When we went: Monday July 20
How we got there: we drove to O’Briens crossing in the Lerderderg State Park. It’s about a 90 minute drive from Melbourne via the M8. This time we went to Trentham after our walk so that we could have cake and a coffee at Red Beard.
Activity summary: around five hours of mostly easy walking in forest. There is a steep climb up at the start, and a short steep section down to the Tunnel and back. There’s a bit of rock scrambling (and sometimes water crossing) at the Tunnel.
What we did (the details):
We have walked the Byers Back Track before with much enjoyment, but last time we did it as a return walk. We needed to head out to Trentham, so decided to walk in Lerderderg forest again, this time walking the Byers Back track circuit as described by John Chapman et al, that also takes in the springs at Blackwood, Shaws lake, and rejoins Byers back track at the Tunnel.
We arrived at O’Briens crossing just before 8am; everything was frosty. The start of the track, the only steep uphill section was hard and icy, the track crunched under our feet as we made our way up to the top of the climb. The puddles were icy, the treetops were covered in frost, everything at ground level was frozen. Then we rounded the corner at the top of the climb, we were met with sunshine and the cold lifted! Until the trees above us started dropping their melt water in big splatty drops down our necks. No pleasing some people 😉
Not much to report from the first part of the walk. It was still the same pleasant amble along the water race, with the vegetation changing as you enter cool sheltered gullies and back out to north facing slopes.
Just before we reached the Golden Point carpark, we met with a surprising and grisly sight: the side of the track was carpeted with soft grey fur. The spread of fur was about a metre wide, so it was obvious that something had met its end there. There was no blood, and no other signs of an animal so we stood for a while surveying the scene and hypothesising that a possum had been taken by either a fox, a powerful owl or maybe an eagle/raptor. We only had to take a few more steps to find another clue. Draped over a fallen tree, at about eye level, was the empty back half of a ring-tailed possum. It seems unlikely that a fox would climb up and stand on a tree to eat its possum, so we assume that it was likely a powerful owl taking its kill up to the canopy to eat it, then dropping the leftover skin into the forest below. We stared intently at the treetops for some time, but no owl to be seen, so we moved on. We reached the Golden Point carpark after about two hours of walking.
The walk through Golden Point and the back of Blackwood was pleasant in the morning sunshine and then down to the mineral springs park. I fell, slipping on a frosty board as we entered the park, and of course there *had* to be a couple there walking their dog to see me fall. Only a couple of bruises, and one to the pride, so we looked around the park. I was hoping to find some interesting fungi to take some photos, but no luck here. As we turned to head over the bridge and out of the park, we suddenly found ourselves face to face with a very happy black poodle with a stick. Upon greeting the dog, the stick was duly dropped at my feet. I bent down to pick up the stick and said poodle darted in before me and picked the stick up first. Then looked at me, smugly, brandishing the stick. He then dropped the stick again and stepped back, looking ostensibly eager. The owners then called out “don’t let him play THAT game with you!”. Mmm. In the end, I actually beat the dog to the stick twice and got to throw it. Hmm. Half dog, half troll.
We then set off over the bridge and up the hill on the 4wd track through the forest and up to Shaws lake. The ground here was messy with gold mining scars, but the forest was beautiful. Shaws lake was little more than a farm dam, so we didn’t linger here but kept on and up the hill. The forest from this point looked like it had recently been burnt: either controlled burning, or a minor bushfire, it was hard to tell. The ground was re-sprouting its grasses, and there was little else regrowing at ground level.
We reached the top of the hill, and the turn off to Tunnel Point track just after 11am. The trail was a broad 4wd track, and again the forest showed signs of burning for most of the way down to Tunnel Point. The road dead-ends at Tunnel Point and a sometimes indistinct footpad winds its way steeply down to the Tunnel.
As we neared the Tunnel our growing fears were confirmed: there was a LOT more water in the river this time… and we weren’t sure whether this would hamper our crossing back over. I wish I’d taken better photos of the area on this visit, as it’s hard to explain without visuals. During drier conditions, the river crosses under Tunnel point (through the um, Tunnel) so it’s simply matter of clambering over the Tunnel with dry land on either side. This time, the water flow was so high, that it had backflowed into the original river course, so on the side of the incoming water, it wasn’t dry. We clambered around looking for a dry spot to cross, but after some unsuccessful bushbashing we decided to just rock hop over the water. We sat and enjoyed lunch in the sun, with the Lerderderg rushing noisily under the Tunnel beside us, then with a little splashing and some teetering, we hopped our way across to the other side.
We left the Tunnel just on 12:30pm, and had a laugh at the signpost: last time we were there it was on a distinct lean. Someone obviously decided the lean was a bit offensive, and pushed the sign right over. Much better. We slogged up the short, sharp descent on the Gribble track and back to the flat water race of Byers Back track. Some more pleasant strolling in the afternoon sun, and we were back to O’Briens crossing just after 1pm.
We then drove to Trentham to do our Red Beard shopping… We um, needed some ginger nuts to take on our next trip…. and to down some coffee and some *enormous* slices of cake. I know, it’s starting to look like Red Beard sponsor this blog… I just really, REALLY like their food.
Books: This walk is described in Day Walks of Melbourne by John Chapman et al, as Byers Back track and Shaws Lake Walk.
- Park notes for Lerderderg State park: http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/lerderderg-state-park