Karen and I joined a few friends (Greg, Michelle and Marriot) on Saturday to walk the lovely Tarilta Creek Gorge just south of Mt Franklin in the Upper Loddon State Forest. I was keen to GPS the circuit for our forthcoming Goldfields guide and see what effect the recent bushfire (early January 2012) had on the park. The fire had started on nearby private property as a grassfire and had burned through some of the forest along Sawpit Gully Road. We left the car (parked on Porcupine Ridge Road) at about 2pm, which would normally be quite a late start, but on a daylight-saving mid-summers day it was going to be no problem at all. A southerly breeze kept the temperature down and there was barely a cloud in the sky.
Our first real issue was Michelle’s walking boots. Apparently she had not used them for some time and immediately after pulling them on the rubber soles decided to part company with the uppers. Greg’s skills with a roll of gaffa tape and five minutes later the problem was (at least temporarily) solved.
My original walk description in Daywalks Around Melbourne was still fairly accurate and it was apparent that the fire had only touched the edge of the state forest. Unfortunately some of the old 4WD tracks had been recently widened and ‘improved’ with the use of a bulldozer, which meant that some of the walking wasn’t quite as attractive as normal. There were also a few new dozer tracks constructed, which made was a bit confusing. I was definitely going to have to update the walk map. At one junction we even took a wrong turn, a mistake that cost us an extra 2.5km of walking. This just strengthened my view that all published walks need to be re-walked and checked on a regular basis.
Once we reached Tarilta Creek Gorge the nature of the walk changed completely. Suddenly we felt a million miles from anywhere. Understandably, for this time of year, the creek had stopped flowing and only a few small pools were left, providing a safe haven for the yabbies, frogs and common galaxias (native fish). The river flats that only a couple of months ago were lush green were now thigh-deep in dry golden grass. Swamp wallabies watched us from the rocky bluffs, eastern grey kangaroos eyed us suspiciously and colourful eastern rosellas darted between the trees.
About six years ago Greg and I ran through this tiny gorge (again checking the walk details) and there had been little sign of other visitations. This time around we were surprised to find that a fairly good walking trail had been established. Since the release of Daywalks Around Melbourne(the second edition was published in 2005) this walk had obviously become much more popular. The walking trail definitely makes negotiating the gorge a whole lot easier. Someone, perhaps a walking club or commercial group, have even inserted small posts along the way to indicate the various creek crossings.
We finished the walk by following the off-trail variation linking Limestone Track with Porcupine Ridge Road. This really is the best way to complete this walk but you need to be reasonably confident in your off-trail navigation skills. We got back to the car at about 6.30pm and half an hour later we were drinking pints at the Holgate Brewhouse in Woodend. If you haven’t already done this walk then definitely put it on your list. My recommendations would be to do it in winter or spring, plan on a picnic lunch and keep in mind that Tarilta Creek is prone to flooding, which would make the creek crossings much more difficult.