Friday, 29 September 2017

Cape to Cape Track (WA) - Deepdene to Cape Leeuwin

The final day of a seven day thru-hike of the Cape to Cape Track, Deepdene to Cape Leeuwin takes walkers from wild beaches to the tallest lighthouse on the Australian mainland. Starting as a beach walk before heading along rocky platforms and cliffs, the track ends at Australia's south-westernmost point. An excellent final day on a superb track.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Cape to Cape Track (WA) - Hamelin Bay to Deepdene

Day six of a seven day thru-hike of the Cape to Cape Track, the short 10 kilometre penultimate day from Hamelin Bay to Deepdene takes walkers along some impressively rugged coastal scenery, including a series of limestone Blowholes and the return of rugged granite headlands. Nestled behind some dunes, Deepdene is a lovely final campsite on the track after a fairly cruisy day of walking.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Cape to Cape Track (WA) - Contos to Hamelin Bay

Day five of a seven day thru-hike of the Cape to Cape Track, Contos to Hamelin Bay features a sustained section of inland walking. Initially taking in the beautiful Peppermint Trees of Point Rd, the track passes through the spectacular Karri-dominated Boranup Forest. Heading to the coast via Boranup Hill Lookout, a surprisingly enjoyable 9 kilometre beach walk leads to the idyllic beachside locality of Hamelin Bay. A unique and different day along the Cape to Cape. 

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Cape to Cape Track (WA) - Prevelly to Contos

Day four of a seven day thru-hike of the Cape to Cape Track, this relatively easy day on the track takes walkers from Prevelly to Contos. Initially heading inland before descending steeply to the Boodjidup Brook crossing, the track then follows Boodjidup and Redgate Beaches before taking walkers to the limestone cliffs at Bob's Hollow. With spectacular views of Contos Beach, this is another fantastic stretch of the Cape to Cape.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Cape to Cape Track (WA) - Moses Rock to Prevelly

Day three of a seven day thru-hike of the Cape to Cape Track, this long 34.4 kilometre day links Moses Rock to Prevelly via Gracetown and Ellensbrook. Passing by the beautiful Wilyabrup Cliffs and granite-dominated coastline leading to Gracetown, the track heads inland to the historic Ellensbrook Homestead and Meekadarabee Cave. Crossing Wilyabrup Brook and the mouth of the Margaret River itself, this is one of the track's most challenging and spectacular days.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Cape to Cape Track (WA) - Yallingup to Moses Rock

Day two of a seven day thru-hike of the Cape to Cape Track, this relatively challenging day on the track takes walkers from Yallingup to the campsite at Moses Rock. Crossing several brooks over the course of the day, the track passes by some of the most rugged granite-dominated landscapes of the entire track, including such highlights as Smiths Point, Canal Rocks and Quininup Falls. Another scenic day of walking the Leeuwin-Naturaliste coast.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Cape to Cape Track (WA) - Cape Naturaliste to Yallingup

Day one of a seven day thru-hike of the Cape to Cape Track, this walk takes hikers from the northern trailhead at Cape Naturaliste to the coastal settlement of Yallingup. Initially following a wheelchair accessible section to the stunning Sugarloaf Rock, the walk then follows beautiful coastal cliffs and a short beach walk to Yallingup. A short but excellent first day, this a great introduction to the wonders of Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Bibbulmun Track (WA) - Grimwade to Balingup

Day Two of an overnight hike on the Bibbulmun Track, this day on the track takes walkers from Grimwade to the town of Balingup. Passing through regrowth Jarrah forest for the first half of the day, the second half features a better mix of scenery, with some lovely farmland views. Following Balingup Brook, the last few kilometres are some of the best leading into a track town on the Bibbulmun.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Bibbulmun Track (WA) - Mumballup to Grimwade

Day One of an overnight hike on the Bibbulmun Track, this 30 kilometre day of walking takes hikers from Mumballup to Grimwade via Noggerup. Initially following an old railway line and passing through open farmland, the track then runs through seemingly endless Jarrah forest, ranging from scrappy and thin to virgin old growth. A fairly ordinary day of walking, wildflowers, farmland and the two campsites are the main highlights. 

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Gloucester Route (Gloucester National Park)

An idyllic loop walk in the Karri forest, the Gloucester Route provides a pleasant amble through Gloucester National Park. Starting at the famous Gloucester Tree, the well marked trail initially runs concurrently with the Bibbulmun Track before branching off to explore a beautiful stand of Karris. A very pleasant and peaceful walk, this is a perfect walk for fans of forest walking. 

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Wungong Gorge Walk GPS Route (Wungong Regional Park)

A superb but challenging unmarked and partly off track walk in the Perth Hills, the Wungong Gorge Walk GPS Route explores the ruggedly beautiful Wungong Gorge. Initially climbing up to explore an adjacent gully, the walk rises up both sides of the gorge valley for spectacular views. One of the best walks in the Perth region, this sadly unmarked walk is best undertaken by experienced hikers only.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

9 Ways the Bibbulmun Track could be Better

There are a lot of things to love about the Bibbulmun Track, and I've highlighted its major user friendliness when I outlined 10 Ways the Bibbulmun Track is the Best Beginners Trail. It was the trail that gave me the hiking bug in the first place, and I don't know if The Long Way's Better would even exist without it.

