The Heysen 81: More Advice Than You Never Asked for

So now you’re interested in walking the Heysen, right? You’re ready for a solitary and sometimes challenging journey?

When to walk: Autumn and spring have the best weather, but the Heysen can also be walked in winter (North American summer). The parts that cross private property (many many parts) are closed during the Fire Danger Season in the summer. In dry years, the Fire Danger Season can be extended, so if hiking in the spring, it’s wise not to schedule a last minute finish. Fire Season Dates can be viewed here.

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Which direction to walk: I walked the majority of the trail from north to south because I liked the idea of ending at the ocean. Also, if hiking in the spring, N -> S is the logical direction since the Fire Danger Season usually starts a whole month earlier in the Flinders region. The Fire Danger Season also ends a few weeks earlier in the Flinders, so that could be a reason for starting there in the autumn. I would recommend walking northwards if possible, since the northern parts of the trail are far more difficult than the southern sections and walking S -> N allows you to ease into the trail more gradually. For people who have never done a long distance hike before, starting in the populated south also allows you to easily leave the trail if you discover that you hate it (no expensive bus fares back to Adelaide) or easily change gear that isn’t working for you. But do your research before starting a thru-hike! I met a hiker just starting the Larapinta who was counting on her phone for artificial light, but had done no research as to where she could charge it on the trail, and she had already used up some of the battery. A charitable hiker gave her his spare flashlight. She also had no thermals. Other hikers gave her a set. She had a gas canister but no stove, so she had to go around asking to use other people’s. DO NOT BE LIKE THIS PERSON. Generally it’s safe to assume that fellow hikers won’t let you die if you get into a fix, but you’re being a nuisance. Plus, there are no other hikers on the Heysen.

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Which brings us to…

Other hikers: If you encounter a hiker lying prone on the ground, phone open to a Facebook profile with 400 friends and collapsable ukelele strapped to his backpack for singing campfire songs, he’s an extrovert who died from lack of human contact. Very few people walk the Heysen, which is kind of amazing considering how many people know about it (even if they don’t know where exactly Quorn is). If you dislike solitude, you won’t enjoy a solo Heysen thru-hike. You could, of course, hike with someone else. Being stuck alone with one other person for long periods of time sounds hellish to me, but to you it may sound like a happy marriage.

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Transportation and accommodation: The Friends have information about transport and accommodation on their website. It isn’t exhaustive though, so especially if you’re on a budget and don’t want to stay in B&Bs, I would recommend doing your own research. North of Greenock, trail towns often have pubs where you can get a private room for around $35-$50 (shared washroom and common area). Travelling by caravan is extremely popular in Australia and towns usually have either a caravan park or a designated camping spot, though not always.

Resupply: The Heysen is set up well for food resupply. Towns and other locations where packages can be mailed (like Wilpena Pound) are located at regular intervals along the trail. The Friends’ website has a list of stores and their size, though note that the store in Hallett is now closed. Obviously you won’t be able to purchase fancy items like dehydrated vegetables at small stores, so depending on how picky you are about what you eat, you may want to bounce items/have resupply packages sent to you.

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If you’re an international hiker, you’ll probably be buying your first supplies in Adelaide. The Scout Outdoor Centre has the biggest gear selection of all the outdoor shops, and they stock the fancy backpacker meals for hikers who use them. An employee also mentioned, though too late for my purposes, that they would be getting in a shipment of dehydrated veggies from a vendor in Tasmania. Coles and Woolworths are the biggest supermarkets and carry the typical pastas and rices as well as a few types of dehydrated veggies (Coles has peas and Woolworths has mushrooms in their international section). The IGA supermarkets are good for more unique products. You can get beef jerky sans preservatives in the Adelaide Central Market, and they also have good prices on goods like dried fruit and muesli.

Fuel resupply is a different matter. You must use a gas stove, and there are no canisters available between Quorn and the Mount Lofty area, where you can easily bus into Adelaide and purchase some. (It’s possible that Burra normally has canisters, but I’m unsure whether the hardware store employee knew what type of gas I was talking about, because the other Thrifty Link stores had no canisters.) An employee in Kapunda offered to order a canister for me, so if you’re a prolific cooker and don’t want to carry enough gas to last you this entire section, you might try calling the stores in advance and asking whether they can order some for you. Mailing it in a resupply package might be possible but you would have to research that.

