Hiking in Tasmania: Walls of Jerusalem National Park
Friends of ours moved to Tasmania about 2 years ago and invited my family to come for a visit.
I was always fascinated with “Tassie” and it has been on my bucket list for some time. So I immediately started research hiking in Tasmania and was at first drawn to the southern coast and the Western Arthur Way traverse.
But it is quite extreme and definitely not recommended alone, so I asked my buddy Ray (who I did the trek last summer in Eastern Europe) if he was interested.
Turns out he already had plans for that time, so I was on my own.
Next best trek, looked like Cradle Mountain and the Overland track. But after some time on Google, I find that permits are needed and it is limited to 40 per day. I emailed the park headquarters to find out that the month of April is quite popular and it was close to full but a few openings were left.
That trek is a hut system with 40-50 people capacity huts with bunks.
40-50 people per day fits my style of hiking and waiting for those in front of you on a hike is not my thing. I know in this day and age, as hiking becomes more popular, it is happening more and more, but there are still trails out there that are more remote, and they are more my style.
So I looked further and found the Walls of Jerusalem hike. The whole National Park is in a wilderness area and there is not one road in the park. Only trails and off-track hiking. Perfect!
So, I ordered the maps, made arrangements with my friends in Port Sorell to drop me off and take care of my son while I went hiking for a few days, and started packing.
Peter and my son, Simon, dropped me off after a nice meal in a little mining town called “Mole Creek” where we ate lamb pies. They were so good, we had seconds. .
It was a cool little town and about what I had expected most of Tasmania to be like. The bar was even complete with 3 or 4 old timers drinking beer in the early afternoon.
But time to hike and it was going to get dark in about 4 more hours so, we moved out and another 45 minute drive with the roads getting worse and worse until we feared for the undercarriage of their little car. Just as we were about to back down and I walk the last km, we saw some cars ahead and sure enough, the end of the road and car park.
We said our goodbyes and made arrangements for pickup in 3 1/2 days and I headed up the mountain with only 1 1/2 hours of daylight left.
Just out of sight of the carpark was a small shed with a book to register and describe your hike. Also, at this point was a contraption to disinfect your shoes. You put your feet inside and pushed a button and some kind of spray supposedly killed all germs from your hiking shoes. OK.
I had an hour and half to climb 500 meters higher to my (hopeful) first campsite at “Wild Dog Creek”. I felt very happy to be in the forest and it was a lot of old growth and natural environment. I would have liked to slow down a bit and study the different kinds of trees and plants but had to move.
I met 3 different groups who were coming down. All had been out only for the one day and it was a long day as they all had climbed as least one of the mountains or “walls”. Everyone was in their 20’s or early 30’s and ranged from France, Germany, Israel, and Chile. Wow! Quite an assortment and as I saw only 5 or 6 cars in the parking lot, I figured I’d have the wilderness are to myself.
A few of them told me I was on the hardest part of the trail as far as a steep and rocky climb. Great. I was enjoying the climb and didn’t think it too bad. Just before a junction in the trail, I came upon “Trappers Hut”
This was an 80 year old hut, (actually rebuilt in the 60’s using the same, natural woods and techniques) built by possum trappers in the day when the fur brought a huge price in the fashion world.
Moving up, I watched the sunset from the trail as I still had 1 or 2 kms to go.
I heard the running water before I saw the “Wild Dog Creek”.
It was in the middle of a prairie and running strong. So, I filled my water bottles here before I found the tent platforms a few hundred meters further. It was good I did as the darkness was coming on fast and I had to set up my tent and cook dinner yet.
This campsite had 3 rows of tent platforms that were quite luxurious compared to ones I had camped on back in the states. Huge with a great view, and cables to hook up your non-freestanding tents. (mine).
