High Country Victoria – more 4WD adventure

Haunted Stream Track is located deep in the valley of the Haunted Stream, situated approximately midway between Bruthen and Swifts Creek in High Country Victoria. There is a rich gold mining history in this area of Swifts Creek and Omeo. The Haunted Stream Track closely follows the stream and crosses it about 53 times.

This was another of our adventures with Vic Widman of Great Divide Tours leading a group of fellow travellers in Victoria’s High Country. The aim of this trip was to try out some tracks that we hadn’t tried before and so far that had included Butcher Country Track, Cynthia Range Track, Randells Track and Conway Track.

From Dargo, we headed east to Seldom Seen, which was once the site of a hotel. Then we located the Dawson City Track which wended its way through a heavily wooded area, before dropping straight down to the once Dawson City townsite. Witch Creek and Nightmare Creek join here to form the western end of the Haunted Stream.

Fern-lined Haunted Stream

John and I had travelled the Haunted Stream a couple of times some time ago, but now it appeared to be little used, with the vegetation encroaching closely and the track in poor condition, especially on some of the entrance and exit ramps. But it was a beautiful day and the stream was very pretty.

The gold field began in 1865 with the main rush in 1885 when many deep rich reefs were discovered.

The origin of the name concerns the mysterious death of a local identity known only as ‘Ballarat Harry’. Up and down the creek unsettling noises were heard at night and ghostly apparitions were said to have been seen by lonely diggers. Finally the creek gained the reputation of being haunted by the ghost of Ballarat Harry.

There was another murder under investigation at Stirling, one of the many small mining towns along the stream, reported in an 1892 edition of the Melbourne Age. This murder involved the violent death of a 34 year old store manager, named John Cohen. Dynamite, placed directly beneath his bedroom, was ignited blasting the body through the roof to land 40ft away.

It was later discovered that a 51lb package of dynamite and a coil of fuse 24ft long had disappeared from Cohen’s store. Driving along this beautiful meandering track it was hard to believe that it had such a chequered past.

Up to our lunch stop, the track had been easy to negotiate, with a deviation around the only obstacle, a badly eroded exit ramp. After the break we encountered long wet sections of track. Then further on it became badly rutted and it was quite a challenge to keep the wheels on the high spots. Those who ended up in the ruts found it was tough going through those sections.

After more crossings and more water Vic found a tree lying across the track. This was easy to remove. But the next fallen tree wasn’t going to be moved so easily. At first sight it looked quite substantial, but it turned out to be rotten in the centre, and offered little resistance to the chainsaws. Everyone pitched in to remove the wood from the track and soon there was enough of a gap to guide the vehicles through.

While negotiating one of the more interesting exits Vic came to a halt. The vehicle bottomed out on the upwards ramp, so there was no forward movement. There was no backwards either as the back wheel had dislodged a rock which was now sticking up. Although it was not a very large rock it could have done quite a bit of damage to the rear bar of the beautiful new 200 Series, and that was not an option. Vic was stuck between a rock and a hard place. The only option was the winch.

winching the 200 Series

Winching the 200 Series out of the stream

Vic decided to use the snatch block, which was attached to the anchor point using the tree protector strap. The extended winch cable was passed over the pulley in the block and attached back at the vehicle. As the cable was then doubled, the result was twice the pulling power at half the extraction speed.

Once the recovery damper was in place and the slack on the winch taken up, Vic positioned the winch remote so that he could operate it from inside the vehicle. With everyone standing well clear and to the side of the cable, Vic inched himself up the steep exit ramp. On this occasion he assisted the procedure by adding a little power. And it was all over in no time.

Now it seemed like a good idea to use the right hand side of the exit ramp. Vic guided me across and into the best wheel placement on the other side. That was okay so the others took that path too.

But the fun hadn’t ended yet, on our Haunted Stream Track adventure. It was soon becoming obvious that it was going to take some time to complete the 30-odd kilometres of this track from Dawson City.

Next a huge water-filled hole in the track had a deviation around it that wasn’t much better than the hole. We all followed Vic’s technique and took it slowly and carefully.

Crossing the Haunted Stream

This was immediately followed by a deeply rutted section. This time it was easier to stick to the ruts, but a few holes gave some tricky moments if insufficient momentum was applied. Some of us struggled, but others made it look easy.

Further along it was just a case of picking our way carefully through the wet and muddy sections on the track. A small log and earth bridge had almost washed away, so once again careful wheel placement was necessary.

At last the track was becoming drier, but some of the entry and exit points at the crossings were very steep and narrow with tall embankments. Again, guidance was required for more careful wheel placement to prevent the vehicles scraping on the high sides of the ramp. Everyone took it easy and got through unscathed.

It had taken several hours to negotiate just 20 km of track so the aim was to set up our camp at Bayliss Flat, which was just past the old Stirling town site. The campsite was a very pleasant area, found right beside the track,  with plenty of room for our 6 vehicles. After all that fun and adventure, it was time to set up and relax in the pleasant surroundings.

Bayliss Flat campsite

We completed the Haunted Stream Track next morning. From Bayliss Flat the track climbs away from the stream, where although it was very narrow with a few rough sections, it became more of a pleasant bush drive. After passing a sign for the Haunted Stream Historic Area, the track passed through farm property ending at the Great Alpine Road near Tambo Crossing.

Now we headed for Buchan and the final track of our High Country adventure.

You can see all the adventures of this trip with Vic Widman of Great Divide Tours in our latest DVD Vistas to Valleys – High Country Adventures. Check it out here.

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2 Responses to High Country Victoria – more 4WD adventure

  1. Robert Norman February 2, 2017 at 9:05 pm #

    Planning a trip to the Haunted Stream and wondering if you could tell me the date of the trip reported here? Is it the same as the article date ie. mid-January 2017? Sounds a bit more challenging than the last time I drove it when it was positively docile.

    • anne March 23, 2017 at 1:40 pm #

      Hi Robert
      We did the trip in February 2015. I agree with you that the Haunted Stream Track was easy when we were last there, but that was a few years ago now. In February 2015, the track looked like it hadn’t been used in awhile and it was quite tricky in places. It was planned for repair in 2016 so it would be best to check with Parks Vic regarding track conditions now.
      Anne

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