Reflections III - Seven Years of Adventures

Hello again. For those new to the website, my name is Mark and what you see on these pages is my trail life, The Life of Py. I'm a 35yo WA local that enjoys taking long walks anywhere I can, taking way too many photos and exploring new places and trails (among other life pursuits). This is third time I've sat down to write one of these after this one and this one and given how much I've managed to pack into the last two years, this might become an annual event going forward. It's been seven years now since I first decided to start my own website and what it has morphed in to is beyond my wildest imagination. If you'd given 2014 Mark a glimpse of what the website looks like now, I'm not sure he would have believed that life would have taken him to all those amazing places or that he would have the stamina and determination to complete it all. But that's life and we are meant to evolve, change and challenge ourselves to find out who we are as people, how we fit into this crazy world and what makes our life worth living.

 

I'm nowhere near answering those questions but the website has provided a great excuse to explore my interests, spend time alone and with others and reflect on what makes me happy human. It would be an understatement to say that I enjoy getting out in nature, photographing what catches my eye and then sharing my experiences with the world. There is an enormous amount of work that goes into it all from planning to doing to editing, writing and formatting but I take a lot of pleasure in crafting my posts so others might be inspired to go out and explore their own backyard too. It was a bit overwhelming putting together the collage you see at the top of the page (best viewed on a PC or Tablet) and seeing the past two years laid out in picture form. Each photo represents a post that has gone on the website in sequential order ranging from a small walk or snorkel to one day of a week long adventure (119 in total plus a couple from rides with my podcast partner).

I'll break it up into the two separate years so now would be a good time to go brew yourself a beverage if you're planning on reading the whole thing. Here goes...

2019 - Finishing the Bibbulmun Track

New Trails - 64

Total Distance - 696.7km

Website Visits - 288,628 (up 32.7% on 2018)

After an action packed 2018 where I ticked off a few sections of the Bibbulmun Track and was fortunate enough to go on a couple of Google Trekker trips to Fitzgerald River and the Pilbara, my main goal for 2019 was to complete my sectional E2E of the Bibbulmun Track. I still had Northcliffe to Albany to finish, along with plugging in gaps in the Darling Range section so I spaced out trips throughout the year culminating with a ceremonial finish in Albany in late September. The year started out pretty quiet as usual with the summer heat, flies and bushfire threat limiting activities to snorkelling and completing Tasmania posts from the previous year's adventures. A trip to Rottnest for the annual Festival of Aron in February provided a good opportunity to write-up a couple of snorkel trails on the island at Parker Point and Little Salmon Bay. I then joined my podcast co-host for a trip over to Penguin Island where we explored the island and did some more snorkelling. While I was finishing Tasmania posts from the previous year, another trip to the Apple Isle snuck up, this time to the North East of the island.

Joining Caris' aunt and uncle for another trip over Easter, the main focus was the Bay of Fires Lodge Walk with a side trip to Freycinet National Park and Launceston thrown in for good measure. The trip was a high point of the year thanks to the lovely scenery, great weather and excellent company. Even now I feel a great calmness looking back at those photos and remembering the experience. After another dry autumn in WA where I mapped out the Golden Helena Valley Loop, it was time for the first big section of the Bibbulmun Track. I chose to do Northcliffe to Walpole in early winter because the Pingerup Plains wouldn't yet be flooded and I thought that was a good compromise between getting wet feet and not seeing wildflowers. I was looking forward to this section as it would be a good opportunity to experience a relatively wild part of WA that provides a variety of scenery that the Bibb sometimes lacks. I was blessed with perfect weather all the way through until Mt Clare but the final 9km into Walpole was still fun in the pouring rain. Highlights of that trip included the beauty of Lake Maringup, walking between the islands of forest on the open plains, Mt Chance (even though DBCA had burnt it to a crisp), the Pingerup Plains, Little Cove, the walk from the coast through the Tingle forest into Walpole and of course meeting Malcolm for the first time (Hi Malcolm).

After the highs of a week on the Bibb, I had some time at home to chill and spend time with Caris and the dogs (along with editing and writing posts). In between doing that I added a new Perth hike to the website (it was a rare thing in 2018) with the Carmel Walk being an unexpectedly popular trail with the masses (a woman who lives in the area complained to me about all the people flooding her street). On a wet winter weekend I joined my podcast partner to check out the newest trail in WA at the time, the Wiilman Bilya near Collie and we were both disappointed to find the local DBCA office treating the area with very little care and having no thought for the trail experience. I hope the same doesn't happen with they complete the full four day loop as it has a lot of potential with some stunning forest in the area. I rounded off June with an overnighter on the Bibb between Mt Dale and Sullivan Rock to tick off that section. Aron joined me for the first time since completing Dwellingup to Collie in 2018 and it was nice to spend some extended time with him again, even if the weather was a bit moist (we even bumped into Malcolm at Canning Campsite as he was hiking S-N on his E2E). July brought with it a trip to the Top End thanks to a family celebration for Caris' Grandmother's 90th birthday. Basing ourselves in Darwin, I explored the city as best I could (there is a serious lack of trails) and then we spent a day out at Litchfield National Park.

