• Weano and Hancock Gorges (Karijini National Park)

    July 3, 2017
  • Main Range Track (Kosciuszko National Park)

    January 6, 2017
  • Overland Track (TAS) - Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley

    December 21, 2016
  • Nancy Peak Circuit (Porongurup National Park)

    October 16, 2016
  • Bibbulmun Track (WA) - Boarding House to Beavis

    September 29, 2016
  • Camel Trail (Millstream Chichester National Park)

    July 6, 2017
  • Overland Track (TAS) - New Pelion to Kia Ora

    December 24, 2016
  • Stapylton Amphitheatre (Grampians National Park)

    December 18, 2016
  • Bibbulmun Track (WA) - Waalegh to Perth Hills Discovery Centre

    September 11, 2016
  • Mamang Trail (WA) - Point Ann to Fitzgerald Inlet

    October 29, 2016

Recent Articles

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Bibbulmun Track (WA) - Grimwade to Balingup

Day Two of an overnight hike on the Bibbulmun Track, this day on the track takes walkers from Grimwade to the town of Balingup. Passing through regrowth Jarrah forest for the first half of the day, the second half features a better mix of scenery, with some lovely farmland views. Following Balingup Brook, the last few kilometres are some of the best leading into a track town on the Bibbulmun.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Bibbulmun Track (WA) - Mumballup to Grimwade

Day One of an overnight hike on the Bibbulmun Track, this 30 kilometre day of walking takes hikers from Mumballup to Grimwade via Noggerup. Initially following an old railway line and passing through open farmland, the track then runs through seemingly endless Jarrah forest, ranging from scrappy and thin to virgin old growth. A fairly ordinary day of walking, wildflowers, farmland and the two campsites are the main highlights. 

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Gloucester Route (Gloucester National Park)

An idyllic loop walk in the Karri forest, the Gloucester Route provides a pleasant amble through Gloucester National Park. Starting at the famous Gloucester Tree, the well marked trail initially runs concurrently with the Bibbulmun Track before branching off to explore a beautiful stand of Karris. A very pleasant and peaceful walk, this is a perfect walk for fans of forest walking. 

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Wungong Gorge Walk GPS Route (Wungong Regional Park)

A superb but challenging unmarked and partly off track walk in the Perth Hills, the Wungong Gorge Walk GPS Route explores the ruggedly beautiful Wungong Gorge. Initially climbing up to explore an adjacent gully, the walk rises up both sides of the gorge valley for spectacular views. One of the best walks in the Perth region, this sadly unmarked walk is best undertaken by experienced hikers only.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

9 Ways the Bibbulmun Track could be Better

There are a lot of things to love about the Bibbulmun Track, and I've highlighted its major user friendliness when I outlined 10 Ways the Bibbulmun Track is the Best Beginners Trail. It was the trail that gave me the hiking bug in the first place, and I don't know if The Long Way's Better would even exist without it.

Long time readers will know I'm all about keeping it 100, and while my opinion of the track is largely positive I would be lying if I said it was an absolutely perfect walk with no room for improvement. Furthermore, I don't see the value in overpraising the track given that considered critique has been an important part of the Bibbulmun Track story. The current Bibbulmun Track came about because a hiker named Jesse Brampton pointed out that the 1988 alignment was not perfect and that he had a vision for a much more enjoyable experience modelled on the Appalachian Trail. His critique lead to the Building a Better Bibbulmun Track Project which realigned the track and extended it to Albany in 1998, resulting in the modern Bibb known and enjoyed ever since. Almost 20 years have past since then, and I have to wonder if its time to think about Building an Even Better Bibbulmun Track. In the interests of continuous improvement, here are nine ways the Bibbulmun Track could be a better walk.

