Bibbulmun Track - William Bay to Denmark
Start - William Bay Campsite
Finish - Denmark
Campsite - Track Town
Distance - 21km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 312m
Time - 5-9 hours
Date Hiked - 22nd September 2019
The Hike - The final day of my Walpole to Denmark stretch but as circumstance would have it, the second day of my Parry Beach to Albany expedition that would see me complete a sectional end to end. The clouds that had rolled in the previous afternoon had hung around overnight, meaning I was occasionally woken up by rain on the roof.
This meant my plans to wake up early and catch the sunrise from the great lookout near camp also fell apart as it was a very grey morning. I still did it anyway and although I wasn't greeted with a golden glow, you still can't argue with waking up to sweeping ocean views from a granite platform. While I was watching and waiting, I saw some birds in the distance flying in the V formation that made me nostalgic for watching the Mighty Ducks movies. After realising I wasn't getting the brilliant colours of a nice sunrise, I retreated to the warmth of my sleeping bag once again and listened to some music. I was in no hurry today as check-in at the YHA wasn't until 4pm and I had a leisurely 21km to get through. Figuring seven hours was enough time to complete this task, it was a relaxing morning around camp eating breakfast, inspecting wildflowers and drinking coffee.
With everything packed up just after 8:30am, I was about ready to leave when I heard a rumbling in the bushes near the shelter. Thinking a few kangaroos had come into camp, I went to grab my camera only to spot two hikers coming round the corner and towards the shelter. A bit surprised to see hikers at this time of morning, I thought they had started in William Bay but as we talked it turned out that Riley and Mon had come all the way from Parry Beach. A young couple from Victoria, they were pumping out big kilometres each day to finish in around 30 days. They would be staying at the YHA that night and were keen to get into town so headed off before me and suggested that maybe we'd see each other during the day. Little did they know how slow I'd be walking today given all the excellent scenery, abundant wildflowers and fantastic photo opportunities. They headed off along the trail and I wasn't far behind them.
As I'd seen coming into camp the previous day, the wildflowers to start the day were just epic with a vast array of colours and varieties that blanketed the coastal heath. As I passed Tower Hill I noticed a little goat track leading off towards the rock formations so decided to check it out. It was a little overgrown in sections but was worth the effort to get to the base of the rocks. They are even more impressive close up and do not at all look like Gondorian nipple helmets. The ocean views here are really cool, even with the moody skies out on the horizon. After exploring the area a little, I headed back to the track and enjoyed the continued wildflower display as I headed mostly downhill. My previous hiking trip before this one was in the forests between North Bannister and Dwellingup and it was special when I spotted an orchid but through here it was like they were a weed. In among the Foxtails, Pink Banjine, Yellow Buttercup and Flame Peas were Cowslip, Pink Fairy and Donkey Orchids and it was a delight to walk through and photograph the area.
Heading down into a thicket of Peppermint trees, always a favourite of mine, it leads you to a space containing some granite slopes that was a little bit unexpected given the previous few days of dune walking. This is a sign of the transition you'll experience as you get closer to Mount Hallowell, a relatively tall granite dome that is a feature that will be with you for the whole morning (and one you'll have to climb up later). It doesn't last long as you find yourself dipping down into a small valley between two dunes and the ocean views disappear. Along here I spotted a couple in the distance and thought it was Riley and Mon but they were coming towards me and soon I was face to face with an older couple that were just enjoying a walk to the William Bay Campsite and back. Remarking what a lovely day it was, I left them to their walk and headed up above the valley onto the ridge of a dune. The views returned and this was a really enjoyable stretch of walking due to the views looking towards the headland close to Ocean Beach and also further to Nullaki Peninsula.
The cool but humid morning air was really pleasant and in the distance I could spot a large granite boulder poking out from looked like a glorious eucalyptus forest. I knew this day contained a return to the Karri forest but to see it so early in the day was a welcome surprise. Heading down small dip, the transition between coastal heath and forest is very quick with a fern indicating that this was an area not short on water access. There is indeed a creek flowing through this section and it supports a thick eucalyptus forest that was a sight for sore eyes (even though this was only day two on the track). It is just a precursor to the walking further on and actually does a good job of shielding you from the excellent scene up ahead. Rounding a corner you come across some very large granite formations that put the previous boulders from Elephant Cove the previous day to shame. These things are massive and as you continue along the path, all you can do is stare up in amazement. The track takes you up close to them and I was loving the patterns and colours of the bare rock extending up into the sky.
With that wow moment providing a highlight of the morning, it was time to head into another Peppermint thicket as you continue the journey down to Lights Beach. Just as you step off the granite platform it was nice to see the return of the special granite waugyls that are silver in colour. Again, the excellent wildflowers along here continue and my pace was very relaxed to say the least. The track opens up as you descend and you reach a 4x4 track that is actually a welcome addition to the day because of the moody views back towards Mount Hallowell. This stretch had the feeling of walking through a swampy expanse and this is not surprising given there is a swamp nearby including a little lake that unfortunately you don't get to see from the track. The 4x4 stretch doesn't last very long but it was fun spotting all the different orchids on the edges, a spot they really seem to enjoy. At one point there was a dozen or so Cowslips in one tiny spot that I was blown away by. As I said before, it is exciting to see a couple on one day in the Darling Range, little did I know this would become completely normal in the next few days.
