Impacts of Long Distance HikingIt’s 14 September 2018 and my Bibbulmun Track journey is over having finished yesterday morning at around 11:30am. It’s 6:00am as I write this and I feel like I’m at a bit of a loss. I should be getting ready to hike but I realise again that the trip is over. Editing and uploading the podcast today will provide my hiking fix at least for the day.
I see my wife tomorrow for the first time in over five weeks. We’ll be in Perth for a few more days and I plan on taking Gill out for a short 8km hike on the Bib to one of the nearby huts to show her what the track is like and to provide her with a frame of reference for when I rabbit on about this track over the coming months and years.
Today is the final post in this series and I just wanted to pass on a few final bits of information.
First and foremost I want to thank everyone for their support and their kind messages over the past five weeks; this includes those hikers on their own journey whom I met on the track. There is so much to like about the Bibbulmun Track and the people rank highly in this regard.
Where to next? Later on today I will be releasing the last of the on-trail podcast episodes when episode 80 goes live. This episode will cover my journey from Dwellingup to Kalamunda. Included as part of the episode is a series of interviews I conducted with other hikers, a brief review of the track towns, and one final mention of little but very important piece of trail infrastructure that I neglected to discuss in last weeks episode.
Over the next two weeks I will be releasing two final episodes on my adventure. Episode 81 will be an ’expectations versus reality’ discussion where I talk about my trip overall and compare my expectations prior to the trip to what actually happened. The following week in 082-Bibbulmun Track gear wrap up I will be discussing the equipment I used on the trip and how it performed. This will include a downloadable list for those who are interested. After that it will be back to our regular podcast publishing schedule.
In addition, I will be doing two written articles on this trip. The first will be a full write up of my trip including photos, overall statistics, and key information on the track. The second will be the physical impact of long distance hiking once I have the test results in about what impact five weeks of hiking had on me. This has been something that has been done in the USA but to the best of my knowledge hasn’t been done in Australia before.
If you have any questions on my experiences on the track please don’t hesitate to get in contact. In the mean time sayonara, and a very big thank you.
It’s the 36th day since I started my journey on 9 August 2018 on the Bibbulmun Track (this post is day 37 as I’ve included my original travel day to get to Albany). I wake up after a sleep in and today for the first time the realisation I will finish the track today hits me. I have spent the last five weeks living the Bibbulmun Track and this adventure is far longer than the two week stints I have done previously in various locations and even the length and timeframe makes a difference. I have always found on a two week trip that I spend the first week unwinding and then the second week thinking about work the following week. With five weeks there is only the track; I have pretty much lived the track for this period.
I get up and go through a familiar routine I have used for many years. I start the day the same way, and it’s one foot in front of the other; left right, repeat. In fact since I’ve started this journey I’ve taken 1,509,700 steps with my biggest day being just a smidge over 44km. For the last few days my body has told me that it’s time to stop, but not today. Today my body is quiet, it knows I won’t believe it given that it’s the shortest day on the track; it’s now a mental game. I only have just on 10km to do but I’m slow to get away from camp leaving at around 8:20am after chatting to the couple who were there last night.
This is my latest start since the first day and the realisation this is my last day is slowing me down. I want to spend more time on the track, this familiar thing in my life and this 10km will turn out to be the slowest of the whole trip.
Apart from the late getaway I stop after 10 minutes to record a video. This is something I have been doing every day but today it’s a delaying tactic. The emotion hits me and after 12 attempts to record what I want to say the emotion is getting to me each time so I give up and move on and try again. I manage to record my video, upload it and press on. Just on 2.5km later I reach the Camel Farm and ‘oh look they sell icecreams’ so I have another excuse to stop.
I finally press on deciding that the trail designers have a sadistic bent as I approach the final steep descent then another final steep ascent to reach the northern terminus that signifies the end of the trail. The ascent poses no problem but again it’s careful steps going down as the last thing I want is to roll an ankle in the final few kilometres as it’s wet (it’s been raining) and rocky.
And finally at 11:30am I reach the northern terminus; my journey is finished. There’s elation but also a sense of sadness that this trail which has been my life for the past five weeks is now done. I have read about the mixed emotions from other long distance hikers who blog and now I’ve experienced it first hand.
