Tues 30/12/14 Denmark River to the Hay River.
Today is a ride from the Denmark River to the Hay River. This 14 km section is shared by the Munda Biddi and the Denmark Heritage Trail.I also included notes on the couple of km ride from Denmark to the Trail.
We started at the South Coast Highway, where Hollings Rd crosses next to the Denmark River Bridge, at just after 7am. The map shows the trail following Hollings Rd, but the markers put you on the Mokare Heritage Trail, following the river's edge, but never more than 50m from Hollings Road. (Mokare was a local Aborigine who helped the early explorers of the area). This is a very pretty trail but it is very narrow, windy and has many blind corners (see photo below). It is frequented by walkers and dogs, as it is very close to Denmark. A new dual purpose cycle path starts 100 m along Hollings Rd (initially on the right hand side, but swaps to the left), just before the marker indicates a left turn to join the Mokare Trail. I can see in the future the Munda Biddi markers will be realigned along the road to utilise the cycle path, as the map already shows.
The marker to turn left across the old train bridge is still on the Mokare Trail - about 20 m to the left of Hollings Road. But the bridge is easy to spot. At this point the relocated post office with some rail history (including some goods carriages and a turntable for turning trains around) is visible on your right - have a look. Straight forward takes you to the river mouth, where the Denmark River enters Wilson Inlet, so it too is worth the 500 m round trip for a photo.
The rest of the ride to Hay River is now on old form, and in parts right next to the water's edge (Wilson Inlet). There are several huts or shelters along the way - they are usually picnic tables and chairs in a three sided hut, with no other facilities. Some have very scenic outlooks, such as Springdale Beach and Minung shelter. There is also the Springdale Tunnel, which is a culvert for water to flow under the old rail line.
Once we entered into Rudyard Place, the Munda Biddi and the DNHT both used to go along the wide gravel road for 1 km before heading off into the bush again. Now the original form that follows the fence line on the left of the road has been mown, and is clearly marked the DNHT. The Munda Biddi markers still take you along the road, but I expect that the Munda Biddi will be shifted over onto the old form as well. The old form is a little softer and harder to ride than the gravel road, but they are both through nice bush. The only downside with the road is that if a car comes along, you will have to ride through its dust cloud.
We stopped at Hay River, as this is the end of the DNHT. You can still see a couple of old posts for the rail bridge in the river. We turned around and headed back to Denmark via the same route for coffee. And cake. Because I am worth it.
Wed 31/12/14 Torbay To Albany
I was dropped at Kronkup Road North almost as the Munda Biddi joins the Lower Denmark Rd before it swings back on Railway Road to Torbay. The weather was overcast and drizzly, but warm - ideal for riding, but not so good for photos. The ride into Torbay ( a community hall with toilets and the fire depot only) was easy and uneventful. Once I was on the Torbay Rail trail, there was a sign for the rail trail users (horses) to keep to the left, and Munda Biddi riders to keep to the right. However, most of the signs later along this route showed the Munda Biddi arrow pointing to the right, as in change of direction! Once you got used to it, it was ok, but after 900 km of keep straight on being indicated by an arrow pointing up, it was a little worrying to keep straight on when the arrow clearly says turn to the right. See the photos in the gallery. Like all rail trail, it was flat and easy to ride, often through low scrub, under trees, or on a separately fenced "corridor" through farm land - see gallery again.
I stopped at the Elleker service station/general store/tavern for a drink and snack. It is very close to the Munda Biddi (50 m and you easily see it), so worth the stop. Further on, there is a Munda Biddi sign indicating turn right, but that is just directing you to the Elleker info hut on the right hand side of the road. I once went down that road looking for the trail only to see the keep straight on marker when I returned to the road junction.
After rejoining the sealed road at Grasmere ( from Old School Rd), it is sealed road all the way to Albany. There is a section along the Lower Denmark road is no fun. The speed limit is 70-90 km/hr, there is a gravel shoulder, but for a kilometre the armco railing means you have to ride on the road. The traffic was ok, but I prefer to be off the road.
