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BTAC team helps out on the McMillans Walking Track

A weekend in the life of a BTAC volunteer

2018 12 4

I am Joe van Beek, President of the Ben Cruachan Walking Club, committee member and a volunteer with the Bushwalking Tracks and Conservation (BTAC) team, a standing committee of Bushwalking Victoria. 

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In 1864 Angus McMillan was commissioned by the state government to establish a track to link the various gold fields in Gippsland. The track stretches some 220km from Omeo westward to Woods Point through the Gippsland high country. A few years after the Ben Cruachan Walking Club was formed in 1965, members of the Club investigated, documented and marked what they thought was an accurate re-creation of the  'McMillan's Track' and began maintaining it.

Our most recent track maintenance was over a very hot Australia Day weekend to assist with track maintenance on the McMillans Walking Track. I was the project leader, and was joined by John Kellas from Ben Cruachan Walking  Club and 13 other BTAC volunteers from various bushwalking clubs,  individual members of Bushwalking Victoria and two visitors.

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This ambitious track maintenance activity on behalf of DELWP was scheduled to start on Friday 25 January but as that day was a Total Fire Ban,  the start was postponed untill the Saturday after a front had cooled the air. Concerns remained as a dry lightning storm accompanied the front and set several wild fires in the bush not so far from the work area. Some of these subsequently joined and became the Thomson Jordon Divide Road fire of more than 6,000 hectares. A number of discussions were held with DELWP on the risks and wisdom of going into the bush at that time. The safety, communication and contingency plans were reviewed and escape routes verified.

The section from Lazarini Spur Track down to the Black River is one of the more picturesque and historically significant sections of McMillans Walking Track but is also one of the more difficult to maintain. There is only ready access from one end, it is 6km in length and has an approximate 700m descent which means a 700m climb back to the start. The first 2km is a permanently closed 4WD track but has been used as such in recent times but DELWP desired it be maintained as a walking track only. This meant all access was by foot.

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On the Saturday morning we established a camp, 4km from the start of the work site, at the intersection of the Jamieson-Licola Road and Lazarini Spur Track as various members of the work party gathered. After lunch two teams of 5 started work after a further consideration of the risks and safety issues. Four more joined later in the afternoon. Large plumbs of smoke were observed and not knowing the source of the smoke we evacuated back to our vehicles and camp.

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DELWP kindly provided us with food for two BBQ meals. It was a communal task to prepare and cook the food. It proved to be a generous quantity as many of us enjoyed the leftovers for lunches. That evening, some explored the nearby Crows Hut and as there were some keen mountain runners among the volunteers, there was much discussion about the nature of the McMillans Walking Track and how long it may take to run given that the total climb and therefore descent is almost 9,000 metres, the height of Mt Everest.

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That night there was some rain and the temperatures were cooler so we were much more at ease going into the bush on Sunday morning. The conditions were perfect for some serious track clearing; over cast sky, slight breeze and temperatures in the low 20s. Great progress was made by the three teams; a chainsaw team and two "tunnelling" teams consisting of a brush cutter followed by two track clearers, a further brush cutter and two hedge trimmers and finally a crew of track clearers and groomers. When the "tunnelling" teams met up, it was decided to call it a day. All 17 participants put in over 8 hours of work.

Monday was to be the big day, a concerted effort to get down to the river. As numbers were down to 12,  we formed two teams. A chainsaw team who continued from where they left off and an enlarged "tunnelling" team. Great progress was made but it became evident that we would not finish that day. A call to knock off and proceed to the river for refreshment was made a bit before 3pm. Several took the opportunity to bath in the Black River while others took in the atmosphere of this isolated spot in the bush and rested up for the 700m climb back to the top of the track. Equipment and fuel not needed the following day was carried out. We reached camp at 7pm, almost 11 hours after leaving.

Conditions were still fine for working on Tuesday. A team of 4, all wishing to leave around mid day or just do a half days work, did some tidy up of a section of track near the beginning that had been skipped over previously. The other four set off down the track to complete the track clearing left undone the previous day. The last of the chain sawing was completed. We also cleared a little way up on the other side of the river crossing and cleared a couple of spots that could be used for a tent site just downstream from the crossing and opposite a lovely swimming hole. Some benching was done where most urgently required and to protect the most significant example of the dry stone walling constructed by McMillan's gang in 1864 when the track was originally formed.

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We got back to camp at 17:30 and the remianing four of us had a relaxing time before an early retirement to our tents. The morning John and I packed up camp, stowed the trailer and tidied up as the storm clouds built. We hadn't finished when heavy showers started. We were at Heyfield before noon and dropped off the DELWP supplied equipment.

Thank you to DELWP for facilitating the track maintenance and providing food for the volunteers. Thanks to BTAC for coordinating the event and providing the volunteers and much of the tools and equipment. A very satisfying feeling knowing that the job was achieved to a high and uniform standard. Happy walking everyone, this section of the track should be good for some years.

