Yesterday we decided as a family that we would attend the Church-with-the-big-blue-roof. Basically that means we would spend the day in a natural setting. Mt Buffalo National Park, in north east Victoria was the proposed destination. The Mount Buffalo National Park was created in 1898, which makes it one of Victoria’s oldest National Parks. It started as a 2880 acre park, and today is 77,000 acres and includes the surrounding foothills. The park is alpine in nature, the plateau itself being above the the snow line (above 1200 metres).
The weather forecast for the day was for a possibility of rain and thunder storms, but we decided we would go to Mt Buffalo anyway and see what happened. We left home around 8:30 and after an un-eventful drive arrived at the national park around 10:00. The first place we wanted to visit was The Horn, the highest point on the plateau. This involved a fairly steep 1.5km round trip from the car park. As far as walking tracks go, it is not the most difficult we have done as a family. I remember some years ago we hiked up one of the mountains in the Grampians (Mt Zero, I think), and Eliana (our youngest) was carried for the last 100 meters or so. But then she was only about 1 1/2 years old at the time (she is 8 now). The Horn track itself was well defined, and well worth the walk to see the vista from the summit.
The Horn pokes up in an obvious ‘horn’ shape from the surrounding terrain. At the top there were 2 rather lonely pairs of shoes sitting there, and then we noticed an abseiling rope tied to one of the barrier supports. Obviously someone was or had been doing some more adventurous activities than just walking / hiking.
There were a lot of interesting rock formations, many of them had to be negotiated as part of the hike.
The Horn offers 360 degree views across the plateau, Australian Alps and north east Victoria. When we were there, the cloud was threatening to block to view, but the clouds moving across in front of us offered a constantly changing view – kind of neat to watch it all happen. I remember back in the 1980’s visiting The Horn, and watching gliders gliding gracefully around the plateau. When they ‘buzzed’ the Horn, the gliders would growl somewhat like a large feline. This time there were no gliders but I did manage to get a few good shots of the view. Photos don’t really do it justice, you really have to be there to experience the awesomeness of it all.
One of the more interesting features that could be seen from The Horn was The Cathedral and The Hump. These two features are only slightly lower than The Horn, and quite some distance away, but by the electronic technology known as Zoom Lens, they were brought much closer.
From the Horn, we went back to the car, and decided to go to Lake Catani for lunch. After lunch, we walked around Lake Catani on a well defined track. Part of it can be used by bicycles. As we started out walk I wondered whether Lake Catani was a natural lake or man-made. It didn’t take long to find out that it was in fact a man-made lake – the wall across the valley at one end proved it. The output over the dam wall is used to generate power for the camp ground near-by. Something called a ‘Platypus Power micro hydro electric generator’ is used to generate the power. Apparently these units are designed for installation in remote locations. Could Mt Buffalo be called ‘remote’ as it is only 30km from the nearest town? The lake is host to ducks and other birds, the tell-tale bubble of fish could also be seen on the surface of the water. We even saw an Eastern Water Rat swimming and diving in the lake, but not for long enough to get a photo of it.
The walk has interpretive signage dotted around it. Most Eucalyptus (also called ‘Gum’ trees) sprout seeds during intense heat, for example when there are bush fires. But apparently the Alpine Ash tree (also called Dthorr’ba’dthardta) requires very cold conditions for one month before they will sprout but cannot survive long icy periods. The Alpine Ash is easily killed by fire, but after the fire they drop vast amounts of seeds onto the fertile ash-covered ground, which will then sprout given the correct ‘very cold’ conditions. In a suitable situation, such as in the Mt Buffalo area or other alpines areas, they will always be the dominant tree. The walking track passed through woodlands, swampy areas, and alpine meadows. I imagine the alpine meadows could be quite colourful at times, especially after seeing examples of the different flowers that were around when we walked through.
As we passed the half-way point of the Lake walk, the path ran parallel to a mountain stream. I don’t think I have ever seen such a clear stream. Lake Catani’s water was also quite clear. My guess is that there probably aren’t any Carp in it! After we got back to the car, we drove to the Mount Buffalo Chalet. This Chalet was once owned by the State Government, but today is not in use. Maybe one day it will be again. There was evidence of work being carried out at the Chalet, but the thing that really caught my attention was the gardens on the footpath approaching the Chalet. These gardens look like they are still quite well maintained.
Near the Chalet is one of the best views I have ever seen. There is a lookout that goes out onto the rocks, with dramatic views into the valley and the rock faces near the lookout.
These massive rock faces made me feel very un-powerful and more than a little insignificant. But I believe what the Bible says about the mountains – that God made them – and my thoughts turned to how powerful He must be to have made something so awesome. We think we can somehow ‘protect’ the mountains by making them into national parks. And maybe we do protect them to some degree by setting them aside as parks, but after seeing the mountains in the Mt Buffalo National Park (and other mountains we have visited over the years) I suspect there is not really much we can do to ‘protect’ these mountains. They pretty much protect themselves. We can set them aside for future generations to enjoy and ban certain types of activities, but that’s about the extent of ‘protection’ we can offer. I was talking to one of the other visitors there and he told me the story of a relative of his who is a Commando, and would rock climb up the rock face, find a small shelf in the rock, tie himself into it somehow, and spend the night there. For those with that more extreme sense of fun, the area around the Chalet is used for adventure caving, rock climbing / abseiling and hang gliding. We didn’t see any of these activities taking place when we were there, but we did see a para-glider from Billsons Lookout, a little below the Chalet and lookout area mentioned previously.
By the time we had finished exploring it was about 3:30pm. And so with some rain showers coming across the area where we were, we decided that our day was pretty much spent, and so we headed for home and a hot dinner.
For those that are interested, here are some Strava GPS maps of the 3 walks we did over the day.