Robinson Road is a quiet scenic windy road through rural blocks - it is very pleasant. Look out for the Aboriginal burial site under the black stump (see my track notes for the exact location).
The ride into Albany was a little confusing - maybe because I have an older map (mine is dated May 2012, and the latest is Dec 2013) . The Albany town site shows the route coming in on Festing St, straight across in to Stirling Tce and down to the Visitor Centre at the old railway station. However I followed the markers and that took me along Vancouver St, Melville St and then on to Stirling Tce. No hassles. I took a couple of photos at the trail end, then at Brig Amity and the old Gaol. I celebrated the end of the ride with lunch and a Guinness at the Earl of Spencer pub, established in 1884. I love old pubs, and this is one of the oldest in WA (There has been a building on the site since 1865). The oldest pub in WA is the Rose and Crown in Guildford, which I recommend as well.
Mon 29/12/14 Jinung Hut to Denmark
We drove to Jinung Hut again and rode the last 2 km in. I had a good phone signal there. After a few photos, I was on the trail by 8.15am, heading to Denmark along the Munda Biddi. The first 700m or so was great windy single track, but then the trail flattened out, got wider and straighter until it became Champion Lane, a good gravel road. This ran into Harewood Road (more good gravel), then into Scotsdale, a sealed tourist route. It was all pretty flat with only one short hill on Champion Lane.
I rode passed Ducketts Mill, which is open daily 10-4, and sells wine, cheese and I think ice-cream and drinks - very handy to know. Soon after I turned into Fred's Road, another gravel road through rolling farmland. It was generally very nice to ride on, with nice views and big trees to shade the road. There was one big hill at the end of 400m in length, and no markers along the way except at the start and end. I had a phone signal on this road.
At the end is a diversion map for a diversion that has been in place since June 2013 - I think it will be a permeant change to the route. It takes you down Point Hillier Vista, and it is a tremendous down hill for 2 km. I have ridden up it towing my Bob trailer and it is one of the biggest hills on the whole Munda Biddi, although it is rideable in granny gear. It is sealed, so that helps.
The diversion then takes you on to Limbourne Rd (a good gravel road) then to the South Coast Highway via the Denmark Nornalup Heritage trail. Again, this is all flat and easy riding. Note the big cutting followed by the big embankment for the train line - what a huge amount of work that was 100 years ago. I noted the marker that I corrected in Sept 2013 has been reused on Limbourne Rd.
The ride along side the South Coast highway is on good single track between the highway and the fence and is not along the Highway as you may think. After cutting through a small rural subdivision, I was on William Bay Road, heading into William Bay National park. This road leads to several scenic beaches, and is narrow and windy. It was also very busy, being peak Summer holiday time. However, I got to the end ok. I was going to turn right at the end and stop at Green's Pool, but the car park was chock - a- block, so I had a quick stop at the sign and headed left towards Waterfall Beach with the Munda Biddi. The stairs to Greens Pool is about 100 m on the right from the sign, and the beach about 250m from there, so worth a quick look. Take a look behind you at the windswept boulders on the nearby hills.
The Munda Biddi follows the gravel road from Greens Pool to Waterfall beach. This is a fairly busy road for tourists, and is a bit hilly and corrugated. As you turn off left on to the Munda Biddi only trail, Waterfall beach is about another 200m straight on. We cross the stream that feeds the waterfall soon after turning off the gravel road.
This section is on a gravel type path, and starts with views of the beach and Wilson Head, which has two wind turbines on it. They are 55m tall and generate approximately 30% of Denmark's power. The path then moves in land, into low coastal scrub, before dropping into some small valleys of shady peppermint trees. There is another scenic lookout with a small water fall - it makes a great place to stop.