If you would like to become a BTAC volunteer, you can find more information here as well as the track maintenance schedule for 2019. 

Fun Family Bushwalk - 6 April 2019

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Families, please join us for a fun bushwalk at Coogoorah Park in Anglesea on the beautiful Great Ocean Road on 6 April 2019. It is the first Saturday of the school holidays, so what better way to enjoy active family time in nature and participate in the Premier's Active April

There will be three walks on offer for all ages and abilities. We'll finish the walks with a catered lunch in the park between 12:00 and 13:30. Experienced walk leaders from our local bushwalking clubs will be leading the walks and do all the planning for you, so all you have to do is to gather the kids, arrive on time in active gear, with closed active shoes, a hat, sunscreen and water. We will provide fruit for snacktime (if your children prefer a different snack, please bring that with you) and a picnic lunch. Below are the details of the 3 different walks on offer: 

THE WOMBAT GROUP:

You will enjoy an easy Estuary Sensory walk of approximately 1 km over 1.5 hours including lots of time to explore and a snack break. This mini-walk is a safe, fun family activity, designed to encourage younger children to explore the natural bush setting. They can flick through bird cards, use kids’ binoculars, look at flower brochures and use skim nets to find plants and bugs on the water. After many interesting discoveries along the route, the activity will finish at the playground.

Walk start time: 10:30  Walk finish time: 12:00 (this group will start lunch and can have a play in the park while the other groups join at 12:15 and 12:30)

Walk notes and map here

THE WALLABY GROUP:

You will enjoy an easy Anglesea Discovery Walk of 4.6km over 2.5 hours including a snack break. You and your family will definitely feel like real bushwalkers as we explore heathland, open forest and the estuary. Wildflowers grow beside the narrow tracks and kangaroos are often seen bounding away into the bush. As we return to Coogoorah Park and the playground, chirpy Blue Wrens hop along the paths and schools of tiny fish might swim under the footbridges as we cross.

Walk start time:  09:45  Walk finish Time 12:15 (followed by lunch)

Walk notes and map here

THE KANGAROO GROUP:

You will enjoy an easy-medium Anglesea Perimeter Challenge of 9.2km over 3.5 hours including a snack break. Along the river, we'll pass paddle boarders and a salt marsh that's visited by birds from Siberia. Then we’ll head down a long boardwalk that leads to winding tracks in the National Park. Echidnas might be seen, snuffling for ants, as we climb up to a great lookout – will you beat your family to the top? Finally, we drop down the ridge and loop back along the river to the Park.

Walk start time:  09:00   Walk finish time: 12:30 (followed by lunch)

Walk notes and map here. 

To help us manage paritcipant numbers and provide adequetely for snacks and lunch, we require families to register for the event please. The registration fee is $5 per participant. Just click on the booking button below to reserve your place. Numbers are limited as our aim is for families to have a quality experience.

BOOKINGS OPEN: 1 March 2019           BOOKINGS CLOSE: 25 March 2019   PLACES ARE LIMITED!

Bushwalking Victoria would like to sincerely thank all our event partners for their generous contribution of time and effort:

Liz Haines and her team form the YMCA Anglesea and the Surfcoast Shire Council,

Andrew and Liz Robinson, experienced bushwalkers and editing and mapping experts, for travelling to Anglesea to do a recognaisence of all the walking tracks, design the walks for each group, put together the walk descriptions, detailed walk notes and maps and finishing a week ahead of schedule,

Anna Thompson, our IT wiz for setting up the booking system, and having all the technology headaches on our behalf.

Our affiliated bushwalking clubs for providing walk leaders and logistical support.

Joel Cameron and the team from the Premier's Active April for your support. 

Family Walk 6 April

 

Hail to Susie Hale!

 

 Susie Hale - VMTC President

 

~  Written by Sandra Bucovaz

 
The Victorian Mountain Tramping Club (VMTC) is bucking the trend of ageing bushwalking clubs with the election of a young female adventurer as its new president.

The club’s recently elected president is Susie Hale, ‘fresh off’ a 153-day solo trip on the 4,280km Pacific Crest Trail which she completed in 153 days earlier this year. Other major accomplishments on her impressive walking CV include leading a VMTC group who completed the Australian Alpine Walking Track in 42 days.

Having grown up in a bushwalking family, the outdoors is where 29-year old Susie spends most of her time at work and play. With a Bachelor in Wildlife and Conservation Biology (Honours) and as part of her PhD thesis in ecology, Susie is currently researching small mammals in the Grampians and their responses to fire and climate.

Susie is the youngest president in the 70-year-history of the VMTC which recently celebrated its milestone anniversary. She was attracted to the club by its signatory spirit of adventure, camaraderie and outdoor pursuits ranging from bushwalking to cycling to canyoning, to cross country skiing, ski touring, snow shoeing and snow camping to interstate and overseas trips. She loves the knowledge base within the club and the conversation and company of members who come from all walks of life.

