Chopper goes camping

Meet Chopper.

Chopper Noojee 1

Chopper is about 12 or 13 years old. We don’t know, because we adopted him as a senior dog, and we don’t know much about his history. We have had him a few years, and when we first got him, he used to love to come on long walks with us. He had boundless energy to keep up with whatever adventure we were on and we loved taking him away with us on camping trips and long walks.

In January 2017, Chopper broke his back, somewhere in the middle of his spine, where we later learned he had had previous injuries. The months that followed were pretty touch and go, and we didn’t know if he would ever walk again, let alone come on adventures with us.

Fast forward to February 2018, and he’s made (almost) a full recovery. We just took him away for the weekend for the second time this year, and he did really well on both trips, so we are really excited to plan some more family adventures!

Although breaking his back sounds very serious, of course it is, his vet has assured us that he is perfectly fine to come away with us, and we can continue to walk him for increasing distances, so we have spent the past year building him up to being able to walk continously for one hour or so (on gentle flat paths, ideally tracks, not concrete or bitumen). His first trip this year was to a family holiday house, so he wasn’t totally out in the wilderness in case we needed better amenities, and we were still able to have our precious family member sleep indoors, which he has grown accusomed to since his injury.

The trip in January went well, and in early Feb the stars aligned! Both Rowan and I had the weekend off work. At 3pm on the Friday afternoon, we decided we would head out for the weekend.

Rowan packed our gear into the car, while I ran down to the shops to grab a few easy to prepare, last minute meals and other supplies from the supermarket. As it was a last minute decision, we packed pretty light; opting for a king sized swag for us, a 2 man tent to keep our esky out of the sun and our other things out of sight, two camp chairs, one trestle table and  a single burner butane stove. Chopper’s items were pretty simple; his bed, his food & water bowls, his food, a collapsable water bowl that we take on our day trips, and his all-important medication.

Just as the sun set , we drove through Neerim South and about half an hour later we arrived at The Poplars Camp Ground, located in the Loch Valley just outside of the small town of Noojee.

Knowing we would get in late, we were very happy with our choice of gear. It took no more than twenty minutes to set up and start cooking a late dinner.

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On Saturday, we took Chops to The Noojee Trestle Birdge. We opted for the short walk – up and over the bridge, and straight back down the other side, as we didnt want to push him too far. The sign warns of an extremely steep climb, and estimates 20 minutes up, but you can see from the car park before you start just what you are going to get yourself into.

Chops handled it fine! He barreled up the steps, only slowing as we got to the top, and getting his energy back immediately. We were the only ones on the bridge, so we let Chops off the lead to have a little trot along the bridge on his own. Considering this bridge, and the Noojee Forrest is so beautiful, its surprising (but refreshing and amazing!) that it isn’t any busier and overrun with crowds, especially being so close to Melbourne (1hr 40 mins).

The way back down was a little more difficult to navigate (we thought) but Chopper handled it fine, barreling down the same way he ran up.

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After that, we headed into Noojee and checked out the old railway museum (free entry) but only stayed ten minutes or so, because we had to leave Chops tied up out the front. Not very fair treatment for a family trip away we thought!

On our way back to Poplars, we did a few 4wd tracks, but didnt stay too long… we reckon 4wd’ing is more fun in a group with multiple vehicles.

Once back at Poplars, Chops was knackered, and ready for bed!

When we camp, we use a simple hessian foam mat, which stays in the canopy of the Navara. If its hot, we leave the windows and hatch open (and make sure the car is in the shade), and if its cool we shut the hatch, but keep a few windows open for ventilation.

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On Sunday we packed up our gear, and headed back into Noojee. We decided Chopper would be fine to attempt the Noojee Bridge Rail Trail (4-5km return, depending on your exact turnaround point). We did, and he LOVED it! We did a full 5km walk, and Chops didn’t struggle at all. It was the perfect distance to keep him quiet for the two hour drive home, before he was ready to go again.

