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Walk 4 (Painkalac Dam)

According to Parks Victoria:

Closures due to upgrade of Painkalac Reservoir Spillway
No access to Painkalac Reservoir until late 2010.
Walking track from Distillery Creek Picnic Ground to Painkalac Reservoir closed until late 2010.
Walking track leading from Moggs Creek Picnic Ground to Gentle Annie Track remains open.
Walking track through reservoir from Distillery Creek to Moggs Creek picnic grounds closed.

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Walks 56, 57 (Masons Falls and Andrew Hill)

Masons Falls Walk. Mt Sugarloaf is now open to the public. This includes Mt Sugarloaf, Mt Sugarloaf Road, Mt Sugarloaf Ridge Track and the park entrance area. These areas open everyday from 9:00am until 4:00pm. The walking trail (Mason Falls Circuit) and the rest of the Sugarloaf Block are still closed. Masons Falls Picnic Area will not open until late 2010.

Andrew Hill Walk. The bulk of the walk (Andrew Hill Track, Mountain Creek Track and Stringybark Tracks) is now open. Unfortunately the trail (Blackfish Way) linking The Gums Camping Area and Island Creek Camping Area is still closed. This means that the walk cannot be completed as a circuit. The Gums Camping Area, Island Creek Camping Area and Blackfish Way are not due to reopen until until late 2010.

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Cathedral Range State Park (After The Fires)

North Jawbones near the Farmyard

Tracey and I paid a visit to the Cathedral Range State Park last Wednesday. Tracey was there in her official capacity as the Victorian Climbing Club (VCC) Access Officer and was checking out the climbing access trail up to North Jawbones – one of the most popular and important climbing crags in Victoria. I was there to help her out and to shoot crag images for our forthcoming Selected Climbs Around Melbourne guidebook. At 9am we met Rhyl Shaw, the friendly Parks Victoria ranger, at Sugarloaf Saddle and she kindly showed us around and answered our questions. Rhyl not only has an intimate knowledge of the park but she is also an experienced bushwalker, rockclimber and cross-country skier. We could immediately see what an enormous job Rhyl and Parks Victoria was facing. During the Black Saturday fires the bulk of the park was burned and almost all of the walking trails were reduced to a tangle of fallen timber and unstable soil. The hardest hit area appeared to be around the Sugarloaf Saddle and up on the peak itself.  Amazingly the lower part of the valley (along the Little River) missed out on the fires altogether.

Sugarloaf Saddle November 2009

In 35 degree heat (a big thankyou to our early November heatwave!) Tracey and I walked up to North Jawbones. The official walking trail has been (mostly) cleared and is now in surprisingly good condition. A much bigger problem however is the climbers trail which ascends directly up to below the cliff. I don’t want to pre-empt Tracey’s official report but I can’t see that this trail will be able to take much future foot traffic without creating major erosion problems. The same goes for the climbers descent down the north ridge of the North Jawbones which appears to be even more unstable. Tracey is already working on possible alternatives. The base of the North Jawbones has been well and truly cooked. In some places large rocks and boulders have shattered in the heat. Fortunately the bulk of the cliff and all of the routes look fine. Many of the bushes (some traditionally used for belays) have been burned so climbers will need to be careful when the area reopens. Tracey is right now preparing a more detailed report which will appear in Argus, the VCC newsletter.

North Jawbones near the Farmyard

From the top of North Jawbone we sat and soaked up the views. When the park reopens both walkers and climbers can expect to see a very different vista. There are now far more open views, a lot less trees and newly exposed rock faces are dotted across the range. The trees are now fringed with bright green epicormic growth and the  ground is covered in a bewildering array of colourful wildflowers, some of which I’ve never seen in the park before.

The Cathedral Range State Park will hopefully reopen to the public around Christmas. On one level I was stunned by the amount of damage the fire has caused but on another level I felt privileged to be a witness to what is a natural process of the forest’s life cycle. The Cathedral Range State Park is every bit as magnificent as it always was; it’s just very different.

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Fire damage affecting information in several guidebooks

The terrible Victorian bushfires that started over the weekend of Sat 7th and Sun 8th February mean that some walks described in Daywalks Around Melbourne (Tempest), Weekend Walks Around Melbourne (Tempest) and Day Walks Melbourne (Chapman) have been completely destroyed. The main areas affected include Marysville, Kinglake, Murrindindi, Bunyip State Park, Healesville, Warburton and the Cathedral Range State Park. Fire affected areas also include Lake Mountain and Camberville. We recommend that all bushwalkers (and other bush users) stay well clear of any destroyed and threatened areas until the Parks Victoria and DSE can assess and eventually reopen the affected locations. Locations such as Murrindindi, Kinglake and Marysville are probably not going to open to the public any time soon (at least for 2009 and early 2010). It is hoped that the Cathedral State Park and its popular walks will be gradually reopened from November onwards. Walkers are advised to visit Parks Victoria for further information relating to walking trail closures.

Bushwalkers should also be aware that many State and National Parks are closed or have restricted access on high fire danger days. Check with Parks Victoria for daily updates.

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Walk 26 (Werribee Gorge Circuit)

The walk has been much better signposted in the last couple of years and there are no longer any junctions without signs and/or triangle markers. There has also been a major trail realignment beyond the swing gate (p62, at the end of the second paragraph) leading up to the Eastern Viewpoint. The trail now veers right and passes the interesting ruins of Hanson’s Farm (1871) then reaches a junction with the new Centenary Track (which heads off right to the W. James Whyte Island Reserve). Turn left (signposted) and climb the old rough vehicle track up to the top of the hill to a signposted junction with the Short Circuit Track. Further along the walk and not far beyond Lions Head Beach the trail has a fixed steel cable along the cliff, presumably to reduce the possibility of someone slipping into the water.