Ellensbrook to Prevelly
Start - Ellensbrook Campsite
Finish - Prevelly
Campsite - Track Town
Distance - 10.3km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 208m
Time - 3-4 hours
Date Hiked - 18th September 2020
The Hike- Part Two of my Moses Rock to Prevelly section after I decided to extend this day and beat the weather that was due to hit that night. Relaxing by the brook was fun and it would have been nice to spend the afternoon at Ellensbrook but I had places to be.
I'm not going to lie, the allure of a comfy bed and hot meal at Prevelly had me excited but the thought of doing this 10km section plus another 18km into Contos in strong winds and rain was the biggest factor at play. With my bag all packed away, shoes on and a can-do attitude in place, I headed off to re-join the Cape to Cape as it headed south out of the campsite. While the walk into camp had been a delight with the mixed Peppermint/Marri/Jarrah forest, just south of camp sees the introduction of the first Karri forest of the Cape to Cape. Not quite the giants you get further inland or on the south coast, it was nice to see these smooth barked beauties after days of coastal walking.
Isolated to an area lining Ellen Brook, they only exist in small numbers but it was nice to walk alongside them for even the briefest of moments. Leaving Ellensbrook behind, you start climbing up a vehicle track that is surrounded by Marri/Jarrah forest on both sides and contained an excellent array of wildflowers and orchids. Ever aware of my pace, it was hard not to stop and take photos of every new variety of wildflower with a great deal of different colours and shapes. Hovea, Pink Fairy Orchids, Pink Myrtle, Cottonheads, Milkmaids, Blue Squills, Sweet Scented Hakea and an Acacia variety were just the tip of the iceberg. Prevalent all throughout this next section were Cowslip Orchids and I had to stop myself from photographing them after a while, even when I found a big clumping or a really good example. Having broken up this day into essentially three distinct parts with long breaks in between them, it felt much easier than if I was just bashing out 30km in a day with maybe a short lunch break (as I was doing on my last stretch of the Bibbulmun into Albany). The climb up the hill was enjoyable and as it flattened out, it also started winding a bit more through the dense undergrowth.
The trees weren't as tall up on the exposed ridge but there was plenty of shade in the tunnels of Acacia that did a great job of hiding the wildflowers and orchids just off the trail. While the use of vehicle tracks usually means less than ideal walking conditions, the wildflowers and bright Acacias more than livened up the situation. I imagine this wouldn't be ideal out of peak season but I think the Cape to Cape has enough range with the time of year that different plants flower that it would only be an issue in summer and early autumn. After navigating a long but ultimately necessary section of vehicle track heading south, you reach a well marked intersection where you are pointed onto a single track and the fun coastal walking begins. Now out in the open hills that flow down towards the ocean, it doesn't take long for the views to open up and you are reunited with the sight of the Indian Ocean. The warmth of the afternoon sun was very enjoyable, more so knowing it wasn't peak UV time and before long I was in a good rhythm as the track snaked its way along the contours.
High above I noticed a bird of prey circling the hills and took some time to observe it. While it was too way away to get a super clear picture, even with my zoom lens at max, it was fun just watching it scour the landscape for potential prey. Another winged presence in the sky was the passing of a light aircraft not too far away. Planes have become something of a novelty in these COVID times so I had a bit of a reflection on that while it slowly passed overhead. Sneaking closer and closer to the coast, the views opened up to reveal some pretty magic scenes. With a light breeze, the afternoon sun, some engaging single track and a pretty good playlist pumping, this was a section where I could pick up the pace while stopping every now and then to admire the beauty. The clouds off the coast were looking very friendly and I was confident that I'd arrive in Prevelly still dry. Once again, the areas was showing signs of a previous bushfire with the white skeletons of larger trees that are no longer alive. While devastating for the tree, the area has recovered well and hopefully another will rise and take it's place in the distant future.
They do provide something interesting to photograph and I love when a sprawling example is perfectly silhouetted against the blue waters of the ocean. Another feature that peaked my interest through here was the sight of some limestone pinnacles rising from the scrub in the distance. Getting closer to them, the track smartly goes right by them so you can view them up close and they provide something of note to this winding section. Looking very similar to the ones found in Nambung National Park, it's a funny curiosity that they are the only examples around. While these structures were easy to find thanks to their size, something much smaller caught my eye not far along and in the shade of the coastal heath was a very late season fungi that was probably coming to the end of its lifecycle given it resembled a burst sausage. I love little trail surprises but kept moving, passing plenty of different types of wildflowers including Old Man's Beard, Native Roses, Buttercups and Cocky's Tongues as the track started to descend towards the beach.
Reaching the infamous winter diversion notice for this section of the track, I had a good read of it but had already decided to take the regular route. Reports and photos on Facebook showed the Margaret River crossing was no more than just above knee deep and if needed I had dry packs for everything. Hoping a swim across wouldn't be necessary, I continued on and avoided the horrible road walking that taking the diversion would mean. Reaching the edge of the limestone cliffs, the track scoots along the edges before descending down closer to sea level. The white of the rocks through here is another cool element to the day and the views looking across to Cape Mentelle were also a delight. I did eventually find a sprawling example of a skeleton tree and for some reason it always reminds me of a logo you'd see for an eco product or essential oils company. I do enjoy going into every "hippy dippy" store (as Caris calls them) I see in the South West and am a sucker for buying candles and soaps when I find a scent I like.
