Monday, 22 Jul 2019

Tolkien Track. The Styx

“Top Walks in Tasmania”

Melanie Ball

 

Walk. Tolkien Track. The Styx: 3km out-and-back
Time required. Tolkien Track. The Styx: 1.5 hours
Best time. Tolkien Track. The Styx: Cloudy day for most intense forest hues
Grade. Tolkien Track. The Styx: Easy–moderate (a short, steep and uneven pitch to the waterfall)
Environment. Tolkien Track. The Styx: Tall wet eucalypt forest and waterfall
Best map. Tolkien Track. The Styx: This one plus the Styx Valley of the Giants pdf (See Tips below).
Toilets. Tolkien Track. The Styx: Toilet at Big Tree Reserve
Food. Tolkien Track. The Styx: Drinks, fried fast food and some groceries are available from the Corner Store in Maydena
Tips. Tolkien Track. The Styx: There are no road signs to this walk and it is not shown on the information boards at the popular Big Tree Reserve. Download the Wilderness Society’sStyx Valley of the Giants Visitor Learning Guide pdf for a map and comprehensive information about the forest, its importance and the fight to protect it.

Tolkien Track. The Styx - photo 1

Tolkien Track. The Styx

Arguably the most successful of the protest actions that saved the Styx Valley from being logged and saw its rivers and ancient forests added to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area in 2013, was the launch, ten years earlier, of the Global Rescue Station. A collaboration between Greenpeace and the Wilderness Society, the Station was a series of platforms perched in a magnificent swamp gum where activists from around Australia and the planet lived aloft, sending interviews, photographs and video footage to the world. The tree was known as Gandalfs Staff, and it is the star of this walk through the Valley of the Giants, a wonderland of tall timbers suggestive of Tolkein’s Middle Earth.

Tolkien Track. The Styx. A 75-minute drive (85km) from Hobart, via New Norfolk and the Derwent Valley, brings you to the Styx Rd junction on the left of Gordon River Road (B61). Drive about 12km along Styx Rd’s winding gravel (there is some signage but ignore smaller side forestry tracks) brings you to the Big Tree Reserve (where there is also a toilet). Continue another 2km and turn right onto unsigned Waterfall Creek Road. Look for a small, green wooden roadside Tolkien Track sign and cairn about 1km from the junction.  Park and step into the forest on a leaf-littered and infrequently trodden track (a boardwalk does a shorter loop through magnificent trees at Big Tree Reserve).

Tolkien Track. The Styx - photo 2

Tolkien Track. The Styx

Push through the ferns reaching across the track and follow a trail of pink ribbons into a leafy forest of tree ferns and huge old eucalypts. Commonly called swamp gums in Tasmania and mountain ash in Victoria, these are Eucalyptus regnans, the second tallest tree in the world after America’s redwoods and the tallest flowering plant on the planet, which produces white blossoms in autumn. A pink ribbon in a tree fern marks a vague track junction. Just beyond a bit of old plank you’ll see a ‘Cave Tree’ sign. Turn left and then right into a massive swamp gum whose trunk is hollowed at ground level. Inside is a rustic bench from which you can look at the blackened walls and up at the ‘cave’ roof a few metres overhead. Mosquitoes will probably cut short your stay.

Tolkien Track. The Styx. Follow the ribbon trail further into the forest, past a huge tree, long-since felled and now covered in moss, and a tree fern whose two trunks split and merge. Beside it is an extraordinary merger of two gums and a tree fern, twisted together at the base and then doing their own thing: a character that could have been plucked from Tolkien’s imaginings. As well as pink ribbons you will find yellow-on-green wooden signs at important junctions. Turn right at the sign for Gandalfs Staff and descend to a massive tree whose base is tens of metres around and whose grey-striped trunk trails streamers as it reaches skywards. Fungi often grow around the tree and you can see a huge burl high up the trunk. Swing left past this unnamed giant and walk down a hill littered with myrtle beech leaves through other huge trees. A steep descent criss-crossed with roots brings you to Gandalfs Staff.

Tolkien Track. The Styx - photo 3

Tolkien Track. The Styx

Eighty-four metres high and estimated to be 350 to 400 years old, this is a tree to which Tolkien’s wizard would have been proud to lend his name. Looking up you can see wires in situ from the aerial protest platforms. Yellow-tailed black cockatoos hang out in these treetops too, giving themselves away with croaky whistling calls. Research has found that mature Eucalypt regnans dominated forests store more carbon than any other forest type so trees such as this are important; but they are also fabulous to see, hug and sit beneath. Visible beyond the tree are pink ribbon trails leading straight on and uphill. Leaving the climb (perhaps for later) follow the lower trail, which skirts an unnamed tree only 15m around and a baby compared with Gandalfs staff!

Tolkien Track. The Styx. Step over logs and climb steeply up and around fallen eucalypts, layers of forest debris making the track spongy underfoot. Now descend steeply into fabulously lush rainforest and further into a fern-filled gully to the sound of falling water. Two small, broken footbridges cross a creek that drops over a rocky lip. Ribbons lead right and down a bank to where water pours down rock dripping with moss and ferns into a gully full of tree ferns. A steeper few metres, with root footholds and handholds, take you to a rickety footbridge greened with moss at the base of the falls. Two fallen trees roof this little gully. Having retraced your steps to Gandalfs Staff, you can turn right and up the ribboned hill from the giant gum and loop left back to the main track or keep walking, returning to your car the way you came earlier.

Tolkien Track. The Styx - photo 4

Tolkien Track. The Styx

Tolkien Track. The Styx - photo 5

Tolkien Track. The Styx

Tolkien Track. The Styx - photo 6

Tolkien Track. The Styx

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