Mt Little Station – 12-14 June 2021

It was an early 6am start on Saturday morning for the drive to Mt Little Station on the June long weekend. After seeing long queues of traffic at Pt Wakefield on the Friday night news bulletin, I was glad to be leaving on the Saturday morning. I decided to head through Pt Wakefield and stop for an early morning break at    Snowtown. There was little traffic on the road and the driving was easy.

I remember as a child hearing Adelaide called the “City of Churches” but as I travelled the highway towards Pt Augusta, I soon realised that Adelaide is the “City of Roadworks”. It was slow going but eventually, I made the turn off to Quorn from the main highway.  The   winding drive through Pichi Richi Pass is always a joy and I was surprised to find Quorn still blanketed in thick fog at 10am, as I passed through on my way to Hawker.

Bright sunshine greeted me at Hawker where I topped up with fuel and found a good coffee at the cafe. Alan and Cecilia drove in just as I was about to leave so, after a quick chat, I was on my way while they refuelled and refreshed.

Mt Little Station is nestled in on the Western side of the Elder Range, about 15km from Hawker on the Leigh Creek Road, and the entrance is well sign posted. Val and Steve had given us all good instructions on how to find the campsite which was not far past the Homestead. The campsite, overlooking a very large, dry creek bed, was great; lots of room for everyone, a really good fire pit and excellent flush toilets close by (for the few of us that didn’t have ensuites!) Everyone set up camp, had a chance to socialise and grab a bite to eat before the afternoon activities were announced.

We headed off to tackle the track to the top of Mt Little, take a look around the property and admire the view. The track was like most in the Flinders Ranges having plenty of loose rocks and steep, in parts. There was even a well-worn part of the track with deep ruts that Steve Dalton and I elected to tackle for an extra challenge. We all made it to the top of Mt Little where there was a  panoramic view of the whole property and a stone cairn with lots of names on the rocks. Most of us elected to add our names to the pile for a bit of fun.

We had intended to go from Mt Little to Sunset Hill for  a photo of the setting sun illuminating the Elder Range but, unfortunately, the weather had other ideas. The clouds closed in and the temperature dropped rapidly, so the decision was made to head back to camp and  enjoy the fire.

Sunday morning, we left camp around 9:30am to drive the track on the opposite side of the creek on which we were camped. The track started at the base of Mt Little and headed west, out towards the highway. There were a few tricky parts along the track where erosion and large washouts required some precision driving. Some  of us were more precise than others with our wheel placement which provided much interest to the onlookers. We inspected a very old cemetery out near the highway, some nearby ruins of a once grand homestead and the remains of the original Ghan Railway bridge  pylons in the dry creek bed. Steve and Val lead the group back along the dry creek bed, following some camel tracks, all the way back to our campsite in time for lunch.

After lunch we had a free choice and divided into separate groups to explore the property. Our group drove a few kilometres and parked by the entrance to Mayo Gorge. We walked about a kilometre or so and discovered a beautiful, steep sided rocky gorge filled with crystal clear water.  In some places it looked around two metres deep. Judging by the green healthy plant life growing further up the gorge, I am guessing the water comes from a permanent spring somewhere in the upper reaches of the gorge. A leisurely stroll back to the vehicles and then off to check out the Goat and Goon Saloon.

The terrain on this part of the property is quite flat so the driving was easy with only the occasional dry creek bed crossing requiring careful maneuvering. The Goat and Goon Saloon turned out to be quite an elaborate bush “bar” like you would find in any good outback pub and an excellent fire pit, with seating, perched up on a hill, looking out over the flat plains below. The story goes that the goat shooters used to camp at this spot, but I am sure that the original shack they stayed on was nowhere near as elaborate as this one.

We followed the track further up the hillside to an even better vantage point, nestled into the side of the Elder Range and, from here, the view of the property was excellent.

Val spotted another track heading away from where we were and back in the direction of the main track in, so we decided to give it a go. This track was definitely more challenging for the drivers and good for testing the       suspension articulation on a section of offset mounds that reminded me of moguls in the snow.  I did manage to scrape the rear, underside of my car exiting the first creek bed we came across but thanks to some quick track maintenance by Alan, the rest of the group came through unscathed.

The afternoon was drawing to a close, so we headed to Sunset Lookout for a photo opportunity, only to find the clouds rolling in and spoiling the beautiful view. Unfortunately, no good sunset photos for us on this trip.   Luckily though, Val knew a short cut back to camp and we made quick time to enjoy “Happy Hour “around the fire with the others. We all swapped stories, had a few laughs,

and enjoyed hearing Maria offering Greg innovative ideas for his upcoming Simpson Desert trip.

During the night I heard rain on the tent but by morning   it had stopped, and the tent soon dried out while I was  having breakfast. Packing up is never as much fun as setting up, but everything was soon stowed back in the car. We all said our goodbyes and I headed off back to Hawker to pump up the tyres and pick up a good coffee from the cafe. Hawker was bustling with people and traffic. COVID-19 has certainly done more to promote camping and caravanning than anything else in my lifetime. I decided to avoid the traffic jam at Pt Wakefield and took the scenic route home via Orroroo, Clare, Blyth, Balaklava and Two Wells. Even with some road works along the way, my return trip was half an hour quicker than the drive to Hawker.

Congratulations to Val and Steve for organising and hosting a great trip and very enjoyable weekend. Mt Little Station is great property to stay on and we only covered a fraction of all the tracks and areas to look at.  I’m sure we will be back again for another look. 

By Bruce C