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.
Erin, the night sky where you are should be pretty special!
Glad that overall, things are going well ..
It has been really grand:)
I love how you usually close the day’s blog with a campsite photo. The sight of the tent(s) in the luminous dusk at the end of a long, challenging day never fails satisfy and move me.
For so many months I’ve sat and stared, utterly charmed and mesmerized, at the row of 3, then 2 – often scattered, but sometimes in a sweet, angled row with a breathtaking backdrop – as you scrambled and skittered through the glorious high routes with Rockin’, Why Not, and E.
Now, seeing your small, dear habitat safety perched on it’s very own cozy pad, reminds me, in aggregate, of all the countless miles and vistas you’ve shared with us, so many ending with just one small tent in the dusk. Never fails to remind me of the intense, precious quality of solitude and how much I admire the life you’ve crafted, your abilities, pluck, and spirit (and willingness to go the extra mile, haha, to set up for a better next day and to Wired-away on your keyboard, in a small tent in the dark, for the rest of us).
Today’s entry was another special one. You really are bringing it in every way this summer, as always, to your lifetime of experiences, memories and to your terribly impressed and appreciative fellow hikers-in-mind.
Continue safely and content in this enormous, beautiful land.
Tay, beautifully worded, and so true..
Can you write this blog for me Tay!? I love what you said! Having a new home each night with a unique view is such a special part of thru-hiking, but it always feels like home wherever I land in my tent and sleeping bag:)
Spaghetti and chocolate milk — a true Erin meal!
The pictures in this section could be of central to southern Arizona even down to swimming snakes! I felt at home. 😉
So many are saying that! It feels much grander out here, but maybe that’s because it’s new to me.
Another great day for you and fabulous views of the Red / Green Centre for us.
You are experiencing exceptional weather conditions. The farmers right across the west are rejoicing with the arrival of these rains that are breaking drought. Its fantastic for me to see water in the normally dry creeks. I just love your photo of the waterhole near the end of the day.
As for your reaction to snakes, we have the same or greater fear of your bears when in your part of the world.
Yes, I saw a paper that said that this is three times the average rainfall in Central Australia.
I might be out of line with this comment but I don’t think you should put pressure on yourself to answer all emails, Facebook and your blog comments. It shows your appreciation to your followers but there are only so many hours in a day. This is probably your only time to be in Australia and New Zealand so enjoy the countries. Don’t spend too much time looking at your screen. Remove the stress of answering comments and breath in your surroundings.
I remember reading that you are doing the blog for yourself, something to look back on in the future when you can’t be on the trail any longer. We are just fortunate to be able to go along. I’m pretty sure the comments are to encourage you and thank you, not met to add pressure on you and take time away from you enjoying your trip of a lifetime. Please be selfish and don’t let the popularity of the blog spoil your dream.
I know I shouldn’t reply to this, but you are right. I think I’ve found a good balance of waiting a week or two and then taking a day to catch up on emails and such. It really does add to the experience, but thank you for understanding. I now don’t answer all, but I like replying if I can. I want to stay as present as possible and I have improved with that over the years.
Great comments by all and I especially identify with Tay and NIcole. So, be Wired and have the most fun that you can. We all do enjoy living through your eyes and seeing new places.
BTW – Hope you find your umbrella and that you can can be reunited!