With five months until I depart for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), I’ve been leaving my training hikes until the evening as the morning sun is way too hot here around this time of year. Things will continue to heat up until the end of January next year. I struggle with the heat even when not hiking, which is something I’m mentally preparing myself for before I take on the PCT.
Before my hike, I cleared an SD card and packed some water into my backpack of 33lbs (15kg) and headed for the Jetty on the horizon – 4 miles out (6.4km). The Jetty was once free to walk on, but years ago they started charging an admission fee, most probably to limit the number of fishermen who use the jetty to access the deeper waters and oh yeah, to squeeze a few dollars out of everyone which is very much a theme these days wherever you go. This is my usual hike around here on the Gold Coast as there aren’t many other places to choose from unless I drive out towards the hinterland which requires more time – time I don’t really have.
Getting out to the peninsula takes a little longer these days as there are still a few barricades which force one to detour around the Gold Coast 600 race course which was in full force two weeks ago (see previous post).
So, I’ve been thinking of all the things I think about when training for the PCT. I generally have a number of thoughts going on at any one time, never just one thought, but I have found recently that while hiking after an hour or so, my mind is a little more relaxed and free to focus on fewer things. It’s almost as if I reached a meditative state. The sound of the gravel grinding beneath my shoes is, in a word, hypnotic.
I had reached the half way point known as the break wall where I saw a Japanese couple walking their sausage dog. They had named her Sakura – meaning cherry blossom in Japanese. The name kind of suited the little dog as it trotted its way in and out amongst the people around the break wall. A lot of dog owners walk their dogs around this part of the beach on weekends, so I try to fit in a training hike around this time as the dogs add to the atmosphere out there.
I have come to know a few people who walk the tracks around here, some chattier than others. It’s interesting seeing people who are taking time out on the same track each day on a weekly basis. It’s also nice to have the odd person pass me by. Without them there it would be quite a lonely stretch.
I was hoping to get a shot of one of the larger snakes which I’ve seen on this trail leading out along the peninsular but they were all in hiding. A couple of days ago I saw what looked like a Boa Constrictor but on closer inspection I decided it was more like a Python. It was lazing fully stretched out on the side of the track trying to warm up. Over the last couple of months the Queensland government has placed signs around the area warning people about the Boa Constrictors which were released in the area a number of years ago and who have since grown and have multiplied.
Half way towards the Jetty I crouched down on the side of the trail to take some photos of some Beach Spinifex, a native grass commonly found along the coast from Victoria to northern Queensland. Little did I know, while taking these photos, I was being nibbled at. I felt the odd irritation and noticed a couple of tiny flies on my hands but later in the evening I started seeing small bites appear all over the right side of my body which was the side I had closest to the Spinifex. These bites were to last for days and they itched like nothing I have experienced before.
Beach Spinifex is one of the most important sand stabilizing plants in eastern Australia. The female inflorescence, which is pictured above, consists of a group of long narrow spines which change colour from blue-grey to straw as they mature. The spines are soft to touch and carry minute flowers. They are fertilized by the male flower which is a short fan shaped spikelet formed on a separate stem some distance away. When the seed is ripe, the whole female structure detaches from the plant and cartwheels across the sand shedding seed as it goes. They mimic the seed dispersal method of the desert tumbleweed familiar to those who enjoy old western movies. Hopefully I’ll get to see a few of these weeds tumble across the trail while hiking the PCT, although tumbleweeds are a sign of dry sands and therefore little if any water. At least I’m getting in the practice as these weeds tumble their way towards me as I hike the long the flat tracks of the Gold Coast.
What I like about this track is that it’s very well protected by the high winds which the land draws in from the ocean. It’s almost feels at times like a tunnel of trees I walk through. There are some stages of the PCT where hikers claim to experience the boredom of “green tunnel syndrome” where they hike for days on end through never ending forests. I know this will not bore me in anyway for I’ll be too occupied by the thought of a hungry bear charging at me around the next turn, looking to me as his next meal. While I’m not overly concerned about bears attacking me, they are not animals we are accustomed to over here. There’s a slight difference between a hungry Kangaroo and a hungry Bear. Kangaroos don’t gobble up humans.
Just a last thought, I suppose for those who are ever told to take a hike in life, this would be the hike to take, for all that’s on offer here are blue skies ahead.