Tag Archives: bushwalking

When did gear get so expensive?

As much as I love shopping for outdoorsy stuff, I am always surprised by how expensive it can be.

I went looking for new hiking boots the other day. I’m planning on doing a multi-day walk in south west Tasmania early next year and needed new boots after my old Scarpas finally gave up after years of wear. They’d served me well and it was sad dropping them into a Geeveston bin after I’d finished my last big walk – Precipitous Bluff.

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New boots!

My new boots are full leather Asolo TPS 535s. They’re tough and sturdy, which is what you need when walking in Tasmania. But the cost! $389. And these weren’t the most expensive available (the Gore-Tex version were $469).  I suppose you do get what you pay for and, hopefully, a premium price equates to a premium product. Especially if it’s something you’ll be relying on to get into and out of a wilderness area safely.

But it makes me wonder if the cost of hiking gear discourages people from taking up camping and hiking. Especially when starting out. Tents are hundreds of dollars, sleeping bags are hundreds of dollars, backpacks are hundreds of dollars. But I suppose you buy this stuff once and it should last you a long time. (A good example of that is my tent. It’s the only one I’ve ever bought and it’s lasted me … I forget how many years … many.) And I guess you can always hire or buy second hand.

Maybe I’m overthinking it. You don’t always NEED to buy the latest and shiniest gear for walking. And I suppose a lot depends on the kind of hiking you’ll do. You don’t need much if you’re only doing day walks in fine weather, as opposed to multi-day hikes in remote and rough terrain.

Maybe I’m just getting old and want to complain about how expensive everything is these days. First world problems.

Anyway, I should just be grateful that I’m in the fortunate position to be able to buy the occasional expensive item so I should just shut up and enjoy it.  And start breaking in these new boots.

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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.

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.

 

 

A day walk on Paul Range

This is a short day walk I did a couple of months ago. I came across its description on the where2walk website. Its main attraction for me was that it was in the Yarra Valley, only about an hour drive from home in Melbourne and littered with wineries to visit on the way home.

The walk was okay. Nice views of the valley. It was all on fire trails and dirt roads which isn’t really much fun because you can’t really feel like you’re in the bush when you’re walking along a road. Being passed by some motorbike riders and 4 wheel drives doesn’t help. But at least I was out of the city and amongst some trees. It wasn’t a great walk but the exercise was nice.

And of course stopping at a couple of cellar doors on the way home. The first one was Yarrawood. They have a nice cafe there and the best Devonshire tea I’ve ever had. Huge scones and very generous with the jam and cream.

Pure deliciousness

Pure indulgent deliciousness

I also tried Long Gully Estate. A great little cellar door hidden up a small valley up a narrow dirt road.

What I learned from the Precipitous Bluff walk

Precipitous Bluff in the distance, two days' walk away

Precipitous Bluff in the distance, two days of walking away

1. Once again, I packed too many clothes. Clothes take up a fair bit of space in a pack, no matter how much you try and squash them down. And they add weight. I ended up carrying an extra pair of walking pants, shirt, and thermals that I didn’t end up needing. That nagging feeling of “I should bring extra just in case” got the better of me. But really, they weren’t necessary and as a result my pack was probably heavier than it should have been.

2. The importance of not panicking. When I thought I’d lost the track in the scrub half way along the walk I thought that was it, I’d have to turn around and head back. When you think you may be lost, don’t keep pushing onwards as it may make your situation worse. Backtrack until you’re back on the path and then continue carefully to ensure you don’t wander off again. I did just that and when I ended up back at the same spot the track disappeared I scanned the ground ahead closely to pick up signs of where other walkers had been before.

3. Be flexible with plans. You never know what may happen on a walk so it’s a good idea to not be too strict with your timetable. You might end up at a campsite you were planning to stay at earlier than you think and decide to push on to the next one. Or you might find a nice site where you might want to spend an extra day. Or the weather might turn pear shaped, forcing you to stay put until it clears. Accepting that stuff happens and to just go with the flow and enjoy it will also relieve you of unnecessary stress.

Head out to the whale sculpture for a bit of mobile phone coverage

Head out to the whale sculpture for a bit of mobile phone coverage

4. If you’re going to finish your walk at Cockle Creek and haven’t organised transport to pick you up, make sure you’ve got coins so you can use the public phone, which only takes coins and Telstra Phone Cards (do they even exist anymore?) You may get one bar of service on your mobile at the ranger’s hut – enough for a text. Or you can walk out to the whale sculpture where the signal can be a little be stronger.

