Sawyers Valley Night Navigation
Trip Leader: Richard K
When: Saturday 13th August 2005
Location: Sawyers Valley
Tail-end Charlie – Paul
Well here I am again, sitting down to write some trip notes, albeit very late. Before we start on the trip proper, I’ll share a quick story which led to me writing these notes, however given my hasty decision to lumber John Mc with the nickname “Breadcrumbs” after a recent trip you have to promise not to tell him [Note to Ed, please remove first two paragraphs from John’s newsletter].
I spoke to Paul early in the afternoon and deciding against dinner at the tavern, I became engrossed in homely duties and before I knew it was past my departure time!! Hurriedly I gathered some food and drink and raced out of the house. Given that I was trialling OziExplorer on the Pocket PC, I was still confident of arriving on time as I had plotted two short cuts in the route from home to Sawyers Valley Tavern (meeting place). Needless to say, the short cuts proved to be my downfall. A wrong turn and a dead –end later I was dismayed to arrive at the tavern 5 minutes late to the applause of the large crowd already gathered. My last hopes (of not writing trip notes) were dashed when I saw Duncan – if Diana was already here then I had no hope (of escaping the task of trip notes)!! To further rub salt into the wound, Paul informed me he had only just arrived a couple of minutes earlier!! Those short cuts (10 minutes worth of back tracking) were certainly my downfall. Lost twice and I hadn’t even arrived at the meeting place or left the metro area!!! As I said, don’t tell John Mc.
With the notorious words “I know a short-cut” still ringing in my ears and steady rain starting to fall, the 12 vehicles headed off and turned south onto the usual pipeline track, which is currently being upgraded and looks more like the Kwinana Fwy than the track we are used to. We passed the large tree and sawpit and John Mc, taking into account my previous (failed) attempt to find it when trip leading, was kind enough to point it out to me (over the CB). To save any confusion he was also kind enough to explain the circumstances to the rest of convoy. Thanks John!
With the onset of dusk, we turned east onto the power line track and it wasn’t long before we came to the first climb, a nice warm up. All vehicles made it up without any bother and we proceeded a short distance to the second climb. This was slightly steeper and by this stage the steady rain had made it just a little slippery. Once again, everyone made it up without too much trouble. The rain remained steady as the light faded and it was fully dark around quarter past six.
We proceeded at a steady pace, Richard scouting ahead a couple of times to ensure we took the right path, the steady continuous rain, broken only by some heavy downpours, slowed our progress only slightly. We came across a small fire burning under a fallen tree and then another and another. A suggestion that we should do something about the fires, didn’t receive any takers. Perhaps the heavy downpours and sodden ground had something to do with the dampened enthusiasm. While no one was really sure of the circumstances of the fires, it was assumed they were remnants of recent back burning.
At Flynn Rd we tried to contact a friend of Paul’s who was planning on meeting us. We didn’t have any luck and moved on. There was lots of water lying about and many of the puddles that we often play in were very full. The high water and darkness led to all drivers giving them a wide berth. “Steering Arm Hill” provided some anxious moments for some, but a short stop to allow drivers to plan their route and everyone was up no time. Richard led the way with gusto and shows no signs of any long term mental scars developing after his previous encounter with this hill.
We left the power line and the next steep decent was dominated by large deep ruts, some big enough to qualify as gullies, and slippery mud. Once again, most reconnoitered the track before proceeding and chose their lines with caution, given a slip into the ruts didn’t look too inviting. The first vehicles inched their way along the top, ½ a tyre width between them and a nasty slide in some spots. John Mc decided to throw caution to the wind and chose to drop straight into the ruts (after all you can’t fall in if you’re already in them). After a promising start he was cruelly denied success at the very end, when he lost traction, the ruts proving just a little too deep. A short tow and John was clear.
John K was the next to tackle the decent. All was gong well, a nice controlled (well that’s what he told us anyway) slide into a rut didn’t appear to be a stopper, however the big Nissan failed to climb out the other side. There was lots of discussion on the best course of action and after another two or three attempts to remove himself from the situation, John had finally succumbed to use the tow rope that had been fetched a second time. John tried one last time and, standing near the passenger window, I realised then that I wasn’t getting covered in mud as I should be. We checked John’s front hubs and you guessed it, they were unlocked!! John had switched them at the start of the trip, but must have unlocked them, rather than lock them. With the front wheels providing some extra drive, John was able to extract himself quite easily and the rest of the convoy moved through without incident.
Everyone made it through the challenging climb up the other side, even if, just for a change, Terry had to have two goes at it. It was interesting to note that this climb had proven too hard for some members on previous trips, yet at night and in the rain everyone made it. Perhaps there is some truth in the saying “What you can’t see, won’t hurt you”. From here we climbed back up to the power line, where Paul’s mate, with his Suzuki, was waiting for us. Not long afterwards the rain was kind enough the stop for 20 minutes whilst we took a well earned break.
After the break, the rain seemed to ease a little and we arrived at the challenge of the evening, a very rocky, steep climb, dominated by large step ups and boulders. Some were keen, some not so keen and some unsure. Those that wanted a go, lined up and Richard was the first over after a couple of tries. Not to be outdone by a Nissan, Terry followed soon afterwards. Paul’s mate then proved that bigger is not necessarily better as he managed to coerce the little Suzuki over the rocks. I was next and, more hopeful than confident, soon realised that (desperate as I was to have a Pajero make it) it wasn’t going to happen. Craig H was next and try as he might, he couldn’t get his Pajero to the top either. So once again the Nissans and Toyotas proved to be King of the Mountain.
Further along the track there was lots of water to splash through. Frith fell asleep just after nine o’clock and a short while later we arrived at Talbot Rd, where the trip finished, way too soon for nearly everyone’s liking. Some even talked of turning around the doing the trip in reverse. Ice creams and refreshments at The Lakes roadhouse helped to alleviate the disappointment that the trip was over.
The absence of natural light, combined with heavy rain, provided a different perception of the familiar track and surrounding country side making for a fun and exciting trip.
Thanks to Richard for a great night.