Flinders Ranges Day Walks

Blinman Pools (12 km - 230m ascent - 230m descent)

The Blinman Pools Walk is considered to be one of the "Great South Australian Short Walks" and, as it starts from Angorichina, where we were based, doing it seemed a good way to stretch our legs before setting out on the northern end of the Heysen Trail. Thus, on a sunny and clear morning, we found ourselves heading down the short, steep descent from Angorichina into the wide bed of Parachilna Creek and heading upstream. Here the creek had cut its way deeply through the ABC Range to form a winding gorge.

The good winter and spring rainfalls were evident everywhere - with fresh green growth and flowers aplenty. The creek itself was flowing, which is not an everyday occurrence. The sole downside to this attractive scene was the fact that most of the flowers were the purple of Paterson's Curse and the white of onion weed, two attractive but invasive alien plants.

Lush verge of Parachilna Creek

Parachilna Creek below Angorichina

Ruins of "The Dairy"

A cool wind blew down the creek bed, walled in by the red rocks of the range, as we wandered along its bank beneath the tall river red gums. A short while into the walk, we passed the ruins of a cluster of old brick shelters cut into the side of the slope. This was "The Dairy", where in the early 1900s, a family lived in one and kept milking goats in the others. The river bed narrowed and the rock walls became higher, as we rounded a sweeping curve with the path crossing from one bank to the other.

Heading up a dry section of creek bed

Joey amongst the onion weed

A series of pools beneath the cliffs

For a while the stream vanished and we headed up through a shady wooded area, with scatterings of pepper trees beneath the river gums. I like the weeping form and fern-like leaves of the pepper tree, but it is a South American species and this was the first time I had seen it go feral - interesting!

The red walls of the gorge

A little later, the water course was back on the surface of the creek bed as we passed a series of small elongate pools set in the tilted sedimentary rock of the creek bed. With sheer dark-walled cliffs on either side it was an impressive setting. Continuing on our rock-hopping way up the creek bed, the route appeared blocked by the grey rock face of a dry waterfall - the passage onwards was up the water fall itself.

Near the junction of Parachilna and Wockerawirra Creek

Here the scenery was becoming more arid, with more sparsely vegetated hills sloping away from the river - a distant bleating drew our attention to the flock of feral goats high up this slope. Passing the junction of Parachilna and Wockerawirra Creeks, we continued up the latter to reach the site of the First Pool. It was an idyllic setting, with a wide, deep green pool below a rock face blocking the creek. A trickle of water flowed down over a mossy section of the rocks. It was a great place to take a break and enjoy the tranquility of this landscape, as above a pair of wedge-tailed eagles soared in tight circles on a thermal.

The First Blinman Pool

We doubled back slightly to pick up a track that climbed up the rocky sidewall and around the rock face backing the pool, to continue on our way. The creek bed was more open now, but formed mainly from tilted sedimentary rocks. We picked our way over these and pushed on upstream, where desert cypress-pines were now becoming more common. Finally, we reached another rock barrier across the creek bed. This one backed the second of the Blinman Pools, a deep green pondage held back by the tilted rocks of the creek bed. It was time for lunch, listening to the birds, the frogs and the distant bleating of a feral goat.

Grassy bend between the two pools

The Second Blinman Pool

The arid slopes above Wockerawirra Creek

View down the Parachilna Creek Gorge

Lunch over, it was time to return and, instead of following the creek back, we climbed up on to the rounded slopes, not only cutting the bend, but giving us a very different perspective of the landscape.

Looking down from the rocks on to the First Blinman Pool

We dropped back down to pass the First Pool, but liked the tops so much that we climbed back up again to cut out the next bend, following a series of faint goat tracks over the slopes. Several euros watched us approach before bounding off into the rocky landscape.

The hills above Parachilna Creek

Euro watching

Finally, we made our way back into the creek bed via a loose and shaley slope, to wend our way back along it to Angorichina. The Blinman Pools Walk deserves its "Great" status - it was great introduction into the landscapes of the Flinders Ranges.

St Mary's Peak (15 km - 690m ascent - 690m descent)

At 1171m, St Mary's Peak is the pinnacle of Wilpena Pound (and of the whole state of South Australia, in fact). Thus it seemed a must to climb and, as we were having a break at Wilpena Pound Resort in the midway stage of our walk on the northern end of the Heysen Trail, we decided to seize the opportunity; but not until we had a cuppa in bed - three days camping does require some compensation.

