South Coast Wilderness Walks 2021 Volume 4

July 18, 2021

FOREST OF THE ENTS: OLD-GROWTH KARRI/TINGLE FOREST

We’ve been doing a lot of coastal walking, and Brett wanted something special for his birthday yesterday. I pored over the Bibbulmun maps near Nornalup and found a likely section which met with HRH’s enthusiastic approval, in the rare remaining old-growth Karri/Tingle forest, the majority of which has historically been pillaged for timber. Most tourists go to a curated place on the South Coast called the Valley of the Giants. The Bibbulmun track is walkers-only and takes you to places you will meet very few if any people – because most modern people don’t want to get out of their cars and go for long walks. Bit sad, but given the human overpopulation, this makes for special experiences to those of us who like walking.

Karri forest has an understorey with a distinctive peppery smell that’s unique to this forest; it’s like being in a building filled with exotic incense. Walking in the Karri feels a little indoorsy, because you don’t see much sky and your footfalls are so muffled by the thick “carpeting” underfoot. Brett says these forests have a cathedral quality – with tall columns going way way up and the same sense of hush, and very similar light.

The sheer size of the older trees is jaw-dropping…

…and to think that this was once the norm in many forests, before human destructiveness took over post-industrialisation. 😢

You literally can’t get even a quarter of a tree like this into shot with a camera.

It’s like a Lilliputian experience.

These trees are hundreds of years old – typical life spans of Tingles exceed 400 years and they attain heights over 75m. Karris reach similar heights and live to 300+ years if people will let them, which they usually won’t. Old-growth trees are full of nesting hollows for birds and native marsupials.

Creek crossing…lots of water in the landscape as you’d expect from this incredibly wet winter, more on that later…

In the “cathedral”…and while these photos give the appearance of having been shot lying down looking up, this is in fact just  from face height walking along.

It’s very oooh-aaah… very Lord of the Rings, which was shot in New Zealand for a reason – there’s so few forests like this left in this world… NZ and Australia still have patches like this, though sadly, the vast majority of the forests even here have been either cut down entirely to make room for agriculture, or looted for timber.

Here’s an old eucalyptus tree (both Karri and Tingle are eucalypt species) hollowed out progressively by fire, which is one of the natural mechanisms for making animal shelters.

This is a close-up of a Karri trunk – no wonder it’s called Eucalyptus diversicolor

After a few kilometres, the Bibbulmun track joined up with a vehicle access track that was going to the famous Sappers Bridge, one of the few over the Frankland River and built largely with natural materials. We needed to cross that bridge to get to the other side of the river and up into the hills to our walking destination, the Frankland River camp site…

We came from the “X” at Boxhall Road and were going to head via the second “X” on the track map to the campsite, and then loop around and return on the riverside track (dotted red line) to check out the rapids en route – which would have been a nice long walk but alas…

Our birthday-person-on-his-birthday-walk, Brett, was laughing till he was bent double, and of the opinion that this sight compensated him for the walk being rudely cut short. 😄

He also said he “couldn’t get over it” bwahahaha, puns are such fun. 😜

I have been telling people for two months about how unbelievably wet this winter is. So here’s the Sappers Bridge all washed out, and they’re going to have to do repairs, because the road surface has been undercut and worn away so that the bridge has become inaccessible structurally, and not just because of current flooding. Typically for bloody-minded me, I was looking at the railings to see if a pedestrian could cheat their way across after all, but I’d have had to jump 2 metres across rapids to the edge of the bridge, onto the concrete base before clambering on the handrails etc, and of course I can’t jump 2 metres, and God only knows how many metres I’d have had to jump at the other end, plus we have a dog etc.

