Strath Creek Falls
Do you realise this is my 100th blog entry? Time to cue a 100 women jumping out of a 100 cakes? I was thinking of writing a special post to commemorate the occasion, but in the end the only way would be to detail a walk that truly fitted what this blog started out as. A complete fiasco. It may ramble a bit though, as I’m distracted by a number of dancing girls with pom-poms in my lounge room.
Blogging can be a little weird at times, as I can either write it quite easily or go days where I attempt an entry, but fail miserably in time taken and with multiple deletions of entire paragraphs. It’s easy to get off track and start to think about what people want to read, when the aim of writing is to do something that I want to read.
I think I’ve stuck to what I intended, which is the absurd. When I read some outdoor blogs, I actually wonder if the writers actually enjoy the walking, as they do come across as highly strung. There are plenty of oddballs out hiking, which is great, as it gives me a lot of material to write here!
So, in a year of writing I’ve noticed my early entries are really rough and feel incomplete compared to now. It must be practice and a bit more confidence I guess, but some entries can be hit and miss at what I’m trying to write about and as a result don’t work at all.
After viewing the above photograph you just know what I’m about to do now don’t you?! It’s kind of obvious, but some of the entries I’ve really enjoyed writing and I know I couldn’t make them any better.
Pretty obvious huh?
Anyway, I guess I should get writing about this walk. Strath Creek Falls, Mt Disappointment State Park via Strath Creek and Diggers Gully was attempted last summer and I failed miserably. You can read about it here and it’s yet another from my day walk bible by Glenn Tempest, ‘Daywalks Around Melbourne’.
Hopefully Glenn has noticed my blog, seeing how I’ve mentioned him a million times in the past and I actually know of people who have bought his book as a result. If you’re reading Glenn, I’m happy if you shouted me something one day. A decent lemon tart would do, as my needs are pretty cheap.
There’s a few problems with this walk though. When the notes in the book were written, it was pre-2009 bushfires. That year the area was burnt extensively and since then, the regrowth has gone berserk. Rarely used tracks have been swallowed up in this new vegetation.
On my first attempt it was a hot day and I just lost my mojo when confronted with a wall of vegetation. I wasn’t enjoying it and decided to abandon, knowing full well I’d come back another day when I was motivated for a bush bash.
Well, this was the day and I was psyched up to get it done on a cool spring Saturday. Armed with a GPS, some water and a couple of snacks I was prepared. Little did I know the end result would be another failure due to a solid tumble, which led an injured leg, plus the demolition of my trousers. This walk definitely rates as a ‘Grand Fiasco’ and the result is a worthy 100th entry.
In a huge shock I was actually out the door by 8.00 am to drive to this walk. It took longer to drive there than I thought. One and a half hours of freeway cruising and then gravel driving through the forest, led me to the start above Strath Creek Falls. The last time I was here the road was roped off, but this time it was open and the car park area has had a makeover with signage and a couple of tables put in.
The wind was quite cold and I felt under dressed in standard summer walking attire, but I knew within an hour I’d be roughly as hot as the surface of the sun. The opening of the walk is to descend down to Strath Creek Falls, hopefully not fall over the them and then climb up a steep hill, which is covered in re-growth.
I bypassed the brand new sign, climbed a fence and then made my way down to the waterfalls via a small creek. There’s a bit of a drop down a wall, as the gully enters Strath Creek, but I made it without a fall. You didn’t think I’d fall over in the first minute did you? This walk would be insanely dodgy if the creeks were running strong, but it wasn’t too bad and not much different to last summer.
I pottered around a bit taking photos and got myself ready for the first ‘ouch’ of the day. I was up for a bit of bush bashing, so I followed a small gully that fed into Strath Creek. It wasn’t too bad at first, but I then came across an enormous burnt tree blocking my path. I walked along it and then elected to head bush.
Okay, this was sort of fun I guess. I was still fresh, so the walk up the hill wasn’t too bad. l just leant into the trees and ambled up looking for any open spots on the way to make it a little easier. The thickest of the scrub was at the bottom near the creek and also a little slippery under foot.
I was no longer cold and I had no idea where I was going other than ‘up’. I tried to keep a straight line and then suddenly there was a clearing, which made walking to the top quite comfortable.
Upon reaching the top, I joined a gravel McMahons Road. I’d now follow these bush roads for a while. Normally, something like this would be annoying, but after the climb it was nice to loosen the legs up a little on flat ground.
The last time I was here I came across a large section of the road that had been washed away and I wondered if it had been fixed. I had a hint that wasn’t the case though, when I came across orange netting stretched across the road.
This washed away piece was harder to negotiate than it looked and I know you’re eagerly waiting for me to fall over. Guess what? I didn’t and with a bit of huffing and puffing I dragged myself across the gap.
I continued onto Diggers Gully Road and it was peaceful walking.