I head to the visitor centre which is just down the road and sign off in the trail book and ring the ceremonial bell which signifies my journey end and I’m now back in blogging mode recording the sound for use in the podcast. At this stage I feel at a bit of a loss. Is this it?
I arrange a taxi and head to a friend’s place which is a godsend. It allows me to strip off the grimey clothing I have been wearing for the past five weeks and have a long shower. By this stage it’s nearly 2:00pm and I’m starving so I head down to the local shops for lunch. I’m also trying to find a barber to loose all the hair. I’ve never had a beard or moustache in my life, partly from my family genetics that provide me with the world’s slowest facial hair but also because I like to be clean shaven. I end up getting an Uber (my first) to a nearby suburb to a barber. There’s nothing like a shave with a cutthroat razor to make you feel clean. I now look closer to what I did when I started, minus some weight. It’s back to my friends for a curry dinner and some socialising which is greatly appreciated.
It’s now nearly 11:30pm as I finish this post. To some extent I’ve been hiding from social media today but finally a sense of normalcy returns and it’s time to tidy up the details. Tomorrow I have a podcast to edit and publish and just one final daily post.
It’s an early start this morning and I’m not feeling guilty about the noise as one of the other hikers is also getting up early. It was the coldest night of the entire trip last night and for the first time I can see the lights of Perth on the horizon so I know the end is near.
The sunset last night was a parting gift from the trail and the sunrise this morning was also pretty special so I’m going to have to vote Waalegh campsite as my favourite of the trip. I wasn’t originally planning on staying there but I’m glad I did. The views from the toilet if you leave the door open are also pretty inspiring (the views out at least).
I’m trying to make it to the Mundaring Weir Hotel for lunch so I plan to leave Waalegh campsite at 6:30am which will be my earliest start of the whole trip if I can pull it off. Again I fail to meet my self imposed timeframe and I’ll blame my wife for this as she calls just before 6:30am and I get away at 6:45am after saying goodbye to my camp mates.
First stop on today’s walk is the Helena campsite which burnt down earlier this year. I can see down to the campsite and it looks like they’ve cleared all the rubble away but it was hard to be sure. Helena is in the middle of a large burnt out area and the hiker who was evacuated just before the hut went up was very lucky as there would’ve been nowhere to go. I don’t mind the burnt areas as it is all part of the natural cycle and I love seeing the new growth come to life. For those orchid lovers it also makes them easier to spot when they don’t have to compete with other growth but this will change soon enough with a bit more warm weather.
I press on to Ball Creek campsite and it is not a bad little campsite very open and spacious which is a good as it’s the main stopping point with Helena gone. Two other hikers turn up a few minutes after me and after a quick chat I head off. In total I pass six other hikers today and including one of my camp mates from last night there will be seven at Balls tonight.
I reach Mundairing Weir Hotel at around 12:45pm and eat up big. The food is excellent but I feel a bit bloated eating greasy food after a relatively healthy diet over the past five weeks. For some reason I’ve discovered mandarins over the past few months and while I’ve always liked them, I’m now craving them so I am looking forward to some fresh fruit and vegetables tomorrow. I’m staying with friends for the next two nights and have been promised a curry tomorrow night which will be very well welcome.
After having lunch with a fellow hiker who I meet at the hotel, and who is starting his journey, I leave the hotel just before 2:00pm and head on to Hewetts campsite for the night. I arrive at around 3:40pm and potentially could reach Kalamunda at around 6:15pm but I prefer to finish during the day. Besides there’s rain forecast for tomorrow and why not finish the same way I started; I’ll see how that works out.
The terrain today is uppy and downy but nothing strenuous. It’s still the loose rocks and those damp giant gum nuts that make for treacherous footing so I take my time. I come across four trailrunners this morning and do a double take when I see one of the runners twice. He has gone around the mountains while I have gone over but he still makes me feel like I’m standing still.
I’m still not sure how I feel about finishing and I don’t really think I will know until it happens. For me there was never a doubt that I was going to finish and for me this is about the personal achievement factor and just being in the moment (for five weeks) it will be interesting to see how I feel tomorrow. As I’ve said previously, my body has had enough and my energy reserves are depleted. This may have been different if I still had another week or two to go but I think physiologically it’s time. Today I taped both my heels as the spot on my feet where the callous meets soft skin hurts and the taping helps immensely. Learning how to tape my feet was the best thing I did prior to the start of my trip.
