Sunday, March 30, 2014

Murrindindi Day Walk - 30 March 2014

Murrindindi Day Walk, 30th March 2014

Well, it's my final qualifying walk of three to join the Diamond Valley Bushwalking Club, and it's another great day! The weather looks good as I pull into the Eltham North Adventure Playground carpark at about 8am to wait for the rest of the crew to arrive. After a short stroll to have a look around the playground, I see cars arriving and head over to meet the others. Already there are some familiar faces from previous walks, and we chat amongst ourselves, subconsciously forming a circle in readiness for a short briefing when Peter, or walk leader arrives. As mentioned, this is my third walk with the club, and so far I have had three different Peters as leader!
Today we are heading for Murrindindi, or actually the Murrindindi River, which winds it's way through the Toolangi State Forest, approximately half way between Whittlesea and Marysville. The fires of 2009 swept through and decimated this area, so it will be interesting to see how the forest has bounced back.
We arrange car pooling for the 12 walking members into three cars (we will collect another walker in Yarra Glen) and load in our packs. By 8.30am we are on the road and heading for adventure!
After a pleasant drive we turn off the Melba Highway and head down Murrindindi Road, passing several camping grounds (Blackwood Camp, Cassinia Camp, SEC Picnic Area, and Water Gauge Camp, all very popular judging by the number of cars and tents here) to park in a small area adjacent to the start of the Boroondara Track Loop at Ferns Camping Ground. The drive in highlighted the areas that succumbed to the fires, with tall blackened silhouettes of Mountain Ash trees standing tall above the lush undergrowth. Peter informed me later that the Mountain Ash do not generally recover well from fires, whereas other species tend to recover much better, and this was evident in a lot of trees that showed healthy growth sprouting from charred trunks and limbs, but the Mountain Ash stood like grey ghosts after the blackened bark had fallen off.

Pre-walk meeting after arrival at Ferns Camp.
Following a brief meeting for Peter to give us a rundown on the walk, we head off close to 10.00am into the undergrowth and follow the Murrindindi River Walk track south. In the 5 or so years since the fires, the undergrowth has grown back in leaps and bounds, no doubt assisted by the extra sunlight afforded by the lack of canopy above. Ferns, creepers, grasses, a plethora of plant life has sprung from the earth to fill in the gaps between the trees, making a shortcut off-trail almost impossible.

Burnt trunks tower above.

Regrouping along the trail.
We continue on, finding care is required on some of the steeper downhill sections due to the damp ground and generous sprinkle of leaf litter. The river reminds us of it's presence with the sounds of water finding it's way over rocks and branches, and the sun shines down through the growth above us, making for a beautiful and relaxing walk. As the noise of the river grows, we find ourselves on metal bridges spanning between the banks. These have replaced the previous wooden crossings burnt by the fires. The water is clean, with a hint of brownish tannins leeching from fallen trees along the river's course. Birdsong echos throughout the forest, and a multitude of skinks dart off to find cover as we approach.

Metal bridges replace the original wooden crossings.

Murrindindi River

Water dances over the rocks.

After covering a decent length of trail, we find a convenient fallen tree on the side of the trail and pull up for morning tea. The sun has a bit more bite now, and it is becoming humid. It's nice to sit and chat whilst we refuel with a snack and drink.

Morning tea is always a welcome break.

Dew sprinkled on leaves won't last long now.
After refreshments are consumed, we shoulder our packs and step out on the trail once more, heading for the Cascades. We pass a large brown hill on the side of the trail, and stop to check it out. Peter informs us that this is a large pile of sawdust, dumped during logging and timber works years previous (perhaps 80 years ago or more). It's unusual, but even after all this time, apart from the dark crust on top, this pile looks like it could have been placed here a few weeks ago. The sawdust has not packed or rotted down, there are no real signs of decomposition. It has a decent spring underfoot when walked on.

Sawdust hill

Looking over the edge of the sawdust.

Hmmm.. Bouncy!
The next section of trail involves a short sustained climb up a steep section of track, and this (combined with the increasing humidity) really gets us sweating. Care is once again required in the shady sections, as the hard packed soil has a very slippery surface. As I concentrate on holding a comfortable rhythm, I hear  scratching to my left, and catch movement out of the corner of my eye:

This little bloke should have plenty to eat!
The little Echidna had tucked his head under, and was firmly gripping the ground with his strong claws, disturbed by the sound of me stomping up the hill with trekking poles in full effect. They have very sensitive hearing, and every sound I made was cause for a nervous flinch by the little fellow. It seemed as though he had plenty to eat, as the ground in this area was covered in ant holes, with plenty of ants busily going about their business. I let him be and continued on up the incline.
We stopped once more at the top of the hill to allow the walkers to regroup at a junction in the trail, with great views across to nearby hills through the trees.

Nice downhill before a decent uphill...

Looking back down a nice steep climb.

A glimpse of the next hill.

Burnt tree springs back to life.

 Once regrouped, we follow the trail downhill now, as water flowing at speed fills the forest with thunder. We work our way down a series of stone steps that deliver us to another metal bridge spanning the Cascades. We take the opportunity to soak in the sights and sounds of the falls from this great vantage point. There is water aplenty here, with the falls running at a good clip and putting on a show worth watching. I found it very relaxing watching the water tumble over the rocks, rather like sitting around a camp fire watching the flames sway and dance over glowing embers.

The Murrindindi Cascades

Water makes it's way through the rocks.

A decent flow down the falls.

A truly beautiful area.

The top of the falls.
 A short climb up the stone steps brings us back out onto Murrindindi Road, which we cross and head for the tables at the Cascades Picnic Area. Lunch time!

Information sign at the Cascades Picnic Ground

Lunch time!

Enjoying the break.
Lunch is always appreciated after a decent walk. Lively conversation with the group adds to the friendly and interesting atmosphere, and it's great to listen to stories of past walks and adventures. There is a wealth of life experience in each of these club members, and I find it immensely interesting listening to where they have been  and what they have done during their lives. The picnic ground offers tables with seats, an undercover area, a fire pit with hotplate, and toilet facilities.
The return section of our walk was a lovely ramble along Camp Creek Road, with many gentle rises and falls. The road is walled with trees and ferns, the tall skeletons of one-green Mountain Ash towering like ghosts above the lush growth.

Heading back along Camp Creek Road.

It's a great wander back to Murrindindi Road, where we turn left and make our way back to the parked cars at Ferns Camp. My GPS tells me we have covered 12km, and the walk has taken 5 hours, including stops.
Peter has tea, coffee and cake waiting for us as a finale to the walk before we jump in the cars and head back to Eltham.

Back at the cars, and the start of Boroondara Track.

It has been another fantastic and enjoyable hike with the Diamond Valley Bushwalking Club. I have racked up my 3rd preliminary walk, and after sending in my forms, I will now (hopefully!) be accepted as a full member. We are heading into the cooler months now, and for me this is perfect hiking weather. I am looking forward to venturing out with the club to enjoy new places, sights and sounds in the beautiful spots we have around us, that too few people know about and experience.
Hope to see you there!

Happy Trails!


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