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Dangers on the trail: Especially if you’re an international hiker, you’re probably thinking ‘snakes and spiders’ right now, perhaps with a mental image of a huntsman inside a toilet bowl. I had no problems with either snakes or spiders, despite seeing many of the former, but you should inform yourself about precautionary measures and what to do if you get bitten. For me, the biggest threat was the aggressive dogs that people didn’t see fit to confine to their property. Also I read an article today about a man in Britain who got trampled to death by cows. His companion, who also got trampled but didn’t die, said that ‘the herd knocked them down repeatedly and seemed to deliberately trample on them “as if it was something they really wanted to do”‘. SOMETHING THEY REALLY WANTED TO DO

Water sources: I was a convert to the rainwater tanks by the time I finished the Heysen. I never encountered a tank without water, and many of the natural sources looked polluted or obviously were. Occasionally a tank filter was busted and the water required filtering, so bring a filter or be prepared to filter through a bandana and treat the water using a different method.

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Specific items to bring

1. A warm sleeping bag. Temperatures most nights were in the single digits Celsius, and I had one night below freezing.

2. A headnet. Post-hike I was walking with a friend on a beach near Adelaide and there were some flies around, and I mentioned how terrible the flies were on the HT. She said, ‘worse than on the beach?’. Yes, like 50 TIMES WORSE THAN ANY BEACH EVER.

3. The maps and/or GPS. I would recommend both in the northern sections. The problem with a trail that isn’t single-track (aside from the fact that anything other than single-track is inferior to single-track) is that unless you’re within range of a trail marker, you can’t be sure that you’re actually on the trail. There’s nothing to indicate that you’re still on the proper road or beside the proper fence or whatever, and missing even one marker can put you off course. You can buy the maps in Adelaide at the Friends of the Heysen Trail headquarters, the Scout Outdoor Centre, or the map store (I don’t remember its name, but probably any local could give you directions).

Waste of space:

1. Sunbrella. I did wish on the crazy hot day that I hadn’t left it in Adelaide, but generally the weather was cool enough and the trail shady enough that it wasn’t worth its weight.

2. Mozzie spray. I never used any and eventually left it at a pub, though I did have a bug shirt that also worked well as a bug net for cowboy camping. I used the shirt maybe three or four days.

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If you’re an international hiker:

The Heysen has some great sections, but much of the scenery is farmland and doesn’t look distinctive to Australia. If you’re looking for a very Australia-y experience, I would recommend the Larapinta Trail near Alice Springs or the Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island, which are both stunning.

The Heysen 80: The End

Sunday, November 27, 2016 – 14.58 km

My last day on the Heysen! The sky was sunny and I was feeling better than yesterday. I was planning to have breakfast at the Cobbler Creek picnic area, then realized that the picnic area is on an alternate route, so I ate on a random bench overlooking the sea instead. Cobbler Creek Campground looked nice – I noticed that one of the spots had been raked, so maybe it gets more attention than Tapanappa – but it’s a frontcountry campground with vehicles and noise. Eagle Waterhole is my camping recommendation in the conservation park.

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Signage at the campground said that people can swim at Blowhole Beach, and I saw some surfers having no luck in the small waves, but a stream on the beach looked polluted and the rocks where it emptied into the sea were coated with algae. Blowhole Beach was pretty to look at though, and I took a break on a bench overlooking the sand. The wind was strong but its direction has changed and it feels milder than before, though still cool. I encountered a shingleback that didn’t move when I approached but flinched in a gust. Poor thing, and I told it so in a baby voice (sadist).

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A Futuro House is visible from this section of the Heysen. I recommend checking out the Wikipedia entry about Futuro Houses, it’s an interesting story.

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Futuro House

I didn’t have a definite plan for what to do at the end of the trail. The only bus to Adelaide is at 9:30 AM. The caravan park is 3 km from the end of the trail, plus it’s on a station (ranch) and I’ve spent way too much time on station land on the Heysen! I knew however that the last part of the Heysen from Talister Road to Cape Jervis is on ‘vacant land’, which presumably means that it’s okay to camp there, and I figured that I could buy food in town and return to the trail for one final night.

Upon reaching the vacant land, I was pleasantly surprised to see attractive dunes and native shrubbery. My one-final-night plan was looking better with every moment. Then I passed Trig Point, about 2 km from the end of the trail, and the land was ugly and cleared from there to the ferry landing. My basic sentiment was ‘screw this, I’m going home’.

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I walked into town, took pictures of the HT terminus sign, felt too tired to walk more and ended up getting a motel room at the tavern/shop/motel/gas station.

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Heysen Trail southern terminus

So here I am – done the Heysen. Right now I just feel relieved since the last week has been difficult with being sick. I’ve had enough farmland and roads as well, and while I will miss hiking every day, I don’t think that I’ll miss the Heysen. Parts were beautiful, parts were historically interesting, and most of the trail towns were awesome with the friendliest people, but there wasn’t enough nature. Some former thru-hikers were quite critical in the last logbook, stating that it seemed like someone just wanted to make a long trail at the expense of quality, but I think that’s overly cynical. There’s a certain romance in walking from the Flinders Ranges to the ocean, and rewarding sights along the way. It’s just that there are many subpar areas as well.