Two other overnight hikers turn up around 5:00pm and they are loaded down with all the luxuries including a portable DVD player. They don’t quite last the distance and are asleep before I finish this post.
It’s 7:30pm and time to get ready for bed. Last night on the trail! I have around 10km to go in the morning and expect to arrive in Kalamunda around mid morning.
A fitful sleep last night due in part to the noise of the nearby highway which was quite busy. I get up at around 5:30am, have breakfast and pack. I have just on 28km to do today out of the remaining 66km. The terrain is not too difficult today but it won’t be a fast day given I have under 30km to do. And my body is definitely feeling the trip will appreciate some shorter days.
I leave Brookton at 7:20am to what is forecast to be a rain free day. I hope so as I’ve put the dry socks on. I think if I did just two more weeks I’d be able to walk on water; anything to keep my feet dry.
I’m only 30 minutes out of camp and just cresting a small hill and find I have excellent signal so spend 30 minutes on the side of the trail doing social media and talking to my wife Gill.
The next camp along, Mount Dale, is only around 9km away and I pass four hikers on the way. Two doing a section hike and two doing an end to end heading south. I realise I have a conflict between hiking and podcasting as there is at least one hiker who would be happy to chat for an interview but all I can think of is getting to my campsite. This is a new conflict for me.
I drop into Mount Dale campsite to sign the book and take some photos and while the camp is OK it’s a weedy environment, not my favourite. I press on and after having lunch on the side of the trail I reach Beraking campsite. It’s a good little site and the views not bad. I had planned to stay here but the extra time I picked up yesterday means I’m pressing on to Waalegh.
Again I realise that these hikers I’m coming across have just started so when I ask about the terrain ahead I have to temper themanswers with what my experience of the track. My concept of hills and mountains is very different to that of WA locals and after nearly five weeks on the trail I’m supremely fit and power up these inclines. I also find that the new southbounders often ask me ‘how many kilometres did you walk?’ and can’t quite grasp the kilometres I have been doing.
The vegetation has changed and there is a lot more in flower than in recent days. Still no snakes yet and I only have two more days to go. The hard thing about this section are the downhill parts – not the slope but the rocky surface – that slows me down.
I arrive at Waalegh at around 4:15pm after a 28km walk and am very surprised. The image I’d seen of the hut doesn’t do it justice: While the hut is small and lacking in features when compared to the newer timber huts, it has breathtaking views of the sunset. This hut will definitely feature in my top five list I’ll compile at the end of the trip.
There are three other people at the hut tonight including a section hiker who was just ahead of me today as well as two southbound end to enders who started a few days ago. We’re all in bed by 7:30pm and I’m gearing myself up for a 6:30am start so I can reach Mundaring Weir Hotel for lunch. If I succeed this will be the earliest start of the trip so far.
I manage to get away from Mount Cooke just after 7:00am. My original plan was to stay at Canning campsite tonight but in an attempt to reach the Mundaring Weir Hotel for lunch on Wednesday I decide to make up some time either today or tomorrow and given that Hellena campsite is out of action today, it seemed the best choice. So instead of staying at Canning as planned I pushed through for a 38km day doing the extra 10.7km to reach Brookton. This means that tomorrow instead of staying at Bearking, I will instead reach Waalegh campsite which will make for a quicker day into Mundaring Weir on Wednesday.
Today was a harder day than yesterday with the trip to Monadnocks campsite requiring me to summit Mt Vincent and Mt Cuthburt in quick succession. Neither mountain was difficult but the tracks down required careful foot placement which slowed me down although I did reach Monadnocks in under four hours which wasn’t bad considering the terrain.
After filling in the hut book and taking photos, I pressed on to Canning. I only passed two other hikers, both southbounders, who knew who I was and after a quick chat pressed on. A bit different from the 18 hikers I saw yesterday. I’d given myself until 3:30pm to reach Canning if I was going to press on to Brookton and managed to reach there at 3:00pm.
The trip to Brookton was reasonably easy with no major hills so I reached the camp shortly before 6:00pm. I’m definitely noticing the days getting longer. What surprised me was that I’m alone tonight. I didn’t think I’d have a hut to myself for the rest of the trip.
Brookton is a rammed earth hut so I feel like I’m rattling around such a large area. I managed to get sopping wet feet today so may break out the dry socks tomorrow if it’s not raining. In the meantime I have everything hanging on hooks at the moment in an attempt to dry things out.
