Sunday, November 26, 2017

Mount Ida, Heathcote Graytown National Park - July 2017

Lake Eppalock from the ridge leading to Mount Ida.
The somewhat modest Mount Ida looks down over the small central Victorian town of Heathcote, while the mountain isn't huge it does have a few things going for it. The open box-ironbark forest is pretty good country to walk in, the open forest with it's grassy under storey allow for easy off track walking and plenty of views. My walk today would indeed feature both an off track section and extensive views, but the main reason I decided to head up to central Victoria today was that the weather promised to be a little better on the north side of the Great Dividing Range, a prediction that turned out spot on. After sailing straight past the access road I hung a u-ey and parked the ute in the small car park just off the Northern Highway, I've done this little stroll at least 3 times before so you'd reckon that I would of remembered where the car park was!
This walk starts with an easy stroll beside rural farmland along Mount Ida Road.
Mount Ida Road
This stroll starts off with a walk along the quiet Mount Ida Road, with rural farmland to my left and native bush to my right this dirt road made for an easy start to the day. After gently climbing beside the farmland for twenty minutes or so Mount Ida Road suddenly changes direction and starts heading east, climbing a bit more solidly. The trick here is to keep an eye out for a rough 4wd track heading north east off Mount Ida Road, once on this rougher track there were no real navigational issues until until I reached the summit. Once on the rougher track I continued my climb, the loose rocky surface requiring a bit of concentration on the last steep pinch as I reached the crest of the ridge.
If you are following Mr Tempest's notes, this is the old fire track that you need to turn onto.
I don't mind this dry, open type of forest every now and again, it doesn't make me feel as claustrophobic as some of the more densely vegetated bush does.
The last short section before I crested the ridge that I would then follow all the way around to the summit.
Once on the crest it is a beautiful walk all the way around to the summit, the old fire track more or less keeping to the very crest which allows for numerous views through the open forest. The ridge top walk also passes through increasingly rocky terrain as it makes it's way towards the summit, some of the larger rocky openings allowing views down over the plains towards Lake Eppalock, shimmering in the weak winter sun. With the communication towers on the summit of Mount Ida getting closer the old fire track once again met up with Mount Ida Road. Passing through a locked gate I had one last climb and I was on the summit. Now while the ridge walk had been very nice the actual summit is a fairly underwhelming spot, the communication towers with their generators and the fire spotters tower don't make for much of a natural feel.
There was a little bit of weather around today, you gotta expect that in Victoria in the middle of winter I suppose.
The ridge walk section of this stroll is very good.
The closer that I got to Mount Ida the rockier the ground became.
The communication tower on Mount Ida comes into view at about the same time as I met up with Mount Ida Road coming up from the valley.
The good news is that almost immediately after leaving the summit the walking was once again very good. My route now involved an off track descent off the mountain, initially following a high ridge across some rocky high saddles before it dropped steeply down a spur. The upper parts of the ridge gave me the views and the atmosphere that I didn't get on the actual summit, with the rocky turrets making for a convenient spot to check out the view of Heathcote in the valley below me, although it was the dark storm clouds draping the Great Dividing Range in the distance that drew my eye the most. 
I didn't linger on the summit of Mount Ida, with all the infrastructure it's a bit of an uninspiring place I reckon.
My route down Mount Ida was along a wide, rocky spur.
Heathcote, from the top of my descent spur.
Looking south towards the Great Dividing Range, I copped this weather on the drive home.
As I started to drop down the fairly open spur I started to pick up a bit of a pad, it appears that since I was last up here a rough mountain bike track has been built. The rough track made the walking a little easier than I remembered but really the open forest and rocky slabs have always made this off track section pretty easy anyway. Nearing the bottom of the spur the mountain bike track started to head a little to far to the south, so leaving the track I set off through the light scrub to intersect with another fire track that runs parallel with the Northern Highway just inside the park boundary. You couldn't get lost on this short off track section as not only do you have to just keep heading west and you'll meet the fire track but you also have the traffic noise on the nearby Northern Highway to guide you down. Once on the boundary firetrack it was just a few metres of easy walking through the light scrub before I met up with Mount Ida Road, my outward route. The stroll was now quickly coming to its conclusion, once on Mount Ida Road I walked a few metres and I was back at the ute. 
This is about as easy as off track navigation gets.
Lower down the spur I picked up what looks like a mountain bike track.
The Dirt.
I walked 7 kilometres at an average speed of 3.5 kph today. With 225 metres of climbing and a bit of off-piste action I'd rate this as a medium grade walk I suppose. On this visit I used the notes and map out of Glen Tempests Daywalks Around Melbourne book. Parks Vic have also got a lot free stuff online, including a map. If you're a Melbourne walker and you are looking for a bit of a break from the towering mountain ash and wet temperate rainforest walks then this drier open box - ironbark forest makes a nice change, my theory is that a bit of variety keeps things interesting. 
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With the mountain bike track heading a bit far south I left it and headed more westerly through this light scrub.
After a very short scrub bash I emerged onto this fire track that runs along the western boundary of the national park.
Time to head home after another nice walk.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Lake Mountain Snowgum Walk, Yarra Ranges National Park - February 2006

