Chapter Lake lies roughly 4km south-west of the end of Mersey Forest Road. Known more widely as the location of the impressive Grail Falls, the sheltered camping area nearby offers an ideal base for exploring both Twin Spires and Mountains of Jupiter. Which is exactly what we did over the March 2020 Long Weekend!
The Moses Creek Track starts at the end of Mersey Forest Road, about 14km further south of the ‘main’ Walls of Jerusalem car park turn off. As of the time of writing, this unsealed road becomes noticeably more deteriorated past the main WoJ turnoff, so take care with low-clearance vehicles.
Originally we’d planned to go into Chapter Lake separately. Tracey – who had Friday off – would go in early, take her time and make camp, and I’d come in later in the evening, after work. Concerns about whether she’d find a usable tent side at Chapter Lake or need to go onto Chalice Lake – and if the latter, how manageable Grail Falls and the Moses Creek Crossing would be in the dark – led us to scrap that idea and just head in together after I’d finished work for the week.
That made for a late start, so it was after 6:30pm by the time we set foot on the trail. Daylight Savings doesn’t end in Tasmania until the first Sunday in April, but by March twilight hits well and truly by 8pm. Knowing we had limited daylight left to cover the 4.5km to Chapter Lake, we wasted no time charging off down the trail.
The first kilometre or so passes through an area affected by the 2016 bushfires that ravaged parts of the Walls of Jerusalem and Western Tiers. The result has been terrific understorey growth, due to the lack of tree canopy above, allowing heavy growth of bracken fern and Blanket bush (Bedfordia salicina) which has encroached on the old logging trail, making it hard to follow in places.
After a kilometre or so we came across the Jackson Creek suspension bridge – always a treat for those who don’t like wiggly structures over water eg. Tracey! – and located the Walker Registration booth some 50m to the south. We duly entered our intentions and noted the fairly high number of entries over the past couple of days. The Walls of Jerusalem has seen increasingly high visitation over the past couple of years and there’s recently been talk of further development in the area – and potentially walker management too. While the main “Tracker Hut” trail head and Western Wall track understandably receives the bulk of visitors to the area, it was somewhat surprising to see the a minor trail head also receiving plenty of walkers. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised though – it was March long weekend after all.
We located the continuation of the Moses Creek Track, found to the right of the Registration booth. Don’t get confused the track to the left; this is the informal Jacobs Creek Track, which heads south to Lake Myrtle.
The track continued a couple of hundred metres before crossing a small creek. From here the first steep climb commenced, through a section of untouched wattle forest, slender trucks in mottled white against the rapidly fading light.
The track continued to gain elevation steadily as we headed in a mostly southern direction through rocky eucalyptus scrub initially, then more open myrtle forest. Here regular cairns and the occasional reflective markers on steel posts helped us stay on track as the pad itself became harder to make out. This was especially useful as the evening turned to night on us.
We soon commenced the start of the serious climb up onto Chapter Lake’s eastern shoulder, marked by a long, reinforced staircase complete with some wire fencing to offer minimal protection from the drop off to the right. It’s worth noting the stairs are showing their age and lack of maintenance, with a few star pickets left exposed on the initial steps where the timber has fallen or rotted away. Take care to avoid a potentially nasty injury.
A few hundred metres further up we came across a log bridge, which clearly has seen better days as the trunk has collapsed in the middle, making for a rather more precarious crossing than in past decades. Again, wire hand rails aid in crossing. At this point we wisely put on our head torches, as any night sky light was lost to the forest canopy.
The track eventually plateau’d, and after a short section of rocky scrub, we found ourselves descending rapidly towards the lake. We made good use of the nearby beech limbs to carefully negotiate the heavily rooted pad in torch light, which at times seemed like a near vertical drop.
By now the roar of Grail Falls could be heard. The track eventually levelled out and we soon came upon the junction with the Tent Tarn (west) and Junction Lake (south) tracks. We continued along the former to assess options for camping along the flatter areas of ground nearby the Falls’ outflow.
We’d previously been given advice that camping options at Chapter Lake/Grail Falls were limited, understandably damp and a leech-fest. Chalice Lakes, we were told, was the better option.
As it turned out, this proved incorrect. Quite a number of small but mostly level and clear tent spaces have been cleared out of the tangle of deciduous beech in between the two tracks that lead towards Grail Falls. We found one that just fit our MSR Hubba Hubba NX with Gear Shed snuggly. While hardly the driest campsite, neither the leeches nor mosquitoes proved any worse than any typical campsite – with a little pre-emptive “Bushmans” anyway!
Two days later when we walked into Tent Tarn, we noted a complete lack of potential grassed tent sites, only flat, solid rock. We were definitely glad not to have pushed on towards Chalice Lake in the dark for hope of a “better” camp.
With the roar of Grail Falls nearby, we quickly set up camp, boiled up a night cap and wasted no time crawling into bed. Ironically, the noise of the Falls resulted in one of my best nights’ sleeps in quite a while.
The next day we walked south to Mountains of Jupiter…