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Sunset Remote Walk - Murray Sunset NP - The VIC Outback!

Wed 14 Jul, 2021 9:04 pm

Sunset Remote Walk - Murray Sunset NP
Sunday 11th July to Tuesday 13th July

This hike takes place on the country of the Millewa-Mallee, The Latji Latji and Ngintait People.

All pictures are reduced for the forum - full gallery with full-sized photos here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/vN8L9a9zK1dypL1u8

Relive Video: https://www.relive.cc/view/vevWpMEJzGO

Hike Info:
Grade 4
3 Days, 2 Nights
60km, 630m elevation
Contact Ranger in Underbool before departure to confirm water tanks full.
The hike should only be attempted in autumn, winter or early spring - dangerous in summer.

General Track Notes:
The track is really well marked and very clearly defined. It looks like it is patrolled regularly with a quad bike, which gives you an idea of how wide it is throughout. Some sections seem to be cut up by dirt bike tracks, but this was rare.
Most hills were sandy, so it was pretty hard work—the track changes between loose sand, hard-packed sand, and dry earth.
You'll get very familiar with the quad bike tracks, as well as the dinosaur-sized roo prints you'll see along the trail.
All three water tanks were right on the track, so impossible to miss, and all were well maintained. Tanks are kept full by the Rangers, so make sure they know you're coming!
Overall an exceptionally well-maintained walk.

My Gear:
Osprey Pack - Aether Pro 70
Lanshan 2 Pro Tent
Exped UL Down LW Sleeping Mat
Blackwolf Hiker 500 Sleeping Bag
Trangia 27-2
Ketadyn BeFree Water Filter modified for Gravity Filtrations (hope to post on the mod in the Gear forum soon!)
Phone and Suunto Baro9 watch for navigation and tracking, with the Spatial Vision Victorian Deserts map & compass as backup.

Getting There & Back
Coming from Melbourne, it's a 5.5hr drive to the trailhead. To do this comfortably, you'll want to stay somewhere the night before your hike. You can camp at the trailhead (Lake Becking), and there is a larger campground at Lake Crosbie. Lake Becking has a water tank, drop toilet and some fire pits. Lake Crosbie has drop toilets but no water.
You can also camp at well-serviced roadside rest areas in Underbool and Walpeup. The nearest town with accommodation is Ouyen, about an hour from the trailhead.
We stayed at Sea Lake, as one of our party was visiting there to do photography while we hiked. It is a bit far from the trailhead, but the services there are excellent, and the food at the pub is worth a stop on its own! Even if you don't stop in Sea Lake, have a rest stop at Lake Tyrrell, about 10km past Sea Lake. It's a stunning spot with excellent facilities.
If you're going to get to the trailhead with a couple of hours of light left, you can hike to the first water tank and camp there, making it a 3-night hike.
On the way back, if you started on day three early, it's feasible to walk out and drive home on the same day.

Our Hike - Weather
We were fortunate. The first morning was bitterly cold, but we had hot sunny days (my watch recorded a max temp of 29C), and nights went down to low single digits. We met two hikers coming out as we hiked in, they had freezing temperatures both nights, and the day after we finished, it rained cats and dogs (which would have been stunning).