While the 4x4 track doesn't end, the open space does and soon you are headed into a green paradise of Peppermint trees and thick grass. The orchid love continued with my first Purple Enamel Orchid sighting as you wind your way along the sandy 4x4 track. The lake I mentioned before is not too far away and the creeks that feed it run through where the track goes. Occasionally it can get flooded but luckily the Munda Biddi is not too far away and they get a bridge over the troublesome area. I was highlighted to the existence of the Munda Biddi by a passing cyclist who was riding the path just above where I was and it was nice to see people out enjoying the trails. Now in the thick of the Peppermint trees, it was magical spot that I was very happy to experience with heavy cloud cover. This type of vegetation is really hard to capture when the sun is out and really fun to walk through when it's cloudy. It has a really enclosed feel to it and I love the combination of close green canopy, mossy patches on the trunks and the orange leaf litter marking where the trail goes.
The magic continued as you get closer to the beach and you'd be forgiven in thinking that the salty water and white beach wasn't on the menu anytime soon if you couldn't hear the sound of the waves crashing in the distance. What I was enjoying seeing was the native geranium that was popping up in more frequent numbers. This purple flowering plant looks almost out of place against all the pea varieties and orchids but it's something different and I really enjoyed seeing it all along the coast from here to Albany. Arriving at Lights Beach, it was great to see the ocean up close again and with cloudy skies, it was looking a treat. The first section of the beach is really small but it's still nice the track came here as walking along the beach is always special and seeing more of the granite boulders was pretty cool. While my eyesight isn't great, I managed to spot where the track exit was as there is a great big staircase leading up into the dunes on the opposite side. Not taking the direct route so I could get closer to the waters edge, I eventually got there and realised the path was blocked by a small stream. Too big to jump in one go and not really wanting to get wet socks in what I assumed was going to be the only place where this could happen all day, I saw some rocks upstream and used them to successfully navigate over to the other side.
Climbing up the stairs I found my path blocked with marking tape and a hive of activity in the car park. Turns out I had interrupted the Denmark Half Marathon but had previously been warned about this from Jacko and the couple I passed earlier so it wasn't unexpected. I passed over the tape blocking runners from taking the wrong path and wiggled through the crowds, trying not to get in the way. As it so happened, I was there at the exact moment of the finishers coming in so there was lots of applauding (not for me) and with the wonders of modern technology, I recognised a couple of runners from Instagram. I had a wander around the lookouts near the car park while I eyed off the coffee van that was parked at the finish line. A muffin and a hot chocolate would have been heaven for morning tea but I wasn't feeling that hungry so decided not to (I should have at least bought a muffin for later in hindsight). On the other side of the coin, a runner recognised me from Instagram and a presentation I had done for the Bibbulmun Track Foundation earlier in the year so we had a bit of a chat before I departed the craziness of the race finish and headed up the hill.
Initially you walk along the pavement and this was the last bit of the running course so as I hiked up with my big pack, runners were finishing a half marathon. We were both covering the same distance, the only difference being I was taking a lot longer to complete my 21km. They were all friendly and I gave them a cheer of encouragement as they passed, which I think they appreciated. The track leaves the pavement and heads up the hill on a dedicated single path, a nice detour and one that led to a bevy of wildflowers that you wouldn't have seen if the track stuck to the pavement. It was amazing walking through the thick heath and spotting a variety of different colours and species hidden next to your feet. Everything from Pink Fairy Orchids to Donkey Orchids to Banjine to Geraniums to Blue Fan Flowers to different types of peas, I was frequently stopping to take photo after photo. It wasn't only the wildflowers that was catching my eye because if you turn around and look up, the coastal views are just as spectacular. There was a little bench in a clearing and it provided some excellent views down towards Lights Beach and even as far as the headland near Parry Beach.
The track criss crosses the pavement as you ascend further and the imposing figure of Mount Hallowell looms in the distance. For now though I was concentrating on the wildflower display and watching for runners as they made their way down the hill. Even though I was off in the heath, it was still nice to see them go past and I got a nice feeling of community from the event that really added to the morning. Where the track leaves the pavement for the last time and begins heading towards Mount Hallowell, there were two volunteers for the event directing runners and offering encouragement. We had a bit of a chat about how lovely the area is and what a great time of year it was for the wildflowers. One of them said she lived on the edge of the forest next to Mount Hallowell and I should stop in fro a cup of tea on my way past, which would have been nice but I didn't see her out in the garden. Heading back on single path, the wildflowers continued with different varieties showing up including Albany Catspaw, Foxtail and I spotted a really cool beetle hanging onto a Pink Banjine. While the wildflowers were great, up ahead there was a timely reminder about the hidden threat to the Australian bush, Dieback.