Soon I was heading back to the coast again, joining the Bib track and that meant joining Lights Beach car park. From here to Denmark, it is all sealed - either roads or once on Ocean Beach Road, a dual use path next to the road (the Ocean Beach Cycleway). No big hills, and before 11.30 am I was in Denmark. The only confusing bit was as Ocean Beach Road joins the South Coastal highway, the signs were a bit messy. Basically you turn left if you want to go to the visitors centre (on the left of this intersection) or turn right to head into Denmark. The map of Denmark town site shows it perfectly.
Sun 28/12/14 Jinung hut to Denmark via Scotsdale Rd
Today I wanted to track a short cut from the Jinung hut to Denmark via the scenic Scotsdale Rd. The Scottsdale Hills were harvested by the Millars in 1895-1904, and Scottsdale Road mainly follows the old rail line. Instead of a looping 42 km ride via Greens Pool and Lights Beach via the Munda Biddi, this is a 15 km ride to get to Denmark quickly.
We left the Caravan Park just after 7 am on a warm, humid morning. We drove up Scotsdale Rd to Silver Road, and looked for the site of Scotsdale no 3 mill, which is opposite the Silver Rd junction. It was built in 1896 and closed in 1903. We presumed it is where the house and farm are on the southern side of Scotsdale road, but it is private property, and not much is visible from the road. We turned up Harewood Rd, but stopped to look at the deviation sign. There was a prescribed burn recently near Jinung hut, so the hut had been closed. We turned up Champion Lane, and that enabled us to get a km or 2 from the hut in the car. I rode the last section into the hut. It was uphill on a windy bit of single track, and I was pushing in parts, but it was ok. I was at the hut by about 8.15am, so I took a few photos before heading off. Coming out on the track from the hut at 150 m is the T junction - left for Denmark and right for Perth. I rode on the North heading route to the right. The signs of the fire were pretty clear - see the photos.
The ride out of the hut was pretty easy - it was often on form and it felt like it was down hill to Mt Lindesay Road. This was a newly tarmac'd road (it was still gravel a month ago). Instead of following the trail to turn left, I turned right and rode to Scotsdale road, crossing the Scotsdale brook just before it. Then turn left again, and follow the scenic route into town.
This road is mainly windy with double white lines and a narrow shoulder in places or a gravel shoulder. The maximum speed limit is 80km/hr, and it is busiest at the tourist times of year - Christmas, school holidays, long weekends etc. But at 9am on a Sunday morning in the busiest time of year, only 1 car passed me. The ride was flat (I guess this is the route of the rail way). It is also quite scenic with the Scotsdale Brook on the left, farm land on the right and karri and jarrah trees for shade.
Once you get to the Steiner school, there is a pathway on the left all the way to town. When you get to the park, you can continue along Scotsdale Road to the stop sign, which is Horsley Rd. Turn left and the South Coast Highway is about xx km away. Horsley Rd becomes Hollings Rd just before the highway, and continues across the Highway. The first Munda Biddi marker is just across the highway. I tracked through the park - it is a bit prettier and easy enough to find your way through - as long as you don't cross the Denmark River. It comes out on a road at the back of hospital called Research Station Avenue, and ends on Horsley Rd. Scotsdale Rd is a couple of hundred metres up on your right. Turn left on Horsley Rd to get to the South Coastal Highway.
Nov 2014: Northcliffe to Jinung Hut
Another trip down on the MB with a back up team, for three days. We got into Northcliffe about 5 pm after a nice drive down. A highlight was seeing a small two man mill still working in Kirup. The things you find when you get off the highway are great!
We stayed at the motel and had dinner and a couple of drinks as well, but still had an early night.
Day 1: We were up about 6am, and I was ready to go at 7.15 am. The weather was forecast with 8 degree minimums an 20 degree maximums for the next 3 days - that is pretty cool for this time of year, but ideal for riding.
