The Cathedral Ranges is one of the toughest hiking trails near Melbourne.
Once again we take advantage of the weekend and the completion of the harsh measures imposed by the Covid-19, and we attack the mountain hard, desperate for a breath of fresh air, and a place to test the resistance.
For those of us who live in the state of Victoria, the Cathedral Ranges is one of the strongest hiking trails, not only because of the rapid ascent of 900 meters, but because of how rugged the terrain is.
The Cathedral Ranges is a spectacular seven kilometer ridge of extremely steep sedimentary rock with a variety of trails to explore which vary in difficulty.
From easy to challenging, they offer the opportunity to explore the main features of the park and climb the peaks to enjoy views of the forests and farmland in the valley.
If you have the opportunity to visit Australia, with the intention of hiking. You can book in Victoria parks camping in the park, and planning a couple of circuits.
This Cathedral Range hike - Northern Loop explores the North Range from South Jawbone Peak, North Jawbone Peak (optional side hike), The Farmyard, Little Cathedral Peak, Neds Peak, and Neds Gully.
First stage: Coocks Mills - The Farmyard.
Starting at the Cooks Mill camping area, we begin the ascent via the Saint Bernards Track.
This first stage is very heavy, as it is extremely steep with natural stone steps that test not only your lung capacity, but the strength of your glutes. (You wonder, why the glutes? The glutes help maintain posture and stabilize, that is, to have balance.)
La The use of walking sticks is extremely useful at this stageThey help stabilize you more quickly by lifting your feet more than necessary to reach the next step.
There are people who like to walk with two poles. In my case, I find it a bit cumbersome. One is enough for me. And since I've already undergone meniscus surgery on my left knee, I use the cane in my right hand to distribute the load away from the affected knee.
This section is not very long, but steep, and ends in a section of forest in the Farmyard.
From here, we made what they call a “morning tea” which is nothing more than a stop for air with a quick snack and hydration.
However, we left our backpacks here and took a route to a lookout point 300 meters away on the South Jawbone Track to South Jawbone Peak for incredible views of the Cathedral Range and lower valley.
Second stage: The Farmyard - Cathedral Peak.
Thanks to the magnificent signage in the park, it is very difficult to get lost. From signs along the road to the occasional reflective milestone in the trees, they help with orientation.
The weather is playing a bit of tricks on us today. Intermittent patches of drizzle and strong sun make us put on and take off our raincoats all the time. It is part of the adventure, to prove that we can against the irrationality of the craving nature.
The terrain is beginning to change, from ascending a path of dirt and leaves, to increasingly larger stones.
Soon you find yourself on the crest of the mountain dodging the path from rock to rock. Here not only is balance extremely important, due to the necessity of taking great steps between stones, but dangerous: We have two large slopes on each side of the road, and the path is sometimes less than a meter wide. Nobody wants a fall.
The sticks at this point, far from helping, get in the way. If you support them into the rocks, you run the risk of them getting stuck and destabilizing you.
And on the contrary, here good high boots are the best.
The hiking boots High heels help stabilize your ankle and prevent it from bending when placing your foot in extremely uncomfortable positions between rocks.
In fact your feet seek to serve as an anchor between cracks and projections. You have to lean sideways on the rock while putting one foot in front of the other to find out how to keep going.
Boots with a good sole is vital. Several people have brought old boots that are already worn on the sole; and you can clearly see who is slipping within the group.
The arrival at Cathedral Peak is a beauty. The valleys in the background. The green horizon. The mist of the valley that rises and kisses us softly on the cheeks. This is a magical experience.
We decided to make a stop to rest and eat something a little stronger.
I found just the right place to snuggle safely between the stones, but with a view of the presidential box to the valley.
I must confess, my food preparations were somewhat rushed this time. I took two slices of pizza from the fridge that I made the night before. Although in my defense, I took as a snack dehydrated mango and a delicious orange that I ate for dessert.
From the top of Little Cathedral Peak, we go downhill to Neds Gully and towards the Neds Gully camping area.
Third stage. Cathedral Peak - Neds Gully.
This penultimate stage, already downhill, is not without its complications.
As we leave the rocky area, we return to the dirt trail. However, it is extremely steep with a lot of loose rock and bits of tree bark.
One bad footprint and you can surf a few feet downhill and land on some rocks.
As we descend the forest becomes denser and denser. Many birds like the Kookaburra are heard along the way.
It is extremely relaxing to breathe the clean air, now infused with the scent of eucalyptus trees. In particular of the Manna Gums variety.
Manna Gums trees (Eucalyptus viminalis) have thin leaves and pale trunks with large chunks of bark.
In its branches, sugary white sap is formed that was collected by the aborigines of the area, the Taun Gurung. This sap exits through small holes drilled by an insect in the trunk.
The Tal Gurung aborigines also used the wood as shields and the hollowed out logs as water containers. The leaves were thought to have medicinal properties, so they exposed people with fever to the smoke from fires made with their trunks to alleviate it.
The Manna Gums is an excellent habitat and its foliage is an important source of food for the koalas. The gummed sap is food for possums and gliders, particularly the yellow-bellied glider (Petaurus australis) and the sugar glider, two typical marsupials of the region where Manna Gum grows.
The nectar-rich flowers provide food for birds such as honeycombs, including the red wattle bird, the yellow-billed honey bird, and the white-feathered honey bird.
Mature trees have excellent holes for a variety of native birds and animals.
Upon reaching Neds Gully you can hear the nearby river. The rest of our route runs parallel to the riverbed.
Last stage: Neds Gully - Cooks Mills
The smoothest part of the road is in front of us. Only about 45 minutes on an almost completely flat path to the car park. Nothing complicated, and a rest for the legs.
Many birds on this path cross from side to side. Cockatoos make their usual noise in the distance ... and after a while: I see my car in the distance.
We have walked 15 kilometers in about 5 hours. Feet deserve a rest, and for this I always leave a change of comfortable shoes behind in my car, and a dry cotton shirt to feel a little more comfortable.
I have two hours on the way home, and the stop for a coffee It is an obligatory stop.