Monday, 14 September 2015

Bibbulmun Track (WA) - Nanga Rd to Yarragil Form

Some of the best walking that the Jarrah forests have to offer, this sectional day walk on the Bibbulmun Track explores the surprisingly lush, wildflower-filled woodlands near Dwellingup and in Lane Poole Reserve. On the way to Swamp Oak campsite, a stretch through pine plantations offers an interesting change of pace. Later, an old vehicle track offers a relatively easy walking before a steep ascent and descent to Yarragil Form.

Distance: 14.7 km (one way)
Gradient: High variable, with flat sections along an old rail formation and ascent and descent to Yarragil Form. 
Quality of Path: Generally clear and well maintained. 
Quality of Signage: Well signed, with the Waugal providing very clear directional information. 
Experience Required: Bushwalking Experience recommended.
Time: 4 Hours
Steps: Some steps near the pine plantation, few anywhere else.
Best Time to Visit: Late Winter/Early Spring
Entry Fee: Yes - Park Entry Fees will apply as of April 4th, 2016. 
Getting There: The Nanga Rd crossing is south of Dwellingup on the road to Lane Poole Reserve. It is easy to find as Bibbulmun Track signs indicate where the Track intersects the road. Yarragil Form is within Lane Poole Reserve. From Nanga Rd take Davis Rd into Lane Poole and stay on the road, passing all the campsites. A single car parking bay marks the Yarragil Form access point, about 2kms further down the road from Yarragil Campsite.

Having travelled as far as we could along the Darling Scarp section of the track without having to overnight, Alissa and I moved on a section near the town of Dwellingup, following the Bibbulmun Track from Nanga Rd through Lane Poole Reserve to Yarragil Form. After setting up our car shuffle within the reserve, we drove to our starting point at the road crossing on Nanga Rd. Upon entering the Jarrah forest, we were greeted with a view we had not expected - a much lusher and greener version than what we had become used to in the Darling Scarp. The trees were still a bit thin and scrappy, but the understorey was a lot lusher and greener, with ferns and Zamia seeming to thrive here in a manner far beyond what we had seen closer to Perth. I've often considered the Jarrah forests to be the least interesting along the track, but this section showed that it be just as beautiful in its own way as the Karri and Tingle forests further down the track.

After descending and then ascending from River Rd, the track enters an area of pine plantations. Although many plantations are visible from Mt Vincent, Mt Cuthbert and Mount Cooke, this is the first time along the track that walkers spend a considerable amount of time actually in the pines.

While this landscape is entirely unnatural and not at all in keeping with any concept of 'wilderness', there is something really beautiful and intriguing about this section as it offers a window into a pine-covered version of Australia that might have been, as well as resembling an almost American landscape.

My favourite part of this walk in the pines came from a clearing just to the right of the track. I walked into the clearing to see this lovely spot, with a granite dome in the foreground, a Grass Tree growing near the top and pines surrounding it.

Beyond the plantation, the track again returns to lush Jarrah woodlands, with this area seeming to be particularly favoured by Grass Trees. Beyond the trees, we could make out the shape of valleys beyond.

As the track closes into Swamp Oak, walkers will encounter the first of several benches and named trees along the track. These are a peculiarity of the Lane Poole Reserve area, and they provide walkers with information about how much further they have to go before reaching their destination.

Having already been impressed with the lushness of the Jarrah forest, Swamp Oak again proved to be a pretty little spot. An unmarked trail from here provides walkers with views of the Murray River, however we decided to skip the views as we had intended to walk to Murray Campsite as our next walk. With the area around Murray Campsite significantly burnt by the Waroona Fires of February 2016, this side trip will give walkers a glimpse of what once was.

After leaving Swamp Oak, we encountered an area rich in wildflowers - a situation that would continue for the rest of our walk. The colours were incredibly rich and varied, and I would thoroughly recommend saving this section for the springtime.

For several kilometres, the track follows Swamp Oak Rd as it heads alongside Swamp Oak Brook.

While we would get occasional glimpses into the brook, the bushes had become thick and overgrown and did not provide much in the way of views suggested in the old guidebook. Although the odd wildflower provided some delight, it got to a point where we were ready for this flat road section to end.

We got our wish, but it was not quite what we had hoped for. After turning right onto an old vehicle track, the terrain became steeper and went up a hill. At the top of the hill the track dips down a bit before rising yet again up an even taller and steeper hill. After these hills, we were longing for the flatness of Swamp Oak Rd again!

At the top of the old vehicle track, we encountered this interesting fallen tree that had snapped into a strange 'Z' shape. This tree marked the end of our ascent, and from here on we had an easy walk down the valley to Yarragil Brook.

Along the way we encountered another of the named trees - the 'famous' Yarragil Hilton. This tree is fairly popular with walkers and is a commonly photographed sight in this section of the track. Beyond providing some whimsical humour, it has also served a practical purpose for walkers looking for shelter in a serious downpour.

Although dry this time of year, a small bridge crossed Yarragil Brook. Just beyond the crossing, we came to Yarragil Form and the location of our second car.

In spite of getting a bit bored on Swamp Oak Rd, this was an enjoyable section of the Bibbulmun. The lushness of the Jarrah forest here is really beautiful, and while the experience of walking in the pines is far from a natural landscape, it did provide for an interesting change of scenery. Walkers looking for an excellent forest-based experience not too far away from Perth should definitely check this area out, with the camping grounds of Lane Poole Reserve making this a particularly idyllic spot along the track. 


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