Category Archives: Trail

Mt Juliet

5ish months pregnant, and I thought I had one more mountain in me for the year. I thought I’d do something with a well defined track, something that didn’t involve bush bashing, and something relatively short. So last week I had a day free and I thought Mt Juliet would fit the requirements. If you’re reading this and you’ve done Mt Juliet, I can hear you laughing.

So it is a well defined track, there are no sections where you have to go off trail, and it is very short. Only 4.5km up, then 4.5km back down. Easy, right?

You start at Road 3, which is a management vehicle track just off the main road out of Healesville. If you’re looking to do this one, this is the 5th management vehicle track on your right after the last street heading out of Healesville. I think this is the only one that allows walkers. There’s a small number 3 marked, so you can’t miss it if you keep an eye out for it.

So you start there, and it’s an easy incline up to the start of the walking track bit. Then the incline increased a bit. No worries, I’m big and the heart rate is high, so I planned to take it super easy. Bonus: It looked like the track had been recently cleared 🙂

Mt Juliet, Vic

After a while, I came across a huge fallen down tree. You can’t tell the size in the pic, but the width of the tree base is taller than me.

Mt Juliet, Vic

As I went further along, the amount of fallen trees increased. It was no longer a matter of just climbing through a few branches here and there.

Mt Juliet, Vic

Sometimes the path was just a bunch of fallen down trees and slippery bark.

It was getting really steep. I was on all fours for most of the top bit, holding onto rocks, small trees, or just the bare ground to help pull me up the hill. Doing this with a big tummy is not very comfortable!

Mt Juliet, Vic

The trail is through there.

At some point a thought kept nagging at me: How the fuck are you supposed to get down from this?

And I realised, it wasn’t going to get any better. There were almost no sections clear of fallen trees. And to top it off, it was CRAZY steep. I knew that to get down I’d have to slide down on my bum. And the further I kept going, the more bum sliding I’d have to do later.

I got to a point where HUGE trees were EVERYWHERE across the trail. I was too short to climb over one, and too fat to crawl through the split in it:

Mt Juliet, Vic

And then I thought Stuff it. I was probably only 500m or so from the top – but that may have been 30-60 minutes for all I knew. That would be maybe up to an hour of uncomfortable crawling, followed by almost as long bum sliding down.

So then I realised that this trail is not built for people with a big tummy. It was going to have to wait until next year 😦

So I slid down for about 40 minutes, holding on to young wattle and eucalyptus trees.

Mt Juliet, Vic

Then it was steep, but at least upright, going for another 30 minutes, before getting back to much more manageable terrain:

Mt Juliet, Vic

And then the easy management vehicle track back to the car.

I have finally come to the realisation that I can’t be trusted with new adventures for the rest of the year 😦 Everything else will have to be tried and tested easy stuff, and probably with other people, so that I am definitely forced to choose easier, more comfortable options. I am not very good at doing the same route twice, and I am not very good at deliberately taking it easy, so we’ll see how that goes…

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Lerderderg – Southern Gorge Walk

It’s been a while since I’ve done a new route, but I found someone who likes doing silly things, and who also happens to take most of Fridays off for silly things.

She’s training for a 250km race and wanted something on the longer side of my fat pregnant capabilities, yet she had to be at a certain place by 3pm. So I picked the shortest thing I could think of. The Southern Gorge Walk is marked as around 8km… but I told her it would feel like the 15 she wanted. I just knew that anything I chose would probably involve bush bashing, making up the way, an undetermined number of river crossings, and lead to running overtime.

So we started at Mackenzies Picnic area. It was pretty enough, and after 5 seconds we came to the first river crossing, with nice stepping stones laid out so we didn’t get our tootsies wet.

It was very pleasant going, with a little bit of running, and walking at the slightest incline.

I’d always avoided Lerderderg because all the walks seem to involve river crossings and hills that look like they go on forever. At this point, I decided I had no reason to avoid the area.

