Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ironbark Gorge & Currawong Falls, Great Otway National Park - May 2017

Ironbark Gorge
After two Saturdays in a row of pre 4am starts so that I could head up into Victoria's high country and do a couple of hard walks, this Saturday I was ready for an easier option. With Victoria having had a bit of rain in the previous 24 hours I decided to head back over to Currawong Falls in the Great Otway National Park, I've been to these falls at least twice before but have never actually seen anything resembling water flowing over them, so I was hoping my luck might change today. Driving down though, I was entertained by ABC News Radio talking about the latest Trump cluster f*%k, they were wondering if this latest episode would lead to impeachment proceedings. You gotta love the American political system, Clinton basically got impeached because of a bj (actually the real reason was that he didn't admit his infidelities to the senate I think), the orange headed buffoon on the other hand admits grabbing women by the pussy, can't lie straight in bed, and sacked the head of the agency that was investigating him and his administration into its ties with the Ruskies, among a host of other things and yet they are still to be convinced that he deserves to be impeached, hmmmm, whatever, it made for an interesting diversion as I made my way down the normally mind numbing Geelong Freeway.
This walk is very well sign posted, this is the start of the trail as it leaves Distillery Creek Picnic Ground.
It was still fairly early in the morning when I pulled into the almost deserted Distillery Creek Picnic Area and reset the GPS. With the weather looking like it might co-operate I set up off up the well signposted track in a pretty good mood, initially I was going to walk the Ironbark Gorge loop before heading over to Currawong Falls later on. The Ironbark Gorge Track climbs above the gorge on the south side almost parallel to the nearby Bambra Road, the path gains height pretty easily and with the height the views down into the gorge increase. The main interest along here was probably the increasingly rocky terrain though, while the track is very well benched and easy the surrounding environment got fairly rugged as I made my way up to the western extremity of Ironbark Gorge.
As the track heads up the southern side of the gorge the country gets increasingly rugged.
Ironbark Gorge is down to the right.
The bridge marks the point where I started to head back downstream through Ironbark Gorge.
Eventually my route descended a little and crossed a bridge over the creek that has formed the gorge, I now was heading back down stream through the gorge. My route back down through the gorge crossing the creek a few times, as well as featuring a lot more in the way of ferns and mosses. Ironbark Gorge is surprisingly rugged and at spots the rocky walls of the gorge closed right in, in other spots I passed huge boulders that had fallen from the cliffs long ago, one even featuring a sapling growing from it. The good walking continued all the way down stream until I intersected with the Currawong Falls Track, this signalled the spot where I once again almost turned back on myself and started to climb up above the northern side of Ironbark Gorge. Having walked the south side, then back through the gorge and now climbing the north side I certainly had Ironbark Gorge covered I reckon!
The sides of Ironbark Gorge close in a bit in a couple of spots.
This big boulder had a sapling growing out of it.
Walking back down through the gorge.
The damper environs in the bottom of Ironbark Gorge. 

The Currawong Gorge section of my stroll is actually a track that is shared with mountain bikes so consequently it makes for fairly easy walking, and while I did see a couple of mountain bikers they weren't really an issue today. As I've already mentioned I was climbing up above the north side of Ironbark Gorge now, at a couple of spots along here I could look down and see my route that I'd taken through the gorge as well as across the gorge to the route I'd taken above the south side. After the track passed above one last rocky bluff it headed away from the Ironbark Gorge towards the trig on Loves Track. Climbing away from the gorge the forest changed to a more typical drier eucalyptus type, with an understory of grass trees as well as a profession of pink heath and other wild flowers, the wildflowers giving me a reason to get down on the ground and get dirty trying to do justice to the flora.
There was no shortage of assorted fungi on the forest floor today.
Tracking back up the north rim of Ironbark Gorge. This is the last lookout before my route swung away and headed towards the trig.
Pink Heath

