By Xavier Anderson
I woke up on day two feeling the efforts of yesterday’s slog, but Jason and I were eager to get a quick start on the day. We couldn’t afford to lose more time. Our packs were heaving again when we pulled them on. Eating a days-worth of food had done little to ease the burden.
When we stepped outside the hut, we found another fresh 5-10cm of snow had fallen overnight as well. Immediately, flashes of the day before went through my head as we crunched through the snow. Thankfully, the snow didn’t get any deeper than our ankles, and was actually kind of soft underfoot: taking the jolting impact of our heavy steps. It was the amount of snow we were expecting on the first day, covering most of the ground but not very deep.
Shortly into our walking, we came across fresh brumby tracks. Looking at our tracks next to theirs, it is evident just how much they turn up the ground compared to other animals. However, we were begrudgingly thankful for the compacted brumby tracks when we encountered a few thicker sections of snow.
We didn’t have to use them for long, though. At about lunchtime we left the snow behind, and by the time we arrived at Tin Mine Huts, the mountains resembled the springtime that we were expecting. I was feeling good: at least until we started up again the following day.
My pack was really beginning to take its toll. I was like a shambling tinker, making his way along the trail: bits and pieces strung all over my pack, knocking and swaying with each troubled step. I felt like a puppet when we arrived at the junction of the Murray’s Source and dumped our packs. As we weaved our way through scrub off to the side of the trail, my body was strangely light, like gravity wasn’t having the same effect on me.
With my newfound lightness, Jason and I made quick work of the off-trail scrub-bash to the source of the Murray. The source was also impacted by the horses in the park. Pugging from their hooves had turned the delicate peat moss–which the source water bubbles out from– into a mud wrestling pit.
It wasn’t a much better story when we arrived at Cowombat Flat later that day. The one difference, however, is the presence of exclusion plots. They are fenced off areas that were set up in 1999 to see what would happen if they weren’t present.
I know it seems like I keep going on about the horses in the park, but there is evidence of them everywhere. We could wander off-trail anywhere and see the signs of horses, and the exclusion plots showed how much the landscape had degraded.
I couldn’t help but feel happy, though. It was the last day of walking. We had been told that the next section would be a bit of a mission. With my aches, it would be a mission just to get out of bed in the morning.