How many times can I go back to a walk in order to complete what I’d planned on the first visit? Well, with my Strath Creek Falls day hike within the Mt Disappointment State Forest, this was the third time I’d been to this spot and the previous walks are described here and here. Neither trip I’d undertaken on my own had worked out to plan. If you want pain personified, Strath Creek Falls is the place for your wish to come true.
I decided it would be ‘third time lucky’, so I wheeled out some support for another crack at this walk on a toasty hot Saturday. My son Ben was ready for some adventure, but I was also dragging along a long time friend, the Smuffin. Why’s he called the Smuffin? The story why is remarkably dull. It’s a mix of his name and his signature breakfast dish.
Oh, I forgot. There was one other participant. Winston Churchill. He was also keen to come in order to provide some much needed stoicism.
Why is it difficult? The main reason is the area was extensively burned in the bushfires of 2009 and regrowth has made the walking into a slog. Old bush tracks have been swallowed up in the new vegetation.
I was pretty confident of finishing the hike as planned, but there was a lingering thought about the weather, which could be problematic. The forecast was for 30 °C and although I’m not a fan of the heat, I did plan to take plenty of water. How about four and a half litres? Is that enough?
I was also carrying more weight in a small pack than I’d done for quite some time. I recently bought a cuben-fiber number, so I was interested in seeing how it feels. Time to get walking and I apologise if some of the upcoming photos look a little similar to the previous trips!
We arrived at the Strath Creek Falls car park at about 10 am without a cloud in the sky. Potential polarizer abuse coming up? Yes, of course, as I had bought a new one since the You Yangs walk, where somehow I’d unscrewed my last one into three pieces.
We made our way down past the waterfall lookouts and hopped the fence at the end to access the top of the falls. There were of course a few pictures to take whilst getting there.
After descending a rock wall, we made it to the falls in one piece and spent a few minutes looking around. The area is certainly rugged, with steep hillsides leading up from the Strath Creek.
Now it was time for the first ‘fun’ of the day and that’s the slog through the bush on the opposite side of the creek. A rather steep hill, covered in regrowth, made it a bash-fest before the legs had warmed up. I sent the other two ahead to clear a path for me, which was very kind of them.
This is the third time I’d climbed this particular hill and it never seems to get any easier. There was a path at one stage, but it’s been swallowed by the regrowth. My only method is to aim for the top. I like to keep things simple.
There were still some views to be had if one pulled branches out of the way, such as the next photo.
Amongst the new vegetation, there are a number of burned trees, which guaranteed the clothes were going to get a little dirty.
We continued slogging our way to the top of the hill where it was a relief to reach McMahons Road and have some flat terrain to walk on. I noted my GPS was informing me we’d only covered 920 metres, yet I was already out of breath and sweating heavily. My thoughts were, “Mm… This could be an interesting day after all”. There’s a small cairn at the top and Smuffin helped its growth.
We now had a session of roadside walking, which was a relief after the bush climb. We followed these roads for a few kilometres before heading off track again. It was time to make our way to Diggers Gully Falls, which is where on my last outing everything started going wrong.
Last time I lost my map, managed to smash my leg on a rock and as a finale, indulged in a bit of pant ripping action. All in one hectic hour. My previous mistake was trying to head down to Diggers Gully too early, which meant I reached it above the waterfall. A matter of turning right too soon, so the plan this time was to keep left whilst descending, which should bring us to Diggers Gully away from the waterfall. Simple?
We found the remains of an overgrown vehicle track on top of a ridge, but this promptly vanished as we began to descend. It was pretty steep going, but what made it more entertaining was looking at the narrowing contour lines on the GPS.
An exciting descent was guaranteed and even Winston appeared to be nervous at what was to come.
My surmising was correct, as officially, this is where the fun started. We’d elected to follow a route, which was more a water run-off than a track. The only bonus was it had a few open areas where we didn’t have to be in trees all the time.