My next target for the day was to head off the road through another unmarked bush bash and make my way to Diggers Gully Falls. This is the section where I abandoned last time, so I was keen to plow on through the scrub to see another waterfall. Besides the GPS, I was also armed with a couple of ‘Spatial Vision’ maps I’d downloaded, so there was no chance of getting led astray (famous last words?).
I headed off the road and the initial few hundred metres or so is fine and then the vegetation starts closing in. I was going for the straight ahead approach and mindful if I continued like that, I’d reach my destination of Diggers Gully.
Now, things are going way too well aren’t they? Don’t panic, as this is the point where things started to go wrong. I was standing amongst a million trees all around me blocking my view, but I could see the hillside to my left start dropping steeply.
My thinking was Diggers Gully would be at the bottom, which is where I needed to be. I then consulted my notes and they said, ”
“…the main trail heads off left, but this walk continues straight ahead along the open ridge top…”
Standing in the trees I could see a ridge-line heading up, so I thought it was best to go that way. I continued to bush bash until I came across a small gully and according to the GPS if I followed it, I’d end up in Diggers Gully. I was thinking to myself, “How easy’s this?”
A bit more bashing and I popped out at a nice little stream, but something didn’t quite add up. It was a nice spot though.
I started to walk down the stream, with the GPS indicating Diggers Gully was only a few hundred metres away. What caught my eye was a number of small waterfalls, which initially started out only a few feet high, but as I continued walking the drops started getting bigger.
I was easing myself down these sections and something was starting to bother me and my concerns were confirmed when I looked ahead and there was an enormous drop with water pouring down.
I always have a laugh when I read stuff online and if someone breaks into capital letters to ‘prove’ their point, all it does is confirm they’re probably mentally unbalanced. How about this then?
“OH NO, I’M WALKING DOWN THE STINKIN’ DIGGERS GULLY WATERFALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
I think excessive exclamation marks are also a sure sign of someone who’s gone bonkers.
Yes, I’d found the waterfall I was looking for, but I was meant to be at the bottom walking up to it instead of walking down over the top. I was now in some sticky country where either side of the waterfall were quite steep.
I could either backtrack or walk to the top of the ridge opposite, which would work, but it was a steep climb to get up there. I was hoping for something a little less ball-breaking at this stage.
After a bit of dithering, I elected to head right and try and negotiate a fairly steep hill down to the bottom of the falls. The problem was there wasn’t much to hang onto with minimal trees or rocks to brace against, but I thought if I took my time it wouldn’t be too bad.
So, off I went and it was all going quite well, as I slowly inched down until guess what? Yep, at one point as I stepped forward with my left leg, my right foot hooked under a branch, which I couldn’t see in a clump of long grass.
I couldn’t free my leg as my momentum went forward, so naturally I fell and as I landed my leg freed itself and then slammed onto another covert item under grass. This time it was a rock that my shin slammed into. I don’t know if you’ve ever checked, but there’s minimal padding on the shin to absorb a shock. I’m fully aware of this now.
Now, I was lying on my back and I guess a minute was spent riding out a wave of pain before I could move my leg again. During this time I was staring at the sky whilst thinking how great hiking is. Just to make it a little more ‘fun’, I looked to my side and saw a hole in the ground with a large spider sitting outside about a foot from my face. He was looking at me as if to say, “What are you doing here big boy?” before taking off back into his hole. I guess my whimpering scared him off.
With my leg feeling almost ‘frozen’ I found it hard to get moving again, so I eased down the majority of the hill on my bum, until there was some remotely flat ground to stand up on. The initial pain had gone away, but it was now replaced with a continuous throbbing. It was time to get the strides off and examine the damage.
Besides some battle damage, there was a large swelling on my leg and it wasn’t getting any smaller. Actually, the whole scene was turning from a standard fiasco, into an award winning, ‘Gold Medal Fiasco’.
As a result of inching down the hill, I found that my baggy hiking pants technique has a flaw and that’s they were now full of dirt, twigs, grass and rocks. Mind you, not just in my pants, but in my underpants. My advice in case you didn’t know, is that ‘gravel jocks’ aren’t the most comfortable.
I also discovered not one, but three holes in the arse of my pants. Okay, this might be a reason why I don’t buy any hiking gear unless it’s on sale. They’re advertised as having ‘indestructible’ buttons, but at this stage they haven’t applied that thinking to any other part of the pant. They were correct in one thing though. The buttons are still looking shiny new.
Could it get any worse? Yeah, of course it can, as I discovered a plastic bag that was in my pocket containing the track notes and maps was now missing, Yep, totally vanished. I looked up the hill hoping to see the bag sitting in the sun, but of course it wasn’t visible.
I had the GPS to tell me how to get out of where I was, but I needed the notes to show which way was the correct route back. I now reached the stage of the following. “F@#$ you pants, F@#$ Diggers Gully Falls and F@#$ Tony Abbott!!!!”