My body is definitely feeling this trip and it was a struggle to do a 38km day but having done so I only have around 65km to go to the finish the track. Potentially I could finish in two days but with Helena out of action I’m likely to take three days of shorter length to give my body a rest. I may change my mind but that’s the plan.
Today starts with a short journey off Track to the Three Ways Tavern. I had planned to drop in for breakfast before continuing on to Mt Cooke Campsite. I arrive just on 7:00am and am informed they can’t do a cooked breakfast until the cook arrives but they can’t tell me when the will arrive. So after a short wait I have a hot chocolate and some toasted Banana Bread and leave the cafe just after 7:30am. I had been looking forward to the cooked breakfast after hearing how good it was from other hikers but wasn’t willing to wait for an unspecified amount of time.
I head back to Gringer and then off to Nerang Hut. The terrain to Nerrang is very flat and I get there in 4 hours as I’m moving pretty quickly this morning – the sun is out and there is 0% chance of rain; hooray!
Today is Sunday and it’s busy on the track. Over the last four weeks I’ve forgotten what a weekend means and that people actually do things on the weekend. All up I come accross 18 people today, my busiest day yet. Of those hikers 11 are doing a weekend hike, three are climbing Mount Cooke as a day walk, and the remainder are hiking the Bibbulmun.
One of the hikers I meet just before Nerang tells me that ‘Mt Cooke tore him a new one’ and up until he did thatmclimb he had planned on doing annend to end but was now doing a section hike! I start to worry how difficult the climb will be and get diferent answers from the next two hikers I meet.
Mount Cooke finally comes into view and its half the height of my local mountain I climb four times a week and spent the last two months pack training with a full pack. It’s by no means the hardest climb I’ve had on this trip and I only stop once for a drink of water. I realise the comments about this climb had come from someone only a week into his trip. After four weeks on this hike my fitness is the best it’s been in years and my perspective on what’s difficult is very different to those just starting out. But I wouldn’t want to do this climb in the rain and walk over the large rock shelf near the summit as it would be very slippery.
The views from the summit aren’t great, in fact they are better from the lower peak. The only real indication you are at the summit is the rock cairn shown in this post.
The journey down the hill is slow as I test my footing as I go just to be on the safe side; my knees don’t like downhills. I arrive into the Mount Cooke campsite around 4:15pm and there is one other hiker there for the night which is now a rarity as I’m expecting reasonably packed huts on the remainder of my nights. I spend a few hours talking to Rick before heading to bed for a sleep around 9:15pm which is a late night for me.
I still working on how to pick up half a day over the next three days but will play it by ear. Tomorrow is an option but given its 100% chance of rain I may leave it until the next day with the forecast looking better.
It’s the start of day 32 and as of today I have just on 175km left to go on my Bibbulmun Track adventure. I had a good sleep last night in my ‘Harry Potter cupboard’ as another hiker nicknamed the small single sleeping room at the Mount Wells hut. It may have been small but it stayed toasty and warm all night even though there was a heavy mist outside.
I’m in no hurry to make a start today as I only have 31km (only!). But even after I dawdle a bit I get back on the trail at 7:30am. Today is by no means a difficult day even with the hills but what does make it hard is the terrain which requires me to think about food placement which is something that hasn’t really been an issue for the past five weeks so this slows me down.
I get to White Horse Hills campsite at 11:30am and there are already two hikers there just finishing a break as they journey from Gringer and head to Mount Wells. I feel like I’m slow today and I am. I past two other pairs of hikers on the way including one pair who knows who I am and has been listening to the podcast over the previous weeks. They introduce themselves and we chat about our respective trips. It sounds like Gringer was busy last night with six people staying there.
About 5km out from my destination another hiker approaches and it’s a bit confusing as he doesn’t appear to be carrying a pack. He says hello to me by name and introduces himself. It turns out it’s Steve Sertis from the Bibbulmun Track Foundation who was in the area and seeing where I was from my online tracking system has come to say hello. We walks back with me to Gringer and we chat all things Track.
There are four scouts staying at Gringer for the night who have been out on a training hike for an upcoming Cape to Cape walk at the end of this month. One of them is happy to chat with me for the podcast and they have been doing some big distances including night hiking over the past couple of days. They finish up tomorrow morning at three Ways Roadhouse which is where I’ll be heading for breakfast.
