July 27, 2021
LIGHTS BEACH TO HANGING ROCK
This little expedition was done on the Thursday just before the Sand Patch/Grasmere trek, but it can be hard to keep up with writing these things up if you’re potentially doing 2-3 of these a week because you’re on holidays. We don’t photograph and write up every big walk we do, only the ones we’ve not done before, not done in a while or not documented previously. Sometimes we just walk.
Because we’ve not been “away” on holidays for ten years – ever since we bought our smallholding, planted 5,000 trees, built our own house, started growing our own fruit & vegetables and doing general farm, nature reserve and livestock management – we decided to have a genuine holiday closer to home by doing a lot of new-to-us remote walks on the South Coast. We’re really enjoying this – what was driving us mad was doing the same 30-odd walks (Stirling Ranges, Porongurups, Albany Coast) all over again and never exploring anything fresh.
One day we hope to go to Tasmania again for, you guessed it, more walking – but right now there’s the pandemic. However – we’ve got the maps for another 150km of Bibbulmun trail we’ve mostly not done before, between Denmark and Pemberton. The Forest of the Ents walk was a sample from there; with more to come soon.
Lights Beach to Hanging Rock is just west of Denmark, and another good place for a Roaring Forties hairstyle:
I last did this particular walk with a colleague called Sharon over 15 years ago, pre-Brett. I’ve long wanted to show him this one, but we have a dog, and this section has “dogs forbidden” signs because of 1080 baiting of feral animals and other avoiding-lawsuit-related reasons from the managing government department. I used to be a law-abiding citizen, and then I moved to the country, and started doing things like buying milk straight from a person with a cow (forbidden) instead of letting the truck take it up to Perth for bottling and then bring it down again so I can buy it from the supermarket with 500 “food miles” and most of the profit going to middlemen instead of the cow owner. Rebel that I am. I now do lots of things that are verboten, mostly as a form of protest against unjust regulations that favour the wealthy, and actually remove ordinary citizens’ rights to do useful things that were lawful for most of human existence, like grandmothers selling jam at the markets (now forbidden, unless she’s hired or bought a stainless steel kitchen to make the jam – of course, McDonalds can legally make people ill from their stainless steel kitchens…).
The trail leading out:
If that bit seems easy and straightforward, look again at the first photo in this series: Because it’s been so wet, we had to make our way across that stream, and upon leaping across, we landed in quicksand. Not very bad quicksand, just the type that makes you go, “Oh, it’s quicksand!” as your foot suddenly slides into it up to your knee.
We love the vegetation tunnels regularly encountered on the Bibbulmun trail…
Also the shapes of trees when they’re wild things growing in their own wild way:
You just don’t see them like this in parks.
As mentioned on recent walk reports, there are a lot of fungi in the landscape at the moment. This is a coral fungus.
The landscape is full of water this winter. Even the higher-up areas are like saturated sponges; in the low areas there’s inundation. We’re about to break “wettest ever July” records.
Some of these are hallucinogenic, and this is the time of year police in Nannup deploy two full-time people for several months to discourage mushroom tourism in the local tree plantations. As if they have nothing better to do. As a taxpayer I object to the expense of this operation. The “really-bad-consequences” they are citing here include some dude high on mushrooms selling his $10,000 car for $1,000 (squarely his own problem), someone walking around nude in the centre of Balingup (I’m sure we’ve seen it all before), and someone else going missing for four days sleeping in the forest thinking he was in a bear cave. Ho hum. Personal responsibility, natural selection, etc, and I for one would rather these two police were chasing burglars or breath testing drunk drivers instead of pontificating about fungi while we pay their salaries.
On the way to Hanging Rock:
The view back to Mt Hallowell and Monkey Rock:
The coastal heathland is like a Japanese garden… only better!
Here’s some photos of Hanging Rock.
There’s more on the Flickr page but I’m going to abbreviate the rest; too many photos and I’ve got chores to go do. So if you’d like to see the full set, just click on any photo to go to the photopage.
It’s not officially called Hanging Rock but I called it that when I went there with Sharon many years ago, because it’s reminiscent of the scenery of the classic Australian gothic horror flick Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Tomboy foolishness indeed. OMG. Speaking of, the track to Hanging Rock actually had an official diversion around it, with a sign saying it was “dangerous” – we duly ignored it, and went to see for ourselves if there really was a problem. There wasn’t – one fallen tree it was easy to clamber over, a couple of exposed roots, nothing to worry hikers who do the Bibbulmun, which is a serious track, not a park cakewalk. We later worked out that the real reason they had put a diversion around it was because a new tourist access road was constructed a little further up from Hanging Rock two years ago, and they apparently forgot to take the sign down when the construction project was finished over six months ago. This explains why other hikers before us had removed the barrier that had been erected on the track. Honestly, hello.
