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.


Distance: 10 km (one way)
Gradient: Some moderate descents and ascents leading from Deepdene to the Blowholes and leading off Deepdene Beach, with more gentle gradients over the rest of the walk
Quality of Path: Largely clear and well maintained. Some uneven sections with rocky limestone and granite sections, especially at the Blowholes. 
Quality of Signage: Largely well signed, with the the Cape to Cape Track markers allowing walkers to remain on track (albeit lacking in directional information).
Experience Required: Previous Bushwalking Experience Recommended
Time: 2-3 Hours
Steps: Some steps at the Hamelin Bay beach exit, and informal steps near the Blowholes.
Best Time to Visit: Late Autumn/Early Spring
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: Hamelin Bay can be reached via Hamelin Bay Rd West. At a sharp t-junction on Caves Rd, Caves Rd becomes Hamelin Bay Rd West. No direct access to Deepdene campsite.



Having put in the long 34.4 kilometres on our third day of the Cape to Cape, Day 6 was set to be the complete opposite - a short and easy 10 kilometre day to Deepdene Campsite. With this in mind, Alissa and I decided to have a lazy morning and late start so we could enjoy our cabin at Hamelin Bay Holiday Park for a bit longer. Being used to an early start, I nevertheless was up fairly early and took the opportunity to head down to the beach and get a photograph of Hamelin Island and the jetty in the early morning light. As I was taking the photo, I ran into the middle aged South African guy we met between Prevelly and Contos as he set out for his final day on the track. While Alissa and I were having an easy day, he was continuing on all the way to Cape Leeuwin for a considerably longer 28 kilometre day. I wished him good luck and returned to the cabin to watch a bit more morning television, pack my bags and get ready for the day.



 Alissa and I were back on the track at by 9am, ascending a set of stairs that led to a walkway across White Cliff Point. Beyond the stairs, the trail continues over the large limestone rock before descending to the other side of White Cliff Point.


The trail leads to Salmon Holes Beach. Not to be confused with the popular and potentially dangerous fishing spot in Torndirrup National Park, this Salmon Holes is a much gentler bay.



As we were walking along the beach, I was looking at the footprints of other hikers and saw a tiny crab sitting in one of them. Alissa used one of her trekking poles to help it out of the hole, and I was able to get a close up photo as it clung to the end of the stick.



Beach exits had definitely been one of the weaknesses of the Cape to Cape Track's signage, so we were pleasantly surprised to see the exit from Salmon Holes well marked. The clear signage made me wonder if there had originally been similar signs along the entire track at every beach exit, but that over time they had either been swallowed by the sand, damaged or stolen. Following the sign, Alissa and I climbed up a sandy dune and into a long stretch of coastal heathlands.



The trail through the coastal heathlands was fairly up and down and meandering as it made its way from the coast to a low hill overlooking Foul Bay. In the lower sections of the heath, there are some reeds that look like perfect places for snakes to hang out, and we were glad to ascend away from the lowlands given the relatively warm and sunny weather we were experiencing on the day.



At the top of the hill is the Foul Bay Lighthouse. Considerably less grand than Cape Naturaliste or Cape Leeuwin due its more utilitarian design and short stature, Foul Bay Lighthouse is the often forgotten third lighthouse of the track.



From the lookout, the Cape to Cape descends via the lighthouse service track as it heads toward Cosy Corner Rd. The granite headland in the background is known as Knobby Head, with Foul Bay itself being the beach to the right of the track.



At Cosy Corner Rd, the track follows the road briefly before crossing over to the other side and following a sandy track towards Cosy Corner Beach (again, not to be confused with Cosy Corner near Albany on the Bibbulmun Track). While stopping briefly to check the guidebook and read ahead for landmarks we should be paying attention to, Alissa did a bit of viral marketing by writing a note in the sand.



Cosy Corner Beach was a part of the Cape to Cape I'd been most looking forward to as it features a section of rugged walking along a limestone platform filled with a series of Blowholes.



