Sunday, September 17, 2017

Lorne Forest Walk, Great Otway National Park - September 2017

Phantom Falls
Lorne Forest Walk, that sounds a little bit un-inspiring doesn't it? Substitute waterfall for forest and it sounds a little more interesting though. I'm not sure what Mr Tempest was thinking when he named this walk but for me it's the waterfalls and cascades that are a feature. To make the most of the waterfalls I decided to head down to Lorne after a week of reasonable rains. This walk is actually a combination of numerous loops that head into the bush from the Sheoak Picnic Area in the hills behind Lorne, Mr Tempest having used his imagination and written up a fairly long walk that manages to visit most of the main attractions over the course of a fairly long day. After parking the ute in the car park near the mouth of the Saint George River early Saturday morning I pulled on my boots and set off on my days adventure.
The trail head at the mouth of the Saint George River is well marked.
Around two metres into today's stroll came today's first issue, it seems that contrary to what my map was telling me the initial section of track actually crosses the Saint George River a couple of times, a sign warning not to attempt the track after rain was thought provoking! Being a Feral walk I did the responsible thing and pushed on anyway. The first leg of today's walk had me heading from the aforementioned Saint George River mouth up to the old Allenvale Mill site along the Saint George River. Like a bit of the walking up here it looks like this leg of my walk was along an old timber tramway judging by the almost level track. All was going well as I left behind the cleared land near the Great Ocean Road and headed into the bush, the good track was damp but nothing to be too concerned about. I was just starting to get that euphoric feeling that a nice walk gives me when I rounded a corner to find that the low level bridge over the river was very low indeed, in fact it was 6 inches beneath the water level. With over 20 kilometres in front of me I wasn't overly keen to be getting wet feet this early in the day but I was even less keen to wade through in bare feet on what was a fairly cool morning. After an in depth risk assessment which involve a bit of prodding with my walking pole and a risk versus reward calculation I decided to plough through, boots and all. Obviously my methodical preparations paid off because I emerged onto the far bank of the Saint George River with my feet still relatively dry and without me having taken a unexpected swim, all was good in my Feral world again.
A lot of today's walk follows old timber cutters tramways.
Saint George River
What bridge......
Much to my surprise I emerged on the other side with feet still fairly dry.
Forging on along the flat path beside the river I soon passed the Allenvale Mill site and dropped down to cross the river again. This section of track passes through an orchid on some private farm land giving it a bit of a bucolic feel, it looks like the local kangaroos appreciate the cleared land as well judging by the numbers of them out and about enjoying the weak morning sun. Climbing steeply away from the farm my walk followed an old 4wd track high up above the Saint George River, the cascades and rapids way down in the valley being a bit of a feature today. After climbing up the side of the valley I soon arrived at Phantom Falls. These falls can be a bit hit or miss I've found, the water comes down from Allen Dam so just because there has been rain doesn't necessarily mean that the falls will be pumping, I was lucky today though the falls were really flowing and the biggest issue that I had was trying to get a photo without getting the camera wet.
Saint George River
My next crossing had a decent bridge.
Saint George River near Allenvale Mill.
Heading towards Phantom Falls my walked passed through some private property.
The locals were enjoying the mornings weak sunlight.
There was water cascading down everywhere on this visit.
The Saint George River cascading it's way towards the ocean.

Phantom Falls
Leaving Phantom Falls I climbed up another old 4wd track before heading down one of the best walking tracks in the Otways, Canyon Track. This track initially sidles a hill before seemingly disappearing at a rock bluff, on closer inspection the route actually drops down through the rocks into what appears to be a sink hole to emerge a few metres later inside the claustrophobic walls of The Canyon. The track now makes it's way through the lush moss and fern filled canyon, hemmed in by the shear walls there is no danger of getting lost here even if the path is a little adventurous. After 10 minutes or so I emerged out of The Canyon and my route turned south and started to descend through  even more man ferns as I made my way down to a walking track junction, turning right I wandered up stream a little to check out my next waterfall of note, Henderson Falls. Like Phantom Falls my main issue at Henderson Falls was working out how to get a photo without getting the DSLR wet, as it turned out this was an on going issue that I had for the whole day. I'd actually carried a tripod today but with the amounts of mist floating through the air I didn't use it once.
Phantom Falls
The entrance to The Canyon.
The Canyon section of my walk has a bit of an Indiana Jones feel about it I think.
The Canyon
Heading towards Henderson Falls the good walking continued.
Have I mentioned that there was a bit of water around today?
Henderson Falls

