Monday, 10 April 2017

Bibbulmun Track (WA) - Lake Maringup to Dog Pool


The third day of a seven day hike on the Bibbulmun Track, this long but flat 25.7 kilometre day of walking takes walkers from one stunning campsite at Lake Maringup to another at the recently rebuilt Dog Pool. Starting out strong with sunrise at the lake and beautiful Karri forests, the day is however marred by less impressive walking towards the end - including a particularly boring 5 kilometre home stretch along a broad unsealed road



Distance: 25.7 km (one way)
Gradient: Relatively gentle over its entire length, with some minor inclines
Quality of Path: Largely clear and well maintained, with some mildly overgrown sections in the more open plains. Sections can be inundated through Winter and Spring
Quality of Signage: Largely well signed, with the Waugal providing very clear directional information.
Experience Required: Previous Bushwalking Experience Recommended
Time: 6-7 Hours
Steps: Some formal steps
Best Time to Visit: All year, except for the peak of Summer and during particularly stormy Winter days. 
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: This section was walked hut to hut and there is no easy direct access to Lake Maringup. Dog Road campsite can be accessed via a relatively short 4.1 kilometres walk from the exclusion gate on Dog Road. Dog Road running east off Deeside Road. 



Even under the best possible conditions, a good night's sleep is never a given for Alissa or I when we are out hiking, however I woke up early to the cool morning breeze at Lake Maringup well rested and ready to see the promised beauty of sunrise across the lake.I'm glad to say the much-spruiked views were fantastic - the blend of blues, yellows and oranges dancing on the gentle ripples of the water set against shadowy silhouettes made for a picture perfect scene that made our stay at Lake Maringup all the more special.


After watching the sunrise, eating breakfast and packing up, Alissa and I were ready to face the 25.7 kilometre day of walking to Dog Pool - the longest day of walking of our seven day hike. Although one of the longer hut to hut days on the track, the relative flatness of the terrain suggested this would fairly straightforward compared to the similarly long but hilly walking between Peaceful Bay and Boat Harbour. Little were we to know how mentally taxing it would be towards the end of the day. 


Everything started well, with Alissa and I enjoying the trail as it made its way through the dense Karri forest that surrounds Lake Maringup. The density of the forest and the wonderful shade it provided reminded us a lot of the great time we had doing the Donnelly River Village to Pemberton section of the track last year.


As with the previous day of walking from Gardner to Lake Maringup, the varied soil types of the region make for a interesting mix of forests, with the track leaving the Karris forest to head into sandier soils supporting Jarrah and lower shrubland, and then heading back into another pocket of Karri trees further along.


A lot of this day of walking featured wooden boards traversing low lying areas that are quite likely to be inundated during the late Winter/early Spring period when Northcliffe to Walpole lives up to its reputation for being 'The Flooded Section'. Given that we were walking in mid-April, the area was understandably dry, however we did enjoy walking on the boards as it reminded us of walking on the Overland Track.


The day also represented a greater increase in walking through open plains.


With the bright red flowers of the Swamp Bottlebrush in profusion along the track, these sections were quite lovely, however the open nature of the landscape and the almost total lack of clouds on the day made for increasingly hot and uncomfortable walking as we came closer to midday.


At this early stage however, the plains were largely balanced out by longer stretches through Karri forest.


Although some sections of the Karri forest showed signs of being burnt by recent fires, the recovery had been swift and impressive. It was only when looking up at the bleached white skeletons of the dead trees that the devastation that must have gone through the area become more obvious.


