Bibbulmun Track - Warren to Schafer
Start - Warren Campsite
Finish - Schafer Campsite
Campsite - Deep South
Distance - 19.9km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 533m
Time - 4-8 hours
Date Hiked - 3rd August 2018
With the longest day out of the way between Pemberton and the Warren Campsite I enjoyed a lovely relaxing sleep listening to the rain fall on the roof of the shelter. Another lonesome night in a Bibbulmun campsite was fine with me as I headed to bed early to watch a movie and drink some wine.
The wild weather continued overnight and I was woken a couple of times by debris hitting the shelter roof or a heavy downpour causing a racket. Waking up to a grey and drizzly morning I was excited to spend another day in the wet Karri forest (I love the wet weather). Being a short three day trip I hadn't gone all out and brought muesli for breakfast but once again I'd lost my appetite so only ate half while I enjoyed another hot chocolate. I had packed everything up very slowly and was just about to depart when a heavy shower passed over, proving that never being in a hurry on the Bibb can be a good thing.
I stood on the edge of the shelter watching it fall and I noticed what I thought was a small finch enduring the rain but on closer inspection of the photo I took it turned out to be a rock. I feel a bit silly now for watching it for so long but that's short sighted life for you. With the rain now subsiding to drizzle I put the pack on and started day two towards the Schafer Campsite. Between it and me was a forest full of delight, the Warren River and some more farmland so yet another lovely day of hiking.
Being up on the top of the valley means a relaxed downhill start to the day, reward for the finishing climb from the previous afternoon. I noticed a few broken Warren River Cedars hanging over the track, possibly from the previous night’s storm as they looked to be fairly recent. Thankfully the forecast for today was only rain with the strong winds subsiding. The gentle downhill ends and after just over a kilometre you reach the first highlight of the day and a very special one at that, River Road Bridge. After the loss of Long Gully Bridge to fire in 2015, this is now the largest wooden bridge on the track and has a similar look with the wide platform having the metal guard rails installed. While not as long as Long Gully Bridge, it's still great to see it surviving and serving as the crossing point of the Warren River for the Bibbulmun and Munda Biddi.
I wanted to get more shots of the bridge but as I was crossing it the rains became heavier and I had to hurry some shots before burying the camera in the pack for a while. This is a section I plan to repeat quite a bit in the future so *touch wood* it is still there when I return. You briefly follow River Road with the Munda Biddi but soon turn off on a dedicated walking track. Getting close to the river in places, this section is full of fungi, moss and weirdly a few grassy patches that look far too manicured for an overgrown Karri forest. I retrieved my camera again and continued snapping photos of the wonderful scenes. As I went up one of the many small hills in this area I noticed a moss covered fallen log just off the track being illuminated in the morning light with fog hanging around in the background. It was one of those shots you hope turns out but never quite does.
Meandering around the contours of the river valley along with a few deviations up them was an enjoyable experience in the morning rain and exactly why I came out here. The previous couple of weeks had taken a toll on the track here with several trees, branches and other debris littering the track. Hikers find a way though and it wasn't hard to find the areas where others had picked their way through so it was only a minor stoppage when you came to something blocking your path. Being close to a major waterway means plenty of little streams and brooks to cross and that is done most of the time with small wooden bridges. Aside from keeping your feet dry, they are kind of pretty to photograph given their aged appearance with the moss/lichen taking over.
The Warren River is more on show in this section with more vantage points high on the banks to enjoy the deep tannin waters. As with most river valleys in the south west, you get a good concentration of the really good mosses and fungi as they take over fallen trees, living trees and basically anything they can. This provides a wintery green wonderland of textures, colours, patterns and features for you to photograph. While you are right next to the river, the trail doesn't follow a flat path as you end up climbing and descending several small hills for what seems no good reason. This is forgiven though when you come across a wooden boardwalk/bridge taking you over another stream. Providing a close up view of the stream made for a relaxing place to be and the extended boardwalk made me wonder how flooded this place can get during winter.
Your closest interaction with the Warren River today comes shortly after as the trail dives down and runs almost at the same level. The vegetation opens up a little and you get some wider views of the river as it widens. There is still plenty of sword grass blocking your way to the water but there are sections of small rocks you can stand near to get some better shots. Having already completed the Warren River Loop Trail that takes in a section of the river closer to the coast, I came across a scene not too far off what I experienced there. A couple of fallen logs on the other side of the river were in sections of still water and with the Karri trees in the distance, this brought a smile to my face.