After dinner of elk meat (I dried some ground elk that my brother had shot 6 months earlier and mixed it with noodles with cheese), although it was only 6:30 PM, it was dark and after sitting for a half hour or so, I climbed into the bag and looked at the map a bit before deciding that it was too cold for my body as I live in Thailand where the average temps this time of year are in the 90’s F or 35 C. But here it was probably in the low 40’s F or 5-7 C.
So I fired up the stove again and heated a one litre water bottle that I put my gloves around and threw in the bag to warm it up. Ah warmth. That’s good. So I fell asleep about 7 PM!
About 1 or 1:30 in the morning, I was woken up by something on my back. Woah! WTF? I shook it off and grabbed for my light. Looked like a dog or coyote sneaking away.
Now my tent is a tarp tent and although I can batten it down pretty low to the ground, it has no floor and critters can get in. But a critter that big? That’s scary. The fucker was on my back no less!
Needless to say, it was a long night as he kept trying to get to my food bag inside my tent.
I didn’t find out until the next day what he was when I met some local hikers. A bush-tailed possum. Very sneaky and only looking for food but they have sharp claws and you wouldn’t want to get in a fight with one. I did manage to get this bad picture of him in the next few hours as we played cat and mouse all night. (I was the mouse I think)
Finally, the night was over and of course, no sign of the beast.
A slight drizzle was falling while I packed up.
There are real toilets on the top level of the tent platforms and after stopping there, I headed up some more to the beautiful plateau.
I learned a long time ago to enjoy hiking in the rain. As long as I can stay (somewhat) dry.
But I soon learned that my 20 year old Frogg Toggs were leaking a bit at both sleeves below the elbow. Not a big deal, but made for cold hands.
About an hour after leaving camp, I saw a beautiful grove of cedar trees off the right and went over to get some water and check it out.
Wow, what a nice campsite.
Soon after, I kicked out a flock of about 10 green and grey parrots. Someone told me later they were called Rosellas.
I passed a 4 way junction in the trail that I would end up coming back to the next day. It lead to Soloman’s Throne to the right (east) and The Temple to the west. I went straight as the rain was picking up.
Not much further at all, I came upon Dixon’s Kingdom and the cabin there.
Once again, this was an old trappers cabin reconstructed this time by a movie company that did a scene there. It was actually doubled in size for the movie.
There were 4 or 5 guys there, packing up in the rain and now the wind was getting stronger also. I was going to wait it out, but they were heading out. The time was into the early afternoon by now and I was hungry, so it was an easy decision. We talked a bit, but they seemed in a hurry.
They told me they were going “off track” and heading south on a dotted route on the map that said “faint trail, bush walk” or something like that.
They had big tents, big boots, heavy gore tex and of course: big packs. And a big group so I’m sure they were going to be OK. I’ll also say that they were the only hikers I saw in the 3 1/2 days of my hike who were using trekking poles.
They headed out into the driving rain and I headed into the cabin for lunch.
If you look closely at the last picture, there is a Wallaby eating lichen off of the rocks in the background.
The animals in this park didn’t seem very afraid at all of humans. Not a natural thing IMO and probably the reason the possums are so brazen.
The rain didn’t let up and an hour or two later, 2 more hikers came in. Again, they had big gear, big packs. They hung some things up and headed back out. I guess when you are from Tasmania (these are the first hikers I saw from Tassie), you don’t mind the rain as the weather is harsh and they say it changes quickly.
I stayed inside and when they came back, they told me they climbed the “Temple” but it was completely socked in.
They set up their big tent outside but I stayed in with the mice and ready with some rocks as the cabin logbook said the possums get in through the gap in the top of the door. I balanced some rocks up there so they would wake me up and settled in, again heating up the hot water bottle.
One did come in in the middle of the night but left when I threw a rock at it. I watched him squeeze through the crack and went back to sleep.