Alissa and I have terrible luck with blowholes, having visited the Blowholes in Torndirrup a few times with somewhat disappointing results. While the fine and calm weather meant that the walking along the limestone platform was safe and free of dangerous wave action, it also guaranteed that the Blowholes would not be putting on a show for us today. Nevertheless, the limestone formations were beautiful and intriguing, and made this my favourite part of the day.



Further along, the shelf is a bit fractured and broken, and while it all felt pretty safe walkers are occasionally required to take a short leap across a narrow gap in the rocks or walk on sections of rock that are no longer firmly moored to the shoreline. As someone who loves rugged walking, this was right up my alley, but I can imagine more cautious walkers finding sections of the shelf to be disconcerting - especially with rough seas.



Reaching the end of the limestone platform, the track reaches the small granite headland with a clear track marker indicating which way to go to get back onto an established track.



Before returning to the track, I couldn't resist taking a few photos of the granite headlands which reminded me a bit of Greens Pool or Elephant Rocks in William Bay National Park.



While the way off the headland onto the track is quite clear, markers become a little vague as the Cape to Cape joins an old vehicle track. It appears like walkers are supposed to join the old vehicle track, but the guidebook reveals that walkers should descend to a small but pretty bay on the other side of the headlands.



While a small and secluded beach, the granite formations were impressively large. Noting the long sections of beach walking and the predominance of limestone formations in the second half of the Cape to Cape, these granite outcrops were a pleasant surprise that reminded us a lot of our second day on the track from Yallingup to Moses Rock.



Leaving the beach, the trail follows a series of low granite cliffs towards Cape Hamelin. There are some interesting natural rock gardens interspersed along the route. Signage along the rocks is a little vague at times, however it is not too difficult to work out the correct way to go. 



Walking along the rocks of Cape Hamelin were definitely another of the day's highlights, with many large granite boulders appearing as we came closer to the cape. The trail then runs through some reedy heath before descending to the start of Deepdene Beach. 



The granite of Cape Hamelin continues at the start of the beach, creating lovely sheltered rock pools. The most exciting thing about descending to Deepdene Beach is the view on the horizon - if you look carefully, you can just make out the rocky peninsula of Cape Leeuwin and its lighthouse. Seeing this filled us with excitement and anticipation - we now had less than 20 kilometres to go to reach the end of the Cape to Cape!



Deepdene is a very long beach, stretching on for over 8 kilometres before reaching the Augusta Cliffs. We would only be walking a short 800 metre section today however, as the turn off to Deepdene campsite is very close to the northern end of the beach. 



In previous years the turn off for the campsite was considered quite hard to find, however a clear marker now provides clear directional information. After walking up through the dunes, a spur trail runs for 500 metres to Deepdene campsite. 



Although less sheltered by overarching branches of tea trees or coastal peppermints than Mt Duckworth or Moses Rock, Deepdene was a lovely campsite on the day we visited given the fine weather. That being said, I can imagine that the lack of a shelter or overhanging branches would be a bit of a problem in heavy rains. The only criticism I would have of the site is that it was the most mosquito-infested campsite we stayed at over the Cape to Cape, and we ended up spending a lot of time in the tent just to avoid being bitten in the late afternoon. In the short time it took to drink a hot chocolate just before bed, I was bitten multiple times all over my feet and shins which would prove to be an itchy annoyance the next day. 



Hamelin Bay to Deepdene was the shortest day of our Cape to Cape Track thru-hike, and Alissa and I agreed that in hindsight we probably had the track fitness and energy to have pushed on all the way to Cape Leeuwin for a six day itinerary similar to Adrian, Allan and the South African hiker we had met on the way to Contos. Nevertheless, it was nice to have a cruisy day after some fairly lengthy days early in the hike, and the fine weather meant we were able to have a lazy morning in our cabin at Hamelin Bay and a restful afternoon at Deepdene. The rocky terrain from the Blowholes onwards to Deepdene Beach was a sustained stretch of spectacular scenery, and I can imagine this being an excellent sectional overnight hike option. I know I keep saying this, but this was another excellent day of walking on the Cape to Cape Track and a great penultimate day to our thru-hike. 

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