Lake Mountain
I recently stumbled across these old photos lurking on a scratched CD. At first glance I figured that there was nothing of much interest and consigned them to history. Something made me have another look though, you see this area of Victoria got well and truly torched in the Black Saturday fires and I'm thinking that the scenery up at Lake Mountain has probably changed a little since our visit in 2006. Now I haven't been back up to Lake Mountain since then but all the photos that I've seen of the area feature forests of stark dead, bleached white tree trunks crowning the hills like stubble, not the beautiful snow gums that I remember from this visit.
The wide grassy cross country ski trails make good walking trails in the warmer months.
On another stinking hot summers day Sam and I headed up to Lake Mountain, we'd figured that the altitude would take the edge off the heat a bit and that proved to be true. Lake Mountain is fairly quiet over the warmer months and I remember parking at the almost deserted Gerratys Carpark before heading off into the snow gums. This walk largely follows a series of cross country ski trails and the open grassy tracks made for nice easy walking today. First up today we very gently climbed up towards The Camp past Echo Flat and a few nice tarns. The Camp sounds interesting but is basically just a junction of ski trail, after that we continued on still gently climbing to Panorama Lookout which had some distant views of The Bluff.
Echo Flat features a few tarns.
Plenty of snow gums on this stroll, always a good thing in my eyes.
Mount Bullfight Lookout
The easy walking continued this afternoon as we swatted the flies away, soon reaching the northern extremity of todays walk at Bullfight Lookout. This lookout is the highest spot on the Lake Mountain Plateau at 1480 metres so it made a good spot to stop for awhile and take in the alpine scenery from the top of the large granite rock that is the lookout. After having a bit of a break and checking out the remains of the old Boundary Hut we started our walk back to the car park. With the extensive number of ski trail up here it was fairly easy to walk back following different tracks, therefore avoiding the dreaded re-trace. Our route back this afternoon largely followed Muster Trail, an avenue of grass through the snow gums that made for a very pleasant way to end the day. I'm thinking that I'll have to get back up to Lake Mountain and do another post soon, it will be interesting to see how the country is recovering from the fires, I suspect that it won't be quite as pretty as what we found back in 2006.
All that's left of the old Boundary Hut now days.
Sam, heading back to Gerratys Carpark down Muster Track.
The Dirt.
According to my old notes Sam and I walked around 11 kilometres this afternoon, I haven't got a metres climbed figure but I'm guessing it wasn't much, probably around 200 metres all up I'd think, with all that in mind I'd rate this as a easy walk. I used a set of Glenn Tempest's notes out of the 2005 edition of Daywalks Around Melbourne. The walk is a nice way to experience some nice alpine scenery without a huge drive from Melbourne. Lake Mountain is (was?) a bit of a ghost town in summer so don't go expecting much in the way of food or drink, the open grassy meadows would make a nice post for a picnic though.
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Hey hey, this walk even featured an igloo.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Hilo, Hawaii - September 2013

