Below S Summit of White Horse Hills(100.5)-3mi/5km before Dwellingup(128.6)
Campsite Elevation: 650ft/198m
It rained lightly at 4:15am. I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t really. I was able to post the blog from my tent and get a couple things done before I started packing up. The clouds had thinned with mostly blue skies by the time I started walking thankfully. The forecast is for rain the next couple days and much of the coming week. After that gusting hard rain the other day, I’m a bit apprehensive about rain in the forecast. It seems that when it is forecasted, it’s a general window and it’s hard to tell if it will be spotted showers, hard rain all day, or just morning or afternoon rain. Maybe that’s because I’m close to the coast and maybe it’s less predictable here. It would be much easier if I knew what kind of rain to expect. Today was very light rain, so it didn’t make much of an impact on my day. I set off just before 7am and had pretty much the same trail and view most of the day in the forest. I started with a brief bit of blue skies.
The one viewpoint of the day was at the top of Mt Wells at one of the shelters. There is an old lookout tower that I was able to go halfway up, but the view was obstructed and it would’ve been cool to go up all the way. The shelter there is fully enclosed and that was unique for out here. It would’ve been nice to have been up there last night.
I got service up there and was able to call my mom while it was still her birthday in the US. I spent a good 20 minutes up top taking in the view and reading the logbook of other hikers. I saw that two women, who are doing a section going hut to hut, had camped there last night. That means they would be camping at the next shelter about 10mi away today. I had that shelter as a back up for a late lunch if the weather turned, which it did. I was coming down the gradual pass from Mt Wells when the rain started for the day. This is how the next three hours pretty much looked for me.
The temperatures are hovering in the upper 50s so it isn’t too bad, but with my less insulated body, I always tend to get colder when it’s wet out, and I don’t recover from it as quickly as most. I decided to keep moving and put my head down as I pushed to the shelter. I knew it would be a dry space, and I could hang there for awhile with the two women that would be there. I arrived at 1pm and had already completed 178mi/28.6km.
I had this day set up so that it would be an average day for me to hike and camp just before town so that I could take advantage a full day in town. I also wanted to have the option to go all the way into town tonight on a big day if the weather was really bad. The good news is that it wasn’t a terribly bad day. I’ve really been enjoying these relaxed days, and we all know I can hike the bigger mile days, but out here I don’t want to do that. There is no need to push it. In the US, I feel like most my hiking has been on a schedule, either a self-imposed, needing to keep a pace for trails with long gaps between resupplies, or pressure to complete a long thru-hike before foul weather came in the fall. It is pretty grand to have a trail that there is no schedule, and I can do it at whatever pace strikes me each day with the security that I can do the big miles if needed. Yes, I can do more challenging and bigger miles, but that doesn’t mean I have to. I do really enjoy walking and filling the day by walking, but it has been darn nice to not have an alarm for the first time in a long time. All summer on the high routes, my alarm was set for 5:05am to be walking by 6am. Out here, I sometimes don’t even wake up until after 6am. Yes, it is nice to do early morning walking, but it is also quite nice to relax and get up whenever my body naturally feels. In general, even my life outside of hiking affords me few of these days where I do not use an alarm. I tend to work 60hr weeks, working up to 7 days a week with a combination of substitute teaching and nannying. This relaxed schedule has been luxurious and heavenly. I cannot express how calming it has been.
I often struggle to keep a balance of work and play. I like to know that I have earned the time out here, and that I’m making the most of my days when I’m not working. It’s an interesting balance for me to feel like I’ve fully used a day without wearing myself out too much. On a sidenote, I do find it amusing that the only other American out here, (just a few days ahead of me) is attempting a yo-yo from one end to the other and back. So, essentially two end-to-end trips back to back. Us Americans and our silly need to push. Chances are I will see him either as I head south or once he turns around and heads back north again. I feel like it may be someone I would know. I feel like with the trails I’ve done over the last handful of years, I would maybe have crossed paths with someone interested in doing such a thing. His name is Mike in the logbooks and he is my age. Doesn’t ring a bell, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were few degrees of separation.