But it was Hanging Rock I had wanted to show Brett for years, and so I wasn’t abandoning that trail without good reason, which it turns out there wasn’t anyway. And we had our picnic at Hanging Rock.
We went a bit further, towards the new tourist access road – down a steep, densely vegetated valley and back up into dunes with lovely sea views. Then we turned back. Those photos you can see on Flickr directly.
Something abstract from the way home:
This is just sand patterns in a temporary stream which has tannins in it. Brett loves these sorts of photographs because they could be alien planets etc – there’s no sense of scale. Here’s the context:
And I conclude with another fungus – this is a Brain Fungus…
Another happy walk.
July 27, 2021
Sandwiched between Monday/Tuesday’s destructive severe cold front and the next one like it forecast to come in Thursday, we grabbed the chance to go on an outing to Walpole on Wednesday. However, we hadn’t been entire slouches during the severe weather and did a 5km hike through the local valley floor in our wet weather gear on Tuesday morning. Mostly this was in sheltered woodland and not so bad – not like being out on the coast, where 100km/h wind gusts were occurring and could have blown people off the cliffs. All the normal animal paths through the bushland had turned into creeks though, so we had to pretty much hop from bushgrass clump to bushgrass clump to avoid the water in many places.
Today the rain hasn’t set in yet, but the wind gusts inland where we live are now working themselves up past 80km/h and are forecast to potentially go past 100km/h; not a good time to be on the road, and later tonight the next deluge will hit. So we are happy to have gotten out yesterday. Walpole is just over an hour west of us past Denmark and home to tall Karri and Tingle forests (and lots of historical and modern clearfelling ); it also has houseboats on an estuary, and lots of scenic coastline we’ve only explored a fraction of so far (meaning, on foot, in the wilderness areas etc, not just driving from tourist car park to tourist car park).
We got to Walpole at morning teatime and decided to warm up for a slated Bibbulmun track section in the afternoon by doing a circuit walk around and into Walpole itself. If you only ever drive into a town, you don’t really get to know it, so we decided to park at Coalmine Beach out of town (marked X on map below) and take walk trails from there to the inlet and then through town (mostly the yellow tracks) and back out again on a circuit (red dashed line), as a way of getting to know the place better.
1. THE CIRCUMNAVIGATION OF WALPOLE
These are our “setting out on another happy adventure” photographs at the Coalmine Beach car park.
This, by the way, is typical happy body language from Brett and he did exactly the same at our wedding nearly 14 years ago…
From Coalmine Beach, a walk track runs through a conservation area to the Walpole Inlet and the outskirts of Walpole. This is typical coastal heathland grading into woodland.
The trees, as is so typical for what grows wild on the South Coast, have all sorts of sculptural qualities.
A rather impressive bridge/boardwalk over the Collier creek brought us to the town periphery.
The ants have been building their nests higher out of the ground than usual with all this wet weather we’ve been having. These mounds are now everywhere and are presumably in aid of an ant colony not drowning below ground level, where all the soil is like a saturated sponge.
Coming up to the Inlet:
This is on the Swarbrick jetty:
…and this is the amused reaction when the photographer says, “You’ve got a spider on your nose!”…
Walpole feels like a cross between a typical small SW-WA country town, and a holiday-shack village (e.g. Windy Harbour, Peaceful Bay, Tasmania’s Doo Town). We walked through the residential streets to the main street where craft and gift shops and coffee shops cater for visitors. There we had fish and chips and bought some treats to take on the afternoon’s forest walk. Then we completed the circuit walk back to Coalmine Beach.
This is Coalmine Beach:
Then we drove a short way to the Hilltop Forest car park to begin the afternoon’s walking in quite a different environment.
2. HILLTOP LOOKOUT WALK
The section of Bibbulmun track we ended up doing is bounded by double arrows on the above walk map. We had meant to start at the base of the hill but couldn’t find parking there – and the track which led to the Bibbulmun there wasn’t signposted. So we drove up the main track.
