Old Mill Camp to Fridays Camp, Burchell Trail

Do you ever go on a walk and wonder if the people who put it together were taking the piss? Just a little bit? This thought ran through my mind during the final day, from Old Mill Camp to Fridays Camp, Burchell Trail in the Brisbane Ranges National Park. More on that later.

My night at Old Mill Camp was like the previous evenings. Cold. This time though, there was some extra frigidity about it, which was revealed when I crawled into the early morning daylight. Again, I was greeted with still conditions, but this time, instead of mist, there was heavy cloud cover. It felt like rain was in the air, but with no wind, it was hard to tell if something was on the way, or it was the default setting for the Brisbane Ranges in winter.

What I did know was that the tent was covered in ice and then to top it off, so was my water bottle. Inside. I certainly gave my fillings a work out when I swigged some early morning liquid.


The bone chilling temperature seemed to penetrate my body and refused to budge. What I needed was 10 minutes of vigorous calisthenics to get the blood moving. Sure, that’s what I needed, but not for a million years was I going to do it. Instead, I gripped my cup of hot tea as a method to thaw out my frigid fingers. Literally, they were so frozen, all fine motor skills were put on hold. Mainly because I couldn’t actually feel my fingers.

You know when people go, ‘Oh, I love my 50’s! They’re great!’ Let it be said, I’m not one of those people. What’s with the joint pain? Sure, my 20 year old brain was no useful than a glorified blancmange, but I’m sure as shit would like my 30 years younger joints back. On a cold morning, my knees, lower back, neck, hands and feet (is there anything else?) creak quite badly. I wish I was the Tin Man and could just use an oil can to lubricate the joints.

Anyway, back to the walk and a lot was going on at the Old Mill Camp. Firstly, the camera had frozen. That’s fine, but as I warmed it up, it suffered from condensation. Unfortunately, I fell for the oldest trick in the book. I kept clearing the lens, but I neglected another spot. In between the lens and camera body. It took me half a day to realise that it was internally fogged up. The result is I don’t have a lot of photos to play with, as dozens look like they were taken underwater.

The lack of a photographic record wasn’t much of a problem though, as I seemed to be short of things to document anyway. I’d walked this leg twice before as a day walk, so there wasn’t any ‘new sights wonderment’ to be had. If you’re really bored, you can find it under the ‘Three Creeks Walk’. Also, if you’re feeling really retro, there’s the failed ‘Welcome to Purgatory’ edition back in 2012. As I’ve written about it before, I’ll more or less skip through this post.

It might sound like I’m complaining about this last day. I’m not, as I stick by the principle that the worst day of walking is always better than any day I ever spent in an office. Maybe it was the cold and bleak conditions, which had sapped my mojo. Oh, plus the ‘Parks Vic taking the piss’ aspect was in full swing and had taken effect the previous evening. Let me explain.

In the last post, I talked about Old Mill Camp, but neglected one other detail. It’s positioned about 500 metres from Fridays Camp, which happens to be the end of the hike and where my car was sitting. Literally, you’ve got a day to go, yet you’d be able to hear anyone in Fridays. Instead of a half hour stroll to the car, the track leads off in a 10 km loop before arriving at the finish. I was almost tempted to walk to the car, dump the pack and do the final day as a three hour, load-free jaunt. You know how these things work though. They have to be seen to the end, so I stuck to the original plan.

Oh, but remember how the previous day was a lot shorter than what’s signposted? I wasn’t complaining, as shorter is generally best. Sure, maybe not in sex, but I’m talking about in walking terms only. The map I was carrying said I had 10.3 km to go. There’s even a sign at Old Mill saying similar. This is all in good in theory, but as I laid out the map on the table, one glance at its looping direction had me thinking, ’10? That looks longer than 10!’ We’ll return to this at the end and see if I’m right or not.

Instead of lounging around to 10 am, walking would be the only way to warm up, so I was off and racing before 8.30. Old Mill Camp sits below elevated terrain, so it’s protected from the wind. This meant the first steps for the day were immediately uphill. It’s nice to wander on some flat stuff to get the rhythm going, but not in this case, as I shuffled up Furze Track.


Back in 2012, I remember this section being quite overgrown with fire regrowth. Not any more. Some serious brush cutting has been undertaken, so it’s now full steam ahead. As I trudged along, I wondered if this more open bush would allow me to see something I’d missed previously. I’d be passing through the ye olde Century Mine site and supposedly there’s a shed, complete with windlass. On my previous trip, I knew of it, but stuffed if I could see it. Clearly I wasn’t looking hard enough or maybe it was swallowed up by the bush.

This was only a month ago, but already the details are shaky. I don’t remember any signs directing me to the old shed? I seem to recall I happened to look to my right…


…and was surprised to see it sitting in the bush. I think. As you can see, it’s an old shed.