Kaimu Beach lava field.
Well all going well I'll be well into my long walk on the Alpine Track by now. So rather than let the dust settle on my blog while I'm gone I've prepared a few posts to keep things ticking over while I'm slogging my way north. This a  short post about a visit we made to the small city of Hilo on the island of Hawaii, otherwise known as The Big Island by the locals. We visited Hawaii as part of a long South Pacific cruise a few years ago and after being cooped up on the ship for a couple of weeks (relatively speaking) I'm sure nobody would be surprised to know that I wasn't that keen on hanging around the city for the day. So as soon as the ship had docked Sam and I jumped into a mini van and headed straight out of town down towards Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to check things out a little - so the Hilo heading is a little misleading I suppose. 
 Lava tree, Lava Tree State Monument park.
The first spot we checked out today was the small Lava Tree State Monument. The lava trees in the park were created back in 1790 when a flood of lava 10 feet deep flowed through, what was rainforest. The lava solidified around the trees as the trees themselves burned away which then left the mould of the lava trees, this only occurred on Ohia Trees due to their high moisture content. Once we arrived at the park we took the short nature trail which wound around through the ghost forest for around twenty minutes before depositing us back at the car park. Coming from Melbourne the tropical vegetation here was also a bit of a highlight, the large Monkey Pod Trees being a particular stand out.
Monkey Pod Trees
Jumping back into the welcoming air conditioning we headed down to our next stop, the MacKenzie State Recreation Area. This is another little coastal park, although it's a coastal park without a beach. The main feature of this spot is the lava cliffs plunging into the surging surf. Wandering up and down the coastline a little beneath the canopy of the Ironwood Trees it reminded me a little of the Casuarinas that line a lot of the Australian coastline, although we don't have the jagged jet black lava cliffs. 

MacKenzie State Recreation Area
The jagged lava cliffs and surging surf at MacKenzie State Recreation Area.

Back in the comfort of our mini van we continued south along highway 137 to where it ends at Kaimu Beach. The highway use to continue on it's way south until 1990 when an eruption caused lava to flow across the highway on its way to the sea (and more or less obliterate the nearby town of Kalapana at the same time). Parking the van we took the short walk across the very abrasive lava field to the black sand beach. It's baking hot here on the lava fields but the crashing shore break would keep most people out of the water I would think. Interestingly there are some signs of life already eking an existence out on what is a fairly recent lava flow, with quite a few coconut palms poking through the lava. Our whistle stop tour largely finished here unfortunately, after a nice lunch in the grounds of the historic Star of the Seas Painted Church we headed back to the bright lights of Hilo to do a little shopping, before once again boarding the ship and sailing off into another South Pacific sunset. 
Kaimu Beach lava field.
There are a few shoots of green making their way sky ward.
The black sands of Kaimu Beach.
The lava fields of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The Dirt.
We visited Hawaii on with Princess Cruises, Sam and I have been on cruises with them a few times over the years and they generally provide for a good value for money option. There is actually a bit of overnight trekking available at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and while information is a little thin on the ground there has been a journal of a walk written up on crazy guy, if anyone wants to check it out. Lava Trees State Monument is free as is Mackenzie State Recreation Area, although you'll pay if you want to camp there. I'm thinking that there is a small fee to access the coast at Kaima Beach but as we were on a tour it was already sorted for us so I'm not 100% sure.
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Sailing out of a fairly overcast Hilo.

Another South Pacific sunset!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