Regarding the issue of ‘trail’. I agree with the logbook comments that this shouldn’t be called a trail, since hikers are following fences or streams or roads most of the time. One former hiker suggested that it should be called a ‘way’. I doubt that converting the HT to single track is on the radar for the Friends, considering how much work that would be and the issue of property ownership, but something that would be nice (along with making any future tent platforms bigger) is if more of the trail could be cross-country rather than following fences. That would elevate the experience while not requiring the actual building and maintenance of a trail.

The Heysen 79: How Civilized

Saturday, November 26, 2016 – 13.24 km

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A few route options were available this morning. I chose the official Heysen route, which heads inland past Deep Creek Waterfall, but the Deep Creek Cove alternate may have been more scenic. The trail was beautiful single track with steps(!) on the steep bits, and I encountered several dozen other hikers, including families with kids. The untempting waterfall was filled with stringy algae.

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Deep Creek Waterfall

The signage confused me when the trail emerged onto a road, where a sign appeared to point south but was actually pointing down a path that immediately turned west and faded near a sign. That’s one of the faults in the Heysen signage: sometimes an arrow means that you should start following a trail and keep to that trail, but sometimes it means that you should walk in one direction and keep going in that direction even if the trail goes elsewhere (the area around Caroona Creek is notable for the latter). I wandered around for awhile, grumpy since I’m still not feeling well. Eventually I just headed west and located the trail a short distance down the road. The map makes it look like Trig Campground is away from the trail, but it’s actually right on the Heysen.

I picked up an army of flies as the trail began following a fence at the edge of the conservation park. The fence was the most hardcore fence I’ve ever seen, as tall as my head with 3-4 pieces of electrified wire – the other electric fences I’ve seen have only had one. I suspect the property owner is raising velociraptors.

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I saw no one on the trail, which crossed a burn area and was steep on the east end in particular (I fell once) but lovely by the creeks.

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A sign at the western end warned about steep climbs. How civilized…

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The sun came out in the afternoon. I had booked Eagle Waterhole Campsite, the only hike-in campsite in the conservation park, and was hoping that I would have the night alone. I’ve had more than enough solitude on the trail, but maybe because of that, I thought that camping with other people on the final night would feel odd unless they were Heysen hikers with whom I could discuss the trail. Sadly (sorry) another hiker was already there, a man who had hiked in for the night from Cape Jervis, and a father and young daughter arrived later. So no solitude, but the campsite was beautiful with a clean shelter and flat clean ground by the shelter and waterhole. I enjoyed reading the final logbook comments of Bill and Pauline, Shane, Paula, Gregory and the other thru-hikers who have completed the trail and were diligent about writing entries in each of the huts. There aren’t many, so you remember the ones who do. If any of you ever read this: thanks for improving my solitary stays in the huts/shelters, and for the advice left as well.

The Heysen 78: Black Friday

Friday, November 25, 2016 – 17.28 km

The day began with road walking, then a fence-following drop to Tunkalilla Beach. The angle of descent was absurdly steep and I fell once. At the bottom, I met three older men with large and heavy-looking backpacks. I couldn’t hear them well over the sound of the ocean and missed where they were headed. Hopefully it wasn’t something like ‘to our ice cream truck parked just over that hill, do you want some too?’.

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The walk down Tunkalilla Beach was 5 km. I was surprised to encounter another group of section hikers – that’s like Black Friday turnout for the Heysen Trail. They were headed to the parking lot further along the beach. The map trivia mentions that ‘Tunkalilla’ is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘place of bad smells’, and while there’s no offal washing up from a whaling station anymore, the western end of the beach did smell dodgy. I think it was the huge piles of algae washed ashore.

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After the beach came a scenic cliff section where I saw a big black snake. It wasn’t moving, so I backed up to detour around it, not an easy task on the steep slope. Luckily it slithered away with my retreat and I was able to stay on the trail.

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The trail entered Deep Creek Conservation Park and I was treated to single-track.

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I’m spending the night at Tapanappa Campground, which requires sites to be booked online. You must do this in advance since there’s no reception (Telstra anyway) at the campground, and I made my booking from a hilltop near Balquhidder Campsite. Unfortunately the site I chose (13) was gross, with garbage, toilet paper in the bushes (IT WAS 30 SECONDS FROM THE OUTHOUSE) and toothpaste stains. Choosing a site with the capacity for campervans/a larger number of people was probably a bad decision. My only consideration when booking was flatness.