Steepness was a problem though. Not to mention the occasional sizeable drop over rock ledges and a loose, scree surface in parts, which meant falls were definitely on the cards. I was concentrating on staying upright, when I heard the inevitable thump, groan and shaking of trees as Ben bit the dust. I made sure I got a photo through the greenery, as there’s no point falling, unless someone can record the impact.
All I can say is this downhill section sucked and I’m still not sure of the best route to descend to Diggers Gully. I’m thinking there isn’t one and it’s just a matter of getting down as best as one can.
Smuffin found another dry gully with less vegetation than before, so it was as good as anything. Mind you, the trade off was a zillion rocks underfoot, which made a habit of moving as soon as we’d step on one.
Oh, there were a million cobwebs as well, so Smuffin decided he’d be a good bloke by going first and clearing them for us. Actually, did he elect to do this? I don’t think he did. It just happened.
The steepness/looseness meant the ‘proceed on ones arse’ system was occasionally deployed.
I’m not sure how, but Ben bit the dust again and this time a bit of recovery was required before he got going again.
This was now completely stupid and I was amazed I was keeping my feet. I’m usually the first to be chewing the dust, but this time, other than slipping and sliding, I was somehow staying vertical.
A particularly annoying drop was negotiated without any broken limbs.
The constant bracing of the legs whilst looking for a steady surface for each footstep was taking its toll on my knees. I’ve been doing a lot of walking lately, but mostly on flat surfaces. Where I live, it’s flat as a tack and no matter the mileage, a few decent hills soon makes the legs feel heavy.
We did come across fallen trees as well and one in particular looked ideal for going under. Ben went first and within 0.4 seconds had to drop his pack as he began entangled whilst exclaiming, “this is the worst decision of my life”. I recovered his pack and elected not to follow him.
It truly was the ‘eternal descent’ until we finally hit the flat ground of Diggers Gully and I was glad to splash some cool water from the creek on my face. I was absolutely soaked in sweat and feeling decidedly stuffed, so I thought it best to have something to eat in order to try and recharge the batteries.
Lunch was a roll with a spread of avocado and topped off with Portuguese chicken, Jarlsberg cheese and cranberry sauce. I think it was a good choice. We all guzzled water and then the decision was made to whether we should make our way up to Diggers Gully waterfall. I was feeling absolutely drained, for which I think the heat was mainly to blame, and no rousing speeches from Winston could fire me up at all.
Believe it or not, but even though we felt we should go see the waterfall, as we’d put in some effort to get to this point, the decision was made to “stuff them”.
I really couldn’t be bothered moving and the only thing keeping me going was the dunking of my hat in the cold water and applying it to my head. Such a simple thing became a lifesaver.
Even Winston couldn’t motivate me and it got to the stage where rocks were thrown in an attempt to quieten him down.
It’s tough being only a few feet tall I guess. By the way, I did select the ultralight Winston, as I weighed him before I left and he’s exactly 812 grams. I think that’s okay considering the real one would be a lot heavier to carry in a pack. This proves to the weight conscious hikers out there, that a walking motivator who can deliver speeches on cue, is available at less than one kilogram.
It was time to go and we made our way to the next decision point of the day. Did we want to follow Strath Creek back to the car or follow McMahons Road, which is the method I used on my last trip here.
The decision was made when it took us an eternity to walk 800 metres on the Diggers Gully creek bed. The thought of walking the three kilometres which we needed to do on a rocky Strath Creek was a bit much to contemplate, plus it would have been time consuming. It was already well into the afternoon and we were meant to leave at a reasonable hour in order to put the roast on for dinner. These are big issues.
So, upon reaching McMahons Road we headed up it, instead of the creek. It was comfortable underfoot, but the dirt road climbs continually for over three kilometres and in my tired, hot state I wasn’t looking forward to this section.
The sky had been absolutely clear all day and I found myself walking to the few spots of shade along the road and having a rest for a minute or so. My legs felt like lead and I was aware of moving at a very slow speed.