I discovered last night that the Mundaring Weir Motel doesn’t do dinner on the night I’m going through so I may alter my schedule and put in a bigger day the day before so I get there around lunchtime instead but I’ll work that one out tomorrow.
Internet access has been good all day and I’m finally managing to catch up on my posting. As I sit here doing this post someone is hunting in the distance and every so often I hear gunfire. This is not surprising given I saw eight wild pigs this afternoon. Up until today, I had only seen one.
First day back on the trail after my rest stop in Dwellingup. While the rest days have been good, allowing my body a chance to catch up on some much needed rest in particular my feet, I am finding that each time I stop it’s almost like starting a whole new trip. I find I need to get my head into the right frame of mind. Once I start walking again everything falls into place.
This is my last week of the hike with around 211km left to reach Kalamunda. Today’s 34.5km takes me down to under 180km so each day over this remaining week I will average around 30km with my last day into Kalamunda being the shortest. Today’s walk was relatively easy as the terrain on the most part was relatively flattish. While I expected the last section of today’s hike up to the campsite on the summit of Mount Wells to be difficult it was actually a pretty easy ascent. I came across a total of six hikers after I left Chadora, including two who are staying at Mount Wells who all said that the walk up the other side of the mountain was much more difficult so I’m thankful I got the easy option for once.
Mount Wells is an old fire watching station so is the only enclosed hut on the Bibbulmun having been repurposed rather than built from scratch. There are two sleeping rooms as well as an indoor kitchen seating area and at best you could sleep may 10-12 people but that would be a real stretch; five would be comfortable.
In talking to one of the hikers I passed today they said there was a mist that rolled in at night and this also occurred tonight before I started writing this post. This may also explain why it’s so cold up here compared to the rest of the track. Unfortunately the weather forcast is not great for the remaining week with rain, thankfully not much, being forecast for most of the days.
It’s actually noisy up here as the Bauxite mine I passed a few days ago is still nearby and you can hear works happening even from this campsite. It won’t stop me sleeping but it’s still in the background.
I spent this morning doing the podcast in between eating breakfast and lunch at the Blue Wren Cafe and then this afternoon starting to pack for the the walk to Mount Wells tomorrow morning. Then it was back at the hotel for a takeaway pizza dinner. I was a bit stunned that they still have skimpy barmaids in WA which would explain the large number of males in the Hotel this evening.
I think over the duration of today I have eaten the equivalent of three days worth of food on the trail which was sorely needed. My clothes which I washed yesterday have finally dried due to some creative use of the room heaters.
Tomorrow is my biggest remaining day of this trip at just over 36km as well as a climb up to the old fire watching station which is the only enclosed hut on the trail. Given that it’s a hard day I’ll be starting at 7:00am but this will provide for shorter days for the remainder of the week including a shortish day into Kalamunda on Thursday all things being equal.
Today I lingered at Swamp Oak as I only had around 12km to travel and couldn’t check in at the Dwellingup Community Hotel until midday. I ended up leaving at 8:30am in the rain and within about 30 minutes it was dry and time to remove the outerwear. Most of the trip was in clear skies but with the occasional shower heavy enough to require the rain gear.
I travelled just slowly covering this distance in a time that I would normally do around 18km. The terrain was good and not difficult with lots of ups and down but nothing like yesterday.
I time my arrival in Dwellingup to just before check in time so grab a quick Weiss Bar and Coke Zero (my junk food of choice) and head down to the Dwellingup Hotel. After checking in I have a shower and wash my clothes, and decide to check on my resupply box at the local post office. Thankfully it’s there – I definitely need my new insoles as my feet have been getting sore the last few days and I know it’s a time for a new pair.
I have lost more weight over the last fours days and have tightened my belt another 0.5cm. It’s time to fight back. I go to the Blue Wren for lunch and have some great zuchinni and holumi fritters, and then hit the tavern for dinner – I have my first curry in a month and it’s a cracker. Temperature and spicy hot, just how I like it.
I’ll eat up big tomorrow to fuel my up for my final run into Kalamunda over the next week and given the food on offer it won’t be hard.
I’m still losing weight so am eating up big in Dwellingup. The Dwellingup up Hotel does some great food so I opted for the Red Beef Curry; it was a good choice.