Day four of my 16-day/335km section hike from Northcliffe to Albany on the Bibbulmun Track
Terrain: Mostly flat, some overgrown sections.
I woke up at Dog Pool to the sight of an assortment of miniature Easter eggs arrayed around the shelter. The Easter
Bonny Bunny had paid a visit in the night! A dozen or so of them complemented my usual breakfast of oats pretty well, especially washed down with hot cocoa. Did I mention I’m a sweet tooth?
With only a short day’s walk ahead of us, I took some extra time to do some stretches before we set off. I’d been conscious of my tendency for occasional knee pain since we left Northcliffe four days earlier, and I wanted to make sure it didn’t surface. A minor strain in my upper back was also begging for a foam roller, but a ball loaned to me by Carla the night before had been a good substitute.
My knee pain is caused by patellofemoral syndrome, where the knee cap (patella) doesn’t track correctly in its groove, causing it to rub against the side. It’s a pretty common problem, and is often caused by an overly-tight illitobial band on the outside of your leg. On the advice of my physio, I’d been regular stretching and rolling out the IT band for weeks before this hike, and was also working on developing my glutes and hip muscles to improve my stability.
If you suffer from knee pain and haven’t been to a physio, do yourself a favour and go see one. I can strongly recommend Floreat Physio in Perth, where I was quickly diagnosed and put on a management plan without being pushed to do more follow-ups than were necessary. Anyway, on to the hike.
We’d heard from Carla and others that the water tank at Mt Chance was dry, which meant we needed to carry a two-day supply of water from Dog Pool. Water is probably the heaviest item on most hikers’ packing lists, and carrying nearly six litres definitely made me feel every step a little bit harder. Thankfully, it was a pretty easy day’s walking.
From Dog Pool shelter, the track continues southbound on Dog Road before turning right onto another wide dirt road (Marron Road) after about a kilometre. We spent the next 10 kilometres following Marron Road and other vehicle tracks through some fairly unremarkable bush before they spat us out into the Pingerup plains, which were stunningly beautiful. The track in this section is mostly a two-foot-wide strip of sandy soil carved through the foliage, which is prolific.
The area is low-lying and inundated for many months of the year, clearly making it tough for track maintenance volunteers to keep the fast-growing prickly hakeas at bay. The spiky bushes aren’t fun to walk into but they don’t irritate the skin, so it was just a matter of pulling my hat over my face and charging through. Every now and then the track would leave the plain and enter one of many islands of jarrah forest dotted around the Pingerup plains. The taller trees provided me with some welcome shade on the warm afternoon, but it was always short-lived as the track would invariably spill out onto the plains once again.
Eventually the track reached a more substantial patch of forest, rising to meet a granite outcrop where we stopped for a late lunch on a fallen log. From there we followed the track back into the plains, around Mt Chance and along a spur trail to the shelter.
I immediately decided it was one of my favourite campsites on the track. The old wooden shelter is nestled in stand of mighty karri trees, with the looming figure of Mt Chance serving as the backdrop.
After dinner, Bonny and I climbed the mount to take in the sunset. It’s only a short scramble up some steep granite to the top, but the views are outstanding. We could see much of the ground we’d covered during the day, including the plains and the many forest islands. Watching the canopies of the karri trees turn gold in the fading light was simply spectacular. What a perfect way to end the day.