This is regrowth Karri forest, which a lot of people who don’t spend much time in old-growth forests oooh and aaah about. If you live in a city, or if you live in Europe where there really isn’t any pristine wilderness left, you may be overjoyed by walking or driving through a forest like this – beautiful tall trees as far as the eye can see.
But if you’re a biologist or keen amateur naturalist, and you live in a place where you can spend a lot of time in old-growth and near-pristine ecosystems, this kind of forest makes you grieve. It’s closer to a plantation than to what it was before industrialisation: The understorey, where most of the species in these kinds of systems reside, has become hugely impoverished, causing local extinction of species and contributing to world biodiversity loss. The species diversity of the canopy trees is also reduced, and the trees you do see tend to be of fairly uniform size and age, because they were all seedlings who regenerated in what was essentially a humanly caused natural disaster area, and all grew up together, competing for light as they went and growing more closely together, taller and straighter than trees do in what’s called a climax forest – and of course, the foresters prefer that kind of regrowth because it suits their commercial purposes better.
Old-growth forests (and other pristine ecosystems, such as Western Australia’s coastal woodlands and heathlands) took thousands of years to evolve into their present degree of diversity of species, form and ages, and to become intricately interconnected. As a European I’d never seen an ancient ecosystem before I came to Australia. Even the remnant bushland we have on our farm represents millions of years of largely uninterrupted evolution from ancient Gondwana – never were the woodlands on it clearfelled, and never was the understorey or the heathland bulldozed: Unlike the majority of the planet’s land surface, especially since human industrialisation which started about 1760 – less than 300 years ago.
We’re destroying everything. It’s hard enough to get some people to care about genocide and refugees when they’re in human form, but what about all the other species we share the planet with? That’s even more difficult, because modern humans feel culturally entitled to take what they want from nature, and to exterminate so-called “lesser” species. My problem, by the way, isn’t with being part of a food chain (in both directions), it’s in the complete imbalance as each day, more and more of the general biomass is replaced with human biomass, as the human population grows exponentially like a pandemic, devouring not just individuals from other species, but whole other species, either as food or as convenience. Humans as a species are behaving exactly like bacteria in a laboratory culture – they explode exponentially until they exhaust their resource base and die in their own wastes.
It’s because advances in medicine and sanitation increased infant survival and the general human life span, and modern human beings still don’t effectively limit their family sizes to replacement-only levels with contraception (and many would be mortally offended were they asked to do so). Actually, these days even replacement is too much – as we’ve already exceeded the planet’s long-term carrying capacity, and are now irreversibly damaging the biosphere.
And it’s not talked about, because we’re drowned too deep in the narcosis of civilisation; most of us don’t see it. Our economic system pretends that you can have infinite “growth” in a finite system with limited resources and space. Societies like Australia have a financial elite who thrive on land speculation; who parasitise scarcity and property booms, and they won’t let up until they’ve carved up every acre they can claw their way into for “development” – agriculture initially, and now mostly creating more and more suburbia for booming migrant populations. This makes millions and millions of dollars for real estate agents, real estate speculators, construction companies, “investors” (people who have enough surplus money to own more than just their own home, and out-compete a lot of people who can’t afford a home of their own), councils who can charge land rates, etc.
People only rarely seem to feel they have enough – enough stuff, enough prestige, enough money in the bank. Westerners expect constantly rising living standards – i.e. constant increases in the energy and resources available to them, and to their children, no matter how many, on a finite planet. We talk scathingly of parasites, of freeloaders – and yet as a species, that’s exactly what we are. We’re the very worst parasites and freeloaders who have ever inhabited the surface of this planet, and most of us can’t see it. We’re eating everything else alive.
But I digress. To see real old-growth forest, have a look at our Forest of the Ents post. That is what the forest either side of the access road in the picture above used to be like, less than 200 years ago.
We drove up this access road until we got to the Hilltop Lookout car park. It was a one-way road, so we couldn’t backtrack. Therefore we decided to walk in both directions from there, not from the bottom up as we’d originally planned to. Here’s some views off the Hilltop Lookout, where a section of the forest was removed so people could see the coastline.
The ribbon of blue is the Frankland River leading to the Walpole-Nornalup Inlets, and the views across are to East Point and Rocky Head, and beyond that Saddle Island and other offshore islands.
The section of forest we began to walk through to the east and south of the Hilltop Lookout was ecologically better than what we’d driven in through. There were still old “giants” in it – not everything had been cut down by forestry; logging had been more selective, and some trees had been left standing.