Nearing the end of the river walking I was on the lookout for Moon's Crossing as it was marked on the map as the spot where the track leaves the river and I figured it would be a pretty easy landmark to spot. I think I was expecting a 4x4 crossing of the river as the area that it is meant to be in was just a little section of the track overlooking a bend in the river that looked like nothing could cross it. Turns out the road crossing is further down river but the map has a significant marking right next to the track. I remember this spot well as I slipped on a log as I clambered for better views and dropped my camera. Luckily it stopped where it landed and didn't bounce off into the river below. With another slight ding adding to all the others (Nikon D5300s are very robust)
I began the biggest climb of the day up towards the first road crossing and here is where my struggles for the day started. I'm really not sure what it was exactly as hills on the Bibbulmun aren't usually an issue but I think it was a combination of overheating from wearing my rain jacket and not having dinner the night before (silly) but at this stage I put it down to not having lunch yet so half way up I stopped for a Clif Bar and a short break. Reaching the top of the hill I was feeling a little better and crossed a dirt road called McAlpine Rd (sounds like a French styled burger option from McDonalds) before continuing through lovely Karri bark dripping forest. Having seen plenty of alternative trail markers since the river with a figure 8 symbol, I was pleased to see a sign explaining that these were associated with a trail called the Blackberry Pool Walk (something to check out at a later date) that utilises a section of the Bibbulmun.
An issue with Northcliffe I have is the lack of decent day hikes in the area and as I would discover later, this is not the case but rather a lack of information about where they are and what they are called. The track continues on through the wonderful Karri forest and in stages it became quite damp as you descend back down where there was no option but to wade straight through the puddles formed on the track. The Pingerup Plains on the other side of Northcliffe are notorious for being flooded during winter/spring so this was fairly minor but I could imagine what the plains would be like if it was like here. With soggy socks I continued on and eventually came across the only tarmac road crossing of the day, Wheatley Coast Rd. Following this road east would take me to a favourite location of mine, Quinninup, but that would be a fairly long walk so I kept going on the Bibb.
Here it was where I came across a slightly disappointing scene with several trees within the next couple of kilometres being spray painted with encouraging messages for one particular group of walkers. I posted this on one of the Facebook groups and it was eventually tracked down to be associated with a walk completed by three young kids raising money for The Kids' Cancer Project. I admire what they did and good on them for raising money for a great cause but the numpties who spray painted the trees (possibly the parents) really didn't have their thinking caps on when they thought that one out. Given the trees were not Karri trees (that drop their bark annually) it will take a long time for the paint to disappear. A simple banner or card would have done the same trick and not scarred the forest like this.
Moving on I saw a break in the forest ahead and the light starting to get brighter. The farm section was ahead and as previously stated a few times, I love farm sections. While not as spectacular as the previous day thanks to the grey conditions, it was still lovely to behold. Here is where my fatigue really got to me and under the forest canopy on the edge of the paddock I sat down and had a longer break. I don't often stop too often on the Bibbulmun and it's something I keep telling myself I need to do more so it was nice just sitting amongst the daisies and admiring the rolling green hills. I took off my rain jacket for a bit and started to feel better in the cool air. With the constant ups and downs of this day I probably should have taken off my jacket earlier but the Karri forest is deceptive with the way it disguises how humid and warm it can get under your layers.
With only a slight drizzle falling I soaked up the views and drank plenty of liquid to rehydrate before moving off towards camp. I didn't realise I was so close until I checked the map so ended up powering the last couple of kilometres with a little extra motivation. As soon as I got a glimpse of the dam water I knew I was home for the night and slowed down to enjoy this last little section. The small dam is privately owned but there is a section roped off for use by Bibbulmun walkers. Given I was already very soggy it wouldn't have made a difference to go for a quick dip but I decided against it (maybe on a warmer and drier day). The rain started to pour down as soon as I arrived at the shelter so I started unpacking while I waited for an opportunity to head back and photograph the dam a bit more.
As it is with WA weather, it was little more than a passing shower so over the course of the afternoon I wandered around the sandy dam wall and took plenty of photos in the changing light. With no one joining me yet again my streak of empty campsite continued so I enjoyed an afternoon nap whilst listening to some music before cooking dinner (#energy) and finally settling in for the night. The campsite is nicely set back from the dam in the forest but still close enough to get some nice views over the water. Constructed in the Deep South style there was plenty of room to spread out in between the bunks as I enjoyed a movie before bed.
Final Thoughts - This day of the track is broken up into two sections, the first section along the Warren River and then the second section featuring the Karri Forest and farmland.
All in all it is fantastic way to spend a day with plenty to keep you interested and some genuinely good photo opportunities. It's no secret that I love the Karri forest and some of the best sections of forest often follow the course of a river or brook so to have half a day of it is a delight.
The Schafer Campsite is another iconic stop along the way with a fun swimming spot and a tame water source you can enjoy in the warmer months (or cooler ones if you really want to). It's this variety that keeps the Bibbulmun unique and a great place to spend some time away from it all.
A fantastic middle day to this section and one where you can truly immerse yourself in the Karri forest.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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