We made it to Graham’s Dam, and started heading along the east side of the river. But it got very steep and cliffy very suddenly, and I thought we should’ve just been following the river, but it was kind of deep. So we backtracked, and decided to do the loop in reverse. We crossed over to the west side, and after a little exploration, found Link Track Number 1.

This was a steep steep hill! This west side of the river was dry, rocky and sparse. The trees were short. It was the wild west!

Lerderderg

Views near the top of Link Track No 1

We found our way to Link Tk No 2 and very slowly descended, holding onto rocks and trees so we didn’t fall over.

Fat pregnant arse managing to go down the hill without falling over

Fat pregnant arse managing to go down the hill without falling over

I think we did pretty well, except at some point we were so busy focusing on just putting one foot in front of the other that we lost the orange arrows marking the trail. Not to worry. All we had to do was go down to the river.

View down Link No 2

View down Link No 2

We found a pretty creek bed which took us to the river.

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And from there it was river river river. In the river, across the river, next to the river. My feet were FREEZING in the river. It felt like that water had come straight off a mountain. Every time I went in the river, my feet got so numb I couldn’t tell if I was stepping properly on the rocks, I didn’t know if my shoes were gripping right, and I just had to get out of there. When I got to dry land, it took several minutes for my feet to regain feeling.

We found where Link Tk No 2 met up with the river, and I was hopeful there’d be some slightly more obvious ways to walk. But no, it was just more river, and rocks, and debris, and shrubs, and prickly things.

We saw a couple of campsites by the river. Who are these people that walk along a river with a backpack to set up camp? That is just crazy thinking.

After a long while, we found a track. Yay! Smooth sailing from here on!

But the track would disappear, and it would be more river, then the track would reappear briefly, before disappearing and we’d be in the river again.

But finally we came across a track that was on nice smooth fairly even ground with easy footing, and a sign that said it was only 30 mins back to the start. Phew!

We couldn’t relax too much though. Because that hill cliffy bit at the start we saw and decided not to do? Well that was up next.

20140815_130958

At that point we decided to turn around and find a shallowish bit in the river to cross. The other side was nice and rocky – in the nice rocky sense rather than the rock climbing sense, and I knew it would lead back to the start of Link 1.

So we found the shallowest bit. It wasn’t that shallow. I secured my phone in my pack, and we slung our packs over our heads, and walked across the waist deep river.

But the rest was exactly as I thought – easy rocky bits, and even a bit of a shuffle back to the car!

Totally doable, although pretty challenging at times. And as with all my adventures – it took way longer than expected.

Strava link: http://www.strava.com/activities/180818347

Ada Valley

Yesterday I went for a wander around Ada Valley, which is in between Warburton and Powelltown.

It’s a decent drive along some rough gravel roads from Warburton along Smyth Creek Rd that’s fun to test your car’s handling.

I started at Starlings Gap and headed along an old tramline. It’s a pleasant enough walk, although in the distance I could hear machinery and trees falling down, so not quite the nature trail you expect. There are a few old mill sites along the way, although you don’t really notice any remnants until about 8km in at Ada No 2 Mill Site. Here there is a lot of old milling equipment to be explored.

click any pic to enlarge

click any pic to enlarge

ada mill 2

ada mill 3

 

From there you head north. It’s supposed to be a loop around about 13km. My book says at some point the trail kind of disappears, and the trail doesn’t exist on other maps, but you just continue along, avoiding logging roads, and you’ll end up on the road back to your car. There was some mention about maybe having to change your route if there’s logging in the area, but I took that as more of an afterthought. I mean, why would they be logging an area that even the DSE say you can walk around?

ada mill 4

I was pretty excited to see a sign pointing towards Big Creek Road, which is the road back to the start. I thought it was pretty good that it was a legit track for walkers, so there’d be no problems with logging.

As I got closer to the road, I heard a big logging truck slowly make its way around the corners.

I got to Big Creek Road, and was happy to know it’s all downhill and hopefully just about 3km or so to the car.

