Bibbulmun Track - Pemberton to Warren
Start - Pemberton
Finish - Warren Campsite
Campsite - Deep South
Distance - 21km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 608m
Time - 5-8 hours
Date Hiked - 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.
My visit last year to the area was in late spring and with all the rain we'd received in the past week I was sure the water levels would be much higher today so ventured across the foot bridge to the main Cascades information area. The lookout over Lefroy Brook confirmed the water levels were much higher so I bounded off over the leaf shaped bridge and to one of my favourite spots for capturing the lower cascades that is a little off track. With a full flow I tried my best at getting the long exposure water effect without a tripod and was happy enough with the results. Wanting to check out the main part of the cascades I backtracked and arrived at the granite platform that provides the best views. To use a surfing term, it was "going off" with a torrent of tannin stained water turning white as it cascaded over the rocks (hence the name I guess).
Unable to explore as much as my last visit due to the higher water levels I picked a couple of spots and took some more long exposure shots, made harder by the increasing sunshine. Not quite happy with my shots or the conditions I headed back up to the information hut where I'd left my pack and had a Clif bar for lunch. I was just finishing up eating and was putting my pack back on when I heard the toot toot of the tramway so I hastily ran down the path to try and get a shot of the tram on the old bridge. I arrived just as it was leaving the bridge and got a very blurry photo as I waved to the tourists aboard who probably thought I was mad. By the time I climbed up the path to get to the cascades platform the tram was well and truly gone. I decided to explore this area a bit more and noticed a path down from the platform leading towards Lefroy Brook.
It led down to an area right next to the brook and with much better views of the cascades, much to my delight. I had to wait a while for the sun to disappear but once it did I clicked away like crazy trying to capture panoramas, long exposures and even a combination of the two. When it all came together in post production I was really happy with the outcome as it's really hard to capture the whole thing in one shot without it looking very far away. My wish for more cloudy skies were answered a little too much as it started to rain again and I figured this was a good time to move on as I'd spent about an hour at various places in the area. Rejoining the main track there is a sign telling you it is only 12km to the Warren Campsite. With a bit of walking ahead of me I continued on my merry way with the rain still falling and the forest looking super lush.
Mossy logs, damp leaf litter, fungi and a good collection of pristine Karri trees were on the menu for this next section as you begin a never quite flat landscape following the Lefroy Brook as it flows towards the Warren River. Rising up and down as you cross the various brooks and streams feeding Lefroy Brook means some of the best walking of the day. At one point I came across a small moss covered tree arching over the track that could only be captured in a panoramic and then not far along at a foot bridge I spotted some giant prehistoric ferns that I'd never seen so big before. There were only about 3-4 of them and were obviously supported by the constant water supply of the stream but seeing them this large in Western Australia was a magical experience. Some more excellent forest walking was ahead until you reach the rude interruption of Gloucester Rd. This fairly wide gravel track is an access point for the track and to the south you can see the railway line as the forest canopy opens up.
Heading back into the comfort of the forest you enjoy some excellent examples of the Warren River Cedar (not really a cedar) that look like waxy candles when the fungi is crawling all over their gnarly trunks. It isn't long before you come across the only farm section of the day and this pleased me quite a lot. While I've switched to being pescetarian this year for environmental reasons, I still do enjoy a good farm scene and it breaks up the forest walking with something different for a while. Sadly there were no cows or sheep to greet me at the fence so I had to enjoy the views of the green fields rolling off into the distance. Once I reached the top of the hill I could see back towards the dense forest I'd just come from and you appreciate just how great the Karri forest is when you see it like that. Passing one of the cool wooden road signs telling me this was Revolution Rd, I thought about starting one against the corrupt capitalist society we live in but was all alone and still had 6km of hiking to go until the campsite.
I was ambling slightly along here as I was soaking in the farm views and taking quite a few pictures of the dark clouds rolling by. I do love it when the gloominess adds some atmosphere to the shots and with the grass in bright sunshine it certainly was a fun contrast. Leaving the farmland and heading straight back into the forest shifted you back into the world of moss, trees and fungi. Further along the path you come across a feature that will become your guide for the next day, the Warren River. It's only a peak at this stage but there are little paths leading you closer so you can take a few snaps. Weirdly you don't get a lot of contact with the river for the rest of the day but given how heavily forested this area is, you can be 10-20m away and not able to see the river down in the valley.
Meandering along with the flow of the river, the track provided a welcome surprise with the first wildflower sighting of the trip. Some purple Hovea lined the track for a brief section and occasionally I would spot my favourite Miami Vice Flame Pea (not its actual name) with its bright pink and orange petals. I didn't get a sharp image of one as the light levels were low with the rain now setting in once again. My run of spotting flora and fauna continued when I disturbed a mother roo and her joey that were lying down next to the track trying to avoid the rain. Luckily their chosen escape route was along the track and once they realised I wasn't trying to harm them they stood there staring at me. This game of kangaroo and hiker played out for a little bit as they scampered off down the trail and I caught up.
At one point it was just the little joey on the trail but mother soon came back and they disappeared into the forest. Making a sharp turn onto an old railway formation another white road sign indicated this was Badger Rd. I smiled a little bit as this is the emblem of House Hufflepuff and that's the Hogwarts house I associate with the most (for those muggles that don't know what I'm on about, read the Harry Potter books right away). This straight and narrow formation is home to another tunnel of undergrowth but with sections of open forest where a stream feeding the Warren River flows next to the track. At the end of this formation you meet up with Collins Rd and have the opportunity to wander down to the Warren River for a closer look. Without a bridge this river crossing looks to be only passable in the summer months as the water level indicated it was 2m near the bank.
I had some fun photographing this wider section of the river and thought that having the campsite along here would have made for a great location. The presence of the 4x4 track means it would be likely overrun by car campers so I understand the reasoning behind putting it where it is. With a relaxing time spent down by the river I continued on the last stretch to the campsite, which sadistically is a reasonable hill (80m vertical climb) that was not very welcome at the end of the day. Reaching the top and seeing the campsite made it all better and with a chance to drop the pack and enjoy this stunning location, it was a great way to end a thoroughly enjoyable day on the Bibbulmun. The Warren Campsite is perched right up on the hillside with a cathedral of Karri trees lining the view out of the shelter, this is another great campsite to enjoy. Lucky for me I arrived before a few downpours and with my warm camp clothes on I enjoyed a hot chocolate and listened to the sound of the rain as I read the green and red log books. Once again I was alone at camp and this extends my streak on this bit of the track to five campsites.