The ride to Yirra hut is mainly on roads and is, according to the map profile, pretty flat. Only the last few kilometres are on old form (the roads might be old form, but they are roads now). The karri trees are spectacular though - I hope the photos show that. There are long stretches without markers, some up to a couple of km. They are long enough to make you worry you missed a turn. One change of direction had a marker missing, and I only saw it by looking up the track and caught a glimpse of the very hidden KSO marker.
At Boorara Brook is an old railway bridge next to the road bridge - it was a nice discovery to make.
Once you turn off Nelson Rd, the trail is abit more fun. Yirra hut does not have a road in/out of the hut like most other huts as the MB goes right through the campsite. The big loop around the hut made me feel like I was going in circles, but I didn't get lost and reached the hut without dramas by ??am. The hut is a half sized set up. There is a granite dome next to the hut that has significancy to the local Aborigines.
After Yirra hut, the trail often goes through low heath type scrub, with few trees and most bushes under 2 m tall. This also occurred a lot after Fernhook Falls on Pitcher Plant Rd and Easter Rd. After the South West highway, the trail is often on form - long, straight and narrow. Some small sections were also quite sandy.
Like all good Munda Biddi riders I had checked the website for diversions and the only one in place was the Ordnance Rd - the Summer crossing was closed so I planned on crossing at Fernhook Falls. However, when I go to the "decision" spot, there was a sign and map saying the route was open. I had already arranged to meet the back up team at the Falls - Oh well, not to worry - at least I got to see the falls and the huts there.
As I already mentioned, the open heath land followed next. Then the hills stated up to Mt Franklin. There was a little zig zag in one section and then the trail was narrow, bit over grown and with quite a few branches and saplings down. But I was soon at the top, puffed but satisfied.
The next section was some long straight forms under the karri trees, then old form to the Kwokralup Hut. This is a full size hut, and has some rapids at the nearby river that are significant to the local Aborigines.
From Kwokralup hut I rode the 6 km to North Walpole road. It is a sealed road that heads up to Swarbrick Art installation. It is mainly uphill.I utilised my back up team to get a lift to Swarbrick - it is a sealed road through farmland. Sorry, you are most probably going to have to ride up it. It is not fun.
We were in Swarbrick about 5pm. I had ridden 90 km over 10 hours - I was fairly tired. Our accommodation was 20 km away at Walpole Lodge, so we high tailed it there for a shower, dinner and a beer - in that order!
Day 2: The ride from Swarbrick to Walpole was done the next day. We drove up there and I was on the trail by 9 am. As the map indicates, it is mainly down hill, which it was. There was one intersection with no marker - I took an educated guess and found out a few hundred metres later I was right. Once I hit Quinn Rd, the down hill section under the Karri was over, and it started a more undulating sandy trail under more open bush. As it was a sunny day, that meant it was quite warm, and the sandy sections certainly slowed me down a bit. However I was in at the tourist bureau by 9 am, having completed Map 7. Now to start Map 8 after a pie!
I then started riding Walpole to Middle Rd. While having a break I noticed at the MB info shelter a diversion for Spring 2014 saying that Booner hut would be closed due to a burn off and an alternative site was at Kent River - with no accommodation! I had checked the website last week and nothing was posted about this. I asked in the tourist bureau, and they checked the website, but nothing was up on DPaW website. I can only assume they will burn off when conditions are right, and if that means you can't use the hut for a couple of days, it is unlucky. I carry a tarp in case I have to sleep out, but I am sure I would not be happy if I was caught out.
The map I have shows the route goes through the Walpole townsite, which is what I thought I took last year. The markers clearly direct you behind the tourist bureau along old form to turn South to cross the highway at the edge of town. It is no drama - the trail is clearly marked, so I assume the constant stream of cyclists through town at all hours of the day and night was disturbing the locals.
The first section goes through a conservation area, then joins the Coalmine Beach Rd. This road is 50 km/hr and mainly services the caravan park, so all is good on it. There is a shelter with views across the Inlet which is worth a stop.