West Barwon Dam to Lake Elizabeth, Great Otway National Park - September 2017

Lake Elizabeth

After casting around for a walk this week I eventually decided that the Otway Ranges would be the go. I don't mind a bit of variety in my walking and with six weeks in the Australian Alps coming up and the weather still a little to cold for the beach I figured that a forest walk would do the job. The other reason that I decided on this walk was that for a large sections of the walk I'd be walking sections of the Forest mountain bike trail network, my thinking went along the lines of, with the weather being on the damp side it might restrict the number of mountain bikers that I'd be sharing the trail with. Passing through the almost deserted town of Forest early this morning it appeared that my cunning plan might actually pay off. After parking at the West Barwon Dam Car Park and taking a couple of before photos I reset the GPS and wandered off on today's stroll.
The weather looked less than promising this morning.
The area around the West Barwon Dam spillway is more your manicured European style park than scrappy Australian native bush, with plenty of lawn and good facilities this would be a great spot for a picnic if that's your thing. Forgoing a feed this morning I instead headed down to check out the spillway for the dam, now I'm not actually sure that technically this was the spillway, I've got an idea that it might be called a penstock, the spillway was a little further away and dry as a bone. The penstock was pumping though and it made for an interesting sight as the white water gushed into the Barwon River West Branch. Safely managing a photo without getting the camera wet I set off again, crossing the river on an old stone bridge my walk climbed into more of my natural environment, the Australian bush. After climbing a fire track for a couple metres I turned onto the signposted route 2, a shared use mountain bike track.
Pick up this grassy track to start the walk.
West Barwon Dam penstock.
Barwon River West Branch.

The good news for me was that from now on for the most part I'd be following this type of single track, either mountain bikes tracks or walking tracks. After an initial fairly easy switchback climb I started south along a ridge top, with Kaanglang Road parallel on one side and the water of West Barwon dam in the valley through the trees on the other, I had a feeling that there would be no navigational challenges on this stretch. The eucalyptus forest along this gently contouring track was enlivened by sections of bright yellow wattles in full bloom, as well as sections covered in moss and fungi. I've never actually mountain biked up at Forest but I've heard a lot of good things about the place and ambling along Track 2 today I couldn't help but smile to myself and think how much fun this would be on my bike. That's not all good news though because what makes for great mountain biking doesn't necessarily make for sublime walking and to be honest this three and a half kilometre Track 2 section was slightly boring on foot I thought.
Track 2 passed through native scrub.
The shared use mountain bike track makes for very easy walking.
The water of West Barwon Dam was visible through the trees in spots.
Track 2 mostly heads through drier eucalyptus bush but it does enter some damper areas as it passes through some of the gullies.
I seem to have taken a lot of photos on Track 2 considering that I bagged this section a bit.
Crossing Kaanglang Road the walking improved as I dropped down towards the Lake Elizabeth car park, the descent featuring a few damper ferny sections. It was once I had passed through the Lake Elizabeth car park that this walk really improved though, I was now walking a dedicated walking track up stream along the north bank of Barwon River East Branch. This section of the walk alternated between being at almost river level and at other times being high up the steep sides of the river valley. Lake Elizabeth is a reasonably new lake, only coming into existence after a landslide in 1952 dammed the valley of the Barwon River East Branch. No prizes for guessing that the lake is named after Queen Elizabeth, this all happened in the Menzie's era, another conservative Australian Prime minister who seemed to enjoy genuflecting at the royal families feet.
Things improved after I crossed Kaanglang Road and started to drop down to the Lake Elizabeth  car park.
I was now on a dedicated walking track.
There are some nice mountain ash along here.
Crossing Barwon River East Branch on the way to the lake.
As the track climbed a little higher up the side of the valley I got some glimpses of the surrounding hills.

Lake Elizabeth is home to a population of platypus but I've never been lucky enough to spot one on my visits and unfortunately today didn't break that trend. The lookout at the western end of the lake made for a nice spot to take in the view under the weak sun today, while there were no platypus out enjoying the early spring sun there was was a good variety of water birds enjoying the still water. After relaxing awhile taking in the view and satisfying myself that the Canadian canoes were actually locked up tight and there was no possibility of me borrowing one for a scenic paddle, I decided to head off on my circumnavigation of the small lake.
The view of Lake Elizabeth from the lookout, unfortunately I still haven't seen any of the resident platypus.
There was a profusion of Cootamundra wattles in bloom today.

Like the lake itself this track is a fairly recent thing, having been largely constructed in the mid 1990's by Parks Vic and the Geelong Bushwalking Club. Whoever was responsible for this section of todays walk should be commended, heading anti clockwise the route climbs a little as it makes it's way through a few ferny gullies before dropping down for a side trip to the beach. Calling the small section of gravel at Lake Elizabeth a beach maybe stretching things a little, I can't see myself laying out the towel to catch a few rays, but what the beach does provide for is an opportunity to get a few water level photos. Lake Elizabeth is known (well relatively known) for the protruding stumps of drowned mountain ash trees but today there was another curiosity, with the Cootamundra wattles in full bloom around the area the bright yellow pollen was coating the lake in spots, with the gentle currents in the water creating all sorts of interesting patterns on the surface.
Heading along the good track around the south side of the lake, the track sometimes climbs fairly high above the water.
The yellow pattern in the still water is the pollen from the wattles.
The weather was still holding pretty good at this stage of the walk.