A month or so ago I walked up this road and it was more annoying than anything. On this occasion though, I was literally shuffling up at a snails pace. An endless series of corners revealed nothing more than a never ending climb, so it was a bit hard to take mentally.
At one point I came across Ben waiting for me in the shade. He was so knackered sitting on the road that he didn’t notice a snake about a metre from him. I took a quick photo before the snake slithered off at high speed down the roadside embankment.
That was a little bit of excitement to break up the drudgery of the climb. A late afternoon rising moon was also a nice sight to take my mind off things a little.
The other two had taken off ahead and I was slowly shuffling along. I was even more surprised to be on my last half litre of water considering I’d started with four and a half. How much do I need on a hot day? I’ve ordered a three litre bladder which might make it easier to stay rehydrated, as I sometimes neglect to keep topping up with fluids. What’s next? Well, the road kept climbing of course.
My brain was well and truly in neutral, whilst I plodded along constantly staring at the road. I saw a stick ahead and continued towards it until I noticed the stick had a tongue. In my heat frazzled state I thought to myself, “Mm… Stick with a tongue. That’s a little weird”, as I kept shuffling.
At some point my brain rotated a sticky cog and I stopped to realise the tongued stick was actually a snake. This one was a bit bigger than the last and I took a few photos before he also took off for the scrub.
Normally I might jump a little when I come across a snake, but on this occasion it was complete nonchalance. “Stick’s a snake. Yeah, keep walking”, was the best my brain could come up with.
After what seemed like a decade of walking, the road eventually began to level off and I finally caught up with the others at the rocky cairn, which we’d climbed up to at the start of the day. Yep, the car was now less than a kilometre away, but we had an infernal scrub bash back down to Strath Creek Falls, before having to ascend a short distance in order to finish the walk.
Here we go again. We started to descend and with the sun getting low in the sky there was an opportunity to see some vibrant colours on the trees around us.
I led the way as chief cobweb clearer and it was definitely aggravating. Pushing through bushes without being able to see my feet made for some dodgy walking. Scrub and a rocky, loose surface was a recipe for disaster.
Smuffin was behind me when I heard a loud crash of branches breaking. I looked around to see him face down, with his legs facing down the hill. He then began sliding and overtook me in this position. As he did so, his t-shirt rode up his chest, so now his skin was bouncing off rocks, trees and gravel. It looked quite painful.
Eventually he stopped and quickly stood up, but the exposed chest revealed a number of red welts. Missing skin and bruises were an unusual souvenir to have for a walk.
When I fall, I always land on my back at some weird angle and I’ve never seen a face first slide before. Ben following also had a bit of tumble, but he also got to his feet okay.
Finally we reached the top of the falls and again it was a chance to dunk the hat in some cold water. A sit down was also required in order to rest a little before the final climb.
We finished the last of our water and then it was time to climb the rock wall and follow the path back to the car.
I can’t say I was moving any quicker, but at least the car was only a few hundred metres away. The moon had now risen and there was always the excuse to stop, not for a rest, but to take some photos.
A bit more climbing and the car was reached. I was absolutely knackered and mildly blubbering.
All in all, the statistics don’t really tell the story. We’d done 14.62 km with 505 metres of total elevation climbed for the day. It doesn’t sound too bad, but somehow it took us eight hours! The heat, rough off-track walking, absolutely sucked the life out of me and I think I’ve been too mentally scarred by this experience to ever want to return to Strath Creek again. Maybe.
I was wondering which photo to close this entry with and I considered this one of the setting sun.
You know what though? I think the next one sums up the day. Even the stoicism of Winston Churchill wasn’t enough. As the days proceedings got nasty even he had to pack it in. Faced with a few more hours in my pack, he decided to drown himself. I managed to save him and other than some gravel marks he’s recovered enough for another
Greg, I can see why it's called Mt Disappointment! If Mr Churchill couldn't inspire you to greatness there, who could?
