Bibbulmun Track - Collie to Yabberup
Start - Collie Visitor Centre
Finish - Yabberup Campsite
Campsite - Standard
Distance - 19.4km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 398m
Time - 4-7 hours
Date Hiked - 15th September 2018
Directions - As the largest track town outside of Kalamunda/Perth and Albany, Collie utilises a spur trail to get in and out of town as previously discussed in my post coming into Collie from Dwellingup and the podcast. Starting a section out of Collie begins at the modern visitor centre and you take the highway path leading west before heading into the Westralia Conservation Park.
The Hike - Welcome to another week long journey where I continue my quest to finish my first sectional E2E and up next on the agenda was a couple of town to town sections that were in optimal viewing conditions. Having access to the internet and seeing The Long Way's Better’s finish to their E2E, I wanted to experience this part of the track being its best self so decided to schedule it in spring when all the wildflowers are out. On the cards was the potential for carpets of wildflowers, orchids, green fields, ephemeral streams and some rollicking good times in the mostly Jarrah forest.
With that in mind I travelled to the parentals place in Funbury on a Friday night ready for departure the next day. As long time readers will know, no start to a Bibbulmun section near Funbury is complete without my dad's famous pancakes and they didn't disappoint. With a relatively short day at 20km and Collie being a short drive from Funbury we could take our time so I treated dad to a spot of morning tea (I actually paid this time). With a full belly and a week of hiking to get through we made our way to the visitor centre for the 1km of highway walking out of town. Dad did offer to drop me off at Westralia Conservation Park but I feel like I needed to put myself through that section and it wasn't nearly as bad as the finish to Dwellingup to Collie.
Unfortunately the visitor centre wasn't open yet so I couldn't sign the book but with sunny skies overhead and fairly decent weather forecast I was ready to head off. I waved goodbye to dad and set off on the walkway down the highway to the Westralia Conservation Park. My previous experience here was mostly positive as I love a bit of she-oak forest and you get some nice stretches here. Returning here to tackle the southern section leading on to Balingup was a lovely experience as it was prime wildflower time and my eyes were searching for signs of the rarer orchids lurking on the forest floor. Happy with a good collection of flowers in all shapes and sizes, mainly yellow flag but including hovea, grevillea and wattle. Some of the more common orchids like the fairy orchid were everywhere livening up the fire affected forest.
Arriving at the end of the spur trail, it would be new ground from here on out as I headed south through the Jarrah forest. In the bright sunshine I was happy to be headed in this direction (and the main reason I am choosing to do my sectional E2E as a complete N-S experience) so I wasn't looking into the glare and also so the lighting for the photos is more often than not, a lot better. It wasn't before I spotted my first elaborate orchid of the trip with a butterfly orchid (or something similar) catching my eye as I passed a fallen log. As I've said before, this section is ripe for wildflowers and orchids during spring so I was happy to be a few kilometres in and experiencing my first "proper" orchid. Hoping this would be the norm for the remainder of the trip I took a photograph and continued on my way.
The forest through this section is fairly typical mixed forest with some emerging Jarrah trees being the main tree, complemented well by a smattering of wildflowers and the occasional clumping of grass trees. Crossing a few 4x4 tracks, you soon reach one of the highlights of the day and a chance for a swim if it's a bit warm and you brought a towel. Some thick undergrowth suggests you are getting close to water and eventually you are on a 4x4 track that runs parallel with the Collie River. Being Collie though there was no shortage of bogans leaving a trace and a couple of unsightly rubbish drops/camping spots put a downer on proceedings. Luckily there was the remnants of a cool old bridge to take my mind off the idiots with the old timber frame jutting out of the water contrasted with a rusted out steel platform half sunk in the river.
The track follows near the river for just over half a kilometre and there are a couple of spots where you can explore down by the banks. One spot provided a cool photo opportunity with a rope swing hanging off a tree with the Mungalup Rd Bridge on one side and a bend in the river on the other. I imagine this would be a pretty fun spot to hang out on a warm spring day and was happy to see no rubbish around. Reaching the Mungalup Rd bridge (the crossing point of the Collie River), I had a little break down by the water. I was well ahead of schedule as it had been mostly flat for the first 6km so I'd made good time.
There is no pedestrian footpath on the Mungalup Rd Bridge so you have to time your run where there are no cars or only one. Luckily this isn't a super busy road so you should be able to manage this pretty easily. The trail hugs the road for a short while before heading back into the forest and connecting up with a smaller power line road. While this isn't ideal, it doesn't last long and you are pointed back into something a bit denser as you once again head in a southerly direction. Before you cross Mungalup Rd there is a mixed forest combining native eucalypts with self seeding pines, creating this weird hybrid of green and orange undergrowth, not too dissimilar to she-oak forest but brighter. There are plantations nearby and I'm not sure if the rogue pines are going to be removed anytime soon.
