Saturday, April 08, 2017

Little Gems of Mt. Wellington



You could say that's what I am in it for - the mosses, the ferns and the fungi - waterfalls are a bonus!

Since we are lucky enough to have both forest and mountain on our doorstep, there are a number small waterfalls which invite exploration and a chance to enjoy a bit of fresh air without straying far from home.

Silver Falls- not huge but reliable and easy walking, just a stone's throw from the CBD
 
One of the easiest waterfalls to get to and among the most rewarding is Silver Falls at Ferntree, just after the summit turnoff to Mt. Wellington. The hard part is trying to find a parking spot near this popular family picnic area. The track starts opposite the Ferntree Tavern which has excellent maps for day walks, though not as detailed as those from the Lands Department. Don't park there though unless you are planning to eat or drink there later. The thirty minute walk follows the upper end of the Pipeline track which once provided the city water supply. Since it is quite wide and largely level this is a good track if you want to bring strollers, bikes and or children. As well as pretty ferns and cascades along the way, there are also seats and shelter in case the weather changes. It does happen on the mountain. There is nearly always a good flow of water over the falls.

O'Grady's Falls are in a little grotto and can be reached by several tracks
 There are several ways to get to O’Grady’s Falls but it's also quite an easy walk -read fairly flat, if you start from the Bracken Lane Fire Trail which crosses behind the houses on the right side of the Pinnacle Road, just after Pillinger Drive. Turn left at this Fire Trail  and continue until you reach the junction with O'Grady's Falls track . Turn left again when you reach Woods track and then take the first right. This takes about 40 minutes and is generally well signed except for the last track junction. Turning left here takes you back to the Pinnacle Road and crossing it leads to bushranger Rocky Whelan’s Cave. If feeling more energetic, there are a number of other possible routes such as starting from the Springs (that's the big parking area near the top of the Pinnacle Road where the old hotel used to be) via Woods Track or from Shoobridge Bend via The Betts Vale Track which could include the short detour to the Octopus Tree. As you may have guessed from this, the mountain is riddled with tracks and this is where the map comes in. Except for the Springs however, parking near all these places is very limited.

Nature flexes her muscles - The Octopus Tree

A glimpse of Rocky Whelan's hideout. Rocky Whelan was one of our nastier bush rangers
 Returning now from the Pinnacle Road, turn left off Huon Road into Strickland Avenue. Just after you turn into it there’s a big bend and a grassed area. Once again it may be hard to park here if there are already other cars. Then walk towards the creek and follow it upwards a short distance. Tucked into the crook of the hill is a lush ferny gully with a small waterfall. These are Strickland Falls. There is no real track here, just sometimes muddy footpads which involve a bit of climbing and scrambling. The falls aren’t particularly high either, but I like the fairy garden aspect. If you don’t want to go back the way you have come or want a longer walk, then take the path that rises upwards on the right to join a Fire Trail running across the side of the hill. Eventually you will see a track running downhill off to the right that will take you back to Strickland Avenue and a bit of an uphill walk back to the carpark. Another trail appears to leads downhill from the road on the opposite side of the creek but this track is now on Private Property and closed off at the delightfully named Turnip Fields end,  several bends down from the present one. If it's any consolation this route is mostly dry sclerophyll country and not as pretty as the upper section.

Pretty little Strickland Falls are really a series of moss bedecked cascades
My next favourite are the Myrtle Gully Falls though it’s probably best to see them after a bit more rain. To get there continue winding down Strickland Avenue until just before the marvelously Gothic Cascade Brewery and turn left into Old Farm Road. Follow that to the end, watching out for other vehicles as it’s narrow and has some blind corners. There’s a parking area at the end from which several tracks fan out in different directions. Walk around the gate and stay on the unsealed part of Old Farm Road until you see the sign leading off to the south west saying Myrtle Gully Track. The falls are just a short distance along where you cross a little bridge. One hundred metres further on is Secret Falls, a narrow waterfall also best seen after more rain. Neither of these falls is marked, so we happily continued on over delightful riffles and bridges, still expecting a bigger waterfall.


Myrtle Gully Falls              -Taken with Gordon's iphone

The track notes on the various websites did say that the falls were only 15 minutes from the top of Old Farm Road, but when we finally arrived at the start of the track, the falls were not mentioned and signage for Myrtle Gully Track said 2 hours return. Don’t be misled. The falls are right at the beginning, though apart from the fact that it was all uphill, we did enjoy our much longer walk.


Walker's Reward


Another weird and wonderful fungus - this one is about the size and shape of a rose and has what looks like honey oozing from it and no,  didn't taste it

... and a fabulous glimpse of the Organ Pipes as we reach 571 metres
There are two larger waterfalls here too. The first, Wellington Falls is a 19km walk and takes at least 5 hours when starting from Neika. Starting from the Springs involves a medium to hard walk, especially if going over the scree slopes. The other, New Town Falls is best approached from the New Town end, lest you miss them like I did the first time. Even when I did find them, it was quite a mission (4 hours return – difficult, steep and slippery in places) and they had very little water in them, so these are best left to more serious bushwalkers or at least until after a good rain. While they are impressive by their sheer size, I find the countryside around the smaller falls much more appealing.

Journey's end  - from here on it's all down hill
 


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