I agree – you've given that place more than a fair go. Check out Mt Success, the Good Times Ranges, and the Satisfaction State Forest next time.
Oh, and I know that feeling of being absolutely, mystifyingly listless on a hot day – God, and it's only Spring…
Goat, I thought Winston could get this walk done for us! It was never going to work out though once the sun started to kick in. How do you walk in Brisbane when summer hits?! It's hideous being caught short of water on a hot day.
Yes, the name Mt Disappointment is a good one, but not a very good omen for hiking. I'm still looking on maps for a Mt Comfortable, but I haven't found it yet! I did find on a map of Victoria 'Son of a Bitch Spur' though. I almost want to go there just for the name alone!
Yeah, Spring here is so variable in temperature. Hot days can really hurt us southerners at times! Good to hear (in a perverse way!) that it can also affect you northern blokes as well. I don't want you missing out…
Envious of the snake count, Greg! The only dangerous wildlife I have to look out for in the UK are mountain bikers!
So it seems to be that you have been defeated by Strath Creek! I am sure oneday you will be back to tame the mighty beast that is Mt Disso hehe 🙂
I love the snake pics! They are so cute!
Hi Paul, snakes are quite cool to see as long as one has a bit of space to them!
Mountain bikers are probably more dangerous if they hit you than one of our snakes. They're also a touch more annoying!
Hi Tennille, Yes, Strath Creek has done my head in. Well, we sort of did it, but not according to plan 🙂
Hume & Hovell didn't have much fun in the area either and now I understand why!
Oh yeah, you're the snake guru! I'm not sure that they're 'cute', but they do have quite mellow faces! By the way, what are those snakes I saw? Your snake identification skills are required please 🙂
Ohhhh dear, oh dear oh dear oh dear. That sounds exhausting…exhausting and painful AND with slightly more snakes than I would be comfortable with 🙂
I'm afraid the entire time I was reading your post I had a crackly BBC radio broadcast playing in my head….
We shall go on to the end…
we shall fight on the beaches, (read river beds)
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender….
Well done Greg, 14kms in 8 hours on a stinking hot day – I think Winston would have been proud of you 🙂
Hi Eloise. You know what? I must be officially getting old as I still feel wasted and the walk was 3 days ago! Still lethargic.
Not sure what Winston thought, but lucky I was carrying the hiking version rather than the real one 🙂
The second snake you saw is a Tiger snake but I can't be sure of what the first snake you saw is. Might be an Eastern Brown. =)
Did you get the email of me draped with the snakes? I had 3 of them around my neck at one stage. They were so sweet and mellow and they have such cute faces……even the brown snake I caught on friday was a cutie, although a bit feisty and not real happy at being caught!
Someone has to love the snakes 😉
Hey TM, I thought that might be a Tiger, but I didn't want to rattle off a name if I was wildly wrong! They were quite relaxed looking snakes, but I wouldn't want to find one in my sleeping bag one night!
I did see your pictures and those snakes were slightly larger than the ones I saw! Were they steroid fed?!
I guess like anything they don't like to have someones hand around their necks…
hehe the snakes I had around my neck were pythons and they are quite larger(and more docile)than the venomous variety.
I am now extremely keen to get my own Rough-scaled Python and call it Stiffy =)
Loved the snakes..cute little buggers!
That walk is one I would cross off the list..while it's a gorgeous place, it sounds more like torture than hiking.
Samantha, don't worry, I've definitely crossed this place off my walks list. Any attempt now would be in winter when it's nice and cool!
Two snakes in one day was a good effort. They're usually pretty shy 🙂
I grew up in Strath and know how steep that country is there. I really enjoyed the read and photos. Spent most of my childhood and teen years hill climbing there, and yes, the ‘on your ass’ technique is a tried and tested local method for steep descents. Also crawling uphill on hands and knees because of almost vertical grades! Just wanted to let you know that it’s an honourable Strath Creek tradition to tackle the local hills like this, on butt down, and all fours up! (that, or slide to your possible death!). Try mustering sheep and cattle in that country – now that’s a challenge. I used to ride horses and I’d have to get off and walk the steep bits to chase sheep/cattle. That is so NOT the idea when riding a horse haha!