Long time readers will know I'm all about keeping it 100, and while my opinion of the track is largely positive I would be lying if I said it was an absolutely perfect walk with no room for improvement. Furthermore, I don't see the value in overpraising the track given that considered critique has been an important part of the Bibbulmun Track story. The current Bibbulmun Track came about because a hiker named Jesse Brampton pointed out that the 1988 alignment was not perfect and that he had a vision for a much more enjoyable experience modelled on the Appalachian Trail. His critique lead to the Building a Better Bibbulmun Track Project which realigned the track and extended it to Albany in 1998, resulting in the modern Bibb known and enjoyed ever since. Almost 20 years have past since then, and I have to wonder if its time to think about Building an Even Better Bibbulmun Track. In the interests of continuous improvement, here are nine ways the Bibbulmun Track could be a better walk.

The horrible Marron Rd - a broad 9.7 kilometre that is part of a continuous 18.2 kilometre road bash

1. Less road bashes

When building a long trail, road bashes can be something of a necessary evil. They help expedite the construction process by utilising preexisting infrastructure and are thus attractive from an economic and deadline meeting perspective. While some road bashes can provide a pleasant walking experience, many are far from enjoyable and take away from providing the wilderness experience sought but hikers. The worst example would be the 18.2 kilometre road bash from Dog Road to Pingerup Rd along the Northcliffe to Walpole stretch of the track. The absolute nadir of this stretch is the broad, sandy two lane Marron Rd which continues without respite for 9.7 kilometres. Considering Northcliffe to Walpole is promoted as the 'the remotest section of the southern part of the Track, with few roads and almost no signs of civilisation for eight days!' this is a real let down, especially when a perusal of the map shows that there are a series of rapids along the nearby Gardner River that would have provided a much more scenic option. Realigning the track away from these extremely long stretches of endless road would make for a much more enjoyable walking experience - particularly important on day when the road bash takes up more than half of the day's kilometres.

Nullaki to West Cape Howe stays inland for longer than it could

2. Less inland walking along the coastal sections

Although the Bibbulmun Track is largely a forest walk, the coastal sections from Mandalay Beach to Albany provide some of the most memorable and stunningly beautiful landscapes to be found along the entire track. While the alignment here is mostly excellent, there are some points where the route seems to bizarrely avoid coastal views altogether by positioning hikers to instead walk through a tunnel of heath and peppermint trees with little in the way of views. The track immediately east of Rame Head is one such section, with 5 kilometres passing through unremarkable heathlands instead of providing coastal views. Worse still is the first half of the day from Nullaki to West Cape Howe, which is under the misguided impression that the chance to see the Porongurups and the Stirling Range far away in the distance is far better than actually enjoying views of the spectacular coastline right nearby. This is not the Overland Track where the trail casually passes very close to an endless parade of tall peaks; the Bibbulmun should instead play to its coastal strengths along this stretch as the mountains are too far away to be a noteworthy feature of the track. To illustrate the point, the Mamang Trail is a fine example a coastal walk that successfully makes use of nearby peaks to provide stunning and engaging walking.

Rocky Pool - mere minutes off the Bibbulmun Track but lacking side track signage

3. More (or at least better signed) side trips

One aspect of the Overland Track that the Bibbulmun could really embrace is plentiful side trail options. To be fair, the Bibbulmun does offer a few of these, with the Cascades in Gloucester National Park and Mt Pingerup being two that immediately come to mind. There are however plenty more; Rocky Pool is mere minutes off the Bibbulmun Track between Kalamunda and Hewitt's Hill but is not signed as such, and Mt Randall is in very close proximity to Monadnocks campsite without being offered as a side trip option. Side trips can really make a day of walking, and providing walkers with clear information about sights nearby would be greatly appreciated by those who are keen to explore a bit more. 

A one day hike off the Bibbulmun Track to West Cape Howe would be a great spur trail project

4. More spur trails

Beyond mere side trips, overnight/multi-day spurs would make excellent additions to the Bibbulmun Track's flexibility. The Wellington Spur is a great idea for an alternative to the main track due to being a three day walk from Collie to Wellington Dam with its own campsites. While the Wellington Spur was designed for school and scout groups, other spurs could simply serve to create alternative overnight or multi-day walks that branch off the main trail and provide new and exciting opportunities for hiking in the South West. A ready-made option would be to make the currently obscure Nuyts Wilderness Trail a more obvious side trip option than it currently is given that Nuyts and Bibbulmun already run concurrently for several kilometres. Other great options would be an overnight spur trail option that takes walkers to West Cape Howe itself, or a section that branches off the Bibbulmun from near Sandpatch and takes walkers to some of the wonders of Torndirrup National Park.

