Thursday 14 December 2023

Back to the Land of a Thousand Lakes 1

[Ready to leave, at last!]

I usually reckon type 2 fun – something that’s difficult at the time, but which turns out to be rewarding – applies well to bushwalks. But just occasionally it applies to the lead up to a walk. 


Organising the first bushwalk of summer with my usual walking mates was close to classic type 2 fun. That partly came down to our differing bushwalking styles and preferences. Some of us like to walk to wild places, far from the madding crowd. Some of us like a walk to be short and sweet, preferably with the comforts of a hut, and the prospect of meeting new walkers. Still others of us like the challenge of reaching a mountaintop, or finding our way through new, preferably trackless country. 


Trying to juggle the various walk preferences; lock in the dates; settle on a venue; nail complex transport arrangements; deal with last minute changes; factor in the weather – all in the age of COVID – made the organisation of this walk more than a little fraught.


But then, miracle of miracles, as soon as we got to the start of the walk, the difficulties began to be eclipsed by the rewards, and the smiling began. In truth for two of us, the smiling had begun a day early. Knowing that on this walk we wouldn’t get to stay in a hut, Jim’s high-rank preference, he and I had gone up early and spent the night at the Great Lake Hotel: a very fancy "hut", by our standards.


Our four day jaunt was to begin not far from Great Lake. We would walk into the Central Plateau/Walls of Jerusalem area, starting from Ada Lagoon. We’d eyed off several potential lakeside camps, with Silver Lake our likely first destination. I’d walked there a few times, but not for many years. So in writing up the walk plan, I allowed six hours to get from Ada to Silver: a generous estimate, I thought.

[Walking beside Ada Lagoon]


We didn’t manage to start walking until after 12 noon, partly because of the tight preparation time available for the full-time workers in the group. But we kept smiling, and the weather gods smiled back at us. The forecast showers were nowhere to be seen. Instead they’d given way to a blue sky off-set by welcomingly fluffy clouds. 


Compared to the more popular end of the Walls of Jerusalem, this walk has an unspectacular start. It’s flattish, largely treeless, and partially on an old fourwheel drive track. For us though, the lack of high peaks and deep forest was compensated for by the wide open vistas, the glittering of lakes near and far, and the stunning early summer wildflower displays. Golden pultenaea, creamy orites, red waratah were all on peak display, offset here and there by smaller, more cryptic caladenia and diuris orchids. And of course there was the company. We hadn’t all been together for many months, and there was a lot to catch up on. 

[Easy walking among summer wildflowers]


But we had started late, and this was soon compounded by slower pace of some of us. Dare I name we retirees for this?  Anyway we didn’t exactly set a cracking pace on the outward run. By the time we left the marked track and began the slow, scrubby descent towards Lake Antimony, fatigue was setting in. The intransigence of the scrub, with every second Hakea bush or banksia seemingly intent on grabbing us, exhausted us further.

[Caladenia alpina orchids]


Even the sight of Antimony Hut #5 did little to brighten the eyes of the hut-lovers. We gave the humble structure a perfunctory once-over, and left for the short trek over to Silver Lake. But first we had to cross the fast flowing Powena Creek. Wet feet and a less-than-desirable distance between the lead walkers and those at the tail end, didn’t improve matters. 

[Jim and TimO at Antimony Hut #5]


Still, soon enough we saw the southernmost of the twin Silver Lakes, with a bright red tent already set up on its far shore. But by now the six of us had separated into two groups of three, and we’d lost visual contact with each other. It took an extra forty minutes for us to locate one another near the southern shore of south Silver Lake. The original plan had been to go to the northern shore of the north lake, where I knew there was plenty of space. But by now my generous six hour walk time estimate was proving regrettably accurate. So, just after 6 o’clock, we all agreed to simply get to a viable campsite and set up for the night.


The occupant of the red tent called out a welcome across the lake, and advised us as to where we might fit our tents. All that was left was for us to ford the Pine River and walk to the lakeside to find tent sites. Wet feet, fatigue and concern that we might crowd the solo walker were soon forgotten as Tim D showed us a goodly number of potential tent sites, all well distant from “Neighbour Dave”, as we dubbed the solo walker. 

[Durston and Hilleberg vie for attention at Silver Lake]


Better still our neighbour was more than happy to have company. He even came over to help me set up my red tent. He’d recognised it as a variation on his own Hilleberg Akto tent (mine is the lighter weight Hilleberg Enan). I later visited his tent, and we shared fan boy enthusiasms over our well-made Swedish tents.


[Relaxing at the tarp set up]

Back at our site, Jim was having his own fanboy moment, showing off his new Durston X-Mid 1 tent, which we quickly dubbed "The Hut": another attempt to console Jim for the lack of huts on this walk. Tim D had set up the next best thing, an ample 4m X 3m tarp, and we were soon gathered around it enjoying the luxury of cheese, biscuits and wine before a late dinner. We were tired from our day’s exertion, but as we stretched out, mesmerised by the views across the lake to the Walls of Jerusalem, I think we remembered to be grateful.

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