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.
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.
Yesterday I spent the day walking between The Jawbones and Cathedral Mountain. While the park was closed (due to the Black Saturday fires in 2009) Parks Victoria have done quite a bit of trail maintenance and realigning work. The trails around the Farmyard have been been realigned slightly but are clearly signposted. The trail linking The Farmyard with Cathedral Mountain (walk no 71) is now officially called Ridge Track. If you are familiar with this part of the walk but have not experienced it since the park was reopened last December, then you are in for a big shock. The ridge is now largely bare with blackened trees hinting at just how severe the fires really were. On the plus side the sweeping views are incredible. The walk feels nothing like it did pre February 2009. The trail from The Cathedral linking Cathedral North and Little Cathedral and back to Neds Saddle (Walk 69 and 71) is currently closed. Walkers will have to use the link trail that starts just south of Cathedral Mountain and which descends steeply east to Neds Saddle. It’s also worth noting that the walking trail (indicated on the map on page 166) running south and linking Neds Saddle with the Ridge Track has been permanently closed. This is not a bad thing as it was rarely used. The Little River Track is open but the Friends Nature Trail (at Cooks Mill) is still closed and will be for some time. Walk no 73 to Little River Falls is also still closed. This walk has never been officially recognised and it appears it was only minimally damaged by the fires. The problem is that Lowerson Track (which the walk initially follows) is currently closed.
The day had started with us dragging our two tired bodies, one old, one young, into the car for the trip to Bells Beach from Melbourne. We had both been looking forward to the hike, but ironically, we were both drained from hearing a Tibetan Buddhist teacher talk late into the previous night. The drive was full of jokes about attachment and illusion.
Being an inexperienced walker, and having been given elaborate instructions about tide times, offshore winds, and our proposed route only being passable in optimal conditions (low tide, calm seas), I had anxiously calculated times for each leg of our journey. Surprisingly, we arrived at our departure point, Bells Beach car park within minutes of the optimal time for getting our beach crossing safely.
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.
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.
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.
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.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: All of the original EMERGENCY SIGNPOSTS in the gorge have been replaced with new EMERGENCY MARKERS by ESTA (Emergency Services and Telecommunications Authority). Of major concern, however, is that the original numbering has been changed. The old (original) numbering is still in use in a number of available publications, including two of our own books and in the very popular Lerderderg and Werribee Gorges Meridian map. Walkers using our guides and the Meridian map must not confuse the original numbering with the new numbering.
Please download the following PDF which spells out all of the changes and even includes the Emergency Markers GPS co-ordinates:
Walks 68, 69, 70, 71, 72 and 73 (all within the Cathedral Range State Park). The park is closed. Roughly 92% of the Cathedral Range State Park (including the visitor facilities at Sugarloaf Saddle) were burnt by the February 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. Parks Victoria have indicated that the park will be reopened progressively from December 2009.
Walk 65 (Lake Mountain Snowgum Walk) and walk 66 (Lake Mountain Summit Walk) are open to walkers. There is lots of forest damage so I’d suggest that walkers keep to the trails to aid the regeneration process.