Tall Timbers, Rushing Rivers and a Date with the Devil's Butthole


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September 25th 2021
Published: September 30th 2021
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White Water WildernessWhite Water WildernessWhite Water Wilderness

Beedelup Falls, with David and Teresa enjoying the view
After enjoying a day-and-a-half of rest and relaxation at the wildlife utopia of Donnelly River Village, I endeavoured to leave on Monday morning (20th September) only to find myself lingering as I passed mobs of kangaroos lazing about in the sunshine on the front lawns of the local houses; and then when I finally did manage to turn out of the main street I encountered the same male emu I had seen on each of the previous two days, still faithfully shepherding his four youngsters from one grazing spot to the next. It wasn't hard to see the attraction of this remote hideaway in the midst of the karri forest, for both animals and humans alike - even if I couldn't approve of the visiting families feeding the tame wildlife (which consists mostly of kangaroos, wallabies, emus and parrots). Nevertheless, it's comforting to know that places like this still exist, where parents can take their kids knowing that computer screens and televisions are always going to run a distant second to the thrill of encountering 'friendly' wildlife in close proximity - and not just because there's no phone reception or internet access available! Long may that remain the case.

If
Feathered FamilyFeathered FamilyFeathered Family

Male emu chaperoning his four chicks at Donnelly River Village
I expected my pace to quicken once I finally escaped the village and returned to the forest, then it soon became apparent this would not be the case - partly because the towering karri trees were too impressive to simply walk past without giving a second glance; and partly because my tortured toe was giving me more grief with each passing day. I resolved to slow down and set a more leisurely pace for myself, but unfortunately this would turn out to be a mistake, as my unfamiliar gait resulted in me walking with a slight limp... which I later blamed for the emergence of a new blister on the outside edge of my left foot. Having committed to resting up for as long as necessary to allow my toe to heal once I arrived in Pemberton, I still had to actually make it the 108km over the next five days to get there... and at this early stage, my chances of doing so weren't looking good!

Thankfully the section started off with a relatively short day of just 16km on mostly gentle terrain, as the Track followed the Donnelly River upstream for a short time, before looping around
Like a Forest of MatchsticksLike a Forest of MatchsticksLike a Forest of Matchsticks

Karri forest high on the slopes of the Donnelly River Valley
and rejoining the river in a downstream direction. As it turned out we would continue to follow this river for the next 60km - though the going was destined to get considerably tougher over the coming days. After hauling myself up the only significant climb for the day, the Track proceeded to contour it's way high above the river on a hillside covered in glorious karri forest. And then after just on four hours of part-walking and part-limping, I reached the campsite shelter at Tom Road, whose name reflects nothing of the quality of the location! It truly was a delightful setting in which to pass the rest of the afternoon and evening, with the campsite shelter looking directly out towards a tranquil pool formed by a bend in the Donnelly River, while a majestic karri tree soared skyward immediately behind the shelter, with all manner of birdlife dropping by throughout the afternoon.

Unsurprisingly the dawn bird chorus the following morning was particularly impressive, and I was glad I had set my alarm for 6am - though in truth this was simply to give me more time to walk the 24km through to the next campsite, due to the
Soaring SkywardSoaring SkywardSoaring Skyward

Giant karri directly behind the shelter at Tom Road campsite
possibility of my toe giving me further grief. This was a source of some anxiety for me, as I was worried that if things got any worse I would be forced to simply endure the next four days, rather than actually enjoy them - and it is this distinction that has always driven my decision-making process when it comes to outdoor adventures. Thankfully I seemed to have done a better job of wrapping my injured digit the previous evening, as right from the outset I felt considerably less discomfort than I had the day before. I also managed to leave the shelter at Tom Road (my new favourite campsite on the Bibbulmun Track!) at 8:30am, which was just half-an-hour behind David & Teresa - with whom I had been reunited after first meeting them at Harris Dam campsite eleven days earlier - and only twenty minutes behind the three older ladies (Jo, Judith and Erica) who had also joined us, after starting out on a two-week sectional hike from Donnelly River Village that morning. Along with Chris - who I'd had for company between Collie and Balingup - it seemed we would be forming a party of seven for the
Rapid-Studded RiverRapid-Studded RiverRapid-Studded River

Scenic views over the Donnelly River
full five days on this next section of the Track.

