|Porcupine Grass and Cypress Pines.|
With only around three weeks to go before I start my walk to Canberra on the AAWT I was looking for a final multi day stroll just to make sure everything was in working order. Not having done a long walk up in the Mallee this year and with the weather heating up, my chances of walking up there were getting slimmer as the weekends were slipping by. So anyway, as you've probably already worked out, I decided to make the long drive up to Wyperfeld National Park and do a three day loop deep into the park. Now a walk in the semi arid environment around Wyperfeld didn't really sound as though it would be much of a training run for my alpine walk but as things turned out this stroll ended up being a pretty solid workout.
|Black Flat Car Park, time to head off.|
Now before I start what will know doubt be another rambling post I want to jump ahead a little and talk about something that has been niggling me for awhile. Late in the afternoon today found a slightly shattered Feral walker sitting on a log under the sparse shade of a black box tree, when I glanced down at my GPS, mainly to take my mind off the ache in my feet. Nothing too unusual in all that really, but what I saw when I looked at the GPS was interesting. My GPS was struggling a little to pick up satellites, probably because of the tree's canopy and while it struggled to get a fix it was moving my currant position for kilometres around the area. While I was sitting on my arse under the trees my GPS managed to clock up 8 kilometres, yeah good for my ego but shithouse for keeping any stats! Over the years it's been commented that my distances are a little over the odds and while I agree, it's been a little hard to work out why, the thing is I reckon this happens quite a lot although mostly I think it's only a few metres at a time, it adds up over the course of a day. The thing that is still a bit of a mystery is why mine seems worse than most others, I'm wondering if it's because of the DSLR slung around my neck next to the GPS throwing out some electrical interference? The really strange thing is it seems to happen with any GPS that I have used. My other theory (that's backed up to some degree by some online GPS groups) is that because I tend to wander around off-piste a bit, the GPS can get a little confused when the satellite fix gets a little crappy, anecdotally this kind of makes since as my Wyperfeld meltdown happened when I was sitting on a log twenty metres or so off the track. Anyway from now on I'm going back to the old school methods of working out distances off maps or notes, if I do use a GPS figure then take it with a grain of salt.
|I took almost an identical photo last year, but hey it's not bad so here's another look.|
Alright enough of my self indulgent first world problems, it's time to head off. As I mentioned Wyperfeld is a fair drive from my house so even with a 3:30am wake up call (yeah that's not a typo unfortunately) I didn't actually start the walking bit of the day until 11am. I started off through some fairly familiar country as I'd walked here with Sam last year, heading out along the Tyakil Nature Walk for a few hundred metres. Now when I talk about creeks and lakes on these Wyperfeld posts I'm talking about bone dry creeks and lakes, with the exception of a couple of small festy looking puddles I didn't see any surface water for the three days that I was wondering around the park. So anyway after a few hundred metres I turned onto Cameron Track and headed out onto Black Flat Lake, the baked hard black dirt of the lake making for very easy progress. Shuffling across the dry lake bed it was hard to imagine that our indigenous people lived here thousands of years ago, the permanent freshwater lakes back then supplying the local people with all they needed. After crossing the lake I continued on Cameron Track up to the intersection with Everard Track, Cameron Track was now largely snaking it's way through low sand dunes more or less following the bed of Outlet Creek.
|After a few hundred metres along the Tyakil Track I turned right here along Cameron Track.|
Outlet Creek is a feature that would figure in each of the three days that I was up here, this is the creek that needs to flood to fill these dry lakes. The dry channel of Outlet Creek links all the lakes that I'd be visiting together, unfortunately the Wimmera River hasn't had a big enough flood for the water to get this far since the early 1970's, even the biblical Grampians flood of a few years ago only had the water reaching the more southerly Lake Hindmarsh I think. Trudging along on my meandering route I eventually arrived at Everard Track, I swung west along this sandy track for next three kilometres. This was another section that I'd walked before so the soft sandy surface wasn't a surprise to me, but with the day now well into the mid 20˚ and an overnight pack on my back it was a solid enough walk. The good news is that once again I wasn't far from Outlet Creek and it's red gums, just to the south were some nice sand dunes, so the walking along here is fairly pleasant on the eye. It was early-afternoon when the water tank at the junction of Everard Track and Meridian Track came into view, sitting down in a sea of daisies it was time for lunch.
|The junction with Everard Track signalled the start of some harder walking.|
From the water tank I was heading up Meridian Track northwards towards Lake Wonga, now I've never been up here before but my limited notes suggested that firm sand makes walking easier as you follow Meridian Track northwards.....all good then! After topping up my water bottles I shouldered my pack which seemed to have got heavier even though I'd just eaten lunch, and set off up Meridian Track. The easier walking lasted around...oh...around zero metres. I was straight into soft, deep, powdery sand and after around 100 metres my route started climbing through what seemed like a never ending series of dunes. Where the walking so far had largely followed the grain of the land Meridian Track is definitely against the grain and to top it off with the route now crossing sand dunes it meant that the canopy of red gums and black box had gone, all I had now for a bit of shade was the occasional cypress pine. Still I wanted a bit of a training walk so I suppose I couldn't complain, at least that's what I muttered to myself as I made my way up past Lake Wonga.
|Meridain Track was a soft sandy slog for a lot of it's length.|
The Lake Wonga environs actually provided a bit of a respite from the soft sand as the track past over the flood plain. Trudging northwards I gave the side trip to Lake Wonga a miss today, pencilling it in for my return journey on Sunday. Soon after passing the track to the lake my route once again resumed it's roller coaster journey though the dunes, it was along here while resting in the shade that I observed my GPS going slightly off the reservation, hmmm. Not too long after assuming my journey again The Freeway Track joined from my right, the good news was that the soft sandy track improved slightly from here on. The other thing that was improving was the scenery as I got further north, the cypress pines and porcupine grass are a favourite of mine that I never seem to get sick of.
|Meridian Track north of Lake Wonga, I was looking forward to getting to camp by this stage of the day.|
After crossing one last dune I arrived at the huge Remote Camp on a flat between the dunes. There is a sign marking the camp so you can't really miss it. Shuffling into the deserted camp I dropped my pack and soon found a nice grassy flat spot for the tent. Once the tent was up I had a bit of a poke around the immediate area, Remote Camp not only features lots of open grassy spots to pitch a tent but also has a fire place, water tank, table and toilet, all the comforts of home really. Setting up my kitchen on the picnic table, dinner was soon on the go, only interrupted as I stopped occasionally to get another photo of the Mallee sunset. With the sun dropping below the horizon the mozzies came out so it was time to crawl into the tent, it has to be one of the best feeling finally lying down after a big days walking...well for me anyway.
|I'm just arriving at Remote Camp...if you squint you may see a signpost in the shadows.|
Ok, like I mentioned earlier my GPS went a little of tangent today so I've used a combination of methods to get these stats. I'm thinking that I walked 21.8 kilometres today and climbed around 155 metres, that doesn't sound too bad does it? The thing is that the last half of the day had me following the very soft and sandy Meridian Track and that was fairly hard walking in the heat of this spring afternoon, I'd have to rate today's stroll as a medium grade walk due to the sand. Being a semi arid environment water is one of the biggest concerns, there is no water at the car park at Black Flat, my first water on the walk was a few hours in at the tank at the junction of Meridian Track and Everard Track, from there on there is no water until I arrived at Remote Camp and it's tank. I checked with the local rangers about the availability of water before I set off on this stroll and I'd highly recommend anyone else doing the walk does the same.
|Mallee Sunset, Remote Camp.|