As I walked in the rain, I was infinitely thankful for the umbrella yet again. I’m so not losing this one! I finished Bill Bryson’s book on Australia and was quite entertained because he finishes the book in this area. It was cool to hear about it as I was walking through. I wanted to pick another book that would be light and entertaining, but not too long, so I chose “You Are An Ironman by Jacques Steinberg. It is a book about six people across the US who are training for their very first Ironman. It has been perfect for what I was looking for. A feel good book with some good life journey stories. By the way, one of my good friends recommended the Australian book, “Mutant Message Down Under” by Marlo Morgan. I cannot seem to get it in the US on audiobook, but saw it listed has an audiobook online at public library in Australia. Does anyone know how I could get an audiobook version of that book?
When I got to the shelter, I told myself I could hang out there until 3pm and still make my goal destination for tonight. The two women there, Tanya and Liz, we’re great company. They are both moms of young kids and work full time, so they make a point of getting out and doing parts of the Bib just to get their own time to reset. I think they were doing a five day section here. Soon, their kids will be old enough to do full sections and they will bring them out, but it has been a great respite for them to take it easy and go hut to hut and relax. Liz is even a caretaker of a section of trail that goes over Mt Cooke. She is almost done with her second end-to-end section hike of the Bib. As soon as the kids are old enough, or she gets the time, she will be out doing a full end-to-end all at once. Liz and Tanya saw a family of emus today! They even got to watch the little one run down the track as they hiked for awhile. Man, they were just two hours ahead of me. I was so close to seeing that! I saw a kangaroo today but again, no photo, dang.
It is great how this trail is so accessible for the full range of anyone interested. Again, I have to say how amazing the community and support for this trail is. They have had a lot of fires in the last few years and lost many shelters that seem to go right back up within the next year. You can tell this trail is well cared for and feel the community around it as you hike.
It rained on and off while I ate my lunch and dried out the tent. I was pretty hungry, so I also made one of the bonus Backcountry Cuisine dinners I got at a shelter a few days ago. Score! Right about 3pm, a window of no rain came, so I went for it.
Today’s rain really wasn’t that bad. It pretty much rained the majority of the day, but I would say that I am not wet. It was the kind of rain that you wanted rain gear for, but it was more of a light spray. I could hardly hear it hitting the umbrella or falling at all. As I finished the day, at 5:30pm, the skies cleared for a bit and I got blue skies. I decided to go ahead and walk so that I was closer to town. The forecast I have shows that it should be 100% raining starting at 7am tomorrow. I figure I will be walking in the rain, so I may as well get as close to town as I can while the skies are blue.
I think I found my new favorite tree here. I think it is called a Sydney blue gum. I don’t know that I will see it again. It was only in this short stretch near the railroad tracks that the track will now parallel going into town.
At the end of the day, the trail came off a wide road to follow the old railroad tracks on a thin trail with wet brush hanging over it. In just a minute of hiking, my legs and shoes were getting pretty soaked. It was ridiculous with the wide open road paralleling right next to the trail and tracks. I jumped onto the road. What a relief.
It was so dense with brush that I couldn’t find a flat campsite, and just after 6pm, chose a flat spot just off the road. I normally wouldn’t do that, but had no real other option other than the middle of the road. I’m here so late and leaving so early, no one will notice. I don’t even know if vehicles can drive on this road.
I am looking forward to tomorrow. I will walk into town just 3mi/5km and get breakfast. Then I’ll check in to my personal basic backpacker cabin (think very rustic) at the Dwellingup Caravan Park. I think I might go experience at least some of the football final, and I will even possibly try my first meat pie. The rain should be more consistent tomorrow and it will be in the low 50s, so I have been aiming for this day to be the day that I will take off and do a nero so that I am in town during the worst of it. Yes, it still looks like it will be raining half of the upcoming week, but it will be warming a bit and the rain won’t be as strong. I actually prefer this to hot weather, and I’ve heard that once the heat does come here, it can be quite hot. With this cooler weather I can carry less water and just feel more energized. I’ll take it! I’m going to sleep early tonight. The cold wet weather always wears me out quicker. I keep dozing off trying to write this.