Bibbulmun Track - Chadoora to Dwellingup
Start - Chadoora Campsite
Finish - Dwellingup
Campsite - Track Town
Distance - 21km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 268m
Time - 5-8 hours
Date Hiked - 15th September 2019
The Hike - The final day of my four day jaunt on the Bibbulmun Track between North Bannister and Dwellingup and it was a very early start. Mita, Jess and Monika wanted to be in Dwellingup before lunchtime so had planned a very early start (4:30am from memory).
They had told us the night before so it wasn't a shock when there was a bit of movement before the sun had risen and they did a great job at imitating mice (without the chewing through your pack). I'm a bit of a heavy sleeper so fell back asleep after the initial kerfuffle but Stephen was up and about with them. As first light approached I was out of sleeping bag and packing away my possessions for the last time on this trip. I had arranged to meet Caris at 2pm and with 21km to cover, it was decided an early start was best. As we were doing some initial packing we discovered that the girls had left behind a couple of phones so made some predictions about how long it would be until they realised. It didn't take long before Mita appeared on the road leading into camp and so Stephen retrieved the phones from his pack for Mita to rush back with.
There was a bit of a golden glow to the sunrise this morning but they are always hard to photograph when you're buried deep in the forest. After a coffee it was a quick and easy packing session so just after 7:30am we were ready to depart. Given the crsipy ending to the day yesterday and the burnt facade around the campsite, it was no surprise to see this continue as we headed west towards Dwellingup. As we walked past the blackened trunks, orange leaf litter and burnt out root systems, it was hard to not to shake your head at the unnecessarily destructive approach they take. I said my bit in the last post so I won't go on about it but suffice to say, it wasn't the nicest walking to start the day. One positive was an intact Snottygobble had survived the reckoning so while Stephen noted down something in his notepad, I admired the greenery and checked for any fruit. There were a few to be found so I had a little taste of one to see how it compared to with the one from the Mt Wells Campsite.
After a couple of kilometres of black and orange it was a sight for sore eyes to finally reach a road crossing and see nothing but green on the other side. It was such a relief and really brightened my mood to just stand under a canopy of green and be surrounded by a bevy of undergrowth. The Jarrah forest around Dwellingup receives over a metre of rain each year and so feels more like Karri forest with regards to the lushness of the under-storey. Stephen caught up and agreed that this was more like it, despite pointing out the purple flower that did not look like it was a native (it isn't). I think this is also the location of the first of a few timber stepping stones (stepping logs?) that are more common around Collie but provide an alternative option in case the trail is seasonally flooded and you don't like getting your boots wet. As it was dry on our visit I took a couple of photos and we hiked on past.
A calming sense of relief washed over me as we trekked away from the burnt nightmare of the first 2km and into a paradise of wildflowers, greenery and grey trunks. Not even the discovery of yet another tick on my arm (tally for the trip finished at five) could take away from the enjoyment of the forest walking. A brief section of 4x4 track past some giant Jarrah trees was very enjoyable and I had a laugh when I stopped at the entry to the single track and watched Stephen walk straight by (I had fun doing this as he told me he added a couple of kilometres after Boonering Hill not paying attention to the waugyls). Entering a patch of thick regrowth forest, there is a good mix of thinner trees and much more mature varieties. Thankfully the mature trees have survived (or were left here) as they form a home and feeding ground for the Red Tailed Black Cockatoos that were in abundance during our visit.
Hearing them well before actually seeing them, my ears perked up as I love seeing these magnificent birds in the wild. The plumage of their tails as the sun catches it is always a fun challenge to photograph and they have a cheeky character about them. Slowing down to basically a crawl, both Stephen and I were trying to get close enough to them without spooking them too much. After much careful treading we were right under a group of them as they had a morning feed. Unfortunately with the grey skies it was hard to distinguish them from the forest canopy until they flew off so I patiently waited until they decided to move on before clicking like crazy with my camera. I managed to get a couple of shots that with the help of the digital zoom, showed the tail feathers all spread out and looking resplendent. These kinds of moments are a joy on the track when you have the time to stop and enjoy the simplicity of cockatoos going about their daily business.
Having allowed just over six hours to complete the 21km, we certainly weren't setting any speed records through this section as there was so much to enjoy. If it wasn't the cockatoos it was the wildflowers or the mass of Jarrah trees in every direction. ONe fun thing I started noticing were little white fluff pieces attached to random places. The first one I saw was a bit surreal as it was stuck in the spikes of a Grass Tree and I thought it was a weird place for someone to have a pillow fight but when I saw the second one on a large log it dawned on me that it was spring and they must be the malting feathers of the fledglings. Another fantastic reason to be hiking in spring with new life getting it's start in the forest and hopefully continuing on a long and prosperous journey. Our long and prosperous journey took us deeper into the forest, through gaps carved into fallen trees and finally out onto another 4x4 track, I suspect the same one we'd left a kilometre or so ago.
