Sunday, April 30, 2017

Monda Track, Toolangi State Forest - April 2017

Here we go again, another post full of trees! This is on my long climb up Rouch Road.
Monda Track.
I was blessed with a blue sky day when I decided to revisit another old walk, Monda Track. Monda Track is a dirt road that runs from Mt St Leonard to Dom Dom Saddle in the mountains to the east of Melbourne, now a dirt road doesn't sound like it would make for very inspiring walking, but bordering the dirt road is a wide grassy firebreak which does make for enjoyable walking and the open fire break allows for great views of the main feature of this stroll, the huge Mountain Ash trees. After driving to the top of the Black Spur I parked the ute at Dom Dom Saddle picnic ground, pulled on my boots and set off on this fairly long stroll.
The picnic ground at Dom Dom Saddle was quite a nice spot to be this morning.
First up today I picked up Dom Dom Saddle Road before turning down Dom Dom Creek Track, the end result of this is that I almost circumnavigated the picnic ground. Dropping down Dom Dom Creek track I had my first encounter with my bogan brothers for the day, moving off the track as four trail bikes screamed up the hill before once again heading bush as they headed back down again obviously suitably chuffed that they'd managed to conquer that piece of track. Bottoming out on Dom Dom Creek I was looking for Heritage Walking Track heading off to my left, it appears that the old walking track has been up graded into a fire track though, luckily for me my trail bike rider mates had just conquered this track too, so at least I didn't have to worry about spider's webs!
Most (but not all) the tracks are well sign posted, although they weren't all named the same on my map.
Dom Dom Saddle picnic ground is on the other side of those trees, I'd been walking in a big circle for twenty minutes and could almost see the ute still.
The track formally known as Hermitage Walking Track soon spat me out of the bush at a lay-by on the very busy Maroondah Highway. This next section is pretty dodgy, it required me to walk the very narrow to non existent shoulder on the highway for half a kilometre. Crossing to the left hand side of the highway I decided that the embankment was probably my best option, the right hand side is basically lined with armco the whole way with no shoulder. With plenty of Easter traffic around I found myself backed up into the earth embankment sucking my fat guts in more than once along this short stretch, this is definitely no place for the kiddies. With the open grass of the Black Spur Caravan Park appearing through the trees my highway death march came to it's end and I picked up Rouch Road and headed into the scrub again. Now I was using Mr Chapman's notes for this walk and Rouch Road is named Rough Road in the first edition of Day Walks Melbourne. The good news is that I've recently had some correspondence with the elusive Mr Chapman and he has told me that has just finished re-walking a lot of these walks in preparation for a new edition of the book which should be out later in the year - happy days for a guide book junky like me!
The fire track formally known as Hermitage Walking Track.
Hmmm.......this is a little dodgy, I kept to the left, climbing onto the embankment a couple of times to avoid the fast moving traffic.
Mr Chapman has this down as Rough Road in his book.
Rouch Road contours above the largely unseen Hermitage Creek for a fair distance, eventually crossing it's head waters after 4 or 5 kilometres and a fair bit of climbing, the good news though is that while the climb is fairly long it's pretty gentle, well as gentle as a 400 metre climb can be anyway. It was climbing away from the headwaters of Hermitage Creek that I had my second encounter for the day with my bogan brothers. Climbing steeply I stepped off the red clay track to take a photo of an old forest giant that had survived the loggers back in the day when I heard the unmistakable sound of a V8 getting louder, sure enough a raised mongrel Missin Petrol slithered around the corner above me all crossed up like a mildly out of control two and a half tonne toboggan. Now I was safe enough, I could hear it coming for awhile and the old tree that I was standing beside would of been more than a match for the Patrol, have to wonder what would of happened if they had come across Mum, Dad and the kids creeping up the hill in their shiny new Spanish Wanker, the Patrol wouldn't of had a hope in hell of pulling up.
Hmm, more trees.
Rouch Road.
This massive old forest giant survived the old loggers.
Old mate in his Missin Petrol was hurtling down here all crossed up, thankfully I cold hear him coming from a mile away.

Climbing up past Joe Spur Track things once again appeared a little different on the ground than on my old notes, the area to the north of my track had been extensively logged and all the tracks coming in from the north had more or less gone. It doesn't matter much just keep left along the edge of the clear felled area until firstly meeting up with Nursery Spur Track (which I think is marked as Lookout Spur Track on my map) before heading down an un-signposted track (which is marked as Nursery Spur Track on my map). Clear as mud hey! Basically keep left of the logging coupe until you come to some granite boulders blocking off a wide cleared swathe heading back into the old growth forest, this track will lead you in a few minutes onto Monda Track.
Stay left around the logging coupe.

