My Section of the Bibbulmun Track
Start - Trees Rd (S-N)
Finish - Dee Vee Rd
Length - 9.60km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 407m
Time - 2-3 hours
Access - No public access via car
The Bibbulmun Track is a fantastic asset we have here in Western Australia and frequently pops up in internet lists of great hikes from all over the world. What keeps all 1,000km in tip top shape is an army of volunteers dedicated to maintaining the trail to make sure it remains user friendly for everyone to enjoy. Having spent many years enjoying the Bibbulmun for free or at a very low cost (the optional yearly membership), I thought it was about time I gave back and looked into the ways I could volunteer. Given I work full time, one of the better options was to maintain a section of the track so I sent off an email and waited for a response.
The Bibbulmun Track Foundation (BTF) was quick to respond saying I had been placed on the waiting list for a section but they weren't sure when one would open up. As I didn't have any plans of leaving WA I said I didn't mind waiting as long as it took and left it at that. I was on the waiting list for about a year before I received an email saying there still weren't any sections opened up so I mentioned I was fine expanding my range from the Kalamunda to Dwellingup section to also include Dwellingup to Collie.
A week later I received an email saying a section opened up east of Harvey and would I be interested? I jumped at the opportunity and didn't care where it was or what it was like. I received the details and from the maps it looked like I was maintaining the straightest section of the trail. It didn't matter one bit as I had a quiet section all to myself where I could indulge my love of hiking and give back at the same time.
With volunteers required to visit their sections at least four times a year I had planned a visit out in May before the BTF organised a field day for the volunteers of the Wellington District. The plan was to attend the volunteer day (which was held not far from my section) and then visit my section before heading home. Unfortunately the rains hit in the afternoon so I had to leave it for another day but at least I knew the rough way out there and what to expect.
With my hiking calendar booked up solid for the following month with new trails and group hikes I pencilled in the 19th of June as my first proper visit out there. Given the drive from Fremantle is over 2.5 hours and I had to walk the section plus get back to my car, I decided to visit my sister in Bunbury on the Saturday night and set off the next morning. I squeezed in a hike on the Saturday on the Marri Trail before spending the rest of the afternoon playing with my nieces and catching up with my sister and brother-in-law.
With a pancake breakfast in my belly (still deciding if my sister makes better pancakes than my dad's decades old recipe) and a sushi lunch prepared and packed (thanks again Kelly), I said my goodbyes and headed out on the South West Highway to Harvey. Driving through proper country towns and admiring the picturesque farming land at the base of the Darling Range, it was shaping up to be a good day. The turn-off to Harvey I knew provided an even better drive as I headed east towards Harvey Dam. Looking like the Black Lake from Harry Potter, I made a note to stop here on the way home and take some photos (that plan was thwarted by the rain).
Soon the tarmac disappeared and the gravel roads took over. I knew from the field day that this would last for a while so concentrated on my rally driving and made sure I wasn't travelling in the wrong direction. In the morning sun I managed to miss the turn-off and headed north for a couple of kilometres before realising I hadn't passed over one of the many mining roads/bridges that dot the landscape. I doubled back and soon found the correct road again. From here I found the meeting point for the field day that was also the turn-off I needed to get to my section. I didn't drive out to the final location for the field day as the rest of the volunteers weren't sure my car could handle the roads but this time I had no choice. The only challenge I had was the occasional section where the middle of the road was a little bit too high and I bottomed out on some loose gravel so no big deal.
I eventually made it to the road that runs parallel to the Bibbulmun Track so I just needed to find the correct access road for my section. A few calculated guesses later (I hadn't switched on my GPS before I came) and I came across a sign warning of crossing hikers. This was after a trip down a road I knew contained a crossing of the Bibbulmun and the northern point of my section but it turns out I didn't go far enough along. I was relieved to find the southern access point of my section and loaded up the backpack with the essential maintenance gear and of course my camera. My expectations of this section before I came out was a flat, boring trudge through the forest on a wide 4x4 track. While the majority of it is on a 4x4 track, it isn't flat (a peak of 355m ASL from a low of 249m ASL) and while strictly speaking it is very straight, there are enough little kinks to fool you into thinking it isn't. It wasn't long before I came across what I would disappointingly find more than I expected, a discarded beer can.