As we approached Chesapeake Road and the 9 kilometre mark of the day's walking, the forest transitioned to a mixed Jarrah forest, however of more interest to us was the appearance of two bottles of water that had been left not far from the road access point. We had seen similar bottles the previous day at other road access points, and it appeared that they were caches left for someone doing the track. Reading the Red Book at Dog Pool later in the day, we discovered who we believed was the culprit behind these water bottles. An entertainingly verbose northbound thru-hiker named Jason mentioned having left water caches at all the track entry points as he didn't trust the safety of the water (or the Bibbulmun Track Foundation either, if his lengthy posts and comments written with his signature red pen are anything to go by). I seems like he had overestimated his water needs as there were a lot of bottles left unattended. One hopes he will go back and clear all the unused water bottles at some later date, however at the very least the guy provided a lot of entertaining reading for Alissa and I - we were almost jealous of the northbound End to Enders who will be able to read his complete works by the time they arrive in Kalamunda!


Due to the flat and largely uncomplicated walking, Alissa and I were walking at a cracking pace, and as a result I started to feel a particularly strong pain in my left foot. As we reached Chesapeake Road, we stopped for a brief rest so that I could take some painkillers. These definitely helped me get through the long day.



11 kilometres into the walk, Alissa and I reached an expanse of exposed granite. Given that it was just shy halfway into our day of walking and the last obvious landmark along this stretch of track, we had earmarked the area for an early lunch break. Sitting in the shade near the end of the granite outcrop, it was nice to be able to take my left shoe off and relax for a bit while enjoying the lovely surrounds.


In hindsight, the granite expanse also served as the end of the enjoyable stretch of the walk. Immediately after the granite outcrop, the track passed through an area of regrowth Karri forest. While not as dull as the seemingly endless regrowth forest between Beavis and Beedelup near Karri Valley, the forest was no where near as striking as it had been closer to Lake Maringup. Worse still, upon exiting the forest Alissa and I largely spent most of the next three kilometres walking through open, swampy areas that left us exposed to the heat of the cloudless day.



Even worse still, the area showed clear signs of bushfire damage in recent years. The immediate results of a bushfire can be beautiful in its own bleak way (such as those that were near Mt Dale in 2015), however the burnt areas on display here leading to Dog Pool were far less engaging.


Just when we were getting sick of burnt views, we had the added 'pleasure' of walking down a seemingly endless corridor of high shrubbery as the track used the old alignment of Deeside Coast Road. A dense, thick and high understorey is a common problematic aspect of some of the walking through the Karri forest, but at least the massive trees provide something to marvel at; the only views we had along this stretch were the ugly, stunted Jarrah and the sandy track itself.


The track opened up to better views across plains as we got closer to the Deeside Coast Rd crossing, and although the red flowers of the Swamp Bottlebrush were indeed pretty, we had already seen a lot of this flower over the last two days and they didn't provide any respite from the increasingly hot weather and scorching UV rays.


Crossing Deeside Coast Road served as another landmark as it meant we only had 8.6 kilometres to go.


Immediately after the crossing, we entered an area with a number of particularly tall Kingia visible on either side of the track. The area also featured a few taller Jarrah trees to provide a bit of shade.


The shade would not last long however, and we once again found ourselves out in open plains.


Taking away the heat element, I could imagine this area being quite enjoyable, as the wildflower display was fairly exceptional and would only be more beautiful in late Spring.


Leaving the plains, the track rises up near a large granite outcrop without actually taking walkers near it. The soils in the area transitioned away from the sandy soils of the plains to Laterite-rich soils similar to those found in the Northern Half of the Bibbulmun Track. Unsurprisingly, the forest here immediately reminded us of Kalamunda and the sections of the track through the Darling Scarp.


Immediately after the brief sojourn into Darling Scarp-style forest, the track descends to pass through more open plains. The soils here were actually a bit damp compared to the dry appearance of the plains earlier in the day, suggesting that this area is likely to become inundated later in the hiking season. At the end of the plains, Alissa and I turned onto Dog Road - the far from thrilling home stretch to Dog Pool campsite.


