Monday, 5 June 2017

Bibbulmun Track (WA) - Mt Wells to Inglehope Rail Crossing

The final day of a three day hike on the Bibbulmun Track, Mt Wells to Inglehope Rail Crossing is arguably the least spectacular day of walking between North Bannister and Dwellingup. After descending from Mt Wells, the track mainly utilises old roads to traverse pleasant but samey Jarrah forest all the way to the railway crossing - although the stunning campsite at Chadoora is a lovely spot for a relaxing break. 

Distance: 16 km (one way)
Gradient: Gradual descent away from Mt Wells followed by generally flat gradients almost all the way to Inglehope Rail Crossing
Quality of Path: Largely clear and well maintained.
Quality of Signage: Largely well signed, with the Waugal providing very clear directional information. 
Experience Required: Previous Bushwalking Experience Recommended
Time: 6 Hours, including a lengthy break at Chadoora
Steps: Many informal steps
Best Time to Visit: Late Autumn-Early Spring
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: No direct access to either campsite - this area is deep within the Disease Risk Area and should not be accessed by vehicles due to the risk of spreading Dieback. Inglehope Rail Crossing can be reached off Pinjarra-Williams Rd approximately 10 kilometres east of Dwellingup

After an excellent day of walking, sleep at Mt Wells hut was a mixed affair. Although squeezing two people into a one person sleeping platform is far from ideal, the biggest challenge to a good night's sleep was the constant sound of mining operations emanating from the nearby gold mine. Sleeping with my head by the window, I could constantly hear the sound of engines in the distance, with the occasional beeping of a truck reversing to completely shatter any sense of true wilderness. This was a real shame as the hut was actually quite an enjoyable place to stay otherwise, and I only wish that it had rained as the white noise of the water hitting the tin roof would have drowned out the offending truck sounds and made for a more pleasant experience.

With my parent's coming to pick us up at 1:30 pm and 24.4 kilometres to walk, Alissa and I got up at 6 am for an early departure. The three ladies who stayed in the larger room got up even earlier than us, however our decision to forego a coffee and eat Clif Bars for breakfast rather than oats saw us depart before them at 6:45. Walking before sunrise, we were able to witness the sun rising through the misty forest as we descended from Mt Wells. Unlike the short and sharp ascent the previous day, the descent is long and gradual, covering 3.5 kilometres as the crow flies.

At the end of the descent, the Bibbulmun passes an old water tank. As with Hume Tank the previous day, this tank is no longer used and remains now as a reminder of the area's forestry heritage.

Immediately after the water tank, the track crosses a road under the first of two major sets of powerlines before entering an area of Wandoo creek systems.

The Wandoo provides for some pleasant walking, however it is only a brief change of forest type before once again returning to unremarkable Jarrah forest.

Walking along an old vehicle track, the prevalence of Bracken Fern in the understorey was a strong indication that we were entering the wetter climes of the Dwellingup area.

Just over six kilometres into the day's walk, the track passes under the second major set of powerlines as it crosses a road. This is Powerline Rd - the same road and powerlines that are encountered along the Bibbulmun Track at Brookton Hwy and between the summit of Mt Cooke and Nerang campsite.

As something of a reprise of the earlier powerline crossing, the area immediately after the powerlines featured a Wandoo creek. Although the particularly dry Autumn ensured that the creek was not flowing, I can imagine the area being quite lovely after a wet Winter.

The walking up until the second set of powerlines had been fairly unremarkable, however the constant signposting of landmarks did at least keep us engaged. After passing some discarded old machinery parts along the track, our engagement with the landscape significantly declined.

Heading along old vehicle tracks, the Jarrah forest walking was fairly repetitive and boring, lacking in variety and interest for over three kilometres before crossing a road provided some kind of landmark. Given the downhill and then flat terrain of the day, Alissa and I were really motoring along already however the boredom spurred us on into speed overdrive. For a sustained section of the track, I sped ahead and later calculated that I was walking in excess of six kilometres an hour! Although I stopped to wait for Alissa to catch up, she was going pretty fast herself and it filled me with confidence we were going to make it to the pick up point at Inglehope Rail Crossing with time to spare.

After the vehicle track crossing, the Bibbulmun runs as a single file walking track. This was an improvement on the old vehicle tracks from earlier in the day, however the unchanging and unremarkable forest views continued. At least I can say that some of the trees in the area were taller than earlier in the day, however the Jarrah forest was still not quite as dense and mature as some of the sections of the track beyond Dwellingup, such as between Swamp Oak and Yarragil Form in Lane Poole Reserve.

