Thursday, August 14, 2014

Larapinta Track, Section 8: Serpentine Chalet Dam to Serpentine Gorge

Doug's mystery illness had cleared up, we had visited the East MacDonnells and were back out in the West MacDonnell National Park to finish up the Larapinta Track. We had three sections to walk as day trips, before finishing the last half of the walk as a seven day backpack. Section 8, from Serpentine Gorge to Serpentine Chalet Dam is easy and scenic walking. With a day pack, you could probably combine Sections 7 (Serpentine Gorge to Ellery Creek Big Hole) and 8 into one long day, but, if you have the time, idling along these two sections is probably infinitely more pleasurable. 

 Looking west from Counts Point

I walked from east to west, and lucked in to having the wind at my back, while Doug, who walked in the opposite direction, faced in to the chill wind all day. Leaving Serpentine Gorge car park, the track heads northwest to the Heavitree Range and climbs gently 300 metres to ridge top. The next five kilometres along the top of the Heavitree Range is wonderful walking. To the north, a narrow valley has intermittent red rock cliffs, while behind, a second ridge rises above the Alice Valley. On the horizon, north of the Alice Valley is the Chewings Range, blue hills rising in the clear desert air. 

Chewings Range

A side track leads half a kilometre out to Counts Point, where you can look east and west along the Heavitree Range. To the north, is the grassy valley which Section 8 descends from Waterfall Gorge. Back on the main track, the trail descends a spur ridge to the valley crossing to the south of a minor side gorge along the way. The last 3.5 km to Serpentine Chalet Dam is easy walking on a very good track through some shady trees. The campsite at Serpentine Chalet Dam is just downstream of the old dam (built to supply water to a now defunct resort that closed in the 1950's). A short walk on a track upstream leads to the old cement wall, a somewhat turgid pool behind, dammed up between narrow red rock walls. An extra kilometre walk to the south on an old road leads to the parking area.

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