This last group of photos, Brett took with a proper camera (which he first got out on the lookout) – most of our recent walks I’ve just documented with a little iPod camera, for convenience. Makes me think it’s worth taking my own proper camera in again too. The iPod is fine for “sketching” quickly, but you’ll be able to see its limitations for yourself by comparing the photo qualities in the mixed batch to follow!
You’d just not get shapes like this in plantations, or in ground-zero regrowth – they take a long time and a complex environment to form.
It’s nice to come across old “survivors” like this. ♥
Here’s what the bases of these trees look like when they eventually fall over…
I just loved this next tree…
Brett took photos of bark textures.
This tree had a little window through it…
It takes many years for these tunnels, hollows and cavities to form – and they are ultra-important as shelters and nests for native birds and arboreal marsupials. You won’t find these in the kind of regrowth forest we drove in through. One of the many reasons our Black Cockatoos are endangered is because many thousands upon thousands of their erstwhile nesting hollows have been cut down with the old trees. Black Cockatoos have a life span of around 60 years, so it took people a while to notice that most of the population that was left were essentially pensioners.
The blue Cortinarius is one of the prettiest fungi in the forest…
It grew near a “tunnel” in the base of a tree you could have sat in.
You can just see this little tunnel in the broader “porch” behind Brett.
Here was an attempt to photograph a sort of pond in a fallen tree trunk, which was a bit impeded by taking it with an iPod…
Everywhere you turn there’s something amazing.
Like a fern growing in a “natural flower pot” high up in a tree, and catching the sun.
We walked back to the lookout and then in the other direction, down the hill. There Brett did some lovely studies of shelf fungi.
That last close-up was hand-held and would have benefitted from a tripod. So, Brett should bring his tripod in future, and I my proper camera!
Our final photo from the walk was meant to demonstrate an unusual phenomenon: As we stood there, it was raining significantly behind the tree with the fungi on it, but not at all where we stood maybe 10 metres away – and it went on like this for quite a while!
The sunlit gap behind the tree was actually filled with a shower of raindrops. None of it ever moved further south to start raining on us. We kept on walking downhill, and when we got near the highway, turned around and made our way back up. When we came to the same spot, the same thing was still happening! We then made our way through that extremely narrow stationary rain band, continuing up the incline.
Something else I saw a demonstration of, and wanted to relate, since we’re in a pandemic and all that: Just how much aerosol you exhale when you’re exercising heavily! At one point I stopped and leaned against a mossy fallen log, trying to catch my breath, when the slanting sunlight combined with the high humidity in the forest made the aerosol I was breathing out (through my mouth, because I’d been climbing for a while) clearly visible, and we could see it drifting for over three metres away from me on a light breeze. Wow! If I had SARS-CoV-2 and you breathed that in, you’d highly likely get it. Under the right conditions, from more than three metres away, and in an outdoors environment.
Breathing out through the nose cut it down, but breathing straight out through the mouth made truly spectacular amounts of aerosol. Proper layered masks are really good for cutting down on aerosols (and even better with droplets), whether produced by heavy exertion, coughing, sneezing or just speaking. Works best if both parties are wearing them – the aerosol-maker, and the bystander. I’d not generally wear masks exercising outdoors because we walk quite remote trails, but I would in a higher-density outdoors situation, and I’d certainly move a few metres off the track to let someone else pass when I’m not wearing a mask – and face away from them. I’ve already done that out of an abundance of caution, in supermarkets as well – but I was quite amazed just how far those aerosols can carry.
I have, by the way, finally had my first vaccination. Brett is still waiting. We’re doing second worst of all the OECD countries in the vaccine rollout. But even fully vaccinated, I’d still consider wearing masks under certain circumstances. Like, it’s not actually fun to catch ordinary colds or flus either, so I’d from now on wear masks if I had any kind of respiratory infection and for some reason had to venture into public – or if I was around such people. And, people can still catch, harbour and transmit virus when fully immunised – what the vaccines are good at is preventing serious illness. (At least until the virus evolves new spike proteins. Then we’ll be playing vaccine catch-up again.)
I’ll close this post with some photos of the very swollen Frankland River at its intersection with the South Coast Highway, that we took on the way back. This is the river we couldn’t cross further upstream on our Ent walk because the Sappers Bridge was flooded (plus it had foam all over it).
Next time we’re off to Point Hillier.