Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Bibbulmun Track (WA) - Frankland River to Walpole


The final day of a three day walk from Conspicuous Beach to Walpole, this section of the Bibbulmun Track features the largest and most impressive trees on the entire track. Leaving Frankland River campsite, the Giant Tingle Tree and another massive fallen Tingle are the highlights of the day, as well as excellent views of the Walpole Inlet from Hilltop Lookout before walking along inlet cliffs on the way into the town of Walpole. 



Distance: 18 km (one way)
Gradient: First 7-8 Kilometres are a gradual uphill, with the rest of the walk an easy descent.
Quality of Path: Generally clear and well maintained. 
Quality of Signage: Well signed, with the Waugal providing very clear directional information. 
Experience Required: Bush Walking Experience Recommended
Time: 6 Hours
Steps: Few steps
Best Time to Visit: All year round, though best to avoid from January-March. 
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: We stayed overnight at Frankland River Campsite, and there are no obvious entry points near there. Access from Walpole is fairly straightforward as the track runs from Pioneer Park right in front of the Walpole Visitors Centre.  



Alissa, her brother Ben, his partner Kelsey and I were well and truly in the early wake up mode one falls into when out on the track, and were able to set off fairly early after breakfast. Leaving Frankland River campsite behind, the track runs to the left of the hut and up a gradual incline.



Being near the river, this area has a dense understorey of ferns and reedy plants with an overstorey consisting largely of Karri.



We had not reached the end of the Tingle forests however, and as the Bibbulmun turned to join an old vehicle track, we again encountered very large specimens, many of which were precariously perched on the sloping valleys on either side of the trail. This road section is shared with the Munda Biddi, and Ben and I agreed we were happier to be walking this ascent than cycling it.





The ascent on the road seemed to go forever, and when we reached what seemed like the top of the ascent, the track veered right up a more overgrown vehicle track that has clearly been mainly used by walkers for some time. At the junction of this further ascent, a tree was marked with the above graffiti, a charmingly Ocker tribute to someone's friend that serves as a good landmark. From here, the track apparently went to an old lookout point, but the vegetation has grown so thick we could not discern were it would have been located.



Not long after the invisible lookout, the appearance of solid paved paths and decking indicated that we had arrived at the Giant Tingle Tree - a massive Red Tingle so large that a car could be parked inside it. The Valley of the Giants used to feature a similarly large Tingle that tourists use to drive their cars into until the constant damage to the roots caused the entire tree to fall down. Learning from this bitter lesson, the Giant Tingle Tree can only be visited on foot. This impressive specimen is the largest tree along the entire track, making the Giant Tingle Tree particularly noteworthy in what is ostensibly a forest walk. 



After stopping for lunch at the Giant Tingle Tree car park, we headed back on our way through the forest to Walpole. 



This section featured another massive Tingle Tree - this time one that had fallen over, with its massive but shallow roots towering overhead.  



The trail continues to descend from the fallen Tingle before taking walkers to Hilltop Lookout - a major landmark indicating that Walpole is not too far away. The lookout offers views of the Walpole Inlet beyond - an area that the trail passes through a little over 2 kilometres later. 





From the lookout onwards, the Tingles disappear as the trail approaches an old rail formation. The area does features a dense overstorey of Karri trees - the last major stand of forest of our walk. 



After crossing South Coast Highway, the Karri forest ends abruptly as a change of soil types leads walkers to sandy, coastal heathlands. 



The heathlands grow along the cliffs alongside Walpole Inlet, with the lack of tall tree providing walkers with views of the Walpole Inlet. Walpole Inlet is unique amongst the many inlets along the South Coast in that that water from the ocean flows into the Inlet rather than the other way around, creating a brackish water with higher salinity level that other inlets in the area - and a correspondingly more coastal vegetation. 



As the track approaches Walpole, it joins a hard, tourist-friendly rail trail utilised by cyclists as well. With its hard compacted gravel, this section was terribly fatiguing to walk on and we couldn't wait to get off it. 





After following the trail as it turned left around the outskirts of town, the Bibbulmun led us into into Walpole, the final destination of our three day walk. After days of spartan dining we were happy to finally be in a town, and followed recommendations to have a meal at Flaming Hot Takeaways - a popular lunch spot with walkers. After a short wait, Alissa's father John came to pick us up and take us back to Denmark. 

After our second day on the Track saw us heading away from Tingle forests as we approached Frankland River, it was great to see one final return of the Tingle forest in this section - with examples like the Giant Tingle Tree and the Fallen Tingle proving to be some of the finest and most impressive trees on the entire track. The Walpole Inlet provided a nice change of pace to finish the day, even if the rail trail into town was a bit of a hard slog for tired feet to walk on. This day of walking was definitely as good as I remembered it - yet another enjoyable day in my favourite town to town section of the track. 

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