After leaving the gloriously located campsite at Tom Road the trail continued to follow the sinuous curves of the Donnelly River for virtually the entire day. And with the sun shining overhead and the temperature hovering in the low-twenties for much of the day, the conditions could not have been any better for a scenic riverside walk. My first detour of the day was a lap around the campground at Greens Island, where the river arcs around in a 300° bend, almost completely enclosing the campground. From there it was only a short distance to the delightfully peaceful One Tree Bridge picnic area, where a red-winged fairy wren could be seen flitting around as I cooked my lunch in the shade. I then took the opportunity to add on a 2km return side-trip to the Four Acres, where four enormous 70m high karris stand side by side in a perfectly straight line.

From back at the picnic area a dual-use suspension bridge led across the Donnelly River once more, and from there the Track continued south along a series of old railway formations, which as always provided pleasant
The sign says it allThe sign says it allThe sign says it all

The halfway mark on the Bibbulmun Track
walking. Two-thirds of the way through the day I reached a significant milestone on my Bibbulmun Track journey - the halfway point! I had by now covered the same distance (501km) from Kalamunda as I still had yet to go to Albany - though admittedly the halfway point of my CURRENT walk on the Track would not arrive until I made it past Pemberton. Leap-frogging the trio of older ladies throughout the day, I once again stopped for a break beside a section of river where rocky outcrops created some impressive rapids, before passing the three ladies for the final time not far from the crossing of Boarding House Bridge, which consists of a single felled karri tree whose trunk stretches for over 40 metres across the Donnelly River. A couple of minutes later I arrived feeling triumphant at the Boarding House campsite shelter. My worries had been alleviated - not only had my sore toe caused less problems than the day before; but this had turned out to be my favourite day's walk of the whole Track so far!

Rising early again the following morning, I couldn't help noticing that our band of seven followed almost exactly the
One Tree BridgeOne Tree BridgeOne Tree Bridge

Boarding House Bridge, made from a single felled karri
same starting order as the day before: this time Chris was first out at 8am on the dot; followed by David & Teresa five minutes later; then the three ladies another five minutes later; with me bringing up the rear at 8:30. If this was a handicap race, then I fancied my chances of 'winning'... though it could equally be argued that there would be no winners on this particular day, for this stage contained sections that had variously been nicknamed the 'Donnelly River Roller-Coaster', the 'Hills of Death', and the 'Devil's Butthole'! This last feature consisted of a 125m descent in just 500m of trail (at a gradient of 1:4) to cross a small creek, followed immediately by a climb up the other side that if anything was even steeper! Passage after passage in the comments book at the previous night's campsite had been devoted to extolling the virtues (or decrying the difficulties) of this particular stretch of trail; and even the usually understated guidebook had warned walkers to 'engage trekking poles and make use of any jet boosters' at this point.

In any case, the trail started out gently enough as it contoured high up on the
River, Road, ForestRiver, Road, ForestRiver, Road, Forest

Chris contemplating the view from a road bridge across the Donnelly River
slopes of the Donnelly River Valley, before dropping down to cross the river on a gravel road (where I passed Chris) that then climbed straight up a ridge on the other side. Not far after this I spotted my second tiger snake in the space of 24 hours sunning itself in the middle of the track, and a little further on I caught a glimpse of another snake of indeterminate species vacating the track ahead of me. But all too soon I arrived at the crux of the route, where switchbacks led steeply down towards the 'Devil's Butthole'. Stopping for a rest, a drink of water, and an energy bar beside the bridge at the bottom, I steeled myself for what was to come... and then forged my way up the ridiculously-steep vehicle track on the other side, reminding myself as I went that the faster I climbed, the sooner it would be over.

