I was looking for an overnight hike not too far from Melbourne and found ‘A walk into history’ that starts not far from one of my favourite places, Warburton, on the outskirts of Melbourne.
I am a sucker for a hike with a name especially with a reasonable map and track descriptions available to download. In retrospect, a slightly more detailed map would have avoided some Google map checking and some impatient lunch stops. A friend warned that Powelltown was ‘beautiful but had too many leeches’!
Undeterred, we dropped a car off in Powelltown and car shuffled in the second car to Big Pat’s Creek – just outside Warburton.
The plan was to stop for lunch at Starlings Gap (9 km), but slower than expected travelling meant we stopped on the track for lunch. We regretted this 20 minutes later when Starlings Gap presented itself as a wonderful oasis in the forest complete with toilets, picnic tables and friendly campers (and a friendly dog).
Starling Gap to Ada No. 2 Mill (8km) was probably the most pleasant part of the track. Yes, we were on constant leech alert and by the end of the day, we were a bit walking weary. We had some advice on the track that the Federal Mill campsite was less damp and leechy but the Ada Mill campground was on the track and due to the late arrival time and tired legs we decided that this was our destination.
The campground was empty and almost magical, with a green lush environment and enough clear spaces that the leeches didn’t really bother us. Camp platforms, food storage, fireplaces, standing benches and some fireside sitting options made from railway tracks made it a very comfortable place to spend the night. We really had that ‘in the middle of the forest on our own’ experience that makes overnight hikes magical.
We didn’t do any side trips so it was at this site that we saw the most examples of the history that we were walking into – with tracks, cables and pieces of abandoned machinery just lying around everywhere.
The next day we set off for the High Lead track – pre-warned about the steepness and a little nervous that I had already had a few slips. Trusty walking sticks propped in front I started the very slow descent. I did fall over several times, but it is a skill that I have developed to drop and roll softly.
The plan was to have lunch at The Bump – about 8km into the day but my very slow decent meant that we again had lunch on the track. I wasn’t too bothered because The Bump wasn’t anything special in terms of lunch destinations. Maybe the High Lead Carpark 5.5km would have been better but we were so excited to get down the High Lead track that we wanted to push on.
From the High Lead Carpark to Powell town (10.5km) we ‘lost’ the Walk Into History track several times. It seemed to be well signposted if travelling from Powelltown, rather than towards it. Confident that the track followed the road we had several road-walks – glad to be off the stick littered track, but annoyed about having to walk on a relatively busy road.
We stumbled into town and headed straight to the Powelly Hotel for a beer and a bag of chips before heading back to home life.
The track conditions were a bit of a mystery before we left with the official notes citing most of the sections as hard, where hiking bloggers didn’t really agree. After walking it I can see the confusion. Much of the track was relatively flat and well defined, but then there would be a tree so large over the track that we couldn’t find where the track recommenced without doing considerable scrambling. The surface of the track alternated between being so thick in bark that it was like walking through a well-mulched garden bed, or so full of sticks that we were imagining the great campfire we could have. It did mean a lot of heads down.
Overall a very nice overnight hike. You wouldn’t want to be too squirmy about leeches and be warned about the very long downhill section if travelling in the recommended direction. The full distance of 33km seemed reasonable for an overnight hike, but we were ready for the end of the hike each day. Maybe a reflection of my pack walking fitness.
I was hoping that we could have done some side trips, including to the Ada Tree – Oh well, it’s now on my to-do list, along with an overnight car camp at Starlings Gap.