The Lake Elizabeth Beach.

Resuming my lake side circuit I crossed a fairly long section of duck boarding over the swampy eastern end of the lake before climbing up to start my walk back above the northern shore. The walk back along the north shore contrasts quite a bit with the rest of the circumnavigation. The track along here is a lot narrower and the hillside a lot steeper with the track being benched into the steep slope. The vegetation on this side of the lake was also of the damper variety with a lot of ferns, fungi and moss giving it a bit of an enchanted forest feel, although maybe that's just the fertile Feral imagination at work! Once my lake side ramble was completed I rejoined my outward route for a bit, first retracing my route back to the Lake Elizabeth car park before climbing back up to an intersection of tracks just before Kaanglang Road.
After checking out the beach I resumed my circumnavigation of the lake.
Rounding the eastern end of Lake Elizabeth the track crosses a long section of duck boarding.
The track along the northern shore is along some pretty steep slopes.
Heading back down alongside Barwon River East Branch.
Reaching the track junction near Kaanglang Road I started a long walk down Track 3. As the bland name suggests Track 3 is another shared use mountain bike track, although it looks like a moderate grade mountain bike track (Track 2 was definitely an easy grade track) so it weaved and dipped in and out of the scrub a bit more which made it a little more like a traditional bushwalking track. After crossing the ever present Kaanglang Road again I rejoined Track 2 for a short section before once again heading off on a new section of Track 3 that headed through an area that looked like it might have been a gold sluicing area. This little detour wasn't on my map or in my notes so I'm not 100% sure about this little detour. After another short stretch on Track 2 I again headed off on Track 3 as it looped north, this section could really be cut off the walk as it felt very contrived on foot (it would be awesome on a mountain bike though), it almost felt that I was walking this bit just to get the stats for the walk up a little. Eventually the track curved west a descended to meet the grassy banks of the Barwon River West Branch, all that was left to do now was to wander back up stream to the dam, about a kilometre away. Once again this river side ramble is more of your manicured parkland type of walk with its lawns and deciduous introduced trees. Climbing up the the ute after arriving back at the dam my walk was over. This was a bit of a strange walk really, I think you could quite easily cut out some of the shared mountain bike trails and the walk would still be good, in fact the undoubted highlight of the walk in my eyes is the Lake Elizabeth section of the stroll and that is only just over 4 kilometres long.
Track 3 is another shared use mountain bike trail and while the bermed corners would be awesome on my mountain bike they were a little under utilised today with my walking boots on.
Approaching Kaanglang Road on Track 3.
This section of Track 3 isn't in my notes or on my map so I'm assuming that it's fairly new, it appears to drop down through a sluicing gully.
To be honest bits of Track 3 seemed a little contrived, almost as if they'd been added to the walk to get the distance up a bit. This was about as far north as I got.
Dropping down to meet the Barwon River West Branch again.
The Dirt.
According to m GPS I walked around 18.9 kilometres today, this is a fair bit more than my notes suggested but that seems pretty normal for me, I'm not sure why that is though. I ambled through those 18.9 kilometres at an average speed of 3.9 kph and climbed 556 metres so I'd rate this as a medium grade walk. I used the notes out of the House of Chapman's Walking the Otways book, only really deviating for any length on what I presume is a new sections of Track 3. Navigation wise this walk is very well sign posted and marked so there are no problems there. The tracks themselves vary from fire tracks all the way down to bushwalking tracks around Lake Elizabeth, the long sections of shared use mountain bike tracks can get a bit monotonous in my opinion.
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I finished the walk by ambling up stream along the grassy flats.

The old stone bridge and deciduous trees gave this a bit of a European feel.
The last climb back up to West Barwon Dam car park and the ute.

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...