Walpole to Frankland River
17th August 2019
Directions - The trail head for the Bibbulmun Track in Walpole is located just near the Visitor Centre opposite the main shopping strip. Make sure you sign the log books in the Visitor Centre and then head towards the main strip where you'll find the waugyls along the footpath heading east.
The Hike - Having completed the Northcliffe to Walpole section of the track way back in June, I had scheduled the Walpole to Denmark section for later in the year to make sure I was hiking it at the best time of year. With Walpole and Denmark being a bit too far for my usual transport plan of getting Dad to drop me at the start, I drove down to Denmark after work on a Friday and caught the early TransWA bus from Denmark to Walpole the following day. After a sensational breakfast of Truffle Mushrooms at Ravens in Denmark, I headed to the bus stop with my worldly possessions for the week and was soon travelling through the rolling hills between Denmark and Walpole. Given it would take me a week to walk this section, it was rather amusing that the bus trip takes less than an hour.
Arriving in Walpole, I popped into the Visitor Centre to see if Mike was working and to buy the Albany Map as I didn't have time to procure one before leaving Fremantle. Mike was there and he recognised me from my last visit in June so we had a bit of a chat while I signed the log books. With 19km to cover before reaching camp and most of that in my favourite kind of forest, I thought I'd best be on my way. There was a big storm the night before that I had to drive through to get to Denmark and although it had cleared by morning, the air was bitterly cold and there was a strong wind still blowing. The good news was the cloud formations looked stunning against the deep blue sky so at least the photos would be good. Once you find the waugyls heading east out of town it is a pretty pleasant walk as far as town walking is concerned. Turning at the post office you head down towards the inlet (which is a small inlet inside the bigger Nornalup Inlet) and this is where I got geographically embarrassed. It always happens out of town (did the same thing in Dwellingup) for some reason but there was no waugyl on the run down to the jetty so I kept going. I only went a further 50m or so until I checked the map and realised the error and I'm sure there was someone watching from their house wondering what this idiot was doing.
Once I figured out the right way I was a happy camper and the jetty down on the inlet was looking a treat. The combination of the white railing, fluffy clouds, dead tree and bright blue skies was great to photograph and was a nice way to start this section. From here you follow the edge of the water as the track tunnels through the Peppermint Trees and thick grasses. I kept an eye out for differing wildflowers as I walked along and was just happy to be walking in the South West again, a place I always enjoy visiting. Every now and then there would be a clearing in the Peppermint Trees and I'd see the inlet, which also meant a face full of cold wind. Along the edges of town there is a sign pointing you off towards Coalmine Beach and the feeling of being near a town starts to disappear. The wide path and thick undergrowth was great for blocking the wind and home to a variety of great wildflowers, most of which were hard to photograph as the wind wasn't completely blocked out. Crossing Collier Creek, you have the luxury of some boardwalk to keep your feet dry and here there are some magnificent paperbarks mixed in with some character filled eucalyptus trees.
As you head towards the first landmark of the day, Coalmine Beach, the paperbarks relent and the landscape opens up into this wonderful grassy plain. With big, fluffy clouds filling the sky it was quite the scene and off to the east I could see where my journey would be taking me as I climbed up into a magical world of Karri, Tingle and lush surroundings. Not letting my mind skip ahead too much, I concentrated on the here and now, which meant enjoying the wildflowers dotted along the wide gravel track and waiting patiently for them in the cold to stop moving in the wind so I could take a photo. It didn't work very well but I managed to get a couple of shots before moving on to get the blood flowing again. After crossing the road leading into Coalmine Beach you are deposited into the car park where I was greeted by a lone tourist making his way back to the car. He probably decided a swim in the cold conditions wasn't a good idea and I don't blame him. Despite the weather and the pretty depressing name (apparently they wanted to setup a coalmine here back in 1900s), Coalmine Beach is a really nice place and I can see why it's a popular spot for tourists and residents alike. Braving the wind for a few minutes, I headed out onto the beach and took a few photos of the white capped waters of the bigger Nornalup Inlet.
Having explored the two inlets on my brother in law's boat during our 2016 Christmas holiday, I have fond memories of that trip when things were much calmer but it was nice to see it from this perspective. Doubling back and finding the track again, you head down the long bitumen path that runs parallel with the beach. A small park to the left revealed my first wildlife sighting of the trip with three kangaroos just chilling on the grass. They weren't really fussed about me being there so I got right up close for photos, including some of the fluffy juvenile. It's always the case with WA wildlife sightings, you can go days without seeing anything in the wild and then you come across a paddock or lawn and they are everywhere. The reason for the paved pathway is the Coalmine Beach Caravan Park is just up ahead but is hidden well enough that it doesn't distract you from the walking. I spotted more kangaroos here and unfortunately these would be the last of the day for me. A series of beach entry points dot the path, including a small shelter that provides some information on the area and what to look out for (along with nice views of the inlet).