The first Cruise for 2010 saw us head out to the Thomson Reservoir, north of Rawson, where the trip more or less started officially. It was a four day trip and the weather this weekend wasn’t looking all that great when we arrived at the reservoir; however, in this neck of the woods, you can never tell what sort of weather you’ll be getting from one day to the next. Forecasts for Melbourne usually bear no resemblance to what the High Country will get and so it was, as the weekend turned out to be quite a hot and enjoyable event.
From the Thomson Reservoir, we took Rum Road to have a look at the lower side of the reservoir, where a spillway drops from the top of the reservoir down to the Thomson River, just above where canoes are often launched. Looking at the spillway, the first though that came to everyone’s mind was whether it could at all be possible for a vehicle to drive up that ramp. Highly unlikely, even for a bulldozer or tank. But someone did build the spillway and it would be interesting to find out how they did it, especially making the clearing for the later pouring of the concrete.
From the spillway, we took Fultons Creek Track, Army Track and then Donnelly Creek Track, which took us to Jorgenson Flat where we stopped to have a look at Jorgenson Hut and have lunch. We’ve stayed at the hut previously, but over the years it’s become fairly decrepit and at times the flat itself can be badly torn up by people doing wheelies etc. From Jorgenson Flat we headed east via Tomboon Track, to Toomstar Track, Whitestar Track and then followed McEvoys Track until we hit the Black Range Track, which took us to the Macalister River, where we set up our first night’s camp on the western side.
Next day we crossed the Macalister River and went up Burgoyne Track to the Licola Road. Burgoyne Gap Track is always an interesting track, as it keeps changing constantly due to weather and usage. It has some very steep sections that can become extremely worn out and the crossing at the Macalister River can be a challenge depending on the amount of rain and snow that had fallen the previous winter. On this trip, Burgoyne Gap Track didn’t present any issues and we were at the Licola Road not very long after packing up and getting on our way.
We headed off to Licola and then once again to the Macalister River via Black Soil Gully Track. Our aim was to follow the Macalister River to the last junction and then head up Grimme Track, follow Son of a Bitch Spur Track to Mountain Ash Spur Road and then up to the Barkly River Road and finally make our way to Mitchell’s Flat. The Macalister River Track is a fairly easy track nowadays, but there is one crossing were a persistent, large, boulder has sat right in the middle for as long as I can remember (going back to the mid-70s). As the floods come and go, the smaller rocks move about and sometimes that boulder can be simply driven over and at other times has to be skirted. On this occasion, one of our travellers managed to pick the wrong line and found themselves stuck, these things happen. No big deal, as it took no time to pull him free.
The remainder of the journey along the Macalister River was quite uneventful and it wasn’t very long until we reached the end of the Macalister River Track at the 10th river crossing and headed up Blue Plains Spur Track. The Macalister River Track used to have a further three crossings that took you to a wonderful small campsite, but that has been long closed off and is now well and truly overgrown. Grimme Track, which I believe is rated Triple Black now, was quite a doddle (as it is when dry) and again, it didn’t take us all that long to reach the top of Grimme Track and Bull Plain Spur Road.
While Grimme Track was really not much of a challenge, as we climbed and then descended down to Son of a Bitch Spur Track, we encountered a few interesting moments. Encountering bog holes, and ones littered with wood, aren’t always that encouraging. Lots of wood usually indicates that the bottom of the bog hole is rather deep and/or very soft, but it also poses issues with logs that you can’t see and which can do all manner of unpleasant things to your vehicle. Fortunately, the bog holes weren’t all that bad. However, if there’s one thing that not only baffles me, but also really annoys me, are people who come across fallen trees over tracks and are too lazy or stupid to do a proper clearance; leaving just a few inches either side for clearance beggars belief. We always cut as wide as possible when we encounter a fresh fall, but stopping to fix the shortfalls of others is akin to picking up every Jim Beam can and the like in the High Country, a never ending task.
Our campsite for that day was at a open area along the Barkly River Road where the Barkly River Jeep Track started, or ended, depending on your point of view. The Barkly River Jeep Track, at this time, was incredibly overgrown and after a brief exploration, we decided to give it a miss when we moved on next day. The clearing here isn’t all that bad and makes for quite a good campsite, but the remnants of the previous bushfires stand stark and clear throughout the area. I look at this and can’t help thinking that it’s going to happen again and again because we’ve abandoned all good forest management practices.
The next day we took the easy way to the Jamieson-Licola Road and headed towards Mt Skene and then turned off down to Wren’s Flat. Wren’s Flat is a fairly popular camping spot, though it’s nothing overly fantastic and across the river there’s a mining camp that in Winter can be booked (or once could) where groups could use the on-site cabins as a camp for free. We made use of this quite a few times in years gone by, to go snow driving, before Mt Skene was closed off in Winter to all but members of the Four Wheel Drive Association. After 40 of years of regularly going snow driving, you’re now deemed not capable unless you’re a member of a 4WD club. We’ve always wondered ‘What next?’.
From Wren’s Flat we headed over the hills to Mitchell’s Flat, which was once the location of a homestead, but nothing really remains nowadays and the area now serves as a camping site over the Summer months. It’s a windy drive into Mitchell’s Flat and not suitable for caravans, though campervans shouldn’t have much trouble. The unique feature of Mitchell’s Flat is the creek that runs through the area, passing under a massive rock formation overhanging the creek, and then drops off into a waterfall. Or that’s how it was years ago when I first went there and you could walk the entire length of the creek to the waterfall. I always wondered how long the rock formation would last before it fell, which it has, as on this trip we had to clamber through nooks and crannies to get through. It would have been one awe inspiring sight to see and hear that rock formation collapse.
We’d really only driven maybe one hour from our previous campsite when we arrived at Mitchell’s Flat, but as it looked like it was going to be a very hot day and the location looked so good, we decided that we’d have one day where we’d just relax and do no driving. And what a good idea that was, as the day turned out to be blisteringly hot and, after our morning exploration of the collapsed rock face, all that we could really do was sit under the shade of overhanging trees in the cool creek next to out camp. And no one was complaining about that. As the sun rose higher, our campsite was in full sun and it wasn’t until very late in the afternoon that we could seriously consider dinner. While Mitchell’s Flat is a great camping spot, considering all the amenities built here, it’s quite baffling that there was no long drop. The ground is like rock and without a long drop, I seriously wonder what the place is like after the summer crowds depart.
Mitchell’s Flat was our last day of the Cruise and it didn’t take us long to reach Jamieson, then Mansfield and back home. Our stay at Mitchell’s Flat this weekend was so good that we’ve always talked about doing it again, but never have. I suspect that like any such planned return trips, the conditions will never be the same and you’ll probably end up being disappointed more than anything else.