Heysen Trail

The Heysen 4: Mapfail

Saturday, May 07, 2016 – 11.87 km

I only hiked 11.87 km today… and it was exhausting. Let me start by explaining something about the HT maps: the HT is represented by a thick blue line transposed over another line showing you whether the route uses 4wd track, road, walking trail or no path at all. The rules for when there’s actual ‘trail’ seem generous; for example, whenever the HT follows a fence, it’s marked as following a walking trail even though there’s often no distinguishable path to walk on. So when I say, ‘TODAY THE MAP WAS LIES’, rather than really being lies, it’s just that ‘what is and is not walking trail’ is defined in a way that would seem bizarre to most hikers and the majority of rational and non-rational human beings everywhere.


The map classified today’s HT as being mostly walking trail, but a large chunk was actually ‘follow creek’. ‘Follow rocky creek through beautiful gorge with very difficult rocky terrain’. There were hundreds of goat trails appearing and meandering and vanishing, so maybe they’re what the map was referring to when it claimed there was walking trail, but animal trails aren’t useful when you don’t know what’s going to get you further along the gorge as opposed to standing at the top of a cliff and considering how to get down (the classic hiking ‘oh, it was an animal trail’ scenario).

The trail.
More trail.

A friendly portion of 4wd track followed many kilometres of creek-following, then the trail switched back to creek-following but the banks were low with actual trail to follow. I saw evidence of camping – it looked like the post-4wd track section is walked by more people. Ironically, the part with usable trail isn’t marked as having trail on the map. So you have an initial section with a number of relatively useless goat trails, and it’s marked as trail, then a section with a defined path that humans use and can actually be followed, and that’s not marked as trail. The moral of this story: assume that nothing marked as walking trail on the HT maps is actually walking trail. You may be pleasantly surprised and you’ll never think ‘ugh, I wish that I had left camp two hours earlier instead of lazing around eating Nutella’.

The cloudy sky splattered rain that was instantly absorbed into the ground and air. I smelled wet goat and it was bad, man. It’s simultaneously pleasing and distressing when something on the trail smells worse than you. The flies dwindled and had mostly disappeared by 2:00 PM. They liked my pack cover and remained sitting on it even while I took breaks, though maybe they were just sluggish because of the cold.

Fly hotel

It looked like no one had camped at Mt. Arden South in years and I had to clear a spot. The shelter has a shelf to place items on, but no bench and it isn’t large enough to camp beneath. In the dark I saw a kangaroo and a huge moth with eyes that glowed in the light of my headlamp. The moth ended up getting between my tent fly and the tent. Things I don’t want between my tent fly and the tent: flies and huge moths with glowing eyes.

By Krista/Bane

Thru-hiker, LASHer and packrafter from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Enjoys walking slowly, seeking out ice cream whenever possible, and just generally being uninspirational.

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