My goal for this Duke of Ed journey was to put my outdoor experience into practice and improve my navigational skills while physically challenging myself on a 44km hike.
22 – 25 January 2015
Gold Practice Adventurous Journey
Start – Hornsby Train Station
Finish – Hawkesbury River Train Station
Day 1 – Hornsby Station to Crosslands Campsite
14km; Grading: moderate to hard
From Hornsby station we joined the Great North Walk and walked through a rifle range (it’s safe!) via Galston Gorge for lunch to our campsite at Crosslands.
On the way we kept following the track until we found it became thinner and thinner until it disappeared altogether. We worked out that we were in the wrong place and that we had two options, bush bash to the campsite or trace our steps backwards to find the point in the track where we went wrong. We scouted around for a few minutes before deciding that we should stick together and go back. We followed the track back until we came to a junction we didn’t see the first time and we were then on the right track again.
Today I learnt that importance of being observant and looking out for different tracks instead of just following the leader. I also learnt about the importance of staying together and not being alone. Teamwork is important and we can find solutions if we all work together.
Day 2 – Crosslands to Berowra Heights
10km; Grading: moderate to hard
We left Crosslands campsite at 8am and walked about 1km before having to do a creek crossing at Calna Creek because the bridge had collapsed. A few of us went out into the water to check the depth, see if we could make it across and find the safest place to cross the creek. We had previously looked up the tides so that we wouldn’t cross at high tide and that did help us a lot.
The weather was extremely hot at approximately 32 degrees so we stopped for lunch for 3hours at Berowra Waters. We had a swim and break in order to wait out the heat of the day and fill up on water before continuing the hike. We then did another steep ascent, then descent followed by another ascent to the campsite. Once we got to the campsite we set up camp and watched the sunset.
We had another debrief and discussed the day like the night before looking at the topographic maps and the next day’s route. We decided that the terrain was quite steep and we wanted to reach the peak of the last hill before the predicted 36 degrees during the middle of the day. This meant that we decided to get up at 5:30am and leave by 7am.
Day 3 – Berowra Heights to Brooklyn Dam
14km; Grading hard
We woke up at 5:30 am and left on time at 7am to start the long day ahead. We dropped the silver participants at Cowan train station and refilled our water before continuing to Jerusalem Bay. The bay was beautiful so we stopped for lunch and a swim was very refreshing.
After another 5km of up and down we reached our campsite at Brooklyn Dam and went for a swim to cool down and refilled our water bottles with the dam water. We had to use purification tablets and boil the water to purify it and make it safe for drinking.
Today I learnt the importance of having access to water and timing when you leave in the morning to refrain from doing the most strenuous leg of the walk during the warmest part of the day. The hike also solidified for me the importance of sticking together and never walking alone.
Day 4 – Brooklyn Dam to Brooklyn
6km; Grading easy
Today again, we got up at 5:30am to leave by 7 and make the train at the Hawkesbury River station. It was really beautiful as there was mist over the lake and reminded me of Ian, our guide’s saying “The most beautiful places can only be reached on foot”. We walked down an extremely steep hill before descending down to the town of Brooklyn and the train station.
This gold practice hike was by far the most physically challenging thing that I have ever done. Despite not being an extremely challenging hike to navigate, I was physically pushed to my limit in the heat. I had a very enjoyable time and the challenge was appropriate for the gold level of the Duke of Edinburgh Award. I also developed many existing skills and learnt new things whilst on the hike as follows:
- Teamwork and staying together is important: I learnt that it is important to stick together especially whilst navigating in bushland. This was demonstrated to me most on day one when we got a bit lost and had to work together to find a solution and our way to camp.
- How to be safe during lightning storms: Lightning strikes the tallest object and thus whilst hiking, there are many tall trees around that could be struck. As a result, during a lightning storm you should not stand near very tall objects or in a field. One should also squat with their feet together and protect their head with their arms, something I never knew before.
- Water is important: During the hike, we had temperature highs ranging from 32-36 degrees and thus during the strenuous hike we perspired a lot. The water lost had to be replaced through drinking lots of water and this also prevents dehydration. Where you get your water from is also important; often when hiking there aren’t many places to fill up so you must have a capacity to carry a large amount of water and carry purification tablets or a stove to boil water and refrain from drinking contaminated water.
- Navigation: I learnt about how helpful the sun can be to help with navigation. Depending on the time of day, you can use to the sun to determine approximately what direction you are walking in or should be walking in.
- Creek/River crossings: We had to do numerous creek/river crossing with the deepest at Sam’s Creek, coming up to my waist. I learnt about the importance of scouting as a group to find the shallowest point before walking through with packs as a large group. I also learnt about the importance of looking up the tides if it is a tidal river to help determine the best time to cross.
- The time of day you walk is important: I learnt about the importance of preparation and planning beforehand. When we knew the terrain was steep, difficult and temperatures high we left early in the morning in an attempt to complete the more difficult legs before it became too hot.
- Leave no trace: I also learnt about the effect that we can have on the environment and the resulting importance of leaving no trace by following these principles:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Walk and camp on durable surfaces like established tracks and campsites
- Dispose of waste properly – pack it in, pack it out
- Leave what you find
- Minimise campfire impacts – Use a light, gas stove and where fires are permitted keep them small and use only fallen fuel and sticks
- Respect wildlife – Observe from a distance and don’t feed them, store rations and rubbish securely
- Be considerate of your hosts and other visitors
Improvements for my Qualifying Journey
I took too much food on this hike so next time I will take less and think about some lighter options. I am also going to try dehydrating my own food as I have done in the past as it worked out well and is a light food option. I took the perfect amount of water and it was a great idea taking my Camel Pak as it meant that I could walk and drink water simultaneously rather than taking off my pack to reach my water bottle. I took a good amount of clothes and will do the same for my next journey. However, next time I will try and find my own topographic map of the area and print it off as we were only given one per six people and I like to have my own to consult. Overall I believe it was a successful journey that I learnt a lot from.