The first Europeans settled Melbourne in 1835 and they could easily see Kinglake away to the north. However it was so difficult to reach, the bush so impenetrable, it was 20 years before explorers ventured into the forest.
The first were gold prospectors, living in shacks around the mountain creeks. Afterwards came the lumberjacks tearing into the forests in search of the giant Mountain Ashes.
But the Kinglake bush can’t be kept at bay. The goldmines and diggings, sawmills and tramways have all been swallowed back up into the forest and only the old-timers remember where they’re found.
Kinglake is a place where secrets, stay secret. Some who go into the woods don’t come back out.
Many of the old locals swear they’ve seen the footprints and kills of the black panther that hunts in the area.
The deep forests and hidden creeks can shelter strange creatures first sighted and named by the indigenous Australians, long before the gold-miners arrived.
A few days ago I saw one of these strange creatures ... I should think that if it were standing perfectly upright it would be nearly 5 feet high. It was tailless and covered with very long hair. Its eyes, which were small and restless, were partly hidden by matted hair that covered its head. M'Cooey, H.J. (9 December 1882)
Tinder-dry summers in the Kinglake forests are always dangerous, often deadly.
Winters can be hard and the mountain damp often means days go by without the mist lifting.
Yet the beauty of the mountain means most stand fast, committed to the community in-spite of it all. After 150 years many of the first families’ descendants still live in the roads named after them.
Kinglakers are used to working hard. Picking fruit and flowers in driving rain and searing heat or cutting logs to keep warm in the winter. When you need something you build it or make-do. It's a long way down the hill and the pioneering spirit is still strong.