This was the view of the oncoming and outgoing water respectively:

If you’re wondering about the foam, it’s a natural phenomenon linked to the tannins in the water. When we got home we found that the bridge was first closed because the foam had made it impassable for vehicles – here’s an official picture of that:

So we can agree – that’s a hell of a lot of water running down the Frankland at the moment… 😵

Therefore we retraced our steps, but it was still a lovely walk back, plus of course we have 2.5 weeks off from Thursday and plan to do a lot of hiking on new-to-us trails. We’re planning to do that circuit walk properly when the waters recede – although that probably won’t be till September.

Brett thought it would be hilarious if I stood in front of a certain road sign partly obscuring its writing…

Backtracking…

When we got back on the proper foot-only trail, we found an uprooted old tree. Here’s a human for scale:

It’s such a fabulous forest.

The foreground giants are Tingle, the background white trees are Karri.

And then we were back where we’d parked.

We hope you’ve enjoyed your virtual Australian Ent-forest adventure!  😀

There’s a few more photos on Flickr directly as usual…but this time I’ve used most of them in the walk report because it was such a fantastic place…

July 25, 2021

SAND PATCH/GRASMERE

Yesterday there was enough interruption in the downpours to be able to have a decent 2.5-hour walk of about 10km through the dunes and along the clifftops of the Torndirrup peninsula coast. This is the twin of the Muttonbird to Grasmere return walk we did a fortnight ago, where we came into our turn-around point in Grasmere (Turbine 19) from the west. So this time we walked in from the east, from the entrance point at Albany Wind Farm.

There was drizzle on and off, but the wind chill was the biggest issue – we were walking between 11.30am and 2pm when temperatures peaked at 15 degrees Celsius but the wind had the apparent temperatures down to 1-2 degrees Celsius – and that was at the airport where such data is recorded; not out on the windiest edge of our wild coast, where the town’s 19-turbine wind farm is located. There it was brutal and certainly felt below freezing, but we’re equipped with outdoor thermals including gloves, and within 15 minutes of walking at a decent pace you’re fine, as long as you’ve got enough calories on board.

This is the view down the tourist lookout platform at the ocean, which was properly roiling not just with wind speeds peaking well over 50km/hour, but mostly from the long stormy fetch between the South Coast and Antarctica.

To see this on a photo doesn’t actually give you any idea, because it doesn’t quite give you the scale – everything about the coast is huge, so you feel like a tiny ant walking around. The cliffs tower, dunes are massive, ocean and sky are infinite, and the waves are enormous, with king waves known to exceed 10 metres in height and sweeping unwary anglers off the coastal rocks every year. Even the “ordinary” surf crashes into the cliffs with a force that makes the earth shake. We used to live a mile inland from Sand Patch and we could hear the waves thundering from there. Standing on the edge of the coast, you physically feel their force; in your ears, in your legs, in your ribcage.

On the South Coast, massive wind turbines with nacelles the size of buses and 35-metre blades look like children’s toys in the landscape, just as huge cargo ships entering King George Sound look like toy boats in a bathtub.

I post these walks in the “Happy Today Because…” topic because they make me happy. Not just the healthy exercise in ultra-fresh air, but being able to do that in this wild, majestic landscape, where you understand that the human species is not quite as clever and powerful as it likes to think it is. In view of the decidedly un-sapiens-ness of our species, it comforts me to know nature in the raw, and to know that it will still be here in some form when we’ve wiped ourselves and lots of other species off the planet with our un-sapiens-ness. (For more on that, see the last photo in this post.)

The coastal heathlands of the South Coast are a botanical wonderland – near-pristine pieces of ancient Gondwana and a world biodiversity hotspot. We oooh-aaah our way through this stuff even now, after decades of acquaintance. It’s like walking in a botanical garden, and the best kind – one not put in place by humans as a collection, but a place where staggering species diversity occurs naturally. Here at the edge of the world, you can get a pretty good idea of how life used to be before humans industrialised the planet, and you can mourn for what people have destroyed, and what they will yet destroy with their so-called progress. But eventually, by doing this, they will destroy themselves.

Wildflowers are beginning to come out in a steady stream that will become an explosion in spring.

