Bibbulmun Track - Lake Maringup to Dog Pool
Start - Lake Maringup Campsite
Finish - Dog Pool Campsite
Campsite - Nornalup
Distance - 25.9km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 540m
Time - 5-9 hours
Date Hiked - 3rd June 2019
The Hike - A beautiful afternoon and evening at the Lake Maringup continued into the morning with another comfortable sleep thanks to my upgraded sleeping mat and new socks. With a late sunrise I found myself awake before dawn and kept an eye out of my tent at the dark skies to make sure I was up and about for the pre-dawn light show and eventually the sunrise.
Noticing a change in the light I extracted myself from the warmth of my sleeping bag and put the thongs on to go inspect the changing light from the edge of Lake Maringup. It was a beautiful spectacle as a tiny sliver of cloud added just enough for the light to bounce off it and settle in all kinds of lovely warm tones. Initially a deep orange and yellow, as the sun edged ever closer to the horizon the sky changed to a purple and then finally a blue hue. The actual sunrise was a bit muted with a tiny section of orange largely masked by the large amounts of blue now filling the sky. I returned to the shelter to find Brett up and about, getting his gear together for a morning beverage.
I thought that seemed like a good idea so got out my new coffee system and fired up my stove. I was expecting the Swiss couple that had walked in at 7pm the previous night to be up and about but Brett said they had left before dawn. We were both perplexed as to why you would walk the track and not at least make time to spend some daylight hours at some of the campsite along the way given that is what the Bibbulmun is highly praised for. I mulled over their potential reasoning while I drank my coffee and ate my dry granola, coming to the conclusion that while you miss out on seeing some of the campsites at night, they would at least be spending lunch at every other campsite along this section (although they would have missed two of the best in Mt Chance and Lake Maringup given their schedule).
Even though I had my longest day of the trip at 26km ahead of me, I was in no rush this morning. This section looked pretty flat on the map elevation chart (although my GPS clocked 540m of vertical ascent for the day) and I wanted to enjoy the loveliness of the campsite for as long as I could. Eventually though I packed away my gear and said my goodbyes to Brett before heading off and passing the lake for one last farewell. The bright blue of the morning sky was reflecting off the surface so I took a couple of quick snaps and headed into the Karri forest, ready to tackle another day of walking in this amazing part of the state. With the area surrounding Lake Maringup being a lush heaven of tall trees and thick undergrowth I expected that to continue as I started the day and was not disappointed with the scenery.
With the track initially heading east, it meant that I was shooting directly into the low morning sun, making it hard to truly capture the extent of the Karri trunks poking out from the tunnel of thick undergrowth. Reminding me very much of the Karri forest leaving Boarding House, the tall canopy and the enclosed feeling of the ground plants was a welcome relief from the mostly burnt forest I had been seeing since leaving Northcliffe. Now well into my trail groove I was just enjoying soaking it all in as I meandered along the track admiring the shredded Karri bark lying everywhere and the various fungi dotting the forest floor (managed to get a few non-blurry shots). I had a laugh at the small sections of boardwalk that had been installed at various points. While very much appreciated when things are a little wet, they are more of a token gesture as Ben and Donovan pointed out in the podcast episode of this section.
After opening up into a brief section of sandy soiled forest full of sundews and banksias it was back into the thick Karri forest as the track started to head east towards the finishing point for the day, Dog Pool Campsite. While I was vary of getting through the kilometres at a good pace I also couldn't stop photographing the beauty of the forest as the sun streamed through the wide trunks and tall canopy. These larger "islands" of Karri would become less and less as the day wore on so I was more than happy to slow down here and experience them while I could. The lushness of the unburnt forest allowed for a good variety of fungi and some different wildflowers to the purple trigger plants I'd seen on the first couple of days. Yellow Flags were starting to come into bloom and while they are a bit basic in their shape along with being temperamental in how well they open up, I was just happy to photograph something different.