The Heysen 77: Only Death

Thursday, November 24, 2016 – 11.63 km

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My day began with a short walk over the sand dunes to Waitpinga Beach, where a fisherman told me about sea fishing. Millipedes were wandering far out on the sand, and it reminded me of hikers who lose the trail but don’t turn around. Go back! There’s nothing for you here but DEATH!

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On Parsons Beach I saw a fish stranded and flopping on the sand. I thought that its skin would be slimy, so I tried to transfer it into the water with my hiking poles (cruel in retrospect…) but it immediately washed ashore again, so I decided to pick it up and tried throwing it into the ocean (also cruel in retrospect…). That didn’t work either, so I waded into the ocean with the fish and placed it in the water, but it wouldn’t swim and just got washed back to shore again. I finally concluded that it was a lost cause, hopefully not because of the poles and the throwing. Sorry, fish. If it’s any reassurance, I would have treated a human child the same way.

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After that heartbreaking little episode, the trail took a turn for the worse as it left the conservation park and returned to grazing land. The Heysen has passed through conservation parks and infinite grazing land before, but the contrast struck me hard here – a landscape before and after.

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Before and after

A watercourse emptying onto Shannon’s Gully Beach looked disgustingly polluted.

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The trail left the coastline and headed inland towards Balquhidder Campsite. The signage is confusing in one part, with two fences creating three segments and Heysen signage in both the middle and northern sections. I moved out of the southern section, which was good since I saw a bull there later, but moved into the northern section, which shortly became impassable due to dense vegetation. Middle section it is.

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Balquhidder Campsite has a pretty location by a stream, but it’s also close to the road and a house. A few pieces of garbage were scattered around. I also noticed some toilet paper near Mt. Cone Campsite (ninth deadly sin). They’re the first non-hut Heysen campsites I’ve visited that have shown any signs of use other than fire rings, which I suppose reflects the higher number of people using the trail/campsites here in the south. No flat ground.

The Heysen 76: THIS IS WHY

Wednesday, November 23, 2016 – 20 km

I’ve been feeling under the weather with a sore throat, but today was my favourite day of this trip. The walk out of Victor Harbor along the ocean was beautiful – the map has it marked as not being trail, but it’s actually lovely single-track – and Newland Head Conservation Park was stunning. The Waitpinga Cliffs were the highlight. Signage informed me that ‘waitpinga’ is an Aboriginal word for ‘windy place’, which is fitting since the southerly wind was fiendishly strong. Whenever I felt that gust of freezing air, I thought about how only ocean was separating me from Antarctica.

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Waitpinga Cliffs
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Beached jellyfish
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Waitpinga Campground is scenically located behind sand dunes in the conservation park. It’s a frontcountry campground though, and the sheltered tent pads located downhill from the hut were littered with garbage, including beer cups, broken glass and sharp bottle caps. THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.

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The Heysen 74: Ocean

Monday, November 21, 2016 – 21 km

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Today was special because it was my arrival at the ocean! After however many kilometres, I’m about to start the final section of the HT, and everyone says that it’s beautiful. I was planning to bypass Victor Harbor, but I realized that the sunscreen I was gifted is three years expired, so I decided to walk into town via Three Gullies and Jagger roads. I’ll walk out via the longer Heysen spur trail along the ocean, which I expect to be more scenic.

Mostly road-walking today. Another dog ran off a property and started barking two feet from my legs. The owner called it back and told it ‘What are you doing? That’s not good’. A+ FOR DISCIPLINE. THAT WILL MAKE IT BEHAVE DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME. In a portion of trail through fields, I saw a partially buried echidna – cutest and most underrated of Australian animals – and a big black snake.

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The most scenic part of the day was the walk into Victor Harbor through Encounter Bay and those exciting first glimpses of the beach. Light rain fell, welcome because of the heat, but no substantial precipitation until after I arrived at the caravan park and pitched my tent. Victor Harbor has three caravan parks and I’m staying at the beachfront one, which is huge. I wandered in through a side gate and had to hunt for the office. The wind is strong today and I appreciate how the employee took that into consideration when assigning me a site.

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Walking to the town centre, I got stranded when the rain began in earnest. I was wearing my rain jacket but it’s a mess now, with the waterproof layer coming off everywhere, and I had left my poncho in my tent and my sunbrella in Adelaide. I sheltered at the grocery store until the rain lightened to a drizzle.

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Stunning sunset

By the way, I discovered in the logbooks at Myponga Conservation Park that a southbound thru-hiker passed me! I think the trail name was either stampercamper or scampercamper. Not sure whether they passed during my rest day in Mount Compass or during the night. One logbook said ‘Day 39’ so they’re moving quickly. It’s so late in the season that I wasn’t expecting anyone to be on the trail behind me.

