1/27 Half Day at Hunter Creek

Hunter’s Creek Hut to Maitland Creek Tributary

12 K

I sleep until 7:00, when my mattress

has deflated enough that my hips are aching from being pushed into the hard ground. I was hoping the last few nights had been a misplaced worry, an illusion that the mattress was flatter in the mornings, but I am now certain it is not so. I blow it back up and watch the beautiful world framed through the door while water heats for coffee.

It’s going to be a half day today- hurrah! The extra sleep was enough of a benefit alone, but I will also have time to catch up a little on journaling. The Richmonds are so full of happenings! The days are full with more stories, leaving less time to write them.

A cool breeze wafts through the tent every once in awhile, and Prana and I joke and laugh. We hear Justin and Caroline go by on the trail, and I am happy they are in front of us, to be caught up to and chatted with again. We take the cue to move to the hut, and haphazardly throw everything in our packs as it starts to drizzle; we can pack properly once we are inside.

We have breakfast and lounge in the well-crafted, spacious cabin. There are large windows letting in lots of light, and the drizzle stops. The views from the porch are astounding.

The hours go by, and we eat snacks and work on our respective projects- Prana is replacing the generic feathers on his dream catcher with feathers we have collected from the ground while hiking- Weka, Fantail, Silvereye, Gray Warbler, and others unidentified.

We pass the morning until well after 1:00, when we finally pack our bags and hike away. The trade off for enjoying a hut alone in the morning is hiking in the heat of the afternoon, and the heat again thickens the air as we hike up away from the hut. We cross a few creeks that offer wallowing-holes, and we go in fully clothed to carry the home-made air conditioning with us for as long as possible.

The trail continues in full desert-reminiscent mode today, with more of the same beautiful exposed mineral bands and barren desolate landscape that I began displaying last night. I love it. The tread itself is often covered in little ball-bearing stones, which makes for a few exciting seconds above the drainage of Ellis Creek.

The trail undulates through a series of side streams, and I listen to a string of Story Collider podcasts. Porter Creek Hut is painted the bright orange of the trail signs, and is visible far in the distance before we reach it.

Even though it is early, we still cook dinner as I page through a Wilderness magazine and write down some of the trails it suggests, many of which were also suggested by Jo. The bees are again swarming this hut, like so many others in this sections, so after a particularly annoying time eating, we gratefully carry on.

The trail behind Porter Creek is full of many of the bizarrely deep, red tinted bog pools, and when we reach the far edge of the shallow basin meadow, the ground falls away to where Lowther Creek is slicing into the crumbling earth.

We clamber down to it and follow it, then string along a series of ridges, alternating dry dusty tread with boggy matted marsh, until we are overlooking Maitland Creek, our goal for today. We are steadily working our way, level by level down out of the Richmonds, in reverse of the way we worked level by level up into them at the beginning.

Down down down, hoping for a camp at the semi-flat area between the contour line on our maps. We reach a tributary with a steep climb on the far side, and with a small sandy square just big enough for our tent. As we clear the few lumpy rocks out, we uncover two different tent stakes, evidence that we aren’t the only ones who liked this spot.

We tuck in for our last night I. This magnificent range, eat some chocolate, and watch the colors reflected on the skin of the river change as the sky deepens the twilight. I won’t miss the heat, and I sure as hell won’t miss the wasp plague, but I will sure miss the the endless variety and stunning beauty of the Richmonds.

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