I am somewhere along the Nattai River, head down, covered in cobwebs, burrowing through spiky regrowth, supposedly on THE circuit route of Mount Alexandra that is shown on the faded old map at Lake Alexandra, and, I've lost the track, again. I recross the creek, look upstream, nothing, then back downstream – my foot tracks in a bit of clear sand by the river bank but no other indicator of passage. The book I have access to - “Discovering the Southern Highlands on Foot” - did mention crossing to the south bank of the Nattai River, so I go back again and fight my way through scrub, and, there a few metres above me is a vague track heading east, found again.
This was supposed to be an easy jog around Mount Alexandra on tracks, following this route that is displayed at Lake Alexandra, but, reality is not much like the sketch map. It all looks so clear and straight forward on the map. On the ground, it's a little different. The track along the Nattai River is overgrown and tough to follow and there are confusing track junctions all along the way and scant track signs. Below is my best guess of how to navigate the circuit without getting too terribly lost. I did have to backtrack a couple of times to “refind” the track.
Starting from Lake Alexandra, follow the paved track around the west side of the lake and take any one of several bush tracks that all join the main fire track that heads northwest along the eastern branch of Gibbergunyah Creek. Look out for a cement post with the top painted red that marks a foot pad descending to the creek. Follow this track until it joins another fire trail, and turn right to follow Gibbergunyah Creek north under the Hume Highway.
The next junction is easy to miss so keep an eye out for steps descending down to the creek on your left only a few minutes after passing under the Hume Highway. There is a sign, but it is down the foot track and not easily seen from the fire road. Cross Gibbergunyah Creek on a narrow cement foot bridge and head downstream with the river bank on your right. It is not very far to another sign where you cross the Nattai River on slimy rocks. Immediately across the river, the track actually forks, although it is virtually impossible to distinguish either fork. There are two signs, one pointing steeply up out of the river bed to the left, the other fallen down and buried in bush directs the walker to the right along the Nattai River.
Crossing the Nattai River
The track is hard to follow here as it is overgrown with fern and fallen trees. Keep the Nattai River to your right and look out for another crossing of the river to the south bank. I had to scout around to find the track here, maybe you will have better luck than me. When you do find the track, you'll be on the south side of the river with the river on your left. If you are counting, you have now crossed creeks three times in total.
For the next kilometre, the track is very overgrown and you'll be pushing through scrubby bush, climbing over fallen trees and trying not to lose the foot pad again. Gradually, the track gets clearer and easier to follow and you come out near a scraping where coal has been dug out. A steep track climbs up here, but the circuit continues straight ahead and, if you are on the right track, you should find some track markers along the next section. The track heads north following the river around a big oxbow and you are actually going away from Mount Alexandra at this point.
These signs could be superfluous if the track were cleared
Eventually the track turns back to the south and starts heading towards the highway and Mount Alexandra again. Soon, you can see the big highway bridge and you might begin to think all the tricky navigation is over, but it's not.
Pass under the Hume Highway (about 2 km east of the first passage under the highway) but don't take any of the tracks that climb up to the highway (at least one is marked by flagging). Instead, stay low and cross the Nattai River again on rock slabs. With the river on your right, follow the track as it climbs up to a viewpoint of 60 Foot Falls (often dry).
Upper Nattai River
Soon, the track joins a fire track. You should be heading south now with Mount Alexandra on your right hand side. The fire tracks gradually merge with other fire tracks but keep heading south and you'll be on track to return to Mittagong. You can take the low route and contour (on fire roads) around the south side of Mount Alexandra back to Lake Alexandra or you can grab a bit more training and hike up the Coke Tunnel track (look for the track to your right just after a fire road junction) back to the upper parking lot, then up the lookout fire track to the Boulder Valley track and back that way.