Thursday, January 23, 2020

Lilydale Lake - October 2019

Not quite Monet, but all I could do this morning.

I did this little walk one Friday morning after finishing up a few hours at work. Over the previous couple of days at work we’d been suffering through mid thirty Celsius temperatures so it almost goes without saying that as soon as I finished up for the week the rain arrived. As I pulled up at the start of the walk I sat in the ute for thirty minutes listening to the radio while waiting for the thunderstorms to pass me by. Luckily for me I’d decided on a very easy suburban parkland walk for today, so a bit of rain wasn’t going to worry me too much. With the thunder moving off into the distance and the rain easing off a bit I grabbed my pack, re-set he GPS and set off.

Sitting in the ute waiting for the storm to pass through - yes I'm hardcore!

I started this stroll near the corner of Lakeview Drive and Hull Road setting off towards Lilydale Lake along Olinda Creek. I didn't pack my waterproof camera when I set off for work at 5am this morning as the ambient temperature was still in the mid twenties Celsius at that stage of the day, rain was the last thing on my mind. Not having my waterproof camera meant that initially I was only pulling my DSLR out of it’s dry bag for the briefest of times. After crossing a bridge my track stayed between Olinda Creek to my right and the Hull Road Wetlands to my left as I sloshed my way north.

Reaching the dubious shelter of some trees I dug the DSLR out for a photo.
Entering the Hull Road Wetlands.
Olinda Creek

Now I have to mention this was another of those walks where I was making it up as I went along to a certain degree, I’d done zero research on-line and my mud map was 18 years old, still with this walk being decidedly suburban there was little chance of things going too pear shaped. After ten minutes or so my track started to skirt around the the last of the Hull Road Wetlands and I climbed away from Olinda Creek to emerge onto a waterlogged Bellbird Drive - a suburban road. With the rain still coming down I was reluctant to pull my old map out so I just kept heading towards the lake. After another ten minutes or so I came to a track that dropped back down and crossed Olinda Creek, figuring that it was probably going to go in the general direction that I wanted to go I dropped down and crossed the creek. Once across the creek I turned left, passed through a big carpark and started to walk around another wetlands, this time in Bellbird Park.

Bellbird Drive
There is a variety of different sign posts along the length of this walk.

Thankfully the rain that had accompanied my so far more or less stopped now and I was just walking beneath some gun metal grey skies. After a few minutes I picked a series of boardwalks that crossed the wetlands and continued my meandering walk, arriving at the almost deserted Lilydale Lake soon after. Lilydale Lake is a very popular spot - normally, although on this cold, wet and miserable weekday morning crowds weren’t going to be an issue for me. Arriving at the lake I had to make another tough navigational choice, a clockwise or anti clockwise circuit of the lake, with my old notes suggesting that clockwise was the go that was the direction that I headed.

I crossed over these wetlands on a long series of boardwalks.
Bellbird Park Wetlands
Dropping down to arrive at the lake - I wasn't battling the crowds this morning!
Arriving lakeside I was looking for something to photograph.
Thankfully there is a lot of birdlife around here.

I was now walking what is a 'get fit' circuit for the locals I’m guessing, although today I only met one jogger out braving the weather. The path around the lake is one of those substantial crushed granite jobs so it made for very easy walking as I first passed between some more wetlands and the lake before heading across the big day use picnic area. The main interest now for me were the substantial numbers of water birds, I’m guessing that the native birds were probably enjoying the fact that three weren’t too many humans (and their dogs) around today. After passing through the day use area it was only a few minutes before my path led me to the dam wall and the old Cashin Brothers Flour Mill Ruins, the old ruins actually pre date Lilydale having been built back in the 1850’s when the area was used for wheat cropping. Apart from being a good spot to check out the ruins the Lilydale Lake dam wall is arguably the best spot for a view, with the lake framed by Mt Dandenong in the distance (or is it Mt Dandenong framed by the lake?).

My route passed between those wetland and the lake....
...before crossing Olinda Creek...
....and arriving at the Lilydale Lake day use area.
The beach was a little busy.
Lilydale Lake
The Cashin Brothers Flour Mills Ruins.
Arguably the best view of the day....looking out over Lilydale Lake from the dam wall, with Mt Dandenong in the distance.