Pass through these granite rocks and you'll soon meet up with Monda Track.

Like I mentioned earlier Monda Track makes for much nicer walking than may be imagined, this wide fire break basically keeps to the crest of the Great Dividing Range on it's journey back to Dom Dom Saddle. Sometimes  followed the gravel road but generally followed a wide open gassy firebreak if the two diverged. It was on one of these diverges that I had my third encounter of the day with my bogan brothers, with the dirt road sidling a knoll to the left I decided to stay on the grass as it headed over the knoll only to be confronted with a gaggle of 4wd's camped on the firebreak (is gaggle the right plural for a group of 4wd's?), no worries I thought as I trudged along keeping to one side of the 50 metre wide fire break. Getting a little closer I could see that they had really made themselves at home here, they had enough wood cut up to last the whole of winter up here I reckon. Now with the whole of the firebreak taken up by numerous tents and vehicles there was only a little bit of grass left to walk along, unless I wanted to wander through their camp (I did consider wandering through and grabbing a stubby...) and wouldn't you know it the only bit of grass left without a car, vehicle, tent or fire on it was covered in toilet paper blowing in the breeze, fuck me you'd reckon they could of packed a shovel into the back of their trucks. Now you may think that I'm a cranky old bastard and I'm probably guilty as charged but.....this grassy firebreak marks the watershed of the Maroondah Dam catchment, so my bogan brothers shit will slowly make our way into our water supply, fucken awesome hey.
Monda Track's main feature is the big Mountain Ash, some of them have had their tops lopped off in storms.
Mt Donna Buang in the distance.
Not wanting to tip toe through the shit I bypassed this short stretch on the dirt road before joining the firebreak again next time they met up again. While Monda Track generally loses altitude on it's journey down to Dom Dom Saddle it's a bit of a roller coaster affair, the grass sections require a little concentration as they can be a little slippery. Apart from the towering arrow straight Mountain Ash I managed to get a glimpse through the trees of the somewhat distant Mt Donna Buang at one stage, I think that it's possible to walk all the way around to Mt Donna Buang utilising these grassy fire breaks, something that I may look into a bit day. With the sound of Lyrebirds and the odd deer hurtling out of the scrub for company I eventually made my way down to an old alignment of the Maroondah Highway above Dom Dom Saddle.
I shared Monda Track with some Wallaby's and a few large Sambar Deer.
Reaching the old road alignment I decided to make the fairly short side trip down to St Ronan's Well. The old road contours above the new highway slowly descending to meet it at the well, a spot that most of the traffic hurtling past would hardly register. It must have been my lucky day today, reaching St Ronan's Well I noticed that there was a 4wd pulled up with his doors open, wandering over to the well to get a photo I was mugged by a couple of dogs leaping out of the open vehicle, bugger me! Now my old bogan mate must have seen the crazed look in the Feral Walker's eyes because, before I could stab the dogs with my walking poles and hurl them onto the highway he rounded them up a locked them back in the truck, crises averted. After taking a couple of very mediocre photos of the well (it was pretty hard because old mate the dog owner was filling up his weekly water supply and the plastic containers were all floating in the clear water), I headed back up to Monda Track before descending the short way down to Dom Dom Saddle and finishing off what had been a fairly eventful walk.
The old highway down to St Ronans Well contours above the new road.
My only dodgy photo of the crystal clear waters of St Ronans Well.
The Dirt.
I walked 19.4 kilometres and climbed 860 metres on this hard walk. Like I mentioned earlier this is another walk from the House of Chapman, this is walk # 31 in Day Walks Melbourne.  Again like I've already mentioned things are a little different on the ground than in the guide book, the main thing to remember is that Hermitage Walking Track now appears to be a 4wd track, Rough Track is signposted as Rouch Track, and lastly when you reach the logging area keep to the left (south) of the logging coupe. This is a good day out but be particularly careful of the short section along the very busy and narrow Maroondah Highway, there is no easy way around it. Either Dom Dom Saddle picnic ground or the open grass of Monda Track would make for a great spot for a picnic.
Relevant Posts.

The old Maroondah Highway leading into the dam catchment area down the Black Spur, this would be an awesome place to walk or ride....shame it's out of bounds.