Exiting the Karri forest you come across the first of the open plains between the islands that really gives you an appreciation for how this landscape works. While you usually think that the best forest with the tallest trees exists in the valleys near the water sources, out here it is the opposite with the almost barren land existing in the lower elevations while the thick forest is confined to the higher ground. Given the flooding this area experiences each year I'm not surprised that the large trees wouldn't like it in the swampy areas and this area was once all underwater so it makes sense that it clings to what would have been actual islands. Having visited Mount Chudalup in late 2017 and seeing this area from high above I was certainly keen to see what it would be like at ground level and the experience was every bit of what I had hoped for.
The good thing about leaving the forest behind, albeit briefly, is the return of the Swamp Bottlebrush and all the red glory that entails. As I said in the previous day I really enjoyed seeing them in the open plains as they add a splash of colour to a wash of green and blue. The open section didn't last long here and soon I was in the coolness of the forest for some more excellent walking. The Karri trees here were slightly thinner than the previous island but there were some older Marri or possibly Yarri trees dotted around the place to provide some old world charm. The excellent fungi continued with some coral type varieties popping up out of nowhere and I finally got my shot of the red Super Mario mushrooms althought it is slightly blurry. At one point through here I was happy to see a short patch of sword grass mixed in with some Warren River Cedar, not something I was expecting this far from where they are typically located around Pemberton.
Continuing on through the forest the different types of fungi continued with a wet yellow pancake variety clinging to a large piece of wood and a furry white mass of hair rising from the leaf litter. This was the best variety I had seen all trip and in such a small stretch of forest. It's amazing what can develop when you don't burn everything to a crisp every few years. The most special of the fungi was one that I almost missed as I walked by. Luckily it caught my eye as I walked by as the array of shell like formations clinging to the fallen branch was amazing. The colours and textures were interesting to see as I examined it from all different angles. It made me think of an artist's impression of a fairy community home for a kid's TV show with all the resting spots and individual shells they could call home.
With a few photos in the bag I continued on towards the first major intersection of the day and a transition away from the Karri forest and into the drier Jarrah forest. Reaching Chesapeake Rd East marked just over a third of the day done and on the opposite side I had a bit of a laugh at the waugyl attached to one of the trees. Having seen so many of them in my life I thought it looked strange compared to the others, like a cheap knock off someone had created themselves. Turns out the volunteer must have been desperate for one and used the fridge magnet version, confirmed when I looked on the opposite side and saw the black of the magnet. That's some dedication from the volunteer that looks after this area as they aren't cheap to buy.
With the move into the Jarrah forest the canopy opened up a little but it felt very much like home, as if I could be walking through an unburnt section of the Darling Range (very rare occurrence these days). I don't mind a bit of Jarrah and with good quality forest in front of me I continued on down the track, reaching a very lush section filled with Bracken Fern. After I disturbed a couple of kangaroos (one of the few wildlife sightings I had over the week) the walking was very much the same for a while but still very enjoyable. One section I loved seeing was when the track passes over a piece of exposed granite covered in moss. Very much a feature I enjoy seeing out on the track, this was the first of the granite I would see on this section, one that is noted for the granite domes at Mt Chance and Woolbales.
Trying to see where a pad had been worn so I didn't disturb the moss too much, it was a difficult task at times so had to apologise several times if I'd stood on a patch (I hate doing it and avoid it at all costs). This area marked the return to the Karri forest, although much thinner than previous sections, it retained the feel of the Jarrah forest with a more open canopy. A fallen giant of a tree provides an interesting spectacle and marks the end of the Karri forest for quite a while as the terrain transitions to much sandier soils. A stunted forest lines the track as you walk towards the crossing of Deeside Coast Rd with a short boardwalk section providing short relief from what would be a very wet part of the track in winter and spring. At the intersection of Deeside Coast Rd are some of the tallest Kingia Australis specimens I have ever seen with my rough estimate of about 6m tall.
This could potentially make them anywhere from 400 to over 600 years old given their very small growth rate of 1-1.5cm per year. It's a crazy thought that they have been here 2-3 times as long as colonial settlers and haven't been destroyed with a road so close. I enjoyed seeing these ancient beauties quite a lot and likened them to the palm trees of the Arabian Oasis given the unforgiving looking landscape I was about to enter. One of the experiences I was looking forward to was the endless Pingerup Plains and this section from Deeside Coast Rd was my first real stretch of what I imagined it to be like. Flat country stretching out as far as the eye could see with a monotone covering of vegetation and maybe a few trees dotting the emptiness. One particular stretch here really stands out as a wow moment for me and it comes when you reach a section of trees that rise above the plains like Acacias on the African Savannah. An island of forest sits in the distance and in this little shaded patch I stopped and had to have a sit down to enjoy the scene in front of me.
