The fabulous finds of gold at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie in the 1890s would not have been possible without the track pushed through to the Hampton Plains (east of current day Kalgoorlie) by explorer C.C. Hunt in the 1860s.
In 1865 and again in 1866, Hunt’s team cut a track from York to east of current day Kambalda via Tammin, Merredin and Boorabbin with wells about 30 kilometres apart (the distance a horse could walk in a day). Hunt’s Track to the Hampton Plains was invaluable to the early prospectors. Read more about this very much under-rated and little-known explorer and his very important work.
Hunts Track may be followed for extensive lengths, if interrupted. The present day Goldfields Road follows the Track for many kilometres. From east of Yellowdine it is more difficult to follow and numerous sections have disappeared. An interesting portion of the Track is that from Yerdanie Rock to the very important Gnarlbine Rock. This part of the Track is shown on current maps and parts of it are visible on Google Earth. However, the on-ground reality is quite different. While the Track east of the abandoned Prince of Wales mine to Gnarlbine Rock is accessible, that portion of the Track west of the mine to Yerdanie Rock is lost.
We decided to re-create Hunt’s Track from Yerdanie Rock to Gnarlbine a distance of about 35 kilometres. The Prince of Wales mine is about midway between the two rocks. The track east of the mine to Gnarlbine is reasonably easy to follow. However, west of the mine, an impenetrable wall of trees and scrub stops any forward progress after about 200 metres.
We had been to both these locations on previous occasions (February 2015 and June 2015) . Our attempt in June 2015 to follow the track from Prince of Wales mine west to Yerdanie was less than successful when we confronted the barrier of trees and shrubs previously mentioned.
Most of the Track west of the Prince of Wales mine is in the Goldfields Woodlands Conservation Park or the Goldfields Woodlands National Park. Clearly we couldn’t just push a track through a National Park! Having received permission from the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) back in 2015 to remove vegetation around Hunt’s Yerdanie Well (in the National Park) I was hopeful that we would be granted permission to re-create Hunts Track through the Goldfields Woodlands National Park. Regional Manager of the DPaW Kalgoorlie, Nigel Wessels, was supportive of our initiative and issued an Authority to re-create the Track. Although the State Heritage Office had signalled that the task of identifying Hunts Track was too difficult, an important consideration in our re-creation was the Assessment Criteria for Heritage Places.
As per usual, participant numbers dropped from the initial expression of interest but as it turned out we had just the right number of people to operate efficiently and effectively.
I walked through the scrub determining the course, Graham and Craig followed behind and tied flagging tape to trees/bushes to show Matt (driving the Positrac) the way, and Greg and Brad cleaned the track manually. Occasionally Graham went forward. With this method we made 6.2 kilometres of track. Way less than we had hoped for but it was a good beginning.
We setup our camp at the Prince of Wales mine on Friday night, located the beginning of Hunt’s Track on Saturday and set about pushing it through. Initially we attempted to use Greg’s drone to locate any indications of the overgrown Track but when there is nothing to see other methods have to be employed.
I had three possible routes for the Track on my iPad and while Greg and Graham were following the drone to ‘see what they could see’ I marked the way for Matt. We used this procedure for the rest of the track-making exercise – foregoing the drone.
While finding a way through the scrub we would often come across bottles, cans, horseshoes, buckles, chain and similar. While not exactly middens there was plenty of evidence that we were in the right area.
I deliberately routed the Track away from these ‘archeological sites’ for the most part.
The surprisingly warm June days made for a pleasant ‘walk through the bush’. By the end of the day we had put through just over two kilometres – not as much as we were hoping to do.
Before we started work on Sunday we checked out the Prince of Wales mine.
Our Re-creation of Hunts Track between Prince of Wales Mine and Yerdanie Rock was in the Great Western Woodland – the largest remaining area of intact Mediterranean climate woodland left on Earth.
The new track was dusty – as to be expected. It was probably a bit more serpentine than we would have liked but we were conscious of removing as little vegetation as possible – until we saw the industrial-scale delineation of the Conservation Park’s and National Park’s eastern boundaries.
We drove south on the DPaW access track for about five kilometres to where it abruptly stopped – probably in alignment with the cessation of funding.
Few people have the chance to make a new track in our bush, particularly in a National Park. It was a thrill to know that we were the first on the track (fully aware the Hunt’s Track was sometimes only metres away) and gratifying to be a part of re-creating a part of our State’s exploration heritage.
While certainly not one of our most exciting trips, the Re-creation of Hunts Track was one of the most satisfying and rewarding.
Pushing through a track by private endeavour is not an easy task. The 200 kilometre long Googs Track in South Australia consumed nearly every weekend for 18 months for John Denton and his family when they created that track in the 1970s.
The photograph below shows the disparity of what we had and what we need!