The horrible Marron Rd - a broad 9.7 kilometre that is part of a continuous 18.2 kilometre road bash

1. Less road bashes

When building a long trail, road bashes can be something of a necessary evil. They help expedite the construction process by utilising preexisting infrastructure and are thus attractive from an economic and deadline meeting perspective. While some road bashes can provide a pleasant walking experience, many are far from enjoyable and take away from providing the wilderness experience sought but hikers. The worst example would be the 18.2 kilometre road bash from Dog Road to Pingerup Rd along the Northcliffe to Walpole stretch of the track. The absolute nadir of this stretch is the broad, sandy two lane Marron Rd which continues without respite for 9.7 kilometres. Considering Northcliffe to Walpole is promoted as the 'the remotest section of the southern part of the Track, with few roads and almost no signs of civilisation for eight days!' this is a real let down, especially when a perusal of the map shows that there are a series of rapids along the nearby Gardner River that would have provided a much more scenic option. Realigning the track away from these extremely long stretches of endless road would make for a much more enjoyable walking experience - particularly important on day when the road bash takes up more than half of the day's kilometres.

Nullaki to West Cape Howe stays inland for longer than it could

2. Less inland walking along the coastal sections

Although the Bibbulmun Track is largely a forest walk, the coastal sections from Mandalay Beach to Albany provide some of the most memorable and stunningly beautiful landscapes to be found along the entire track. While the alignment here is mostly excellent, there are some points where the route seems to bizarrely avoid coastal views altogether by positioning hikers to instead walk through a tunnel of heath and peppermint trees with little in the way of views. The track immediately east of Rame Head is one such section, with 5 kilometres passing through unremarkable heathlands instead of providing coastal views. Worse still is the first half of the day from Nullaki to West Cape Howe, which is under the misguided impression that the chance to see the Porongurups and the Stirling Range far away in the distance is far better than actually enjoying views of the spectacular coastline right nearby. This is not the Overland Track where the trail casually passes very close to an endless parade of tall peaks; the Bibbulmun should instead play to its coastal strengths along this stretch as the mountains are too far away to be a noteworthy feature of the track. To illustrate the point, the Mamang Trail is a fine example a coastal walk that successfully makes use of nearby peaks to provide stunning and engaging walking.

Rocky Pool - mere minutes off the Bibbulmun Track but lacking side track signage

3. More (or at least better signed) side trips

One aspect of the Overland Track that the Bibbulmun could really embrace is plentiful side trail options. To be fair, the Bibbulmun does offer a few of these, with the Cascades in Gloucester National Park and Mt Pingerup being two that immediately come to mind. There are however plenty more; Rocky Pool is mere minutes off the Bibbulmun Track between Kalamunda and Hewitt's Hill but is not signed as such, and Mt Randall is in very close proximity to Monadnocks campsite without being offered as a side trip option. Side trips can really make a day of walking, and providing walkers with clear information about sights nearby would be greatly appreciated by those who are keen to explore a bit more. 

A one day hike off the Bibbulmun Track to West Cape Howe would be a great spur trail project

4. More spur trails

Beyond mere side trips, overnight/multi-day spurs would make excellent additions to the Bibbulmun Track's flexibility. The Wellington Spur is a great idea for an alternative to the main track due to being a three day walk from Collie to Wellington Dam with its own campsites. While the Wellington Spur was designed for school and scout groups, other spurs could simply serve to create alternative overnight or multi-day walks that branch off the main trail and provide new and exciting opportunities for hiking in the South West. A ready-made option would be to make the currently obscure Nuyts Wilderness Trail a more obvious side trip option than it currently is given that Nuyts and Bibbulmun already run concurrently for several kilometres. Other great options would be an overnight spur trail option that takes walkers to West Cape Howe itself, or a section that branches off the Bibbulmun from near Sandpatch and takes walkers to some of the wonders of Torndirrup National Park.