This literally made me stop and appreciate how beautiful it was so with my pack on the ground I sat cross legged and just breathed it all in. It might not be as stunning to some people but I really enjoyed it in the moment. This mature patch of trees with the view of the island will stay with me as a lasting memory of this day. With my pack reattached to my shoulders I headed off and the track makes an obvious turn but continues in a roughly northward direction to what looked like another forest island and maybe another granite platform. I kept my eye on it as I got closer but as I entered the edges of the forest it became clear that it was just going to be a tease. As I entered the thicker forest I got a few wildflowers to ease my disappointment so that made up for the lack of granite. The forest section was very short and soon I was out on the other side of the island facing another wide open stretch of sandy track.
While it's very clear on the map that you are close to roads for most of the second half of the day, you never quite notice them until a car passes. I stopped here to change my camera battery and the illusion of being in the wilderness was shattered when four cars drove by in quick succession. While putting my technology dry sack back in my pack it appears I knocked the hose connecting the bladder to the mouth piece and thus was annoyed when I next went to take a drink and found that it felt like it was empty. It had turned into a warm day but it seemed odd that I had gone through 3L of fluids so quickly when I hadn't really been exerting myself. I stupidly didn't check my pack so with 6km to go I resigned myself to having no fluids. Luckily the final 5km was on a 4x4 track so I could power into camp and have a nice refreshing drink. Reaching Dog Rd via some lovely open grassland I found a message written in the sand that at the time seemed a little creepy (a smiley face with "Hello" and an arrow).
Moving on I reached Dog Rd and put the afterburners on, wanting to reach camp. I can't say this was the most enjoyable stretch with patches of burnt Karri mixed in with patch of burnt Jarrah and just a long endless series of hills. I was keen just to get this final stretch finished with and given it was all wide 4x4 track, it's not like I was going to miss much by speeding up. Taking limited photos along the way because the view rarely changed, I powered on at just under 6kmph because I could. Having been warned about Donovan's favourite road on the next day (Marron Rd) I feel like this is my version of his Marron Rd. It was not enjoyable and seemed to be a bit of a downer to finish what had been a pretty enjoyable day up to that point. I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it even with a properly connected hose to my bladder as it drags on for so long when all you want to do is get to camp. The bushfires of 2015 that caused the loss of Dog Pool play a big part in this as the forest just isn't the same with skeletal trees reminding you of those events.
I did eventually reach the campsite and let out an enthusiastic woop of joy at seeing the rammed earth shelter. I was alone for the first time on the trip so set about unpacking everything so I could enjoy a beverage and that's when I discovered I still had 1.5L of water in my bladder and the hose had simply disconnected. Taking a large drink I got my stuff ready and set about exploring the lovely surrounds of the campsite area. Right next to a tributary of the Shannon River, the granite rocks and platforms provide an ideal location for relaxing and cooling off after a long day. While not flowing with much vigour, there was enough for me to dip my legs into the stream and feel the rush of ice cold water on my muscles. Dog Pool down below looked like a nice place to swim but I wasn't feeling it so settled for dipping my legs in.
It was a really peaceful place to sit and enjoy all afternoon while I wrote in my journal, read the log books (one entry described Dog Rd as a dog to hike and I nodded my head) and took many photos. While still recovering from the 2015 fires, it's starting to grow into the surroundings but there is a long way to go. The metal bridge crossing the granite is the big feature of the campsite and it may not be to everyone's taste but given how slippery granite can be, I think it is necessary. A wooden bridge would have been nicer but not really practical for a rebuild in such a location. This is one campsite I would have loved to have seen in person before the fires. With no one joining me at camp I watched the changing colours of the sunset and retreated to my tent for some wine, chocolate and a movie.