I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane. I love bushwalking, kayaking, wildlife, history and travel.
Published August 17th 2019
In 2003, I bought a house in Brisbane, which was very close to the Jinker Track, which bisects Bunyaville Forest near Albany Creek. Back then, it was just a rough dirt road. It is now a busy bitumen highway between Bunya Road and Old Northern Road.
The bushwalk I signed up for was labelled "Mt Mathieson Trail with a touch of spice". I wasn't quite sure what the touch of spice was.
We left Brisbane early on a very cold, windy Sunday morning and drove on the Cunningham Highway through Aratula towards Cunningham's Gap. We turned off onto the Lake Moogerah Road and then onto Spicer's Gap Road. We followed this road past the camping ground until we arrived at the Pioneer Picnic Area where we left our cars and began our walk.
The road up to the picnic area was a fairly steep loose gravel road. We were all in four-wheel-drive cars. The road may be suitable for two-wheel drives in dry weather in cars which are not low to the ground. I have heard about people who have damaged their two-wheel cars going up the dirt road, so it is probably better to go in a four-wheel-drive car.
The rough Mt Mathieson Trail starts near the Mango orchard on the side of the road. The trail was very interesting as it passed through lots of different environments. We walked through eucalypt forests, sclerophyll forests, rainforest, rocky outcrops and open grassy areas. There were also lots of very old grass trees. The circuit is 8.1km if you finish the loop via the Heritage Trail and go back on Spicer's Gap Road. We had an extra detour so did more kilometres on our walk. The trail was built in 1986 by National Parks Association of Queensland volunteers and partly follows an old timber track.
On the way, we went over the top of Mt Mathieson. There were a few scrambly parts up and over rocks, but it wasn't too bad, although the high winds made the walk pretty exciting. A few people lost their hats but managed to retrieve them.
Mt Mathieson became part of Main Range National Park in 1965 after being a timber reserve for many years. The area was gazetted as a timber reserve for railway needs from 1890 until 1938. The mountain was named after the Chief Commissioner of Railways, Mr John Mathieson. Mr Mathieson was appointed at a special Cabinet meeting in May 1889. He was 43 years old and had worked for Glasgow Railway.
Later on in 1994, the area and most of Main Range National Park was gazetted as part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, famed for its ongoing geological processes, evolutionary history, and diversity (especially of rare, threatened and endemic species).
The area around Mt Mathieson was heavily logged for more than 70 years. Bullock teams yoked to a jinker (wheeled vehicle) hauled the logs to mills through the rough country. Pioneer timber getters hauled red cedar, pine and mahogany from the eastern slopes to the railhead at Munbilla in the late 1880s.
We passed the jinker along the trail and eventually came out onto a well-made road, which had been made by convicts. The Heritage Trail road had information boards, which explained how the road was made and showed lots of interesting historic photos. Large stones were packed carefully by hand. Smaller stones were then wedged between to form a heavy-duty road structure.
I then learned about our "touch of spice". We were heading up part of 1205m Spicer's Peak for our lunch stop. We only planned to go up some of the way on this walk. We had some new walkers with us, and the wind would have made the climb very dangerous. The climb to the top is only recommended for experienced walkers who know the route. I heard people have died from falling up there. There is a lot of loose dirt and rocks and scrambling.
I read the local Uragapul people call the mountain, Binkinjoora, meaning a turtle with its head sticking up. The explorer Allan Cunningham named the mountain after Peter Beauclerk Spicer who was the Superintendent of convicts from the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement. He discovered it while searching for escaped convicts. Spicer's Gap used to be the main route between Brisbane and the Darling Downs.
After climbing up steeply for about 40 minutes, we stopped for lunch at a beautiful grassy area with magnificent views of Lake Moogerah, Mt Edwards and Mt Greville. I had climbed those mountains previously and it was great to see them from this new angle. I wrote about those walks here
If you want to do walks up there with guides and stay in luxury accommodation, you can have a look at what [LINK=https://spicersretreats.com/scenic-rim-trail/]Spicer's Peak Lodge has to offer.
The whole of [LINK=ttps://findapark.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/main-range/mount-mathieson-trail]Main Range is a fascinating area. I still have lots of exploring to do around that area and hope to get to the top of Spicer's Peak one day.