After stopping to take a photo down along the coast towards Lorne and then another one down to Aireys Inlet, complete with the lighthouse standing out like a beacon, I walked the last few minutes up to the trig point. My map actually showed the trig a few metres to the west of where the Currawong Falls Track crosses Loves Track on the crest of the ridge but in reality the trig is at the point that I crossed Loves Track, maybe there's been a slight re-routing, who knows? Whatever the case it doesn't make any real difference to the stroll, you're hardly going to get lost on this walk! The trig also marks the high point on todays stroll, although at just over 200 metres we're not talking big mountains here.
That's Lorne in the distance.
As I climbed higher the track passes through drier country.
Aireys Inlet
The high point of today's stroll was the trig on Loves Track.
I was now descending down to Currawong Falls, like the climb the descent is pretty gentle so that allowed me plenty of opportunities to take in my surroundings. It looks like a bushfire has knocked the bush around a bit along here, higher up I passed through areas of regrowth, the little casuarina trees looking a bit like small pines in the weak sunshine. After a few big switchbacks I arrived at the top of Currawong Falls. I'd barely seen any surface water on my walk so far so I wasn't expecting much of a flow over the falls, but arriving at the lookout I could see a small trickle flowing over the rock. Now the issue became how could I get a photo, without a photo it didn't happen right? After mucking around at the official lookout and getting nothing I decided on a little bit of off-piste action to get me down below the falls, there is a very rough pad down here but it's steep and slippery. After carefully scrambling down I crossed the rocks below the falls and then climbed into an over hang that almost allowed me to get behind the falls, and while the resulting photos weren't exactly coffee table book standard, they did at least feature a trickle of water.
Descending down to Currawong Falls the track passed through an open area that been pretty badly burnt in a bushfire.
The casuarina trees almost looked like small pine trees.
Currawong Falls, I told you it was only a trickle!
Three visits and an off-piste scramble on slippery rocks, the lengths I had to go to to get this photo :)
The bluffs above Currawong Falls looked quite good in the weak afternoon sun.
The official lookout with the falls on the won't see much from here though.
Suitably chuffed that I'd actually seen a bit of water flowing over Currawong Falls I carefully climbed back up to the track and resumed my journey. My route now passed a profusion of Blind Corner warnings, no doubt for my mountain biking brothers and sisters but slightly out of place on a walking track. The walk from Currawong Falls back to Distillery Creek Picnic Area is along a gently descending, well benched track, I can see why mountain bikers would enjoy it. After passing by some big tree ferns the track contours above Melaleuca Swamp, the area looking like it is still regenerating after a fire, the dense wall of regrowth lining the track only adding to that perception. Eventually my track curved south westerly and I started to follow Distillery Creek, the recent rain meaning that there was even a little water in the creek, not something that is overly common. Taking the left fork at a nature trail I crossed a short section of duck boards before arriving back at the still almost deserted picnic ground and my ute. 
My first Blind Corner sign, the novelty quickly wore off.
The track passes this nice cliff on the descent back to the car park.....
...As well as passing by quite a few of these large man ferns.
The Dirt.
Well I got what I wanted today, a slightly easier walk after my last couple of high country epics. This is a pleasant enough stroll that is within most peoples capabilities, I walked 16.8 kilometres and climbed 390 metres on this medium grade stroll. Now I've been thinking about how subjective my easy, medium, hard and extreme hi-tech grading system is and wondering if there is another more analytical way of rating a walk, I've decided to start posting my moving average speed to give people an idea of how fast, or in my case slowly, I moved on the walk. The theory being if an unfit, fat bastard like me manages around 4 km/h then the walk can't be too hard, if I'm down in the 1's and 2 km/h then things are getting a little bit more serious. So what was it on this walk? My moving average today was 3.9 km/h, not sure if that helps but I can't hurt I suppose. I used the notes today out of Walking The Otways, which is a book put out by the House of Chapman and written by the Geelong Bushwalking Club, it's walk number 10 in the book. As the name suggests Distillery Creek Picnic Ground would make for a nice spot for a picnic pre or post the walk.
Relevant Posts.

Back on the nature walk near Distillery Creek Picnic Ground.

Distillery Creek Picnic Ground was still pretty deserted when I get back this afternoon.

The picnic area and start of the walking track system is actually on the north side of Bambra Road.

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