Overall – I recommend Poplars Campground and the general Noojee area to anyone wanting a quick weekend away, or even a day trip, as its less than two hours from Melbourne. Its a pet friendly town, and campsite, so with or without mans best friend, there is plenty to do.

We’ll be going back, to check out the water wheel walk, and a few other walks we saw while we were there, and to go back to the Noojee Toolshed Bar, which we’ve been to before but didnt visit on this trip.

Can’t wait to plan the next family weekender!!

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Werribee Gorge State Park

Werribee Gorge State Park has a variety of different walk available, from short 3km loops to longer 10km ones, that you can combine and make a whole day out of.

Rowan and I had never been before, and the information available online before we got there varied greatly to what was signposted once we arrived, so we opted for the Circuit Walk – a 10km medium/hard grade walk that is suggested to take 4.5 hours.

We parked our car at the Quarry Picnic Area, and started the circuit to complete it  in the clockwise direction. The loop starts with the Circuit Walk and the Short Circuit Walk taking the same route.

Within 500 meters we were walking up some steep rocky tracks. Thad morning when getting ready to set out, I couldn’t decide whether to wear hiking boots or runners and opted for the runners. They were fine, but hiking boots would have been more comfortable on the uneven & steep rocky paths.

After walking through the Meikles Point picnic area & car park, we joined up with the “River Walk” – and easy flat 3km return trip. If you are wanting a nice picnic & a short stroll afterwards, or have young kids, this would be a great intro walk.

We stop along the river a few times to try and spot fish. The clear water is flowing slowly, and looks the perfect location to spot a platypus. They are as elusive as they are a joy to find though so we don’t look for long.

The walk continues its decent in and along the bottom of the Gorge. At this point in the track, we are never far from the sound of water running down and through the rocks. Its the middle of the day and the sun is high and hot. The vegetation is low, and provides no shade.

As the River Walk finished up, we got to a really interesting part of the track. Scrambling and rock hopping we made our way along the river, when we discover a cable bolted into the rock, that you need to hold onto as you walk along a tight ledge, above the river. It was so fun! About halfway through that part, there was a little cave we were able to sit in and have some lunch, and escape from the sun for a few minutes.

The next point of interest that we got to after the scrambling was Needles Beach – a nice open area with a short sandy beach and more reeds growing in the river. This would be a great spot for lunch too if you don’t stop in the cave like we did.

I’ve read on other websites people recommending you carry bathers so you can take a dip here. The water was very clear so I am sure it would be lovely, but its really not deep enough for a swim from what we saw (late January 2018).

Because it was the middle of the day, there was zero shade anywhere, so I am still glad we stopped for a while in the little cave.

After Blackwood Pool, the ascent up the Gorge starts, and the next few kilometers are up, and up, and up. There are great views from the Western and Eastern viewpoints. I particularly liked looking back down on the river below, and seeing where we had been just half an hour earlier. I am really glad we decided to do this circuit clockwise rather than anticlockwise purely for this reason.

The final stage of the loop was to continue along the path, which joins back up with the “Short Circuit Walk” with a little downhill just at the end – who doesn’t love ending with a little race to the car!

The total 10km loop took us 2 hours and 50 minutes – well below the 4.5 hours recommended time. We were by no means walking at a fast pace, and stopped a number of times for photos, and at one point, spend about 10 minutes picking up cigarette butts and other rubbish at one of the lookouts.

If you are going to do this walk, wear good sturdy footwear – either hiking shoes or good runners with lost of grip. Carry at least a litre of water – more if you plan to walk for more than 3 hours, and be prepared for all weather. The rocks would be very slippery when wet, and the river is prone to flooding and is impassable after heavy rain.

If you are planning a trip to Werribee Gorge, you can download the Parks Victoria park notes here.

Next time we go back, we are going to complete the Ironbark Gorge Track and Centenary Creek Track, in addition to doing this loop again.

If you are thinking about going to Werribee Gorge and have any questions, let me know! If you know the area well, and have any suggestions on where I should go next time, please add a comment below.