Tom Road to Boarding House
Start - Tom Road Campsite
Finish - Boarding House Campsite
Length - 24km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 323m
Time - 5-8 hours
Date Hiked - 19th June 2017
The Hike - So...having thought I had lost my photos from this hike forever due to a broken hard drive, I one day remembered possibly transferring files to my rarely used PC before going to Europe. I wasn't sure if this was for the purpose of backing up my photos or was to try and get more space on another hard drive before my trip. In the end I had a look in a few folders and didn't find anything before checking one final place and bam, there they were.
After getting a very outrageous estimate for recovering the files from my broken hard drive I was a heartbroken man, so to discover that I had actually backed them up and then forgotten I had like a numpty was a joyous occasion. I immediately transferred them to a new hard drive just in case and now had a touch under 2000 photos to go through and four days worth of blog posts to write. One issue I also have now is to remember what happened in enough detail given this trip occurred over two months ago. So here we go. As mentioned in my last post, I did not get a fantastic night's sleep due to not having my sleeping system sorted and thus being a little chilly. Breakfast wasn't exactly a pick me up with muesli and powdered milk but that's the camp life I chose so forced it down and got on with the job of packing up everything ready for what would be my second longest day, distance wise, of the trip.
Ahead of me was 24km of lovely Bibbulmun Track to enjoy with a few interesting features along the way to keep me interested. As Chantal and I were about to leave camp, me onward to Boarding House and Chantal returning to Donnelly River, we ran into the Adventurous Women’s tour group again as they came into camp. They must have been dropped off on Toms Road and were keen to see what the accommodation was like for those of us that were doing it unassisted. I said goodbye to Chantal and left the ladies to marvel at the wonderful location of the Tom Road campsite. The start of the day consisted of lovely single track paths through the Karri forest complete with mossy logs, thickets of undergrowth dripping with Karri bark and the occasional set of stairs carved next to a fallen tree. This is exactly what I came here for so was loving just meandering along at a gentle pace. The single path terminates when you reach Panda Rd (love the name) and you follow this for a short while, crossing over Donnelly River once more (still not a lot of flowing water) at another set of twin bridges.
I'm not normally a fan of 4x4 tracks but the roads in the Karri forests are different as they allow you to fully experience the scale of the trees and provide some great photo opportunities. You are pointed back into the thickness of the forest soon enough and this will be your home for the next hour or so before you come across any kind of road. Winding along with Donnelly River but not actually sighting it due to the density of the forest, this was one of those sections that was quite pretty but also a good place to get into a rhythm. The sun was still low in the sky and every now and then when it peaked from behind the clouds, the forest lit up in bright shades of green. This was one of those times where I knew the photos wouldn't truly capture the moment so just enjoyed it for what it was with my own eyes.
A little bit of a climb to the highest point of the day isn't too much of a challenge and then it’s a long downhill section to where you share the trail with the Munda Biddi. I always enjoy when you get to see the two sets of markers on one post and turned down my music so I could hear if any cyclists were approaching on the narrow trail. The joint trail finishes after you cross Cow Brook (loving the animal naming theme for today) and again the Bibbulmun meanders close to Donnelly River. Approaching the first distance marker on the map for the day (Greens Island), you catch glimpses of neighbouring farmland and are taken quite close to the river where giant trees have fallen over, creating a world of chaos hanging over the water.
I had to stop unexpectedly here as I discovered a very annoying and important feature of my camera. Up until Cow Brook I had been on three bars of battery life, where it switched down to two bars. Great I thought, over a day on one bar and with two spare batteries in the bag I would easily have this covered. Apparently not as I found out when the battery went down to one bar shortly after and then flashed red meaning I was out of juice. Not even half way through the second day and I was having to change batteries was not ideal as it meant at this pace I would run out of life on the last day, which was set to feature several amazing photo spots. A little bit annoyed I thought of ways to conserve power and only take photos when required instead of every two steps like I had been doing.
This strategy wasn't helped when I reached the trail leading away from Greens Island and it closely followed a faster flowing Donnelly River. The towering Karri trees were in full view on the other side of the bank and every now and then you would get a set of rapids or rise up a small hill to view an open section of water. This certainly raised my spirits and I lifted my photo restriction until further notice as the surprisingly undulating trail made its way to the halfway mark of the day, One Tree Bridge. Stopping off at almost every set of rapids or viewing spot, my pace slowed but I was still well on target to reach camp by mid afternoon. Half expecting to bump into the Adventurous Women group again, I was slightly disappointed to reach One Tree Bridge and find it empty, apart from the noise of passing traffic on Graphite Rd.