The Heysen 72: The Bigger Picture

Saturday, November 19, 2016 – 8.44 km

I was still undecided when leaving Mount Compass about how far to walk today. The next campsite, Mt. Cone, is only 8.44 km from Mount Compass, but there are no established campsites for 35 km after Mt. Cone. I decided to decide upon arriving at Mt. Cone.

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Road walking, fence walking. I was walking through a pasture containing a small group of cows when… THEY CAME AFTER ME! Maybe they were expecting me to open a gate that you’re indeed supposed to open, but instead I climbed nimbly over the chain before they got close. And that, my friends, is the real reason why you should keep your pack weight down.

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Why u so obsessed with me?

Despite arriving at Mt. Cone campsite early in the day, I chose to stay. It’s one of the better Heysen campsites, with a pretty view and reasonably flat spots for pitching a tent, though I’m cowboy camping on the tank bench to save time tomorrow morning. A few cows are milling around below, grazing and brushing against bushes and making demented-sheep noises.

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Mt. Cone water tank

I was thinking today about what I was expecting from the Heysen and what I’ve received. I thought about how it’s been almost three years since I injured my foot, and that maybe it will never recover to how it was before, and though I’ve thought those things many times before, I felt for the first time today that I had accepted them. The realization was emotional, but neither happy nor sad. I just felt relieved to be able to move on. I realized that while I had thought that coming to Australia was ‘doing something’, I was still just waiting for the pain to go away, as I had been doing back home ever since the injury. I feel free to look forwards now. A great feeling.

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View from Mt. Cone

The Heysen 71: Unnecessary Space

Friday, November 18, 2016

Rest day in Mount Compass. The only notable event was when I was walking down the road and an oncoming driver swerved all the way into the other lane to give me space. That’s too much space! That’s unnecessary space!

Black invasive millipedes infest areas of Australia and the caravan park bathrooms are filled with them. I’ll take that over when I woke up one night during the Great Ocean Walk and one was crawling on my face.

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The Heysen 70: Gila River Canyons Day

Thursday, November 17, 2016 – 8.56 km

The weather was warm when I woke up and hot by 7:30 AM – an AZT Gila River Canyons day. While walking down the road from Finness Conservation Park, I noticed grassy flat spots with ‘Private property/no trespassing’ signs on the bordering fence. I wonder whether the Finniss River Campsite landowner withdrew access because people were camping elsewhere on his/her property?

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Road walk, road walk, then single track through ferns. I met two section hikers. Cross-country across fields – another good-natured landowner who lets hikers step away from the fence.

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I’m breaking up this final section of the Heysen by taking a resupply/rest day in Mount Compass, which is 1.7 km down Victor Harbour Road. The Mount Compass Caravan Park is slightly further down the Heysen Trail, accessed from Heysen Boulevard. I had originally thought they were on the same road, so I was disappointed when I realized that getting to the town from the caravan park would be a longer walk than expected. The caravan park was nice though, and the owner was friendly and helpful. He offered to drive me into town, said that I could charge my phone in the laundry room, and even gave me a tube of sunscreen. I was lucky to also catch a ride back from town with a woman who pitied me for walking in the heat. Call me Ms. Sweaty.

The Heysen 69: Sunsplaining

Wednesday, November 16, 2016 – 24.7 km

Forest walking this morning, including nicely built single-track. I’m getting spoiled I think, since I would have raved about this sort of walk during the soul-death from Melrose to Hallett, but such is the way of human beings.

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The trail shifted onto road for awhile, reaching an old re-route now marked as the route on the map. A car stopped and the driver said hello, introducing himself as the leader for this portion of trail. Later I encountered him doing trail maintenance and we talked for awhile. He was dripping with sweat and I felt sorry for him working all alone in the heat; on the other hand, trail work is probably keeping him in great shape. He shared some interesting info, like that the bushy roadside areas are places where the government was thinking to build roads but never did. He asked where I was planning to camp and I said Mount Compass. There’s a Heysen water tank and shelter near Finniss Creek, but the landowner cut off access mere weeks ago, according to the Friends’ website. I was also considering camping in one of the conservation parks, and was carrying enough water for that contingency.

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There were nice views from Mt. Magnificent, which is really just a hill. I saw a very active sleepy lizard eating yellow flowers. A few spots looked okay for camping, but it was too early in the day, so I continued to the southern edge of Finniss Conservation Park, where I found an established campsite with logs to sit on and evidence of a campfire. Score! Unfortunately the nice campsite isn’t in the shade. Even by Australian standards, today was killer hot, and I retreated to the cover of the trees. The sun seemed to take forever to go down… it had the interminable quality of a man mansplaining a sport to you even after you’ve already told him that you know the rules and who all the players are.