Given that this section of the forest is only meant to be accessed by walkers and those with DPaW permits, it doesn't stop idiots driving out here and being disrespectful. It's sad that volunteers all along the trail have to pick up after the muppets that do this kind of thing but unless they are caught in the act there isn't much anyone can do. I moved every bit of rubbish I could find to the middle of the trail for collection on my way back and carried on. The whole area has had plenty of bushfire damage over the past decade and the result is very dense undergrowth and a great contrast of new green growth and blackened trees. I couldn't stop snapping away at every little detail, photographing every wildflower (great to see some in June), fungi (plenty of variety), Zamia palms (love my Zamias) and the occasional finch (didn't bring my long lens so the photos aren't the best). All in all I was happy to be out in nature, in the middle of nowhere, just enjoying the moment.
Being a 4x4 track I didn't have much maintenance to do apart from rubbish collection so I kept shooting away and up the hill I wasn't expecting. When I reached the top I could see a small valley and across to another hill. Knowing that Yourdamung Lake was approaching I was keen to explore that section of the track and see what was what. Yourdamung Lake is an interesting place, low enough to contain a small puddle of standing water but not enough to warrant the track diverting around it. The 4x4 track goes straight through the middle of the spooky mix of dead trees, grass trees and the occasional larger tree. I will be intrigued to see what it looks like in spring with a bit more rainfall as I think the "lake" is actually more of a large drainage point, which the presence of a lot of white sand might support my case. I'm sure there is a chance with heavy rainfall that the 4x4 track might be under water but I won't find out until that happens (or if it does). Yourdamung Lake doesn't last long and soon it was another climb where I encountered a fallen tree over the track. I didn't bring my axe with me (noted for next time) so I took a couple of photos and marked the location so someone from the DEC could come out and remove it.
The climb up the other side of Yourdamung Lake isn't as steep and was where I met my first local, a grey kangaroo. This one wasn't as inquisitive as others I have come across so I couldn't get very far before it continued on its merry way. It did leave me with a thought, what a great life a kangaroo must live out here. An abundance of food, no natural predators of any great threat and no one apart from the occasional walker. The only worry would be the occasional bushfire but they can be quick when they want to be. My thoughts about kangaroos and their ease of life out here was interrupted by the familiar yellow Wagyl pointing me off the 4x4 track and into the bush. After 5.5km of wide gravel tracks I was happy to dive into the forest on a narrow single track path. I wasn't disappointed with the trail winding its way through grass trees, Zamias and the occasional giant tree that survived the bushfires. The canopy was a bit sparse due to bushfire damage but it was still a fantastic place to be.
It wasn't long before I hit a crossroad that I thought was the end of my section but looking at the maps, the end is littered with criss-crossing 4x4 tracks so I stopped about a kilometre before the end. At least it gives me an excuse to go out there again soon. I enjoyed my sushi lunch on top of a scorched and fallen tree before heading back to the car, pruning and trimming any overhanging foliage that might get in the way of someone carrying a massive backpack. The rain that had threatened all day started with about 3km to go so I put on my rain gear and listened to some tunes. With all the rubbish I could find cleared off the trail, my job here was done.
Final Thoughts - Having the ability to combine a great passion of mine with the opportunity to do some good is a great pleasure. While the section I have doesn't include spectacular granite peaks, sweeping ocean views or towering giant Tingles, it is mine now (well not really, I only look after it) and I love it.
I can totally understand that with a heavy backpack this section is not the most appealing given a long stretch is up and down on a 4x4 track but Yourdamung Lake has its own creepy charm and the large expanses of Zamia's make things very green. As you aren't allowed to access the area without a DPaW permit the only hikers who get to come here are doing the E2E or the multi-day section between Dwellingup and Collie so unfortunately it's not a day trip option that I can share.
Thank you to the tireless work that the BTF does for us hikers and for giving me a section to look after. The 0.95% of Bibbulmun Track I will be looking after will be a joy to maintain and I look forward to every time I come out.
Do you want to help out the BTF? Become a member today or volunteer your services, there are plenty of ways you can help out. Visit the website for more information on how you can assist in keeping this great trail the best it can possibly be.