Then I came across a sign that said “Public Safety Zone.” I thought this was great, because I would be safe here and there wouldn’t be any chance of trees being chopped down. Because it’s safe for the public and stuff.

But I read the sign properly, and it really meant that it was a public unsafe zone, and everyone should stay away. The sign was stuck to a tree though, with some bark covering it, so I pretended I didn’t see it and continued on.

Then I passed a couple of these signs:

ada mill 5 danger sign

And when I spotted some machinery around the corner, and remembered that earlier I heard trees being chopped down, I decided I didn’t want to come across any angry loggers telling me to get the hell out of there. Are loggers angry people? I don’t know, but I imagine them to be. Especially if you’re not supposed to be there.

Well, there was nothing I could do really. I had passed multiple signs telling me to go away, and that trees were being felled across the road. All I could do was turn around and go back the way I came.

By then of course, my stupid ankle was hurting, so I couldn’t go very fast. And I really wanted to get off that road quickly, or at least get passed all the danger signs I had ignored in case a truck drove past and an angry person told me off.

There was no apparent short cut to take. I was walking/hobbling as fast as I could. I swear the last 3km took forever. I was increasing my pace in an effort to get back to the car by 4pm. I wasn’t in a real hurry, but I do like to get home by dinner time so I’m not starving.

I made it back at 4 on the dot – my watch said I did 22km in 5 hours. Driving back along Smyth Creek Rd, I saw another Public Safety Zone sign. No way was I going to find another way out of there. I drove that way in, so I presumed they could not have started chopping down trees along that road in the space of a few hours!

Looking at the map, you can see how wildly inaccurate GPSs are under tree cover. Mine has never been so bad before, but it is getting old and slowly dying. Before the turnaround, I was on the road you can see, although the route recorded is quite off. Google took the photo in 2010, and you can see patches of new plantations.

map

I’m happy to note that my endurance hasn’t suffered, even though I no longer do any endurance racing. If it wasn’t for my stupid ankle, I could’ve run the whole thing. I’m hoping to get a mountain bike at some point so I can cover more ground faster 😀

 

Donnolley’s Weir – Mt St Leonard

I feel like it’s been a little while since I head out for some kind of adventure, so I decided to go up to Healesville yesterday. I have a couple of other places in mind I want to check out, but the weather was forecast to be hot, so I decided that Donnolley’s Weir to Mt St Leonard and back would be something nice and short. I don’t know why I thought that.

When I arrived at Donnolley’s Weir, it was 18°C and raining. I slapped on some sunscreen anyway, and started walking. There is really only one way to go, and that is up.

You basically follow Road 11 to the top, but occasionally a walking track kind of runs parallel and you can walk up over some hills instead of around them. I did this on the way up, because it seemed quite nice at the time.

Nearly at the top! ... haha nah, just kidding

Nearly at the top! … haha nah, not really

After a while, the Bicentennial National Trail veers to the left, and you follow the trail going up a little steeper.

The sun was out now and it was getting pretty hot. And the horse march fly things were out biting me. I have been attacked by them so many times this summer!

The trail gets steeper, and when you think you are nearly at the top, it gets crazy steep. And then when you think you really must nearly be there, it gets super crazy steep. And then you realise that although you can see the sky through the trees, you shouldn’t get your hopes up until you can actually see the tower at the top.

I don’t think I’ve ever moved so slow in my life. The last kilometre to the top took nearly 30 mins!

Once I got to the top, I climbed the tower, because that is what you do when you see a tower. The last time I was here I nearly slipped because the stairs were iced over. This time I nearly slipped because my calves wanted to cramp. Then I sat underneath the stairs in the shade for a bit.

mtstleonard sit down

Someone was working in the building next to the tower. I was really hoping they’d step outside, because I would not have hesitated in asking for a ride down! But they didn’t, so I realised the only thing left for me to do was to walk straight back down.

