Two of Australia's most famous distance running sons, Ron Clarke and Rob (Deek) de Castella have immortalised this amazing set of running trails in beautiful temperate rainforest just an hour's drive from Melbourne.
Back in the '70s and '80s you could join packs of up to a hundred runners, all members of Melbourne's club running fraternity and doing their obligatory "long run" for the week. Each pack would have a favoured route through the forest; each would know when to apply the pressure to test the legs, hearts and lungs of even the hardiest of runners.
The meeting place is a car park at the far end of the picturesque little village of Ferny Creek, on towards Sassafrass and just off Main Road. In winter it can be quite daunting to emerge from the car, with the mountain often shrouded in low-lying cloud or misty rain. But that's all part of the adventure. Once you're in the forest and running, who cares about the mud and the rain and the cold! And in summer the forest is a cool, leafy respite from the hot plain below.
The trails (and there are dozens of them) criss-cross through the forest and it is easy to get lost. There are maps located in strategic entry points and the trails are all signed, so make sure you have a rough idea of where you want to go.
Once inside the forest and running, you enter another world. Everything becomes much quieter, even your footsteps are hard to hear as you are running on forest detritus for much of the way. The only sounds are those of your lungs sucking up the air and the occasional lyre bird calling out to a mate.
If you have arrived with the intention of doing your long run, it is easy to cover 25 kilometres minimum and not retrace your steps over the same trails. Some of the features of the run have been tagged with nicknames, such as "Clarke Hill", a famous 3.6 kilometre gradual incline where Ron Clarke used to put the pressure on his mates running with him.
Then there's "Areoplane Hill", a short, sharp almost vertical incline that leaves you gasping for air when you get to the top. But if you run down it instead of up, you could just about become airborne! I guess that's where the tag comes from.
Most of the running though, is along gently undulating trails that wind through the forest, sometimes following mountain creeks and waterfalls. The amazing thing is that you hardly feel you are running uphill at all, except for the occasional climb like "aeroplane".
So if you are visiting Melbourne some time in the future and you would like to experience a truly great trail run, you can't go past "Ferny". You might just run into one of those packs, especially on a Sunday morning. And afterwards you can indulge in a well-earned devonshire tea at one of the local friendly tea house establishments.