Sunday, 13 August 2017

Bibbulmun Track (WA) - Yourdamung to Harris Dam

Day two of an overnight night on the Bibbulmun Track, the walk from Yourdamung to Harris Dam is largely a forest walk. Initially passing through the Special Conservation Zone of Lane Poole, the Bibbulmun then meanders through beautifully lush Jarrah forest all the way to the Harris Dam picnic area. Featuring lovely streams and interesting fungi in late winter, this is an enjoyable section of the track filled with simple pleasures.

Distance: 18.1 km (one way)
Gradient: A few gradual ascent and some gradual to moderate descents, but mostly on flat and gentle terrain
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: 5 Hours, including lunch break
Steps: Some minor steps 
Best Time to Visit: Late Autumn-Early Spring
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: No direct access to Yourdamung. Access to Harris Dam via Harris River Rd from Collie. A car park and picnic area located at the end of the road.

After the slightly disappointing walking through the control burnt area leading to Yourdamung, Alissa and I were happy to at least have the luxury of having the hut to ourselves and not having to worry about potential complaints about our occasionally noisy Sea to Summit mats. Not that it would have really mattered to be honest - while the rain was no where near as intense as was forecast, there was still a decent downpour overnight with the odd sputter in between. Waking up the next day, Alissa and I had vastly different levels of sleep - although I woke up a few times, I was well slept while Alissa had not slept well at all due to her pillow repeatedly deflating overnight. Unfortunately she hadn't said anything to me as I happened to have a spare pillow in my backpack!  

Walking back along the spur trail, the burnt forest didn't look half bad in the early morning light. That being said, I was nevertheless reminded about how bitterly disappointed I had been the previous day and I really hoped that the burnt section would stretch on for too long today.

Back onto the main track, Alissa and I continued south towards Harris Dam and were greeted by a fair amount of control burnt forest. 

As I mentioned in the previously day's post, I totally understand the reasoning behind control burns and that they are something of a necessary evil, however one aspect of the control burns that really angers me is how it often results in mature trees either collapsing or being pulled down due to burnt out roots or the fire damage causing the tree to be structurally unsound. Due to logging, there are so few tall trees in the Jarrah forest that when one falls its almost irreplaceable. While the control burns help prevent the forest from being totally wiped out by massive disastrous fires, it feel sometimes like the continuous control burns cycle kills a handful of tall trees at each burn and it will be a good part of a century before the thin scrappy Jarrah that predominates will grow tall enough to take their place. Seeing recently fallen tall trees filled me with a feeling of inescapable frustration that some of these sections of the Bibbulmun may never get the chance to become the truly beautiful forest that once stood before European settlement, and that runaway climate change is only going to make things even worse. 

I was extremely glad then to leave the control burnt area as we crossed a major gravel road. 

The scenery after the gravel road was not altogether unique or out of the ordinary, however the lushness of the surrounding forest and the mix of the early blooming wildflowers, interesting fungi and some taller than average Jarrah made for really enjoyable walking. I think all the rain had made the trees of the forest happy, and the flow on effect was a real lifting of my spirits after having been filled with despair and dread earlier in the day. 

It was really fantastic seeing all the streams flowing along the track. Most of the streams along the Bibbulmun are fairly ephemeral and some remain dry even in a somewhat wet year like 2016. With the rain in July and August 2017 being above average for the first time in almost a decade, Alissa and I were really seeing this section at its very best. 

The walking throughout this section was a decent mix of walking tails and old vehicle tracks, with the trail constantly meandering around trees and taking unexpected turns in spite of looking pretty straight on the map. I think this really helped make the walk engaging, as we didn't have any long boring road stretches to test our patience. 

It was also easy to reference the surrounding landscape to work out how well we were travelling, with track notes like 'cross creek amidst tall balgas' being very recognisable in the landscape before us. 

Much of the walking was flat or mildly downhill, which also made the day fairly easy going. The appearance of a slight but conspicuous ascent after such gentle terrain clued us on to the fact we were getting pretty close to Harris Dam campsite, which was located just a few hundred metres further down the track. 

Located a mere 3.2 kilometres from Harris Dam picnic area, Harris Dam hut is one of the larger 'Stretch' style huts compared to the 'Standard' hut of Yourdamung. Although a steep walk from the picnic area, the short kilometres walk from there to the hut and campsite makes it a perfect spot for those looking to get a taster of what its like to camp on the Bibbulmun Track. Alissa and I stopped for a short snack break and filled out our details in the green book before tackling the last few kilometres to Harris Dam itself. 

The track immediately after Harris Dam was heavily inundated, and with the flooding extending out to either side of the track, it was impossible to completely avoid getting our feet wet. At least we knew we only had less than three kilometres to go before we could take our shoes off and put on new, dry socks!

Again, the walking from Harris Dam campsite was not exactly unique or special in terms of scenery, but it provided thoroughly enjoyable and pleasant forest walking.

Nearing the descent to Harris Dam, I came across a weird green mat in the middle of the track. I'm not sure if the mat was put here to stop a walker in his or her tracks, but it made me look around the area nearby. 

Just to the left of the track is an area filled with various fairy-related trinkets, gems and figurines. 

The idea looks to be in its infancy, but this fairy glen appears to be a local version of Gnomesville - the famous gnome-filled section of the forest in the Ferguson Valley. Whether it will take off to the level of Gnomesville is left to be seen, however we did run into a family who had walked up from Harris Dam to see it, suggesting it is at least known to the locals. 

From the fairy glen, its a steep descent to the Harris Dam, with a nice wood bridge talking walkers over the Harris River. 

Harris Dam itself can be seen from the bridge and the nearby picnic area. This area has special historical significance for the Bibbulmun Track as it was selected as the site for the official opening of the Northern Half of the new track on August 14, 1997. Amazingly, Alissa and I had walked this section on August 13, 2017, meaning we were one day shy of walking to Harris Dam for the 20th Anniversary. Nevertheless, completing Yourdamung to Harris Dam was a major milestone for Alissa and I as it finally meant we had connected all the sections of the track from Kalamunda all the way to Collie. This just leaves us three days of walking between Collie and Balingup before we will have completed our sectional End to End!

Although the control burnt forest near Yourdamung had started the day off on a sour note, Alissa and I found Yourdamung to Harris Dam to be a surprisingly excellent section of the Bibbulmun Track. There was not much to it really - it was just a continuous section of Jarrah forest - but there was something really lovely about the lushness of the area, the constant streams and the fact that the mildly meandering trail made for engaging walking. While it also helped that we walked the track at the perfect time of the year, this is great exemplar of good route planning making what could have been an ordinary section very enjoyable.


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