One of the things we’ve always enjoyed on our High Country Cruises is the ability to stay in one of the many High Country Huts, especially when the weather turns foul. However, as I wrote in my most recent High Country story, after bushfires in 2013 and earlier, many of the old High Country huts have been destroyed and some have recently been replaced with what are ostensibly metal garages. On seeing the first of these, Jorgensons Hut and then Junction Hut (we haven’t been to Goonans Hut), I mentioned that I felt that the new style lacked the bush character of the older, rustic (rusty?), and mainly timber huts that we’ve visited over the years. That was my initial reaction and I may have been somewhat unfair in my assessment, so I took the opportunity to gain a better idea when my wife and I decided to do a short camping trip to Donnelly Creek.
We had planned to stay at Junction Hut, though even going out on a Thursday morning there were campers about and Junction Hut was taken. So we continued on towards Jorgensons Hut, with not much hope of getting that either but, surprisingly, it was free. Jorgensons Hut is the larger of the huts; however, if two families (even without kids) were to stay there, you wouldn’t have as much room as expected and with kids, far less room indeed (especially weather dependent). For a group of travellers on their own, like our Cruises, you could accommodate between 6-8 by cramming somewhat. Jorgensons Hut was officially opened on 1 May 2015 and was brought about by the perseverance of one of the Forest Managers and support from local industry.
Jorgensons Hut is located just above Donnelly Creek, which was flowing reasonably well on our visit, and is on a fairly large site that’s had a lot of work done to it to try and protect the land from reckless use. Numerous bollards have been placed around the site to control the movement of vehicles so that not every inch of the ground gets covered in tracks and/or dug up. At this point in time, things weren’t too bad, though that in no way prevents the unintelligent from trying to wreak as much havoc as possible, especially after sufficient alcohol has been consumed (as evidenced by a rammed bollard). We’ve stayed there twice when the old hut still stood, once (2003) when the grounds were pretty good and a second time (2010) when the grounds had been churned up into a rutted hell. No one could have camped on the ground itself because of the ruts. The site is now much more pleasant overall.
What’s also been provided is a brand new long drop (with a door that will wake the dead) and, what I think is a great idea, a water tank has been installed next to the hut so that there’s a greater incentive to put out the fireplaces (inside and out), even if the creek is nearby. But judging from at least one comment in the visitor’s book, even this isn’t enough to get some lazy travellers to put out their fire before departing. It’s something that never ceases to amaze me about the travellers that go through these places, but then it’s just representative of some of the individuals that pass through.
So what about the hut itself? Without a doubt the new huts are functional and practical in many ways, and they are certainly far more resilient to bush fires. The interiors are easier to keep clean and to arrange accommodation than is the case with some huts, especially the previous Jorgensons Hut. That said, my first impression still stands and the new style huts lack ‘bush character’. But what I suspected as being the biggest issue was certainly confirmed. Without any lining, even on a relatively mild day when the temperature was only around 27C, the hut became oppressively hot as the sun beat down all day, until evening fell. But even then it took a long time for the tin and interior to cool down. Thankfully the windows open fully, so with everything open, a breeze was able to circulate. I can only imagine what it would be like when the temperatures go to 30+ or low Winter temperatures.
Now what also became immediately evident, as we unloaded and started to put things in place, was that there was nowhere to hang things such as lights. We weren’t the first to discover this, as others had installed zip ties for this very purpose. Without timber available, nails and/or screws couldn’t be inserted without power tools. The other thing that we noticed was that whoever had built the benches probably never actually cooked, as they were both over one metre high, where the standard for kitchen benches is 900mm. It might not seem such a big deal, but when you put a cook top on the bench, it makes a noticeable difference. These may sound like petty criticisms, but sooner or later some travellers may start taking their own action to change things, and not for the better. Especially when said individuals take advantage of every nook and cranny.
As an aside, Jorgensons Flat is a great little spot, more so now that it’s had these additional works to try and quell unnecessary land damage and, when the creek is flowing, it provides a nice respite from the heat. Our two hounds loved the camping and it’s great to be able to get out into places like these with your furry kids as well. Just keep an eye out for the large numbers of European wasps, the local Goanna and especially snakes. We only saw one black snake on the road just as we came in, but no doubt more are about.
The area is also of quite some historical significance, with evidence of the gold mining era on the hillsides. And you never know what to expect on even a short walk up a steep hill. And what amazes me even more is that while the bushfires destroyed the original hut, an old and rickety picnic table still stands the test of time (sort of).
So other than that, what’s the overall impression? A lot of time, effort and money has gone into rebuilding the huts that were destroyed by recent fires and you cannot belittle the efforts put in by all those that made this possible; congratulations are definitely in order. We do live in an environment where there’s the ever present danger of bushfires wreaking havoc to huts and the landscape but, without being disparaging, perhaps over time some interior changes could prevail and perhaps some lining applied to the interior of the new huts, for insulation (the open tin shed also accentuated every sound) which would, in a small way, provide a memory of the old huts of the High Country.
Update: We happened to stay at Jorgensons Hut in early February 2017, having once again missed out on Junction Hut, and it confirmed that as the temperatures rise, the huts can become unbearably hot. With the weather forecast to rise from 32C to 38C, we decided that staying on would be foolhardy. Another point of interest; the hut is now a major residence for mice, at least two kept us up all night with their rustling and banging (we’d left our dinner cutlery and crockery on the bench), and they barely registered any concern when we went to chase them away. After a while, they just stood their ground when we shone our torch at them and looked back as if saying ‘What?’