When one day's walk isn't enough.
There are difficult periods on every long-distance trail. Weather, terrain, supplies, health and, of course, all-important sleep all fluctuate. A hiker’s momentum and enthusiasm can be so easily zapped on such a prolonged journey. The fortitude to continually plonk one foot in front of the other through all of the challenges should not be underestimated. Thankfully, all boxes were ticked on Day 31 and, after a particularly gloomy start to Caroona Creek Conservation Park, I could finally make hay while the sun shone.
Heysen Trail Diary – Day 31
Much to my amazement, I awoke feeling sprightly. Maybe it was the effects of the stunning sunset that concluded Day 30? Perhaps it was the shock of opening my eyes to see an inquisitive huntsman perched on my tent’s mesh frame? Either way, I was ready to tackle the trail. In fact, I felt inspired enough to tackle two days.
46.32 kilometres lay between Caroona Creek Campsite and the community of Burra. I had planned to walk this stretch over three days, however, with a head of steam and a stomach focussed on my next chicken schnitzel, I could slice through my itinerary and arrive in civilisation 24 hours early. I’d then spend an extra day resting my feet and fattening my guts in the local bakery—incentive enough for any withering hiker.
The flip-flopping weather had again flipped (as opposed to flopped) and bright beams of morning light lit the path through the mallee trees. The landscape appeared livelier than Day 30—not altogether unsurprising as I didn’t have to shield my eyes from the muck flying through the air. I could enjoy the full spectrum of arid tones on display.
Other than a handful of weathered fences, dusty tracks and crumbled ruins, there were no signs of humanity. I was on the edge of nowhere. To think that some intrepid pioneers attempted to build a life out here, despite the inevitable hardships, is a testament to their foolhardy determination.
Farmers and pastoralists experienced good times and bad. Drought, heavy rains, plagues of mice and rabbits, and even a rare snowfall, challenged early settlers.
National Parks signage
Aside from one motorcycling farmer, I hadn’t seen another soul since social-butterflying my way through Day 28, almost three full days ago. But, isolation didn’t trouble me anymore. I had adapted to life in my own head. If I was going to spot anybody, however, it would be aloft the lookout I scaled at mid-morning break. From this vantage point, I could see much of the 4630-hectare Caroona Creek Conservation Park.
By the time I arrived at Black Jack’s Shelter (the original campsite for Day 31) for lunch, sprouts of grass had begun bleeding through the scrub-lined path. I had spent a little over 24 hours across the arid side of Goyder’s Line, but I was already drifting back into the grazing district.
The trees quickly thinned out, fences became a fixture, mobs of sheep reappeared in the resulting paddocks and the terrain began to ripple. Before long, I was transversing undulating green mountaintops. Within an hour the scenery had transformed completely.
The day’s extended kilometres and dynamic landscapes had taken their toll. My bones ached and my eyelids battled to stay open as I approached Wandallah Creek Shelter. The campsite was quite literally a sight for sore eyes. By the time I assembled my tent and prepared my dinner, the sun had gone to bed, and I wasn’t far behind. This may have been the most exhausted I’d felt on the trail, but, it was worth it. Now, Day 32 presented a short 14.79-kilometre stretch to civilisation.
All the details.
Trail distance covered
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.
Lofty inclines feature both inside and outside of the Caroona Creek Conservation Park. Ensure you give this route plenty of time and plenty of stretches.