Dog Pool to Mount Chance
The Hike - My first night alone for the trip and it was a pretty uneventful evening with another toasty sleep in the new rammed earth shelter of Dog Pool. Awaking as the sun rose, I had decided to have a bit of a sleep in because I had another fairly easy day today with 20km to cover and most of that on the infamous 4x4 tracks of this area. Eventually finding the motivation to get out of my sleeping bag to brew myself a coffee, the chilly morning air put a certain hurry up in my step. With a fresh coffee now warming me up I had a bit of a wander around the Dog Pool area, checking out the different lighting from the bridge and admiring the Karri forest in the morning glow.
The urge to have a morning dip eluded me so I headed back to the shelter for some dry granola and to begin the slow process of packing everything away for the day's adventure. Ahead of me today was a section I was actually looking forward to despite the ranting and raving of my podcast partner about how boring and unnecessary the slog down Marron Rd and then Pingerup Rd was. I was mentally prepared for the first 13km to be nothing but 4x4 track and I had told myself that I was going to find it wonderful and show Donovan that with the right headspace it could be an enjoyable walk. That being said, I think it was a definite advantage knowing about this section well before hiking it so I can fully understand why Donovan found it to be a terrible stretch of walking (like I found Dog Rd on the previous day to be a terrible way to get into camp). With my pack containing all of my possessions for the week and fresh top-up of fluids I set off. One nice touch to the day was I finally figured out the anti-gravity system of my new Osprey pack and with all the right straps tightened correctly, I was looking forward to not arriving at camp with very tense shoulders like I had the previous three afternoons. The walk over the bridge and out of camp takes you back onto Dog Rd and into a very thick section of Karri forest towards Marron Rd. Enjoy the beauty of the Karri forest while you can as it won't last long today, coming every now and then but nothing like the previous three days.
I reached the turnoff for Marron Rd pretty quickly and had a big smile on my face when I saw one of the lovely white road signs stating "Marron Rd" very clearly. I stopped to take a photo with it complete with a big thumbs up so I could send it to Donovan later on but unfortunately it didn't turn out so the regular shot will have to do. Finally beginning what is a 9.7km stretch of continuous 4x4 track (yes you read that correctly), I was enjoying the recovering Karri forest as it towered above the track. I think Karri forest is best suited to 4x4 tracks as you get to appreciate the scale of the trees better so in this regard I think Marron Rd the best option here. I had another laugh as I spotted a bush chook lying on the floor (the bogan choice of beer, not the emu variety) and wondered if I would come across any vehicles on my journey today. The Karri forest started to thin out and transition to Jarrah, thick at first and then thinning out to what you would expect from the sandier soils of the area. A strategy I had for dealing with what is a pretty long and boring stretch of the Bibbulmun (just think, 1% of the whole track is this one road) was to find things to photograph along the way so I wouldn't have endless photos of 4x4 track leading into the distance. This would keep me both interested in the landscape around me and give me a chance of seeing something I might not have seen if I just decided to power along at 5-6kmph to get it over with. This worked a treat as there was plenty to keep me entertained, from fox tails in the sand to purple trigger plants in the low lying areas to the brilliant colours of the Marri trees.
After about 4km of enjoyable walking in the morning sunshine I came across the bridge that crosses a tributary of the Shannon River. With a nice wooden platform to rest on I decided to sun myself on the now disused bridge (the road now goes around it) and take a break. One thing I had planned for the day was to get a shot for International Naked Hikers Day that was coming up (21st of June) and with the sun out I decided this would be the spot. It was highly unlikely I would come across a hiker from the other direction this early in the day and the wooden platform gave me a nice spot to rest my camera to put it on the timer. Stripping down I had a couple of attempts at it and it was a very liberating feeling so I can see why people enjoy the sensation. The results have already been published on my Instagram stories (sorry) so you'll have to follow me and wait until next years effort. With a good break and a few bare shots in the bag I put my hiking gear back on (did think twice about it) and started off again. Being near a water source there was a thicker forest supported here but as I headed away it transitioned back to the stunted stuff you'd expect from the sandy soils.
I still kept busy looking for interesting features and a lovely Drosera, some random granite and a new favourite of mine, the Swamp Bottlebrush. While the stunted landscape wasn't the most stimulating to walk through, especially with such a wide vehicle track, I at least knew it was coming and could get into a rhythm while I endured this section. Luckily I had something good to listen to and this made the time go very quickly. Arriving at a higher point on the track towards the end of Marron Rd I found a lovely section of really mature forest. Having expected bleak, stunted scenes the whole way along I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with the finish and was starting to wonder what Donovan found so offensive about this road. Having said that I do think that with a bit of effort it could be diverted into the forest a bit more given the map shows some interesting features off track that would be nice to explore. With little fanfare and a bit of relief I reached the end of Marron Rd a better person than when I started. Given this was the halfway point of the day I found a spot in the shade to settle down and enjoyed resting on my pack observing the surrounding trees, birds and sky.