It was pretty slow going down the very steep bit. And it wasn’t particularly pleasant. But then I reminded myself that it does get better and less steep. I also decided to stick to Road 11 so I didn’t have to go up and down some extra hills.

It was so hot, and I had drank nearly all my water. This is really unusual for me. It was now 37°C and there’s not much shade up there. It was uncomfortably hot.

Then a cyclist came past.

And we smiled that crazy smile that only crazy people do, when we are doing something crazy that no one else is crazy enough to do.

I kept walking downhill, and he went on uphill.

Some time later he passed me on his way back down. He went to the bit before it gets crazy steep. A quick crazy chat and we both continued down at our own speed.

mtstleonard wizard

It was about 18km and took me nearly 3 hours to walk up, and 2:15 to walk down, with around 1600m cumulative elevation.

mtstleonard wizard 2

 

Bogong To Hotham Volunteering

Yesterday was the B2H race – something I’d never be able to do, even if my stupid ankle actually worked. The qualifying standards are pretty tough, and if I were ever able to run again, I couldn’t possibly be fast enough for the tough cut off times. I love though mountains though, so I thought it would be a good excuse to go for a walk above the tree line for a bit.

We were stationed at Warby Corner, which I think is about 26km into the race, in between Spion Kopje and Mt Nelse North.

The original plan was to camp at Ropers Hut the previous night and then walk to Warby, but when we looked at the map we thought it would be easy enough to sleep in the car near the Rocky Valley storage lake and walk up in the morning.

We left at dawn. It was quite cold, so we were in long pants and jackets.

Victorian Alps

Click any pic to enlarge

Once we got above the trees the sun came up. There were a bazillion wild flowers out. I love them!

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We made it to our aid stop and had a rummage around. There was a table and about 5 million litres of water, oranges, snakes and electrolytes stashed in some bushes. We set up and were ready to go pretty early. I found some awesome cheap light 3 legged stools last week, so brought them up. We had a beautiful view of the mountains (Bogong?) and sat down to have some breakfast.

Then we had a wander up to Mt Nelse North while waiting for the first runners to come through.

I got a call from the radio operator at the checkpoint before us. We were supposed to have a radio guy with us, but he was sick, so it was just us for a bit. Lucky A decided to come with me, or I’d be setting up by myself, and although I would’ve found the food and water, I wouldn’t’ve found the table to put it all on, which was stashed elsewhere.

Victorian Alpine Wildflowers

The first runner came through at 9:10am – on track for a course record (I think he missed out by 3 mins or so in the end). Soon enough, RD Andy drove up with a DNS runner, B, to help us out.

Victorian Alpine Wildflowers

We found ourselves in a good rhythm with A recording runners, B filling drink bottles for runners, and me doing a little bit of everything and a little bit of communication by text in lieu of radio operator. It’s kinda funny to think we were almost in the middle of nowhere, but I had full mobile reception.

It was never as crazily busy as I expected, and towards the end the runners were looking very buggered and were spread out far apart. There were so many that would not reach the cut off time at Langford Gap. The temperature was around the low 20s and very sunny. With no shade, the runners were doing it pretty tough. Our own supply of sunscreen and aeroguard turned out to be a hit with the runners. When it was quiet and we had eaten our own food supplies, we entertained ourselves by eating the electrolytes that are supposed to be dissolved in water. It was just like eating Wizz Fizz!

We were expecting to finish by lunch time, but were there until about 1:45pm. I was instructed not to let the last runner keep going, as his wife was going to drive up to our aid station to pick him up. This was good for us because we could load all the aid station gear in the car and we all got a lift back too. We were getting pretty tired, sunburnt and eaten by flies.

I was originally hoping we’d be done earlier so we’d have time for another short walk before heading home, but that was not the case. By the time we got to Bright, there was nowhere open for lunch. It was 41 degrees down there, so the only thing to do was to wander into the crowded ice cream shop and get an iced coffee for the road. It was gooooood 🙂

It was a good day out and I’m pretty sure we’ll be up for this one again next year 😀