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The Heysen 68: Average

Tuesday, November 15, 2016 – 15.58 km

I left before the kids got up this morning. Today’s walk was average, forests and farmland, no signage issues. The Ironbarks picnic area was pleasant, with picnic tables and fire rings beside the road.

I arrived at Chookarloo Campground around 12:00 PM. It contains a one-walled shelter, covered picnic areas, a toilet, plenty of space and a very bold bird after human food. A permit is required for overnight stays, so I decided to make the ~3 km round trip to Forest Headquarters to obtain one and pay for the Rocky Creek campsite. A kiosk had interesting info about the forest reserve and various stages of development the forests go through.

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Kangaroo with joey feet sticking out of her pouch

The Heysen 67: No Backpackers on the School Bus

Monday, November 14, 2016 – 29.95

I took the bus back to Piccadilly this morning, planning my route with Google Maps. It required a transfer and when I disembarked from the first bus, I noticed that the number for the second bus wasn’t on the bus stop sign. Well, the sign could be wrong, right? When the bus arrived, it said ‘school bus’ on the front. Oh. I boarded the bus and asked the driver whether I could take it. He said ‘This is just a normal school bus.’ I said ‘So I can’t take it?’ Letting a random backpacker onto a school bus seems like a good idea to me! He was not enthused though and recommended another bus scheduled to arrive only ten minutes later. The quick timing was lucky since the hike to Rocky Creek Campsite from Piccadilly is about 30 km.

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The HT was a road walk past Woodhouse Activity Centre – permission is required to leave the trail there – Bridgewater, and Mylor. Mylor has a cafe, general store and washrooms at the oval. The people were so friendly that I regretted not needing to buy anything there, since while I did neglect to buy sunscreen in Adelaide, I don’t need more yet. Speaking of neglect, I also forgot my GPS in Adelaide. The signage has been great recently though so I’m going to continue with only maps and hope that I don’t get lost and die. Always a good thing to hope for.

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While I was having a snack beside the road, I heard mooing and turned to see that a large group of cows had gathered behind the fence and were staring at me. Maybe they’re fed at that location…? I explained to them that I had no food for cows, but it’s almost like cows don’t understand English, because they just kept waiting there. As I’ve made known, I’m not a fan of cows, but I feel like we bonded then, with me eating peacefully and them simmering with increasing resentment and irritation at my continued failure to give them food. (Scary barking dogs are now enemy #1.)

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You know it’s the southern and not the northern Heysen when there’s an actual staircase.
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After some boggy portions of trail with boardwalk and an old mine, the route passed into Kuitpo Forest. I made a signage error in which I went the wrong direction at a fallen sign, but there was further signage supporting that direction, so maybe it was a strangely marked alternate route? I was irritated when I found myself back near where I had started. Two people on horseback arrived when I was looking at my map and asked whether I was lost. I said ‘no, just annoyed’. The woman asked me to repeat myself. I’m not sure whether the problem was the accent or whether she was just confused about why a stranger was telling her their feelings. (By the way, if you ever want to confuse an Aussie with your foreign accent, say ‘thank you, I’ll pay with card please’. Every time I’ve said that they’ve asked me to repeat myself.) I was tired by then and happy when I reached Rocky Creek Campground, which is only for the use of school groups/scouts/Heysen hikers. Hikers are supposed to book in advance, but I wasn’t sure what day I would arrive, so I didn’t. I haven’t paid the fee ($5) either, but will when I pass the Forest Headquarters.

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I’m sharing the campground with a school group. I promised myself that I would think more kindly about school groups after getting that ride out of Melrose, but they’re playing a game with blindfolds and screaming and I can’t be held responsible for my thoughts in this instance.

The Heysen 66: 1.5 Months Early

Sunday, November 13, 2016

I took three zeros in Adelaide to avoid a big storm, but it didn’t feel like a long time, maybe because Adelaide is a city instead of a small town and getting places takes more than a few minutes. I was expecting my roommates to hate me due to my odd schedule, but coincidentally we all rose somewhat early and went to bed somewhat early, so it worked.

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Adelaide

On my way to mail a resupply package to Mount Compass, I ran into a Christmas pageant. I’ve never seen a Christmas pageant before, so I thought that maybe I should watch, but then I thought ‘WHY IS THERE A CHRISTMAS PAGEANT IN MID-NOVEMBER?’ and I just couldn’t stand to watch… there are Christmas decorations along Rundle Street too, and carols playing… not sure how anyone can get into a Christmassy mood so early.

