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Published: December 22nd 2008
The Heysen Trail at 1250km running from Cape Jervis in the South to Parachilna Gorge in the far North is rated as one of the worlds 7 great walks, I was amazed when I read this, so I started looking into how to go about doing it. I did walk part of the most southern section from Cape Jervis to Fishery Creek in 2005 (about 6km) and had plans at the time to go back down there and do more but never did. I remember that section of the trail as being mostly flat and the views across the ocean to Kangaroo Isand as spectacular. That day was sunny and pleasant the walking easy and the flies the worst I have ever seen in this state.
Since then I have crossed the trail a few times while walking other tracks but I really didnt know how it fit together, or the logistics of planning a walk. So I had a look on the web and visited the Friends of the Heysen Trail shop in Adelaide where I purchased the two map books that describe the trail for walkers. The planning phase then began in earnest, I have begun organising a
trip up to Parachilna Gorge with some mates for the first weekend in May 2009 to complete the most northerly leg from Parachilna Gorge to Wilpena Pound.
I have also completed two legs closer to the city, the first of these was from just outside Kersbrook in the northern Adelaide Hills to Warren Conservation Park a distance of about 12km. The only way to get to the trail heads is to take two cars and park one at each end which Ruth and I did, one of the trail heads I wouldnt have found, but because Ruth used to ride her horse up there she found it easily, we left her car there and drove mine to the Warren CP entrance.
The weather was overcast (6/12) and pleasant considering it is summer at the moment and its often too hot for this sort of enterprise, we walked through a variety of landscapes following the trail markers, Mt Crawford Forest dominates this section Of the trail. We listening to the birds, crossed the occasional track or back road and just enjoyed the solitude. We didnt see much in the way of wildlife except the occasional kangaroo and a few
rabbits and fortunately no other people.
We walked for probably an hour or so before exiting the forest and coming across our first real challenging climb it was long and reasonably steep up a cleared grassy hill. It wouldnt have been a big deal if the flies weren't swarming my face, I'm sure I swallowed a few. The views from the top were pleasant with sweeping panoramas of farmland, forest and hills, we realised after climbing down that we could have bypassed the hill but that would be cheating. A short time later we reached the border of the forest and crossed a stile for a short walk through a farmers paddock dodging cow pads before emerging on Warren Rd. I am not that keen on walking along busy roads but there was no choice so we laboured along for a few kilometres until we found Rifle Range Track and followed it back to the car. Not a long walk in comparison to many of those to follow but a pleasant way to spend a saturday morning, it took us 2 hours 40 minutes and we both felt quite good. It was then back to get the my car
and onto the Kersbrook Tavern for an ale on the way home.
The second leg took place a week later (14/12) we again placed a vehicle at each end of the trail Ruth's on Mount Road at Mt Crawford and mine again at the Warren CP. We chose to walk south from Mt Crawford under cloudy skies, the trail followed the road for about a kilometre before heading though an area where the trees had been logged, it was pretty ugly then up a dirt track to where the trail lead into an area of native scrub. Here the Kangaroos were thick on the ground, although this section of the walk was up hill it was pleasant to wander through native bush. This section was probably the highlight of this part of the trail but it soon lead back into the pine forests again. Light rain fell intermittently through the morning by the time we reached Chalks Rd it briefly looked like the rain was setting in and we contemplated taking cover in the picnic ground but after a few minutes it stopped and we continued the walk towards Tower Hill passing family groups of Kangaroos and newly planted
rows of young pines.
The climb was not difficult the trail takes advantage of an existing switch back road and we were soon approaching the fire look out tower on the top, a few cows and sheep watching us pass. From the hilltop we looked out across the valley towards the Warren CP spotting a fox stalking a lamb, Ruth started yelling and screaming, the fox paused looked at the mad woman screaming and bolted away from the lamb, this good deed accomplished we took some sustenance (a muesli and yoghut bar) before walking down the back of the hill towards the entrance to the Conservation Park. We were both feeling good and looking forward to finishing this leg when I discovered I had left my car keys in Ruth's car at the start point, after a few minutes of swearing we turned around and climbed back up the hill, we wouldnt have to walk all the way back as I had a map and plotted a new route but still it was 6 more kilometres on tired legs and it was getting hotter.
After walking for about half an hour we linked up to a Heysen Trail
alternate track near the Mt Crawford forestry head quarters and slogged back along the roads to Ruth's car the only real highlight on the way back was a deer sighting, I didnt know there were deer in the forest. We were both a bit foot sore and sun burnt and eager for a beer and a pie in Williamstown, which I paid for as I was the clown who left the keys in the car.
In the end we walked for 4 and half hours and well over 20km's and yet we still hadnt completed this leg of the trail so the following weekend we drove back to Warren CP and did the 9km Warren Loop Hike it starts at the park entrance winds through scrub for maybe 3 or 4 kilometres before exiting at the back side of Tower Hill. The scrub land was fantastic, there was the odd glimpse of a kangaroo and again the weather was cool and reasonably pleasant. We did get a bit scratched up by some of the fauna, that will teach us to wear shorts and tanktops. Some areas within the park were showing the affects of bush fires from previous seasons
and with the spotter planes flying over head I felt the first pangs of paranoia setting in. There were a couple of climbs, the climb back up Tower hill was probably the most challenging, we got lost for a moment up the top as we couldnt find the trail or markers for the loop back to Warren fortunately a couple of other walkers materialised out of some trees and we headed in the direction they were coming from. Most of the final walk back to the car was along a narrow track through the scrub, occasionally we had to climb over few rocks but otherwise the trail wasnt difficult, being high on the hillside we had some excellent views across the park.
The loop walk took roughly 2 and half hours and was really worth the effort, on the way home we checked out a trail head for the Chain of Ponds to Kersbrook section of the trail, unfortunately this section crosses a fair bit of private land so we wont be able to do this until the trail opens again in May.
The next section of the trail is likely to be the Kuitpo Forest to Mylor
section of the trail this will be interesting because I dont think I have ever been anywhere near that part of the hills.
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