Pemberton to Northcliffe
Munda Biddi Trail
3rd September 2021
The Ride - Pemberton is one of my favourites towns in the South West and while we didn't get to spend too much time here, the excitement of one of the best days on the Munda Biddi made up for that. Often regarded as a day to really look forward to thanks to the stunning Karri forest, varied terrain, nice single trail sections and the impressive River Road Bridge, this was my first town to town ride on the Munda Biddi all the way back in 2020. Having always done a bit of mountain biking plus road riding in my younger days, this reignited an enjoyment for cycling and the freedom/opportunities that bikepacking provided. Along with an overnighter between Donnybrook and Nannup that year, this was the catalyst for starting to plan my own Munda Biddi E2E.
Staying with a friend of a friend, I had a good nights sleep on the couch and awoke around sunrise, ready for an awesome day. Aron popped into the living room and said a quiet hello as we packed up our bikes and wondered if our host was going to surface anytime soon. It was a little after 8am when we figured it would be rude to wake her, so sent her a message and tootled off down the hill into town for some breakfast. Deciding on Wild at Heart Cafe, it was busy when we arrived and I thought it was odd that there were a few men in suits given this was the country and not many dress like the CBD office monkeys we get in Perth (of which I am one or at least used to be until I started WFH full time). As we were enjoying a warm and hearty breakfast I remarked to Aron that it was strange to see people in suits and given there had been a high profile murder in the town in recent days, it eventually clicked that these were detectives down from Perth. It was a big talking point with our host and the entire community was a bit shaken as the two men involved were locals and knew each other from what we found out.
With a sombre mood hanging around town, we finished our breakfast, ordered some lunch snacks and set about riding back up the hill towards the Gloucester Tree. It's about a 70m climb from the centre of town to the Gloucester Tree so no easy start to the day but luckily it served to warm us up in the chilly September air. Passing old timber cottages and through the semi-rural backstreets of Pemberton was pleasant and we were soon passing the DBCA office, the place we had stayed overnight and the high school. Entering the Karri forest leading towards the Gloucester Tree was a welcome sight but as we rode along the paved path, it wasn't as I remembered it. There had been some prescribed burning in this area between my last visit and now so the scenery had a scorched aesthetic to it. Given this is close to town and the canopy seemed untouched, it is warranted so it was just bad timing for us riding through. The thickness of the Karri trees through here was still impressive and we soon reached the Gloucester Tree that had some tape around the bottom as the decking structure was being replaced.
Not keen on heights, especially when it's a cold and dewy climb, I elected to skip the Gloucester Tree and instead opted to take some photos instead. Thwarting me a little this morning was a combination of wet everything and bright sunshine, meaning the contrast between light and dark was large and that never makes for great photos in the Karri forest. There wasn't much I could do about it so we made our way to where the Munda Biddi starts heading down an epic set of switchbacks that is a great way to lose altitude. With photos to take I wasn't going to be setting any Strava records and there was also the issue of fallen branches over the trail. This slowed progress the last time I was here and with a lush undergrowth, I think it's a constant battle for the maintenance volunteers. Shooting the best angles that I could, I quickly put away the camera after realising the magic wasn't going to happen and instead concentrated on having a blast as the trail heads down to the Eastbrook Trail. Aron was waiting for me at the bottom and thought he saw two Bibb walkers heading off into the undergrowth towards the Cascades. Pondering if this was the couple we met at Donnelly River, it would be confirmed a bit later on that it was indeed them.
The Munda Biddi follows a different path through the forest to the Bibb as we headed uphill to continue along the Eastbrook Trail, a route we had followed the previous day (and one you can use to skip Pemberton if you don't want to stop in town). Your travels on the Eastbrook Trail don't last too long as you hang a left and ride along a very wide vehicle track that is a bit of a shock compared to the nice scenic track you were just on. Riding past a plantation isn't lovely after the beauty of Gloucester National Park but luckily this section doesn't last long. Reaching a trail marker pointing you into a tunnel of vegetation, this is where the enjoyable rail trail starts and the magic of the Karri forest returns. This also marks a long flat or downhill ride so you can sit up and enjoy some really pleasant scenery as you tootle along. With the harsh sunlight disappearing behind some rain clouds, I would accept getting slightly wet for better lighting conditions as we weaved in and out of single trail and old vehicle tracks. Crossing Spring Gully Road, a section of recently burnt forest awaited us and it was a stark contrast to the lovely greens we had just experienced.