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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Spicers Gap Camping Area, Main Range National Park, QLD.

Spicers Gap Camping Area
We packed the tent in the ute and enjoyed a tranquil stay at Spicers Gap Campground. During the early evening the sounds of heavy trucks making their way up and down Cunninghams Gap drift up the range, yet this the campground has a remote feel and during the week is quite often empty. Another thing that seems incongruous is that, despite being in a national park, the campground is opposite a small mango farm. No doubt there is an interesting back story as to how this came about.
Mango farm (L), Spicers Gap Camping Area (R).
Day Use Area
The Day Use Area adjoins the campground and shares the only amenities block. There are three picnic tables with fireplaces which can also be used by day trippers or campers.
Picnic facilities.
Pioneer Graves Track: 260 m, Class 2.
There is an historical graveyard only a short walk from the Day Use Area. There are no headstones, only a cairn in memory of the dead.
Spicers Gap memorial cairn.
Mount Mathieson Trail, 8.1 km.
View on the way up.
In the early morning, we crossed Spicers Gap Road to the start of the trail head. The first section is dominated by the constant calls of Bell Miners. Then we entered lush, cool rainforest. We saw Green Catbirds calling out in the open. The track climbs steadily until it reaches an area with excellent views over the Cunningham Highway. We had a good vantage point right above the emergency escape ramp for vehicles that lose their breaks. Thankfully, there were no emergencies while we watched on.

Views of the Cunningham Highway from Mount Mathieson.
Magnificent views on the Mount Mathieson Trail
We continued on for a short distance and came to a sign stating that the Mount Mathieson Trail is “ungraded”. Having read on the official national parks internet site that the Mount Mathieson Trail is a Class 4 trail we weren’t too worried and continued on. Before long the track deteriorated and at one point we spent some time carefully deciding just where the track continued forward. We didn’t want to get lost and we certainly didn’t want to accidentally fall off a cliff and end up using the helipad on Cunninghams Gap! About this time, we checked that, yes, we did have our Personal Locator Beacon. The next challenge was a mercifully short but very steep section. We began to regret carrying so much camera gear and we started to hope that the trail wasn’t going to get any worse because we didn’t fancy trying to return back down the way we had just come! 
Some of the steeper section of the "trail".
We proceeded along a ridge line with more magnificent views and before long the trail became an easy descent through rainforest. 

We crossed open balds where we saw Swamp Wallabies bounding away from us and open grasslands with large tracts of non-native Hairy Balls milkweed. 
Milkweed Gomphocarpus physcocarpus is an important plant for Monarch Danaus plexippus caterpillars.
1.7 km after Mount Matheison and 1.1 km before the Mount Mathieson car park, is the remains of an old timber jinker.

Front half of an old timber jinker.
About 100 m before we reached the Mount Mathieson car park we startled two wild pigs. One, a large sow, stopped and turned back towards us and it looked like she was considering charging back at us. This had me worried that perhaps we had inadvertently placed ourselves between a mother and her piglets. After a tense moment, while we held our breath and looked around for the nearest climbable tree, she turned around and hurtled away from us.
The Mount Mathieson car park is at the top end of the 4WD road that starts at Cunninghams Gap. Between this car park and the car park at Governors Chair is a pleasant, 1.6 km, Heritage Trail, which forms part of the Mount Mathieson Trail. The trail has informative signs along it explaining the history of the area.
Entering the Heritage Trail from the Mount Mathieson car park.
From the Governors Chair car park we walked 150 m to the Governors Chair Lookout. We sat on the “chair” and enjoyed a snack with magnificent views over Moogerah Peaks National Park, despite it being an overcast day. Caution: there is a sheer drop at the lookout and no fences. 