Dom Dom Saddle is in sight.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Mount Bogong, Alpine National Park - June 1993

On the summit, day 3.
It's been awhile since I've posted anything with snow in it and being Autumn the options for a snow walk around Melbourne at this time of the years are a little limited, so I figured that I'd raid the Feral Family photo album and do a quick write up about a walk I did with my mate Dave way back in the day. The original plan for this walk was to head up to Cleve Cole Hut and spend a couple of nights up there generally taking it easy and kicking back. Conditions conspired to thwart the initial plan somewhat but we still had an enjoyable three days up in the mountains.

Day 1        Mountain Creek to Staircase Spur         7.6 kilometres
How's that sub heading, vague enough for you? Well the original plan was to make it all the way over the top to Cleve Cole Hut but by the time we'd climbed above the tree line on Staircase Spur it was obvious that we wouldn't be walking there today. Our climb up Staircase was the usual grunt but we were actually doing pretty well, but breaking out of the trees we were hit with a promised cold front, to continue on wouldn't be in our best interests this afternoon. So....instead of backtracking back down the mountain to the dubious comforts of Bivouac Hut we decided to camp just inside the tree line. Scraping out a flat spot in the snow, sheltered by a few snow gums we settled in for a long night, thankfully our old tent held together and we actually managed a pretty good nights sleep.
By the time we'd climbed above the tree line on Staircase things were starting to look a little grim.... we dropped back into the tree line and set up camp for the night.

Day 2    Staircase Spur to Cleve Cole Hut      8 kilometres       15.6 kilometres total
Happy to have survived our night out high up Staircase Spur in relative comfort, it was two fairly chipper walkers who broke camp and set off for Cleve Cole today. The chipper mood didn't last long as we waded our way through the fresh snow climbing very steeply to the top of Staircase Spur. Now even though the weather was a lot better than yesterday it still wasn't really condusive to taking in the view from the summit, so we decided to by pass the summit cairn today and head across to the relative safety of Cleve Cole Hut.
Things were still a little grim up on top today.

I've mentioned before on my blog about his next section of track, it has to be one of the most exposed walks in Victoria I would think and to be honest it was pretty ordinary today. The good news was that the wind had blown most of the deep fresh snow off the ridge so we weren't trudging through waist deep powder, but that same wind made it fairly hard just to keep our feet. With the promise of a warm, dry hut in front of us we just kept plodding along, keeping a close eye on the ice encrusted snow poles as they materialized out of the gloom. Just after lunch we arrived at the deserted Cleve Cole Hut. After having a warming drink we made ourselves comfortable, our afternoon was spent eating, drinking, snoozing along with the occasional foray outside when the weather let up a bit. Life was pretty good really!
Cleve Cole hut was (and still is) a welcome refuge in a storm.
Collecting water from the creek near the hut.
Day 3      Cleve Cole Hut to Mountain Creek       15 kilometres        30.6 kilometres total
After a comfortable sleep at the hut we were once again a couple of chipper walkers who were packed up and on our way fairly early today. We had good reason to be chipper today though, where as yesterday we slogged across the top of the Mt Bogong plateau in pretty inhospitable conditions, today we only had blue sky above us for the most part. Our walk back around to the summit cairn was one of those strolls that would be seared in our memories for good. 
Today's walk was a ripper.

Gaining the summit we gazed out at the sea of white that we couldn't see yesterday, Mount Bogong seemingly floating in an ocean of cloud today. All good things come to an end eventually though and with some reluctance we retraced our steps through the snow back to the top of Eskdale Spur and started our long descent. The good news today was that the soft snow on Eskdale Spur actually cushioned our knees and ankles a bit on the long descent down the mountain, the snow lasting until we arrived at Camp Creek Gap. Once the snow petered out we basically just had the nice firetrack walk down to Mountain Creek car park and our walk was over. Hmmm makes me want to head up there again.
Looking across the deep valley of Big River to the Bogong High Plains.
I think this is looking from the summit back towards the top of Eskdale Spur.
A slightly younger Feral Walker.
Dropping down Eskdale Spur we started to meet up with a few other people.
The Dirt.
I've pulled these distances out of old books and maps so they may be slightly out, I haven't got a metres climbed figure but I'm guessing it would be around 1900 metres over the 3 days, this is a fairly hard walk, especially in the snow in the middle of winter. Now I haven't been up Mt Bogong for a long time in winter but I'm suspecting things are a little more crowded up there now days, I wouldn't be thinking that you'd get Cleve Cole Hut to yourself now, we didn't come across any other people until we started to descend Eskdale Spur on the third day.
Relevant Posts.

