How the heck am I already three-quarters through the trail?

Life can often feel like you’re treading water; like you’re not making any noticeable gains toward your goals. However, creating regular milestones and constant reminders of your progress help reaffirm your actions. On Day 45, I was shocked to discover that only a quarter of my Heysen Trail adventure remained. I simply didn’t see it coming. This startling revelation steeled my resolve and boosted my energy. I could finally celebrate a prominent landmark after weeks of weary walking.

Daily Diary – Day 45

Some time before arriving in the Barossa Valley, I had received a message from a good mate from Tanunda, nicknamed Grocke. He was eager to join me on my journey toward the pine-filled Mount Crawford Forest and had promised to supply a delicious lunch from the Williamstown Bakery – an offer I could hardly refuse.

The Mount Crawford Forest Reserve covers over 12,000 hectares and is modelled as a community forest. The area is managed for sustainable commercial forestry, while providing conservation for native fauna and flora and recreational use.
forestrysa.com.au

I departed Rossiters Hut, my cosy accommodation from Day 44, and soon found this generous soul waiting for me patiently by the side of the road. Before long, I had finished his promised ham and salad roll and we began trekking through picturesque Pewsey Vale.

Mt Crawford Forest Pines Heysen Trail

For the first time in forever, I had the chance for an in-depth one-on-one conversation – despite, my brain struggling to keep pace with our feet. The flittering chats I’d experienced on Day 42’s community walk were an abrupt insight into how foreign human interactions felt after a month and a half in my own head. It would undoubtedly take a while to get back into the groove. Thankfully, Grocke is never short of a word and managed to keep the conversation afloat.

The path led us through flowering laneways, grazing farmland, nature reserves, pine plantations and past a plethora of vineyard-packed paddocks. But, our highlight (in every sense of the word) was the far-reaching views from on top of the steepling Wirra Wirra Peaks.

Mt Crawford Forest Wirra Wirra Peaks Heysen Trail

Views for days. And days. Aaaaand days.

After covering countless discussion topics over several hours of walking, we arrived at Centennial Drive, my planned campsite for the night. We said our goodbyes and Grocke, ever the Energiser Bunny, jogged off to relocate his car. I, much less enthusiastically, waddled across the road and into the scenic campground.

Despite its considerable size, an expansive sea of tents covered much of the grassy clearing – a disconcerting sight for an exasperated hiker in need of uninterrupted sleep. As I walked closer to the sprawled mass of canvas, the unrestrained clamour of rowdy teens, embracing the excitement of class camp, electrified the otherwise peaceful environment. A nearby school had utilised the entirety of the campsite’s facilities and I felt grossly outnumbered.

After having just completed 21 kilometres (only the second time I’d passed this distance since Day 35), I would need a solid night’s rest. I almost certainly wouldn’t get it here. Fortunately, Rocky Paddock Campground was a short walk along the trail. The decision was easy, I needed to keep moving.

I had two options: take the longer ‘official’ route or divert along the abridged ‘alternate’ path past the Mount Crawford Forest Information Centre. Considering all of the unrecorded backtracking kilometres I’d wasted so far, I felt guiltless taking an approved shortcut at this twilight hour.

Mt Crawford Forest Gums Heysen Trail

A eucalyptus plantation was a pleasant change from the day’s pines.

By the time I ducked into the Information Centre, messed up the camping payment slip and entered the campground, the sun had all but given up on the day. Holidaying families peppered the bumpy parkland in campervans, caravans and other convoluted shelters. The sound of boisterous children still permeated the air, but, thankfully, with nowhere near the volume of Centennial Drive. I found a quiet spot amongst the scattered boulders and constructed my humble tent in the dark.

Unsurprisingly, after an extended day, my motivation had bottomed out and my rehydrated dahl dinner did little to improve my enthusiasm. I gobbled my mush, brushed my teeth and fell asleep, all within minutes. Long gone were the days of dutifully editing video diaries before bed. I was out cold. Everything else could wait until Day 46.

All the details.

Trail distance covered

26.38km

Accommodation

Rocky Paddock Campground

Price

Available here.

Climate

Cool damp winters with light to heavy showers and some days of rain. The ranges are wet and cool during winter but are warmer during autumn and spring. Summers are warm to hot and relatively dry.

Terrain

Mostly flat manageable tracks, but the track leading up Wirra Wirra Peaks is a doozy.