Governors Chair Lookout.
We walked the final 2 km of the trail by descending to the campground along Spicers Gap Road. We did a quick detour of 120 m (return) to Moss’s Well on the way. The well had seen better days but a Grey Fantail seemed to be guarding over it.
Moss's Well.
We didn’t see a single person on the walk. The only people we saw all day were a couple that drove up to Governors Chair Lookout Car Park while we were there.
If you are not an experienced hiker, I would recommend doing the Mount Mathieson Trail in two sections. One section, which requires some fitness, would be to start walking the trail opposite the Day Use Area and climb until you reach an area with interesting views and return the way you came. The second section would be to drive to the parking area at Governors Chair and do the Heritage Trail. At the end of the Heritage Trail either return to the Governors Chair parking area or walk along the Mount Mathieson Trail for any distance that feels comfortable before returning the way you came.
The following day we packed up and did a short section of the Mathieson Trail before leaving. It wasn’t until we downloaded our photos that we discovered that during the whole camping trip, including our walk of the Mount Mathieson Trail, the lens stabilization switch on our zoom camera lens had accidentally been switched off. Unfortunately, all of our bird photos were unusable as they were decidedly on the blurry side.
Details for Spicers Gap Camping Area, Main Range National Park:
Spicers Gap Road
Access: Spicers Gap Campground is about 105 km west of Brisbane, off the Cunningham Highway. Continue past Aratula for 5 km then turn left into Lake Moogerah Road. After about 6 km turn into Spicers Gap Road which is a 2WD unsealed road and continue for 3.3 km to the campground and Day Use Area. The national park section of Spicers Gap road is very narrow and not suitable for caravans, buses and large motorhomes. It is a further 2 km to Governors Chair carpark. The road to Governors Chair car park is listed as 2WD, however, it is quite steep. The road stops at the car park and it is not possible to drive through the range to the high-clearance, dry weather only, 4WD road on the other side of Spicers Gap which stops at the Mount Mathieson car park. It is a pleasant ….km walk along the Heritage Trail between the two car parks.
Type of Camping: tent camping on open grassy areas separated from your vehicle by bollards.
Number of Sites: undefined sites, maximum of 50 people.
Facilities: There is one male and one female composting toilet shared between the campground and the Day Use Area. There is one tap of non-potable water near the amenities block. There are no fire rings, however, elevated BBQ’s and braziers are allowed. There are three picnic tables with wood BBQ’s positioned between the camping and picnic areas. We had good Telstra mobile phone reception. Walks. No bins. No showers.
Prohibitions: No generators, no fires on the ground, no wood collection from the park or the side of the road, no amplified music, no domestic pets and no firearms.
Fees: $5.95 per person, children under 5 years are free. There is a Family Rate of $23.80 for 1 to 2 adults with children under the age of 18, with a maximum of 8 people in total. 
Bookings: Phone 13 74 68 or online at Limited phone reception. We had Telstra mobile phone reception. 

Bird List for this trip:
Wompoo Fruit Dove, Wonga Pigeon, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Australian King Parrot, Crimson Rosella, Laughing Kookaburra, White-throated Treecreeper, Variegated Fairy-wren, Yellow-throated Scrubwren, Bell Miner, Noisy Miner, Lewin's Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Eastern Whipbird, Eastern Yellow Robin, Little Shrike-thrush, Grey Shrike-thrush, Golden Whistler, Rufous Whistler, Grey Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Green Catbird, Satin Bowerbird, Grey Butcherbird, Pied Currawong, Torresian Crow, Red-browed Finch.


  1. Bahaha "Hairy Balls" milkweed! You've forever changed the way I see that plant! Nice to know I'm not the only one who gets unnerved by wild pigs, give me an eastern brown snake on the track anyday over that!

    Looks like a beautiful location, and yet another corner of SEQ I haven't explored.

  2. Hairy Balls as opposed to Slender, Orange and a few other Milkweeds. In my defense, I've seen it listed in nursery catalogs as "Hairy Balls". Bahaha, I can't stop laughing now either.

    Yes, if I had to choose between wild pigs and snakes, I'd choose snakes any day.

    I's been great swapping the van for the tent over the last couple of weeks. Nothing beats waking up to the dawn chorus and the rising sun in a tent.