Walhalla to Mushroom Rocks, AAWT, Baw Baw National Park - October 2017

A slightly dishevelled Feral Walker about to set off from Walhalla. The AAWT starts at the rotunda behind me.
So the day had finally arrived, after an early morning drive up to Walhalla I was finally setting off on a walk that I’d been waiting decades to do. As usual my excitement was tinged a little with sadness due to me leaving Sam alone for weeks at a time, but today there was also a little apprehension at the back of my mind as well as there was no guarantee that I’d actually be able to complete this walk. With my walkers breakfast of Maccas toasties and coffee barely digested we arrived at the impossibly cute mountain village of Walhalla and it was time for us to say our goodbyes. After the standard ‘before’ photo I headed off up past the rotunda and I was on my way, climbing to the old tramway above town that would be my initial easy introduction to the AAWT. Waving good bye to Sam as she drove out of the deserted town below me, I was now alone, and didn’t I feel it!
There goes Sam, I'm on my own now for around the next 14 days.
The old timber tramway above Stringers Creek makes for a very easy, if somewhat deceptive start to the AAWT.
Initially the route passes through a few of these damper gullies.
The weather forecast for today was for late rain and storms, but this morning everything was good as I ambled my way along the very gently descending old tramway. I’ve walked this section many times before so I kept the photo stops to a minimum along here. The old tramway initially sidles the step valley of Stringers Creek before crossing Mormon Town Track and heading north along the sides of the Thomson River valley. The track may of been easy but I was already starting to feel the heat a bit, it had been a long time since I’d had to carry six days food as well as all my other gear.
Crossing over the Mormon Town Track I started heading north up the somewhat drier Thomson River valley.
The weather this morning was a bit on the warm and humid side.
Reaching the old Poverty Point bridge I crossed over the Thomson River, the track now getting a little rougher as I continued up the river valley. The views down to the Thomson River getting better and better the further along I went. I’d be crossing the Thomson again in a couple of days, only next time without the aid of a bridge so I was checking out the river with some interest. On day one of such a long walk I was, somewhat neurotically really, conscious of every little ache or hot spot, thankfully though I was actually feeling pretty good….well for a fat, old bloke! Leaving the Thomson River for my first climb of the AAWT up Fingerboard Spur was a rude shock though, suddenly I wasn’t ambling along anymore, I was now down to my usual Feral shuffle as I climbed the 300 or so metres up to Thomson Valley Road.
The Poverty Point bridge has just come into view.
The Poverty Point bridge is around 13 metres above the river.
The Poverty Point bridge is one of only two decent walkers bridges over the whole length of the AAWT, the other one is the suspension bridge over the Mitta Mitta River at Taylors Crossing.
I was interested to check out the Thomson River up stream of the bridge as I'd have to wade it in a couple of days.
It looks like The Flintstones may picnic here.
One last look at the Thomson River before I started my first real climb of the walk.
The road was actually a bit of a milestone on the walk, I wouldn’t cross another sealed road until I was only a few kilometres from Mt Hotham, over two weeks walk away, actually I’d only meet a handful of any kind of open vehicle tracks over the next two weeks. Crossing over the road I plunged back into the scrub and headed down to O’Sheas Mill Site for a late lunch which was interrupted by a few light showers scudding through. O’Sheas Mill Site is sometimes the first nights stop for AAWT walkers but with my early start I decided to push on a bit. The climb from O’Sheas Mill to the top of Mt Erica at over 1000 metres is a serious haul, so I was keen to get some of the way today and break the ascent up a bit, Mushroom Rocks was my aim.
The climb up Fingerboard Spur allowed me a few views of the Thomson River valley through the trees.
My first climb and I'm already stuffed.
Thomson Valley Road, I wouldn't meet another sealed road for around 14 days until I was almost at Mt Hotham.
The forest dropping down to O'Sheas Mill is pretty dry, there is even a few termite mounds.
O'Sheas Mill, some walkers spend there first night here.
Leaving the picnic come camping area at O’Sheas Mill I rock hopped my way across the small Eastern Tyres River above a small waterfall. After a few hundred metres my route left the river and started to climb up Firebreak Track, a climb that would keep my heart pumping until late tomorrow morning. Last time I’d walked Firebreak Track it was fairly over grown towards the top but I was pleasantly surprised to find it more or less free of scrub today, making it a fairly pleasant climb. The bigger trees and wetter forest towards the top of Firebreak signalled my imminent arrival onto Mt Erica Road and soon enough I emerged out of the bush onto the quiet road.
I crossed over the top of these small falls to pick up the continuation of the AAWT when I was leaving O'Sheas Mill.
Firebreak Track marks the start of the real climbing for today, at least the weather was still holding for me.
The lower section of Firebreak Track passes through pretty open and dry eucalyptus forest, rising fairly easily.
Higher up Firebreak Track it gets a bit steeper and starts to pass through damper forest.
The Mountain Ash are a beautiful tree.
I’d been lucky so far with the weather, in fact if anything it had been a bit warm and humid on the climb, but wandering up Mt Erica Road my luck ran out. I could hear the thunder coming as I climbed and was hoping that I might make Mushroom Rocks before it arrived, I didn’t! Trudging up the road the rain arrived and my world turned into a watery wonderland. With my shirt already soaked in sweat I didn’t worry too much about putting on my gortex jacket instead enjoying the cooling rain…for awhile anyway. By the time I got to the car park at the end of Mt Erica Road I was starting to get a bit cold and with the rain looking like it was going nowhere I utilised the tiny toilet shelter to do a quick change and put on my wet weather gear.
The notch in the huge stump is where the old time loggers inserted a platform to stand on while they chopped down the tree.
With thunder rumbling over head I took a bit of a break once I was on Mt Erica Road.
.... and then the rain arrived.
Suitably attired in my water proofs I set off and climbed the last kilometre or so up to Mushroom Rocks, the last section only punctuated by a few stops to try a take a photo with my waterproof camera (with only average results). Reaching Mushroom Rocks in the late afternoon I quickly found my self a small rocky overhang to give me a bit of shelter to cook under next to a nice grassy spot for my tent. With the tent up and all my dry gear safely stashed in the tent out of the rain it was time to cook dinner, a task punctuated by numerous heavy showers passing through. My first day on the AAWT was coming to a damp end, there would be no lingering taking sunset shots tonight, straight after dinner it was into the tent. After the last couple of hours of rain it was nice to be out of the weather at last, after getting a quick text message away to Sam I was asleep even before night overtook day.
The last kilometre or so up to Mushroom Rocks makes for nice walking.


The Dirt.
I walked 22 kilometres and climbed 1175 metres on my first day on the AAWT, this was hard days walking for me (a rating that will become repetitive as the AAWT posts roll on!) Water was available at the Eastern Tyres River and a handful of spots along Mt Erica Road when I went through. Camping is available at O’Sheas Mill and Mushroom Rocks, it would also be possible to pitch a tent at the car park at the end of Mt Erica Road but I’m thinking that it’s not strictly legal so you’d have to be discreet. I used John Chapman’s notes and maps, I also carried the relevant Rooftop map on this section in case I wanted a bigger overview. I got a Telstra signal at Mushroom Rocks.

A damp night 1 at Mushroom Rocks on the AAWT, at least I could cook under the overhang and keep pretty dry.
Wet and still dishevelled, but still happy.

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