The crossing of Mungalup Rd and Siding St is the last of the tarmac road you'll see for the day and after a short section under some much bigger power lines, you thankfully are sent back into the forest, which from here on out starts to be of much better quality than the previous 8km. This spot also marks the start of the steady climbing for the rest of the day with only a couple of downhill respites to provide relief. They aren't big hills and the incline is spread out over a lot of kilometres so it feels pretty flat for most of the way. Here I spotted my first mob of kangaroos but they were too quick and hopped away before I could take any photos. I was enjoying this section so much that I decided to take a break for lunch, not realising that Mungalup Dam was a few hundred metres away.
In the warm sun I found a fallen log to sit on and took off my boots for a bit of Bibbulmun relaxation. For this trip I told myself I would do this type of thing more often as I tend to not stop for more than 5-10 minutes for lunch and just keep walking. Given the lovely weather I was happy to do this and with the longer spring days, I would have more time at camp in the afternoon before it got dark. I listened to some music, stared at all the insect life crawling around, filmed something on my phone for another project and had a bit of a stretch out on the track. With that little session over I continued on and realised I could have enjoyed lunch at Mungalup Dam but was happy to walk by and view it from a distance. There is really only one point where you can leave the track and follow a short path down to the water but I much preferred my other spot under the relative shade of the forest so don't regret my choice.
Skirting past Mungalup Dam you get some good views of the sun shimmering off the surface through the trees. Leaving the water views the track takes a left onto another 4x4 track and this is where some idiots had decided to remove waugyls to confuse walkers. I had seen a post on one of the Facebook groups before I left highlighting this idiocy and remembered the spot when I came across it. The person who posted it had written the directions on a nearby metal sign so I knew where to look and so I just admired the hack job of waugyl removal (a claw hammer would have been a more eloquent method) and continued on my way. The next waugyl wasn't for a while and there is another track you can take but I couldn't see the same level of disrespect on nearby trees if that was meant to be a waugyl location so kept on the straight and narrow.
The finishing stretch was more excellent Jarrah forest with the grey trunks a welcome change from most of the burnt and charred Jarrah you'll come across heading south from Kalamunda. While it may not be old growth, there were some larger examples every now and then to remind you that this forest can sometimes be more than the afterthought of the old timber industry. Add in some she-oak forest where I took another short break relaxing on the carpet of dead needles and this day wasn't turning out to be too bad. At the top of the hill before descending down towards Yabberup Brook I spotted my first emu of the trip. I thought I would be able to get a photo as it wasn't too spooked and I tried to creep up on it but that failed and it bolted off into the undergrowth.
The descent down towards Yabberup Brook is a welcome relief and a reminder that the end of the day is not far off. After passing over the brook you come across a bright red sign pointing you off in several different directions. This marks the start of the Wellington Spur Trail, a project designed to give schools and scout groups a better option to host larger numbers on the track without impacting too many users. Eventually (if things go well) this will be part of a multi-day loop trail starting and finishing in Collie and taking in the beautiful Wellington National Park. Lyall's Mill Campsite is 30m from the sign and with less than a kilometre to go before reaching Yabberup I decided to check it out.
Like the Mt Cooke Group Campsite, there are no walls here, just a concrete pad, a roof, a water tank and a picnic table. It works for large groups with lots of room and shelter if things get a little damp so it's great these facilities exist for those that want to use them. With a short hike to my destination left I motivated myself to climb the last hill. Having visited Yabberup in 2017 for a volunteer field day for a spruce up, I knew this hill was coming and that made it easier so in no time at all I was staring at the familiar Bibbulmun setup of a standard shelter layout. Without skylights, Yabberup is one of the darker feeling shelters on the track, having been around since the beginning of this tracks origins. With another cold night forecast I thought it would be better to setup my tent for an extra few degrees of warmth and with no one else joining me I erected my Black Wolf tent near to the fire pit. It didn't end up being that cold and I had a very restful sleep on night one in the forest.
Final Thoughts - This section I had always marked off in the calendar as one I wanted to experience in spring and I'm thankful I did it this way. While I love the Jarrah forest and there is a good amount of it on this day, the wildflowers really make this day a fun one.
The walk out of Collie along the highway isn't fun but at least this was the start of the day so was over a lot quicker than coming in. It does take a while to shake the feeling of being close to a major town with reminders popping up every now and then (power lines mostly) until about the 8km mark.
Once you've cleared those it is a very pleasant walk through the regrowth forest towards Yabberup. I think having great weather and it being the first day made this experience better and I'm not sure how I would feel having this as the last day heading into Collie.
Yabberup as a campsite is well located and there are many tent pads to setup on. The shelter is a bit dark and I've never been a fan of the standard shelters apart from the seats at the front which provide a good reading spot. I like the position up on the hill and it is a lovely place to sit and chill out while you watch the sunset and listen to the birds.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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