Walking club takes on Mississippi Track

Ben Cruachan Walking Club welcomes new members.Photos: Contributed

ONE of the joys of bushwalking is reconnecting with nature, often in the company of like-minded people, and being reminded of the natural treasures that abound in Gippsland.

Ben Cruachan Walking Club members recently went for a hike at Mississippi Track. The track, near Bruthen, is a destination that fills a hiker’s heart with delight, and coupled with the perfect weather conditions, 18 happy hikers completed some 14 kilometres in fine style.

Mississippi Track follows the old tramway route, alongside the creek, from the quarry down towards Lakes Entrance. Hikers met at Bruthen, drove to Bruces track, and from there were shuffled along the gravel road to Log Crossing Picnic area.

The quarry on Mississippi Creek was opened by the Coate Brothers in 1904. The granite was needed to renew and reinforce the man-made entrance to the Gippsland Lakes, originally built in 1889.

The tramway, built by hand, involved several deep cuttings to create an even grade. The end of the tramline was at the head of North Arm, near Comers Landing. Blocks that could weigh up to 5000 kilograms were moved onto barges, which carried them about 6km to the entrance, where they were strategically placed. The original sides of the waterway at Lakes Entrance had been reinforced with timber, which eroded over time, having succumbed to the perils of hungry insects.

However, today, no such fate befell the hale and hardy walkers.

A gentle breeze rustled the leaves up high, with the sound like a cascade of applause, as they began the hike. A wide and gentle path wound through spectacular eucalypt forest, with bursts of wattle in bloom adding contrast to the thousand shades of green. Tree ferns stood as sentinels along the track. Lichen dusted tall tree trunks. Birdsong resonated through the bush and sun lit the gossamer threads left by spiders in the branches. Bees and other insects provided a background of hum and buzz, with the smells of blossom and the bush prominent. The happy chatter of hikers added a hubbub to this landscape. For those with a keen eye, remnants of rails and sleepers could be found along the track.

Having strolled some 8km or so, walkers arrived at the quarry for an early lunch.

This amphitheatre of space had an interpretive sign, an original set of wheels with axel and a pleasing slab of polished granite embedded in the platform. The walls of the quarry rose grandly, with ferns, grasses and mosses slowly reclaiming the site.

Mississippi Track, near Lakes Entrance, follows the old tramway route.
Mississippi Track, near Lakes Entrance, follows the old tramway route.

Following lunch, and soon after the arrival of mosquitoes, hikers left to continue on to the end point. A couple of sharp inclines tested legs and lungs, particularly so soon after resting, with the characteristics of the bush changing with the different elevation. Hooded orchids had popped up along the track, and kookaburras called to each other.

Before long, hikers rejoined the rail trail, and a pleasing and gentle 2km uphill found them back at the cars.

From there, a short drive back to Bruthen had hikers perched at a local café enjoying a hot drink and some delicious cakes.

The Ben Cruachan Walking Club meet regularly for hikes across Gippsland, and guests are always welcome.

For more information, visit their website at bcwc.au