Bushcraft Weekend

24-25 September 2011

The group of 11 reasonably seasoned trampers met at the Belfast Tavern on the Saturday morning at 8am. After a loo-stop at Culverden and a tyre blow-out near Boyle settlement we made it to the Lake Daniels Track car-park a little later than intended but in good spirits.

Once we had distributed the obligatory ‘party-gear’ and had a briefing by our leader and educator, Geoff Spearpoint, we headed along the Lake Daniels Track, watching for a suitable place to cross the Alfred River. Chris Leaver had the bit between her teeth and soon we were beside the Alfred, watching Geoff build a good fire to boil the billy. This was lesson number one in slowly building a fire and finding the appropriate branch to hang the billy on. We already knew not to stand down-wind 'cos “smoke gets in ur eyes”.

Having consumed a hot drink, Geoff proceeded to show us how to ensure that the fire is out, with embers cooled and the area left as if no fire had been there. We then turned our attention to safe river crossing.

With a maximum of 4 in a group crossing and using the through-the-back-of-the pack method, we managed to get everyone safely across.

Travel was then up the true left of the Alfred until we found a small sign indicating the Pell Stream Track.

This track is a little-used old mining track but the original ‘blazes’ on the trees are still evident. We travelled through beautiful open beech forest until late afternoon when some map checking indicated we were well short of Pell Stream Hut at Gilchrist Creek and were entering an area of the track that is quite difficult. Some scouting by some of ‘the lads’ meant a short stream crossing, or two found us some flat ground and sheltered sites for six minarets.

Once set up we had the benefit of another warming campfire courtesy largely of the skills of Geoff, then some more lessons on good fire building, drying wet wood and map reading. Wonderful food was produced using the burners by Kevin and Heather, and very welcome it was. The evening was made very pleasant by the warm fire and relatively comfortable log seating. We were ready for bed at 9:30 just as a light rain started falling so all tents got wet. Some of us had chosen to pitch our tents in the trees to avoid dewy tents in the morning but the rain ensured we all had to carry a wet tent or fly in the morning.

Overnight the rain petered out so we arose at 7am optimistic for a fine day. The fire was re-kindled and after breakfast we did some more map-reading then headed straight up a spur behind the camp. Fairly steep in places, the beech forest was quite open and we attained the ridge in time for lunch. Further map reading led us down a long spur to near the confluence of the Pell and Alfred, with most of the group taking turns at leading and navigating. Beside the Pell we came to a nice grassy flat and a private hut, an ideal spot to sit and snack in the sun.

A final slippery crossing of the Alfred and a short climb up to the Lake Daniels Track gave us a fast route back to the car-park and, oh joy, the spare tyre was flat! Just on dusk. What next? The resourceful Chris found a man with a tyre pump camped nearby and with some leg-power we got the tyre up and amazingly it stayed up enough to get to Woodend, then home—if somewhat late!

Thank-you to Geoff for all the sharing of your knowledge and experience and patience.

We were: Geoff Spearpoint, Yvette So; Kerry Moore; Kevin Hughes; Heather Murray; Chris Leaver; Mary McKeown; Keith & Marion McQuillan; Dorota Giejsztowt; Miriam Preston. (MP)