Fern Bower to Furber Stairs – Leura to Katoomba via Federal Pass, Clifftops & Cascades

Currently Reading: David Mitchell – The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

I’ve decided to start bookending my posts with a note of current and completed reads.

I have drawn a rough sketch map of the Jamison Valley in my journal, with the intention of stitching together every trail within its domain (then extending my reach to the Grose, Kanimbla and Kedumba Valleys) over the coming months.

IMG_0285Although I’ve already walked most of these trails over the course of the past decade and a half, with the notable exception of Roberts Pass and Lindeman’s Pass (which are unmaintained tracks connecting Leura and Wentworth Falls along the valley floor, known collectively as ‘The Mystery Track’), I’ve yet to traverse the entire valley over the course of a single summer. I have, since my cast came off, completed all sections (cliff top and valley floor) from The Golden Stairs (partially off map to the left) to Gordon Falls in Leura.

Here are a few images from Leura Cascades and surrounds:


The top of Leura Cascades


There are miles of tracks and trails through the Blue Mountains National Park, some of which were established over a hundred years ago


Cockatoos enjoying a quiet moment before the arrival of the crowds of tourists that visit this part of the park every day


Looking upward towards my next lookout…


… and the way to get there


Mt Solitary


Prince Henry Clifftop Walk


I sat and journaled here for about half an hour…


… and this was my view


Last glimpse of the valley before heading homeward

Following are some sections of the Prince Henry Clifftop walk between Leura and Katoomba, completed on another day:


“The beach beneath the street”: Sandy trails – evidence of the geological history of the Blue Mountains region



All these park benches with ridiculous views


Last year was the summer of peaches – this year is to be the summer of stairs


The degree of manicure of each section of trail is directly proportional to its proximity to Echo Point and the Three Sisters


More park bench views in the early morning light


Hard to believe from this image but it gets muddy in the wetter weather – gotta keep all that inappropriate footwear dry…


I see few people on my early morning rambles


Swathes of eucalypt forest and rainforest exist side by side throughout the park

Descending to the valley below: Fern Bower (Leura) to the Furber Stairs (Katoomba) by way of Federal Pass:


This fallen log presents a slight impediment to my summer of stairs


The path through Leura’s Fern Bower leads ever downward


These stairs seem never ending – last time I ascended this way, I thought I was going to be sick. Although going down is much easier, I still had jelly legs by the time I reached the valley floor


I wonder if anyone has actually counted how many stairs there are on this section of trail…


On the AT, they called these PUDs (pointless ups and downs) – making you ascend only to descend again and vice versa – but isn’t that one of the reasons we hike? To explore valleys and to sit on mountaintops? You don’t get the rewards of those amazing experiences without payment – usually by way of some combination of blood, sweat, nausea and wobbly knees (and the occasional broken wrist)…


Leura forest


Views back up to the escarpment


These trees are hugging


The valley floor is a magical otherworld away from the cacophony of everyday life – but it is far from silent – the thrum of cicadas at this time of year is deafening


Ascending to Katoomba by way of the Furber Steps


This is one my favourite stretches of trail – the view from these carved steps is breathtaking


There are several vantage points along this ascent from which to look back at the Three Sisters

Books Completed: David Foster Wallace – Girl With Curious Hair

I try to keep a summary or a few favourite quotes from each of the books I read in my journal and I am always alert to the possibility of drawing connections between those books and my thesis authors, their texts and their broader ideas. The following lines from Wallace’s short story collection, spoke in interesting ways to both Joyce and McCarthy:

“An open letter sent to that community of my family and intimate friends – letter appropriately conceived also an informational satellite, a probe launched into the emotional constellation surrounding and informing this correspondent’s personal orbit.” (Wallace, ‘Say Never’ in Girl With Curious Hair)

“… having for nine years navigated successfully between the Scylla and Charybdis of Inclination and Opportunity…” (Wallace, ‘Say Never’ in Girl With Curious Hair)

“There are numerous types of potential futures flapping and honking in man’s conceptual pond. Specifically there’s differences between the trinity of: a future within time (history and prophecy); a future beyond time (resurrection and eternity); and a future that ends time (eschaton and apocalypse).” (Wallace, ‘Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way’ in Girl With Curious Hair)

“He’ll relax and feel the great heavy earth spin beneath him stutter, flicker, oppose.” (Wallace, ‘Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way’ in Girl With Curious Hair)

These quotes have affinities with my chapter on astronomical parallax and related discussion of macrocosmic scale in Joyce (which I’ve been working on since 2010) and McCarthy (which I’ve been working on since 2012), as seen in the following paragraph from Suttree:

“Everything had fallen from him. He scarce could tell where his being ended or the world began nor did he care. He lay on his back in the gravel, the earth’s core sucking his bones, a moment’s giddy vertigo with this illusion of falling outward through the blue and windy space, over the offside of the planet, hurtling through the high thin cirrus. His fingers clutched up wet handfuls from the bar, polished lozenges of slate, small cold and mascled granite teardrops. He let them fall through his fingers in a smooth clatter. He could feel the oilless turning of the earth beneath him and the cup of water lay in his stomach as cold as when he had drunk it.” (McCarthy, Suttree)

There are many similar parallels with ‘Ithaca’, the penultimate episode from Ulysses, which I could enumerate here at length, but will settle instead for the following tangential threads. These links may appear tenuous , but once I have submitted my thesis and am free to elaborate on my arguments at greater length, all will become clear:

“Alone, what did Bloom feel?

The cold of interstellar space, thousands of degrees below freezing point or the absolute zero of Fahrenheit, Centigrade or Reaumur: the incipient intimations of proximate dawn.” (Joyce, ‘Ithaca’ in Ulysses)

I will leave you with one of my very favourite paragraphs from ‘Ithaca’:

“With what meditations did Bloom accompany his demonstration to his companion of various constellations?

Meditations of evolution increasingly vaster: of the moon invisible in incipient lunation, approaching perigee: of the infinite lattiginous scintillating uncondensed milky way, discernable by daylight by an observer placed at the lower end of a cylindrical vertical shaft 5000 ft deep sunk from the surface towards the centre of the earth: of Sirius (alpha in Canis Major) 10 lightyears (57,000,000,000,000 miles) distant and in volume 900 times the dimension of our planet: of Arcturus: of the precession of the equinoxes: of Orion with belt and sextuple sun theta and nebula in which 100 of our solar systems could be contained: of moribund and of nascent new stars such as Nova in 1901: of our system plunging towards the constellation of Hercules: of the parallax or parallactic drift of so-called fixed stars, in reality evermoving wanderers from immeasurably remote eons to infinitely remote futures in comparison with which the years, threescore and ten, of allotted human life formed a parenthesis of infinitesimal brevity.” (Joyce, ‘Ithaca’ in Ulysses)


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