By EMMA MITCHELL
Bushwalking through the beautiful eucalyptus forest surrounding Ewen Maddock Dam can be hectic: you’re either dodging the crowds or dodging the mountain bikers. But there is a little-known walking trail hidden off Steve Irwin Way that will ground you in the simple beauty of the Australian bush.
To reach the concealed entrance lane, head 3.5km northeast from the Ewen Maddock Dam Ornamental Wetlands entry on Steve Irwin Way. Then make a left turn immediately past the oncoming U-turn facility, and then another left turn onto a sandy vehicle track. A small parking area is located about 200m into the forest.
If bushwalking is your mindfulness practice or you’re a keen birdwatcher, this walk is sure to become a favourite. The road noises fade as you walk deeper into the forest and are replaced by overlapping melodies of bird calls from every direction. The track is a fire break and you will need good walking shoes to navigate the uneven trail. The mountain bike trail criss-crosses the track during the beginning sections so keep an ear and eye out for mountain bike riders.
When the track curves upward to the right, you’ll be able to give your attention to the lush open forest surrounding you. Ghostly silver gum trees, and the burnt black and vibrant green grass trees are highlighted by delicate wildflowers in blues, purples and yellows. Their subtle scents are accentuated by the background smell of eucalyptus.
To reach the lakefront, take the right-hand path at each intersection until the forest opens up before a small sandy beach – a perfect area to cool off and enjoy a picnic. To avoid colliding with mountain bikers, following the same trail back is the safest route to your car. You will be amazed at how different the bush looks when you walk in the opposite direction – it’s like travelling through a mirror and seeing the other side of everything.
The 5km round-trip will take you about an hour to complete, depending on your fitness level. It’s a good idea to slip, slop, slap and to carry water with you, especially on a sunny day, because there is little shade. Dogs are allowed on leads everywhere in the state forest so be sure to bring Fido along with you.