Early Friday morning in Bairnsdale for work – except someone hasn’t turned up. Great, I can head off … but … nope, we can still have a meeting. Finally, back to Traralgon and … the boss wants to have a coffee.
I had to travel down to the LaTrobe Valley for work and have always wanted to hike across Baw Baw Plateau so thought I could combine the two. It would be my first overnight hike for some time and my first solo overnighter in years. The plan was to start from Mt St Gwinear carpark and head across to the Alpine Walking track and see how far I could get. My original target was Mushroom Rocks but by the time I get to the trail head at Mt St Gwinear it’s already early afternoon. Plan B is Talbot Hut ruins.
The day was glorious – blue skies, a light breeze, and I’m ready to head off, and my phone rings. Mobile phones are horrendous things. After a quick couple of calls I’m finally off, climbing the grassy road up to St Gwinear summit. After a few hundred metres I notice small patches of snow by the side of the track – exciting – there should be more up higher.
I met a hiker heading the other way, hiking the Walhalla to Hotham section of the Alpine walking track. He had gaiters on. I met another party of hikers – two blokes (wearing gaiters) with their dog (not wearing gaiters) – also hiking Walhalla to Hotham. Maybe there is something in this wearing gaiters thing, I think to myself as I squelched on looking for a dry rock to sit on so I could hunt my gaiters out of my pack and wrap them around my ankles. Sadly, by the time I do, it is too late. The wettest bits of the track are behind me, the blister on my left heel is ready to pop and my boots, socks and feet are saturated.
Walking solo means you only have yourself to talk to. I am climbing a hill thinking I must be near the camp, telling myself that if I trip and fall and knock myself out on a rock ... I wonder what the news report would say: “Search on for missing hiker. Police have little concern at this stage because the missing man is an experienced bushwalker”. Or would it be: “Police fear for life of man hiking without gaiters. ‘He even left his walking stick behind’ the SES search leader said.” I am actually getting tired and slowing down to stop myself from stumbling. I check the map and matching landmarks to map marks figure I only have about 500m to go. I see a green tent through the snowgums and feel relieved that I will soon be at camp. Alas the green tent turns out to be a moss-covered boulder. I check the map again and realise I had misread it earlier; a quick correction and I now know for sure I really do only have about 500m to go. A few hundred metres further on and I use the GPS app on my phone and look at the scrap of map I am carrying (a photocopy of the section of the map that covers where I am hiking; the whole map is in my pack if needed) and kind of guess where I am on the map. I figure it’s a good estimate and that this time I am positively sure that I am absolutely, definitely only 500m from camp, so certain that I don’t bother getting the whole map out to check properly. I have hiked for many years, I am an experienced hiker and know how to read a map. What I should have also learnt by now, however, is that when you are tired and want to be at camp you are always at least twice as far away as you think.
|A moss covered rock - obviously. I think it's about 500m from the camping area, but I could be wrong.|
Thinking “Where the hell is this camp!”, I almost walk past it. Talbot Hut site is a great camping spot. There isn’t a hut, just the chimney, but there is a running creek for water and plenty of space for tents. I set up camp, cook dinner and relax. I text my wife to let her know I’m still alive, take a few photos with my phone and email them to various people with messages like “Hope you had a nice day at the office” in the hope of making them jealous. Mobile phones are great and an essential tool for the solo walker in case you do need help. It is therefore important not to waste the battery emailing photos or using the GPS app unless you really, really need to.
|My tent, purchased in the 1980s, next to the hut ruins.|
|The track through the snow.|
Saturday morning came with sunshine, bird song, hot coffee, snow gums and blue skies. It was going to be a fantastic day. I covered my heels with Elastoplast, put on some dry socks, broke camp, and started back. The track seemed drier than yesterday (or maybe it was because I was wearing my gaiters rather than carrying them). I made good time and was back at the car sooner than I wanted to be. And my dad’s hiking pole was still there, waiting for it’s first road test.
TRACK NOTES AND INFO
I didn't have any track notes, just made it up as I went using the Rooftop map, but it isn't a difficult walk. Navigation is easy and there are no big climbs. My pack weighed 16kg plus, but I have old gear - a 3.8kg Macpac Olympus tent from the 1990s and an even older backpack. I cooked on a Trangia (large size) that I bought when I went to Tassie for the Franklin River Blockade. Lightweight hiking? Well I did leave my spare camera and lenses at home. Overall, a great easy hike.