The rigours of the journey are starting to show.
After trekking 853 kilometres over seven and a half weeks, it was no surprise that my body had started to deteriorate. While I’d had a glimpse of my fatigue following an unsuspecting nap on Day 46, I realised the full extent of my exhaustion after another ‘quick lie down’ threatened to derail Day 47.
Heysen Trail Diary – Day 47
I awoke to the calming, yet simultaneously concerning, patter of misty droplets on the Scotts Shelter roof. In everyday life, I find the sound of sprinkled rain particularly calming, however, when 21 mountainous kilometres sit between me and my next bed, my nerves begin to fray.
By now, I was used to battling the elements, but, after several debilitating days, my energy levels had dipped sharply. I needed a few easy wins to get me through; a sodden walk would not help. I disparagingly boiled my breakfast and reorganised my rucksack.
I had just finished chewing through my porridge when the light overhead tinkle began to strengthen. Gentle drops became solid thuds, then vicious thumps. Before long, a thunderous deluge rattled the tin hut and any will I had to walk evaporated. I laid back on my sleeping mat, closed my eyes and waited for the weather to ease.
I re-opened my eyes to silence. No wind, no rain, no signs of the merciless storm that had blasted the region. I wiped the hardened spittle from my cracked lips and blindly rummaged for my phone. 10:30! I’d slept for two hours! My body clearly needed the rest, but, as a result of the unplanned siesta, the day’s demanding trek would now be compressed into few daylight hours. I swilled my remaining cold tea, crammed the last of my gear into my bag and lumberingly emerged from the shelter.
The morning’s hike out of Mount Crawford Forest took in several fledgling ForestrySA plantations. Stunted rows of saplings lined the path as I scrambled up the hilly slopes. My brain had grown so used to the untamed wild that the sight of a well-groomed woodland growing in unison seemed unnatural. All of a sudden, ‘forestry’ seemed cruel, no matter how sustainable the practice. Like a reformed carnivore switching to vegetarianism, I realised, at that moment, I sided with an unfiltered environment. Although, I’m certain that stance would revert once I spied my next polished piece of wood-panelled furniture.
The plantation process is challenged by the long-term nature of forestry, the changing demands of society, environmental responsibilities and the unpredictable nature of pests, diseases and fire.
South Mount Lofty Ranges’ endless inclines were ruthless on tired bones. But, as always, where there are steepling grades, there are scintillating views; this was most definitely the case on the hike past Mount Gould. The climb included gloriously green grazing lands, dense native scrub, tall swaying pines and an impressive lunchtime lookout over the aptly-named community of Forreston.
Somehow, the landscapes improved in the late afternoon. The undulating route soared over rippling hills, dipped alongside babbling brooks and swerved past budding orchards; each scene unified by the softening light of the setting sun.
The day’s demanding journey finally ended in the fading twilight at Grandpa’s Camp where I encountered an unfamiliar sight. For the first time on the trail, I had the opportunity to share a non-community campsite with others. For the first time in 47 long days, I wasn’t alone in the wilderness.
My fellow campers and I shared dinner, regaled stories, compared cameras and even talked about mental health and available support. I crawled into my sleeping bag entirely content—until the koalas started their disturbingly noisy mating practise. A relentless chorus of grunts and growls echoed from high in the surrounding gums. Thankfully, I fell asleep quickly—Day 48 would produce some of the most exhausting hills of the Heysen Trail.
All the details.
Trail distance covered
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.
There are few breaks from the undulating hills or the stunning scenery.