From hobbling to hooning, the body adapts quickly.
My legs were pulsating when I arrived at Wilmington’s Beautiful Valley Caravan Park after a depleting Day 14. Mum and Dad had scooped me off the road in the nick of time. Plus, they brought with them delicious deep-fried seafood from the nearby takeaway shop—thus securing their positions as ‘Trail Angels’. Other than stuffing myself silly, I spent the evening painstakingly stretching every aching muscle in my overworked body in an effort to flop back onto the trail on Day 15.
Heysen Trail Diary – Day 15
Whoever said stretching is a waste of time, hasn’t walked 306 kilometres shouldering their livelihoods. I woke up feeling as fresh as a daisy—perhaps a trampled daisy, but a daisy none the less. My legs were weary, but working and my back felt tight, but flexible; though most importantly, my head was in the right place.
Other than a few wandering bodies near Wilpena Pound and Hawker, I hadn’t spied another soul while on the trail. Most days were consumed alone in thought. Spending valuable one-on-one time with my parents, plus a planned rendezvous with my mates Jodie and Lewis in the enchanting Mount Remarkable National Park, helped me maintain a connection with the outside world.
After several gruelling days transversing Flinders Ranges’ erratic altitudes, the walk to Gray’s Hut presented a comparative (and literal) ‘walk in the park’. However, I first had to catch up on the previous day’s unaccounted kilometres. Because of the trail’s curve, plus its position next to Wilmington, I could walk to a point further along the route, stash my bag and backtrack along the undiscovered path.
The first settlers were so impressed with the attractiveness and richness of the location that they named the region ‘Beautiful Valley’.
Walking without an additional 20+ kilograms was liberating; I felt like my feet hovered above the earth. Unburdened by the excess weight, I broke into a jog, then a run, then a sprint—what on earth? 12 hours earlier I could barely walk, now I was haring down a deserted country road at full speed. A reminder of how quickly the human body recovers when it is correctly prepared.
The 5 backtracked kilometres flew as quickly as I did. But, as soon as I arrived back at my bag and hoisted it over my shoulders, my body again crumpled under the weight. The rigours of long-distance hiking came flooding back. I didn’t have time to wallow in self-pity, however, the astonishing Mount Remarkable National Park was only a short jaunt away.
After just one day of ‘manicured’ green paddocks, I was again presented with dense native bushland; the difference was immediately obvious. While I’d enjoyed 24 hours of change, I missed the unkempt chaos of the wild. The landscape’s vibrant array of rustic colours felt almost nostalgic, even under the flattening midday sun.
I spent the rest of the day enjoying the familiar rugged surroundings, intertwined with the stretches of open grassy fields. Unlike the entire previous week, Day 15’s terrain seemed undemanding—my mind relaxed. As a result, I dawdled for large sections, resulting in the final few kilometres being navigated in the dark.
Due to the mild conditions, I hadn’t added any extra layers until I arrived at Gray’s Hut. I soon discovered I had a problem, a big problem. My rain jacket, and only recognisable windbreaker, was missing—not ideal in the cool night air. My search would have to commence on Day 16; I was too tired to think, let alone scour my pitch-black surroundings for an even darker coat.
All the details.
Trail distance covered
Free + National Parks Pass.
The region has hot dry summers with cool to cold nights and cool, wet winters. Autumn and spring can be warm and mild with occasional periods of rain or showers.
A few hairy ups and downs along a straightforward succession of tracks.