Sunday, April 27, 2014

Upper Yarra Goldfields - 27th April 2014

Upper Yarra Goldfields - 27th April 2014

The forecast looks great as we gather at the Eltham North Adventure Playground car park for an 8.00am departure. All up, 10 members of the Diamond Valley Bushwalking Club are ready and rearing to go on another great walk, this time heading a few kilometres past Warburton to check out the Upper Yarra Goldfields area.

The sun rises on another beautiful day.
After a quick briefing by Peter and Sandra, our walk leaders, we load our packs into two cars and hit the road. There is a constant friendly chatter during the trip (one of the things I really enjoy about the club members and the trips to and from walks) as we make our way along the winding and picturesque road to Warburton. The scenery as we approach the little town nestled in the valley of the mountains is truly spectacular, and I never cease to be amazed at the hills, trees, ferns, clouds and all that makes up this fantastic area. We enjoy a rest stop at the public rest area adjacent to the oval, our last before we hit the trail. The air is brisk, but the sky is clear apart form some some low lying clouds caught in the valley between the mountains, hanging over the town.

Clouds caught in the valley over Warburton.
Once back in the vehicles, we head further out of town until we hit Peninsula Road, where we turn off and park. We leave our packs in the cars and wander down the steps leading from the side of the road to the Yarra River. This, our guides tell us, is where the Yarra River was diverted to allow miners to carry out gold works way back in the 1860's, and we stop to check out their work in blasting a tunnel in the side of the mountain to redirect the water flow.

Cars parked and getting ready to hike!

The Yarra River after the diversion tunnel.

The outlet of the diversion.

A wider view of the outlet pond and tunnel.
 After a good look we wander back to the cars and grab our packs. We walk down the steps on the other side of the road to inspect the inlet side of the diversion, crossing some well made concrete stepping stones over the river to the opposite bank. The information board tells us a bit of history about the river and diversion, and gives us a basic map of the area.

Information board.
The inlet side of the diversion tunnel.

A wider view.

We check out the tunnel from the viewing area.

Next, we are heading off through the bush, with a fairly flat and easy walk through the gums and ferns. This is a beautiful area, with the great scenery accompanied by the sounds of the water making its way down the creek for a short time until we turn away from the river.

Wandering along an easy section of trail flanked by gums and ferns.
 We continue until we come to an open fire trail, which we follow for a short distance before turning uphill onto a wide fire break.

Heading up the fire break, enjoying the sunshine!

It is at the top of one of these hills on the fire break that we decide to stop for morning tea, and it's a glorious spot in the sun where we relax for a spell.

Morning tea time.

No bikes allowed, but apparently guns are ok...
After a snack and a drink, it's on the move again, and the group heads down the hill to pick up the trail as it winds it's way back into the bush. It's easy going for a while, then a decently steep hill jumps out in front of us, startling a few of the crew. We attack it with relish and head upwards for roughly 600 metres of trail. It's a real heart-starter, and we are puffing away by the time we hit the top of the climb. 

Heading into the steep stuff!

Looking back down the hill after a steep climb.
Mushroom collecting the morning dew.

After crossing the gravel access road we start our trip through the ferns following the old water race used by miners to supply water to the diggings. We are impressed that the prospectors managed to dig miles of the race by hand, at the correct levels to allow water to flow where they wanted it, in what would have been very harsh working conditions. We were following trails and roads, they would have had to make their way through virgin forest up and down some very steep hills carrying all the equipment and food they needed, a pretty mean feat!

Working our way along the old water race.

The trail is overgrown and narrow here.

Tree ferns aplenty!

Peter is a blur as he tears up the trails like the Flash!
The going is slow as we weave our way along the narrow trail, which does not appear to get a lot of use. Ferns and bushes have spread onto the track, and we take our time to ensure that there are no wash aways and pot holes hiding beneath the shrubbery and bracken to catch us out. There are a few fallen trees across the track, most of which are damp and beginning to rot, making it a much safer prospect to step over them instead of onto them due to the fact that they are as slippery as ice. 
A little ways up the trail, we come across the entrance to an old mine shaft. The roof of the opening has started to collapse due to the pieces of corrugated iron that were supporting it rusting out and giving way, and as I struggle to take a photo of the inside of the mine, I notice that the timber support beams have also given away deeper into the shaft.

The entrance to a long-abandoned gold mine.

A shot from above the dilapidated gate doesn't show much damage...

...but this shot inside shows the dangerous (and very cramped) state of the mine.
The shaft is very narrow and low, suggesting that workers must have suffered very tight and cramped working conditions. It would be interesting to see what the mine was like further in, but due to the state of the tunnel and the fact that I would not fit well and do not like to travel down very small holes in the ground, I will probably never see it! Perhaps we will leave it to the wombats...
After checking out the mine, we continue along the water race trail, and our pace along the track slows as we encounter many more fallen trees and overgrown areas. Some of the trees are small, and we swing under them and continue, others are massive and require us to detour around the larger trunks and branches until we can climb up and over the smaller ones, as good-natured ribbing eminates from a certain member of the crew, directed at out illustrious leader regarding the path he has chosen for us. It's a fun and entertaining section of the track, and I feel a little like Indiana Jones! I wouldn't have been surprised if a man in a black coat with a scar on one cheek jumped out and pointed a gun at us, asking us for the map to the treasure...

Moss covering a tree branch, thriving in the moist conditions.

One of the many obstacles along this section of trail.

A massive fallen tree blocking our route.

An easier section of the trail.

Multi-colored fungi.
Unusual black fungi growing on a tree trunk.

Eventually the trail opens up, and we find ourselves out in the sun once more and standing on an open fire trail in a peaceful valley. It is here that Peter informs us that we may recline and enjoy lunch. The sun is still shining down through a clear sky as we chat and refuel.

Time for lunch!
Some more good natured banter entertains us as we polish off our well earned meal, sipping at our cups of tea and coffee as we soak up the sun. Once the break is over, it's time to shoulder our packs and continue on once more. It's a good uphill haul along the fire trail, and the group spreads out a little as we walk two or more abreast, taking in the scenery as the track rises and falls.

Great views from the trail.
Pretty soon we come across the old bed of the Yarra River, dry now due to the diversion upstream at the tunnel. 
View of the old Yarra River bed as Peter practices a dangerous trekking pole attack move.

Track crosses the old Yarra River bed.

The group finishes off the last section of the hike to arrive at our vehicles. It's been a fantastic walk in a picturesque area, blessed with perfect hiking weather and great walking companions. What better way could you ask to spend a day? Well, perhaps with a visit to the Warburton Bakery for coffee and a cake on the trip home to complete the day?... OK! Why not!

Back view of the Warburton Bakery.

Some views of the Yarra River in Warburton for your enjoyment...

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