 

There are plenty of short trails exploring the various waterfalls in the park and it was a fun day fitting as much as we could in. Darwin was a really cool place with a lot going for it and I'd love to return some day. Returning to the cool of a Perth winter, I ticked off another Darling Range section of the Bibb, tackling Sullivan Rock to North Bannister on a perfectly still weekend. I love a good walk through the forest and that section was much better than I expected. Getting in a couple of more Perth trails during August saw me complete the misty and enjoyable Schipp Road Walk plus a visit to Marrinup Falls near Dwellingup on a maintenance trip to the Sanctuary of Py. Both were enjoyable and it marked the start of what was another excellent year for wildflowers in WA. Up next was a trip that I was most looking forward to in 2019 thanks to the hype it received from Donovan and many others. The Walpole to Denmark section of the Bibbulmun Track did not disappoint with a great deal of variety, some absolutely stunning locations and some of the best walking on the entire track. While I didn't enjoy the dune bashing between the Quarrams and Parry Beach, that was a minor blip on what was a very memorable time in not only 2019 but my entire hiking life. I unfortunately had to cut that trip short at Parry Beach because Parry Inlet was not crossable but I rejigged my plans and added it to my final Bibbulmun trip into Albany. 

In the spring I had one goal on my mind, finishing the Bibbulmun Track. I had two sections to go and then three years of planning, hiking and documenting would be completed. Wanting to finish in Albany, the only section I had left was between North Bannister and Dwellingup. A section that had been delayed or cancelled many times over the past two years, I finally got out there in September and it did not disappoint. The Jarrah forest was stunning and the granite hills were a joy to hike up. I joined Stephen, an end to ender and it was really good fun slowing down and experiencing the WA forests through his eyes (Stephen was Victorian). With that finished I just had Parry Beach to Denmark and then Denmark to Albany to go. After organising some complicated logistics, I was at Parry Beach ready to embark on my final section. I could not have picked a better time to do it with lovely weather, a spectacular wildflower display and just an all-round excellent experience to end on. I didn't get as emotional walking into Albany as I thought I would as it took a while to fully process the entire journey. After lots of reflection, it's hard not to say it wasn't life changing and hiking the Bibbulmun was one of the best things that has happened to me in life. I have written a bit more about the track in my final post and you can read it here.

With my Bibb journey over I decided to stay on in Albany and not just head back to Perth. It's a very cool town and one I'd move to in a heartbeat if I could convince Caris but until then, I savour every trip down here. With my X-Trail on its very last legs, I spent a bit of time walking around town and was fortunate enough to get out to Peak Head for sunset without any car issues. That was an amazing hike/run that really capped off what was an enjoyable last hurrah for my spring adventures. On the way home I visited Castle Rock for a much needed re-shoot before settling in to finish all of my Bibbulmun posts for the website. It took quite a while to process everything so that kept me busy through to new year where I ended 2019 with a trip to Daylesford for Caris' family Christmas. I hadn't planned on doing any trails there but I couldn't resist and we ended up doing quite a few around town. All in all it was a pretty epic year and the conclusion to something I started way back in 2008 when I first stepped onto the Bibbulmun in Kalamunda. Little did I know then what impact it would have on my life and I'm very grateful that I can now say I'm an end to ender. 

2020 - New Opportunities

New Trails - 56

Total Distance - 459.6km

Website Visits - 535,076 (up 85.39% on 2019)

Let's start 2020 at the beginning, before all the madness set in and the world went into a big COVID induced spiral. The summer of 2020 will be remembered for the horrific bushfires that swept the eastern states but WA didn't escape unharmed. The Stirling Range got burnt once again, a very large part of the woodlands in the south east of the state was ravaged and there were large fires near Yanchep and Collie (including parts of the Kingdom of Py). While this was going on, I was having some down time from trails, really only getting out to visit the new MAAC Dive and Snorkel Trail in the northern suburbs, along with re-shooting a couple of local Fremantle walks. With the longer days and warmer temperatures, I spend my time keeping active close to home by walking a lot near Freo. I love it here and there are some great spots to explore along the river and beach. The start of 2020 also marked a big effort to re-edit photos from pretty much every post using everything I've learned over the years. While far from being a professional photographer, it was nice to relive those memories and improve the quality of the site to at least be more consistent in appearance. Then March happened and our lives were turned upside down.

I'll preface this by saying that I realise living in WA, we were probably in the best place in the world for dealing with this but it was a bit touch and go at the start. We were lucky that the borders were closed quickly and that we somehow survived with no community transmission. People were generally good about the hand sanitizing and social distancing but the hoarding and eventual relaxing of standards wasn't nice to see. From a trails point of view it highlighted the distinct lack of quality day hikes in the Perth region. When the intrastate borders were closed, being cut-off from the eastern side of the Darling Range limited options quite a bit. I had a few moments where I felt a bit down and my motivation levels dropped significantly just like everyone else. Add in that I had sprained my ankle quite badly right before the shutdowns and I wasn't up for much hiking anyway. I did find solace on the Bibb Track and even visited the old Paten's Brook Campsite near Mundaring, a place that felt weirdly right for the time. While we only had Perth to explore, I thought I'd tick a few of the remaining Shire of Kalamunda hikes off my list and while it was nice to be out, they were just a reminder of the lack of good trails near Perth. What was heartening to see and something that I think was a big positive out of all of this was the spike in visitors to the website. With hiking one of the few activities that was deemed safe to do, it was great to see people getting out and discovering their own backyard. I hope it continues and we have more casual to frequent hikers exploring the trails and demanding more of them.