Up and down the east coast, 4X4 tracks have been getting smashed. Three years of rain has saturated the ground like nothing we’ve seen in recent years. It’s gotten so bad that even a few days of rain in these areas is enough to cause widespread flooding. Despite bog holes ‘so deep they could swallow a Unimog’ 4X4ers are still rushing to these water-logged tracks. The disastrous effects of a few fun hours in the bush will be felt for generations.
Across the Great Divide
Lithgow’s Moffitt’s trail has been one of the hardest hit. On Facebook, one group is a clear indicator of how bad the problem has become. 4WD 4X4 Rescue Recovery Australia Wide sees near-daily posts. Despite the tracks obviously rapidly decaying with deep ruts, undercut climbs, and endless bog holes there’s a seemingly never-ending stream of ill-prepared and under-equipped 4X4ers lining up to get stuck and then calling for help in online communities.
With most gazetted 4X4 tracks in Australia being classified as fire trails, as the track degrades beyond a certain point, authorities typically respond by gating the track to ensure it remains in usable condition for 13T fire trucks. Moffitt’s trail is the most recent closure. National Parks stating “The trail has several large bog holes that are impassable to all vehicles.” It’s understood the trail will remain closed until track conditions allow repair work to be carried out. With the Newnes campground currently closed due to a landslide. And another wet summer ahead, the track will no doubt likely remain closed for months.
Further down the coast, residents and locals nearby the popular Yalwal region are facing similar issues. Despite repeated calls for 4X4s to avoid the already damaged tracks, it’s just not sinking in. Home to the popular Monkey Gum and Mintbush trails. The area has been suffering the last 10 years due to the booming popularity of 4X4ing in general. Locals complain of a constant reduction in accessible areas, while the areas that are still open are strewn with discarded alcohol cans and fast food rubbish. The recent rains only leading to exacerbate the problem.
It’s gotten to the point where the local authorities have taken the unusual step of reaching out to the local 4X4 community. The community is hopeful that outreach programs to discourage people from damaging tracks and dumping rubbish can potentially stave off the common gating approach. On more than one occasion I’ll prepared and under-equipped 4X4ers have been stranded overnight waiting for an informal rescue.
What’s the solution?
Unfortunately, with little appetite shown from the government, our best bet is currently self-policing. Discouraging fellow 4X4ers from travelling through sensitive areas can help slow track degradation and stop them from being in the crosshairs for track closures. Further to that, it’s important for 4X4ers to not get themselves into situations they can’t get out of. Satellite phones are an obvious tool to have, but many rescue situations are easily sorted by the 4X4 having a winch and recovery gear on board.