For over 5 kilometres, walkers are subjected to one of the most boring road bashes of the the Bibbulmun Track. The Bibbulmun Track frequently uses a lot of old roads and railway formations to link up section of dedicated walk track, however they are rarely broad, two lane roads that stretch onwards for over an hour. Almost 1/6th of the day was spent travelling along this painfully dull road, and totally marred a day that started out well as something of a letdown. I wondered if it was just the bushfire recovery that had ruined the area, however Jamie Dillon - who blogged his End to End in 2011 - had similar thoughts about this stretch, commenting that 'a very long slog up a boring old road (5.6km) made for an uninspiring finish'.


We were thus utterly relieved when we arrived at Dog Pool campsite. Long regarded as one of the best hut locations along the track, the campsite was largely destroyed by the fires of February 2015, with the rebuild of the hut and toilet having only been completed a few weeks before our visit. The hut is the same fantastic design as the one at Gardner, however of greater note is the even more amazing toilet located up a slope and overlooking the campsite. Much more spacious than the tiny wooden toilets common to most of the track, the toilet is so huge it even features a railing to help those with mobility issues use the facilities as well as a shelf just beyond it to place belongings. Even at this early stage, it has already gained a reputation for being the Taj Mahal of campsite toilets!


Although the area around the hut looks a lot more open than it did prior to the fire, Dog Pool is still a fantastic campsite thanks to the cascades and pool nearby.


Exploring the area further downstream, it became clear that the pool is a result of a small dam having been put in place. Due to a number of submerged trees just beneath the surface, Alissa and I decided not to take a dip into the main pool and instead cleaned our clothes and cooled off by sitting in the smaller pools near the bridge. After the combination of uncomfortable heat, foot pain and the terribly boring walk along Dog Road, the waters provided great relief.


After cooling off, Alissa and I relaxed in the new hut before we heard the voices of three walkers coming our way. The trio of hikers had come from Mt Chance, and two of them were doing the last bit of the track that they had left before completing their sectional End to Ends of the Bibbulmun. Although we had hoped to have the campsite to ourselves, it was nice to get some info about what to expect the next day as we headed towards Mt Chance. Incidentally, one of the three hikers was the designer of the suspension bridge that will replace the Long Gully Bridge between Dookanelly and Possum Springs. Having seen the suspension bridge near One Tree Bridge, I asked him if he that was one of his bridges as well.
"No, I didn't design that one," he said, pausing briefly before quipping, "but mine's longer".


Lake Maringup to Dog Pool was a bit of a mixed day. Things started out so well at Lake Maringup, with a lovely sunrise and walking through the Karri forests to start the day, and the first few kilometres featured much of the same diversity we had witnessed the day before. Unfortunately, the second half of the day featured some fairly unengaging walking culminating in the horribly boring last five kilometres along Dog Road to Dog Pool. Although Dog Pool is a fantastic location, I have to wonder what the creators of the track were thinking in choosing the route to the hut as I cannot see how anyone could see broad, two lane roads as being excellent for a walker's experience. One hopes that a future 'Building an even better Bibbulmun Track' project will one day look at creating a single file walking track instead of following the road to improve the walking experience. For now, this is a flawed hut to hut section of the Bibbulmun; there are some lovely moments early on, but it is very much let down by one of my least favourite stretches of walking along the Track. 

2 comments:

  1. Hi Guys, I'm enjoying your Bibbulmun adventures, the huts look very impressive compared to our facilities here in Victoria. Shame about the road bash but I suppose it's a matter of cost, cutting single track can get pretty expensive I'd imagine - especially up to Bibbulmun standards.....still it's hot work slogging along an unshaded dirt road in warm weather carrying a big pack.

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    1. Cheers Kevin!The huts are definitely impressive and world class - it really makes the Bibbulmun a very inviting track. I'm surprised that the three-sided shelter that you can sleep in hasn't become the standard for newer walks like the Great Ocean Walk and the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail.

      Unfortunately the next day's road bash was even worse - it is my least favourite stretch of the Bibbulmun Track!

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