You know what? In my meltdown rage, I didn’t even take one photo of the falls from the bottom. Oh, I also thought if I walked back up the hill, I might find the maps. So, pants went back on having being ‘de-rocked’ and I inched back up, passing the spider again, until I was three quarters of the way up the hill before giving up. My leg was killing me and I’d decided to just call it quits by walking out of Diggers Gully and finding a road on the GPS to take me back to the car.
I started hobbling out of the area by following Diggers Gully, which still had a bit of water in places. I was going to rock hop, but with the sore leg I elected to just walk up the middle of the creek. It also gave me an opportunity to see if my day hiking shoes felt okay after being waterlogged.
Now, no matter how bad the day is going whilst walking, there’s usually something that makes the pain worthwhile. This happened during my creek shuffle, as I noticed something moving in the water under a log.
It took me by surprise as it seemed quite large, so I sneaked around into a position to get a better look. I was amazed to see it was an echidna fossicking and I can’t ever remember seeing one in water before. He saw me pretty quickly and hid under the log, so I took off to a distance hoping to catch him with the telephoto lens. After waiting a few minutes he eventually emerged and it was fantastic to see him pop out into the sunshine.
I could have watched him all day walking around in the water, but as he could still see me he crawled back under the log and I thought it best to leave him alone. I was feeling happy after that, but my next decision was coming up as I started exiting Diggers Gully.
There were the odd properties around with massive, “Keep Out. Private Property” signs yelling at me. I had no idea where the notes were meant to take me, so I elected to walk on McMahons Road, which leads back to the top of the hill that I’d climbed at the start of the day. Road walking was fine right now in my state, but I knew it would be a bit of an uphill slog for about three kilometres or so.
Yep, I was correct. The hill walking was quite hard with my leg hurting and to top it off I was annoyed to have run out of water. I had one litre for the day, which I’ll increase from now on, as I reckon there’s nothing worse than running out of water (or rocks in your underpants). Lucky there were still some nice sights on the way to take my mind off things.
I hadn’t seen anyone for the entire day, but the one time I came across someone it had to be weird. Didn’t it? I was shuffling along when I heard what sounded like a car a few bends up the road, followed by gunfire and the tumbling of something down the steep hill next to the road.
I assumed it was a large rock, but when I heard yelling as well, I’d decided it was a either a Mafia hit or Ivan Milat’s stunt double at work. I was in the middle of nowhere, facing guns and all I had to protect myself were a torn pair of pants. My only real weapon was dependant on the wind, as my back up arsenal was some full throttle body odour.
Wondering what to do, I opted for the ‘she’ll be right’ line of thinking and kept walking. As I rounded a bend, there was a van parked in the middle of the road with two blokes standing outside, but when they saw me they hopped in straight away and began driving my way.
I initiated my defences by outstretching both arms in order to whack them with the ‘double armpit assault’. Undeterred by my nostril flaming stench, they pulled alongside.
They were young, looking boozy, wearing wife-beaters and I couldn’t see how many were in the back of the van, but there were a few. I believe they all had their pants on, but I could be mistaken. The passenger asked me, “How do we get out of here?” I told them to keep going (opposite to me) and the road would lead them out.
They seemed happy with this and one offered me a beer, which was tempting, as I was dying of thirst since running out of water. I had a hunch though, that a beer whilst dehydrated would probably be the wrong thing to drink, so I declined and they were on there way. I looked down the hill where they stopped and as there appeared to be no corpses I continued on. I’ve no idea what they were up to, but it was bizarre to say the least. How exciting is this hiking business, hey?
The slog continued until I reached the top of the hill I had been to earlier in the day. The only trouble was I’d have to bush bash back down to Strath Creek Falls.
There’s a small rock cairn at the point at the top of the hill where the old path must have been before the fires and upon seeing it I didn’t pause at all. Immediately I went scrub to get down as quick as possible.
I shuffled through the trees to the top of Strath Creek Falls again, but this time with the sun a bit lower in the sky the whole area looked a lot nicer to photograph.
It was now just a matter of re-climbing the safety fence and stroll back to the car. I was definitely glad to sit down and get some water into me. Here’s a map of what went on, courtesy of the app, ‘Walkmeter’.
The distance according to my GPS was 14.64 km and the total elevation climbed for the day was 746 metres, so it’s a solid day all round. You know what though? I still haven’t finished the walk how I wanted to, so I’m recruiting Ben for another shot next week in his school holidays. I’m sure he’ll love it and it’ll be nice to share the pain a little.
Instead of Glenn Tempest’s notes, I’m going to return along Strath Creek. I should have done that this time, but I was too flummoxed and took McMahons Road instead. I’ll definitely avoid that, plus if we follow the creek back towards the car, there’s another waterfall to look at.
There you go then. This may have been my longest entry yet, but it’s the 100th, so it was potentially always going to be massive. I guess I should end it all with a few snaps that got lost in the way of the story, including a ubiquitous leaf shot.