There’s no doubt one of the best feelings in life is getting behind the wheel of your four wheel drive, heading out of town and challenging yourself and your vehicle.
The excitement and anticipation when going off road is unmistakable to any four wheel drive enthusiast and so with spring in the air, the weather starting to improve and a national park to explore so close to Melbourne, I was primed for my next adventure to Lerderderg State Park. Just 75km north-west of Melbourne or 60 minutes drive from city to tracks, Lerderderg remains one of my favourite day trip destinations and spring, my favourite time to visit, as wildflowers and wattle trees begin their bloom, bringing the undergrowth to life.
Seasonal track closures are still in force here (June till the end of October) but that doesn’t stop visitors from enjoying Mackenzie’s Flat picnic area (south of the park), O’Brien’s Crossing Camp Ground (north of the park) and the myriad of well-maintained and scenic tracks interconnecting the park. Added to that, the many trails which cater for bikers and hikers alike, Lerderderg remains a refuge of outdoor adventuring on Melbourne’s doorstep.
There are two main ways to approach the park. From Melbourne, head along the Calder Freeway to enter from the north, or along the Western Freeway to access through the south. As always, my travel companion, Art, has agreed to accompany me and photograph my adventures. After studying the map, we agree the quickest way to approach Lerderderg is from the north.
So, we head along the Calder Freeway and turn off at the Gisborne town exit. Passing through the town, we head south along Bacchus Marsh Rd turning right at Carroll’s Lane which joins onto Firth Rd. As the bitumen turns to gravel my anticipation begins to build. We stop one kilometre down the road and air down to 30psi for a more comfortable and safe ride as the winter rains, coupled with corrugations, loose gravel and occasional pot-holes, have turned what are otherwise well maintained tracks into tricky ones. Heading west along Firth Road, to our right lies Wombat State Park and to our left Lerderderg State Park. For the most part the main tracks offer a comfortable and leisurely drive but be warned, the tracks can be deceptive and you can find yourself in trouble if inattentive behind the wheel. Seasonal road closures meant that, during our trip, many of the four wheel drive tracks were closed but this didn’t discourage us from finding some fantastic tracks which remained open to explore.
Having previously visited and scouted the area I knew I’d find a fun-filled and challenging four wheel drive trail along the Wombat East Track Number 6 crossing North West into Wombat State Park from Lerderderg. We accessed the track via Wombat East Number 4 track, just off Firth Road.
For the most part, the track was easy/medium, but in typical Victorian style, there were some very challenging areas which I would rate as medium/hard. The track had a few muddy inclines/declines and water run-offs which almost caught me out a couple of times. With trees either side creating potential hazards, choosing the best line and anticipating my Lux’s slide left and right was nerve-racking. The most difficult section was the crossing at Jackson’s Creek. The creek was a steady stream at a depth of around half a meter, however, what made this crossing difficult was the descent and ascent from the creek bed. The steepest side of the crossing was on the south side (just under 20% gradient).
Heavily rutted from the rains and four wheel drive use, it was also very slippery. Approaching the crossing from the opposite side (north of the creek) would have made it extremely hard. Luckily I had already aired down so engaging my ARB rear air lockers and shifting to low range offered the best traction possible to safely traverse through. A word to the wise; when negotiating this crossing, have a spotter to help you identify the deep ruts.
My companion Art offered to be mine, directing my approach into the creek as I held my breath and slowly completed the crossing. With a sigh of relief (and being pretty proud of myself) I couldn’t help but think how these were the moments that made four wheel driving so much fun. We continued north along the track without much more difficulty and came to the end of it at Gerry’s Track. We headed south along Finger Post Road, then Link Road, onto Firth Road and back into Lerderderg heading east until we came to O’Briens Road and followed it down into the beautiful O’Briens Crossing.
Stopping for lunch and a quick coffee while taking in the sights of the fast flowing creek, was a wonderful break from the morning’s activities and highly recommended. O’Brien’s Road itself was in good condition and as long as you kept to an easy pace the drive is a very pleasant one. Similarly, Bluegum Track running north to south was in very good condition, although it is a tight track with many blind corners and some areas steep and slippery due to loose gravel. I just love how the area can offer me challenging four wheel drive tracks and easy, leisurely and more scenic drives. It really caters for all off road skill levels.
The recent rains did make the firm tracks quite slippery. Even with my air lockers engaged, I occasionally found my rear wheels slipping away from me. Easing off the throttle and straightening the wheel to adjust my Lux’s direction seemed to help me gain control. I’ve come to recognise that four wheel driving is as much about feel and confidence as it is about having the right set up. Underestimate these tracks and you will quickly get yourself in trouble.
Slow and steady is the name of the game here. With plenty of seemingly innocuous mud pools and ruts we still chose to walk the track to estimate their depth and firmness before navigating them. Some mud holes were deep enough to come right over the bonnet of my Lux and very soft on the bottom. Again, remaining vigilant and taking the time to assess each obstacle made for a far better experience than simply diving in and hoping for the best.
There’s no doubt you need a well set up four wheel drive to tackle Lerderderg and Wombat State Parks and I’m happy my Lux has been fitted out with ARB 4×4 accessories. Although most tracks are closed, those that are open offer a great four wheel driving experience. My BF Goodrich all terrain K02’s worked well but having a set of mud terrain tyres will no doubt give you better traction in tricky spots. One way to describe these tracks is that they lull you into a false sense of security and then smack you hard with deep ruts and slippery inclines/declines where the room for error is minimal and you feel your heart in your mouth. I wouldn’t have it any other way as these are the joys of four wheel driving in the Victoria bush. Of course, it could just be my luck and the propensity of my companion Art to encourage me into tricky situations to get just the right photograph.
Lux Girl, or Jayne, is an IT/High-Tech professional, a mother of two and an off road adventurer. Her love for the outdoors stems back many years but it’s in the last two years that her passion for off roading has really taken off. That passion has led Jayne to take a factory standard Toyota HiLux, fit it out with 4×4 accessories and explore the Australian Outback as Lux Girl 4x4ing. Along the way she’s continuously challenged the boundaries of the off road adventurer stereotype and hopes to inspire others to do the same while promoting a responsible and eco-friendly way of life. You can follow Lux Girl 4x4ing on her Facebook page luxgirl4x4ing and her Instagram page lux_girl_4x4ing.