Nicky and I planned a two night, three day motorbike and photography trip to Seven Gates Hut, overlooking Lake Eucumbene at the foot of the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales in the south east of Australia. Nicky is my 10 year old grandson.
Seven Gates Hut is about the last habitable building left standing at the homestead of an abandoned Monaro sheep station, taken over for the construction of the Snowy Scheme. Lake Eucumbene floods the valley below the hut.
We named the hut due to it's proximity to Seven Gates Road, not the access we use because our motorbikes are unregistered.
Expecting bad weather, we counted on the shelter of the hut and warmth of the open fire. A couple of light showers during the ride didn't worry us, not being heavy enough to wet us through, but they sure were cold. Mid spring in the mountains can still see extreme whether.
So Monday, we arrived and got comfortable in the hut with plenty of firewood.
Tuesday saw showers on and off all day so we tarped the bikes down to keep them dry, ate well at lunch time with six veggies and meat, and baked a loaf of bread, all done in the camp oven (dutch oven). The gravy and fat from the meet, still in the camp oven, went alright with the bread, that's for sure!
Tuesday afternoon it started to snow lightly. During the night the snow came in heavier and there was a light covering when we got up at daylight.
I started to have misgivings about traveling on the snow covered tracks, fearing Nicky coming a buster in the slippery conditions. That is, if we could find the tracks and find our way where we had to go cross country. No weather to be stuck out overnight!
Giving the snow cover a rub with my boot, my decision was made and I was glad to have the satellite phone to phone home my intention. Snowed in!
Ah well, plenty of firewood out there and enough tucker for several days! No worries!
As Wednesday morning progressed the snow storm intensified and we soon had a good couple of inches of snow cover.
Ooh, it was great sitting on our box in front of the open fire! It took me back to my own childhood when my dad would read me great adventure stories of a winter's night.
The hut was a bit draughty and some snow beat in the cracks but we were snug and warm with our fire of snowgum firewood.
Nicky and I had stories of the great Australian explorers and their expeditions of discovery into the arid inland.
The lives and exploits of Sturt, Stuart, Eyre, Giles and Leichhardt and the great story from early days of my life time of Len Beadell and the construction of the Gun Barrel Highway from near Alice Springs in the centre of Australia to meet up with the settled districts near the Western Australian coast.
In the late afternoon the snow storm abated and with a strong wind overnight the track was safe to travel on Thursday morning.
Some aditional notes:
We accessed Seven Gates Hut from Frying Pan which is a farming district at the eastern end of Lake Eucumbene.
Traveling from Cooma toward Adaminaby on the Snowy Mountains Highway, turn left at Middlingbank Road, then right toward Frying Pan. Take the right fork.
The drought has left the water level in Lake Eucumbene down about 60 metres, exposing the old roads that have been inundated for 40 years or more. However, the lake was rising fast and so access to Seven Gates Hut from Frying Pan may not be possible again till irrigation has dropped the water level, once more.
The homestead ruins can be accessed from Seven Gates Road, a few kilometres further along toward Adaminaby. Please be sure to shut the gates.
The homestead overlooks Old Adaminaby, several kilometres across Lake Eucumbene, and at night the flashing light at the Old Adaminaby boat launching ramp can be seen.
Coordinates for the homestead are: 148 45 47 E 36 04 00 S.