After retracing my route a short distance I then checked out waterfall number 3 for the day, Won Wondah Falls. This little waterfalls drops through a narrow slot into a deep gorge and while being very pretty is also very hard to get a good look at, the contrasting light levels and encroaching vegetation making life hard. Leaving Won Wondah Falls my route climbed a little into some drier forest before once again dropping down to cross Sheoak Creek on a big suspension bridge and entering the large Sheoak Picnic Area. While today's walk had been fairly damp under foot so far things went up a notch as I headed up the Kalimna Falls Track, this was now proper grown up mud walking. The Kalimna Falls track is another of those old timber cutters tramways and while they make for very level and easy walking they also have a habit of being a bit damp under foot, particularly where the route passes through old cuttings.
Heading back down towards Won Wondah Falls I had a go at the arty wanker shot.
The track was rated as 'heavy' today.
Won Wondah Falls drops into a deep and narrow gorge.
Unlike our cousins over in the shaky isles we don't generally have a lot of suspension bridges on walks over here.
Heading towards Lower Kalimna Falls, the conditions were heavy but judging by the tree it wasn't heavy enough to stop the dickheads.
Sheoak Creek below Lower Kalimna Falls.
This section of the track up to Lower Kalimna Falls was the muddiest of the day, the worst section are where the old tramway passes through old cuttings.
The old timers selectively logged this forest so a lot of the big timber survived.
While the track was wet and muddy the scenery was pretty good, the old growth mountain ash are always a favourite and I think that Lower Kalimna Falls are one of the prettiest in the area. Arriving at the falls I headed straight for the cave behind the curtain of water, a perspective that always makes for an interesting shot...we'll in my opinion anyway. The good news here was that apart from some drips coming down from the roof of the cave I was largely out of the spray from the waterfall. The dryer conditions giving me more opportunity to explore a little. If anyone ever reads this and is thinking of visiting a Greater Otway National Park waterfall, then for ease of access as well as scenic splendour then I'd recommend Lower Kalimna Falls. Eventually I got sick of snapping away and retraced my route a little before heading further up the valley to my next point of interest.
Lower Kalimna Falls
I think Lower Kalimna Falls is probably the pick of the easily accessed waterfalls in the area.
Climbing up to Upper Kalimna Falls the valley gets a bit steeper and the track is benched into the side of the hill. With the track a fair way above Sheoak Creek down in the valley there are some nice views of the ferns lining the creek, as well as the tall forest along the valley. About twenty minutes after leaving Lower Kalimna Falls I got my first view of Upper Kalimna Falls cascading down the escarpment on the other side of the valley. Upper Kalimna Falls are actually quite a high waterfall but due to the lush vegetation surrounding them its a little hard to get a clear photo, actually I think that the best spot for a photo may be from the access track. 
Upper Kalimna Falls from the access track.
Upper Kalimna Falls from the lookout.

