High Country Haunted Stream Trip
26 – 30 January 2022
Six vehicles met at the BP Roadhouse on the Melbourne Road and headed towards Bairnsdale as planned. We were joined through Melbourne by Stephen and Aaron Fagan to complete the group of eight vehicles.
There had been quite a lot of recent rain in the High Country, with more forecast. Through a local contact we also knew that the Haunted Stream was carrying more water than was normal for this time of year and there had been some track closures on the proposed route. All of this meant that that some flexibility was going to be required, even before we arrived.
After lunch on the Macalister River at Maffra we headed to our first camp at Bark Sheds Camping Area, north of Bruthen. We had this camp to ourselves and the rangers had left cut wood for the fire which was a bonus. It was a warm afternoon so a swim in the Tambo River was enjoyed by all prior to an evening around the fire.
Thursday morning we set off on what was to be the showpiece the trip, namely the Haunted Stream Track with its 52 water crossings! Well it didn’t let us down. The first crossing was near bonnet height and was followed by a steep rocky exit. This was safely negotiated by all, and they kept on coming! In general the crossings were wheel high depth or less but some of the exits were steep and slippery. 4 or 5 of them required winching or snatching over the exit. The track of approximately 30km took us 7 hours to complete with about a dozen recoveries. In a review published in 4×4 Australia Magazine the track is stated to take about 2 & 1/2 hours to complete; clearly in drier conditions than we encountered.
The track finishes at the northern end at the old Dawson City Town site which once had which once had a population of 3000. From there we headed north on Dawson City Track and onto Angora Range Road and then north again to the evening’s camp at the Ensay Recreation Reserve. It was beginning to rain as we arrived so most set up swags and tents under the shelter of the main pavilion. There were also hot showers which were greatly enjoyed by all for the princely price of $5 per head for the night. This is one to remember for the future.
Friday the intention was to travel to Bentley Plain Hut to the east of the Great Alpine Road but we were frustrated by some misleading tracks on Hema maps and some track closures. Initially we looked to cross the Tambo River onto Fainting Range Track but the river exit looked too slippery and the track on the other side was overgrown and had not been driven for some time. We therefore backtracked and took tracks through the Fainting Range State Forrest. These tracks had seen little traffic and there were frequent stops to clear small trees.
After being unable to find a connecting track marked on Hema maps which was on private farmland, we completed a loop and returned to Ensay for lunch on the riverbank. As rain was forecast for that evening, Richard and Amy decided to head back home instead of the following morning as they had planned.
After lunch we followed Watts Creek Road and Cooks Break Trail only to find the track had been closed without warning or signage. An attempt at finding an alternative route led to another dead end requiring another backtrack. At this time black clouds were closing in and there was distant thunder. Fortunately the travel was straightforward after this and after collecting some wood we arrived at Bentley Plain Hut before the rain. Some set up swags in the hut and associated gazebo shelter. The rain came and everyone congregated under the shelter for the evening which was a real bonus, given the wet conditions.
Saturday Sharon stayed in camp to do some reading and explore some of the local walks. 5 cars went out to explore the Nunniong Plains which turned out to be quite wet and boggy. Initially we attempted to reach Commins Hut from the south, but had to turn back because the track was too soft and boggy. We returned to the Nunniong Plains Track and eventually found the alternative track to the east of the hut. This too turned out to be impassable but we were able to walk in to the hut.
We then continued through the Nunniong State Forrest and on to Garron Point Track which was marked as “easy” on the Hema maps. In the conditions, it turned out to be far from easy! Firstly the descent into the south branch of the Tambo River was extremely slippery and created a few “moments”, and then there was a long steep climb out of the valley. For the most part the grip was good with a rocky base but 3/4 of the way up there was a steep clay based section with deep ruts. Long story short, the trip leader “diffed out” and spent 1 & 1/2 hrs winching (including converting from a single to double line pull) on the slippery section. Thanks to Andrew, Tyler Geoff and Paul for helping. Three of the remaining four made it up uneventfully. Paul got stuck at the same point as Geoff but the lines were already out so this was a quick recovery. Fortunately this was the last difficult section and we were able to continue without further drama.
We returned to camp via Jam Tin Flat Road and Timbarra Track to complete the loop back to Nunnett Road. On the way we deviated to Murphy’s Hut where we walked the last part of the track due to the boggy road. From there it was back to camp to rejoin Sharon for an evening around the fire. There was light but persistent rain overnight.
Sunday after a leisurely pack up we stopped in for a look at Moscow Villa Hut which is just up the road from Bentley Plain. A little further on is the historic Washington Winch which was used to haul logs in the mid 1900’s. From there it was back down the Great Alpine Road to Bairnsdale and then home.
There were a diverse and interesting set of terrains covered over the 5 days. Thanks to all who participated and made for a fun trip in an area that none of us were familiar with. It was a real adventure!
Geoff Davey (Trip Leader)
Stephen Fagan (Tail End)
Paul and Heather Oberli
Geoff and Sharon Van Ingen
Richard Brown and Amy Oberli
Andrew and Tyler Smith