|The Walhalla Goldfields train arriving at Thomson River Station, quite a pleasant start to my stroll really.|
I have a plan (which is more than the American voters seem to have at the moment), yep, late next year I'm going to wander into the bush, hopefully to emerge six weeks later in Canberra. 'Well that's really nice' I hear you say, but what's that got to do with a walk in Walhalla, well Walhalla marks the spot that I'm going to be disappearing into the bush to begin my walk. So anyway over the next twelve months I'll be walking a few short sections of my big upcoming stroll, mainly to suss out a few logistical issues by getting an idea of what things look like on the ground, I'll be doing numerous food drops as well as booking some accommodation in Mt Hotham and Thredbo and the food drops in particular need a fair bit of planning. Apart from going for a nice stroll today I was keen to check out the accommodation options in Walhalla as I'm going to need to stay somewhere the night before I set off, I reckon six weeks in a tent is enough.
|Thomson River Station.|
As is fairly common for me this stroll is one I've done more than once over the years, but the train section at the start was all new to me, and who doesn't love a train journey? With the train leaving the Thomson Station at 11:40am it wasn't exactly an alpine start today, I was at the Thomson River Bridge around forty minutes before the train was due to leave so had plenty of time to wander around to find a good spot to get a photo of the train. With the train moving at just above Feral walking pace it was easy enough to get a couple of shots of it as it crossed over the Thomson River on its way to the station and then still make it to the platform in time for my trip into Walhalla.
|The old train snaking its way through the steep sided Stringers Creek Gorge on my journey into Walhalla.|
The little tourist train was a nice way to start my days adventure, the surprisingly rugged little Stringers Creek Gorge seen through the open sided carriages as the train rattled and groaned its way along the steel rails through the gorge. Arriving into Walhalla I wandered up the road (there really is only one) towards the main section of the town. My first objective on today's stroll was to check out the historic Walhalla Cemetery, I could see its white picket fence on the side of the hill above me and after investigating a few side tracks I found the track leading up to the cemetery. With flat ground being a little rare around here the early settlers had to be a little imaginative, leveling the top of a hill for their cricket ground and also terracing the cemetery into the steep sides of the valley. With Walhalla being predominantly settled by gold miners it was unsurprising to find a fair few of the 1300 people buried at the cemetery had passed away a a fairly young age, incidentally the oldest known burial at the cemetery dates back to 1866.
|Walhalla Cemetery is terraced into the side of the hill high above town.|
After visiting the cemetery I meandered my way up the valley of Stringers Creek towards the main section of town. Up to my left the steep sides of the valley were home to some huge mullock heaps left over from the mining days, with the narrow valley floor home to all the old buildings, with the old fire station straddling the creek in the tight confines of the valley. Passing the old Bank of Victoria vault which over its life stored around $1,400,000,000 worth of gold, I wandered on to check out the Star Hotel which is my choice for accommodation before my walk next year, mainly because its front door is only a few metres from the start of the Australian Alps Walking Track and I'm pretty lazy.
Continuing up the valley I walked north as far as the old school almost buried underneath the mullock heap from Long Tunnel Extended Mine. I crossed Stringers Creek here and after checking out an old quartz crusher I climbed up the access road to the mine. You can do underground tours at the old Long Tunnel Mine if you've got the time, but I gave it a miss today though and set off on my long tramway walk. From the entrance to the mine I would be following old tramways all the way back to the ute. The tramways around here were pushed through the bush to feed the insatiable appetite that the mines had for timber, with the tramways having to extend further and further into the surrounding hills as they denuded the hills closer to the mines, these old tramways that make for some very nice walking nowadays.
|The original Walhalla School.|
Once on the contouring tramway I started my journey south, now sidling high above Stringers Creek. Initially I had quite a few views down to Walhalla, the historic town being just as pretty from up here. Passing another old mine I once again met up with thee AAWT coming up from the valley below. The route now leaves the outskirts of Walhalla and starts its journey to the Thomson River Valley along the steep sided valley of Stringers Creek, having travelled up here by train a couple of hours ago it was interesting to be walking in the opposite direction probably around a hundred metres above this mornings route, I actually managed to see the train as it passed by, way down in the gorge. After passing in and out of a few ferny gullies I eventually arrived at Mormon Town Track, this 4wd track marks the spot where I left the valley of Stringers Creek and started to follow the bigger Thomson River Valley.
|Passing another old mine site.|
My route now headed north, still on the AAWT, up above the Thomson River. Initially at least the river isn't really in view at the bottom of the steep valley, although there was still plenty to hold my interest. The track starts off passing through sections of dry euclyptus forest which doesn't sound that exciting, but with extensive views of the surrounding bush fire scarred mountains and their verdant green re-growth. After passing through an area of grass trees the route started to make its way in and out of a few ferny gullies, a couple of them with their own little water features, it was along here that I got my first views down to the river and it was also along here that my next objective came into view, the Poverty Point Bridge. It was interesting to see how the bush was re-vegetating along here, the Black Saturday fires did some serious damage and it was good to see a lot of the flora coming back, only the larger trees were still struggling a bit, giving the surrounding mountains the appearance of being covered in stubble.
|Crossing Mormon Town Track my route swung north along the eastern side of the Thomson River.|
Poverty Point Bridge marked my final change of direction on today's stroll, it was here that I left the AAWT and headed south along the opposite side of the Thomson River. Poverty Point Bridge is another relic left over from the mining days, the bridge now is a vital piece of walking infrastructure which allows walkers to safely cross the Thomson River without getting their feet wet. There is an information sign at the bridge giving a few facts and figures about the bridge, the most interesting being that the hand rail was only put in in 1976, hmmm....... OH+S obviously wasn't as much of a concern in ye olde days!
|The bush fire scarred mountains above the Thomson River.|
The route along the western side of the valley was a little rougher than the route along the eastern side, but it was pretty cruisey really. Being fairly late in the afternoon and in a steep sided valley meant that I was now walking in the shade, while the day hadn't been too hot it had been hot enough that I was glad not to be in the direct sun for awhile. Apart from a couple of nice waterfalls I spent most of my time on this section trying to do photographic justice to the sun drenched eastern side of the valley, although my skills behind the lens meant that most of the shots look a little over exposed. Nearing the ute the route makes a final climb up to a 4wd track, the first real climb I'd done since leaving Walhalla a few hours ago, not that it mattered much as I just had a few hundred metres down the dusty track and I was back at the Thomson River Station Carpark and my ute. The good thing (for me) walking to the east of Melbourne meant that two hours later I was pulling into the driveway back home.
I walked 16.7 kilometres today and climbed 141 metres on this stroll. I'd call this a medium grade walk but only because of the length, the route is very well defined and maintained and once you climb up to the tramway in Walhalla it's almost flat. This is an interesting walk, it features a lot of history, some nice places to eat, and some great mountain and river scenery. The Walhalla Goldfields Railway operates a few times a day into and out of Walhalla from the Thomson River Bridge on weekends. The train I caught left the Thomson River Station at 11:40am arriving into the historic town thirty minutes or so later, it cost me $15 for the journey. I used Melanie Ball's notes and map on today's walk out of Top Walks in Victoria, which along with my GPS maps is all I really needed.
|The final 4wd track back to the ute was a little uninspiring....but it was only a couple of hundred metres.|