Backtracking once again I turned south and crossed one more gully before my slippery track climbed to meet Garvey Track on the crest of a ridge. Garvey Track is a old dirt road that took me through drier forest, the wide gravel surface making for a bit of a change after a day that had featured mud walking until now. Less than two kilometres after starting down Garvey Track I turned off onto Sheoak Track, once again an old 4wd track and started following a high ridge line in the general direction of the coast. Up here in this drier country the wattles were in bloom and at the same time I started to get some views through the trees of the aqua coloured water of Bass Strait in the distance. On meeting the track to Castle Rock I decided to make the side trip to check out the coastal views, it's been a long time since I've been here and I was a little surprised how far I was descending as I made my way down to the lookout. Eventually the track finished at the lookout perched on a precipice  above the Cumberland River, I'm sure the track use to continue on through the cliff line down to the coast in the ye olde days but not now days, although maybe that's another Feral fact.
The ridge top walking on Garvey Track was a bit of a change.
The wattles were flowering as I made my way out to Castle Rock.
The Cumberland River Valley in the late afternoon sun.
The view out over Bass Strait from Castle Rock.
Castle Rock towers over the Cumberland River Valley.
Leaving Castle Rock, you guessed it, I climbed back up to once again meet Sheoak Track again before starting my descent back down to Sheoak Creek again. By now the day was getting on a bit and I was starting to get a bit tired so I was pretty happy that from here on it would be all down hill, more or less. The descent down to Sheoak Creek from the ridge line was actually pretty reasonable and it wasn't long before I was down in the steep valley looking over Sheoak Creek cascading down the huge slabs beside Swallow Cave, this spot is normally little more than a trickle but today it was pumping. Heading down stream my route was now perched high up the side of the valley with Sheoak Creek plunging it's way towards the coast down below me.

The climb back up from Castle Rock tested me a little this afternoon, it had been a long day.
Sheoak Creek cascading down beside Swallow Cave.

It was only a couple minutes after leaving the Swallow Cave that I arrived above my last waterfall of the day, Sheoak Falls. The view of Sheoak Falls from the track is probably the best vantage point in hindsight, the open forest and steep gorge like walls of the valley making it pretty easy to view the falls from above. Dropping down to water level below the falls I doubled back to check things out, Sheoak Falls were another of those falls were I had to prepare the camera facing away from the falls, wait for the mist to stop a little and then turn and shoot, there wasn't a lot of framing going on. Leaving Sheoak Falls the track continued to drop down stream to meet the Great Ocean Road, if you have two cars you'd have your second car here but being friendless I had a little road bash along the Great Ocean Road in front of me.
Sheoak Creek flows through a very steep sided gorge as it makes its way to the sea, the track initially stays fairly high.
The track above Sheoak Falls probably provides the best view.
Sheoak Falls
I'm about to pop out of the bush onto the Great Ocean Road.
Crossing the road I walked the ocean side of the road back towards Lorne, not only did that allow me to face the oncoming traffic but it also gave me the best ocean views. Being fairly late on a early spring day the Great Ocean Road was actually pretty quiet this afternoon so it actually made for a pretty reasonable road bash. After our week of inclement weather the swell in Bass Strait was really crashing in this afternoon, the waves adding a little bit of extra interest to today's stroll. I had just less than 3 kilometres of road walking to get back to the ute but it was a pretty good way to wind down after what had been a great day out. With the mouth of the Saint George River coming into view and the ute now visible in the distance my walk was now more or less over.
Sheoak Creek entering Bass Strait.
Late afternoon walking the Great Ocean Road.
Bass Strait was really pumping this afternoon.
I'm thinking that there are worse roads to walk.
The Dirt.
Ok, strap yourself in, according to my GPS I walked 29.5 kilometres today at an average speed of 3.8 kph, with 831 metres of climbing this walk would fall into the hard grade I think. The good news is that all the tracks are well signposted and marked, the bad news is that some of them get pretty muddy after decent rain, coincidently the time that you probably want to visit to check out the waterfalls. I'd recommend walking boots and gaiters. You can shorten this walk fairly easily by avoiding one of the lops or side trips and if you have two cars you can drop off the Great Ocean Road section. Like I mentioned earlier on this walk was written up by Glenn Tempest, it's out of his 2011 book Daywalks Around Victoria. I really enjoyed this walk, the amount of waterfalls reminds me a bit of the Coomera Circuit up at Lamington National Park in Queensland which is a favourite of mine.
Relevant Posts.
The mouth of the Saint George River.

One minute later and I had my boots off....