Mt. Crawford Forest loop

Luisa and I left home an hour later than planned and soon lost all day light. With the night came the rain, and as the roads narrowed I leant closer to the steering wheel and squinted.   Through the drops and wipers I strained to see the road as it bent this way and that in the vague night wet.

We caught up with Iain at Chalks Camp site in the Mt. Crawford forest and In the drizzle searched for fire wood, a coating of the days rain glistening back at us in the light of the head torch. By the third attempt and some ingenuity in fire lighting the flames took and we had our fire to cook on and warm us. The fires of others could be seen punctuating the black space of the park, each a centre for huddled people chewing conversation and food.          My night came to a close seated silently by the fire. I realised it was the first time I had stopped all day. The fire and I were as one, settled embers and watched breath. Both centres of energy at rest.

The morning broke slowly with us moving about similarly as we prepared breakfast and readied gear for the days walk ahead. When we were on our way the mist had been prised from its cling to things and the sun asserted itself with fine intent. Regimented pines gave way to scrub which in turn dispersed for open hillside sprinkled with the salt and pepper of sheep and rock. At odds to the natural surrounds a fire watch tower perched above its Eiffel- steel frame-work stood sentinel over a full circle of landscape. From here to the North East Mt. Crawford and Wirra Wirra peaks could be seen, to the south a distant Mt. Lofty.

Any so called Mount in South Australia, should, perhaps, be taken with a pinch of salt, for rarely do they assume the mightiness rightly bestowed on some other renowned Mounts. But, climb to the top of some of our local mounts and you may find a commanding view over many kilometres. You may see the lay of the land around you as never before and in that moment ‘get’ the landscape. It has done that for me despite the modest loftiness. “Hill” may be a better general description but I feel that hills look up to Mounts, therefore if you are the tallest thing around then you are a mount, like it or not.

The vista was clearly captivating, but a look to the ground was equally so, for peppered across the surface of the rock were flakes of glitter, (possibly pyrite, but then I’m no geologist) which sparkled in the bright sun . The longer I looked the greater the enchantment. But Luisa and Iain were already in the distance so I moved on. Together we came to thick scrub and a track through it which we followed away from the tower and then down this way and that with only a brief glimpse to distant hills and their water catchments. In single file we continued down through changing flora most noticeably in the lee of a rock escarpment where a distinct micro climate prevailed, damper, lusher, gentler than than its more prickly surrounds. Before we crossed the stream at the gullies base we got a last look at the previous tower way above and in that moments perspective grasped the scale of the immediate mount. A little further on we were surprised by the lounging form of a muscley mob of grey kangaroos who eyed us with a look of do not disturb. We kept moving not wishing to, and were soon out of the scrub and overlooking green knobbly hills and tucked away small holdings.

Our way now was southward on dirt road through the gentle fringes of human settlement, past the lots of people’s rural dreams. Some assertive and well manicured, others a charming sprawl of weathered projects and un-pruned cottage gardens. These behind us we made a diversion through a wood and on the other-side entered a different section of The Mt. Crawford forest. Here, in a clearing amidst the pines was Scott’s Camp, a purpose built shelter on the Heysen Trail, with picnic bench a knee deep ash piled fire pit and a much desired long drop dunny.

We rested and ate here but only briefly. Our leisurely morning at camp had shortened our day and we needed to push on eastwards back to the cars. Joining us were gloomy clouds from the south west bringing a light drizzle that fizzled above our heads on the super-charged highway of electricity cables. (How do they get those cables up there?) Back into the forest along increasingly muddy tracks our mood was light despite the grey wet. We were on a homeward trajectory, our company of three had chatted and mused happily along all day. I was feeling the warm wear of limbs that comes with a days walk, the revitalisation of nature’s invite, but also aware of its inhospitality, the way it can scratch, cut and knock into bones, can be unforgiving. I didn’t feel those this time, but I have before and I am more respectful to its indifferent fierceness. It doesn’t care for me but it nourishes me all the same.

We made the cars in time and as we departed so did the rain which made the drive home a pleasant contrast to the tense drive up here. The loop was complete.                              (Ewan)

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