"How good are gum trees?” my mate Johnny blurted from the passenger seat.
As much as those words could have been spoken by a hippy, it was a thought that had possibly been stewing in my mind, too, as we approached a particularly fine specimen of track-side eucalypt, its twisted cool-grey bark and sparkling olive leaves backlit by the sharp mid-winter sun. The stand-out gum was one of many we’d passed during the first hour or two of our lads’ weekend trek, but for office-worker Johnny, every rotation of our tyres represented one revolution of a mind unwinding.
Weekends away are important like that. They help to clear your head, to consider new perspectives, and to once again appreciate the simple things in life – especially after situations such as Johnny’s recent six-month stint on the weed-killer. That’s why six blokes in three 4x4s had left Sydney earlier on that Saturday morning, aiming for Turon National Park, an easy two hours’ drive west.
Sure, it might not be Cape York or the Simpson, but with just a regular weekend to spare and a couple of newbies in our convoy, we’d chosen Turon as a not-too-near, not-too-far, not-too-scary trek from the excellent guide book 4WD Treks Close to Sydney. Being around 50km long and only 180km from Sydney, this trek can be easily taken in a weekend at a relaxing pace in a higher-clearance 4x4.
With everything we needed, from tucker to a few bevvies and several big bags of pre-cut firewood for our Saturday night campfire, we were stocked – and stoked! – as we crossed the Blue Mountains and passed through Lithgow.
Just after Sunny Corner, where the bitumen ends, we dropped some air from our tyres and stuck the sticks into 4x4 (well, I did – unlike my Hilux, the other two vehicles were full-time 4x4s). Once a mining town, Sunny Corner is now a sleepy support town for the present-day forestry industry and it’s past Daylight Creek Road, among the planted pine trees of the Sunny Corner State Forest, where the trek toward the Turon River begins.
Soon, we were in an ever-changing variety of natural bush; open savannah-like scrubland and rocky – sometimes steep – hills that characterise the most eastern lands of the original inhabitants, the Wiradjuri.
Like many other treks through hilly terrain, this one runs along several fire/management tracks. We soon turned right (roughly north) on to Blackbutt Mountain Trail, before we found a terrific north-facing open area to cook our lunch of sausage sambos.
After crossing Jackass Creek, one of the tributaries of the Turon River, the next stop was Pinnacle Rock.
There’s probably a good story behind the naming of Jackass Creek (maybe it involves a bloke saying “Hey! Get your camera! Watch this!”) but the climb to Pinnacle Rock – a large bluff of sandstone – is the steepest of the trek, and it’s where one of our vehicles, a Discovery 4, popped a tyre.
Our destination for the day was the campground at Woolshed Flat, one of two designated campgrounds in the Turon National Park. After we climbed Pinnacle Rock (and fixed the Disco’s tyre), we headed along the Pinnacle Fire Trail (some of this is through private property, so mind the gates), and eventually dropped toward Woolshed, with the ambition of set-up before sun-down.
With kangaroos watching, we organised our tents and got the fire going using our pre-cut, perfectly seasoned firewood to effortlessly fend-off the chilly winter evening. Yep, it can be cold! Later in the evening, after a terrific feed, I plonked my can of bourbon onto a table and it slid straight off: the evening’s earlier gentle dew had frozen to an ice-slick surface.
Despite the minus-3C conditions, we all slept like logs – even Johnny, who pulled on his beanie and rolled out his trusty swag on open ground next to the fire. With less than an hour’s drive to the bitumen at the end of the trek, there was plenty of time for a sleep-in the next day.
A leisurely hour spent cooking a hot breakfast of bacon, mushies and cackle-berries allowed the morning sun to reach the valley floor and dry our tents and gear before we spent another hour or so exploring the Woolshed area.
After driving past The Diggings campground and splashing through the Turon River a couple of times, we climbed out of this terrific little valley to complete our easy and relaxing two-day trek.
With our souls refreshed, we headed toward the township of Capertee, the bitumen and the commute back to the pickle factory.
Turon National Park is around 180km west of Sydney. The closest town for fuel and food supplies is Lithgow, on the southern approach to the district from Sydney. Capertee – to the north – has limited supplies.
WHEN TO GO
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service recommends travellers visit the area in autumn, spring or summer. The cooler months are better for active adventurers while spring is great for bird watchers and family camping.
Some steep terrain. Water crossings. All tracks require a 4x4 vehicle.
There are two campgrounds in the Turon National Park: Woolshed Flat and The Diggings. Both grounds feature large, flat, unfenced valley-floor camp sites with water frontage.
No permits or booking required. Camping is free. No generators.
Bush toilets are provided at The Diggings. No tank/tap water. BYO firewood – wood collecting is not permitted – and take your rubbish
For Turon regional information call NSW Parks Blackheath 02 4787 8877
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