There is a really lovely walk you can do from the top of the Strath Creek Falls, just follow the creek (Strath Creek) upstream – in creek bed is easiest – and if you go about an hour or two upstream you come to an amazing spot where the rocks in the creek are formed like giant round marbles, 4 feet diameter and bigger. Loads of them that go on and on for ages, really unusual. Very good for photos! No steep descents either! Thought you might like to replace the nightmare memories of Strath Creek Falls area with something less traumatic.
We did this walk many times as kids, it’s an amazing geological formation up that creek, and I dont know if anyone has ever photographed it. So go for it!
And yes the snakes up there are pretty chilled as long as you stay quiet and give way to them. Mostly Tigers and Blacks, some Browns.
Hope you try this walk one day, you wont be disappointed, it really is amazing, like a local Devils Marbles, thickly strewn along the creek-bed! And absolutely take lots of water and food and sunscreen, think ‘Great Sandy Desert’ for Strath in warmer months. Happy hiking!
Hi Laura, wow, thanks for your message! It’s left me intrigued! I’ve been meaning to come back to Strath Creek for another look at this walk. Eventually I’ll get it done as planned, but somehow in three visits I haven’t got close to succeeding!
As it is, the part which has stuffed us up has been the bushfire regrowth. Certainly thick in spots!
Your comment is interesting though, as I’m tempted to go wandering up the creek. One to two hours walking on the creek sounds like a bit of a wander? Hopefully I can find what I’m supposed to 🙂
Thanks for dropping by! I’ve definitely put this on my radar and hopefully I’ll get it done in the next few months before it gets too hot!
Hi again, it was great to read all your Strath Creek walks. It is very steep country there alright, you tackled it valiantly. Also it is very hot country – that’s why they have so many bushfires every summer!
Some advice: on very steep ascents and descents in Strath Creek, we always zig-zagged up or down (on butts if necessary) rather than go in a straight line. It may take a bit longer but it is much safer, and also it totally saves your leg muscles from agony later.
I can understand that with all the regrowth of scrub there that it may have been difficult to zig-zag up or down slopes, but in case you are crazy enough to attempt another Strath Creek “hike” (aka sheer vertical cliff face torture plus snakes) please do try the zig-zag method. Also useful in other parts of the world…Himalayas etc.
Zig zagging down steep hills is a really good trick to teach kids too, as it helps prevent the scenario, “Hmmm I’ll just have a little run down this hill…oooh this is fun…oh no, now I can’t stop!!!”
(usually followed by spectacular fall and/or deadly slide down killer slope, while you watch helplessly, etc etc)
Also my other piece of advice is that we only ever tried to ascend or descend hills in Strath Creek along spurs. You did pick some particularly steep country for your walk, by the way!
…mind you, I know of a bloke who drove too close to the edge of another hill about 15km north of where you were, and over he went -this was a cleared farm paddock – he managed to get out on the second roll of the landcruiser and survived, and watched the truck roll over and over 240 metres down an almost vertical hill face. The truck was totalled. Apart from a knee reconstruction, he was fine. So yeah. Dangerous.
Well, nice chatting, and I hope you go up river above Strath Creek Falls one day, it’s an easier walk by miles – and I’d love to see photos from there! Best months to go are May, June, July, September, October, November.
Hi. Thanks for your expansive reply! I’ve been meaning to get back to Strath Creek for the walk upstream you mentioned. Unfortunately I’m up in Darwin right now, sweating like a bastard, so it won’t be for a while! When I get back, I’ll try it out & get back to you. Thanks!
A mate and I attempted a similar walk last Sunday, like you on one of your attempts we took a wrong turn and finished up above Diggers Falls! Not good, but interesting to see up so close. We decided to hoof it up the spur after the 2nd set of falls which was “interesting” bordering on death defying. We located the correct spur but time was running out before dark so we elected to head back to Strath Falls and come back another day.
