Sunday, April 14, 2019

Sardine & Clear Water Creeks, Lerderderg State Park - April 2019

The pools in the Lerderderg River were looking pretty stagnant on this visit...I've never seen the river so dry.
A quick glance at my blog could reveal a couple of things about me, the first is that I’ve got a good head for radio (as they say) and the second is that I do a hell of a lot of this stuff solo, which come to think of it maybe related to my first point? Walking and travelling solo does present a few dangers I suppose, but I try and control the risks as much as possible.

The most common hazards that my friends ask me about are that usual ones like getting lost or getting injured or sick. While these things do occupy a bit of mind space I like to think with good preparation, caution and experience I can largely manage these risks. By far my biggest concern when it comes to heading bush on my own is stumbling into someone else’s dodgy situation and becoming collateral damage…as it were.

Occasionally you hear of a bushwalker going missing, never to be seen again, Warren Meyer up at Dom Dom Saddle being the most obvious example for me (ironically enough I did a ten kilometre walk out of Dom Dom Saddle the day before completing this stroll). The thought of stumbling onto someone doing something illegal and dodgy is a risk I can’t really control and mitigate that much.

Now there are a whole lot of people out there breaking the law in the bush and while some of those people are pretty well harmless, (mountain bikers on walking trails, horse riders in national parks, walkers camping outside designated areas, all spring to mind) there are also some that worry me a bit more. Stumbling onto an illegal plantation, illegal shooters, illegal 4 wheel drivers or trail bike riders, or just plain dodgy characters trying to keep a low profile in the scrub worries me a little more, you just never know how these people will react.

