Saturday, April 16, 2016

Hut #4 - Whisky Creek


A short way along the river from Sawmill Hut is Whisky Creek Hut. Whisky Creek feels much more like a private hut rather than an emergency refuge, and has a fantastic ambience, complete with dart board!

 Complete with a sofa and an excellent fireplace, it's easy to imagine a bunch of friends spending time here relaxing... and hunting, judging by the odd casing on the ground.

Distance from Melbourne: 138km
Access Rating: Very Difficult. Driving in from Sawmill Hut would require a lift and big tyres, probably muddies. The other track in has steep, slippery ascents and descents with boulders creating a noticeable pinch 3/4 of the way up. In summary, it's winching country. The easy way is to park at Sawmill Hut and walk in.
Scratchy Rating: Via Sawmill Hut, scratchy but not excessively so. The other track is carved through solid blackberries, and with little traction in places that will see your rig slide one way or the other. This is definite scratchy territory.
What's there: Hut & river, but worth it just for that.

Coming in from Sawmill Hut - sludgey!
Access from Sawmill Hut
Coming in the other track is a whole different challenge!

Without a winch, I didn't even consider attempting this track. Honestly I don't think the Trailhawk would have made it without a lift and much more aggressive tyres, and perhaps not even then. We will never know :)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hut #3 - Sawmill Hut

Deep in the Rubicon State Forest, in a desperate fight for survival against blackberries and time both, is Sawmill Hut. The first of three huts that were found on a hut hunting expedition I joined with Andy and Sharyn from the Victorian High Country Huts Association,  Sawmill Hut takes out the honours for being the most defiant hut, if not the most picturesque.

Backing on to the Royston River, the old sawmill site is a fascinating destination for a visit. The
remains of an old boiler and car lie embraced by the ever-encroaching blackberry bushes, hinting of the time when the site was a bustling little industry, back before it was all abandoned back to the bush.

Distance from Melbourne: 138km 
Access Rating: Medium 4WD. A/T tyres. Short climb after water crossing would be challenging if wet.
Scratchy Rating: You might want to find a good detailer.
What's there: River, old boiler & car, evidence of earlier logging activity, old drop thunderbox loo complete with fairy lights.

How scratchy, I hear you ask? Not toooooo scratchy. Not really.

Like the track in, the hut itself has probably seen better days. Though it would be better than standing out in a storm, you're not going to have to persuade anyone to use their tent rather than bunking down in the hut.

Don't be put off though, it was definitely worth the visit in its own right, as it was a stunning little spot in a rugged and overgrown sort of way. Even better, Hut #4 was just a short walk further down the track. Down the boggy, muddy, deeply rutted track...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hut #2 - Marthavale

Marthavale is located about an hour and a quarter north of Bairnsdale, almost half way to Omeo as the crow flies, assuming the crow pulled to the left a bit as it flew along.

We took the direct route, which was sealed road or well formed dirt road all the way from Bairnsdale until the Marthavale Track turn off. As good as the road was, the visibility wasn't, as a rather grey and overcast day down at sea level proved to be a very moist and foggy day as we ascended up the mountains and into the clouds themselves! Despite that the trip was good and traffic was non-existent, which was a touch surprising for the Saturday of a long weekend. Apart from a gathering of gold diggers at Bullumwaal, we didn't see any vehicles between the picnic area at the very foothills of the mountains and the hut itself, so it was a very peaceful journey for us. Also a very twisty and windy journey, so it was iPads away and look out the window for our eldest girl who gets motion sickness if her head is buried in a book or stuck to a screen in this sort of terrain.

Distance from Melbourne: 334km
Access Rating: Medium (4WD) in dry conditions. Doable in an AWD in the dry, but all terrain tyres advisable. Don't stick around if it gets wet unless you know what you're doing.
Scratchy Rating: Not scratchy. Bumpy, but not scratchy.
What's there: Picnic table, composting toilet, fire pit, couple of dispersed camping areas.

There were a couple of families not long set up when we arrived, and this "formal" camp area was large enough for their camper trailer (soft floor) plus the roof top tent of the next 4WD to be set up side by side. There's enough room on the grass for a couple of tents as well (provided you didn't get too close to the fire pit!), plus a second "informal" camping area down on the other side of the hut. At a pinch you could fit probably half a dozen vehicles worth of campers here, maybe more, bearing in mind there was only a single loo. That said, it was beautifully quiet down there with just the campers and my group, and this place is on my short list of camp sites I absolutely intend to come and stay a few nights at.

The hut itself is one of my favourites, too. Quite large - I think three rooms, from memory - in good condition with a decent fireplace. There's a smattering of furniture - a table, some drawers - but plenty of space inside. It didn't have many windows or skylights but was surprisingly light inside, despite the rather gloomy conditions outside. All in all a pretty inviting place that has obviously had a lot of time and love invested into it.

The surroundings are topped off by the creek that is running past the back of the hut, just down below the camping area.  The track down to Marthavale Hut continues across this creek and back up into the hills, with lots more to be found along the way I've been told. I'll definitely be coming back to investigate further.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Hut #1 - Keppels Hut

In the hills behind Marysville, near the boundary of the Rubicon State Forest and the Yarra Ranges National Park, lies Keppels Hut. 

Probably the closest hut to Melbourne and certainly one of the easier huts to reach, Keppels Hut makes a perfect starting point in our quest to visit each of the huts in the Victorian High Country.

Distance from Melbourne: 124 km
Access Rating: Medium (AWD Friendly) in dry conditions
Scratchy Rating: Not at all scratchy
What's there: Picnic tables, fire pit, composting toilet, horse yards

There is a tiny stream running down behind the hut, and enough cleared grass for a few tents to be pitched. As with most huts, the hut itself should be used as emergency shelter so if you're planning to go up and stay overnight, take your own camping gear rather than planning to stay in the hut.

The area was devastated by the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009, and the surrounding landscape is a pressing, and at times oppressive reminder of the ferocity and damage of those fires. A great place to day trip to, a nice spot for an overnight camp, but I wouldn't want to spend a week there. Still a great way to kick off a hut-hunting adventure.

More information, and somewhat approximate directions, can be found in the DSE Forest Notes