Heysen Day 12: Quorn to Camp 6 Mount Brown Bush Camps (32.5km today, 260.9km on trail)

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Thick fog greeted me as I wandered out the door. Tiny moisture droplets hung in the morning air, flickering in the narrow beam of light projecting from my head lamp. It was dark and the streets empty.

Meandering down a gravel road I had off trail kilometres to complete before reaching the Heysen again. A keen dog walker also out in the dark greeted my kindly wishing me a good walk. Quorn was a great small town. I will have to return one day.

My new shoes fit perfectly and made for instant, comfortable walking. So pleased. I couldn’t get the same La Sportiva’s in time as very few retailers seemed to stock them so I’ve gone with another pair of Altra’s. This time round a pair of Lone Peak 6.0’s. They are zero drop and that will take a day or two of getting use to again, bringing new muscle groups into play. I’ve used Altra’s before on sections of the PCT and Bibbulmun Track so know what I’m in for. An OK day today and most likley tight calves tomorrow and then happiness.

It was flat, easy walking out of town, back onto trail and a short section of railway track that is being restored. At least I think the rail line was part of the Heysen – I think the trail was actually off to the aide but why not walk the on sleepers for a change. Quorn is a train buffs wet dream and there are big projects underway to restore much of the old rock work lining the old track and dilapidated bridges. It remains a popular area for major film projects, with scenes from Gallipoli, The Shiralee, The Water Diviner all shot here. The main streetscape, rail precinct and surround country side provide the perfect backdrop for such films.

It wasn’t long before I crossed into the Pichi Richi Station and first test for the new Altra’s with a short, rocky, steep climb to a ridge line traverse for several kilometres. High above the valley floor I could see Mount Brown in the distance, my destination for the afternoon. Out to the south west, rows of wind turbines on the outskirts of Port Augusta could be seen. It’s obviously a pretty windy area normally but not today with a blue sky and cool breeze.

The ridge line tested the shoes good and proper with lots of loose rock and small solid rocks sheets, much of it pink quartz, to traverse. All good. Happy feet. The descent down proving it was a wise decision to change shoes. So much toe room and zero problems, besides the odd spinifex blade biting into the sides of my feet and legs.

I wasn’t looking forward to the climb up Mount Brown based on the vertical profile I had seen but it had to done and I steeled myself for what was likely to be a slow climb with many breaks. I actually wasn’t too bad. Perfectly graded for a hiking trail with signs of recent grading. This was obviously a popular day walk as smaller marker posts counting down the distance to the summit every 200m appeared. These were awesome and allowed my to really pace myself, knowing how far I’d gone and how much more climbing was ahead. I wont say it was easy. It wasn’t. The sweet certainly poured out and I was saturated on reaching the top. It was sunny but not an overly warm day and the cool breeze did more to chill me than dry my shirt.

Often when climbing bigish, named mountains, you often end up on top surrounded by trees with no pay off for the hard work put in. Not so on Mount Brown. The canopy was maybe 10m high, small vestibules providing glimpses of the surrounding country at very tern. But to top this off was a small viewing tower perched above the tree tops providing uninterrupted views around 360 degrees. Views out to the south west across to Port Augusta, Port Priarie and the York Peninsula; to the south Wilmington and Mt Remarkable; the Flinder Ranges out to the north. Stunning views.

The day was getting on and I wasnt getting any warmer up on top. I had another few hours ahead and had to keep moving.

Off Mount Brown the Heysen descended onto farmland which it would continue right through tomorrow. Given it is private property camping options are limited. There is no free camping. Sure it is possible to stealth camp and never been seen but wanted to do the right thing and have permission from one of the properties. One option was to book a shed called Catninga for $25 only a couple of kilometres off Mount Brown but I had my sights on pushing a few more kilometres beyond Catninga to start chewing into some more distance and make the most of the available daylight. I could fill up water at Catninga with the property owners providing a tap to the tanks at the shed for Heysen hikers. My only other option to was camp at Mount Brown Bush Camps, around 4km further along from Catninga. 15 bucks get you a campsite with drop toilet and fire pit, no water. I’d have to fill all bottles with enough to get through the night and all tomorrow, with the next available source 14km away, a newly installed Heysen water tank with very little reliable water until there was a decent rain event.

I reached a unlicked gate to the property late in the date, completely buggered and daylight fading. There was no signage to Camp 6 that I had booked, only a mud map that was emailed to me this morning to go by for directions. Unfortunately the mad map was made for people entering the main property entrance by vehicle several kilometres away. With around 20% phone battery left I was able to bring up and aerial photo and see where I was and what looked to be a small campsite with outbuilding a little ways off. I just had to navigate down a gully and across a spur to hit a vehicle track doing my best not to disturb the new born, still feeding off mum, lambs. You forget that sheep have tails in the wild. Little ones were very cute.

I followed this lead and did reach a camp site but it was signed Camp 4. Damn it! Already beat I would have to circle back behind me on a vehicle track. Hey at least I knew where I was and where to head.

With the sun going down I finally reached Camp 6 and quickly went about scouting for a flat site to pitch. The options weren’t great unless I took my chances under big old, knarly red gums. I had to settle for an open patch of ground devoid of any canopy. It would a cold night I imagined. Lets just hope my sleep pad repair holds up.

A quick cook up of instant noodles and tuna before all light disappeared.

It’s a long one sorry.

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