Bridgetown Jarrah Park
Directions - Located between Bridgetown and Nannup, head along Brockman Highway until you see the signs for Bridgetown Jarrah Park pointing you along an unsealed road. The car park is a short distance from the highway with plenty of parking, a drop toilet and an information shelter. There are many little trails to choose from but I've combined a few to make one big loop.
The Hike - The Bridgetown Jarrah Park is an area I hiked way back in 2017 and it left a super positive impression on me. I couldn't believe that this place was real after a relatively limited exploration of the forests of Western Australia up to that point. It was always a trail I meant to revisit, especially after accidentally deleting the raw images from that day. With the opportunity to hike it again surfacing in 2022, I was keen to see how I viewed it after many years of hiking different parts of the state.
After having a lovely time on the Greenbushes Loop prior to this hike, I passed through Bridgetown to have some lunch, pick up some sparkling cider from the famous Bridgetown Cidery and enjoyed one of my favourite towns in the South West. In a chance meeting, I bumped into a former basketball teammate that had moved down here a few years ago and it was nice to catch up with him after many years of not seeing each other. Finally arriving at the car park for the hike, I enjoyed my spinach and ricotta sausage roll I picked up from the bakery before gathering up my gear for the 6km loop ahead. Making my way to the information shelter, there is a log book to sign that helps understand visitor numbers (which I forgot to do) and few info panels about what to expect on the various walks you can do. Like my previous visit, I would be joining up parts of several different trails to form one big loop. Heading down the link trail to the junction at which many of the loop start/finish, I noticed a new metal information board providing another explanation of the walk trails.
Walking in an anti-clockwise direction, I would hike the Fallers Brand Trail first, continue along the Hollow Karri Trail, complete the Blackbutt Trail then return via the other side of the Hollow Karri and Fallers Brand before taking the Shield Tree Trail back to the start. Simple. All the different trail are colour coded and given the first three I listed all head in the same direction to start, that's the way I went. The Fallers Brand Trail is first up and takes you through some regrowth Jarrah Forest that looks pretty similar to what you'd find in the wetter parts of the Darling Range thanks to running near a creek and also being this far south. The thick undergrowth abated every now and then to reveal a mass of Grass Trees, Honeybush and a few fungi hidden on the forest floor. There are a few wooden signs through here giving the Latin names for plants found in the area and for the most part they matched up with what was there (you'd be surprised at how often this isn't the case on trails). Further along there is a larger wooden sign explaining that the plant in front of you is the only Podocarpus in WA, an ancient survivor from the Gondwanan days.
Reaching the first intersection, I left the Fallers Brand Trail and continued straight to follow the Hollow Karri Trail as the landscape started to change for the better. It was already pretty nice but once I clapped eyes on the first golden trunk of a nearby Karri tree, I smiled. It had been a few months since seeing one of these beauties whilst riding from Donnybrook to Northcliffe on the Munda Biddi over Easter and the magical effect of seeing one in the wild never diminishes. Running parallel to the edge of Maranup Brook, the plentiful supply of water allows these massive trees to thrive as they usually grow in high rainfall areas. Being on the transition area between the dry sclerophyll forests of the north and the wetter forests found in the south of the state, they only exist in the shallow valleys carved through the landscape. It's not only Karri through here with a couple of large Yarri trees making an appearance as you head deeper into the lush forest.
This is the start of some truly spectacular forest walking as the size of the trees is awe-inspiring compared to the typical forests you will walk through in WA that have over the course of colonial times, been logged to high heaven. This area is no different as you pass several stumps that indicate it occurred here but the number of giants lurking here is an exception. Passing one of many moss covered fallen trees provides a different scale to how big these trees can grow and also gives the fungi something to digest. Being late winter, I was hopeful that there would still be some fungi around and I managed a few good finds over the course of the hike. I wasn't so worried about the wildflowers as typically they flower later in the Karri forest, so my main enjoyment would be the quality of the forest, something that was of special magnificence through here. The Hollow Karri Trail doesn't last too long in terms of distance and soon you are at the intersection where the Blackbutt Trail heads out, loops around and then returns.