Collie to Yabberup
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.