I woke up to a beautiful morning and got packed and ready before sunrise. 2 more hikers had come in in the night and set up another big tent behind the cabin. After hiking in the USA and the big 3 trails there (triple crown), I wasn’t use to seeing such big, 4 season tents on the trail. These things can weigh 4 kgs and my tent is about 400 grams, but then, they didn’t have to worry about critters getting inside, so, maybe it’s best to have heavier gear when hiking where the wild animals aren’t so wild. I do trust my tent in the rain and have been in it through many a rainstorm (and snow) before.
OK, the hike up to Mount Jerusalem was really awesome, watching the sunrise and seeing the clouds below in the valleys.
Passing many small lakes on the way up, it was beautiful hiking.
Reaching the summit was also great although peak bagging is usually not my thing. I’d rather be climbing or traversing than sitting at the top where the wind is strong and the temps the coldest. But I had phone signal up there, so called a few people to show them the view with Messenger and WhatsApp.
On my way down, the 2 Taz hikers were coming up and they then showed me the mountain they had climbed the day before (the “Temple”) and how close it was to camp.
So, when I got back, I backtracked to the junction I mentioned from yesterday and turned east to climb the one that looked awesome: “Soloman’s Throne”
And it was! You hike up one of the chutes (3rd one) after going up the rock scree, and it is steep, narrow and really great, with amazing trail work and steps in the rocks to make it so much safer.
The view from the top was pretty good too and from here, you could see the trail a long way below you as it was mostly in meadows. From here, I called my wife in northern Thailand to show her the great mountain I was on.
Heading down, the chute was a little bit scary as it was so steep and going down is always more dangerous than going up. Awesome climb and descent and I felt (and still do) that it was the highlight of this 3 1/2 day hike.
Back to Dixon’s Kingdom again, where the other two hiker/campers were now finally getting ready to head out.
I called them the “crack of noon” hikers, as to me, it was now lunchtime.
So now, I decided to head south and follow the guys who left in the heavy rain the day before.
I had a much nicer day with almost cloudless skies and followed their footprints as this was the unmarked trail and today the meadow was a bit of a swamp!
Wet feet but gorgeous day otherwise and I loved the route finding challenges although I basically just had to head south and sometimes found footprints.
After only about an hour, I came to a beautiful lake, Lake Ball with beautiful views looking back.
Then back through some scrub brush, turning into old growth forest and lots of flora around.
And then another cabin. This one built by “Boy” Ball, a World War II prisoner of war, who was on the Burmese death camps and helped build the “Bridge over the River Kwai”. Once he returned from the war, some said he was never right, and he preferred to live up here in nature and roamed and trapped these lands for many years.
Then a big descent down to “Adelaide Lake” and a turning point for me as I would now head north to complete my circle. Had a big lunch at the “Adelaide camp” and then started the ascent back up to the junction I passed on day 1.
Back to “Trappers Hut” for the night. This is the same hut that’s about an hours hike from the carpark and since my friends were picking me up at 9 AM, and I didn’t want to wake up with an animal on my back again, I slept here for the night.
Once again, it was an eventful night. (as they all were on this short trip).
The door locked tight, the bed in the cabin was quite comfortable and I heated up my water bottle again.
A few hours after I fell asleep, I was woken by water dripping all over me and my bag.
The old, cedar roof leaked like a sieve!
Except right in front of the door.
So, that’s where I slept, covering my bag with the plastic groundcloth I carry, and all was good again.
Until I woke up cold at 4 AM and had to reheat the water bottle. (remember, I’m used to Thailand’s temps!)
But, my fuel bottle ran out. NO more heat. No coffee in the morning! Ouch.
All right, it’s better than being woken up by a possum on your back, and it wasn’t long until dawn, and eating the rest of my cookies and headed down.
My friend was early, had the car heater turned to 25C. (I was used to about 25F by now) and had homeade tomato soup, strong black coffee, and sandwiches waiting for me.
What a great friend. Thank you Peter.
I highly recommend this trip if you like less people, some real wilderness, and beautiful mountains with awesome views!
But I would highly recommend a closed tent! (and lots of fuel) LOL!