Every few months or so I’ll find myself in a slightly disconcerting situation (don’t forget that I normally head out at least twice a week) but my walk today out in Melbourne’s version of the Wild West at Lerderderg State Park had pretty much all the good stuff crammed into 10 kilometres. With Melbourne’s sprawling western suburbs getting ever closer, this rugged spot isn’t as remote as it once was. While it’s always been a little dodgy here, today I managed to stumble onto two 4wd’s illegally on a closed track, an abandoned camouflaged stealth camp a fair way off any tracks, and then there was all the troublesome signposts that had been sorted out by a 12 gauge…yep, it was fun times out in the bush this morning!
O'Briens Crossing was already pretty busy when I set off this morning.
I’m not sure when it happened but I seem to have become a morning person, although that’s probably more to do with my back forcing me out of bed after anything much more than 7 hours than of any great desire to greet the dawn. The good news is that my early starts allow me to spend more time in the bush though and this morning was no different. I’d finished my Macca’s toasties and coffee, pulled on my boots and set off from O’Briens Crossing, all by around 9am this morning.
The river had been reduced to a few stagnant pools at O'Briens Crossing on this visit.
Crossing the ford over the Lerderderg River as I set off I don’t think I’ve ever seen things this dry, the river had been reduced to a few, very stagnant looking pools. Now it’s pretty common for the Lerderderg to stop flowing over summer but there are normally plenty of deep pools to get drinking water from, not the case on this visit though. After crossing the ford I climbed up O’Briens Road for a couple of minutes before picking up a faint, informal pad that climbed an open spur and short cut the road a little. When my informal pad met O’Briens Road again, I immediately headed right again, this time up the steep and eroded Short Cut Track.
There is a informal pad that climbs a spur just after leaving O'Briens Crossing saving a bit of a road bash.
Just as my pad touched O'Briens Road again I headed right up Short Cut Track (in the trees).
Now you might be staggered to know this but Short Cut Track short cuts another section of O’Briens Road. While it’s shorter it’s not easier as it climbs very steeply in spots, although the good news is that the views improve quickly as well, although the grey overcast conditions weren’t really conducive to good views this morning. On reaching O’Briens Road again I was ready for some easier walking as I made my way along the quiet dirt road for a few hundred metres to meet up with the closed Trout Track heading off along a high spur to the north.
Climbing the steep, loose and eroded Short Cut Track.
The views get a little better as I climbed.
Popping out of the scrub onto O'Briens Road again.
Now while Trout Track has been closed to vehicles for years it looked like someone had cut down the bollards blocking out vehicles. Walking through what was meant to be the barrier it even looked like there were fresh tyre tracks in the dirt, although exactly how fresh it was a little hard to tell, but I was guessing that someone had been down here in the last couple of days. Once leaving O’Briens Road the initial section of Trout Track makes for some fairly typical Lerderderg ridge walking as the track stays fairly high on a broad spur before eventually starting a descent down to Sardine Creek, a descent that gets steeper the closer to the creek that you get.
There is a gate on Trout Track.
My 4wd mates obviously own a chainsaw....those tyre tracks look kinda fresh don't they.
Trout Track
The upper reaches of Trout Track make for good walking.
With the track getting steeper as I approached Sardine Creek I suddenly came across two 4wd’s around 50 metres ahead of me. Stopping back up the track a bit and taking it in it almost looked like the 4wd’s had been abandoned as there didn’t appear to be anyone in them. After taking things in for a minute from up the track I eventually decided to keep going, dropping down to the vehicles I could see that they couldn’t get any further because Trout Track was just too steep, loose and eroded. One 4wd was parked hard up against a tree on what was must be close to a 45˚ slope and the other one was also parked on a precarious angle…but where were the owners?
Dropping down Trout Track closer to Sardine Creek it starts to get pretty steep.
Too steep for these guys. The Cruiser was wedged hard up against a tree.
Looking down to Sardine Creek, I didn't stop to take photos.
Once again I stopped to take things in, I now heard a male voice coming from the direction of Sardine Creek below me. Now my walk had me dropping down to cross Sardine Creek before immediately climbing just as steeply straight up the other side of the valley, apart from abandoning the walk my only real option was to drop down and cross the creek. So I decided to keep going, although now I decided that it would be best if these blokes didn’t have time to prepare for my arrival so instead of clicking my way down using my walking poles I dropped into the valley very quietly. Once down at creek level I could see a rough camp set up ahead of me, one bloke to my left in the creek doing a bit of prospecting, another to my right in the creek doing the same thing and one at the makeshift camp. Crossing the creek I got a couple of metres away from the first bloke before saying hello, with three startled heads looking my way, I continued on through their informal camp and started climbing the continuation of Trout Track. With the continuation of Trout Track resembling a rock wall I was pretty confident they weren’t going to be in a hurry to follow me up.
The climb out of Sardine Creek is even steeper than the descent in I think.
This spot on Trout Track is about the highest spot on today's stroll.
It's an ambit claim I think.
Like on the descent to Sardine Creek the climb out was also a fairly nice walk, well once passed the initial steep section. I was while climbing up along here towards Ambler Lane that I reached the highest spot on today’s stroll, although at just over 600 metres it’s not really alpine. On reaching Ambler Lane I crossed straight over and continued on a continuation of Trout Track, ironically enough this section of Trout Track is open to vehicles but was free of them this morning. Arriving at a bit of an informal camping spot beside Clear Water Creek the relatively easy walking was over for the morning now, I was now going to head downstream along Clear Water Creek, off piste.
