The annual Spring Hike

Since 2006 my two sons and I have taken ourselves out of the Big Smoke each spring for a few days to go hiking in the bush.  In past years I have jokingly referred to it as the one time of the year when we shake our fists at the sky and dare God (or the Almighty Teapot, or whatever) to try and pick us off.  In previous years our hikes have taken us through the southern alps and the northern Grampians; we have been swallowed up by storms, stung by driving rains, and chilled by snow;  we’ve used old tents, new tents and borrowed tents, and every trip has been an adventure.

Earlier this year we had a brief and unsatisfactory trip up Mount Erica at the southern end of the Great Alpine walking track.  We hiked up the mountain in the dark, through fog and drizzling rain and managed to stay reasonably dry.  The following day we ventured briefly out onto the Baw Baw plateau, but soon turned back because of the lousy weather.

Cold and wet.

So when it came to thinking about this year’s Spring Hike there was a kind of unspoken thought that passed between the three of us that we’d already shook our fists at the heavens this year, and maybe we could take it a bit easy this time.  Which is why we chose to spend a couple of days in the Lerdergerg Gorge.  Nowhere near the snowline.  No exposed mountain tops.  Not even a very long drive from home to get there.

Here’s what happened:

We set off from Blackwood on Saturday morning after a leisurely breakfast and a wet night in the local picnic ground.  The rain had cleared, the clouds were thinning, the sun was rising, and it felt good to be alive.

We walked for a while around the outskirts of Blackwood, through the Wombat state forest, before entering the Lerderderg state park proper.   The Lerdergerg river and the surrounding creeks and gullies were rich enough in alluvial gold to attract large numbers of prospectors in the 1850s gold rush.  Unlike the goldfields of Ballarat and surrounds, the alluvial gold of the Lerdy didn’t last very long, and there was no underground reef to be found.  These days there is precious little left of what was once a very busy area.  A few old houses outside of Blackwood are evidence that this was once a busier place.

We walked up hill and down dale, through open eucalyptus forest and more dense and lush temperate rainforest areas, playing stupid word games making up ridiculous stories.  The dog was leading the way.  (Along the path, that is, not in the word games.  He’s a clever dog – he doesn’t play word games.)

As you’d expect from an old mining area, there are lots of abandoned mine shafts.  

This particular mine shaft is in pretty good shape still, and it goes back into the hillside for about 30 metres or so.  Since the area only really produced alluvial gold I suspect that whoever dug this tunnel did so for very little reward.  Other old mines dotted about the area are all shapes and sizes.  Some are vertical holes in the ground, down which it would be easy enough to fall if you weren’t looking where you were going.  In other parts of the park there are large underground tunnels that have collapsed or eroded away, and none of these holes in the ground is that close to anywhere really, so if you did find any gold it would have been a long walk out to sell it.  And a longer walk back in with supplies.  The life of an 1850s prospector is pretty hard to imagine from the luxury of the 21st century.

I was in this same area, doing this same walk a couple of years ago at the height of the drought, and at that time the river was just a disconnected series of stagnant waterholes, so it was good to see it again this time around in full flow.

We stopped for lunch at an area called The Tunnel.  The tunnel is a hole that has been blasted through the rock to join the two sides of a large loop in the river.  The result is that the water gets a short cut through the tunnel, leaving the loop without any flow.  This was done so that the river bed in the dried out portion of the river could be panned for gold. I doubt that you’d get that past the first hurdle these days, but they didn’t ask for Environmental Impact Statements back in the gold rush days.

After lunch we hit the trail again for a while, where it suited us.  But where it didn’t we took a compass bearing and bush bashed our way through.  In a lot of places where hiking is the preferred means of getting from A to B bush-bashing is the least good option.  But in the points where we left the trail we actually found the going was easier, especially on anything like a hill, than it had been on the riverbank.

We camped for the night along a stretch of the river not far from O’Brien’s crossing, in the middle of the state park.  Jack and I camped here a couple of years ago, in exactly the same spot.  This weekend we were camped by a fast flowing river, very much alive and well.  Two years ago, at the height of the drought, there was a single stagnant pool at this spot.  What a difference a bit of rain makes.

You might need to click on this photo to see the whole thing.  Despite the large Teleporter beam right next to the fire it was a very peaceful place to spend the night.

It was a one-dog-night

The following day we crossed the river and made our way back to our starting point, via a different route.  Crossing rivers is all part of the deal, I suppose.  It’s much easier during drought years though.  Best of all is if someone can do the crossing for you…

The smart way to cross the river.

It was a great weekend of walking and talking and being out in the bush.  Being spring the place was festooned with wild flowers and everything is green and lush.

















Tea, coffee, and dog biscuits. What could be better?


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Heidi
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 19:07:00

    You make me dearly wish I was fitter, John! What lovely photos too. 🙂


  2. Trackback: Winter bushwalking 2012 « bikenarian

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