Day Four: Thompson River to Red Jacket – “Stay on Track”

Termite Mounds

The sleep is wonderful.  No leeches find their way in during the night.  Time to get up and prepare for a bush-bash through the ferns and blackberries, north up the steep face and onto the spur.  The vegetation clears after about 300 metres and I can then use the compass to find the track.  I come across a termite mound.  I know that termite mounds can be used as a compass since they are built to face the cardinal points, but these little guys have upped the white ante and started building a map of Australia too!!

A Cairn and a brick marked Clifton

The walk up the hill is initially steep, with intermittent sections of lesser gradient, enough to catch my breath.  I climb to the peak of Little Easton where there is a pile of rocks with a small crossed sign which makes it look like a grave site.  It turns out to be the cairn, but also at the rear of the cairn is a brick marked “Clifton”.  I recognise it instantly, it doesn’t belong here in the bush, and I think that whoever had the idea to cart a brick all the way up this hill must also have had rocks in their head.  They were clearly way off-track to do so, and the brick’s disharmony with the Aussie bush is stark.
A bright purple berry?
Something  catches my eye here and it is not a purple cow. It is bright purple though, but it is a plant.  I will do some research on this plant, I think, since the bush rule is if it is brightly coloured it is probably poisonous.  I stay on track and avoid it for now.

I get glimpses of the Thompson Dam through the trees to the east.  Water, the ultimate laughter liquid, is being stored up for future reference.  I walk on up the hill to Mt Easton.

Thompson Dam

Steep track back down the hill.

Just as steep from the bottom up

The track back down the hill is very steep.  It is widely cleared as a fire-break and this lets the sun in completely to cook the rocks under my feet and reflect the heat into my face.  It is hot.  Very hot.  There is little shade, virtually none actually.  But the track leads downhill to the river, so there’s only one way to go and that is forwards.  At least that’s what I think until I realise that the track is so steep that it involves more reverse than forwards.  My hat tilts to a jaunty angle against the sun’s rays, and I stop frequently enough to take in water.  It feels like a long trip down because it is.  It is some 500m downhill all the way from the peak of Mt Easton to the Red Jacket river level.  Finally from the bottom, I breathe a sigh of relief.  I glance back up the track just descended, and strangely it looks just as steep from the bottom up as it did from the top down.  Well by staying on track I reach the solace of the shaded river banks.  The gurgling of the water is wonderful.  The blackberries seem to have made it their home too.  I walk only a little further to the Red Jacket camp, and take it easy for the balance of the afternoon.  I bathe in the river and recharge.  The water is sweet-tasting, perhaps it’s the blackberries.

Shaded River Banks

I pitch the tent early when I see the storm clouds rolling across.  They drop a little bit of rain, but it is not significant to dampen my enthusiasm.  I cook up dinner and then there are many hours to fill enveloped by tall trees and another overture of the flowing waters and bustling bird life.  This is not a difficult task.  The kookaburra gets the last laugh again tonight.

Author: Andrew Watkins, The Adventure Capitalist

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