Another fine Autumn Sunday so I decided to visit Orroral Valley in the Namadgi N.P. for a short walk. The drive there is very pleasant in Autumn with lots of deciduous trees planted by the early settlers turning red and gold.
The turnoff to Orroral Valley is about 12-15 minutes south of Tharwa on the Boboyan Road and is well signposted. Another 10 minutes from the turnoff had me in the carpark at the site of the Orroral Valley Tracking Station. Roads are all sealed. The tracking station played an important part in the Apollo missions but was decommissioned and is now long gone - all that remains are the footings of the buildings and some nice mature trees. There is good descriptive information provided about what was there and it is well worth a look. There were only 2 other cars in the carpark when I arrived at 9 am. There are picnic tables under the trees and free gas BBQs at the old tracking station site so the place gets busier around lunchtime. I saw a small group heading off toward the old Orroral Homestead about 1 km away - the homestead itself is very interesting and photogenic and is open for people to have a look through. If you have an hour it is an easy short walk (lots of kangaroos too!)
But I had visited it only about 6 months ago, so I had decided to do the Granite Tors walk.
The granite tors walk is about an 8 km round trip (come back the same way you go up). , I headed off past the toilet block on the well defined path. There is a "visitors book" just along the track. I think the idea is for walkers to provide some details of their intentions but mostly it seems to be used by people writing nice comments about the place. Lots of kangaroos on the flats, watching me carefully as I walked past. Most didn't budge, even when I walked within 10 metres.
The walk is steady uphill most of the way and follows an old road (now disused and overgrown). In some parts it is quite steep (gets the pulse rate up) and the sandy gravel is a bit slippery underfoot, particularly on the way back down. I was glad I had walking poles as it simplified things on that front. I took quite a few 'breathers" on the way up. I could see the upper end of the valley through the trees as I walked along, then I turned into a valley where taller eucalypts grew and I could hear a small stream babbling among the granite boulders off to one side. The track at this point is being encroached on by the scrub but it was still easy to follow.
At the top of the walk there is a disused and bricked up observatory dome (also once part of the space program) and a lookout built on a large granite slab that overlooks the valley (and the tracking station site). The lookout is around 400 metres higher than the carpark, so it is a good view.
After a look around and a meusli bar I left just as another couple arrived. On the way back down I passed 3 other groups heading up. I was back at my car by 11.30 (so, it was about 2 & 1/2 hours round trip).
Rather than have an early lunch at Orroral, I decided to drive around to the Honeysuckle Creek tracking station site which I hadn't visited since there were buildings there (over 20 years ago...). Orroral and Honeysuckle Creek were sister tracking stations only a few kilometres apart "as the crow flies", but with a sizeable range of hills in between.
Honeysuckle Creek turnoff was back along the Boboyan Road towards Canberra (only about 5 minutes out of Tharwa) and is well signposted. It is about 10 km up to the old tracking station site along the Apollo Road. On the way is the turnoff to the carpark for Booroomba Rocks - another walk well worth doing, but not today. Road is all sealed to the old tracking station, which also hosts one of the park camping grounds these days.
At Honeysuckle Creek I wandered among the footings of the old buildings and the remains of the gardens. Again, there is good signage explaining things. I had lunch on the lawn (kept cropped short by kangaroos is my guess), then decided to see if the road up to the ridge overlooking Orroral Valley was open - it was. This road is unsealed and about 4 km long and in reasonable condition at present. I negotiated it quite easily in my Toyota Corolla, but it might be a challenge for vehicles with really low ground clearance. There were about 6 vehicles in the carpark at the end of the road but nobody about - I suspect they may have been rock climbers who use a cliff about 1/2 km north of the carpark. There is no "formal" path to any lookout here & the best option is to veer left from the carpark and it was only a short walk (100 metres?) through the bush to a spot where I could look down onto the Orroral Valley from among large granite boulders. Easily as good a view as I had from the Granite Tors and a lot less work!
I retraced my steps and started back to Canberra at about 1.15pm.