Northcliffe to Gardner
1st June 2018
Directions - Northcliffe is located four hours south of Perth and 30km south of Pemberton. From Pemberton take Pemberton-Northcliffe Rd south and follow the signs to Northcliffe. The trail head is at the lovely Visitor Centre where you can sign the book or restock with supplies (Back Country meals and gas cannisters sold here).
The Hike - With the goal of completing my sectional end to end moved from 2018 to 2019 thanks to an achilles injury and a couple of unplanned Google Trekker adventures, my focus turned to planning which sections I wanted to do and in what order. My hope was to have all the gaps plugged in the Darling Range section before finishing with the entire Northcliffe to Albany section broken up into the various town to town sections. Unfortunately the best laid plans don't always work out and thanks to a very warm and dry autumn combined with some heavy handed prescribed burns around Dwellingup, this section would be my first overnight hiking trip of the year.
With the first week of June meaning a short working week thanks to the WA Day public holiday, I scheduled another week long trip so as to save on precious annual leave. The other reason I chose to do this section now was it is notorious for flooding once the rains start to hit and while I some day would like the full Pingerup Plains experience of wading knee deep in puddles for days on end, I wanted to experience it with mostly dry feet and without the risk of being diverted in sections around some of the nicest parts (Lake Maringup mostly). With that in mind I packed up my things including a few new items that were purchased to improve the quality of my hiking experience this year. The first (that was actually a present from Caris and came with matching gifts from close friends) was a new Osprey Atmos 65L pack and associated dry sacks and 3L water bladder. The upgrade from my old pack was due to that one being very uncomfortable over long distances thanks to inadequate shoulder straps and just being an inferior bag in every way.
The point at which I thought Osprey was for me happened at Harris Dam Campsite when I tried on Aron's pack at the end of the day and found it to be a dream compared to mine. The new pack coupled with the insulated version of Sea to Summit's ultralight sleeping mat and a new pair of Heat Holder socks meant I was going to be a lot more comfortable in 2019 than I was in 2018. After driving down to Funbury the night before to see my family and to break up the driving (and enjoying some of dad's world famous pancakes), I arrived at Northcliffe Visitor Centre ready to start my seven day journey and began by signing into the green log book located on the table. With beautiful blue skies forecast for the first five days at least, I was in for a lovely week of hiking as I set off towards the landmark red sign on the old rail tracks telling you distances to the two ends of the Bibbulmun. I had hoped to arrive here and stare at the Albany 334km part of the sign and feel a sense of excitement that I only had that section to cover but it wasn't meant to be.