We set out mid-morning, passing the campground and following the Outside Track northwards along the base of the eastern ramparts of Wilpena Pound. It was a pleasant track that undulated beneath the cypress-pine woodlands. Despite the sunny day, we had set out wearing our gore-tex jackets. This was to keep out the icy southerly wind that gusted through, courtesy of a large cell of cold air that had been squeezed up from Antarctica. Cold it was, but pure as well - we breathed in the negative ions and enjoyed it.

First glimpse of St Mary's Peak

Heading off on the Outside Track

Despite the boasts of their makers, perspiration does not totally vaporise out through a gore-tex and we soon discarded them to embrace the cold air even more. The Outside Track had climbed gently for a few kilometres beneath the red rocks of Attunga Bluff and Mt Boorong, but now the real climb was about to begin as the gradient steepened and the dusty red path became distinctly rocky.

View back over the eastern plain and Mt Boorong

Looking out over the ABC Range

The Flinders Ranges fade away into the blue

Climb up to Tanderra Saddle

We quickly climbed above the trees and into the more shrubby vegetation of the eastern slopes, which meant that the views out to the east and back along the eastern wall of the range were becoming increasingly expansive and impressive. The gradient steepened once again, obliging us to change to a lower a gear, but by now St Mary's Peak, with its sheer eastern face and sloping western face was there to encourage us on.

Looking into Wilpena Pound from the saddle

The western (ascent) slope of St Mary's Peak

A final very steep pinch, more rock scrambling over red chunky boulders than walking, brought us to Tanderra Saddle. We crossed over to be officially inside Wilpena Pound, with great views over the pound to its western ramparts. Even better, it was on the lee side of the wind - time for a break to enjoy the warmth of the sun and the glorious view.

Crossing the razorback to St Mary's Peak

Rugged walls of Wilpena Pound

St Mary's Peak looked down on us from the north, challenging us to head on. We accepted and followed the rocky track as it skirted the razor-rimmed ridge, before picking its way around the rear of St Mary's Peak. This was the ascent route, marked by blue cats-eyes, that led us on a long scramble around, over and between the rugged rocks of its inside face.

Panorama over Edeowie Gorge to the distant salt pan of Lake Torrens

On the summit of St Mary's Peak

The views became more and more expansive, as the enormous salt flats of Lake Torrens appeared to the west over the rim of the pound. Finally, we made it to the boulder topped pinnacle to join a number of other day-walkers enjoying their lunch and the views. To the south we could look over the pound to Bridal Gap, where we had camped just two nights ago, and beyond to the Elder Range, below which we had camped three nights ago. To the north, the ranges stretched around in a grand arc that framed the Wilcolo and Bunyeroo Valleys, our route on the Heysen Trail once we left Wilpena. The panorama was a veritable display of the northern end of the Heysen Trail.

For me, it also invoked a bit of nostalgia - I had been here before, as climbing St Mary's Peak was probably the first bit of serious bushwalking that I did .....some 48 years ago!

View from the peak south over Wilpena Pound

Looking over the south-western wall of Wilpena Pound to the Elder Range

Strangely, on this exposed peak, the icy wind had dropped to a breeze and it was difficult to leave. However, we finally headed down, retracing our steps. It was a different walk, though, as we were now looking out over the grand vistas framed by rock, shrub and grass tree, and not into the face of the rock as we did on the ascent. The descent seemed longer, which gave us the chance to appreciate two things - one, just what a good effort it was to climb up, and two, the amount of work put in to the track by the rangers. In many cases, rocks which had just seemed obstacles to climb over on the way up were seen to be well-placed erosion controls on the way done.

Looking to the east from the peak

Zooming in on the Lake Torrens salt pan

On finally reaching the flatter lower track, we decided to take a small detour and followed the Outside 4WD Emergency Access Track back instead of the walking track. It was a good choice, as this route took us up over small clear hills, with great views of the red rock walls of the pound. We also came across several flocks of feral goats, including a group of big-horned black billies. They all bolted at first sight and I suspect that they may have caught wind of the "Bounce-back" culling program by the National Park.

Heading home on the Outside Track

Billies on the run

Late afternoon at the Heysen Range

It had been a great day and, sitting on the terrace sharing a cold beer with the Fair Nello at its end, reminiscing over how a life can unfold in 48 years was a good way to end it ...... aaaah, nostalgia! Who can do without it?