About three minutes into my ascent an older lady passed by from the opposite direction, warning me that I may want to take my time due to the steepness of the terrain. It would seem she was only too happy to take her own advice,
Deep in the Devil's ButtholeDeep in the Devil's ButtholeDeep in the Devil's Butthole

Taking a breather before tackling the steepest climb of the Track so far
as later in the day I found out from David and Teresa that they had already been sitting back enjoying a cup of tea beside the bridge by the time the lady in question arrived... despite the fact that they were a full 10-15 minutes behind me! Despite tackling the climb at the hottest part of the day I managed to knock off the steepest section (which was sadly bereft of switchbacks) in just ten minutes; and after a brief pause to get my breath back it was only another five minutes before I reached the top - having risen close to 200m in less than a kilometre! As the Track finally took a sharp right turn and proceeded to contour it's way along the upper slopes of the valley, I searched in vain for a stump, log, or anything at all that I could slump down onto for a rest, but to no avail. So I simply staggered on for another twenty minutes until I finally spotted a large fallen log in the bush just off the Track, at which point I took off my pack and lay back in the sun for ten minutes, hoping to dry my
Lunch of ChampionsLunch of ChampionsLunch of Champions

Enjoying the spoils of my labours at Beavis campsite
now sweat-drenched clothes in the process.

Having by now only another 6km to go to the next campsite, I shouldered my pack once more and pounded out the remaining kilometres, before stripping off the moment I arrived at the Beavis campsite and taking a quick cooling dip in the small dam directly in front of the shelter. It might not have qualified as a swim - the water was murky and the banks consisted of decomposing leaf litter - but it was the first time I had managed to immerse myself in any body of water in more than 500km on the Bibbulmun Track; and with the temperature having topped out at 26° it was welcome nonetheless. And by high-tailing it through the 21km stage in just five hours I had earned myself the better part of an afternoon off, allowing me to sit back, relax and rest my weary feet. This was even more necessary as the dressing wrapped around my injured fourth toe had by now started rubbing some of the skin off my middle toe - the accumulated injuries on my left foot were starting to mount up!

After following the Donnelly River for the
Communal CampfireCommunal CampfireCommunal Campfire

Chris, David & Teresa enjoying some down time around the fire
best part of three days, the Track finally climbed up and out of that valley soon after entering Beedelup NP, with yours truly once again trailing my companions out of the campsite by a respectable distance. The weather had also changed, with the sunshine and warmth of the preceeding days being replaced by a sullen blanket of grey with the odd light shower and significantly cooler temperatures. But the undulating nature of the trail hadn't changed, as we continued to climb up and over a procession of ridges and spurs - though thankfully we were spared the all-out assault on our leg muscles of the previous day.

Having being joined by David and Teresa for lunch on a little footbridge across Carey Brook - just metres from the lip of a small waterfall that dropped into a lovely plunge pool below - we eventually continued onto the scenic centrepiece of the National Park: Beedelup Falls. With numerous viewpoints and a narrow suspension bridge offering multiple different angles from which to enjoy the spectacle of Beedelup Brook splashing down the face of a rock slab tilted at a 45° angle, this was fitting reward for the 20km we had walked
Scenic Lunch BreakScenic Lunch BreakScenic Lunch Break

Footbridge over Carey Brook
to reach it. And better still we only had another twenty minutes of walking ahead of us before we reached the serene Beedelup campsite, perched just metres away from it's namesake brook, where we were joined by a woman walking just a 5-day section of the Track in the opposite direction.

With a second blister having by now formed on the outside of my foot, the last thing I needed was a long final day into Pemberton; but unfortunately that's exactly what transpired, as the 25km walk was the longest single stage I had tackled to this point! Not surprisingly it would turn out to be my least comfortable day so far - though given that I had now walked over 250km since I first encountered problems with my foot, I really couldn't complain about a little discomfort now that I would finally have the chance to rest and recuperate for as long as necessary.

