Major Mitchell Plateau hike

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I did the Major Mitchell Plateau three day circuit walk in the Grampians National Park recently.

A three hour drive west of Melbourne, The Grampians have been a destination I’ve been wanting to visit for a while.

An unexpected week off from work gave me the opportunity to throw on the backpack and see somewhere new. After more than a year since my last overnight hike (a new baby don’t give you much opportunity for camping) I wondered whether I still knew what to do.

I started out at Sheep Hills Carpark and quickly fell into the steady rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other.

The track was obvious and rose steadily to Mt William. Unfortunately the day I set out was grey and rainy and the views of bush and surrounding mountain ranges were intermittent.

The final climb along the road to the top of Mt William was steep and hard on the feet. There was no reward at the summit as it was completely clouded in. It was cold and windy so I didn’t bother spending much time up there and set out for the First Wannon campsite.

The track got rougher but was still easy to follow. It descended steeply into Boundary Gap and then climbed just as steeply again up and onto the plateau. There was a bit of careful rock scrambling near the top which I wasn’t ready for. After about five hours of hiking up and down through the rain I was feeling pretty shagged and keen to set up camp and get dry and warm.

It was a nice campsite with a drop toilet and a small creek running through it.

Day two for the walk across the plateau dawned much nicer, with puffy white clouds and plenty of blue sky. This was the day I got all the views across the Grampians and the surrounding farmland below.

It made enduring the weather of the day before worthwhile.

The walk off the plateau is steep, followed by a long steady descent to Jimmy Creek Campground.

Again, I was pretty happy to get to the campsite so I could relax, even though it meant leaving behind the feeling of being remote and away from everything.

The third day back to the car was pretty boring – an undulating fire trail with little in the way of views.

Back at the car I headed to Halls Gap, the tourist town in the middle of the Grampians, where I stayed at one of the caravan parks for the night before heading home. I liked Halls Gap; a pleasant spot where you could base yourself for day walks around the area.

Fernshaw to Dom Dom Saddle return walk

For a great day walk with ups and downs to stretch the legs, about an hour out of Melbourne, the walk from Fernshaw to Dom Dom Saddle and back in the Yarra Ranges is well worth a look.

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Starting at the Fernshaw picnic ground beside the Watts River just outside Healesville on the way to Marysville, the track is well trodden and easy to follow. Although in some places large trees have come down across it after what must have been a massive blow so there’s a bit of scrambling required to get over them and through tangles of smashed limbs and branches.

The first part of the walk is pretty flat and winds through tree ferns and tall, straight mountain ash. You can hear the river somewhere amongst the trees. You then climb up and down a couple of steep, forested ridges to reach Dom Dom Saddle, another nice picnic area on the way to Marysville.

At about 20km long, the walk is a decent one for some huffing and puffing exercise and time out among the trees.

And we made it back to the car in time to stop off at Tarra Warra winery for some wine tasting on the way home. That’s one of the best bits about walking in the Yarra Ranges, the cellar doors to visit in the Yarra Valley on the way home.

Mt Dom Dom walk

Mt Dom Dom is really a blip of a hill in the Yarra Ranges, east of Melbourne. There’s nothing particularly spectacular about it but I’d come across a walk description of it so thought I’d give it a crack.

We started at the carpark of the Dom Dom saddle picnic area, between Healesville and Marysville, and followed some dirt logging roads east for a bit, looking for what according to the walk notes was a path to the summit on our left. We came across a vague dirt vehicle track about where we thought we should be heading up and followed it. It was slippery and steep  and when we cleared some low scrub there were nice views west over the ranges towards Healesville. The bush wasn’t that inspiring as it looked like we were walking through an old logging coupe.

The track we were following disappeared towards the top and we picked our way as far to the top as we could until the undergrowth became too thick to push through. It didn’t look like there would be much of a view from the top anyway with the dense scrub.

