The 2014 Expeditions - A hike from Laycocks Hill into the Watson Range

Saturday, Feb 28, 2015 at 08:27


Friday June 13th
Laycock's Hill

A sleep in this morning rising at a luxurious 8:00 a.m. The wind had howled all night deepening the cold for those sleeping out in the swags. Poor Dick reckons he had to get up four times to stoke the fire, the breeze making the fire burn furiously and quickly consuming the poor quality mulga we had gathered.

A quick check of the food stocks revealed that seven eggs had not survived the previous days travels and were soon whipped into a scrambled egg breakfast for the Canadians and. A hearty start to the day and one that would provide the energy for our hike through the Watson Range in search of water holes. After breakfast I took my camera and strolled to the creek hoping the early morning light would provide photo opportunities of Laycock's Hill. Laycock was the cook on the The Horn Scientific Expedition expedition that passed through this country in 1894. While I cannot substantiate this fact, I believe that this hill/range is named for him by Chas Wineoke, leader of the expedition. The creek at the base of Laycocks Hill is the main tributary flowing north out of the hills. The sheer volume of water funneled from the range has slashed a deep creek into the soft sand carving red loam walls 4-5 metres in height. Each tumultuous downpour eats away at the surrounding land. Thank god it’s a dry continent!

On my way back to camp I stumbled over a magnificent grinding stone tilted and half buried and only 50 metres from camp. It was the first artifact we'd found in the area and prompted closer inspection of the surrounding rocks. The search located further remnants of a grindstone right beside my vehicle.

Packing lunch and survival equipment into the day packs, we were soon hiking along the creek. Dick had left around 10:00 a.m., a good half hour before us so we enjoyed tracking him along the sandy bottom of the creek and then up into some nearby rock outcrops. Following a route Jaydub had mapped earlier, our path deliberately stuck with the creek for as long as possible and avoided the rocky uncertainty of the hills but venturing out here and there to check a rock wall or cavern for aboriginal art.

Eventually our creek wound too far east and we were forced to leave its confines and head out onto the sandy plains between the ranges.We navigated a path between the hills negotiating rocky mounds and creek beds and sticking to the valleys where we could. Freshly disturbed earth and a pungent aroma of urine indicated where groups of camels had recently hooshed down for the night. We also disturbed a couple of kangaroos, the first we’d seen. Passing under one large shady mulga tree, we found another large grindstone looking to all the world as if it had been left in this shady spot only yesterday. The reality is more likely some fifty years since women sort refuge in this shady spot to grind their gathered seed and stare out across the country.

Climbing a small rocky rise that provided a view of the rugged bluffs of the Watson Range, we paused to rest and take lunch. While searching for a water source along the base of the Watson Rage, the dry, rugged country was giving away no secrets. Any such discovery would be hard fought and probably in the realms of exploration by quads. Next time perhaps! With an impressive escarpment as a backdrop, we took a lunch break atop a low, rocky hill stacking a few stones into seats to get out bums out of the prickly spinifex

On the homeward trek, Jaydub led us on a north westerly trek across the rugged ranges. It was hard going and rough on the ankles, the rocky ground and spinifex difficult to negotiate. Finally we clambered down a rocky face onto a sandy plain covered with soft grasses and well spaced acacia. It was much easier going. Then, dropping into one of the deeply etched creeks, we followed the tributaries eastwards until they joined our main creek. Some damp soil in the base of a deeper depression in the creek bed was the only sign of water for the entire hike.

We were exhausted when we reached camp at 2:30 p.m. having hiked 9.4 kilometres through some pretty rugged country. It is magnificent though and the artifacts located along the way were a reward in themselves. I took advantage of the afternoon to complete a few chores, gluing up a slash in a front tyre then helped Scotty get his Navigation program working.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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