Once over the lake wall I kept turning left until I eventually arrived back at my outward route. Heading back towards the ute I took a more direct westerly route that mostly avoided the wetland meandering. With the rain now stopped I was able to get a couple of nice photos down into the corridor of native bush that lines Olinda Creek from Bellbird Drive so the distinctly suburban section of the walk back was actually pretty good. Leaving Bellbird Drive I found myself back in the Hull Road Wetland and my mornings walk was as good as over. While this walk wasn’t an epic it did allow me to stretch my legs a little and de-stress after another hard week at work, not a bad outcome really.

Lilydale Lake
This bloke was keen to strike a pose for me.
Lilydale Lake
I walked this substantial crush granite path around Lilydale Lake.
The view off Bellbird Drive down to the native bush lined Olinda Creek was a pleasant one.

The Dirt.
I walked 6.1 kilometres and climbed 30 metres on this easy stroll. This is one of those walks that would be suitable for wheelchairs or strollers I think. Being a Feral walk I was pretty relaxed when it came to researching this walk, I just grabbed my copy of Tyrone Thomas’ old book 40 Bushland & Park Walks In Metropolitan Melbourne and used the mud map from the book. whilst writing up this walk I’ve discovered that there is an abundance of information online, although I think the Yarra Ranges Council map is probably the only thing you need…even the relevant Melways page will get people through this one safely.

Relevant Posts.
Mt Lofty Walk, Warrandyte State Park, 2017.
Mt Dandenong Walk, Dandenong Ranges National Park, 2018.

The mornings rain had freshened the bush up a little after a few days of hot weather.
There's an old weir on Olinda Creek that you can see from Bellbird Drive.
Olinda Creek from Bellbird Drive.
Back in the Hull Road Wetlands.
Approaching Lakeview Drive, my walk was pretty well over.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Mt Stapylton Circuit Walk, Grampians National Park - January 2020

Looking North West from the summit of Mt Stapylton into the smoke haze.

There is a walk up in the northern Grampians that I’ve been waiting to re-open for around 110 ...10 years. The walk is a loop walk that heads out from the Stapylton Campground, encompasses Mt Stapylton before returning to the starting point. I’d done this walk years ago before fires and floods ravaged the country and remember it being a particularly enjoyable stroll. So when I recently heard that Parks Vic had opened it up I figured that I should motor up and check things out again when the chance arrived, and it arrived this Saturday. With most of the state either reduced to charcoal or blanketed in a thick cover of bushfire smoke a trip to the smoke free and un-singed Grampians looked pretty good.

There is plenty of room to park in the dusty Stapylton Camp.

So anyway that’s the long and boring preamble as to how I found myself in the deserted and dusty Stapylton Camp Ground early this Saturday morning. Now remember I mentioned that one of the reasons that I’d made the 3.5 hour drive up here was that it was away from the fires blighting Victoria at the moment, yeah well in the best traditions of a Feral adventure while I was sleeping last night a bush fire started around 50 kilometres south of here at Cavendish. With a gentle southerly wind blowing I found myself setting off on my stroll under a smoky sky, hmmm. Stapylton Camp Ground is a fair way away from the rocky ramparts of the Mt Stapylton Complex, so my walk this morning started off by heading north east into the morning sun across the flat and sandy open plains, crossing Pohlners Road along the way.

The start of the track is well signposted.
This bushfire sprung up last night.
Heading into the morning sun towards the Mt Stapylton Complex across the sandy plains near Pohlners Road.

Once across Pohlners Road this walk improves a lot, passing by my return route I was slightly perturbed to see that this track was still signposted as being closed? I’d jumped onto the new Parks Vic website to double check that the walk was indeed open before my long drive and it didn’t mention anything about the track still being closed. I didn’t need to worry about this section of the track for awhile though so I decided to push on and see what things looked like at the Mt Stapylton end of the link, worse case being I could just retrace my outward route. So I veered left onto the track that gently climbs around the base of the Stapylton Amphitheatre towards Flat Rock. This is where I started to get into the sandstone country that I’d be pretty much walking until I’d drop back to Pohlners Road in few hours. As this track climbs gently and arcs around to the north the stunning Taipan Walls start to come into view, these huge cliffs are jaw dropping gorgeous I reckon, although they are best seen with the sun lighting them up in the afternoon I think.