These are Banksia flowers in varying degrees of expansion:

When their filaments first come out – between the two stages shown – Banksia flowers make a good “bushman’s compass” because they unfold on the north side first – facing the sun, here in the southern hemisphere. There are hundreds of Banksia species in Australia.

The Roaring Forties don’t just shape the waves, coastline, general landscape and vegetation here, they’re also pretty good for line-drying your washing on a winter’s day without actual precipitation – such as today; laundry day is also when I write up walking reports in-between tending to the twin tub (a hippie washing machine popular in Japan) and the line drying. 😜

Next is someone’s idea of a practical joke – carrying off the car park sign and placing it in an interesting spot, especially for car park directions:

Interesting car park indeed – and no, it wasn’t us; I prefer to prank people with ultra-realistic fake huntsman spiders. Humans are the deadliest species on the planet but recoil at something a thousand times smaller than them that has a lower chance of killing them than a flying champagne cork, and about the same level of interest. Look in the mirror and be afraid, people – not for yourselves, but for our fellow creatures and the planet. 😮

It’s just as ridiculous as all those stereotypical “hostile aliens coming to kill you” movies – don’t people love to project.

Brett with a Roaring Forties hairstyle:

See, Robert Smith could save so much hairspray doing it like this (with the slight inconvenience of having to remain on location). 😇

A tunnel of Banksias:

Slowly creeping up on the Grasmere extension (Turbines 14-19) – and creeping because I’d forgotten to have morning tea and it was now lunchtime. I’d been so full from breakfast I’d blithely only brought morning tea – fruit, peanuts, a slice of lemon meringue pie to share – but now I was full-on fantasising about a nice roast beef and cheese sandwich made with wholemeal mixed-grain home-made bread and a whole shrubbery of salad leaves, including Wasabi and Red Mustard (which are leaf varieties, if you grow heirlooms, which we do), slathered in whole-egg mayonnaise and dusted with freshly ground four-colour peppercorns, and with a dollop of home-made tomato sauce between the cheese and the beef.

Alas, I would have to wait until 3.30pm to get my jaws around one of those. Meanwhile, we had a snack break in which I attempted to re-fuel on peanuts and fruit. This did improve my walking speed again (but nowhere near when I’m walking after a good lunch with a cup of coffee in me – I can walk many hours on a good lunch and as I rarely have coffee, it increases my walking speed around 25% – woohoo).

Later on, we got to Turbine 19 and had another food stop – more peanuts and fruit and the lemon meringue, but my beloved husband also produced a surprise bar of chocolate I didn’t even know we had, because he’d bought it on the sneak and sequestered it away for an emergency (which he says he sees as being part of his job). Sadly, my body was screaming for a decent lunch and didn’t want chocolate, but I ate some anyway because I didn’t want to crawl home. Therefore we made a decent pace back.

These walks are one part of what our dog considers a perfect day: A drive in the broom-broom with outraged barking if we have to slow down, a lengthy walk preferably in new territory where she can say, “All of this is now mine!” with her frequent territorial marking (she’s an alpha female and actually lifts her leg to do this), another drive in the broom-broom surveying further opportunities for expanding her personal kingdom, and then a nice big dinner, after which she curls up between her pillows on her personal sofa, getting her belly rubbed by the Useful Monkey (a dog’s life indeed) while the Useless Monkey pontificates at her (“Where’s your dignity?” etc) and the Useful Monkey reminds him that he has precious little dignity himself when it is he who is getting his belly rubbed, etc, to which the Useless Monkey always says, “I don’t know what you mean.”

The sun smiled upon our backs on the return walk, which warmed us nicely. There was even a rainbow.

The fungi, and the amphibians, just looove this super-wet winter. Fungi out everywhere.

The dog always wonders why I’m stopping again when the camera is out…

And then we were back at the starting point (from which the total displacement was zero, you might like to know 😋).

Here’s a good closing thought:

Watch this space – another instalment will be added below shortly.

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