Mundaring to Helena
Directions - You can come in via either end of Mundaring Weir Rd depending on where you are coming from and take the roundabout east on Allen Rd. The car park is located at the end of the sealed road with the trail starting from the Bibbulmun Track sign on the eastern side of the car park.
The Hike - With the recent demise of the Paten's Brook Walk Trail at the hands of DPaW's trail marker removal tools, I thought I would take a visit out to the area and provide an alternative hike to the much loved loop trail. While the Paten's Brook trail was a much easier 8km loop, this 23km there and back trail is well worth the extra kilometres. Providing several hours away from the hustle and bustle of city life, this wonderful section of the Bibbulmun Track between the Perth Hills Discovery Centre and the stunningly positioned Helena Campsite is a wonderful escape for any keen hiker. Another early start beckoned and I was out at the starting point before dawn. The run of chilly nights had not abated and the temperature gauge in my car was reading an icy 2.5C with a picture of a snowflake just to rub it in.
With my Hufflepuff beanie keeping the warmth in I started along a path I had hiked many times before. With the smell of smoke lingering in the air thanks to a DPaW burn off (it looked like a big pile of green waste smoking in the middle of a paddock) I quickly covered the section up to where Paten's Brook used to depart the Bibbulmun. I stood there and poured out a little water to commiserate the loss before moving on to start a long downhill section. The sun was casting an orange glow through the tree line to the east and it made for a spectacular sight. The photos don't really do it justice but it was one of the reasons why I wanted to be out so early. There is something magical about hiking east through the forest at sunrise. Perhaps it is because you can't see very far into the distance thanks to the glare or maybe it's just the changing colours in the morning sun. Whatever it is I love it and on a clear, crisp morning I was in my element. At about the 2.5km mark you descend into a little valley that is home to the Ball Creek Campsite. I wouldn't expect too many hikers to stay at this campsite given it is reasonably close to the warm beds and hot meals of Mundaring Weir Hotel but it is in a nice location. When I arrived the sun had not yet peaked over the forest canopy but I could imagine that the open campsite would be bathed in warm light each morning, much to the delight of those staying there. I was keen to keep going so crossed a very dry Ball Creek and headed up a short hill and back into the forest.
With the headphones in I happily hiked away on the rarely used 4x4 track that the trail follows until I came to the first steep-ish section of the day. Luckily it was downhill (although that meant uphill on the way back) and the views down into the valley were amazing now the sun had climbed a little higher. I missed the turnoff (deliberately this time) and ventured down the 4x4 track a little further into a small clearing containing a granite outcrop. It wasn't an impressive formation but allowed me to soak in the warm sun and scope out the hills to the south east that I assumed that I would be climbing up. I set off back up the hill and found the turn-off into the bush. After increasing the body temperature with a spell in the sun, that was quickly rendered redundant as the narrow trail descended into a lush valley where the temperature dropped a few degrees. The reward was the stunning undergrowth of the forest and expansive canopy above. Ferns now joined Grass Trees and Zamias on the forest floor and this little stretch had a very Fern Gully feel to it. It didn't last long as the trail climbed ever so slightly but to a stretch of granite overlooking a small billabong. This was one of many highlights on the day and would be a great spot to stop for lunch and just chill out. I wondered around a little bit, taking photos and marvelling at this little slice of Australian bush before moving on towards Allen Rd. The trail briefly goes along Allen Rd before slicing back into the bush and overlooking Manns Gully (continuing on from the billabong in the previous stretch).