hut is a tiny private hut, on a private block of land, and maybe sleeps 4 people. A few days earlier I phoned the owner in Mole Creek, and she gave me permission to stay there overnight. She asked me to phone her back, if I saw any dodgy things around the hut, but everything was fine. I decided to light a fire in the hut to dry my socks, as this is a private hut next to the national park, this is still permitted. Without wet socks, I wouldn’t have done it, but so it was nice to have dinner at the hut with a fire.

Still a bit of pathfinding through the meadow during dusk
At one point you’re getting close to the Mersey River (don’t cross it)
Warm Fire at the Reg Wadley Memorial Hut

On Friday morning, I had a bit of a sleep in. After the sun came around the mountain, I enjoyed my breakfast and coffee outside. After swiping the Reg Wadley Memorial Hut, I started my hike shortly before 9:00 o’clock. There’s one short forest section before you reach the last meadow before entering the national park. There are some tracks, and depending on the wetness of them, just use the one with the least resistance to reach the other end of the meadow. The start of the Paddy Hartnett Track is a bit hidden. I saw some old trail markers and followed them for maybe 100m upstream the Mersey River, but then they disappeared. Then I found newer ones, and these were well placed all the way up towards the Overland track. In the first section, you basically follow the Mersey river for about 1km in the forest, then you’re turning right and uphill. So there’s not much you could do wrong, in this first section. You follow the track for about 15min, before crossing a creek. In parts this is slightly overgrown, but nothing which would you make miss the track.

Cathedral Mountain atop Reg Wadley Memorial Hut
During daylight you can’t miss the hut (and the swamp 😉)
The last clearing before you disappear in the forest
It’s Spring and the flowers are in full blossom
First Creek Crossing

Afterwards you just follow the track through the beautiful forest. The Kia Ora Creek crossing was actually quite easy, and the section afterwards becomes a bit steepish. You cross a dry valley, before entering a dense forest. This section is a bit of a push through the small trees with the thin logs. You can already see the people on the Overland Track about 50m from it, but they’ve no idea that you’re just about to pop-out there. In the end you reach the Overland Track just 500m hundred metres after the Kia Ora Hut. It’s really hard to see from the Overland Track, as there’s only a tiny bridge and an old wooden sign post (without anything written on it). That’s the turn off into the Paddy Hartnett Track.

Beautiful hike through a (mostly) open forest
That’s the turnoff from the Overland Track into the Paddy Hartnett Track (small sign to the left, and just before the short bridge)

The next 5km on the Overland Track I already knew from my hike back in March. I had lunch at Du Cane Hut. This time I visited the Dalton Falls and Fergusson Falls. This detour takes about an additional hour, as you need to descent quite steeply into the Mersey Gorge, but I left my backpack on the junction. Like the day before, the Mersey River had a lot of water, and as such the two waterfalls were quite impressive. It’s hard to say, which one is better. I think gorge after Dalton Falls was more impressive, while standing on the base of Fergusson Falls, was also a nice feeling. If you’ve time, I definitely can recommend this detour.

Dalton Falls have an impressive plunge…
…into a deep gorge.
The base of the Fergusson Falls…
…and it’s smaller runoff

The hike up to Du Cane Gap leads you through nice myrtle forest. The nice sunshine creates a nice atmosphere deep in the forest. After you crossed Du Cane Gap, you reach Bert Nichols Hut quite quickly. I arrived there at about 16:30 o’clock. I wasn’t in a hurry, and took my time. In particular after the Paddy Hartnett Track, as I knew this would be the most challenging section. The hike out on the Overland Track is easy compared to it.

Myrtle and Beech forest leading up to Du Cane Hut

It was the first time, that there was a ranger on the hut and actually checked on me. She asked me where I’m coming from and if I got the Overland permit. Well no, and I explained to her that I was walking in via Paddy Hartnett Track. And as this track joins the Overland track after the Kia Ora hut, you’re technically only staying one day on the Overland track. Hence, I don’t need an Overland Track permit for this. She looked a bit confused, but in the end agreed. Afterwards, we had actually a decent conversation. And she was also the one who told me that there were much more tracks in the 1970’s in the National Park, some even managed from volunteer hiking groups, but those are now almost all overgrown. There was even a direct connection from the Pine Valley to the Overland Track, as well as the track West of Pelion Creek, which is now closed and only marked with a lonely shovel. I didn’t meet again the Professionals from Marions Lookout the Saturday morning. They must have been here already 2 days earlier, as this is typical the 5th day on the Overland Track.

Bert Nichols Hut hidden in the trees

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