Being almost exactly halfway, I stopped for lunch at the picnic tables and enjoyed what would be my midday meal for the next few days, a single Clif bar (by choice). As always when I hike, I wasn't feeling hungry so had to make myself eat it while I investigated the remnants of the old One Tree Bridge. I should have stopped for longer but the constant noise of passing cars mixed with the uncomfortableness of the picnic table made me continue on to inspect the relatively new suspension bridge that the Bibbulmun now crosses. A popular place to stop if you are travelling around this part of the state, I met a couple who were standing on the bridge as I approached so I politely asked if they minded if I took photos. Little did I know at the time but these were the last people I would talk to (or see) until arriving in Pemberton over three days later and all I did was ask them if I could take a photo. #bibblife
Admiring the views downstream, I eventually moved on to the other side of Donnelly River and the relatively flat and wide railway trail that is home for the next few kilometres. Joining up with the Munda Biddi again, this was another opportunity to put on a podcast and pound out the steps. The scenery is still very lovely as you catch a glimpse every now and then of the water but this section doesn't feature a lot of variety. The Munda Biddi departs up a series of switchbacks near a small clearing and you are left to your own devices again. One highlight here is the milestone marker that signifies halfway for the Bibbulmun Track, a significant achievement for end to enders. Having not undertaken such an adventure yet it didn't evoke much of a response other than "that's pretty cool" but maybe one day I will find more joy in seeing it.
The trail after this point then starts up a couple of really annoying hills, especially as they don't really lead to great views or serve much purpose. With blisters starting to develop on both feet thanks to a variety of reasons I won't get into just yet, I wasn't really appreciating the scenery for what it was. I'm sure if this was the start of the day then I would have been thrilled but at the 20-22km mark I just wanted to get into camp and take my shoes off. What wasn't helping this was I knew there was the epicness of Boarding House Bridge to look forward to. Not knowing when the bridge was coming I quickly passed Chappel's Bridge, an old campsite for the Bibbulmun and now used by 4x4 owners and marron catchers, without really having a proper look.
It wasn't long though before I was rewarded with my first glimpse of Boarding House Bridge and it definitely brought a smile to my face. Having seen many photos of this bridge before, I was looking forward to spending a bit of time photographing it. The entire bridge is one large Karri tree with planks over the top and metal wire suspended for handlines, certainly a lot better than the more modern steel arrangements. A wonderful mess of moss, wet timber, stainless steel and chicken wire (for grip), it it such a beautiful scene to come across. My afternoon crossing though came at a time with bright sunlight streaming through the canopy so the pictures paint it in a bit more of a golden light. Luckily it is very close to the campsite and I would be passing this way again in the morning so I would get another opportunity to photograph it.
The final stage of the day was to climb up to the access road leading to campsite and down the 4x4 track a further 200m to the shelter. Compared to Toms Road, this wasn't as nice but still a very lovely place to spend the night. I took my boots off for some relief and went about my afternoon routine of puncturing blisters, boiling water for a coffee and dinner (Green Chicken Curry tonight), setting up my sleeping gear and relaxing around camp reading the red and green shelter books. Before my coffee though I wandered down the path to Donnelly River and had a quiet moment there reflecting on the day. As the sun set I realised I would be alone tonight so settled in with a movie (The Descendants) and enjoyed some chocolate and George Clooney. I adjusted my sleep system with significantly better results and slept right through the night like a toasty marshmallow, apart from being woken up by an early morning pelting of rain on the shelter roof.
Final Thoughts - I'm going to be honest, this wasn't my favourite day of the trip but still a very enjoyable section of the track. I was probably still getting into the rhythm of trail life, something that probably set in as I got to camp. Had I also not experienced the battery issue and not brought very old boots (the cause of the blisters) then I'm sure I would have held this day in higher regard.
For a relatively flat section it does have a lot of undulation that doesn't show on the profile of the map so maybe I was mentally preparing myself for an easier day and never got it. The last 4km felt like they took a couple of hours but you tend to get that when you just want to get your boots off and have a rest. I didn't do myself any favours by not stopping as often as I should.
There is a lot to like about this section, lots of single track walking through Karri forest, the section between Greens Island and One Tree Bridge, all the Donnelly River section and of course Boarding House Bridge. While not at the same level as Toms Road or later shelters, Boarding House is still well situated in the Karri forest above Donnelly River and I thoroughly enjoyed just sitting there listening to the sounds of the forest.
With the highly anticipated rollercoaster section on the cards for the following day, this was a good preparation day for what was to come.
Get out there and experience it!
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