Once I was on the north side of Pohlners Road the scenery started to improve.
As the track started to climb towards Mt Stapylton I started to get some views back over the flat plains behind me.
Climbing a little higher....
....the spectacular Taipan Walls started to appear.
With my track now heading north my track eventually met up with the Flat Rock to Mt Stapylton Track (the most commonly used track to Mt Stapylton). Turning right onto the Stapylton track my route almost doubled back on itself and I started climbing back beneath the Taipan Walls again. Climbing a steep rocky ledge I passed Bird Rock along the way, always a good excuse to stop and get my breath back;) The route now climbs around the south (passing my return route on the way) of the mountain before once again almost doubling back on itself and climbing a steep and rough gully. When the marked track suddenly climbs steeply to the left onto another steep sloping ledge I decided to leave the marked route and climb to the summit via an un marked route.

Meeting the main track up to Mt Stapylton the views across the Stapylton Amphitheatre towards the Taipan Walls are stunning.
Walking the normal track to Mt Stapylton.
The Taipan Walls.
Bird Rock is alway a good spot for a rest.
The track from Flat Rock is well marked and defined.
I'm slowly making my way up there.
The main track climbs this gully before doubling back on the left up a sloping ledge.
To find this un-marked route I had to climb a few more metres up the steep scrubby gully before climbing onto a narrow rock rib. Once on the rock rib I climbed it until I was on the summit massif itself, although to reach the actual summit there was still quite a bit of easy scrambling to go. Once I was around a buttress on the now very exposed ledge things got a little easier and it was just a matter of scrambling up to the highest spot on Mt Stapylton. All this sounds very convoluted and confusing but it’s easier than my limited vocabulary can adequately describe, from leaving the gully to stepping foot on the summit only took me around 15 minutes and that was with me carrying my trekking poles in one hand and clutching the rock with the other.

I left the main track where it doubles back and continued up the gully to climb onto this rib of rock (on the left).
Once off the rib of rock it was a fairly easy scramble up to the summit...there are some nice views along the way.
Looking along the Mt Difficult Range towards Halls Gap.
Yeah, I was so excited to be here that I had my hat on backwards.....hey I'm old...!
The view from the summit of Mt Stayplton is a good one, the photo not so much!
With the smoke from the Cavendish Bushfire creating a little haze the views weren’t as great as they can be from up here this morning, that said it was still pretty sweet. Finding myself a flattish rock to park my ample arse on (not as easy as it sounds up here, the rocks are incredibly rough and weathered) I settled in for a bit of an extended break. With the walk half over I rang Sam and gave her the eta for my arrival home that night, all that was left now was to climb down the mountain and return to the ute, what could go wrong….

Flat Rock and Mt Zero from Mt Stapylton.
Hollow Mountain (there's a couple of walkers on the summit). 
I really enjoy walking in this kind of country.
I followed the way marked normal track off the summit.
That blue smudge is Briggs Bluff in the middle distance and Boroka Lookout a bit further away.
Things are looking fairly parched up here....although there was a little colour around.
The normal route is well marked but still fairly exposed in spots.
I felt wrong but in one spot I had to climb steeply again.
It's a wind scoured and weather beaten landscape up here.
There are a few nice caves up here.
Picking up the marked route I dropped fairly easily down off the summit and soon enough I was back down at the spot where my route back to the Stapylton camp veered off into the bush. Now earlier on I’d mentioned that the other end of this link track had a sign that said that the track was still closed even though the Parks Vic website didn’t mention any closure, well this end of the track was wide open. So being a responsible Feral walker (actually hoping for a little colour for my blog) I ploughed on. Around 10 metres after starting down this track I started to suspect that I might be in for a tough afternoon, what made me think that, well I’m glad you asked. The main issue was that the track itself had disappeared into a rocky labyrinth, a labyrinth that was only broken up by impenetrable walls of bushfire regrowth in the gullies…should be an interesting few hours!