Australian post office employees have previously mailed my resupply boxes without asking questions, but the employee in Adelaide asked what was inside and said I wasn’t allowed to mail my olive oil (it was in a small Nalgene bottle) since it might leak and damage other customers’ goods. I asked whether I could mail it if it were inside a baggie, but he said they like items wrapped in something absorbent in case the box is crushed. All right man, but if the box is crushed to the extent that a baggie is shredded, I think the surrounding boxes have bigger problems than my olive oil getting on their goods.

I wanted to visit the library to read The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest after the post office, but that required getting past the pageant. Security officers were allowing pedestrians to cross the street during breaks between floats/entertainers. I jogged when my turn came, and one of the officers shouted ‘Don’t run!’. Were they worried about people tripping and getting crushed by the parade? Grotesque… seems like a suitable ending to a 1.5-months-in-advance Christmas pageant…

The Heysen 65: 5:30 Heresy

Thursday, November 10, 2016 – 18.38 km

I got an early start this morning. Though it seems heretical, I’m getting used to waking up at 5:30 and actually like it. The morning is a pleasant time to walk and the day seems longer.

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Passing Norton Summit, I entered Giles Conservation Park. The creek was a great place to see koalas. I spotted six within five minutes, including a mother and joey.

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Australian wildlife is often surprising
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The trail climbed to the summit of Mt. Lofty, which has a viewing area for tourists, a visitor centre and a cafe. It was less busy than the time I visited via car, which may have been a weekend. The view is out towards Adelaide and the ocean. Not too far away now!

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View from Mt. Lofty

I charged my phone to read more election coverage, then continued on. I had to go into Adelaide to resupply and decided to leave the trail at Piccadilly, since it has a bus stop located only a dozen metres from the Heysen (head north at the intersection of Sprigg and Piccadilly roads).

Into the city I go!

The Heysen 64: Secretly Switchbacking

Wednesday, November 09, 2016 – 25.38 km

Today’s hike began with a beautiful walk through Montacute Conservation Park and alongside Sixth Creek. Then came an absurd hill that made me try to remember high school geometry and how to calculate the average angle of ascent. Who would have thought that I would ever need high school geometry for anything? Then I remembered that it’s 2016 and there’s probably an app that can do geometry for me, and also help me cheat on a geometry test in ten different ways. (I later calculated the angle as twenty-two degrees, but that seems too slight, so I’m just going to conclude that math = bad.) The trail is a dirt road that leads straight up, but it’s hard to believe that vehicles can navigate this track without just tumbling down and collapsing in a broken heap. They’re secretly switchbacking, I know it.

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80 degrees at least.
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After some road walking, I saw a sign saying that I was entering an area infested with Phytophthora – a fungus-like microorganism that kills native Australian flora – and only local traffic was permitted. I didn’t know whether the sign applies to foot traffic, but I couldn’t reroute without knowing the extent of the affected area, so I decided to just make sure to keep to the paved road. Presently the route entered Morialta Conservation Park, which is teeming with boot cleaning stations. I’m not sure whether the fungus is already inside the park or whether they’re trying to prevent it from entering.

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Morialta Conservation Park is lovely and a popular place to visit from Adelaide, judging by the number of people. I checked the U.S. election results at a lookout here and… what a stunner.

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There are no designated campsites between Grandpas Campsite and the Woodhouse activity centre, so I walked up a maintenance track inside the conservation park and camped off to one side.

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The Heysen 63: Detours

Tuesday, November 08, 2016 – 21 km

In accordance with the highly questionable ‘maybe the Friends have an agreement with the Crawford Forest Reserve since the Scotts closure isn’t noted on the Heysen website’ reasoning, I decided to complete the 2-3 km forest walk this morning. I must not have been very convinced of my reasoning, because I kept expecting that someone would pop out of nowhere and issue me a fine. The only sign of fire damage was one distant ruined area.

The route met a fence that it followed to a road. Due to fire damage in the forest reserve, a big road detour consumed most of the rest of the day.

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A white horse with a strangely cut yellow mane reminded me of Donald Trump. I checked the date – November 8th in Australia, so tomorrow is American election day.

At the end of the detour was a cemetery, the only remnants of a town called Chain of Ponds. In the 1970s it was forcibly purchased by the government to protect the water quality of the Millbrook Reservoir, which supplies drinking water to Adelaide.

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Passing Cudlee Creek, the HT continued south between beautiful properties. At one point the trail reached a gate beside a stile that led over the fence beside the road. Don’t use the stile – it must be for the landowners, since if you leave the road, a dodgy crossing of a barbed wire fence on a crumbling slope is required. And if you continue along the crumbling slope after that fence, you reach an electric fence, so yeah. Don’t do it.

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Grandpas Campsite is pretty and has a sweet backstory described in a comment on the Friends’ website. Fabulous fire area, flat tentsites in the back and a curious shelter that looks like a treehouse fallen from its tree. The shelter is big enough to sleep in, but there’s bird poop on the floor so I’m tenting.

