Written By ~ Sheila Eiffert
Participants ~ Ken Ribbons & Diana Morgan (Trip Leaders) Rod & Karan Perry Piet & Renee De Beer Robert & Kathy Sharrock Gavin, Denise, & Donna Wenham Bob & Ann Hamilton Richard & Sheila Eiffert
Duration ~ One week
Destination ~ Alpine National Park - Victorian High Country
Big views, imposing forests, meandering streams, and the wildflower-strewn Davies Plain Ridge. We enjoyed the views across the Victorian Alps to Kosciuszko National Park from Mount Pinnibar's summit. Mt Gibbo Peak and nearby Mount Anderson Peak also offered breathtaking vistas.
Day 1 - Tuesday
The group met together at the Jindabyne Information Centre at 2:30 pm before proceeding down the Barry Way, stopping at the various lookouts, and driving with magnificent views of the river to our campsite at Willis/Snowy River Campsite.
By the evening we were already establishing new friendships as everyone got to know each other and we joined together to have a happy hour or two.
Ken and Di had put together this trip to have a drive through the Alpine National Park, especially the High Plains. The High Plains have a long history of cattle grazing, but they have also seen goldminers, loggers, and workers on hydroelectric schemes. After World War II, a network of roads that were built to serve the timber industry helped opened up the alpine area to visitors.
The historic Cattlemen’s Huts provide a living reminder of the High Country’s past.
Explorers Hume and Hovell trudged this way on their 1824 expedition, and were followed not long after by pastoralists. The Aboriginal Kurnai people from the southeast knew this landscape well, travelling to the high country for ceremonial occasions and to feast on the Bogong moths that migrate in vast numbers to the mountain peaks in summer.
Highlights include big views, imposing forests, meandering streams, and the wildflower-strewn Davies Plain Ridge. We enjoyed the views across the Victorian Alps to Kosciuszko National Park from Mount Pinnibar summit. Mt Gibbo Peak and nearby Mount Anderson Peak also offer breathtaking vistas.
The trip was to include 4WD tracks in some of Victoria’s most isolated and scenic mountain country. But our efforts were rewarded with “Man from Snowy River” landscapes, fishing in crystal clear mountain streams, and camping in true high country settings.
On our trip we would travel through towering Alpine Ash forest, Snow Gum woodland, and over rolling wildflower-strewn plains to the historic cattleman’s hut.
Day 2 - Wednesday
We were up and ready to go by 8:30 am. Almost immediately we were travelling on the very steep and hard Ingeegoodbee Track, which led us to MacFarlane Flats Track.
We were heading into the Cobberas section of the Alpine National Park where brumbies are present. It covers an area around Mt Pinnibar/Tom Grogan, Davies Plain, and Limestone Creek in the west.
The whole area was very dry with scrubby type bush. A discussion started between the cars as to the evidence of brumbies being there but no actual brumbies. Bob and Ann suddenly announced that they were real as one had just shot across the road in front of them. Sadly this was to be our only encounter with the brumbies and we were all very jealous of Bob and Ann.
Next we moved onto the Cobberas Track. As we moved into more of the Alpine areas we started to see some truly magnificent scenery.
The characteristics of the Cobberas that distinguish it from other sub-alpine areas are its open forests, with very few mid story plants and a grassy or herby ground cover. That is, it is a forest area in which you could imagine it would be relatively easy to walk in, or ride a horse through.
These forests are interspersed with a mosaic of large and small grassy snow meadows that contain wet marshy areas, small streams, bogs, small woody scrubs, daisies, and orchids.
It was in one of these valley snow meadows that we stopped for morning tea. As it was quite hot, most people were looking for a shady place to sit. Kathy then walks over to us in the heat, eating a frozen Cornetto ice cream in the middle of the wilderness. Obviously they have a good fridge.
We continued on the Cobberas Track to another well-known snow meadow called the Playgrounds, where we stopped to set up camp. It was obviously a favourite area for brumbies. As the snow meadow had been heavily grazed, and like most other places in this section of the National Park, there is horse dung everywhere. The Playgrounds was more like a horse paddock, than a playground.
With no facilities of any kind, and large open grassy areas all around you, there was much interest in the facilities tents as they were put up. Then Ann became almost hysterical when she realised that Gavin, Denise, and Donna were each having a hot shower! Ann started pleading for a shower then moved into offering Gavin $5 for a shower. How could Gavin refuse? Once in the shower, we were not quite sure what was going on as the tent started swaying to and fro, however Ann assured us she was only just washing her feet! Gavin and Denise were kind enough to offer all the girls a quick shower.
Today was also a special day being Karan’s birthday. Renee and Piet offered her not only the use of their shower but enough hot water to wash her hair, with the facilities to blow dry it afterwards.
Day 3 - Thursday
Everyone was up early and ready to go at 8:30 am for what was to be a full day. We started by travelling the Limestone Creek Track that had some decent short steep sections as well as some relatively rocky sections.
We continued on the McCarthys Track, setting up our campsite at the McCarthy campsite, which is also called The Poplars - a magnificent location. Poplars Picnic Area is the highest point of vehicle access on the Murray River and a great fishing spot for more experienced anglers.
We spent an enjoyable afternoon swimming in the Murray River. Both Bob and Ken caught a fish which Ken smoked and shared around at happy hour.
