Just because you’ve done something once before, doesn’t mean you can do it again – without directions, at least.
Which is how we came to be walking by some very nice houses on Kia Ora Parade (with some other locationally challenged walkers) wondering which turn we should/shouldn’t have made to get to the 1000 Steps. But lets rewind a bit and I’ll explain…
It’s not long now until we’re off to Wilsons Prom to walk down to the lighthouse. My office day job provides, as you might imagine, ideal training for a 20-24km hike (probably to be repeated 3 days in a row, unless we’re too knackered on the middle day). The slightly downhill 3km walk home of an evening has also really helped to boost my confidence.
Even so, we though a bit of extra practice wouldn’t go astray.
We’ve been meaning to go back to One Tree Hill and the 1000 Steps for quite some time. The last first and last time we were there was before the ‘new’ Lyrebird track was (re)opened. Today seemed like a good day. Pity neither Stephen or I remembered to pick up Glenn Tempest’s “Daywalks Around Melbourne” in case we couldn’t remember which track to take, based solely on our memories of our walk from a couple of years back.
This section of the Dandenong Ranges Nation Park must be one of the most visited of Victoria’s parks. The 1000 Steps car park at the bottom of the hill (Fern Tree Gully end) is very large, but always full. I’ve never been by and not seen cars parked for hundreds of metres up the sides of the road. As suggested by Glenn Tempest, we have always (that is to say both times now) parked at the top at the One Tree Hill car park. Compared to the crowd at the bottom, it’s like hardly anyone seems to know about it. And yet it’s only about 100m (if that) from the end of the 1000 Steps track. Go figure.
Just going up and down the 1000 Steps (or Lyrebird) track with half of Melbourne’s population (well, not quite half) is not our idea of a great afternoon, so we like to extend the walk so we can look around, enjoy the bush and get to clock up 10km without collapsing (as I think could be on the cards if we did the same distance just going up and down the ‘Steps).
So after finding a park (not hard), changing into our hiking boots (there’s a convenient seat nearby), we walked to the top of the hill to start our walk along Tyson Track. It’s pretty steep going down, even if it doesn’t look it in the photo.
The bush down the western slopes of One Tree Hill is drier, with less understorey than in the lush and protected gullies, and with grasses as the majority of the ground cover. Numerous tracks crisscross the park. Some follow a level grade as much as possible, and some tracks are very steep (through not as steep as the Telecom Track in Walhalla, thankfully). The tracks are generally wide, gravel-surfaced and well maintained, and it’s not unusual to come across a number of other walkers or hikers and there are signs of mountain bike riders using the tracks, too. In fact, this section of the National Park reminds me of Toohey Forest, just south of Brisbane.
Something I’ve never seen in Toohey’s Forest though is one of these fellows, who was just to the side of The Boulevard (track) as we tried to find our way back up to Belview Terrace.
Having descended from the top of the hill, walked some streets while slightly ‘locationally challenged’, climbed almost the whole way back up again while doubling back due to a poor choice of track at Himalaya Road, we eventually found the path we originally intended to be on (Belview Tce).
Slightly surprised at the appearance of a police 4wd coming up the track (yes, the paths are that wide and no, I doubt they’d need to put it in 4wd to get up that track… well, maybe to get around some of the corners lower down) we continued down hill again until we reached the 1000 Steps car park and picnic ground. There are public facilities there and even a cafe now.
Now, I understand and fully support the principle that what you take into a national park you should also take out. That’s good, proper and the responsible thing to do. But when you buy something at a cafe, you would expect them to have a rubbish bin, wouldn’t you? Apparently not in this case. Again, I understand why – they don’t want to attract birds/possums/rodents etc and encourage unnatural habits – but there’s not even an inside bin. Which isn’t to say that the cafe staff don’t dispose of rubbish left on tables by people who ‘didn’t see’ the signs… Anyway, we took our rubbish with us – it’s not like there was a lack of space in our backpacks!
And so here we were. The infamous 1000 Steps (of which I hear there are somewhat fewer than 1000 – I wasn’t counting though). Last time we battled our way up the old, narrow, steep, slippery track with half of Melbourne’s population who are trying to get fit and a couple of bus loads of tourists on top of that. What was the new track going to be like?
I think I’ve been told that groups preparing to walk the Kokoda track come here to train. Have I mentioned that the old track is steep? The recent works done around this lower end of the park really emphasise our history on the Kokoda Track. There are information plaques along the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk – aka the ‘old’ 1000 Steps track – but with the human traffic it can be hard to take it in. Having large, dedicated areas down the bottom that you can read before or after your climb seems a good idea. It also gives you something to reflect on while you’re struggling up the hill.
And here it is – the spilt. Lyrebird (new 1000 Steps) on the left, the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk (aka the ‘old’ 1000 Steps) on the right.
We came to try out the new path, so that’s what we chose. I was surprised at the number of people still heading up the old path. It hasn’t been wet lately – I wonder if that makes a lot of difference? You won’t catch me going up there in the wet. Even with a handrail, those old, mossy, sloped steps do not make me feel safe. In comparison, the steps of the new track – though not as wide as we’d expected – are level, deep and moss free.
The new path is 700m longer than the old one (2.5km vs 1.8km), although both are rated as ‘Steep’. And since you get a choice between stairs and path on the Lyrebird Track, after a short while I found the track was definitely easier! As long as you keep to the one line and be aware that you’re sharing the path, it’s pretty good. But still quite a way up. And these signs along the way don’t help. I’ve no idea what they’re measuring. The track is 2.5km long, but the post at the top says 15oom… it’s not elevation – the top of the track is not quite 500m above sea level.
Mission accomplished we left the sweaty masses behind and wandered up the last 100m (if that) of the track back to the One Tree Hill car park. By this stage lunch on top of the hill was sounding really nice (we only stopped for a quick snack at the cafe below) and as previously mentioned, there are open and sheltered picnic tables as well as BBQ’s and facilities up top here too.
Unfortunately I’m still having issues with embedding our Garmin details, but if you’re interested in a good walk around the Dandenongs, please check it out here – and don’t forget to take a copy of your walk directions with you!