Kattamordo Heritage Trail
Bickley to Mundaring
Directions - This walk requires a car drop at the Mundaring Sculpture Park. The start point at Hardinge Park can be found by taking the Kelvin Rd exit from Tonkin Hwy and turning onto White Rd. Follow that until you see the signs for Bickley Reservoir and the car park is further on.
The Hike - Where to start with the Kattamordo Trail (apart from the beginning). This is a trail I found last year whilst on a trip to Victoria Reservoir and had been keen to hike it ever since but a combination of logistics, unknown variables and a lack of a willing hiking partner kept this one on the backburner until now. What eventuated was an epic day filled with rain, sun, great trails and a fantastic workout. Let's start with a short history lesson first to provide some context for this forgotten but amazing trail. Back in the late 80s, with Australia gearing up to celebrate the bicentennial of the British invasion of this island, some funding was provided to the Heritage Council of WA to create a network of Heritage Trails in Western Australia.
The Kattamordo Heritage Trail was one of these trails (I will be doing extensive research on the other "lost" trails to see if I can recreate them in the future) and forged a path from Mundaring to Bickley that incorporated some important historical sites along the way. I'm not entirely sure what happened that caused the trail maintenance to be abandoned (I suspect a lack of funding) but there is no modern record of the route described in the 1998 brochure I found. The brochure is a fascinating read into the history of the area so I won't be going into too much detail about it in my account, instead focusing on the details that are lacking (i.e. directions and critical way points). The original trail was called Kattamorda (trail markers have this spelling) but was corrected to Kattamordo in the 1998 brochure (I have used both spellings depending on what I am referencing). The name comes from the aboriginal translation of Katta meaning "hill" and Mordo also meaning "hill" so translated it is the Hill Hill Trail (or the aboriginal name for the Darling Range). Joining me today was long time Life of Py fan and recent hiking enthusiast, Aron (many of you have met him on the group hikes), and a plan was devised to drop a car off at Mundaring and then head to the starting point at Bickley Reservoir. The reasoning for starting at Bickley was twofold, firstly I knew the trail was marked at the Bickley end as I have visited the area before and The Long Ways Better recently hiked the start of the trail as it is the same as the Mason and Bird Heritage Trail.
Secondly and most importantly, Mundaring has a very nice bakery and one of the critical requirements of hiking with Aron is that there is a bakery of some variety at the finish. The weather was looking alright on the drive back down Great Eastern Hwy from Mundaring but as we hit Tonkin Hwy it started to bucket down. I knew showers were forecast but in Perth that usually means it rains for five minutes and then is clear the rest of the day. We found the car park at Hardinge Park and sat in the car waiting for the shower to pass before heading off. Once it had slowed to a drizzle and we had fitted ourselves and our packs with the appropriate wet weather gear the hike began. The Mason and Bird HT that you follow at the beginning takes you past Bickley Reservoir (looking decidedly gloomy with its wet concrete walls) and the Bickley Outdoor Recreation Camp. Instead of using the road, which is the official trail, we found a single track path in the bushes to the south and traversed that instead. After finding a chained up army helmet (interesting) we figured the wide gravel road was the true path and set off into the distance. It wasn't long before we reached the historic Munday Brook Bridge, built in 1872, which I had previously visited on the Victoria Reservoir Trail and had hoped to get some good photos of it with a flowing Munday Brook. Unfortunately the heavens opened up again and I did my best to try and get some reasonable angles whilst protecting my camera from the rain. Aron had some fun crossing the bridge before we started the first climb of the day on the old Horse Tramway.
It's a rocky ascent up the wide path and quite a sad one when you read up on all the problems they had transporting timber down it. For us the rain was still a companion and our focus was keeping the feet dry and avoiding the running water and frequent puddles as we climbed up the hill. Once we were at the top we started searching for the narrow path into the forest that had first sparked my interest in the Kattamordo Trail last year. Knowing the white gates meant we had gone too far we scoured the trees for a Shire of Kalamunda marker and sure enough, with the gates in sight Aron spotted the path. This would also be the start of a fun game of spotting the old Kattamorda trail markers (the yellow markers have the Kattamorda spelling). With some care taken to avoid the growing puddles that had taken over the trail (the rain had now subsided) we found our way to the entry road for Victoria Reservoir. Along with the brochure we were also using a GPS file I sourced from the interwebs as the map on the brochure was woefully inadequate, being both out of scale and zoomed out quite a bit.
We hoped the guy who posted the GPS file on Map My Hike knew where he was going but were only using it as a rough guide in places. The next leg of the journey took us across the road and into the recently burnt out bushland. There are remnants of the warnings placed before the prescribed burn-off had occurred but as it had already taken place we were confident that fire wasn't about to rip through the area. We found a 4x4 track that matched up with the GPS and were treated to a nice surprise. Much like my adventures out to Mt Dale & Beraking (or #bearking), the fires had given the bush a very different and striking colour palette. Instead of the greens, blacks and browns of the previous section there was a mix of reds, oranges, blacks and yellows. Being a prescribed burn and not a life threatening bushfire I felt a little better at enjoying the landscape as I snapped away happily. Investigating an odd placement of trail markers we backtracked a little bit and discovered a large wooden Kattamorda HT with an information board attached that included a map. Concluding that we didn't take the right way in from the access road (later confirmed), we had a look at the map and everything was not as it seemed.