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The Heysen 62: Uh Oh

Monday, November 07, 2016 – 20.27 km

I had another choice in route this morning: the longer official hike past Chalks Campground, or the shorter walk past the Crawford Forest Reserve Info Centre. I chose the Chalks hike and found the route pretty, though not spectacular. The campground is forested and lovely with covered picnic tables and a shelter. As per usual, it was empty. A permit is required for camping.

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One of these things is not like the other

Soon after the campground, I entered Warren Conservation Park, another beautiful area of native flora. And switchbacks! Such luxury!

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At the exit, I met two hikers headed to an old schoolhouse that I had passed yesterday. They looked surprised when I mentioned how far away the forest info centre was. At the time, I thought something like ‘well, they’re probably taking a different route there’, because they looked so competent with their hiking clothes and daypacks that I figured they must know how far they were planning to go. In retrospect I should have asked them some questions and made sure. Mid-afternoon isn’t an ideal time to start a long walk.

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On my way up the road from the conservation park, I had another scary dog experience, this one worse than the last. When I passed a distant house, dogs started barking. I looked down and they appeared to be behind a tall fence which was separated from the road by a pond, some grass and a long switchbacking driveway. I thought ‘haha, you can’t get me from there, silly dogs’. I kept walking, but then noticed with alarm that a dog was running up the switchbacks. Quickly gaining the main road, it started following me, barking. I was horrified and considering whether to climb a tree, but also pissed, and shouting ‘Hey! Hey!’ just in case the owner was around, since I wanted to take someone to account. I should have shouted ‘I’m going to pepper spray this dog if it’s not back on your property within two minutes!’ and seen if that would have gotten a response. On the other hand, I’m not sure I want to meet someone who allows their dogs to harass passersby. ‘Innocent hiker passes creepy house in the woods and is confronted by a hostile dog… dog grabs her by the leg!!! Dog drags her back to house where sadistic owner disembowels her and makes it look like work of dog!!!!!!’. The dog was three metres away when it suddenly darted into the woods on the other side of the road, probably chasing some poor native animal. I didn’t see it again.

At the end of the day, I arrived at the Crawford Forest Reserve gate that you pass through to access Scotts Shelter. There I found a sign stating that this section of forest was closed. Uh oh. I knew that southern parts of the forest reserve were closed because of a fire in 2015, but the Heysen website doesn’t mention this area. I tried calling the info numbers on the sign but couldn’t reach anyone at either. Now… I’m naturally a law abider, and I think it’s especially bad to break the law in a foreign country, but I had been counting on the water at Scotts Shelter, and I didn’t have enough for a detour. Steeling myself, I pushed past the sign and hurried to Scotts Shelter. I saw no fire damage or logging activity, so I figured that logically it was okay to be there, if not legally. And then I thought that maybe the Friends have an agreement with the reserve that hikers are allowed to pass through, since the forest around the trail wasn’t damaged. That’s possible, right? Right? Anyway, I’ve decided to spend the night in the shelter since I’m already here. It has three overlapping bunks and sliding doors.

The Heysen 61: Gambol

Sunday, November 06, 2016 – 20 km

Visibility was only 10-15 metres when I woke up this morning, but the fog was dissipating by the time I left the hut around 8:00 AM. I had two route options: the higher official route, or the alternate route (about 1 km from the main trail) on which the hut is located. Figuring that the higher route would be more scenic, I slogged up the hill. The landscape was pretty in the fog, like a scene from a storybook.

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The trail entered a pine forest. The scent was nostalgic from hiking in Canada, but walking down a road with pines on one side and a sprawl of native vegetation on the other was strange. Some of the pine forest looked natural, but the trees in other parts were clearly planted in straight lines and looked bizarre when viewed from certain directions. And then I wondered whether any of the forest genuinely looked natural, or whether I was just viewing it from the wrong perspective.

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Bizarre, frankly.
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The elevation profile on the map shows this leg as being substantially longer than the distance listed on the Friends’ website. So which is correct? Neither, of course! A landowner withdrew access to Freeman’s Hut and the trail has been re-routed. The beautiful re-route follows the Wirra Wirra Ridge. I saw a calf on the way up; it was nice to see a cow-thing gamboling peacefully with no fear of humans.

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I wasn’t happy when I arrived at Centennial Drive Campground and realized that I had missed going over Mt. Crawford since the signage had directed me down Mount Road. I know that the campground was closed at some point due to logging operations, so maybe the signage on the road is from that time. The campground itself was huge but vacant. My pleasure at seeing fire pits turned to disappointment when I found signage stating that wood fires aren’t allowed after November 1st. Just a few days too late.

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