The Greenbushes Loop incorporates part of the Bibbulmun Track to create a day walk loop

5. More Loop Walks

While the modern Bibbulmun Track is a significant improvement on the 1988 alignment, one aspect of the old Bibb that was not carried over was the provision of loop walks blazed with different coloured Waugals. While it makes sense that these were de-emphasised to put the focus on making the Bibbulmun a true long distance walk, the reality is that many walkers only do day walks on the track and would be best served by loop walks. A few loop walks current incorporate sections of the Bibbulmun Track - The Greebushes Loop, The Dell to South Ledge and the shorter Rocky Pool Walk version of the Piesse Gully Loop immediately come to mind - however there are plenty more areas with strong potential for further loop walk development.

Tall trees in virgin Jarrah felled after a Prescribed Burn

6. Better effort made to protect taller trees in the Jarrah forest

An unavoidable weakness of the Bibbulmun Track is that the landscape between the granite valleys and peaks of the Kalamunda to Dwellingup section of the track and the beginnings of the Karri forest before Donnelly River Village consists largely of endless Jarrah forest. Given how much of the Jarrah forest is scrappy regrowth or severely burnt by recent fires, taller trees in the Jarrah forest should be prized and protected as it will take a century before the regrowth trees resemble the mature appearance of virgin Jarrah forest. While I undertand the necessary evil that is controlled burns, a particularly disheartening side effect of such burns is the fact that you often see mature trees collapsed over the track after such operations, either from the roots having been burnt out or the trees being pulled over for safety reasons. It would be great if efforts could be made to identify tall trees during a controlled burn and avoid burning them if the burn is likely to cause them to be structurally unsound. Mature Jarrah can be a beautiful tree, but it so rarely gets a chance to be more than the thin and scrappy variety common to the track's Northern Half. 

The unsatisfactory Eden Rd gate - the drop off point on the other side of the Wilson Inlet

7. A more satisfying way around the Wilson Inlet

When you think of the term 'thru-hike', getting into a car to get to the other side of an inlet seems antithetical to the whole endeavour. And yet, this is how the majority of Bibbulmun Track thru-hikers find themselves on the other side of the Wilson Inlet. It is obvious that a ferry crossing was the grand idea of the Bibbulmun Track designers, and while the idea is very nice in practice, the ferry operation in Denmark has changed hands many times and is very expensive unless you have a large group. An on-foot option used to be provided by crossing the sandbar over the Wilson Inlet when the sandbar was closed, however the grass along the Nullaki Peninsula walk trail had become dangerously overgrown and snake infested by the time it was withdrawn as an option endorsed by the Bibbulmun Track Foundation and the Parks and Wildlife Service. The best option would be to see the track along the Nullaki Peninsula cleared and reinstated as an attractive option for walkers, however it would nice if a simple campsite (ie tent sites and no hut) could be provided on the Denmark-Nornalup Heritage Trail to make it a more attractive option for people who want to stay 'pure' and avoid using motorised transport for any section of the track. 

Boot cleaning stations along the track are not always working

8. Better maintenance of Dieback cleaning stations

I take the risk of spreading Dieback pretty seriously, and I commend the fact that the Bibbulmun Track has boot cleaning stations at regular intervals along the track in areas of high risk. Unfortunately, quite a number of these are not in the best condition for a number of reasons. A few years Alissa and I came across one near Canning campsite that had been carelessly driven over by a four wheel drive that shouldn't have even been on the track, and earlier this year we found the one south of Boonerring Hill had been burnt out in a bushfire and was unusable. These are unfortunate situations that can't be helped, however topping up the spray in the pump action boot cleaning stations or replacing boot brushes that have been worn down should be managed and taken care of more regularly.

