Bibbulmun Track - Abyssinia Rock
Start - Powerlines on Brookton Hwy
Length - 18.1km (Return)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 439m
Time - 4-6 hours
Signed - Yes, Follow the Bibbulmun Waugyl
Date - 17th April 2017
Best Time - Winter to Late Spring
Directions - Located an hours drive from Perth, the trail start is on the south side of Brookton Hwy where there is a small car park. Look for the red Bibbulmun Track signs under the giant power lines roughly 12km after the Ashendon Rd turnoff.
The Hike - The arrival of Easter usually marks the start of the hiking season in Perth with the four day weekend providing ample opportunity to get out there and explore new trails or some old favourites. With my nieces coming up for a visit on Good Friday and me heading down south to drop them home on Saturday afternoon, Easter Monday was booked in as the only time to get out there and hike. Plans were made a while ago with the Oxfam Squad (although apparently only at the dog park) so only Tom & Mel would be joining me today (sorry Aron). This day walk on the Bibbulmun Track was one I had wanted to do for a while now and I probably should have squeezed it in last spring but it got pushed back to 2017.
Having seen Nature Mondays explore this section, Abyssinia Rock looked like a cool place to be and I decided we should extend the hike to the Canning campsite to get in some extra training kilometres (and work off the Easter chocolate). After a pretty wet summer, the weather recently has been fairly consistent and dry so I wasn't expecting there to be an explosion of green or colour at Abyssinia Rock. We left Fremantle about sunrise and headed out to the start point along Brookton Highway. It was about an hour’s drive to get out there and it is very obvious where to turn on Brookton Highway as the track crosses right under the powerlines in an open space. Big red Bibbulmun Track signs are also a giveaway that you are in the right spot and there is plenty of parking on the south side of the highway. We weren't the only ones out on the track with a car already parked there belonging to a couple of girls that had stayed at the Canning campsite and just as we headed off from the car an SUV pulled up with two more hikers we would chat with at the halfway point.
Despite the sparse and dry feel of the car park, the trail immediately heads into familiar jarrah and she-oak forest that is characteristic of the Darling Range. This area was affected by the bushfires of 2015 and is still regenerating so I was prepared for plenty of black tree trunks wearing green jumpers (how I see the regrowth as it looks like they all have green jumpers on). Having been out on Tom's section of the Bibbulmun Track near the Murray campsite the week before and seeing the difference three months can make on your ability to locate the trail, I was keen to see if the Darling Range section had experienced the same growth rates. Given this is a heavily frequented section and not close to a river system the regrowth wasn't as aggressive but it was pleasing to see the jarrah forest coming back to life after being devastated a couple of years back.
The regenerating forest is a good distraction as the first couple of kilometres are all uphill but not in a particularly challenging way, just a constant grind. This is made easier after you leave the wide 4x4 track you start on and head into my favourite type of trail, narrow single track. After a spectacularly sunny Easter weekend the conditions overhead were rather grey and gloomy, something I had hoped would change when we arrived at Abyssinia Rock. A smattering of purple wildflowers dotted the trail as we made our way up to the summit of the first climb and were greeted with views towards the southern hills of Mt Randall and Mt Vincent. With the legs feeling warm it was refreshing to be back in the forest and enjoying some quality time in the fresh air.
The descent down towards Abyssinia Rock is fairly steep to start with before flattening out and descending once more. Thick she-oak forest surrounds the trail providing more of a canopy than the regenerating jarrah trees and with the grey skies looming overhead, it certainly felt a little gloomy. The she-oak forest is growing on me the more I walk it and I now enjoy coming across these little pockets, more so as large parts of the track around Perth is affected by bushfires or controlled burns. I've always loved a closed in feeling, something that is lacking for five or more years after bushfires rip through a jarrah forest so the she-oaks are becoming alright in my mind.
It wasn't long before we rounded a corner and Abyssinia Rock came into view, sparking a small woo-hoo from everyone. We exited the forest and cast eyes upon the granite formation that has been dubbed Abyssinia Rock. Abyssinia is the name of the old Ethiopian empire or a possible reference to HMAS Abyssinia, a ship from the 1800s that I don't think visited Western Australia. I would love to know the reason behind the name if anyone knows the story so please comment if you do. Being early autumn, the granite rock face was still very dry looking and the delicate green moss that usually blankets these formations was still in summer retreat mode. With the formless grey clouds blanketing the sky, I have to say it was a dreary sight so it will be nice to return in spring and see it in its full glory.
We began the climb up to the highest point using the cairns as a guide. There is no direct route up with several vegetated breaks so please tread lightly and do not step on the fragile moss. When we reached the final cairn at the top, the views were plentiful but a little dull given the skies/timing of our visit. I'm sure on a better day with some fluffy clouds in the sky and patches of green moss everywhere this would be a very nice place to explore. On this hike I had brought along my exercise mat so we could try out some three person acro-yoga moves on the flat granite. Tom and Mel are seasoned pros at this so I would be trying not to stuff it all up. Slippery socks didn't help but I think we managed to get some half decent poses in. Thanks to Tom for basing and also triggering the photos via my IR remote.
With acro-yoga'ing completed we put our shoes back on and headed off on the trail again towards the turnaround point at the Canning campsite. West of Abyssinia Rock are the small streams that run off the granite but soon you are placed back into the jarrah/she-oak forest for some good old fashioned single track hiking. This mostly downhill section ends when you come across an old shoe scrubbing station used to prevent the spread of dieback. Beyond this point is one of my favourite sections of this hike, the open savannah floodplains. Variety is the spice of life so breaking up the forest hiking and coming across some grassy terrain is very welcome. There was no water present on this visit but it would be easy to imagine the water dispersing throughout the landscape, especially on the raised sandy sections that the track follows.
The savannah section doesn't last long and soon you are back into the forest for a short climb on winding 4x4 tracks. This stretch reminded me of the section of track I look after in between Possum Springs and Yourdamung with black trunks, thick undergrowth and a wide, winding path. The Canning campsite pops into view about 1.5kms after entering the forest and is a little way off the track although always visible. Having been described as not one of the better huts, it has its charms with a good amount of tall trees around, a spacious fire pit complete with plenty of seating options and numerous handy add-ons to the hut including drying lines and hooks. We sat on the picnic table and enjoyed some homemade pizza scrolls (thanks Mel) and a Clif Bar.
The two other hikers that pulled up when we arrived at the start soon joined us and we had a bit of a chat. Patty, an older gentleman, is a guide on the Bibbulmun and has a wealth of knowledge about the track and leading beginners on their first outings. He was hiking for pleasure today with his daughter Amy and he offered up some good advice on some of the better sections in the Darling Range, some of which I had done and some I have planned for the future. They left before us as we continued snacking and reading the entries in both books located in the camp. The hike back was a pleasant walk, experiencing things we missed the first time and seeing it from a different perspective. The only bad thing was having to listen to the unpleasant drone of trail bike riders that shouldn't be around these parts.
Final Thoughts - The Darling Range section of the Bibbulmun Track can easily be broken into many day hikes given the various access points so it was nice to get out and explore another area. Being out in the forest is always a wonderful experience and despite the unfavourable conditions for photography we had an excellent time.
Abyssinia Rock is similar to Sullivan Rock and I'm reserving judgement on my favourite until I have experienced Abyssinia Rock in the spring. Both have their appeal and just being out and about in the open air soaking in the views is a great experience.
Another fantastic day hike in the memory banks and well worth a visit to see. Not a bad way to spend an Easter Monday.
Get out there and experience it!
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