Away from the 4wd tracks the bush is quite nice.
Crossing over Ambler (quite appropriate for me really!) Lane I continued on down Trout Track.
Those pesky signs....that'll fuck em'.
This section of Trout Track is open to vehicles...
...although there was none about....
....oh, actually there was one vehicle that didn't make it.
Clear Water Creek has created a very steep sided valley but with the creek bone dry today the walking was pretty easy. I followed an old water race for a hundred metres or so above the creek before dropping into the rocky creek bed and following it down stream. Twenty minutes or so after leaving Trout Track I rounded a bend in Clear Water Creek and something caught my eye, walking a bit closer I once again was stopped in my tracks. This time I was looking a a very well camouflaged stealth camp set up, fuck me! After standing completely still for a minute or two I convinced myself that this camp was empty and slowly eased my way past, with more camouflage netting draped over it than you’d see on a repeat of MASH it was another freaky encounter on what was a very freaky day.
The small camping spot where Trout Track gets to Clear Water Creek is quite a pretty spot.
The view from the small camping spot at Clear Water Creek.
Heading downstream along Clear Water Creek I followed this old water race for a few minutes...
...before taking to the creek bed.
Then I stumbled through a left over set from MASH. Hmm, what could possibly go wrong?
Continuing on, Clear Water Creek heads through a convoluted series of interlocking spurs, the sheer rock walls meaning that the creek bed was the only real option to easily get through here. While the bed of the creek generally made for quick and easy walking it did also feature my walking Kryptonite in the form of log jams, while I don't mind rock scrambles I’m not overly keen on climbing loose, dead trees. With the occasional dry stone wall visible up the side of the steep valley I was pretty sure that I was getting close to the Lerderderg River though and sure enough, after one last particularly gnarly section of scrub I emerged from the bush onto Ambler Lane, virtually at the camping area.
Clear Water Creek meandered it's way towards the Lerderderg River through a series of interlocking spurs.
Clear Water Creek
It's not hard to see evidence of the area's old gold mining history.
The Clear Water Creek valley is quite pretty.
In theory I was going to follow a walking track from here back to O’Briens Crossing but after crossing the bone dry Lerderderg River I left Ambler Lane just as it started to climb away from the river and found….not much. Well, I did find some old mullock heaps and one piece of pink flagging tape and maybe what you’d call a Wombat pad, but really for all intents and purposes there was no track. I might not be the brightest but I quickly realised that the go would be to once again wander down the dry river bed.
Crossing the Lerderderg River on Ambler Lane, I was looking for a walking track on the right where the road heads off up hill.
I did find an old mullock heap...
...and one piece of flagging tape...
....but was soon tempted onto the river bed.
The good news was that the Lederderg River is a lot more substantial watercourse than Clear Water Creek had been, so I largely didn’t have too many log jams to negotiate. In hindsight the walk down the Lerderderg River bed was probably the best walking of the day, the wide rocky bed and encroaching cliffs of the gorge being very pretty. It was interesting and a little concerning on my river walk exactly how low the waterholes were today, the black marks on the rock faces that mark the normal water height were almost a meter above water level today.
Walking the dry river bed allowed me to appreciate the rugged walls of the gorge.
The pools in the river bed were very low.
Another relic from the mining days.
By the time I’d meandered my way back to the ute it was just after lunch time today. If you can be bothered to try and locate it in the scrub, the river side track would actually cut a bit of distance off the walk as the pad short cuts a few of the river loops. There must of been more than 20 vehicles at O’Briens Crossing when I got back so I was pretty happy to just jump into the ute and start making a mile heading home after what had been a somewhat unusual, and a little bit disconcerting walk. I’ve been considering buying something like a Garmin In Reach or Spot Tracker for awhile now but today’s walk has probably convinced me of it, it’ll definitely make Sam a little happier to know were I am.
The Lerderderg River approaching O'Briens Crossing.
The Dirt.
According to my GPS I walked 10.1 kilometres and climbed 399 metres on what I’d call a medium grade stroll this morning. As I’ve mentioned things can be a little hit or miss out at Lerderderg in my opinion, the spot seems to attract a lot of my bogan brother and sisters and while the majority of them are nice people you just never know sometimes, especially if you meet up with them while they are up to something dodgy. The walking here can also be hit and miss, although with everything from quiet dirt roads, 4wd tracks, walking tracks and off track routes there is plenty of variety! I used the notes out of Mr Tempests book Melbourne’s Western Gorges book this morning, Mr Thomas has also written up a similar walk in one of his old books.

Relevant Posts.
Byers Back Track & Shaws Lake, Lerderderg State Park, 2018.
Lerderderg East Walk, Lerderderg State Park, 2018.

Time to head home.

1 comment:

  1. In my local area I met a couple of guys 4wding who had headed up a very muddy track, spun the wheels and went sideways into a tree. Especially bad was that they had convinced a local car yard that they could be trusted to take the vehicle out for a drive. I left them to sort it out.

    A mate of mine dropped down of steep terrain in the Budawangs, with no way back as they had used a rope to get down one section, and found a pot plantation. Fortunately no one around, and they then found a spot where someone had been having target practice with a rifle. A bit worrying.


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