Dirt Bike riders often ignore signage as they are likely to get away with it

9. Better deterrents against dirt bikers and car campers using track facilities

Long time readers will know that dirt bikes and cars using the Bibbulmun Track are amongst my biggest pet hates. During our sectional End to End we've witnessed a car parked up at Mt Cooke campsite, a 4WD on the track near Canning campsite, a broken boot cleaning station that had been clearly driven over, heard the sound of dirt bikes ripping up the track near Collie (and obvious tyre tracks as signs of their handiwork), seen dirt bike tracks all over a granite slab near Waalegh (with leftover food and garbage just dumped into the bushes), and saw a still smoldering fire at Dookanelly after a car camper decided to drive all the way to the hut. The fact of the matter is none of these people should have been on the track and some of them know full well that they shouldn't be. The attitude is that they just don't care, can't see why they shouldn't be allowed to be there and, most importantly, can get away with it. I would love to see more work done to deter people from riding vehicles on the track and punish those who do so, ranging from making it more difficult for vehicles to access the track, putting up temporary security cameras in hot spots to catch people in the act and ensuring that offenders are fined. There is no current cure for Dieback, and people who blatantly put our biodiversity at risk should be punished accordingly. 

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

10 Ways The Bibbulmun Track is the Best Beginners Trail

One of the criteria of walk trails on the Australian Walking Track Grading System is prior experience, with many trails suggesting that 'previous bushwalking experience [is] recommended'. In Western Australia, we are very fortunate to have the Bibbulmun Track; besides being one of the premier long distance walk trails in Australia, it also has many features that makes it a perfect trail to gain bushwalking experience and develop the skills to tackle harder walks in Australia and the rest of the world. 

Here's a list of 10 reasons why the Bibbulmun Track is the best beginner's trail:

An organised group walking the track from Dale Rd to Perth Hills Discovery Centre

1. It's free

At a time when iconic trails like the Overland Track, Three Capes and New Zealand's Great Walks are becoming increasingly expensive, the Bibbulmun Track offers a long distance walking experience that is free. For those trying hiking for the first time, free access allows walkers to develop their skills without a need for heavy investment, making hiking an attractive and affordable recreational activity.

The three-sided shelter at Yourdamung north of Collie

2. The facilities are World Class

Trails like the Overland and Three Capes Track in Tasmania and the Green Gully Track in New South Wales may have better huts and facilities than the Bibbulmun Track, but very few long distance trails in the world have facilities that are the equal of the Bibbulmun Track. Each campsite features a sleeping shelter, water tank and composting toilet, making it a more attractive proposition for beginners and experienced hikers alike who might be daunted by setting up and taking down a tent in the rain, sourcing water from streams or having to dig a hole whenever they need to go to the toilet!

Clear directional signage in the Karri forests

3. It is (relatively) well marked

With the exception of some confusing directions that have occurred during diversions and some anecdotal reports of poor signage heading in the northbound direction through recently burnt sections of the track, the Bibbulmun is a well marked by the iconic yellow Waugal. While the Bibbulmun makes use of old vehicle tracks and crisscrosses it way over many more of them, turns are usually well signed enough as to make navigation fairly easy. While all walkers should be familiar with how to read a map and compass in case they miss a trail junction, the fact that you won't have to constantly be checking for directions makes it a very user friendly trail.

Well maintained walk trail in the Karri forest

4. The track is well maintained

Considering the sheer length of the trail and the fact most of the maintenance work is undertaken by volunteers, the Bibbulmun is maintained to a very high standard. It's not always perfect - we walked a very overgrown Pingerup Plains and there will inevitably always be a tree fallen across the track somewhere - however the vast majority of the trail is clear of obstacles, with most streams and creeks bridged.

Relatively flat and easy terrain walking through the Pingerup Plains

5. The terrain is (mostly) not difficult

Although walkers of the track often complain about the 'big hills', the tiring beach walking and the occasionally daunting inlets, the terrain of an average day of walking on Bibbulmun Track is considerably easier than many other walks in Australia and the rest of the world. Although some of the hills can be steep, there are no truly difficult mountains along the track and scrambling is virtually non-existent. Likewise, while the beach walking can be tiring, there are longer stretches of beach walking along many coastal trails throughout Australia, including WA's Cape to Cape Track. Finally, most inlet crossings only require an easy wade most of the year, making tides less of a consideration than on trails like the South Coast Track in Tasmania and the Thorsborne Trail in Queensland. Nevertheless, walkers should always check ahead before undertaking any of the inlet crossings as many are intentionally breached by Water Corp and can become impassable for weeks.