I’ve got more photos, but how many do you want? This is as good as it gets. I grabbed hold of the windlass and gave it a bit of a spin, as I assume that’s what you’re supposed to do. Then continued walking. I guess I can check that site off my Brisbane Ranges wishlist.

Now a descent began…


…which led down to a boardwalk that was now visible through the trees.


It’s an interesting contraption and it’s clearly designed for daylight hours use only. Plus sober. Imagine being pissed and sprinting across here in the dark? Good luck with that. Oh, don’t wear your heels either, as they’ll get caught in the slats.


After stumbling across, I was soon heading uphill again. It’s here where the vegetation is how I remember it back in 2012. Slightly hemmed in.


It didn’t last though, as when I reached Banksia Track, it was back to wide open walking.


Are you feeling bored? What about me? I’d gone 10 feet from my car to about 5 km. On a track I’d walked before. There was another aspect I felt a bit frustrated with, but I’ll leave that thought until the end. Hopefully you’re not feeling weary about seeing grass trees? If so, you’re out of luck, as this section has plenty of healthy samples.


There were the odd casualties from Phytophthora cinnamoni, but on a whole, this area wasn’t too bad. My non-glasses wearing method continued to throw up blurry surprises though. At a distance I swore an echidna was sitting beside the track. Um… not quite.


Strolling on, I endured an ankle twisting rocky section that descended down Hazel Track…


…whilst accompanied by some seriously noisy cockatoos. As you can see. The sky was quite featureless. It was so white, you’d think these photos were taken indoors in front of a screen.


It might have been winter, but there were few fungi examples to be seen. Actually, I don’t think the Brisbane Ranges are known for them anyway? Certainly not compared to the Wombat State Forest. I did a couple of walks in there during July and it was fungi central. I must sit down and document one of those wanders to satisfy any fungi maniacs out there. Anyway, this was one of the few examples I saw on this particular day.


Continuing on, I reached the Crossing Picnic Area and took the pack of for a brief rest. It was then when I looked at the GPS and realised I’d more or less walked 10 km, which was supposedly the distance for the final day. Except it wasn’t. There were still a few to go. It appears Park Vic measured this leg with their GPS potato again.

Oh well, on went the pack and finally the overcast conditions began to reveal themselves. Occasional drops of rain began to fall, so I decided to motor on and finish the hike off. Usually I don’t mind getting wet, but I didn’t want to get soaked in the final kilometre of a three day walk.

I skipped past some information signs regarding the old mining operations, but I did pause for what looked like an old dam wall.


There were no signs indicating it was, but I’m confident it’s a long overgrown dam embankment.


I was well and truly closing in on the finish line, but taking the piss aspect of the hike had one final laugh. I reached Durdidwarrah Road and knew my car was literally 400 metres away. A short stroll and I’d be there. Instead, for comedy purposes, the track crosses the road and heads DOWNHILL. What? I’ve no idea what was going on, but the trail meandered lower and lower, before commencing to climb. All the way up to where I more or less just was.

Finally, I exited out of the bush and into the Fridays Carpark to be greeted by my car patiently waiting for me. I’d timed the finish perfectly, as it began to rain as I threw the pack into the car. So there you go, the Burchell Trail is done. Briefly, what do I think of it all?

Mm.. it’s always subjective, but earlier I mentioned one thing I was a bit frustrated with. Before the track realignment, the hike used to finish at the Steiglitz Court House. I don’t know about anyone else, but ending up there would make more sense. It’ll give you a chance to check out the ghost town elements of Steiglitz. The old court, the main road with a handful of buildings and the footings of others. If you like your history, it’s an interesting spot. Now though, it goes nowhere near this area and instead finishes up at Fridays Camp. Why? I’ve no idea, but I assume the powers to be don’t want people leaving their cars within Steiglitz itself. I think.

Anyway, it was all over and I’ve seen Steiglitz a million times, so I was heading straight home. I assume others might do the same, but they might not know what they’re missing out on. What else? It’s not a long walk for three days. It’s more or less two half days with the long one in the middle. Except as per the last post, the second day isn’t as long as signposted.

It’s still a good walk though and probably perfect if you’re getting into overnight hiking? All the way, signage was good and with water tanks at the camps, it makes for an easy time. Its proximity to both Melbourne and Geelong doesn’t mean you’ll be swamped by people either. Other than the two blokes on the motorbikes, I didn’t see anyone over the course of the three days. Sure, it was winter, but even on my summer day walks, it’s been rare to see more than a handful of people. That’s about it and there are probably things I’ve missed, so happy to answer any questions if there are any.

Oh, what was the distance at the end of this day? Was it 10.3 km, as per the map notes? No, of course not. It was 12 km instead.

What’s next? I think it’s back to the Grampians. Also in August, I did the Fortress circuit, so it makes sense to write up that one whilst it’s still semi-fresh in the mind. Again, I’ll do an intro post to kick it off.

So until next time, I’m heading off. With a grass tree of course.