Popping back out onto Inglehope Rd, there was a bevy of wildflowers to photograph at the junction so I enjoyed doing that while Stephen jotted down the time in his notepad. On the wide road we spread out a little and walked past a weird patch of forest that looked very unnatural. It looked like regular Jarrah forest but planted in lines like a timber plantation. Not sure if someone is experimenting with a Jarrah plantation or if a rehab group accidentally planted the trees in lines but my guess would be the former. It's amazing how attune you get out in the forest that the same tree type planted in a different manner really makes you notice. Moving on this strange disturbance in the force, we left Inglehope Rd and continued straight along another 4x4 track. Walking past another reference tree, I was up ahead so managed to get a photo of Stephen next to one of his beloved reference trees (he really liked seeing them).
With a bit of open walking ahead of us we took the opportunity to pick up the pace and get ahead of schedule. Of course this didn't mean stop altogether and at the bottom of the hill I spent a bit of time photographing some very mossy trees that were poking out among the Grass Trees. I was intrigued by the sheer amount of moss covering the trunks and given we were near an ephemeral stream, it made sense that the moss would like it here. Stephen pointed out another tree close to the track that had been eaten out by termites or white ants but still had a cool mossy base. The forest through here continued to be excellent as we navigated an S Bend that had a tree that looked to have recently cut down for some unknown reason (the bulk of it was left there so not illegal firewood clearing). This led us to an open area and the start of an area I was quite looking forward on on this day.
The old Pinjarra-Narrogin Railway Line forms a pretty cool feature of the track and signals that you are on the right line to steam into Dwellingup. While the line between Pinjarra and Etmilyn is still in use for touristy activities, this section from the Inglehope Rd crossing all the way to Etmilyn is no longer in use and that means the Bibbulmun Track can take advantage of the route. While you do spend a bit of time on sections of railway formations further south from Dwellingup, this is the longest section where the railway track is still in place so is a cool novelty. I really enjoy walking along the Jarrahdale Railway Heritage Trail as it's a fun feature to photograph as the track gently turns or guides your field of view off into the distance. This was very much the same but a lot better to start as the trees around here are much taller and there is less of the unnatural plant life, although this will become an issue later on. Stephen had caught up to me (I rushed off once I saw the railway track from afar) and he was delighted to see what we would be walking along. The conversation turned to all things railway like the different gauges of each state and territory back in the early days of colonial Australia and what would have been carried along this line.
I was having fun spotting all the little details along the side of the track including Couch Honeypots, old rusty railway relics and more fledgling fluff. I let Stephen walk on ahead as I wanted some shots of him on the track and he did a great job standing in for Aron who was off traipsing around Europe so couldn't be on this particular adventure. I thought we would be on the railway track for the entire walk through to Etmilyn but after a short distance there was a waugyl pointing us to the left. The reason for this became clear as a washed away section of the railway track came into view that only had the iron track connecting the gravel formation. From here the Bibbulmun did take a turn away from the railway track and you headed into a section of non-native white gum plantation. I don't quite get this alignment as the trees look out of place and very messy as the barren undergrowth is affected by the mass of leaf litter. If ever they were going to do a prescribed burn it would be here but I have my suspicions that this grouping of trees is here for a purpose and they wouldn't take kindly to burning it in the name of safety. One of the trees had begun consuming a waugyl in protest and it was weird seeing one being eaten by a smooth barked tree.
Thankfully it didn't last very long and we were soon back in more natural looking forest if not slightly overgrown along the 4x4 track. Wondering when we would be reunited with the railway track, a side trail revealed a short drop down to the Etmilyn Station. Now serving as the end of the line for the tourist train, this delightful little spot is a mess of intertwining tracks and a long platform raised off the ground. A former watering point for the steam engines that operated in the early day, it has since been converted to a tourist platform with a 1km loop walk taking you into the forest once you arrive. As it was roughly halfway into our day it was a good point to stop for lunch so we both set down our packs and went about exploring the area. I spotted some carriages further down the line and decided to investigate. Some of the old working carriages have been left in the open as an attraction and they were fascinating to have a look around. In there is an old BP tanker, a Hotham Valley branded carriage and some old open top transports.