There were a few people camped at Michell Hut, this is what it looked like before all the snow gums were toasted in the bushfire.

The old Michell Hut was a pretty rustic affair, it was surprisingly comfortable inside though, featuring a nice pot belly stove and a sleeping platform. The old hut burnt down in the same fire that claimed the snow gums. The huts been rebuilt now in same generic design that the parks people are using for all the rebuilt high country huts.

Having a bit of a break on Eskdale Spur where the headwaters of Mountain Creek cross the track.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Beach Hut to Port Julia, Walk the Yorke - April 2017

The cliffs between Stansbury and Port Vincent looked pretty good in the morning sun.
Port Vincent
On the second day of my short South Australian sojourn recently Petra and I headed over to the Yorke Peninsula to catch up with a couple of friends. Like Petra, I'd originally met Greg and Deb whilst trekking overseas and like Petra, Greg and Deb have become firm friends. Greg and Deb own and run a big farm near the small Yorke Peninsula town of Curramulka, running dry crops and sheep their life couldn't have been much more of a contrast to mine being stuck in a manufacturing plant twelve hours a day. With the reasonably new Walk the Yorke trail running right around the peninsula it seemed like a good idea to head off and sample a section of it. After deferring to Greg and Deb's local knowledge we decided to start at a deserted car park north of Stansbury called Beach Hut, from here the plan was to head north, have lunch in Port Vincent before walking up to Port Julia in the afternoon.
From what I saw the trail is very well sign posted.

So after dropping my ute off at Port Julia we headed south down the St Vincent Highway to Beach Hut. I'm not actually sure how the name Beach Hut came about as the car park in the dusty paddock above the cliffs didn't feature anything that resembled a beach hut from what I could see. Leaving the car we dropped down onto a wide firm beach, the first bit of today's ramble had us following the beach north towards the disconcertingly distant Port Vincent. It's important to walk this section at low tide due to Hooded Plovers using the beach to nest, but the encroaching cliffs would also rule out a high tide ramble I would think. With the tide dead low we didn't have any trouble today though and the beach and its red cliffs made for a great start to the days walk.
Our initial beach section this morning needed a low tide. That's Port Vincent on the point in the distance.

The cliffs would stop you at high tide even if you ignore the Hooded Plover nests.

After a pleasant few kilometres beach combing our way north we reached a spot called Lime Kiln Gully, this marked the spot where we climbed away from the beach and started to walk the cliff tops. Like the Heysen Trail the Walk the Yorke Trail passes through a variety of different landscapes and while it not really a wilderness style walk the coastal scenery, rural farmland and small towns make for interesting walking. Once on top of the cliffs our route followed a fairly narrow grassy verge between the farm paddocks and the cliff tops, occasionally heading inland a bit to skirt around a dry gully. With fairly open and sparse vegetation there was little to get in the way the expansive views across Gulf St Vincent, beautiful ocean views would be a constant over the course of our days walk.

The track stays fairly close to the cliff tops for the most part.
The track headed inland around some larger gullies, this one featured a nice cave.

Reaching a bigger gully, which I assume is Devils Gully, we dropped steeply down the slippery track more or less to sea level again. We were now over half way through our mornings walk to Port Vincent so the picnic table here made for a nice spot to stop for awhile and have a bit of a break. Suitably refreshed we set of once again, initially climbing back up top the cliff tops for some more scenic walking, Port Vincent now seemingly a lot closer. Eventually we crested one last small rise and Port Vincent was spread out below us, our route now had us following quite streets though town. Port Vincent was very quiet indeed on this Saturday lunchtime, until we arrived onto the main sea side coastal strip we barely saw another person. Apparently Port Vincent goes off over the Christmas-New Year period but for the rest of the year it reverts back to being a quiet fishing village that wouldn't look out of place in a scene from the 1960's. We headed straight to the Ventnor Hotel for lunch today though, this hotel was opened way back in 1878 and has provided shelter and sustenance to many travellers over the years so four hungry and sweaty walkers today wasn't anything that out of the ordinary.
Devils Gully
Dropping down into Devils Gully provided probably our steepest descent of the day, as well as our steepest climb out the other side.
Things are pretty laid back in Port Vincent.

The sand bank at Port Vincent looked like a nice spot for a swim.

