The Valley of Tranquility
It was 2002 when we first explored the little known Cooradooral Valley when dry weather and waxing moon made it perfect to treat ourselves to that valley’s soothing forest and creek again. But we’d be testing our legs and hearts carrying our gear and drinking water up Raspberry Ridge, the spur used by Aboriginal and stockmen traveling to the Mann River.
At the high end, 1000 m above the sea, the Raspberry Ridge Lookout offers a spectacular survey point for the entire Bindery-Mann Wilderness Area. You can see the challenging slopes and ridges once traversed by early graziers and miners. Sometimes mist rolls in, creating a dazzling scene of ghostly hollows and quiet rainforest down below. I like it here at sunset, watching the trees melt into shadows and the stunning landscape of Gibraltar Range change colour with the light.
This excursion began far differently than others. Instead of our usual lazy start, car camping our first night out, we choose to rise at dawn, packed our kitbags at home and then reach our kickoff point with enough time to descend to the valley floor and pitch camp at the confluence of Raspberry and Cooradooral Creeks. A big day, that went amazingly like clockwork.
The four-hour drive had been uneventful until I found some tasty chocolate croissants when buying last minute sweets. After that, a stop at Maca’s became mandatory to pickup a cappuccino then we flew off with the weather moving equally fast. Ahead, clear skies became clouded peaks. Then as we pulled off the highway at Raspberry Lookout, lightning flashed through an open forest that was swaying savagely.
We jumped out and quite calmly began final packing, deciding straightaway to delay eating our cold lunch, deciding instead to take it with us. In minutes I was driving the car away to park her for an extended holiday. But this took valuable time. The wind gained strength. Then blacker clouds began to spit cold rain as we saddled up, waving goodbye to a pair of visitors who seem astounded that anyone would leave the safety of the road to descend into thunderbolts rolling up the dark valley.
Jude and I were both nonplussed about the weather. It would take horrible bad luck to have a tree or limb blown onto us. In fact, walking into a storm seemed far safer than driving head on at big trucks in the rain. Besides, the rain would cool us carrying our heavy loads.
Balance issues struck the instant we lifted our loads onto our backs. Suddenly a great heavy lump was pushing us down a hill encumbered with low scrub. Complicating our efforts, to clear the view Parks had trimmed the regrowth, leaving many bush poles blocking our way, plus they left the trunk and limbs of one larger tree that took far too much time and energy getting over it. On our first journey into the Cooradooral Valley, I tripped on a stump just like those left today. Falling at the start of that eight-day walk, I slashed my shin open on another stump made razor sharp from a Park’s panga. So, getting away from the lookout area unscathed seemed a blessing.
After thirty minutes pushing along an animal track, sucking in big breaths, trees shaking, leaves falling, lightning flashes followed by thunderbolts but no real rain, we decided to unload and eat lunch. Sadly, only a little had been gotten out when the heavens opened, so we repacked to make more distance in the rain. An hour later, blue skies returned, clearing from the west as we found the grassy spot at the turnoff point; a perfect place to gobble lunch while surrounded by clear sharp forests and distant views into our valley.
Here’s a collage