Sheila Hill Memorial Track
Ocean Beach Rd
5.5km (One Way)
Directions - From the centre of Denmark, follow South Coast Hwy west until you reach Ocean Beach Rd. Turn left onto Ocean Beach Rd and follow this down the hill until you reach the corner of Cotswald Drive. The trail head is located on the west side of Ocean Beach Rd.
The Hike - With car issues hampering my two week road trip, I was given the news in Albany that my car could not be repaired there without waiting a couple of weeks for parts so my only option was to limp it home as best I could (turns out the issue was a clogged catalytic converter meaning I had no power and was struggling to maintain speed). Cutting several planned hikes out of the schedule, my time in Albany was coming to an end and the next destination was the campgrounds at Shannon National Park. Knowing Don and Alissa were in Denmark for the rest of the week I messaged them and asked if they wanted to join me as I hiked the Sheila Hill Memorial Track in Denmark as it was on the way. This would be fitting as it was their post on The Long Way's Better that alerted me to the existence of this trail and I really enjoy their company so it was nice to have them along.
After a trip to one of the excellent bakeries in Denmark, I met them at the corner of Ocean Beach Rd and Cotswald Dr to organise the car swap. As my car was broken and Donovan knew where to go, we loaded up into his X-Trail for the very short drive to the start or finish in our case (more on this later). The Sheila Hill Memorial Track runs entirely on the Bibbulmun Track but is a good way of separating out one of the more spectacular sections close to Denmark with hikers taking in both Monkey Rock and Mt Hallowell. Starting at almost sea level, the climb up to the summit of Mt Hallowell (296m) is a delightful meander through the last of the Karri forest you will experience on the Bibbulmun Track if you are doing it north to south. It had been over a year since Don and Alissa had done this trail and with it being spring it would be understandable if it looked a little different to them.
They didn't remember it finishing like the loop section we initially walked along but shrugged it off and eventually we spotted a Bibbulmun Track waugyl so away we went into the Karri forest that borders private properties to the north. It had rained heavily about 15 minutes before we started and there was still the threat of a rain shower or two around so we kept our rain gear on as we hiked in one of the more open sections of the trail. The wildflowers were out in force with all the colours under the rainbow being represented so I was being a slow coach and taking photos of all of them. Understanding what is involves in documenting a trail for the first time, Donovan and Alissa were very accommodating by going slow and making sure to not get in my shots unless I wanted them to (take note Aron!!). One feature of this hike is that it is pretty much a constant uphill for the first 3.8km, which is unusual for Western Australia as the hills are typically rolling and you are never far away from a downhill section.
The benefit of this apart from a great workout is that you ascend through a variety of landscapes, starting with one of my favourites, Sheoak forest. The familiar brown needles littering the floor and the rough bark of these lovely trees mixed in well with the moss covered logs strewn everywhere and an increasing number of rocky sections. This would herald the start of where the path increasingly became rockier and a transition into the lush Karri forest. Picking your way through the forest is easy thanks to the abundance of waugyls and this ease continues as the size of the granite boulders reaches massive proportions. You would be forgiven at this point with thinking you were near the top of the climb as it certainly feels that way as you are surrounded by boulders the size of Peppermint Grove mansions. The path takes you past the smooth rock faces and up and over some tricky areas with a handrail installed in one area due to the difficulty in getting down the rock face when it's slippery.
We were lucky in this regard as the weather had fined up and we were enjoying the walk among this maze of granite and Karri. We continued climbing as the boulders disappeared for a while and we approached one of many exposed granite platforms that provide excellent views of the ocean. This first opportunity to glimpse upon the dark blue beyond was a reward for the climbing so far although the forest and boulder section had been a reward in itself. I took plenty of photos and asked Donovan if we were far from the summit as I couldn't quite tell from the landscape ahead (more forest). He confirmed we still had a bit of hiking to go and we continued on with both Don and Alissa spending a good amount of time playfully arguing over the exact spot where Alissa fell over on their first visit here. I enjoyed listening as the two of them debated who was right and which spot looked more familiar.