Day 1 - Lake Becking to Mt Crozier
18.9km, 4h50min, 300m ascent
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Lake Becking trailhead is just past the main Lake Crosbie. It has a water tank and a drop toilet at the camping/parking area. Walk up a ridge, and you'll see Lake Becking - a stunning salt lake - the hike starts here. The trail heads clockwise around the lake for a few hundred metres, and the path continues west for another few hundred metres to an old fence line. You won't see another lake until you finish the hike!
The old fence line will be your guide for the first half of the day, you'll follow the fence for at least 8km, and after that, you'll continue almost dead north to Mt Crozier. After about 4km, you'll come across the first of three water tanks at Salt Bush Flat. It's a nice spot to rest for a moment, but we still had plenty of water, so we didn't linger long. The Salt Bush Flat to the left of the tank is a nice preview of the bush to come on days 2 and 3.
You'll keep following the old fence posts for another 4 kilometres in reasonably dense, sandy bush with 3-4m high gums and scrub.
We caught a fleeting glance of a Malleefowl on this section, on the track ahead of us. It was on the trail, then gone in an instant and wholly camouflaged in the bush.
We also came across two hikers on their way out after completing the hike, the only other hikers we'd see, and we were the only other hikers they'd seen too.
Towards the end of the fence line, you'll come to a T intersection where the walk continues ahead or branches off to the East. We continued ahead to Mt Crozier and would return to this spot two days later, coming from the East.
After the fence line, the track winds around a bit through some open plains before settling back into an undulating sandy track in varying degrees of bushland heading north to Mt Crozier. This section puts the legs to work; with sandy dune-like paths uphill, you'll undoubtedly be working hard!
We found a pleasant hill to enjoy our lunch, with our first introduction on how to stay upright in our Helinox Chairs on the soft, sandy soils!
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After lunch, the rhythm of the undulating track hides the general incline, and before long, you've summited Mt Crozier almost without realising it!
As you make your way around the ridge, you'll be well rewarded for what has been a pretty big first day on the trail. At 177m, Mt Crozier would barely rate as a hill anywhere else, but in the Murray Sunset NP, it's big enough to see for days, and the view is stunning!
While taking in the view, we were surprised by a couple who had come up by 4wd. They told us about the camp below and enquired about our walk. These were the last people we'd see on the whole hike.
From the top of Mt Crozier, you'll head down some steep steps and come to a fork in the track. Left will take you to the second water tank and the hikers camp, right will take you to the 4wd accessible campsite, which has an excellent drop toilet, some fire pits, and some picnic tables (but no water). The two camps are only a few hundred metres apart, and you could camp at either.
We ended up camping at the hikers camp, with the water close by and walking to use the drop toilet. Both camps were empty, so we had our run of the place! The hikers camp had a couple of nice makeshift campfire spots, so we set up, had a nap, then lit the fire and settled in for a lovely night.
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Day 2 - Mt Crozier to Mt Jess Track (we continued on 3km past the track)
21.85km, 5h30min, 177m ascent
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Starting the morning in the shadow of Mt Crozier, you'll head out of camp and head East on the track through the quite varied bush with the odd pine tree making an appearance through the Mallee scrub. Before long, you'll reach far more exposed savannah-like bush, which will dominate the days hike.
The sparse bushland is genuinely stunning and had us amazed for the rest of the day. But even in the middle of winter, we felt the hot, dry sun.
Somewhat counterintuitively, the more sparse and dry the bush, the more birdlife we came across with parrots, galahs, and many smaller birds flying around us as we walked.
As the path continues west through saltbush flats and dried water holes, after about 10km, you'll eventually come to the Mopoke Hut Track. We stopped near here on a nice log for lunch, taking in the surrounding silence. We saw and heard no other signs of humans that day, none at all.
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After Mopoke Hut Track, the path begins to bend southwards as you head around the bend in the "P" that makes up the shape of the walk. Another few kilometres through the bush, you'll come across an abandoned camp with what looks like 40-50-year-old cans and oil drums scattered around. It's quite an eerie sight.
You'll come to Honeymoon Hut Track, a 4wd track that heads to the Honeymoon Hut. The original homestead for the Sunset Pastoral Co now provides hostel-style accommodation through Parks Vic. Something I'll be keen to check out one day.