Leaving the campsite beside Beedelup Brook, I began the daily pursuit of my fellow hikers along quiet forestry tracks, before passing the three older ladies half-an-hour in as we crossed private pastureland belonging to a nearby farm. From there a combination of old
Shelter from the ElementsShelter from the ElementsShelter from the Elements

The shelter at Beedelup campsite
railway formations and purpose-built walking trail led onwards through the bush until I emerged at the Big Brook Arboretum, where a surprisingly small number of foreign species (I counted just five!) were dotted amongst the native forest. Stopping for lunch at the one and only picnic table, I ended up cutting my stay short so that I could warm up back out on the trail. Barely twenty minutes later I passed David and Teresa, who had put their lightweight camp chairs to good use and stopped for lunch by the shores of Big Brook Dam.

As I pressed on down the Track my attention had already turned to the comforts and convenience that would be awaiting me in Pemberton, and as a result the final few kilometres turned into quite a boring trudge - though it didn't help that I was following 4WD tracks for most of the way... or that when I did finally find myself on walking trails on the outskirts of town, I was taken on a circuitous route that seemed to deliberately dance around the edges of Pemberton before finally leading in to the main street. With both the local backpackers hostel and Pemberton YHA
Nature's Swimming PoolNature's Swimming PoolNature's Swimming Pool

Dammed section of Lefroy Brook in Pemberton
having closed down, the only budget option in town was a single room that the owner of Pemberton Backpackers kept open for Bibbulmun Track walkers. So I wasn't the slightest bit surprised to find both Chris (who hadn't stopped for lunch) and Tyler (who had arrived the day before) already ensconced when I arrived.

Nor was I surprised to find that while the room was comfortable enough, the state of the kitchen left plenty to be desired. For the vast majority of walkers this wouldn't be an issue, as they would only be spending a night or two in town and would presumably be planning to eat out anyway; but given that I was anticipating being laid up for a week or more, the lack of a clean kitchen was less than ideal. As was the total absence of atmosphere. The final straw was the location: right down near the bottom of the main street, so that to get anywhere in town I had to hobble uphill. This was inconvenient enough in itself, but when I then had to squeeze my sore foot back into shoes and hobble uphill to the local pub to watch the AFL Grand Final
Time to RelaxTime to RelaxTime to Relax

The main street in Pemberton
on my second evening in town - then limp back downhill after the game - my mind was made up. I would rest up for as long as it took my foot to heal, but not in Pemberton!

One thing the place did offer that Donnelly River Village hadn't was a WiFi signal, so that I was able to check the weather forecast for the coming week. I couldn't help but smile at what I saw: seven straight days of rain! This was actually a blessing of sorts, as I had wondered whether I would have the patience to sit out an entire week if the weather had been favourable. But looking at that forecast, I suspected that even had I been at full health I might have chosen to take a break from the Track! On the other hand, it would also mean that even more water was about to be dumped on the already saturated Pingerup Plains, so that even once the weather did clear up it might take weeks for the excess water to drain away. Still, that was a problem for future me to worry about. For now I simply needed to find somewhere nice
Time to RecoverTime to RecoverTime to Recover

The sad state of my tortured toe after the 110km march to Pemberton
to stay while I waited out the rain and gave my long-suffering foot a break. So I made the decision to relocate to Denmark, about 150km away to the southeast, where the tiny little 20-bed YHA - better known as the Blue Wren Travellers Rest - garnered rave reviews for it's cosiness and intimate atmosphere. I might be laid low for the week; but at least I was going to be comfortable.


Additional photos below
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Going BushGoing Bush
Going Bush

Southbound trailhead at Donnelly River Village
River CrossingRiver Crossing
River Crossing

There was almost as much water on the bridge as there was underneath it!
Tranquil ViewsTranquil Views
Tranquil Views

View of the Donnelly River from Tom Road campsite
A Home Among the Gum TreesA Home Among the Gum Trees
A Home Among the Gum Trees

The shelter at Tom Road campsite
Stoking the FlamesStoking the Flames
Stoking the Flames

Putting the fire pit to good use at Tom Road


8th October 2021
One Tree Bridge

WOW
What a bridge.

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