Dropping back down to my track junction things were pretty easy.
I was about to turn left (at the just visible signpost).
After a few metres the track basically disappeared.
Hmm, this could take awhile!
There was the occasional small cairn around.
At one stage I followed the scrubby gully on the right to far and then had to back track up onto this rocky slab.
This is (was) a very good section of walking track, the route makes it’s way through some very convoluted country as it heads south west towards Coppermine Track. The things that makes it good walking also made it fairly tough to follow today though, it’s one thing walking off track up or down a spur, along a ridge or across flat ground however walking through sandstone country dissected by short sharp gullies with little in the way of close by landmarks to take a bearing off is fairly hard walking. Still, progress west was still being made, if not fairly slowly with a few back tracks to try and find the path of least resistance. I’m thinking that this section of track hasn’t been maintained since the fires and floods went through here around nine or ten years ago, however there was still the occasional painted track marker, cairn, stone steps or benching to give me a little reassurance that I was heading the right way.

When the old track crossed these small sections of Kangaroo Grass I could normally pick up a faint pad.
I lost the route again as I crossed long rocky section.... least there was plenty to photograph!
It's some very convoluted country through here.
I managed to pick up the track again where it left the rock slab (next to the Wallaby hiding in the trees).
The track to Coppermine Track heads off straight ahead, I was heading towards Stapylton Camp on the right. For such an un-maintained track the signposting looked very new.
After reaching the sigposted track junction where my route left the track that heads out to Coppermine Track I started to drop back down towards Pohlners Road again. Now I mentioned signposting in that last sentence and that was the slightly unusual thing about this track, while the track obviously hasn’t received any maintenance for a long, long time and following it was very cryptic indeed, the signposting looked like it was brand new? Now while I was meandering around the scrub I developed a little Feral theory about this situation….I reckon this link is going to be part of the new Grampians Peaks Trail when it is officially finish and opened, which should be around 2050 judging by the progress so far. My Feral theory goes along these lines, I don’t think Parks Vic want people walking these sections of the Grampians Peaks Trail until the complete section across to Halls Gap is finished, so what better way to keep people from venturing onto the new track than to have this short section un-maintained and pretty well un-walkable for most people….yes I know it’s a flimsy theory but why else would they have this great track un-maintained?

Dropping down towards Pohlners Road again.
There was some benching evident along here.
I'm about to pick up the track again after crossing another rocky outcrop.
Easy walking.
The good news this afternoon was that as I started dropping down towards Pohlners Road the track became a little defined, with the down hill sections featuring a bit of benching. Once down on the flats again I was crossing sandy open ground and the route was pretty well obvious for the most part as I passed through the low heath. It was only ten minutes or so after dropping out of the rocky country before I reached my outward route. Walking around the track closed sign I crossed Pohlners Road and 15 minutes later I was shuffling my way back into the Stapylton Campground. Pulling off my sweaty gear I jumped in the ute and cranked up the air con (it was pushing 30˚ today) and set off on the 4 hours journey back home.

I've just dropped out of those hills.
How easy is this hey!
If this track is closed as the sign says then it's been closed for bushfire and flood damage for the best part of ten years I'm thinking....?

The Dirt.
I walked 14.2 kilometres and climbed 570 metres on today’s hard grade stroll. Like I’ve waffled on about above I’m not exactly sure whether this track is open or not. Putting aside the legalities of the walk it is still possible to follow the track….just. I‘ve walked this section twice before, once on a walk across to Halls Gap and once on a similar walk to the one I did today, so I had a bit of a rough idea of where I was meant to be heading. If you’ve never walked here before it might pay to wait for Parks Vic to do a little maintenance, as like I’ve mentioned the country is very convoluted. One other thing that I haven’t really emphasised is that to reach the summit requires some exposed scrambling, it’s not super technical however you will definitely be needing to use your hands. I carried the notes and mud map out of Tyrone Thomas’ book 80 Walks in the Grampians along with SV Maps 1:50,000 Northern Grampians sheet and the topo maps on my GPS and somewhat unusually for me I used all three for references today.

Relevant Posts.

After crossing back over Pohlner Road I walked a long section of metal boardwalk on my way to Stapylton Camp.

Crossing the open sandy country approaching Stapylton nice stroll was almost over.

Mushroom Rocks, Baw Baw National Park - June 2016

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