Posted on

Trail Watch

Check out our Trail Watch report card, which covers many of Victoria’s most popular parks and reserves. These ratings indicate the overall quality of a parks walking trails based on construction and maintenance, and how clearly they are signposted. Admittedly these ratings are fairly general, but it will give walkers a chance to gauge just how much effort a particular park or reserve is putting into its walking trails.






Posted on

Ninety Nine Years Around Powelltown

Each spring I set aside a day to walk the remarkable tramways that weave through the forested hills surrounding Poweltown in the upper reaches of the Yarra Ranges. In 1912 Poweltown was born when the Powell Wood Processing Company opened a large mill on the banks of the Little Yarra River. The steam train had arrived in nearby Warburton in 1901 and the timber industry flourished in its wake. Hundreds of men were employed to fell the tall trees, mainly to supply the rapidly expanding growth of Melbourne and Geelong. In those days it seemed that the forests stretched forever. This was an era of selective logging, long before mechanisation stole most of the timber-worker jobs and long before wood-chipping and clear-felling became the norm. Ninety nine years ago the loggers of Powelltown would cut the trees by hand, using cross-cut saws and axes. It was a dangerous game and loggers were a genuinely tough breed.

Steam-powered winches would pull the logs up through the forest to narrow-gauge tramways, which were used to transport the timber to nearby sawmills. One of the best walks in the area follows the Walk into History, which utilises various tramways linking Big Pats Creek with Starlings Gap and then on through the Ada Valley. Along the way there are plenty of reminders of the past. Occasionally you will find a collapsing trestle bridge balancing across a creek or gully, thick green moss hanging from its now rotting beams. Twisted metal tramlines hide among the leaf litter, sometimes still attached to their original sleepers. Large metal boilers, rusting bogies, pin couplings and various bits of machinery sit quietly beneath the blackwoods and mountain ash. Ninety nine years of history, slowly being swallowed by the bush.

Posted on

Maps, Meridians and the Whole Damm Mess

As spring quickly approaches I thought this would be a good time to go over a few navigational basics and explain how they relate to our new walking guides.

In 2000 Australia changed over to GDA94 (Geocentric Datum of Australia), which was defined in 1994 and based on WGS84 (the World Geocentric System developed in 1984 for use with the satellite Global Positioning System). Essentially GDA94 and WGS84 datums are the same for recreational purposes such as bushwalking. Most current-edition Australian maps now use the GDA94 datum (earlier maps were based on the Australian Geodetic Datum systems AGD66 and AGD84). Bushwalkers using the maps in this guide (or downloading our GPS data) should set the datum on their hand-held GPS to GDA94 or (if this is not an available option) to WGS84.

• There are two sets of lines drawn across each map. Those that run north-south are called eastings and those that run east-west are called northings.

• Intersecting eastings and northings form grid squares with each square representing 100 hectares or one square kilometre. The maps in our guides are not created to a set scale so it is important to look carefully at the scale icon and/or the grid to ascertain the distances involved

• Grid north points to the top of the map (when viewed the correct way up).

• In the map/text example, each segment of a described walk is indicated by a location marker showing the distance travelled (in this case 10 and 12.3km) and the name of the location (such as Erskine Falls Carpark). The text reflects this information with the addition of the full grid coordinates as taken directly from the GPS.

• In the map/text example, the two digit grid numbers in the margins of the map correspond to each grid line. These numbers are abbreviated and are underlined (for easy reference) in the GPS grid coordinates.

• In the map/text example, the GPS grid coordinates show the number 54. This is the UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) zone number (the earth is divided into 60 north-south zones). The letter H indicates the UTM zone designation letter. Together the UTM zone numbers and designation letters provide what is called a Grid Zone Designation. In a nutshell, Victoria (for example) is divided into two zones: 54H (covering the west side of the state and 55H (covering the east side of the state).


How to download GPS tracks

• Many of our described walking trails has been mapped using a hand-held Garmin GPSmap 60CSx device. Each GPS track is available as a free download at in both .gpx and .kmz files.

• If you don’t own a Garmin GPS device, don’t fret. All of our original Garmin .gdb files have been converted to .gpx files (GPS eXchange Format). This popular open format is commonly used to exchange waypoint, route and track data between various brands of GPS devices and mapping software.