Now my usual lunch when I'm out walking is dry biscuits or dried fruit and nuts or something similar, so sitting down today to a beautiful T bone had me wondering if I'd actually be able to get up again and finish off the afternoons walk. Thankfully there is a scarcity of taxis in Port Vincent so if I wanted to get back to my ute then walking was really my only option, our post lunch ramble started off fairly easy though with a pleasant stroll along the seaside promenade north to the new marina complex, its collection of modern houses looking slightly out of place to my eyes. Making our way through the marina we picked up a walking track again and soon climbed back up onto the cliff tops. Our route now alternated between a cliff top pad or along quite gravel road that paralleled the cliffs. Leaving the quiet road we entered the Port Vincent Golf Course, our marked route staying as close as possible to the cliff edge as it made its way through the deserted golf course.
The main beach in Port Vincent, the place goes off for a couple of weeks over Christmas.
The Port Vincent Marina looked a little out of place in the sleepy town.
These three inconspicuous rocks were transported here by ice 270 million years ago from near Victor Harbor, around 120 kilometres away. 
Climbing away from Port Vincent back up onto the cliff tops.
Looking north towards Sheoak Flat, Gulf St Vincent was looking fine this afternoon.

After another quick break under the shade of the club house veranda we set off for Sheoak Flat, once we had left the parched grounds of the golf course our route largely followed a quiet cliff top gravel road. With farms to our left and coastal scrub or ocean views to our right the quiet road made for quick and easy progress. We were even escorted by a local farm dog as we slowly dropped down to the tiny Sheoak Flat. Our route now took us through town and out onto what looked like a levy bank protecting the small town from the sea, I reckon if you had a shack in Sheoak Flat then you'd have to concerned about climate change as the town must only be a metre or two above sea level.
Port Vincent gold course was a fairly scenic course, although the water hazard is fairly large.
Our route through the golf course more or less stuck to the cliff tops, the fairways were looking pretty dry at this time of the year .

Leaving Sheoak Flat our route once again led us back out onto the quiet road, the late afternoon sun lighting up the parched paddocks in a beautiful golden brown light. After crossing The Dipper on the road we once again picked up a cliff top walking track for the rest of our walk, it looks like this section of track was very new judging by it's appearance, well to me anyway. Port Julia was now very close at hand as we continued our journey north through the mallee trees and grass of the cliff tops and sure enough we soon caught site of the ute, a great days walking had come to it's end. Climbing into the comfortable seats we headed back down the coast to pick up Greg's car before adjourning to the deck of the Stansbury pub for a celebratory drink, if this is what walking's like on the Yorke Peninsula then I reckon I could get used to it!
We picked up an escort on our run down into Sheoak Flat.
Gently climbing away from Sheoak Flat the late afternoon sun was painting everything in a nice soft light, Greg and Deb see this all the time but it was nice for me coming from the city.
Port Julia has just come into view.

The Dirt.

We walked 23.6 kilometres and climbed 226 metres on this medium grade days walk. Like I've already mentioned earlier, this is a section of the long distance Walk the Yorke Trail. The people of the Yorke Peninsula should be commended for implementing this great trail, you can mountain bike it or walk it and it's easily broken down into bite sized pieces. Like its more famous brother the Heysen Trail it traverses a mixed bag of environments, but to me that's one of its charms - not everything has to be a multi day slog through wilderness, variety is good in my eyes. The rural scenes and quiet towns add to its charm, not take away from it. I've been planning on doing the Heysen in a few years but at under 600 kilometres then Walk the Yorke gives me another option if my annual leave requirements get a bit tight. Next day we said goodbye to our gracious hosts Greg and Deb and I headed back to Melbourne and reality, dropping Petra off in Adelaide on the way past. With all our dance cards already filled for this year I probably won't get to do anymore trekking with my South Aussie friends for awhile, although next year is looking good:)

Relevant Posts.
Waitpinga Cliffs, Heysen Trail, Newland Head Conservation Park, 2017.
Mt Remarkable Gorges, Mt Remarkable National Park, 1999.
Port Willunga, 2015.
Esperance to Melbourne, 2010.

Our last section of track through the cliff top Mallee trees before Port Julia, it looks like this is a new (or maybe re-done) section of track.

The end of what had been a very nice walk, now I've got yet another place that I have to come back to.

Mushroom Rocks, Baw Baw National Park - June 2016

I mentioned in my last post that I was heading out and doing a snow walk next and indeed that's how it turned out. The weather in Me...