After Honeymoon Hut Track, you'll keep going through the sparse Mallee desert. It's incredible how these landscapes continue to change, and about now, you should be getting into the rhythm of noticing the subtle changes in the landscape and getting to know all the different types of sand, bush, trees, and birds.
After another few kilometres, about 19 in total since you started today, you'll reach the water tank and official camp for night 2. As with the other water tanks, this tank is in excellent condition and well maintained. There is a small camp area just beyond the tank with a campfire spot. Mt Jess Track is a few hundred metres further on.
As with day one, it was only mid-afternoon when we arrived at the tank/camp, so we decided to resupply water and keep on for a few kilometres to make day three a bit shorter. So with all our bottles and bladders full, we continued, finding a place to rough camp along the track in some low lying bush.
Rain was threatening on night two, so after dinner and a nightcap, we retired early, but the rain never came, and the cloud cover kept us pretty warm all night, although strangely, it seemed to me that by morning it was warmer outside than in my tent!
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Day 3 - Mt Jess Track to Lake Becking
20km, 5h, 156m ascent
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Starting day three, you'll be heading west along the bottom of the "P" curve to the intersection with the fence line.
We were meeting our ride at 4 pm at Lake Becking. Then on to a booking at the Royal Hotel in Sea Lake for Parma night. We had plenty of time to get there, but the promise of a Parma put an extra hop in our step, and we were making great time.
The track west is another completely remarkable display of different kinds of bush, starting with undulating dunes, quite exposed, but each hill gives a great view around.
After some more exposed plains, we moved into a forest that looked like it had recently burnt, but only partially. Something burned the dead trees at the base, but all the leaves were intact, with new sprouts coming out the bottom. Again, somewhat counterintuitively, the birdlife here was very active!
The bush continues to change like this, with little sections of mixed plants and burnt areas as the track comes to Mt Crozier Track. This 4wd track heads up to the Mt Crozier campground from night one.
After the track, you'll be in a fascinating, varied section of bushland for a short time before you move into an extensive area of native pine forest. This transition is probably the starkest change to the landscape you'll find and is unlike anything you've seen thus far. A keen eye on the top of Mt Crozier would have spotted this stand of pines, an entirely different shade of green to the surrounding eucalypts. The floor was also completely different in the forest, much less scrub, much more open space and shade.
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We found a pleasant spot for lunch, lingering to enjoy a hot chocolate after lunch, to finish off our rations and because we were making a great time.
After a short while, you'll reach the fence line and the crossroads where the track heads south, back to Lake Becking.
As you head south, towards the water tank from day one, it feels like the tank is just over each rise, then the next, but it comes into view after a few kilometres.
We paused here for a short break and to top up our water ( as I'd forgotten there was a water tank at Lake Becking ). We hatched a plan to take a different route back to Lake Becking for something different.
The standard track continues south and turns west to join Lake Becking at the lake's southwest corner, finishing the walk as it started.
At the water tank, we instead went East to join a 4wd track that skirts the edge of the Salt Bush Flat. Then we headed south to meet the top point of Lake Becking. This diversion required a short distance of off-track walking, which was reasonably easy in the sparse bush.
Meeting Lake Becking at the top corner provided a whole other perspective on the lake. The thick salt made an exciting walking surface, although I found out the hard way when you hit a thin section, the mud underneath is like black tar, and did my boots no favours!
Skirting the edge of the lake, we were back at the trailhead by 3 pm, feeling satisfaction from our accomplishment and processing the incredible adventure we'd just had.
Now it was time for a shower and a Parma!
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Last edited by BakerSailor on Thu 15 Jul, 2021 7:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Re: Sunset Remote Walk - Murray Sunset NP - The VIC Outback!

Wed 14 Jul, 2021 10:12 pm

Great report, thanks BS.
As an aside - I believe the pub at Sea Lake was bought by the community. It has been very nicely restored.

Re: Sunset Remote Walk - Murray Sunset NP - The VIC Outback!

Thu 15 Jul, 2021 9:17 am

Thanks for the detailed report.

I've been in the general area a couple of times with "the big green machine" (in summer :( ) and a couple of times privately, but never overnight walking.

An interesting and different part of the state.

Re: Sunset Remote Walk - Murray Sunset NP - The VIC Outback!

Thu 15 Jul, 2021 10:06 am

Nice report BakerSailor.
Looks great.
29c in winter, I'd be cooked. :)
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