We made our way back down to the logging road and followed it around the base of the mountain until we reached a junction with a walking track. It was single track through native forest and a nice change from the road.  The track joined up with another logging road, which we followed back up to the picnic area.

All up it was nice to be out of the city but I wouldn’t go rushing back to do this walk. The wine tasting at some Yarra Valley cellar doors on the way home was good though – Warramunda Estate, Helen and Joey Estate and Punt Road. All very nice.

 

Paddling at Pittwater

Pittwater is the next harbour north of Sydney Harbour. I’ve written about it before. It’s where the Christmas Eve dog race between Scotland Island and Church Point is held.

It’s a wonderful part of the world. On its northern shores is Ku-Ring-Gai National Park and many small sheltered bays where boats and their owners drop anchor for weekends and holidays away.

My wife’s family have a house in one of the bays that’s only accessible by boat. It’s where we often go for holidays. And whenever we’re there, I usually spend a bit of time paddling about the bay, up its creek, and around the points, watching for wildlife like cormorants, sea eagles and cockatoos, jellyfish and stingrays.

 

 

Up and down Lake Mountain

I like climbing. All kinds – rock climbing, hiking up mountains and while riding road and mountain bikes.

With rock climbing it’s as much the mental challenge as physical one of getting to the top of a wall using the right holds and moves.

With hiking it’s the slow, methodical plodding of putting one foot in front of the other with a pack on. That and the desire to see what’s on the other side.

With riding, it’s the rhythmic grind of keeping the pedals turning.

Lately I’ve been on the road bike doing a few climbs out of Melbourne.

Mt Donna Buang is a favourite, as is Lake Mountain.

A friend and I recently did Lake Mountain, on the outskirts of Marysville, a town that was almost completely wiped out by bushfires in 2009.

While the town has been rebuilt, the landscape around it still bears the scars of the fire. The forest is slowly regenerating but the dead, charred trunks of trees stand like tall matchsticks across the hillsides. It’s a sad sight because the forest pre fires must have been spectacular.

It’s nice ride to the top of Lake Mountain, where there’s a café and other facilities for winter when it snows. The road is a steep climb out of Marysville before it levels off to a relatively gentle gradient.

The fun part is going down and hitting some pretty impressive, probably stupid, speeds, as this screen grab from my activity app shows – 79.8km/h.IMG_1541

Anyway, here’s to hill climbs, and the way back down.

Exploring Melbourne’s bike paths

With the recent birth of my wonderful, adorable daughter – our first child – there hasn’t been much time or opportunity for adventurous pursuits outside the city.

While neighbourhood pram walks have replaced hikes through the bush, I’ve discovered the planning for those short walks can be just as intense as organising a multi-day walk. Do we have spare nappies, changes of clothes, wipes? Does our route pass shops, toilets, parks? Are there shortcuts to get home in case of emergencies? What’s the weather going to do?

Anyway, every now and then my wonderful wife gives me a day off from parenting duty to indulge in some outdoorsy stuff with friends. I’ve been using that time to explore Melbourne’s extensive network of bike paths. And I’ve been wonderfully surprised with what I’ve found.

Long trails that twist and turn, up and down through bush-lined creeks and watercourses, snake through parks and past sports ovals and change from concrete to gravel to single track. The paths are long and can be linked up to create long circuit rides that take you to far flung parts of the city you may never normally see.

Below is a quick video of a big ride a friend and I did recently. Headed out on the Scotchman’s Creek trail to Jells Park and Eastlink, along the Dandenong Creek trail, out to Paterson Lakes, then back via Beach Road – 83km on mountain bikes. Good times.

Where we went.

Big ride

Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse video

About this time last year I went for a walk with a friend to stay at the Wilsons Promontory lighthouse keeper cottages. I wrote about it here.

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It was one of the nicest walks I’ve done. The cottages are an amazing place to stay. I’ve finally gotten around to sorting out a video I made walking around the cottages.