Trip Start Dec 03, 2004
85Trip End Nov 31, 2005
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Of course, this being Australia and not Scotland, the name only describes a rock formation that from a distance looks like a fallen castle. We got Ross to drop us off at the trailhead of the Golden Stairs, which were a quick drop down into a silent eucalypt rainforest valley. This hike continued for about an hour through the birdcalls and wind and empty green until we came to a turning that announced, "Ruined Castle: Very Steep. Experienced Hikers Only."
"Oh good," I said
But these stairs were brief and at the top of a ridge we turned and followed a dusty track between pines and banksia (an Australian bush with a brushy sort of cone between its grey-green spiky leaves) to the "castle" itself. Up close the rocks don't look like a castle, but they do tower very sudden and upright over the surrounding terrain. There was a well-worn scramble over the boulders so we picked our way up to the top for a three-hundred-sixty degree view over the valleys, the flat tops of the surrounding mountain cliffs ringing us in. The top of the castle was a flat, table-like rock and when Marah and I, encumbered by bags, reached it, Michaela was already sitting on it crosslegged, for all the world like an oracle reached after years of mountain-climbing, ready to answer any question with wisdom. My question wasn't too taxing: "Who wants a cookie?"
We clambered over the rocks and explored the crevices and edges of the castle rocks. Getting back down from the castle proved to be more difficult than scrambling up had been, but eventually we made it to the track below. The plan was not to take the Golden Stairway back up, but trek a further hour through the valley to the Furber Steps, which we knew from past experience were the gentlest of the main stairways into the valley
The area crossing the landslide was boiling hot with reflected heat from the stones, and there was little vegetation except low green shrub to break it up. The only indicators that we were on the right path were our own attentive watch of where the slightly-more-crushed rock debris was, and intermittent metal poles that dotted the landslide. Time and again we'd find ourselves unsure that the way we were scrambling up and over the rocks was correct, until five minutes later we'd come across another lone metal pole, letting us know that we'd somehow negotiated the twists and turns correctly.
Then, as suddenly as the heat and rocks had leapt out of the rainforest, we'd leapt back into it, and onto a wide trail that lead down by the Scenic Railway bottom. We were almost home---five hours after we'd set out, and with the trek through the hilly town left to do.
I'm not sure why the Blue Mountains National Park bothers with the "experienced hikers only" signs anywhere, as I have yet to do a single track in my time here that I would recommend for anyone with even a hint of physical difficulty---there are no flat tracks. There are no wide tracks. There are no tracks where the signage is entirely and consistently adequate. There are only gorgeous tracks where you huff and puff your way from perfect viewpoint to perfect viewpoint, almost immune to the spell of beauty by the time you've finished soaking it all in.