Since we missed doing a Cruise on this year’s Queen’s Birthday Weekend, we decided to do a short-notice trip to revisit a couple of places that we covered on our Apr 2017 Cruise. We weren’t sure what we’d be up against on this Cruise, especially the potential snow conditions, but weather reports indicated that there would only be light snow and generally sunny conditions around the Aberfeldy and northern area, where roads and tracks were still open. We weren’t planning on any serious off-roading this time as the area can become quite treacherous, noting how slippery some of the tracks were on our last Cruise and, with the rain that has fallen recently, the tracks were likely to be much worse. The plan was to do a loop from the Thomson Dam up and around to Licola for the first night, staying in one of the cabins and then down and around to Rawson for a night in one of their cabins (luxury for a change).
After what was a relatively mild April, leading up to and including Easter, the latter half has been quite wet and cold; so it was with some trepidation that I started planning for this latest Cruise. My intent was to do a trip to the north of the Thomson Dam on the first day, travel towards Licola and east for the second day, then just wing it from there. But with the rain that we’ve had, there was no certainty as to the condition of the tracks planned for the first day and there had even been reports of snow at the higher levels. I certainly didn’t want a repeat of our Mar 2016 Cruise, where we encountered plenty of rain and mud, and I was beginning to wonder whether we’d have a repeat of our Oct 2016 Cruise, where there was plenty of snow. Anyway, with now four vehicles on this Cruise, I felt a bit more confident than with what may have been a seven vehicle Cruise.
Given that the last time we were in the High Country was Mar this year (unbelievable how time flies), we were really hanging out to go somewhere, anywhere. But finding a suitable date was one major issue, especially since we couldn’t go out on the Melbourne Cup Weekend nor any time in November, so we decided on the weekend prior. We were hoping for three travellers, but circumstances arose that left the Cruise to just two hardy souls. My fellow traveller was especially keen to go out, as he had finally sorted his new Jeep Rubicon into High Country order and was busting his chops to try it out in some less than mundane terrain. So we decided to do a loop, more or less, from Licola to Dargo, poking around in-between where possible. However, the weather forecasts for the weekend indicated heavy rain at the start, so we reversed our plans and went from Dargo to Licola instead.
This Australia Day we were going to do some camping with friends, but circumstances changed for several of the wives, so three of us decided to go on a Cruise instead. Being the Australia Day long weekend, it was going to be busy, especially as we had decided to stay reasonably close to Melbourne, but I’d managed to rustle up a plan for day one and left the remainder of the weekend on a suck it and see basis. On weekends like this, too much planning usually involves changes at every turn anyway, so better to just play things by ear and see what happens. As it is, it turned out to be a much, much, better Cruise than anticipated.
The Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend in June is not only the start of the official ski season, it’s also the last weekend until November (nominally the Melbourne Cup Weekend) when you can go to the most popular locations in the Victorian High Country. This year the snow had come early and the long weekend was going to be an ideal time to get in some snow driving and bush camping before the closure of the High Country.
Our April 2014 Cruise was another two traveller journey which started at Morwell and took us on a long circuit to Nunniong Plains, across the High Country almost due west along tracks that eventually brought us out at Licola. From my track record, it was nearly an 800km trip, with virtually half that on dirt roads or off-road. The weather was generally very good, except at the Sentinels, with some very cold nights throughout that weekend, especially in the higher regions. On the Nunniong Plains, it was almost snow conditions, with heavy frosts in the mornings, but because of the clear skies, rain wasn’t about so neither was the snow.
While my last High Country Cruise report had a few gaps, at least this one was duly recorded and mapped. We started the Cruise from Licola and headed off to the Macalister River via Glencairn and Black Soil Gully Track, which is the usual way most travellers opt to take. Being April, the rivers are all usually well down at this time of year and with the tracks being quite dry, there was little likelihood of any issues. This was only a three day trip, so we stayed fairly close to Melbourne, especially as we were planning on staying off-road as much as possible, so that meant not travelling great distances each day and it looked like it was going to be quite a pleasant trip, especially weather wise.
Another Australia Day weekend in the mountains came about, with our group starting off from Tambo Crossing to once again drive the Haunted Stream Track. We weren’t quite certain what this weekend’s weather would deliver, as there were mixed messages about what to expect; however, as always, that never deterred us from venturing out into the mountains. Once again our plan was to start in the east and work our way back west to end up closer to Melbourne. I don’t think we had really set any hard and fast plans for the weekend, but simply chose a starting point and would work things out as we progressed. As I’ve mentioned before, planning too far ahead is always followed by inevitable change.
Our June 2006 Cruise took us from Mansfield, down to Jamieson and then east along the Jamieson-Licola Road to Wren’s Flat, with the intent of passing through Mt Sunday and then down to Licola, but along the way we took a wrong turn and ended up heading north. In some ways, that was possibly a blessing in disguise, as the weather was turning foul, wet and cold, and the Mt Sunday Track that we were looking for would have been atrocious that weekend, as we found out on a subsequent, more benign, trip. As it was, the start was looking fairly ordinary from the outset.