Helena to Waalegh
11th September 2016
The Hike - Helena is one of those spots you wake up at and don't feel like leaving. Unless you are planning on triple hutting that day, there is always time to spend a little extra time making yourself a warm beverage and sitting out on the granite platform to watch the sun rising over the valley. As I mentioned in the last post, this is just one of those special places that makes you slow down and appreciate how lucky we are to have the Bibbulmun Track as essentially a free escape from our urban lifestyles (but please donate if you can). Not to spoil the ending of this post but this luckily won't be the only campsite in the Darling Range where you'll get to experience this magic. Once you've enjoyed your morning cuppa and packed away all your gear, the first obstacle is the climb out of the campsite on that steep gravel track.
It's not a long path but to start with that straight up is one of those fun things about Helena you have to accept. The good news is for the first three kilometres down to Chinaman's Gully, the track is either downhill or flat so you can enjoy a gentle stroll to start the morning (or a tough finish if you're coming from the other direction). Re-joining Driver Rd, the first little section is mostly downhill on the 4x4 track as you enjoy the open Wandoo forest with the same type of views you experienced to end the previous day. After a leisurely beginning you reach the turn-off for the single track that not only avoids more road walking but is a fun little diversion through some cool granite spaces. This little pocket of winding single trail is full of wildflowers in late autumn through to late spring and is a real delight to pass through. With views over the little valley here from up on the granite, you can gaze upon Wandoo country that will become your home for the next couple of days. This beautiful tree thrives in the hilly areas of the Darling Scarp and the terrain leading to and away from Waalegh is ideal for them. Heading down from the small granite platforms you pass a seasonal pool of water near some grass trees before joining a sandy 4x4 track.
The return to Jarrah style forest after viewing the magnificence of the Wandoo ahead is a bit of a shock but it doesn't last long before you start climbing up the first of a few hills for the day. As you gain elevation the undergrowth opens up and the sparse Wandoo trees dominate the landscape. It was here on an overnight group hike in 2016 that I sat and had a chat with Donovan while we waited for the group to catch up. This was the second time I'd ever met Donovan and it was nice to spend some quality time together given we both had hiking websites and shared that common interest. Now we are good friends and enjoy hosting a podcast together so it's weird to think back to those times. While we waited I admired the various wildflowers on the slopes of the hill and I'm glad that the track deviates up this hill instead of following the more obvious route along Allen Rd, closer to the river. It provides a more interesting walk and allows more time in the better scenery, more than acceptable in return for the extra effort of getting up the hill.