Winter bushwalking 2012

Last weekend was the Queen’s birthday long weekend, and monarchist or republican, we all love a long weekend, right?  Long may she reign!

Harry and Jack and I took advantage of the extra day off to get out of town for a moment or two, and a couple of days of trekking, schlepping and lightly stepping through the wilds of the Lerderderg Gorge.  The Lerderderg state park is less than two hours drive from our side of town, and once you get there you are unlikely to run into too many other people, especially once you get more than a few hours’ walk away from a carpark.  Which makes it a perfect spot for a weekend hike.

We’ve been there before a couple of times, but only to the northern end of the park, up around Blackwood.  This time around we drove to the southern end of the park, which is just outside the outer limits of the sprawling suburban mass that is Bacchus  Marsh, which is named after one of its original inhabitants, and not the greco-roman god of wine and good times.  Not that there aren’t bottle shops in Bacchus Marsh, but you just shouldn’t read anything into it.

According to the faded interpretive sign there was a massive rocky uplift a couple of million years ago, which blocked the previous path of the river, and in the years since then the water has gradually cut through the rock to create the gorge.  It’s not as big as the Colca Canyon of Peru, nor as famous as the Grand Canyon in the US of A, but it’s still pretty impressive.  And it’s a heck of a lot easier to get to from Melbourne.

(Zoe has visited both of the other above-mentioned canyons in the last couple of months.  Hi Zoe.)

Within a few kilometres of the carpark the path crosses the river a couple of times:

Crossing the river

and then turns away from the water and heads steeply up a long spur to the ridge above.

The southern end of the gorge is deeper, and the sides are steeper, than the northern end.

Unfortunately the path to the top of the spur led not just to the ridge line, but to the fairly well made road that follows the ridge north-ish, and we were forced to walk along the more-beaten track for a while.

Not quite off the beaten track.

The road is so nicely made because it services a weir across the river.  The weir helps to send  some of the Lerderderg’s flow through a tunnel under the ridge and eventually into the Merrimu reservoir, which supplies The Marsh and the surrounding market gardens.

The weir.

From the weir we crossed the river again, and climbed up the other side of the gorge to the ridge on the opposite side, stopping along the way for a bit of lunch.

We had a couple of hours of slogging up the steep side of the gorge to a much less-travelled track on the southern-ish side, which is about where the rain started to appear.

Just drizzling.

Further up the road the trail headed back down another spur and back to the river.  Another long and at times very steep descent, in the rain and the fading light of late afternoon until we reached our campsite for the night, somewhat wetter, and a tad pooped.

Wet and tired.

Hiking in winter is a good way to remind yourself that the nights are long.  Once it gets dark there isn’t much to do apart from sit around the fire getting warm on one side and colder on the other.  Eventually, after what seems like hours of darkness and idle fire-side chat, you casually glance at your watch to see if it’s bed time.  You’re a bit tired after all.  Your watch says it’s 6.45 pm!  Surely you can’t go to be this early…

Thanks to Jack’s inspired menu planning we were able to keep ourselves up a bit longer, cooking chocolate muffin mix inside of hollowed out oranges, wrapped in foil and tossed into the coals.  They were nearly delicious, and we crawled happily into the tent at 8 pm.  At 8.05 the two dogs were out for the count, and neither of them stirred until after 7 the next morning.  The three of us slept nearly as well.

That night we had devoted a fair bit of time and effort to getting the dogs dry, using just a small towel repeatedly dried out over the fire.  So it shouldn’t surprise you that by the morning our cosy little 3 person tent smelt somewhat of smoke, and somewhat of wet dog.

The walk out of the gorge and back up to the ridge was the reverse of the previous night’s descent, but this time the sun was shining and the sky was blue, and all was well with the world!

Climbing up the steep track

I won’t bore you with the details of the day’s walk.  We went up the steep sides of the gorge, and then we went down again.  We stopped on a rock halfway down the side for lunch and a billy of tea, and then dived down to the river banks again for the last few kilometres back to the carpark.