The Greenbushes Loop incorporates part of the Bibbulmun Track to create a day walk loop

5. More Loop Walks

While the modern Bibbulmun Track is a significant improvement on the 1988 alignment, one aspect of the old Bibb that was not carried over was the provision of loop walks blazed with different coloured Waugals. While it makes sense that these were de-emphasised to put the focus on making the Bibbulmun a true long distance walk, the reality is that many walkers only do day walks on the track and would be best served by loop walks. A few loop walks current incorporate sections of the Bibbulmun Track - The Greebushes Loop, The Dell to South Ledge and the shorter Rocky Pool Walk version of the Piesse Gully Loop immediately come to mind - however there are plenty more areas with strong potential for further loop walk development.

Tall trees in virgin Jarrah felled after a Prescribed Burn

6. Better effort made to protect taller trees in the Jarrah forest

An unavoidable weakness of the Bibbulmun Track is that the landscape between the granite valleys and peaks of the Kalamunda to Dwellingup section of the track and the beginnings of the Karri forest before Donnelly River Village consists largely of endless Jarrah forest. Given how much of the Jarrah forest is scrappy regrowth or severely burnt by recent fires, taller trees in the Jarrah forest should be prized and protected as it will take a century before the regrowth trees resemble the mature appearance of virgin Jarrah forest. While I undertand the necessary evil that is controlled burns, a particularly disheartening side effect of such burns is the fact that you often see mature trees collapsed over the track after such operations, either from the roots having been burnt out or the trees being pulled over for safety reasons. It would be great if efforts could be made to identify tall trees during a controlled burn and avoid burning them if the burn is likely to cause them to be structurally unsound. Mature Jarrah can be a beautiful tree, but it so rarely gets a chance to be more than the thin and scrappy variety common to the track's Northern Half. 

The unsatisfactory Eden Rd gate - the drop off point on the other side of the Wilson Inlet

7. A more satisfying way around the Wilson Inlet

When you think of the term 'thru-hike', getting into a car to get to the other side of an inlet seems antithetical to the whole endeavour. And yet, this is how the majority of Bibbulmun Track thru-hikers find themselves on the other side of the Wilson Inlet. It is obvious that a ferry crossing was the grand idea of the Bibbulmun Track designers, and while the idea is very nice in practice, the ferry operation in Denmark has changed hands many times and is very expensive unless you have a large group. An on-foot option used to be provided by crossing the sandbar over the Wilson Inlet when the sandbar was closed, however the grass along the Nullaki Peninsula walk trail had become dangerously overgrown and snake infested by the time it was withdrawn as an option endorsed by the Bibbulmun Track Foundation and the Parks and Wildlife Service. The best option would be to see the track along the Nullaki Peninsula cleared and reinstated as an attractive option for walkers, however it would nice if a simple campsite (ie tent sites and no hut) could be provided on the Denmark-Nornalup Heritage Trail to make it a more attractive option for people who want to stay 'pure' and avoid using motorised transport for any section of the track. 

Boot cleaning stations along the track are not always working

8. Better maintenance of Dieback cleaning stations

I take the risk of spreading Dieback pretty seriously, and I commend the fact that the Bibbulmun Track has boot cleaning stations at regular intervals along the track in areas of high risk. Unfortunately, quite a number of these are not in the best condition for a number of reasons. A few years Alissa and I came across one near Canning campsite that had been carelessly driven over by a four wheel drive that shouldn't have even been on the track, and earlier this year we found the one south of Boonerring Hill had been burnt out in a bushfire and was unusable. These are unfortunate situations that can't be helped, however topping up the spray in the pump action boot cleaning stations or replacing boot brushes that have been worn down should be managed and taken care of more regularly.

Dirt Bike riders often ignore signage as they are likely to get away with it

9. Better deterrents against dirt bikers and car campers using track facilities

Long time readers will know that dirt bikes and cars using the Bibbulmun Track are amongst my biggest pet hates. During our sectional End to End we've witnessed a car parked up at Mt Cooke campsite, a 4WD on the track near Canning campsite, a broken boot cleaning station that had been clearly driven over, heard the sound of dirt bikes ripping up the track near Collie (and obvious tyre tracks as signs of their handiwork), seen dirt bike tracks all over a granite slab near Waalegh (with leftover food and garbage just dumped into the bushes), and saw a still smoldering fire at Dookanelly after a car camper decided to drive all the way to the hut. The fact of the matter is none of these people should have been on the track and some of them know full well that they shouldn't be. The attitude is that they just don't care, can't see why they shouldn't be allowed to be there and, most importantly, can get away with it. I would love to see more work done to deter people from riding vehicles on the track and punish those who do so, ranging from making it more difficult for vehicles to access the track, putting up temporary security cameras in hot spots to catch people in the act and ensuring that offenders are fined. There is no current cure for Dieback, and people who blatantly put our biodiversity at risk should be punished accordingly.