“I just enjoy trudging along with a pack on my back and seeing what I can see.”
Graham Gales would have to be one of the most knowledgeable locals when it comes to walking and hiking around the Victorian High Country.
An SES volunteer, Graham has been exploring by foot and enjoying these sights since the 1970s, and a chat to him is a sure-fire way to want to walk more, see more, and soak up more of this beautiful part of Australia. An avid photographer, Graham has a keen eye that appreciates the magic of this area. He talks of Summer hikes, when there is a diversity of colour in and abundance of wildflowers, and wildlife such as lizards, snakes, insects and even the native black and yellow spotted grasshoppers come out to enjoy the warmth.
As Autumn eases its way over the landscape, introduced tree species turn the most remarkable hues of gold and crimson – bringing visitors from around the globe to appreciate their beauty. Higher above, and the frost starts to set in and the first flakes of snow begin to fall. In Winter hiking, of course, turns to ski touring, and Graham talks of the silence and beauty that slips over the mountains. All you can see is white as you glide through the still, looking forward to reaching some warm sanctuary.
In spring the snow begins to melt, creeks start to run again and the first of those truly marvellous wildflowers start to bloom, bringing joy to like-minded hikers who appreciate the delicate beauty.
Graham has travelled along tracks through every season and explains in detail as though he knows them like the back of his hand (which I suspect he probably would).
Not only does he hike and walk these parts, but along with other locals and key stakeholders, Graham has helped rebuild and restore a number of the iconic high country huts, including the oldest in the region: the much-loved Wallace’s Hut. We asked Graham to share with us some ideas for walks or hikes in the region.
There are some lovely flat and fairly short walks such as Canyon Walk and Cherry Walk, which meander along the river in Bright. Graham suggests taking a fishing rod and seeing how you go catching one of the local trout. Parts of these walks are also accessible to wheelchairs. Somewhat more of a stretch, but still an achievable adventure, would be from Bright to Wandiligong or following the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail from Bright to Porepunkah.
Dialling up the degree of challenge would be a day walk around the sub-Alpine area of Mt Buffalo, or even a climb from the base to the top. Alternatively walk around the lake at Bogong Village, which is a wonderful circuit to do. Or if you’re keen to see some of the iconic huts, then drive to Wallace’s and hike the Heritage Loop day walk out to Mt. Cope. To take it that step further and for a more challenging stretch, go out to Roper’s Hut or Watchbed Creek to Mt Nelse, back to Roper’s, up Bogong and down again. Or perhaps try Falls Creek across the High Plains to Mt Jim and down to Kabunga and over to Hotham.
If Graham had to whittle all his walks down to one preferred adventure, he probably wouldn’t…! We put him in too difficult a situation with that request – it’s impossible to choose! That said, if a visitor came to the region requesting a single walk that would give them a really terrific sense of the region, Graham would point them in the direction of Mt Feathertop. Leave from Razorback car park near the Diamantina Hut and take the undulating path up to Mt Feathertop, which does actually look like an Alp and offers 360 degree views of the region. Then descend via Federation Hut along the Bungalow Spur and into Harrietville, where you can head to the pub for a well-deserved meal and something to quench your thirst. That’s a 22km adventure.
Not Just Hiking
Graham recommends hitting the tracks with a microlens, so you can really get the best shots these walks have to offer. Of course, there is no end of sweeping vistas but if you appreciate the finer details of an area – like those charismatic grasshoppers or beautiful native blooms – then you’ll be wanting to take shots at close range.
Graham also suggests a bit of research, particularly for those who enjoy digging that bit deeper to understand an area’s heritage and history. Through these parts you could unknowingly wander past areas of Indigenous cultural significance, remnants of old mining days and much more. In fact, Graham even suggests taking a gold mining pan along – if stopping by a river for some gold panning takes your fancy. Nice idea!
Be Prepared, Be Prepared
It’s the Scout motto for good reason. Graham recommends not heading off until you’ve got yourself a map, a compass, a GPS and a sound understanding of where you are about to go and what the weather is doing. That said, there is infrastructure that you can call on for support. Tourism Victoria provides a wealth of detail about walks in the High Country and surrounds, not only by way of maps but also various Information Boards. The local Shire Council supports some of the Heritage Walks with information boards along the way. An ‘Intention Book’ for the more challenging areas requires you to submit your details (name, emergency contact, car registration etc) so that authorities are aware of when you’ve departed, where you’re planning to go etc. Now there are even guided party tours with walk leaders who take you on trips and provide actual beds at night, versus camping in a sleeping bed on the ground (luxury!).
Check out the video above to hear all that Graham had to say...