Standley Chasm(105.4)-Mulga Camp(120.9)
Campsite Elevation: 2,142ft/653m
Before I go through today, I do want to say that I am getting all the comments, emails, and fb messages and I will be responding in a couple more days once I’m in town and at a computer. Thanks so much for all the comments and responses. Just know that I do load them when I get the service to post an entry and then I get to read them later that night in my tent. I know there are some typos and such. My good friend GoalTech does a great job of emailing me each post with things to fix. I just won’t take the time to edit things until I get to town. I am also seeing that I have been wrong about a few things that I appreciate people pointing out and I will fix those accordingly. The main one that comes to mind is that apparently Katz was a real person! All this time I’ve only heard that he was completely fictitious. Sorry for my comments about Bryson making people up! I also want to thank people who looked up options for dehydrated meals I may be able to order for New Zealand and possibly Australia. There are many other things, but I will be responding to them each in the next couple days or so. Again, thanks for all the comments and it’s fun to have everyone along for the ride and know you’re all out there.
Ok, on to today. The rain stopped overnight, but around 4:30am, we got one last spurt before it all finally moved on for awhile. It’s been interesting that each day around 4-4:30am, there has either been rain or a significant increase in wind that wakes me up. I don’t know if that’s a coincidence or common out here.
I only had 15mi/25km to do today, so I got a relaxed start to the day and finished up yesterday’s long blog entry. By the time I got out of the tent, Susan was already gone (heading my way) and the 6 others heading westbound were heading out. They are all on the lookout for my umbrella and have my contact info, so fingers crossed! Most won’t get out for at least four days, so it may be a bit before I find out, but there is hope.
Once I did get to hiking just after 7:30am, my body was slow to warm up. It was either from all the adrenaline yesterday or maybe just the cumulative build-up of a full week of pretty tough hiking. I did the quick side trip to see Standley Chasm. It is packed with tourists midday when the sunlight lights up the tall red walls. I had it all to myself and it reminded me of the thin gorges I went through on the Hayduke last year.
Immediately from there were some steep, rugged ups and downs before the terrain flattened. It was slow going the whole morning.
Then it was a solid hour or so following an actual creek! Because of the hard rain last night, all the dry creek beds were actually full of water and actually running water at points. It says in the guidebook that the water clears quickly, so I wonder if it all drains within a day. There was plenty of it, but it was all quite brown from the sand and it made for really slow hiking to find ways around the water. The path generally is the dry creek bed, so anything that strays from that is either rock outcrops, tall grass, or pointy Spinifex. With smooth rocks and wet sand stuck to the bottom of my shoes, it was cautious rock hopping. It was very slow going.
I only had 15mi/25km to do today, but at this pace, it was going to take all day. Once again, an anticipated shorter day became a full day of hiking. It was cool to have the experience of the Larapinta with water, but man, I’m glad the whole thing wasn’t this slow going!
I met an Italian couple hiking upstream just doing this stretch and then I caught up to Susan and walked with her a bit. She’s more accustomed to true bush walking where it’s super slow going. She’s definitely in her element outdoors and it was cool to overlap for a bit. We hit a junction of a choice to do a high or low route and I chose high while Susan went low. We knew we’d see each other later once the paths reconnected.
Getting up to the high route was pretty brutal with some steep brush to get through and then a rugged path straight up. Once on top, it was a nice level ridge walk. Nothing as amazing as yesterday, but still great to get one more high ridge walk in before reaching Alice Springs soon. Plus, I got service and plopped down for an hour or so to get the blog posted and call my sister.
Once down, the path normally would walk the dry sandy creek bed of Jay Creek, which was now a full on wide running creek. Susan was at the creek in a nice shaded spot soaking her feet. The water is so sandy that you can’t see in it and it scares me too much to put my feet in there not knowing what might be in there.
I wanted to eat my late lunch at the Jay Creek Shelter that had a shaded picnic table (up off of sand and away from ants) and hiked on. It was only half a mile or so further, but it took forever! The guidebook says to just walk the sandy creek bed, but that wasn’t an option with a full on creek, so it was an obstacle course of tall grass, rock outcroppings, and rocks to negotiate along the bank of the creek. Super slow going.
When I got to the shelter, it was on the other side of the creek of course. I spent a lot of time and got scratched up by brush getting 2/3 of the way across dry before I had to cave I in and put on my flip flops to cross. I should have just done that from the beginning! It totally freaks me out to walk in that water and imaging the snake that’s waiting for me in there!
A bit later Susan came and we both got to laugh over that last half mile that we anticipated being a simple stroll and became the slowest part of the day. Susan stopped there for the day and I had 8mi/13km more that I was hoping to make. It wasn’t until I put my shoes back on that I realized the path wasn’t on this side of the creek! Ugh, the shoes came back off and I walked in the murky water back to the trail on the other side of the creek. It’s funny that a shelter would require crossing a creek like now, but I noticed that there is a dirt service road to access the shelter and fill the water tanks, so they couldn’t have that road go through the creek. Susan’s bush walking experienced side chuckled at my irrational fear of the ants and what may be hiding in the water. She takes it all in stride after being out here so much…but I did get her to acknowledge that snakes swim.
I braced myself for an afternoon of more of the same slow hiking. The guidebook mentioned that the trail would be following many dry creek beds and crossing creeks (usually dry sand) and that it may be necessary to climb along rock outcroppings if water is present. I was not looking forward to more of what I had already done and had imagined today being a cruise, so I was not mentally prepared and was tired. I set off, and was pleasantly surprised to get a clear meandering path pretty much the whole way! Whew!
It was finally relaxing! I tried to listen to the Bill Bryson audiobook I had put on my phone and it was gone! All the books I loaded were gone. Ugh, I’m sure it has to do with how I loaded it because I usually have them on my MP3 player and I was trying my phone for the first time. I still have Geoff Chapple’s book on the creation of the Te Araroa Trail, which I’ll start hiking in November in New Zealand. As I mentioned before, it doesn’t have an audiobook version, so I use the speak feature on the iPhone and set it to a New Zealand man’s voice to make it more entertaining. It’s still a bit robotic, but it’s all I’ve got and I listened to that. I’ll have to reload the other books when I get to town in a couple days.
I got to Mulga Camp earlier than expected at 5:45pm. The other hikers mentioned a swimming hole they found just before the camp that I should camp at, but I didn’t see anything and wasn’t in the mood to walk back and check it out. I was quite happy to have a picnic table, toilet, and water tank easily accessible. I made the spaghetti with tomato paste and savory yeast flakes and love that meal. Plus, I had my chocolate milk (Carnation Instant Breakfast). I was a happy camper.
Random side note, when I put on hand sanitizer tonight, I was painfully reminded that on the brushy steep ascent up the high route today, I mistakenly put my hand on a Spinifex plant, ouch! The campsite has cute little spots to set up tents on soft spots. I only did a bit of blogging before going to sleep at 8:30pm! I can’t believe how early I’ve been falling asleep, but I think it’s a combo of things and I have been listening to my body and just accepting it. I am usually at least a 10pm person on trail. I think a full night of sleep without wind or rain at 4am would help. I’m seeing the Australia night sky with stars for the first time. For some reason, the moon has yet to over brighten the sky, so I can see a ton of stars and what looks like the Milky Way.
I’m looking forward to hopefully a very easy day tomorrow of more cruising trail as I inch closer to Alice Springs.