There's High Country, Just Behind the Great Ocean Road

It must have been raining for days, mid-June. I was up in Forrest fixing the gutters.Digging trenches to direct water flow. At that altitude, it snows every few years, but it gets misty when cold.

Living in Anglesea we usually loop around the back of the Otways when going to and from Forrest, but I like to drive the Great Ocean Road to Lorne, cut past Deans Marsh to Forrest adding an extra 10 minutes.

We’d travelled the unsealed road from Forrest the Lorne many times before. It is always a beautiful drive. In the extreme bad weather, I thought I would see how bad the dirt road had become…………… To my surprise the road was in excellent condition, the road verges neatly mowed and the trip became more awe inspiring the further I drove in to the ancient environment.

As you drive from Forrest you’ll see some huge tree bases. The lumberjacks would axe wedges out of the base of the tree to wedge standing boards. They then stood on the boards to saw the ancient massive trees down with two handed saws. Imagine the sound of a four hundred year tree falling.

The mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans, or Tasmanian oak) is one of the world’s tallest trees. The tallest living tree, a redwood in California is around 115m. Fallen mountain ash have been measured taller, but currently the mountain ash record holder is around 100m. 

About a 15-20 minute drive from Forrest you’ll start to see the massive trees that survived logging: Stately old gentlemen, with huge bases and gnarled limbs. Over hundreds of years, many of their tops were taken out by lightning. 

They have a presence about them, awe inspiring. I get the same feeling walking in to a cathedral. Their average life span is 400 years. That’s around about when Europeans first settled in America.

Wind after wind the road cuts through this beautiful and primeval landscape. Driving becomes a meditation. I didn’t see another car. In many parts the canopy meets seamlessly high above the insignificant road. In my VW van, I feel small in the presence of ancient gods that have been around forever providing safety and shelter for the graceful tree ferns, drops of water pearling at the tips of fronds.

Fleur rings, “Where have you been”?

“Sorry I’ve been in Mikee land again” Its good here, it makes me feel peaceful. It makes me feel free………. But then, I never had to lie about being an outdoor guy.

I’d like to become a tall stately mountain ash. If I stand in the forest with my arms outstretched, how long would it take to become a tree and live another few centuries?

You can drive the road from Forrest to Lorne, either way in any condition, Summer or Winter. Make sure you pre-load your GPS because there are lots of spots that are out of phone range. If you do get stuck, drive to the top of the next hill to get reception.

Make sure you get out of your car, walk right in to the forest and give a tree a hug.

Mike 2019

(Photos were taken on my phone)

To Get There

Take Hennigan Crescent from Station Street in Forrest. There should be signs to Lake Elizabeth. Hennigan runs in to Kanglang Road, which will take you along the edge of the reservoir, keep going, when you pass the turnoff to Lake Elizabeth keep going straight. You will run in to Benwerrin Mt Sabine Road, turn left at the triangle in the middle of the intersection. Turn left on to Curtis Track, left on to Cumberland track which will take you to Lorne.
It sounds complicated, but in each case chose the route that points toward Lorne and you will stay on track. If you turn right anywhere you will end up on the Great Ocean Road, so it is not too treacherous.
Beware: don't leave the well made roads. Some of the side tracks are quite boggy. If you end up in mud, don't go through it. The graded roads are well made, well cut and drained, stay on them and you'll be fine.