Avid trail runner, freelance writer and a mother of four with a healthy obsession for the great outdoors. Join me in my discoveries along the Mornington Peninsula and further afield by subscribing to my articles.
We sat in the comfort of our house looking at the maps of the walking trail and discussed the suitability and distance of the 17 km trail from Donnelley's Weir in Healesville, following track 11 to the lookout at Mt St Leonard with a double pram and child carrier. "Yeah, it looks like there's plenty of climbing, but I'm up for it" says I.
We packed the car and drove 1 hour and 20 minutes to Healesville from the Peninsula, arriving at about 10 am, stopping once along the way to get batteries for my heart rate monitor, which I haven't used since I was a competitive cyclist, but thought I may need it!
On arrival at Donnelly's Picnic Ground, we noticed the gates were to be closed at 4 pm, so it's best to park outside the entrance gates just in case you're late. To get into the picnic ground, you need to go through a shallow creek crossing, so try and stick to the shallowest part to avoid wet feet before you start.
Donnelley's Picnic Ground is also the start or finish for the Bicentennial National Trail, the longest trail of i's kind in the world, stretching 5,330 kilometres from Healesville in Victoria to Cooktown in Queensland. Open for horses, cyclists and walkers.
On the trail you immediately start ascending up out of the gully and continue up onto the spur line. The track is a wide fire trail and the views are pleasant with changing flora and fauna as you ascend. Birds that we saw were Black Cockatoos, Kookaburras, Fairy Wrens and some some other very pretty little birds with a bright orange chest. A Swamp Wallaby was also seen in the open after the first climb.
3 km in the arrow points to Mt St Leonard where we walked to the top of
At around the 4 - 5 km mark, Stef and I swapped children with Stef taking the pram and I carrying the child carrier and water supply, it seems almost as hard as the pram but at least the 18 kg weight was on my back instead of pushing. Poor Stef struggled to get the pram up some hills and had to resort to pulling it up backwards.
When we came to a junction, we knew we only had 2 km to go to the summit, which was a relief at this point, however it was extremely short lived. After 400 metres the pram could go no further, being mainly due to steepness. With not being able to continue with the pram, we quickly decided that the only option was to dump the pram and carry the kids. The Mountain was not going to defeat us. 'It's not far, we can do it" were my famous last words. "I can see the top", only to reach that point and look up at the most hideous continuation of the spur which continued straight up every time you would think the end was near, only to be disappointed with yet another step to the spur. Step by step we edged our way closer and closer yet, the feeling of being beaten by the mountain was in the back of mind. I had to get to the top. Through the ferns the relief of seeing the tower was immense. We had made it!
On the lookout platform the view was nice, but the satisfaction of making it there was greater than the view. After a drink and something to eat, we needed to descend as the wind was cold and we wanted to get back down the track. Everyone thinks coming down is the easy bit but you cannot become complacent with the steepness of the hills with loose rocks and gravel, especially when carrying children. Every step was a considered move so as not to fall. I tripped twice on my way down, landing on my knee and causing a mini avalanche with rocks coming down.
It was not until we got home that Stef measured the climb in metres above sea level. The walk starts at 150m above sea level and climbs to 1010 metres.The last 2km to the top rose 400 metres. Hope this helps give you an idea, as the pictures don't show the degree very well.
Bush Walking Victoria has a downloadable map for this walk if you join, it's a free membership until July 2013. After that you can decide if you would like to retain membership at $14.95 annually.
Great article, Lorraine. I live near Mt St Leonards but haven't done the walk in years, your expedition with the kids inspired me! But I think I will leave the pram at home and dust off the backpack. :)
Greetings Lorraine. I have been to Mt. St. Leonard many times - visually. Before the trees grew I could see the tower in the distance from our balcony. Your article has made it unnecessary to attempt the marathon trek for a closer look. Taking children on such adventures will give them a lifetime love of our great outdoor. Regards, Neil