Park trek perfect by nature

HIDDEN Peaks’ Spicers Private Walk is a glorious tramp through a private nature refuge bordering on the spectacular Main Range National Park, in the aptly-named Scenic Rim.

Low mist adds to a delicious feel of anticipation as our small group gathers at the national park entrance before setting off on our three-day walk.

The early start means the twin sentinels of Mt Mitchell and Spicers Peak really are hidden peaks, but over the next couple of days we will see them in their glory – under brilliant blues skies and glowing in the late-afternoon light.

Our group is a mix of solo walkers, a fun married couple who are experienced walkers and two girlfriends from Melbourne celebrating their 50th birthdays, guided by co-hosts David Stent and Graham Hickson.

David and Graham are accomplished hosts, knowing intuitively when to share their expansive knowledge and passion for our surrounding environment, or to slow the pace if someone is flagging.

“We adjust to the pace of the slowest walker,” said David.

“The last thing we want is for someone to feel pressured or uncomfortable. It is very much about the journey.”

The first day of walking is relatively easy. We cover around 11km, ambling through landscapes ranging from eucalyptus open forest and woodlands.

The 2000-hectare nature refuge, part of a 3000-hectare working cattle property, protects 10 regional ecosystems, five of which are endangered or of concern, and 27 species of at-risk fauna.

The refuge shares a 7km of boundary with the Main Range National Park.

Graham gallantly helps the less-nimble-footed navigate the stepping stones on the numerous creek crossings, while David, who grew up walking in the local area from an early age, shares his in-depth knowledge of local flora, fauna and indigenous history.

We walk through golden fields of kangaroo grass up to the Spicers Canopy campsite where 10 safari-style tents line up on the plateau.

Each tent is luxuriously appointed with fine linen, cosy mohair blankets and an armchair.

This is camping with creature comforts – hot showers, turn-down service and a combined lounge and dining lodge where a fire is already lit and a glass of wine poured.

David and Graham cook up a three-course dinner that could include pumpkin soup with Thai spices, chicken risotto and a lemon delicious pudding.

We sit together at a long table, sharing highlights of the day and anticipation of tomorrow’s trek.

The next day’s walk is shorter but more strenuous in parts as we walk through open eucalypt forest, ascending along ridges towards our final destination, the luxury Spicers Peak Lodge.

The trail winds past the biggest grass tree I’ve ever seen – standing a massive 10 metres – that is around 400 years old.

It’s nothing compared to what’s to come – we later walk through a valley of thousands and thousands of grass trees, a spectacular finale before the final ascent to the lodge.

Spicers Peak Lodge is perched 1130 metres above sea level, the highest altitude accommodation in Queensland.

Here the suites come with all the creature comforts, such as flat-screen TVs and luxury toiletries, and the food is by talented young chefs. By now our group has well and truly bonded, and the highlight is our seven-course degustation dinner, where the walking adventures of the past couple of days are relived among much good-natured teasing and laughter.

Everyone is unanimous in how much they have enjoyed the experience; a truly special mix of pristine nature, pure mountain air and incredible vistas – but with many thoughtful and luxurious touches along the way.

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