Feet First Australia

exploring Australia (and sometimes further afield) on foot


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National Eucalypt Day

The more I travel, the more I love Australia’s 800+ varieties of eucalypt. I miss their colours and textures, their lofty heights and wind-pruned gnarly-ness, when overseas and take deeply inhale their oily perfumes on returning home.

So I’m celebrating National Eucalypt Day by sharing some of the countless photographs I’ve taken of gum trees encountered, and sometimes hugged, as I bushwalk around Victoria and the country. Hope you appreciate my take on these wonderfully diverse arboreal characters.

 

Eucalypt bark in all its textural diversity

 

Snow gums are voluptuously beautiful.

 

Eucalypts never get in the way; they either focus or frame a better image.

 

Dead or alive, misty or blushed with sunset – just beautiful!


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Cobblers to you!

I thought cobbler was a fruit pudding topped with dough or batter or a person who mends shoes. Until late last year, when I remembered, from some twenty years earlier, a friend suggesting I camp at Lake Cobbler and hike the mountain that shares a dessert’s name. But I didn’t know how tough the mountain was – or even where it was!

 

Wondering if it might be a good addition for the second edition of Top Walks in Victoria, due out later this year, I discovered that Mt Cobbler is a 90-minute drive southeast of Whitfield, in Victoria’s Eastern Ranges, on winding, mostly unsealed and in places rough road; the hike to its vantage-point summit is not taxing; and I was foolish to wait so long to follow up my friend’s recommendation.

 

Mt Cobbler VIC 2019 PMEL4039

Having rendezvoused with Melbourne friends Dale and Philippa in Whitfield, in the heart of the King Valley wine region, we continued in their 4WD to Lake Cobbler, in the northwest corner of Alpine National Park, numerous bends bringing us to a stretch of road gifting dress circle views of Dandongadale Falls plunging 255m off Cobbler Plateau.

Mt Cobbler VIC 2019 PMEL4098

Dandongadale Falls is Victoria’s highest single drop cascade

 

Shortly after a photo stop opposite the falls, a 4WD-only side track branches right off Lake Cobbler Road. Over a rocky ford that would damage the undercarriage of low-clearance cars, we reached the camping area beside eucalypt-ringed Lake Cobbler, created in the 1960s when loggers dammed a wetland in the headwaters of the Dandongadale River.

Mt Cobbler VIC 2019 PMEL4088

Lake CobblerMt Cobbler VIC 2019 PMEL3904

The Mt Cobbler Walking Track (10km return) starts on the western (non-lake) side of the camping area between the pit toilet and a simple timber shelter built by the Wangaratta 4WD Club (on the site of previous cattlemen’s huts).

Following a route marked by occasional orange arrows, we crossed a creek and then the Dandongadale River;

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Crossing the river

Followed a spur uphill out of the river gorge, dodging embedded rocks and exposed roots; traversed a clearing thick with mountain beard-heath shrubs and birds; and climbed through alpine ash and striped snow gums, with a mountain-and-valley vista unfurling behind us.

Mt Cobbler VIC 2019 PMEL4049

Mt Cobbler VIC 2019 PMEL4047

Having left the longer hike to Mt Speculation and Cross Cut Saw for another time, we turned right at the only formal track junction and walked on through juvenile snow gums, hollowed old timers with trunks like brushed stainless steel, and conglomerate boulders that look they were fashioned by giant human hands. To an opening on the right that should come with a drum roll for the view of mounts Buffalo, Feathertop and Hotham.

Mt Cobbler VIC 2019 PMEL3949

 

Up a rock slope patched with mosses and lichens and striped with water trails – we carefully avoided potentially slippery dark stains – we learnt that the “summit” we’d been eyeing off as we climbed is not the top. Mt Cobbler is a trickster that hides its snow-gummed rocky dome until the last minute.

Mt Cobbler VIC 2019 PMEL3957

Mt Cobbler hides its snow-gummed rocky dome until the last minute.

At first we couldn’t see how anything other than a mountain goat or close relative could scale the steep, final slope. But about 120m along the crenellations at the top of the granite slope there’s a break in the rock, from where a footpad drops steeply to the famous “cleft” between the summit plateau and the summit proper. Leaving our poles beside the track – they are more hindrance to help from here – we clambered the final few metres up conglomerate to the Mt Cobbler trig point at 1628m.

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Channelling our inner mountain goats!

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How do you avoid clichés to describe views on bushwalks? I can’t help it now because the spectacle wrapped around Mt Cobbler stole our breath, inspired wonder and even a little awe, and dropped our jaws with wonder.

Mt Cobbler VIC 2019 PMEL3990

Lunch atop Mt Cobbler comes with a breath-taking, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping view.

 

A careful clockwise twirl on uneven rock reveals the verdant King River valley, to the northwest, Buffalo Plateau, mounts Feathertop and Hotham, the Razor (1468m), Crosscut Saw, and mounts Stirling and Buller. Lake Cobbler is a patch of blue below and the road you drove in on a brown ribbon thread through green.

Mt Cobbler VIC 2019 PMEL4010

Cobbler is way more delicious than the dessert of the same name and I should have acted earlier on my friend’s advice. Sorry Don!


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Shooting Birds

Some bushwalkers approach every hike as a boot camp challenge, treading from A to B as fast as possible and paying only passing attention to the kaleidoscope of colours and textures, flora and fauna, and the geological artistry on show around them and underfoot. But not me. I stop so often for the views, the smooth, coarse, peeling, scribbled tree trunks and tangled canopies, the prettily patterned fern fronds, the insects on wildflowers and fungi on mossy logs and moist ground, that I rarely finish a walk within the time suggested in park notes and on park signs.

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Setting aside my 10-year old Nikon D300 DSLR camera last year (parts no longer available) for a LUMIX G9 mirrorless – thanks for suggesting this upgrade Ewen Bell – has considerably lightened my photographic load when bushwalking; I frequently check my camera bag because it feels as if I have left my camera somewhere back along the track. But pairing the G9 with a Panasonic Leica 100-400mm zoom lens has slowed me down even further, because now I photograph birds!

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The big lens doesn’t accompany me on every hike, and rarely on overnight pack walks, even though the combined weight of the G9, 12-35mm lens and zoom is less than my old DSLR with standard lens. But it is ideal on walks promising bird life, such as the Sale Wetlands loop in Victoria’s central Gippsland region.

images feather 1It took me five hours to complete this flat 15km walk from the Port of Sale, around town lakes and down through wetlands to the historic swing bridge over the Thomson River.

 

Here’s why:

New Holland honeyeaters

pelicans

moorhens

red cheeked wattlebirds

ibis

scarlet honeyeater

terns

Sale butcherbird VIC 2018 P1025368 1butcher bird

spoonbill

little wattlebird

The Sale Wetlands walk is mapped, photographed and described in detail in Top Walks in Victoria, the 2nd edition of which is due out later this year.