Trek hub on station
Station mum launches trekking hub on family’s remote cattle property
ARMED with newly bought backpacks, Maggi noodles and a 20-year-old tent that was so heavy the weight of it had to be shared with her companion, Shelly Hawkins stepped out on her first hike.
She was walking with her good friend and neighbour Danielle Doyle, of the Miss Chardy blog fame, from a stock camp on Herbertvale Station, a remote cattle property 120km north of Camooweal on the Queensland-Northern Territory border.
The duo was inspired by the popular Reese Witherspoon film Wild, where a woman walks the 4265km-long Pacific Crest Trail in the US.
Herbertvale Station had been Ms Hawkins’ home since the late 1990s.
She had always thought the rugged country in the north part of the block was pretty but it wasn’t until she slowed the pace to a steady stride that she fully appreciated its scenery.
“It just made me think, this is so beautiful,” she said.
“I had driven up that road so many times but I had never really opened my eyes up to noticing the little things.
“So with those two days of just walking along the track, I started to think about it ... and I thought, ‘I could really do something with all of this’.”
Flash-forward to the present time and Ms Hawkins has turned those initial thoughts into a reality.
Through her business, Trek West, Herbertvale Station has hosted nine hiking tours this year.
Ms Hawkins said her long-term vision would be to see Trek West stand on its own two feet and provide her family with some off-farm income but, in the meantime, she was rapt to be able to share the property’s spectacular landscape with other people.
Growing up at The Gums on the western Darling Downs, Ms Hawkins finished school and headed to the Barkly Tableland to work as a jillaroo.
She loved the work, met her husband Clint and in 1999 moved to Herbertvale Station,
which had just been bought by Clint’s family.
In the early days they were kept flat-chat developing the property and spent most of their time mustering or fencing.
“My mother-in-law Jackie and I used to joke about starting a tourism business years and years ago but at the time we were busy with small children and teaching them through School of the Air so we thought, you know, that the idea was just crazy,” she said.
The roughly 161,874ha station runs droughtmaster cattle.
The bottom side of the block has good Downs country and in the northern part, which borders the Lawn Hill, or Boodjamulla National Park, the land is much more rugged.
Even when the family was under the pump with cattle work, they always thought the northern section was something special.
Or, in Ms Hawkins’ words: “It was our own patch of paradise”.
“We always just loved it,” she said.
“It’s very isolated and can’t be accessed by anyone else.
We have always felt privileged we could go there whenever we wanted.”
Ms Hawkins admitted she would have never thought of herself as hiker until her good
friend Ms Doyle called.
“She said ‘let’s go hiking over on the Pacific Crest Trail in the US’ – she had seen the movie Wild,” Ms Hawkins said.
“She was so keen to go and
I said, ‘Whoa, Dan, I don’t even know if I like hiking’.
“I had never had a backpack on. I love the outdoors and working out here ... but I thought I would rather
do something like that, something that long, on horseback.”
The pair decided if they would do the infamous PCT they should start small.
“We decided we would walk from our stock camp back to the homestead – it was 60km,” Ms Hawkins said.
“Next thing we knew we had bought backpacks and my
husband and two little boys (Ben and Lachlan) dropped us off up there at night.”
Ms Hawkins laughed at the memory and described herself as being “so very rookie”.
However, after reaching the homestead, the hiking bug took hold of her and she began to forge a business plan to pitch to her husband.
“It was like going in for the
biggest bank loan ever, I had it all laid out,” she said.
Mr Hawkins took a little convincing at first but swiftly came on board.
“Since then he has been amazingly supportive. He is my logistics man,” Ms Hawkins said.
“He has helped me map out new little hikes through hills and helped develop the stock camp.”
It’s in the rougher country, closer to Lawn Hill, where she has mapped out short and long walking trails.
She said the hike’s true beauty was in its diversity.
“It goes from beautiful, cool, tranquil waterholes to big, sparse spinifex hills,” Ms Hawkins said.
“Within walking a kilometre you can be at a lovely lush waterhole, one with lots of beautiful bird life, then in the next 500m you are on a big, rugged red hill.”
So far her guests have been as diverse as the property’s vistas. She has had a fitness group, yoga enthusiasts and a bunch of mums from
Toowoomba who were just keen for a week away.
“I keep it in groups of six to eight,” she said.
“There are two walks – the Big Loop Trail, which is about 60km, then Stockcamp Hike, where we are based at the camp and just do little day walks.
“That one is quite relaxed, we get back at lunchtime and I will have a table set up with cold wine so we can sit by the waterhole.
“Each evening I set up a fully dressed dinner table with drinks.
“That’s a bit of novelty for our guests, so they aren’t sitting on the ground eating tinned spaghetti – it’s a bit more glamping than camping.
“There is a hot shower at night.”
The venture has meant Ms Hawkins’ role on the station has adapted.
She used to be hands-on tailing weaners and working cattle, all jobs that have taken a back seat for the hiking season.
“We have a beautiful crew at home and we all work really well together, so that makes life easier for me,” she said.
“I will still get out as much as I can, because I love the work.”
For more information visit www.trekwesthiking.com.au.
Herbertvale Station is a working cattle property in far northwest Queensland.
Shelly is keen to help people switch off from technology.
Lovely scenery in outback Queensland is on show.
The land is diverse and rugged.
Herbertvale Station is home to stunning scenery.
Shelly Hawkins and a guest on a Trek West tour.
Short and long hikes are available.
NEW VENTURE: Trek West founder Shelly Hawkins has opened her world to share with hikers.
The property borders a national park.
Herbertvale Station is a family property running droughtmaster cattle.
The property is isolated and beautiful.