Reaching the Kilcarnup Beach car park, you see the sign for Joeys Nose and it isn't long before you are presented with an impressive limestone feature in the distance. While I sort of see the resemblance to a Joey's Nose, I personally would have gone with the Trade Federation Multi Troop Transport from Star Wars but hey, you can't get it right all the time. It's another wow moment in a day that isn't short of them and the sandy 4x4 track leads you right past the bulky limestone structure. Being a 4x4 track, there's a chance you'll come across a vehicle and I was interrupted by one as I made my way to the beach. I hopped out of the way and instead admired Joeys Nose from underneath as it looms large over the track. Happy with the bright blue skies, I thought that this wouldn't have looked very nice in the stormy conditions forecast for the next day when I originally planned to do this section. With a few photos in the bag, I continued on towards the rocky expanse of Kilcarnup Beach and began a moderate but enjoyable section of beach walking towards Cape Mentelle. With fairly flat and compact sand mixed in with lots of interesting rocky shapes at each small headland, this was a fun stretch to walk along.
Out to sea I was getting a great light show with god rays streaming through the incoming weather that would hit later that evening and all throughout the following days. The soft afternoon light was very enjoyable, especially as it bathed the rocks in a warm glow that really highlighted the different textures. From speckled jagged quartz to smoothed boulders containing channels carved over centuries, this was a visual treat as I hopped from headland to headland. The walking through here was very relaxing given the flat gradient, cooler temperatures and plenty of visual stimulus. As I do on every beach section, I was scanning the sand for any little titbits, shells or eye-catching artefacts. Spotting the occasional shell, a big item came up with the carcass of an old tinny resting on the rocks where it had either washed up in a storm or been left there for the elements to claim. Mixed in with all the beach scenes were a number of granite and limestone formations hiding away in the dunes. Showcasing the diversity of geology that makes the Capes a special place to walk through, it was an interesting side-show to watch the different rock types and their appearance as you move only a short distance along the beach.
I was joined on the beach by a few birds of the sea, mainly the common Beach Chicken (seagull) but also a Pied Oystercatcher. I enjoy seeing them around as their distinct orange bills and eyes really contrast well with their black heads, plus they tend to stick around long enough for a photo. Seeing the jagged limestone of Cape Mentelle in the distance, I was trying to figure out how the track got to the staircase on the point. As I passed lots of upturned dinghies lying in the dunes, it became obvious thanks to the C2C marker that you exited the beach at the boat ramp. Climbing up into the dunes, the legs were surprisingly okay with the extra effort so late in the day. In my mind this next section was only a quick hop, skip and a jump until arriving at the beach that leads to the river crossing but it is a fairly significant walk at just over a kilometre. Making things better was a chance encounter with a doggo that was ahead of its family who were heading the other way to me. It wasn't quite sure of my presence and didn't want the pats I had on offer. Reaching the cliffs above a protected limestone bay, this was a spot I had to take some time admiring as it very much reminded me of something similar on the Wardan Nara Bidi on Rottnest. Feeling very much like a place the Famous Five would explore, I spent a few moments here photographing the scene in the fading light.
Continuing to wind my way through the dunes, it wasn't long until I was on the edge staring out towards the Margaret River crossing. The finish was in sight and I just needed to negotiate the most famous water crossing of the track without falling in and getting everything wet. Walking along the beach was a delight with the sun streaming through the clouds as I arrived and the distant sight of activity going on at the river mouth. Arriving at the crossing, it didn't look too bad so I took off my pack, my shoes and then waded across to check the depth during a break in the surging waves. With it being no deeper than just above my knee, I put my pack on (straps loose just to be safe) and successfully crossed the river in front of the surfing teenagers who probably thought I was a bit cautious. Making my way up to the car park, I made good use of the feet washing station and put my trusty trail runners back on for the slog up the hill into Prevelly. Deciding that the official track was what I wanted to do instead of walking along Rivermouth Rd (I don't think it makes a big difference either way), I located the gravel track to the left of the road and headed up the final hill. With excellent views behind me of the sun piercing the incoming weather, I cranked some tunes as I reached the concrete lookout (was loving Tash Sultana's new single Beyond the Pines during this trip).
After scaling the lookout for some last views of the ocean, I finished the wide vehicle track section as it headed towards Wallcliffe Rd. Lined with many wildflowers and orchids, it was very distracting considering it was almost dark and the allure of a warm meal and comfy bed was right up ahead. Seeing Margaret River from up above was pretty cool and soon I was taking the side trail down towards Prevelly. The orange roofed church was a wonderful sight and I knew it wasn't long before I was at the holiday park checking in. Making it to reception before it closed, I received the keys to my cabin after a bit of a swap because the lady had originally placed me on the other side of the park before realising that it wouldn't be ideal for a hiker who had just done a 30km day. It started to rain as I went down to the shower block for a well earned wash so I was lucky not to get that an hour earlier. All clean, I wandered off to the Sea Garden Cafe for a well earned helping of Fish Tacos and some rum. Not surprisingly, I slept like a log that night and was out of it before 9pm if I recall. What a day and the change of plans resulted in a magnificent day of hiking that was my best of the whole week.
Final Thoughts - As I've just said, what a fantastic finish to an epic day. This was technically the completion of a sectional E2E given I'd previously hiked from Cape Leeuwin to Prevelly in 2014 but I was determined to reach the end this time.
Leaving the peaceful surrounds of Ellensbrook was tough but I kept reminding myself of the incoming unpleasantness that would hit overnight and the following day. Once I was going though, it was pretty magical in the short lived forest and then up on the winding track through the hills.
Arriving at the river mouth with the sun streaming through the clouds was pretty special and luckily the river was relatively easy to cross (I am 6ft1 so knee deep for me maybe wasn't as easy for others).
Having not done any overnight hikes in 2020, I wasn't sure how I would go with this distance, especially with sand and dune bashing mixed in but huzzah, the body and legs responded well.
Now I just had to deal with the weather for the second half.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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