The Bibbulmun passes through the magical Donnelly River Village

6. It passes through towns

Unlike many other long distance trails in the world, the Bibbulmun actually passes through trail towns along the way. For first time thru-hikers, this makes resupply logistics easier; there is no need to walk off the track to top up food or to spend days driving along the track ahead of the walk burying caches and hoping that its not discovered by wild animals/other people or destroyed in a bushfire. For those doing sectional hikes, the towns allow the track to be broken up into more easily digestible segments, with most towns being served by TransWA bus services.

The Sheila Hill Memorial Track runs concurrently with the Bibbulmun and offers a short 4.6 kilometre day walk option

7. Its highly customisable

While regular road crossings and passing through towns means that the Bibbulmun Track is not a true wilderness walk, it also means the track is highly customisable. While the track cannot be completed entirely as day walks, it is surprising just how much of the track can be completed in this manner. As an example, we were able to complete Kalamunda to Dwellingup as eight day walks, one overnight and one three day hike. This flexibility is perfect for beginners as you can work towards a sectional End to End by starting with some day walks to get comfortable, graduate to overnights and then extend to longer multi-day journeys as your confidence grows.

Stunning scenery between Waalegh and Helena campsites - only 9.6 kilometres apart

8. It provides shorter, easier days close to the Southern and Northern Terminus

While seasoned thru-hikers can put away 40+ kilometres in a day, such distances would be near impossible for a beginner. While all huts along the track are a comfortable day apart from each other (never exceeding 30 kilometres a day), the first eight from the Northern Terminus in Kalamunda and the first three from Albany are all under 16 kilometres apart, with many being under 10 kilometres. This allows beginners doing a multi-day stretch to ease into the walk and get used to the distances before tackling the 20+ kilometre distances that are more common further along the track.

Diversion information can be read online before heading out to the track itself

9. The Bibbulmun Track Foundation and Website are excellent

The Bibbulmun Track Foundation is one of the best and most supportive trail friends groups you are likely to encounter. The Foundation coordinates trail maintenance and runs regular training and trip preparation classes, group hikes and even one on one support for Foundation members. Their website is arguably one of the most helpful and use friendly websites dedicated to a long distance trail, with easy to access information about trail closures, diversions, road access points and distances between points along the track. While the Bibbulmun is free, regular users or thru-hikers should really join the Foundation as its an invaluable resource that is worth every cent. 

The beautiful Quarram Beach between Peaceful Bay and Boat Harbour

10. Its beautiful, but not the most spectacular walk

This might seem a bit like a backhanded compliment but hear me out. Although the Bibbulmun has arguably the best wildflower display of any long trail in Australia and there are exceptional town to town sections of the track (Donnelly River Village to Pemberton and Walpole to Denmark are particularly excellent), there are more spectacular trails in other parts of Australia and the World. While some might see this as a negative, I think its a good thing - if your first walk as a beginner is the most stunning walk in the world, where do you go from there? The Bibbulmun is beautiful enough that it is likely to give beginners the hiking bug, learn the skills required to become competent walkers in a safe setting and serve as a solid foundation for more challenging but more spectacular walks elsewhere. 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Bibbulmun Track (WA) - Collie to Mumballup

A long day walk on the Bibbulmun Track, this 32 kilometre day of walking takes hikers from the town of Collie to the tiny settlement of Mumballup. Passing the beautiful Collie River and providing some excellent forest walking, Mungalup and Glen Mervyn Dams are the major highlights of the day's walk. With the Noggerup campsite as a perfect lunch spot and easy access to the Wellington Spur Trail, this is an excellent day of walking.