2010-03-08 -37 145
In a stand of trees, just off Skyline Road, north of Yarra Glen, Victoria
Driving up from Box Hill approx 11ish - hope to arrive 11 to 11.30am.
With a mate visiting from New Zealand and Monday being a public holiday, it made perfect sense to head out on a geohash today. I spotted the site not far from a road northwest of Yarra Glen, which I know reasonably well from previous driving excursions.
Melbourne suffered some pretty nasty storms over the past couple of days so I figured there was a narrow window of opportunity to enjoy a sunny hash in the morning. We hit the road about 11am, and headed out towards Yarra Glen. Participants - myself, the dog, and my mate from NZ.
Arriving at Yarra Glen, my friend pointed out the direction to go up to Skyline Road, which Google Maps *assured* me was an actual road. I've run afoul of Google Maps before, so decided to reserve judgement until we actually got within sight of the hashpoint.
All was well, with sealed albeit narrow roads up to the crest of the hill, where Skyline Road split off. We turned off onto Skyline Road, and started driving through the forest towards the hashpoint. Shortly afterwards, I realised that our route would take us into a fire-affected area from last year's Black Saturday bushfires. Worse still, I saw a number of new houses - a clear indication that the area had been hit so hard that houses had been destroyed and were being rebuilt. I feel very conflicted about being a non-local in these areas; obviously it helps my understanding of the impact that the catastrophic fires had on the area, but I'm also aware that these people have lost everything and may have known people who died during the fires; wandering through their properties with a GPS seems a little irreverent.
We reached a fork in Skyline Road to discover a 'no further access by car, 4WD or horse' sign, and a gate across the road. Nearby were some logging trucks and a pile of cut logs, a vehicle trailer, and a driveway leading up to the crest of a hill. Figuring we should at least try to find our way towards the hashpoint, I got the dog out of the car, and we started up the hill.
Halfway down we were met by two official logging-looking people driving a mini bulldozer, the one apparently belonging to the trailer. They asked what we were up to, we explained, they said 'Go to the top of the hill, talk to Dr L in the house, and ask his permission.' So we trooped on up to the top of the hill, to a house with stunning 360 degree views of the Yarra Valley wine region, and looking back across the wooded hills of north-east Melbourne. We introduced ourselves to the property owner - a spry older chap - explained what we were doing, and asked his permission to find the hashpoint. He looked bemused, but gave his blessing on the provisor that the dog stayed on leash, and went back to what he was doing. He warned us that there were lyrebirds around - a protected species - hence his request that the dog stay on leash!
We walked down from the house to the ridge shown on the map, the one that Skyline Road apparently is, taking a direct route rather than walking back to the access path. Along the way, we were surrounded by wattle trees growing back in huge clumps, and the beautiful new green leaves of eucalypts. However, underfoot was ash, charcoal, and the skeletons of burnt trees. Some eucalypt species are fire-activated; the gum nuts that fall from the trees only open in extreme heat such as that in a bushfire. THey also sprout new vegetation within days of a fire, with small buds under the bark putting out sprays of foliage that provide much needed energy to the tree. Even after such an awful event, life springs anew.
And our enthusiasm sprung anew as my mate, now guiding us to the exact point, said there was under 100m to go. Down a STEEP hill. Through chest-high wattles. On loose gravel, half-degraded charcoal, and past tree stumps. After two days of torrential rain, which churned up the loose soil into clay mud. He lead the way - now barefoot; I'd neglected to mention that flip flops were not the best geohashing footwear - closely followed by the dog, who loved running in amongst the foliage, with me cautiously bringing up the rear. We worked our way down and across the slope progressively, then bingo - down to just 10 metres. We struggled past fallen trees and burnt stumps to reach the final destination - fittingly, about a metre away from a blackened, charred eucalypt stump.
I took the necessary proof photos and hung a hash-marker - printed on recycled paper with biodegradable adhesives - took the photos, and left. I don't feel guilty about leaving potential geotrash, as the paper will degrade quickly in the environment and form part of the forest floor when it's fully broken down.
We staggered back up the hill to the track, and found our way back through to the car, getting back just in time to avoid the rain. Washed our feet quickly, gave the dog a drink - what a trooper - then headed to the Coldstream Brewery for pilsner and lunch. Lunch - a rabbit, mozarella and grape pizza - was appreciated by all, including the dog.
Drove home and got home just in time for the heavens to open once again.
This was a really fun hash, enhanced by the willingness of my mate and the dog to get their feet dirty. Thank you both! And to Dr L for letting us walk through his property!