Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mt Macedon Circuit - 4th May 2014

Mt Macedon Circuit - 4th May 2014

I awoke early to the sound of rain on the roof, and after a quick look outside, hoped that our walk to Mt Macedon was still to proceed, after the dull and gloomy appearance of the new day.
A quick trip to Greensborough had me waiting in the car park just off Henry street for the rest of the Diamond Valley Bushwalking Club crew to arrive. All up, 8 bodies stood in the misty rain whilst Peter and Sandra informed us that we were to collect another walker in Mt Macedon, a total of nine participants today.
The drive up went smoothly, with a good run on the Ring Road and Calder Freeway having us make good time and arriving in Douglas Road, Mt Macedon around 9am.

Gathering on Douglas Road for the walk briefing.

Following a short briefing by Peter, we donned our rain gear and headed up the first incline, hoping the exertion would supply some warmth to our extremities... it was icy cold!

Heading up Douglas Road at the start of our trek.

Some beautiful houses hide just off Douglas Road, and we marvelled at one in particular, with a fantastic view from the study/office/writing room.

What a wonderful spot to work!
The group continues until we come across the track to Memorial Cross, and the climb begins! The ground is wet and slippery, and it takes concentration and effort to tackle this section, with slimy leaves, damp clay, rocks and tree roots trying to catch us out. We cross tracks with a group of younger folk making their way down the same track, moving over to let them pass. They will catch up with us again a little later, heading back up the same section.

Making our way up the first ascent.

The group catches their breath, readying for another assault on the mountain.
Colorful fungi sprout from the detritus littering the forest floor.

It's a decent climb up the first part of the track.
Soon we reach the summit and stop for a chat with the group we passed earlier. They are completing two trips up and down this section of trail, in training for the Kokoda Track walk in June. One older member of their party seems to be making hard work of the climb, and we discover that he is carrying 19kg extra in his pack for the training. Good work!

A group in training for the Kokoda Track passes us up the hill.
We make our way to the Memorial Cross, an imposing sight rising in the mist. The gardens edging the path are well cared for and provide a lovely entry to the terracing upon which the cross sits.

The Memorial Cross rises eerily in the mist.

Well maintained gardens show the way.

The Memorial Cross
Foggy view from the Cross.

Directions to everywhere!

We take time to study the plaques on the entry and base of the cross, informing us of interesting facts about the memorial and providing a lasting tribute:

An escape from the light rain and mist is afforded us in the shelter near the Tea Rooms at the Harbison Picnic Grounds and summit car park, where we huddle and tuck into a snack and hot drink. 
Morning tea in the shelter at the Tea Rooms car park.

The wind is like ice, cutting through our clothing and making fingers numb and sore. A fellow walker at the base of the Memorial Track informed us as he came down that the temperature at the summit was around 2 degrees Celcius, and we wouldn't have been surprised if it had dropped!
A shelter with some interesting history awaits visitors to the Tea Rooms and car park:

A basic history of the cross. Click to enlarge.

With warmth in our belly we head off down the track towards McGregors Picnic Ground. It's an easy walk, and we make good time through this section of dirt road. Julie offers some great advice; tuck your hands into your armpits to warm them up! This works extremely well, and manages to thaw our fingers and restore feeling to half-frozen digits. Light rain filters down through the trees, and rain jackets and pack covers remain in place. 

We hit the trail to McGregors Picnic Grounds.

McGregors Picnic Grounds offers toilet facilities and a short respite from the rain, but not for long. We make our way onward to the car park at The Camels Hump, working our way up the well formed track to the lookout. Views are a little misty, but still reasonable, as we peer North towards Hanging Rock across the valley. Misty cloud rolls out of the trees in the valley beneath the lookout, the wind carrying it off to dissipate into the air.

Moss adorns a sign on the track.

Good facilities at McGregors Picnic Ground

Great spot for a picnic...perhaps in warmer weather!

Making our way up to Camels Hump Lookout.
Masses of mushrooms on a fallen log.
An unusual and beautiful white fungi.

Mist and cloud billowing out of the valley.

Views across the valley towards Hanging Rock.

Watery directions...
After wandering back down from Camels Hump to the car park, we backtrack and find the trail that will carry us to Days Picnic Ground, and our rendesvous with lunch. It's a picturesque walk through tall, majestic gums, skirting around the very peak we had just climbed. Evidence of (what we think to be) wombats litters the trail, and careful steps are required in spots to avoid mashing the large green grassy deposits with our boots. We notice the slight rise in temperature as we descend, and welcome the corresponding rise in body temperature. Soon we stroll into Days Picnic Ground, and set down our packs at a convenient table to tuck into lunch.
Lunch time!

Picnic-ers tend their not-so-successful fire...
 The rain holds off long enough for us to finish our food and warm drinks, and as the Allens Snakes are handed around, the clouds once more release their cargo and a steady rain begins. We quickly pack up and shoulder our packs, this time taking the short trail to Sanatorium Lake.

The trail to Sanatorium Lake

The party enjoying a magnificent 30 seconds of sunshine!

On the way to Sanatorium Lake
Sanatorium Lake was built as a water supply for the tuberculosis sanatorium built a short distance from the lake. The area has an interesting history, which I might look into at a later date. Sounds intriguing!
Sanatorium Lake

The rain is still falling steadily, so we continue on past the Sanatorium Picnic Ground, where it seems a birthday party is being held. Unfortunately, not ideal weather for it!

Sanatorium Lake Picnic Ground

We join Barringo Road
Passing Sanatorium Lake Picnic Ground, we join Barringo Road and cross over it, continuing on down Zig Zag Track. This access road is a series of switch backs, not too steep and easy walking. We veer onto Hemphills Track at the junction where Zig Zag Track turns into Moola Track and head along through the gums for a distance until we find the trail that will lead us up and over Mt Towrong. The scenery and vegetation seems to change in each area we visit, adding a great deal of variety to the walk. A stone cairn greets us at the trails edge, marking the exact summit of Mt Towrong, and we take a break as several members of the group add their own offering of a rock to the cairn.

Stone cairn marking Mt Towrong summit.
With a drink and several snakes and sweets on board, we shoulder packs once more and attack the steep downhill trail leading us off Mt Towrong. This offers superb views of Mt Macedon, the Memorial Cross and the valley between. It seems from this vantage point that we have covered quite a distance, and in fact, we have walked just over 17km at this point. The trail is steep and rocky, with sections of wet clay which look safe, but offer very little traction, and can easily catch us out. 

Mt Macedon and the Memorial Cross in the distance.

Attacking the steep descent down Mt Towrong.

Careful navigation is required on the slow descent.

Almost to the bottom!
The group gathers at the bottom of Mt Towrong track on Anzac Road, ready for the easy hike back into town to join up with Mt Macedon Road. We pass more properties tucked in the trees just off the road, and the scenery here is beautiful. I could retire happily here or in Warburton and spend the rest of my days wandering through the bush, they both are truly spectacular places to walk.
Almost to Mt Macedon Road.

Mt Macedon Road, and almost done!

The last stretch to the cars in Douglas Road, and a welcome coffee and cake.
When we reach the vehicles, we find that Peter and Sandra have once again provided afternoon tea, with coffee (several varieties), tea, biscuits and cake to tempt and warm us. 
It has been another superb walk with the club, and we have covered a tad under 20km, taking approximately 6hrs 45min including stops.

Thanks to all for the great company...  looking forward to the next walk!

Happy Trails!