|Fern forest in the valley on the Leven River Walk, Dial Range
The Dial Range lies about 13 km south of the quaint coastal town of Penguin. Overshadowed by the scenic splendours of Cradle Mountain, the Dial Range is easily overlooked by tourists and visitors like me who are hurrying on to somewhere else, but it seems well known to locals who pass me on most of the tracks. Only around 500 metres above sea level, it stretches in a southerly direction for about 14 km and gets its name from one of the peaks, Mt. Gnomon, which apparently looks like an ancient sundial from the air.
|A quiet walk by the Leven River. It's tame here, unlike at Leven Canyon a day or two later
I was hoping to get a few interesting fungi snaps here, but like the summits of the mountains in the West, they all seemed rather dry and there were very few fungi to be seen. The last part of this road is unsealed and rather rough. In fact, until I saw the signs, I wasn’t sure I was going to get anywhere at all, except lost on some nameless forestry road. My first walk took me down to the Leven River (officially 45 minutes return) where it straggled along the bank for an indeterminate distance, but through some pleasant tree fern gullies and tall blackwood trees, very different to the dry scrubby sclerophyll forest on top. I’m intrigued by the sign about the Penguin to Cradle Trail. Apparently this 6-7 multiday walk promises to be as scenic as the much too popular Overland Track. While no doubt less regimented, it requires you to pack everything in and have navigation skills. To find out more about it, contact the North West Walking Club.
|The Penguin to Cradle Mountain Trail has me intrigued
I then went to the western side of the forest via a very pretty picnic spot at Ferdene which has a 30 minute walk to two old mine shafts and the option of walking from here to Mt. Gnomon. Unfortunately there wasn’t any indication of how long this would take and being unfamiliar with the area and only geared up for a short walk, I didn’t want to take the chance. My GPS disagreed with the location of the picnic spot, showing Ferndene Reserve as being further on, so I turned south again to see what lay ahead further down the Ironcliffe Road. Until then I was on a narrow and windy sealed road, but for the last part, this too was unsealed, but in much better condition than the previous one.
|Ferndene Picnic Area
|There's a very pretty 30 minute walking track here with lots of tree ferns and some old mine shafts
There was in fact quite a big three way junction there, though two branches looked more like four –wheel drive tracks. It also had directions to several walks. As it was now fairly late I opted for the one hour return Tall Trees Walk which went downhill for what seemed like an eternity, though tall trees and tree ferns, even a couple of small fungi, were definitely in evidence. At the bottom of the hill, as at Ferndene, there was another option - that is, going on to Mt. Duncan. The sign at the top had said Mt. Duncan (654m) was four hours return and I knew I just didn’t have that much daylight left. The evening birds had already started their slightly mournful call and the valley was getting dark quickly. Had I come to the end of the Tall Trees Track? I really didn’t know. I pressed on for a while in a northerly direction alongside a gurgling creek, but when it came to crossing this creek and starting on the uphill climb to Mt. Duncan, I thought I should quit while I was ahead and start the long climb back to the carpark. Stars twinkled overhead as I climbed into my Doona sandwich bed – one on top, one on the bottom and my down sleeping bag on top of that. Tonight was going to be another cold one.