Monday, October 12, 2009

Mt. Gammon

Arid Mt. Gammon

Our recent trip to Arkaroola included a couple of days at the Mt. Gammon Ranges National Park, located on the southern boundary of the  Arkaroola Wildlife Sanctuary.  The park has several bush camping areas, and we decided to stay at the site near Grindells Hut because of its proximity to several hiking trails.  It is one of the more isolated camping areas, and we had to traverse a 17 km 4wd road to access the camping area.
There is a Hut, that can be rented from the Park Services, but we stayed down among the river gums.  Finding the ideal site was a bit tricky, because you don't want to put your tent under the large trees, as they are known to drop heavy branches without warning.  Fortunately, we arrived early and were able to find a spot that not only suited our needs, but was probably the best spot in the campground.
Once camp was set up, we hit the trail.  We originally planned to hike an 18 km loop, but because most of the trail followed a 4wd track, we decided to take a single track "short cut" up to Weetootia Spring.  This meant climbing the rugged hills and passing the old abandoned Monarch Mine.  As we headed out of the valley, we were able to look across the vast Illinawortina Pound.  The scene before us was dramatic and dismal--the barren land was shocking.  As we snaked our way up the bald hills it was impossible to miss the effect of the recent decade-long drought.  The fine bull dust crunched with each step--evidence of just how parched the earth was.  Piles of branches--once living trees--lined the trail.  There was a total lack of life: no ants, birds, lizards, or even scat from nocturnal animals, and even the ruthless flies of the outback were gone.  As we neared the top of the ridge we, did see traces of past life, as shards of green rock began to litter the trail--remnants of an old cooper mine.  When we stood on the ridge, I was struck by how a land could be so empty--devoid of water, life, and sound.

Rugged Hills near Monarch Mine

At this point the trail followed the ridge for several kilometers, as we moved from the eastern side of the hill to the west.  It is amazing how the crossing of the crest of a hill can bring change.  The bull dust became softer in texture, and antlion holes began to appear in the delicate sand.  Where there are antlions there are ants.  A close look at the ground also showed very small green leaves, and there were even a few standing trees.  We weren't out of the desert--the land around us remained arid--we were in a small micro climate that supported a mini-ecosystem of life.
In the distance, we saw a rocky knob and decided that we would stop there for lunch before heading down to the gorge.  When we arrived at our predetermined lunch spot we were amazed at what lay before us.  The canyon below was a sea of green nesting the red rock.  We sat and ate lunch in awe.  The scene before us, Balcanoona Range and Wortuppa Creek, was breath taking.  Especially when compared to the barren , waterless land we had just traversed.

Balcanoona Range and Wortuppa Creek

We finished lunch quickly and anxiously headed down to the canyon bottom.   As we approached the riverbed we saw water glistening--we had found an oasis in the desert.  The silence that had accompanied us for the past hour and a half was replaced with the chirping of many birds.  At the canyon bottom we walked a bit in the opposite direction of camp in order to reach Weetootia Spring.  It was well worth the detour.  Not only were we able to rinse our hands in the refreshing cool water, but we also had the the opportunity to view a lone rare Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby in the outcrops above us.

Weetootia Spring

Our return walk to our campsite followed the rocky creek bottom.  Although the creek was not an endless flow of water, we did come across several fresh water springs.  Beneath the green algae and plants you could see the crystal clear water.  Near each naturally formed water hole there were plenty of signs of animal life, and we even came across a kangaroo and several more Wallabies--and, of course, we were once again joined by plenty of bush flies.

Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby


  1. Hi Maya, great post. I found it interesting to read the changes in the landscape and environment during your adventurous hike. Your photos are amazing. The Wallaby looks like a kangaroo. How fun to see one on your hike.

    Very fun read for me this morning. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Hi Kathy, glad you enjoyed the read. Mt. Gammon was a very interesting place. A Wallaby is a lot like a kangaroo, I'll be providing you with more information about them soon :)

  3. I really enjoyed reading about this area. Your camp and hike sounded wonderful. I love the desert. I also love the picture of the Wallaby.