My friend Michael and I haven’t been camping together in more than a year, so to kick-start his hiking habit again, we decided to check out Northern Lerderderg Gorge, and do an overnight hike in the park. Its been about 4 or 5 years since I have been there, and at least 2 since he had; so this seemed like a great near-by location to head to.
Lerderderg State park:
First, the fast and relevant facts: Lerderderg Gorge is situated roughly 60km west of Melbourne, the park itself is split down the middle by the name-sake gorge which can be walked along for pretty much its entirety. Its run by the Victorian part of DSE, as its a State park, rather than a National Park, as such you’re allowed to Bush-camp anywhere inside the conservation zones, which are very clearly marked. (Please if you do decide to bush-camp, follow the leave no-traces principles)
This means that you can enjoy getting a bit more lost than you can if you go camping somewhere inside a national park where you’re subject to more stringent rules and must camp in designated zones.
A small piece of advice, when heading into the park, I highly recommend driving in from the west, the road is sealed nearly the entire way as apposed to going in via the east, which is how we entered on Friday night; which much to our dismay is roughly a 45 minute drive on dirt in a small 2wd. Click here for Google Map directions It took us only 15 or so minutes to exit the park heading west, as there is only a very small section of dirt road.
Difficultly of the walk:
While the walk could feasabily be done in a single day, (probably 8 hours) for the experience of staying out overnight in Lerderderg, it is a good walk without being necessarily long. The walk is only 12km in total using the same path we did, however the first day is along the river, and as such is subject to any recent flood or rising water damage. The first day can be somewhat physically straining requiring four or five hours of walking with breaks, with the second day being much more relaxed and achievable within two or three hours depending on pace.
I would rate the walk as a Easy or moderate walk; depending on the level of damage, when we went April 2011, the damage was quite severe due to flooding and as a result the walk was quite difficult; as you will see below.
Day 1, The Friday night:
We arrived at the edge of the park at around 8pm on Friday night, winding along the dirt roads for an additional 45 minutes until we arrived in a piercing darkness. Dumping our packs we set up the tent on the rocky bank that is Obrien’s crossing. I found the ground so tough; that I actually had to use a rock as a hammer to get the pegs into the ground. f
The flood damage wasn’t really obvious that night when we arrived, we did find an extremely large pile of deadwood which we used to make a modest fire and polish of a few bourbons to round out the Friday night. To bed we went, ready for the next day.
Day 2, Saturday of reckoning:
So I might have underplayed the consumption a bit; Michael and I both woke up feeling a little under the weather, however much to my relief not underwater. Emerging from the tent, I must say I was a little shocked at the now visible damage. The scene below was repeated all along the bank.
After a prompt brekky of beans and mountain bread, we were on our way. We had decided on the thursday, when doing our cross-packing that we were going to walk along the river for the first day; I figured this would be a good way to stay on relatively level ground, and it would mean that we didnt have to worry too much about water consumption. After all, I really wanted to try out my new Katadyn Filter and In-line bladder refill system. The walk was probably one of the longest 5.5km I have walked in my entire life, not just because of a light hangover, but also the scattered debris which we were required to navigate all along the path.
Along the track, there has been significant damage to several parts, including two or three areas where the path has been completely hidden by the incredibly large amount of wood which has been pushed down-stream. It is certainly a sight to see, and very very hard work to walk on.
Roughly twenty meters from where I was standing to take the photo depicted above, I sank through broken wood; down to my knees, pulling myself back out of the wreckage and back to the top of the pile was quite hard work. By lunchtime we stopped enjoyed a short meal and Michael indulged in a sleep on the ground.
In terms of difficulty, I would say that while the walk was tiring, it was more difficult due to the damage of the track, it made it difficult to follow and there were literally hundreds of meters where we were both making it up as we went along. This “winging it” along with having to literally climb over fallen trees and walk along un-even riverbed rock sections, was what took it out of us the most.
The walk continued somewhat un-eventfully in the afternoon, we continued along the track until we found what we considered a good site for the over-night stay. Near to our site, we started to see man-made rockwalls emerge, a sign that the area used to be mined. You will see on my next post, which deals with our third day, that we did indeed see an old mine.
We set up camp not far from the start of Cowan track, with the intent of using the track as our return the next day.
The location which I will include in the Waypoints & GPX file in the day 3 post, was perfect, if a little difficult to get to, it was secluded; close to the river and well cleared. We weren’t the first to use it as a over-night location.
Read on at: Day 3; the Sunday return trip.