Lerderderg State Park: Byers Back Track / The Tunnel 21km

I’m returning to Lerderderg State Park hiking two successive trails; Byers Back Track and The Tunnel. The combination meant less back tracking on Byers Back Track (pun intended!) and circuit hiking instead.

Fog in Lerderderg State Park at 8am. Not so in Melbourne after the previous hot days. Perfect hiking weather, 13 degrees Celsius, cool and still.

Reaching Lerderderg State Park and O’Briens Road

I parked yet again at O’Briens Crossing and promptly chatted to nearby campers. Locals from Geelong enjoying a few days of camping. Not big hikers, but they had hiked to The Tunnel and back.

Byers Back Track commences behind the toilets, where this photo is taken. Squeeze your nose….

Signs behind the toilet block

Byers Back Track meanders westwards from O’Briens Crossing along Leiderderg River and towards Blackwood. During the goldrush, this trail may have been major route. Surprisingly flat and easy walking given surrounding nature.

Happy in the bush

Soon, I was less happy. Didn’t pay attention, 007, and walked up a fire trail crossing “my” trail. Small diversion, but I had to back track back to Byers Back Track… Enough!!

Signs were plentiful today. Some official, some less so…

Byres Tk

Lovely landscape along Byers Back Trail and up from Lerderderg River.

Walk in the woods…

What’s not to like…?

…with lovely views

Some signs are perhaps more useful than others. Although you can guess most of that writing. The triangular metal plates provided directions instead.

Signs

Lerderderg State Park is former gold mining country. Evidence everywhere. Like here, an open “mine”… Or big animals’ cave…?

Outside a former goldmine(?)

Immediately inside the goldmine. I didn’t venture any further…

Just inside a former goldmine

After 7km, I arrived at the outskirts of Blackwood. Gravelled drivable track now called Golden Point Road. Alongside some fantastic rustic buildings.

Like the below. Unclear whether anyone lived there now, but I saw garbage bins outside.

Rustic home in Blackwood

Somebody lived up this “driveway”. At least, a “private property, keep off” sign was attached to a tree. What kind of vehicle negotiates this in pouring rain…?

“Driveway”

Along appropriately named Golden Point Road, there was a newish plaque acknowledging the area’s “golden” past. Gold first found by “2 Teamsters” 160 years ago. 2 Teamsters?

Plaque – indicating gold found here

The gravel road turned surfaced along with a most peculiar bench location. Mind you, while passing through eastern Blackwood, I heard distant cars, but no vehicle passed on “my” road. Not busy here.

Interesting setting for a bench

Both an old and a new Golden Point Road. Who would have thought? Me, I’m off to Mineral Springs…

Signs in eastern Blackwood

I left Golden Point Road and wandered downhill towards Lerderderg River and its adjacent Mineral Springs Reserve (est. 1879). On my right side was a camping ground. Plenty of people, noisy with kids playing. Avoid!

On my left side is Mineral Springs Reserve. Where it was me, myself, I. Nobody else. No complaints. Perfect picnic setting for a break, a bite and a cuppa from my provisions.

Mineral Springs Reserve. Lerderderg River behind the trees.

The word springs in a place name implies… well, springs. I saw two springs. However, Soda Spring provided only a trickle of water from that tap. Metallic taste as mineral springs often have. Hard to tell whether carbonated water as the Soda name implies.

Soda Springs hut

Another weather-beaten sign. The lake is Shaws Lake, more a pond, along Shaws Lake Road on the northern side of Lerderderg River. Where I headed next. I’m some 10km into today’s hiking now.

Lake lookout(?)

A rotunda popped into view. No explanation for why, but you could drive to it but not further.

Rotunda in the greens

The almost 4km Tunnel Point Track provided dead easy hiking but was dull. Nobody on the trail but me and nothing apart from trees to see. Not even animals except some occasional parrots. No kangaroo or echidna sightings today. Not even snakes…

Tunnel Point Track, leads to The Tunnel

Tunnel Point Track finished at a… point. A narrow trail continued steeply downwards. Down to and eventually onto the top of The Tunnel.

Down, down, down

What on earth is “The Tunnel” you ask?

The Tunnel is one of the more interesting features from the area’s gold mining past. Dug by gold miners to divert Lerderderg River, bypassing a small section. The miners then panned the resulting dry riverbed for gold. Although whether any gold was found is unclear.

The Tunnel still exists today some 150 years later. The water now runs both ways to merge again on the tunnel’s other side.

The Tunnel

My hiking book said The Tunnel was a perfect lunch spot. I obliged. And I agree.

Lunch outside The Tunnel

After The Tunnel, you cross Lerderderg River (no wet feet today) with only 2.5km more walking. How hard can that be?

Well, the trail notes didn’t describe the conditions next. There were sections with no obvious trail in sight. Below, I had to scramble some 10 meters uphill and then down again to get through.

Debris on The Tunnel trail

Passing a ruin, the book said. I guess that’s correct. Although it just looked like discarded junk.

Ruin

OK, had I read the guide book’s fine print better, I would know about the next descent. The picture below does not make it justice. A short but seriously steep and awkward stretch. Little to hold on for balance. Hiking poles were a hinderance and I throw them down before using my backside for guidance.

I couldn’t help thinking about a dislocated shoulder yet again as I slid down on my bottom. Probably too fast.

Awkward descent down to Lerderderg River (trail book’s words, not mine)

Then follow the riverbed back to O’Briens Crossing according to the trail notes. Yeah, right! Little water today meant I could occasionally rock hop, but mostly it was bush bashing.

I reached Amber Lane Trail which I crossed earlier. I knew that walking uphill to Byers Back Trail where I could return to O’Briens Crossing from there. The book suggested finishing through an “indistinct” trail alongside Lerderderg River, but I had enough by then. 2.5km has never been this hard.

I returned to my car red, hot and sweaty. The campers were still there so I asked whether they had hiked The Tunnel circuit (you could return the same easy way from The Tunnel). They hiked the loop and they got lost too… For a lot longer than I had…

Another hiking adventure where I didn’t die. Lovely day, lovely scenery. Lerderderg State Park is quickly becoming one of my favourite destinations for a day hike out of Melbourne. I’ll be back…!!! But not on The Tunnel circuit…

Leave a Reply