We did however find the easy way from the little lookout to the top of the Falls and a relatively easy path to the top of the 1st hill. Still steep but not too traumatic.
Hopefully, I will conquer this walk this winter – winner by TKO in the 2nd round.
I suspect the terrain is easier now that 6 odd years have passed and the re growth is now more mature and most of the 2 off track sections were quite walkable- saying that I have never had so much blood on my shirt sleeves on a walk before!!
I also pondered walking up stream from Strath Falls to see what was there- and now from the previous comments I see I must. Devils Marbles indeed.
The other Greg
Ah, you did the ol’ ‘descending to look at the waterfall via the waterfall’ trick? That’s an old favourite 🙂 Oh, I also thought of walking right up to Strath Creek Falls from the bottom. Just for the hell of it! Three times I’ve attempted this walk and each has had its own share of horror. Eventually I’ll get it right 🙂
I was up there a couple of weeks ago and didn’t go further than the no access to waterfall sign – I’ll totally try following the creek up and find the rock formations 🙂 sounds like a less challenging trip then yours 🙂
Have thoroughly enjoyed reading about your adventures made me laugh.
The snakes were freaky though no way will you get me up there in summer!!!!
“We did however find the easy way from the little lookout to the top of the Falls and a relatively easy path to the top of the 1st hill. Still steep but not too traumatic.”
Which way did you go?
Ah yes, that sign! I wonder if it was there when the original notes for the walk were written 10 years ago? It’s easier enough to drop down to the top of the waterfall though. As long as you take it slow 🙂 When I think about it, I’ve only ever really been there when the weather has been stinking hot and little water is flowing. It looks like I need to make a winter visit, although the shorter winter day might make a full tilt challenging. Mm… I wonder. Thanks for dropping by and taking time to leave a comment 🙂
Yeah, I’m not totally sure where he means, but I assume it’s when you pass the sign you go down a gully at the side to the top of the falls. I’m not sure if some sort of path has appeared on the hill opposite. It’s been a couple of years since I was last there and it’s all thick bushfire regrowth. Only at the bottom though, half way up the hill it thins out. All this is off the top of my head, so it looks like I need to get back for another look 🙂
Managed to complete this walk last month, tough but very rewarding. Now, to find those Devils Marbles!!
The sign warning people that there is no track was there this time, haven’t seen that on previous 2 visits. There was a major rescue exercise at the Falls earlier this year, so it’s my gues that’s what has prompted the signage at both ends of the walk.
Walking up Strath Creek itself to Margrets Falls was stunning, and the climb out on the spur is steep, real steep, but mercifully not all that long. There was police tape all along the creek heading towards the falls, one can assume left over from recent rescue?
You’ve done better than me! I’ve had three goes at this one and haven’t got close to finishing it yet. Well, according to the notes anyway. I’ve spent three full days aimlessly wandering around that area, so at least that’s something 🙂 I should plan another tilt though, as I seem to be the only bloke who hasn’t done it these days 🙂
Oh yeah, the Devils Marbles! I forgot about that local knowledge. It’s a fairly lofty claim, so I do need to get in there and find out what they’re talking about.
I did read about the rescue and it sounded like an epic. I’ve looked at the steepness out of those falls and I can’t imagine the effort to drag someone out of there. If I was a rescuer, I’d be looking for a helicopter 🙂
Greg the police tape was from a recent suicide by a local man in his 40s he jumped down and the body had to be recovered the only way in was from the bottom of strath ck to the top of the falls. also if anyone finds any old mines in the area when on these walks I would love to check them out as im bushwalker and a caver.
Hang on. I did this walk in 2011. When did the bloke jump? Mm… I’m not sure about mines around there, but I assume they’re there somewhere! Recently I’ve been doing walks in the Goldfields region and I’ve found the odd million or so.