The Poplars campsite allows you to camp on the banks of the Murray River at the eastern edge of the park. To the south is the rugged terrain surrounding Mt Cobberas, while across the Murray in NSW is wild Kosciuszko National Park. Fishing usually occupies many campers here, but 4WD-touring kept us busy.
Day 4 - Friday
The convoy started getting ready for another day of adventure. That was until we tried to start our LandCruiser and then we found our battery was flat and we needed a helpful jump-start. Another fine.
Once on the road, we continued on the McCarthys Track. Taking a small detour to visit the Buckwong Hut, which was locked. Ken told us that this was unusual. We had morning tea in one of the prettiest snow meadows we had yet seen at the Buckwong Hut campgrounds - so green and lush, it was beautiful.
We then continued on the Kings Plain Track with steep, rocky, eroded, bulldust sections. The Kings Plain Track descends steeply to the south-east to the Murray River, flowing in a deep, narrow valley.
We stopped for lunch at Davies High Plain Hut, which is located on the Davies Plain Track. Davies High Plain Hut is a popular camping spot, south of the Snowy. It is located on the edge of a meadow, so green and lush it looked like a golf course. Davies High Plain Hut is very picturesque and I’m sure it would be a welcome sight to anyone caught up there in a snowstorm.
Close by Davies High Plain Hut there are horse corrals that have been restored, and it was easy to imagine the mountain men up there with their horses and whips.
Davies Plains Track is one of the main 4WD tracks in this area. It has many high plains meadows that offer a view over the surrounding mountains. It’s only then you realise how high you are. The track continues along the Davies Plain Ridge with numerous grassy hollows being encountered.
As we crossed the iconic Davies Plains Track, we encountered dead snow gums on expanses of alpine meadow. It was all very beautiful, but a bit eerie. The location is very isolated and you can feel it. This site would make a good stopover on a tour or an interesting base from which to explore the region.
South of this area you would encounter the Four Ways intersection where the Davies Plain, McCarthy’s, Buckwong Creek, and Mount Misery Trails meet. The Mount Misery Trail takes the 4WD adventurer out to the Benambra Road, while the Buckwong Track heads west to the alpine high plain encompassing the headwaters of Buckwong Creek, which is where we went.
Our final campsite was at the picturesque Buckwong River Campsite, where the Buckwong River feeds into the Murray River. After another great swim in the Buckwong River, we unfortunately had our last DNF as Renee and Piet had a situation that required them to leave immediately. They were sadly missed
Day 5 - Saturday
We were now in the extreme northeast corner area of the Alpine National Park, which they call the Jewel in the High Country’s Crown. This area is largely the domain of 4WD due to its limited access and mountainous terrain.
This area also has some of the highest tracks in Victoria; parts of Davies Plain Track are more than 1700 m high. Mt Pinnibar (1727 m) and Mt Gibbo (1716 m) have the best 360-degree views you’ll experience anywhere - and you can park your 4x4 right on the summit.
By 9:00 am we had travelled down the Tom Groggin Track towards Tom Groggin Station, which is famous as the home of Jack Riley, the inspiration for Banjo Paterson’s “The Man from Snowy River”, and who worked and managed the Tom Groggin Station for 30 years. Here we experienced the timeless beauty of this spectacular valley on the slopes of the Snowy Mountains that inspired this famous poem.
Close to the station is Dogman’s Hut, which was built in 1964. You can camp immediately beside Dogman Hut and get views across the privately owned Tom Groggin cattle station, or camp down by the Murray River where there was a nice place to set up for a couple of campsites.
We had an early morning tea at Dogman’s Hut then took off for a run up near by Mt Pinnibar. If you find yourself in this part of Victoria, please take a trip to the 1772 m summit of Mount Pinnibar. It is worth it - here you will see some of the most spectacular views on the drive northwest to the craggy peaks of the Main Range, Kosciuszko National Park and south to the Victorian Alps, with the prominent Davies Plain Ridge also visible.The tracks getting you up to there are brilliant, being very exciting as they are very steep have enormous ruts but if you don’t have 2” lift you will bottom out. Sensible people used the chicken runs. We spent most of the entire trip with Rod trying to convince Karan of his deep need to get a 2” lift. But she was strong and didn’t give in until she took a quick ride on this track with Bob in his Prado with all modifications.
We ate lunch on the top of the world. Every direction just held majestic beauty. When we left we took the Anderson Track over to Mt Anderson, also an excellent run. Then we started home to hear one of our member’s call something you don’t want to hear as you have to come down the side of a mountain – “I have no brakes”.
A snatch strap was attached to the rear of the vehicle and Ken lead them both down the tracks while the rest of us waited for the all clear. If showed me that if you take things carefully and you travel with good people, even the worst problem can be recovered.
Back at camp, not only did we get a swim but all the cars did as well. Then we had our final happy hour and evening together.
Day 6 - Sunday
Everyone was up early and ready to go, but sad to be finishing the trip that would be completed with our crossing of the Murray River at Tom Groggin, where we formally ended this trip before the journey back home.
Thank you to Ken and Di for all the time and effort you put into make such an amazing trip. It was a fantastic part of our country and well worth seeing, thank you for organising it.