As the new president, she considers her greatest challenge is to promote the value of being a member of a club and increase membership, particularly bringing in younger people. She also hopes to maintain and hopefully increase the number of adventurous trips (off track, remote, extended) which has been part of the driving philosophy of the club since it was founded.

What attracted you to the VMTC?

I joined the VMTC about three years ago to find some partners in adventure. I was slightly nervous at first but quickly learned that it didn’t matter if you are slower or less experienced, other members respect you because you make an effort. I highly recommend joining a hiking club and wish I had done so sooner.

What do you enjoy most about the VMTC?

The VMTC has introduced me to a wide range of people who have since become solid friends who I respect incredibly. The eclectic group of people with a shared passion makes for a tremendous time and can allow you to undertake new escapades with like-minded and passionate people who are willing to share their skills. There is an enormous knowledge-base within the membership.

What do you hope to achieve as president?

I have become president to give a little back to the club I love so much. I have experienced so much freedom, a range of challenges and real wildness as part of this club and I want to ensure that that it can continue to do this for the next generation. My main aims as president are to ensure that the club maintains its reputation for challenging and adventurous trips that take you all over the state, country and world and that we increase our membership, especially that of the younger generation.

When did your love of the outdoors start?

My love for the outdoors has always been fostered lovingly by my parents and has been a constant in my life. I decided to get into environmental research as it allows me to get outdoors regularly as part of my data collection but also gives me an opportunity to help protect our wild places and wildlife which mean so much to me.

Did you bushwalk as a family?

My Dad was an avid bushwalker in his younger years and started to take me and my brother out on overnight hikes from about the age of eight. I remember our first hike vividly, it was at Lake Mountain. We wandered along wide, grassy paths to a small camp spot near a pond, proudly carrying our sleeping bags and clothes in our school bags as Dad hauled the rest of the gear. We spent the evening trying to catch frogs in the chilly water, their calls increasingly coming from the far side of the shallow water. We went on to do many challenging trips together where I learnt to read maps and navigate and of course how to deal with being ‘misplaced’. We were never ‘lost’, as my Dad would say.

What is it about long distance walking and what is next on your radar?

Long distance walks hold great appeal for me. Immersing myself in nature with a highly simplified life is a great feeling, living to walk and soak up the surroundings gives me a lot of inner peace and tranquillity that I can sometimes lack in my everyday life in the city. Challenging walks are not only physically rewarding but you also get to experience areas that are virtually untouched, which have a wild and rugged beauty.

My next longish adventure is to the Eastern and Western Arthurs in Tasmania in 2019 and longer term, I am eagerly researching the Kungsleden in Sweden and the Continental Divide Trail in the US.

What are your greatest achievements as a bushwalker?

My greatest achievement so far would probably be the Pacific Crest Trail. I spent five months wandering north on the foot-wide trail through desert, snow, mud, mountains, plains, forest and everything in-between. The simplicity of waking up every day and knowing that all I had to do was head north and the wide variety of people I met on the trail was incredible.

What was your greatest challenge on the Pacific Crest Trail?

Solo river crossings in the Sierra Nevada Mountains were the greatest challenge. I had had limited experience so I researched the techniques and practiced in smaller creeks and rivers when I first entered the high mountains. Each time the roar of a river became audible to me butterflies started to gently flutter in the pit of my stomach. My practice and research paid off and I made it through heart racing, leg grabbing and foot freezing rivers.

Do you have any heroes?

I don’t really have any heroes but I greatly admire people who chase their passions and are committed to enjoying their everyday.

If you would like any further information on the VMTC, Susie Hale is happy to be contacted on 0420 535 154 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. She can be hard to catch as she is often out in the field for work, or play!

Or you can contact Sandra Bucovaz 0401 617 122/ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Gift Ideas for Bushwalkers

Busy with your Santa list?

 

Christmas Gifts for Bushwalkers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Apart from the usual wishlist for new boots, backpacks, clothes and tents, here are some other gift ideas and stocking fillers for bushwalkers:

 ~ Eco Friendly food storage.

 ~ Membership of a Bushwalking Club. Browse bushwalking clubs here for one near you and inquire with them to 'gift wrap' a membership for you. 

 ~ Bushwalking Ornaments.

~ For lovers of hot drinks, a collapsible outdoor camping kettle,  coffee plunger mug or personalised resusable cup. 

Bushwalking books such as Leave No Trace - A Guide to the new wilderness etiquette, Epic Hikes of the World or Best Walks of Victoria's High Country. 

~ Handy tools such a multi function axe tool

~ Put a smile on their face with something funny

~  Adventure gadgets

~ A journal to record all those magic moments bushwalking.

~ A stargazing app.

A bush tucker guide

A bushwalking recipe book.

 

Wishing you a blessed festive season and plenty of amazing bushwalks! 

 

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