• All of our .gpx files have been simplified to under 500 track points for faster downloading.

• Waypoint data is provided on all our .gpx files and will be kept up to date where possible.

• A .kmz file will open in Google Earth just by simply double clicking on it (as long as you have Google Earth installed on your machine). Google Earth also has native support for .gpx files containing GPS data. In Google Earth go to File > Open and navigate to your folder containing the downloaded .gpx file. If you cannot see the .gpx file in your folder try selecting the right file type (All File Types). Open the file.

• Remember that you will need to be running a software program to handle your .gpx files. These programs usually come with your hand-held GPS device. The program we use with came with our Garmin and is called MapSource. Garmin also have free software called BaseCamp. There are many others on the market.

Just a final word of caution. The maps within our walking guides provide a basic overview of each trail, but are not designed to be used in conjunction with a compass, and cannot replace the accuracy of detailed contour maps such as the Vicmap 1:25,000 series. In other words, use a large contour map, carry a compass and/or a GPS and make sure you have a firm understanding of basic navigation. Hand-held receivers have become very affordable in recent years and are increasingly popular among bushwalkers. A GPS user can accurately pin-point a location at any given time. It’s important to note however, that a GPS is only as good as it’s batteries (or fumbling fingers) and that basic map-reading and compass skills are still required.

Posted on

Mt Beckworth Walking Trails

The Lollipop Tree was planted on the 634m summit in 1918.

We visited Mt Blackwood Scenic Reserve last weekend to check out the local walks and finalise the relevant GPS data and details. We are featuring one of the park’s walks in our forthcoming walking guide to The Goldfields. The park has only recently reopened after the storm damage that occurred in January 2011 and Parks Victoria had indicated (on their web site) that it was only open to 4WDs. I visit Mt Blackwood fairly regularly (both as a walker and rockclimber) and was expecting that a lot the rehabilitation work would have been completed. Unfortunately this was not to be the case. The vehicle tracks are still in a terrible condition (sections of which are still closed). However, it was the poor standard of the walking trails which really caught my attention (and which could not be attributed to just storm damage).

Someone must have found this sign threatening so shotgunned it to death.

Back in 2001 we released Daywalks Around Melbourne, which featured a couple of walks in the Mt Beckworth Scenic Reserve. At the time I was critical about the quality of the walking trails which were in various states of disrepair. Over the intervening 10 years it would appear that little or no maintenance has been carried out. The result is a network of walking trails that are at the point of no return. The standard of the trails are so bad that in places erosion has completely destroyed the surface. Fallen trees are common and some trail sections vanish altogether. Yellow Box Track (which is clearly marked on Park Victoria’s Free Park Notes), has simply vanished. Short sections of the trail can still be seen but most people will eventually lose their way. What makes all of this worse is the almost complete lack of trail markers and directional signs. In just a couple of more years the once lovely walking trails of Mt Beckworth Scenic Reserve will probably be just memories and the park will be a lesser place because of it.

This tree has collapsed over the trail, which is now almost impossible to locate.
Even the newest signs in the reserve are falling to bits.


Ok. It’s now April 2015 and one of our regular readers (and users of our walking guides), David Sidwell, recently posted an article on his website regarding some upgrades to the signage and walking trails around Mt Beckworth. You can read his piece here.


Posted on

Winter in Wyperfeld

If you have ever wanted to visit Victoria’s semi-arid desert regions, then winter and early spring is the best time to do so. These pics were shot in early July at Wonga Campground in Wyperfeld National Park, about 440km northwest of Melbourne. Wonga Campground is an ideal place to base yourself as it provides a convenient gateway to the unique mallee terrain as well as the nearby sand dunes and floodplains. Definitely bring a pair of walking boots as the only way to really experience Wyperfeld is to walk through it. You’ll also need a good sleeping bag and a down jacket as it will get very cold at night. The benefits, of course, are star-filled skies and wonderfully clear, crisp days. Easily one of the most extraordinary, underrated and beautiful parks in Victoria. For those unfamiliar with Wyperfeld National Park, we cover some of the walking trails in our new Daywalks around Victoria guide.