Less that 2 kilometres from the the hut at Chadoora, the track enters a more open area along a broad watercourse. Filled with Grass Trees and Swamp Banksia, this was a lovely and welcome change of scenery from the monotonous Jarrah forest from earlier in the day.

Alissa and I reached Chadoora in just over three hours from when we set off from Mt Wells, giving us an average pace of 5.2 kilometres for this stretch of the track - and that includes a rest stop during which I ate a second Clif Bar. Even if we had walked this at a slower pace, this would have been a particularly short and easy day of walking on the track. Kelly, the lone hiker we had met at White Horse Hills who was preparing for an End to End later in the year, had double hutted from White Horse Hills all the way to Chadoora, and I would suggest the relatively gentle terrain and short distance from Mt Wells would make it an excellent candidate for a double hutting day if one was short on time.

Although the walking from Mt Wells to Chadoora was unremarkable, the same could not be said of the campsite at Chadoora. The surrounding forest of mature Jarrah makes Chadoora quite an idyllic locale, with the pleasant chirping of birdsong adding to the campsite's charm and atmosphere. I was almost saddened by the fact we would not be staying the night at this beautiful spot, however having arrived at the hut so early and with roughly 8 kilometres of walking left before we reached Inglehope Rail Crossing, Alissa and I had a long and lazy early coffee break taking in Chadoora's serenity.

In the immediate vacinity of the Chadoora campsite is a side trail leading to an Old Well. Given the quality of the signage, I assumed that this was going to be a worthwhile, historic side trip.

It wasn't. Even though the trail is probably no more than 50 metres long, the well is fairly boring looking and is not worth the meagre effort of checking out unless you really must see a non-descript rectangular hole in the ground surrounded by metal railings. I find it incredible that this side trip has been given such a clear, high quality sign while much better side trips like Rocky Pool in Kalamunda National Park, Boonerring Hill and the side trip to the summit behind Woolbales are not signed at all!

From Chadoora, the track continues through pleasant but no overly exciting Jarrah forest. 

There is little to really separate this stretch from what we had encountered before Chadoora, although a creek crossing with wooden stepping 'stones' did provide a bit of interest.

Two kilometres from Chadoora, the Bibbulmun leaves single file walk trail to head along Inglehope Rd for the first of three times. Inglehope Rd continues all the way to the Inglehope Rail Crossing and onto Pinjarra-Williams Rd where we would be getting picked up by my parents. 

By rights, the Bibbulmun could have simply continued down the road all the way to the railway crossing, however the route planners for the Bibbulmun thankfully chose to instead have the track turn off Inglehope Rd along purpose built walk track and then utilise an old railway formation that runs adjacent to the road. This railway formation provided some excellent and enjoyable walking, with the winding trail making it more engaging that some of the boring, straight road walking from earlier in the day. 

After following the railway formation for just under three kilometres, the Bibbulmun turns back onto Inglehope Rd for a second time.

This second stretch along Inglehope Rd is fairly brief however, with the Bibbulmun turning off Inglehope Rd and then following what looks like a very old vehicle track for the last kilometre and a half for the home stretch to Inglehope Rail Crossing. 

Turning onto Inglehope Rd for the third time, Alissa and I continued on the Bibbulmun until we reached the railway crossing. At this point the Bibbulmun turns right and follows the old disused Dwellingup-Boddington Line along the railway tracks. This was however the end of the road for Alissa and I, as we had covered Inglehope Rail Crossing to Dwellingup in the spring of 2015. Reaching this was something of a major milestone for us; we had now linked together all the sections of the Bibbulmun Track from Kalamunda through Dwellingup to Yarragil Form in Lane Poole Reserve. With the section from Yarragil Form to Harris Dam and Collie to Balingup left to go, our sectional End to End is just a few more walks away from completion!

Lacking the granite peak vistas of the previous two days, Mt Wells to Inglehope Rail Crossing was definitely the least interesting day of our three day hike from Wearne Rd to Inglehope Rail Crossing, with most of the day consisting of repetitive and ordinary walking through Jarrah forests. Leading into Dwellingup as it is, this is probably the result of limited options open to the trail planners due to other existing land uses having priority, and is one of those unavoidable challenges when creating long trails that have to find a way of getting into a town. Nevertheless, Alissa and I really enjoyed our walk from Wearne Rd to Inglehope Rail Crossing overall, and the less than exciting walking from Mt Wells to the rail crossing is a small price to pay for the excellence of the previous two days.


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