 

 

5. Not really a learning but a reaffirming of what I already know – Tasmania’s wilderness is wonderful.

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Views like these make Tassie such a special place

 

Precipitous Bluff, Tasmania – Part 3

Day 6. Cavern Camp to Osmiridium Beach

This day I headed to join the South Coast Track. But to get there, I had to spend half the day wading in the New River Lagoon heading down to the coast as there’s no track along the shore.

It was actually probably the easiest day of walking because while I was wading up to thigh deep in places, it was flat! No up and down!

The water was cold but it didn’t bother me much.

The biggest surprise for the day was meeting a bloke who was heading up the lagoon carrying a paddle. He was the first person I’d seen since starting the walk and was on his way to climb Precipitous Bluff. The paddle was for a blow up raft he was carrying. He said he’d tried to paddle up the lagoon but the wind kept blowing him back so he had to walk. He’d be able to use it coming out.

The one tricky spot was crossing a creek that entered the lagoon and was too deep to wade so you had to walk inland a bit until you reached a tree that had fallen across. It was slippery and I straddled it and edged across. It wasn’t glamorous but I got across safely.

Joining the South Coast Track at Prion Beach it kind of felt like the walk was over as all the really hard stuff had been done. But I still had another three days of walking to go.

I passed a group of school kids who were on their way to camp at Prion Beach and I had Osmiridian Beach all to myself. The weather cleared up to a sunny afternoon and the views of Precipitous Bluff and Pindars Peak and Mt Whylly against blue sky were brilliant.

 

Day 7. Osmiridium Beach to Granite Beach

A short walk to Granite Beach so I had a bit of a lie in and didn’t set out until after 9am.The weather had turned again and it as blowy with gray cloud overhead.

It started spitting rain as I walked along the end of Granite Beach, where it’s more boulders than sand.

At the campsite I quickly put the tarp up, got the tent up under it and then the rain started and got quite heavy. So I ended up spending another afternoon in the tent cocooned in my sleeping bag warm and dry, reading.

I worried a bit for the guy I passed yesterday as if he tried to climb Precipitous Bluff in the kind of weather I was getting on the coast, he’d be having a not very pleasant time of it.

Late in the afternoon a woman walking the South Coast Track in the same direction as me showed up. Introduced ourselves and had a nice chat.

 

Day 8. Granite Beach to South Cape Rivulet

A long tough day slogging along the muddiest part of the South Coast Track and up and over the South Cape Range.

As soon as you leave the Granite Beach campsite you’re stepping into mud. The track is pretty much one long bog. There are plenty of side tracks as people have tried to step around and avoid the worst of the mud. You’re not meant to do that as it just widens the track and has a greater impact on the landscape. I’m ashamed to admit that I did try skirting the bog a fair bit as I’d discovered the sole of my left boot was splitting from the upper. I was trying to nurse it through the last few days of the walk. I didn’t fancy trying to finish it wearing my sandals. Still got muddy though.

There was a lot of up and down, which was exhausting. But it was worth it as South Cape Rivulet is a very nice flat, sheltered campsite just up from the beach and the roar of the Southern Ocean and its crashing waves.

 

Day 9. South Coast Rivulet to Cockle Creek

The last day. And happy/sad about that. Happy that I was successfully finishing such a hard walk and sad that I was leaving behind such spectacular wilderness.

Easy walking up and over Coal Bluff and then along a beach to some stairs to climb onto some cliffs and then head inland towards Cockle Creek. The walking is easy, flat, and much of it on duckboards. In fact, it becomes a bit tedious.

But the end is a great feeling. Seeing the information shelter marking the end at Cockle Creek and signing out in the trip intentions book was very satisfying.

I was surprised to see how busy Cockle Creek was. There were a few cars parked in the parking area outside the ranger’s building and quite a few car campers.

There’s little/patchy mobile phone coverage at Cockle Creek, and I had to walk around a fair bit to find enough bars to send my wife a text message letting her know I was okay (I’m with Optus). There is a public phone but I only had enough coins to call Evans Bus service to arrange for them to pick me up the next day. The phone takes Telstra cards but do they exist anymore? The bus (a mini van) generally only operates during the summer months. They take you as far as Geeveston and then you get the public bus back to Hobart.

It was nice to spend the night at Cockle Creek. It’s an interesting area with a history of Aboriginal tribes, French scientific explorers, whaling and timber milling. It’s now the “End of the Road”, the furthest south you can drive in Australia.