Pemberton to Warren
2nd August 2018
Directions - Funny enough, for a southbound walker you head north east on Brockman St from the Visitor Centre until you reach Ellis St where you turn right. Follow this past the old cinema all the way to the end where it turns left into Kennedy St. Follow this road past the DBCA offices and turn right onto Burma Rd.
The Hike - With the goal of completing my sectional end to end in the next couple of years, I had the first week in August of 2018 pencilled in to complete the relatively small section between Pemberton and Northcliffe. Wanting to get that period between the wildflower season starting and the fungi season ending, as well as having plenty of water flowing in the streams and rivers, this was my ideal time for some relaxation in the Karri forest. Having spent a week and a half in the red earth exploring the Pilbara two weeks prior, I was really excited to immerse myself in the damp greenness of the forest and enjoy a few days wandering around.
With a couple of days booked off work including my annual "Wellness Day" (it's a thing), I drove down to my parents place in Funbury after a Survivor viewing on the Wednesday night. The forecast was for plenty of rain and the potential for storms but I was hoping the heavier stuff would blow over on Wednesday night/Thursday morning. The drive down proved this theory right as I was on level three wipers on several occasions and the wind was howling. A peaceful night’s sleep was had after the drive and I awoke to a good helping of Dad's famous pancakes (thanks Dad!!!). Still having another couple of hours to reach the drop off point for my car at Northcliffe and then to the start in Pemberton we headed off in the pouring rain. With everything in place Dad treated me to a hot chocolate and muffin at Cafe Brasil because it was cash only and I only had my card (I still owe him $20). I suggested Dad visit a few of the great places around Pemberton like the Cascades and Beedelup Falls while he was in the area before thanking him and departing on my way. I always find Pemberton a bit of an odd place given it is meant to be the heart of the Karri growing region but is so open and exposed. Getting off the main road leading through town gives you a better feeling as you pass the old cinema and several rustic cottages.
A smile came over my face as I passed Sadie's Restaurant and I pictured my dog’s cute little face. The necessary road walking is not the greatest way to start a three day journey but just after the high school you are thrust into the forest and on a paved track shared by the Bibbulmun and Munda Biddi. A crack of thunder roared out from the distance as a sort of welcome to the area and I couldn't wait to get started. The heavy rain that had been around in patches all morning had subsided to a drizzle and the sun was even starting to peak through the overbearing canopy up ahead. The walk to the Gloucester Tree was a pleasant one even though I'm not a big fan of paved paths and soon I arrived at the first highlight of the day. Given the dodgy weather and my slight dislike of heights I would skip climbing up this WA icon and the couple who were there at the time looked similarly apprehensive. They looked me up and down with my oversized rain jacket, bright orange pack cover and soggy hair and wished me good luck for the next few days. Having completed this next section of the track while exploring the Gloucester Route a couple of years ago I was excited to check out the massive moss covered Karri trees that the trail has to skirt around.
Walking down through the forest felt like I was home again and although the lighting wasn't as nice as when I walked the Gloucester Route, everything was still very enjoyable. Descending down to rejoin Burma Rd, from here on out the track would be an entirely new experience. I was a bit disappointed to see the area leading off on the Gloucester Route being horribly burnt as the bridge down in the valley was a magical spot with all the greenery around so hopefully it regains its former glory soon. The road walking along Burma Rd doesn't last long as you cross the bridge over East Brook and spot the large red Bibbulmun Track sign pointing you into a thicket of overgrown Karri forest. Some people don't enjoy the suffocating experience of walking through the tunnel of undergrowth in the Karri forest but I absolutely love it and if this was my journey for the next three days then I would be a happy hiker. Following East Brook for three kilometres through the green tunnel, I'm not going to lie, it was amazing. Being right next to a water course means you get all the good stuff like fungi, thick vegetation, tall trees and an abundance of moss. It's a shame the Gloucester National Park isn't bigger as this place really is a delightful playground that is home to so much magic. The overnight storms had blown quite a bit of debris over the track but it was no trouble as dodging it all forced me to stop every now and then.
This section also introduces the first of a series of wooden signs telling you that the Cascades are coming up. While there are certain side trips on the Bibbulmun that you would completely miss if you didn't know they were there (Rocky Pool is a great example), the Cascades is not one of those if you're travelling N-S. Even though I knew it was just before the halfway mark and I'd covered 7km by the end of the tunnel section, it was still funny every time I came across another sign pointing me in the direction of the day's main highlight. I can imagine people thinking "these damn Cascades had better be worth it" after seeing so many moss covered posts. A series of hills lies between you and the Cascades but it isn't long before you reach the sign pointing you off trail and towards the flowing rapids. While it does require going down a small downhill (and thus back up on the return journey) it is more than worth it as you reach a 4x4 track and the railway tracks that are still used for the tramway that take tourists from Pemberton to the Warren River Bridge and back. I thought I may have missed the Thursday service so wandered onto the tracks at the Cascades platform and took a few photos as I'd not visited this side of the Cascades on my previous trip.