After crossing the South Coast Highway, the track soon enters karri forest and zig zags its way up towards Hilltop Rd. It doesn't go as high as you can go in a car, and there are no views because of the trees ( fantastic view in their own right of course). The ride up is ok - but coming down would be sensational.
The trail now follows next to, and above, the highway. It is a roller coast ride - get enough speed up going down hill, and you can get up the next one. But that does not encourage you to enjoy the trees - there were some fabulous tingle trees along here. Occasionally the trail leaves the karri/tingle forest and heads out into open jarrah type bush with sandier sections, but most is under good shade.
After Gulley Rd (the map doesn't have an 'e' but all the signs there do), the roller coaster got bigger. This is part of the Walpole- Nornalup National Park. Once the trail starts tracking next to the Frankland River, it no longer was enough to pedal like mad down hill to make it over the next hill. The drop to the water in some parts is so steep it is scary, and all the trees along there are enormous. The hill after Monastery Landing was a killer - but it is worth the stop. It is not sign posted, and there is only a table and chairs there, but it is a great place to refresh.
The next interesting spot was Sappers Bridge, which was flowing nicely. After that there was a hill up Boxhall Rd that was just plain enormous. Because there was so many places to take photos, and the hills were so big, the first 10 km from Gully Rd took me 2 hours!
After crossing the Valley of the Giants Rd we cross into the second part of Howe Rd and Rates road. This is jam packed full of tingle and karri trees. I am thankful I was riding up hill slowly, so I had the chance to really enjoy these trees. There was a few more sections of uphill, then a huge downhill for 2 km - look at the contour lines we cross! But soon we were crossing Ebbett Rd, exiting the Walpole Nornalup National Park - say goodbye to the tingle trees. The road now becomes flatter and more open as it enters farmland. Later the trail changes to sandy and even rocky gravel track, especially on Middle road.
Day 3: The third day of this trip started early at Walpole Lodge, and we drove to the corner of Middle & Trent Rd by 7.30am. I had ridden the interesting bit yesterday ( Walpole to Middle Road) so now time to drive the long middle section (yes, I said drive). I have ridden it before and it is mainly long straight unexciting trail. This is all public roads, and I walked into Booner Hut and the cut offs at Bow River and Kent River crossing , so my route reflected the MB .
Incidentally, after leaving Walpole, you may feel you are miles from anywhere. However, when at the corner of Trent & Middle Rd, Valley of the Giants Rd is only 1.7 km away, and Bow Bridge only another 2.3 km after that (you will need more than the MB map to navigate there). It is a service station with food available. If you were desperate for an icecream it is not a huge ride to go and get one, over generally flat ground.
There is not a lot to report on this section- the road is general flattish, it is quite wide and the trees are not huge, so shade on the trail on a hot day would be minimal. The road is generally rougher than most of the trail so far, but still rideable. It is sandy in parts. The three creek crossings are interesting, Kent River more so as it crosses on a suspension bridge.
Further on you get some nice glimpses of Mt Romance, then later Mt Lindsay. I jumped back on the bike at Mt Lindsay road and headed into the hut. It goes straight from farmland into jarrah forest on old form. It was a pleasant ride in. The Jinung Hut is spectacular - it is surrounded by karri. I guess it is planted (all the trees are very similar in size), but only old growth forest could top this location. It is tempting to leave the toilet door open so you can keep enjoying the view.
The ride out is great - about 800m of windy down hill on single track before coming out on Champion Place (check), a gravel track that leads to Harewood Road. I will ride and track Jinung Hut to Denmark, and Map 9 at Christmas time.
Oct 2014: Kep Track
I got a lift to the Northam Tourist Bureau. I prefer to start there as it is prettier - it is on the Avon River, the tourist bureau is handy (get your maps) and there is a cafe with toilets. It is also close to the centre of town. The Poole St starting point is only 1.8 km away, but it is a bit bland with just a picnic table and carpark. I started at 9.45 am, and walked across the suspension bridge (the longest in Australia). I was at the official start point soon after, just as the drizzle started (you can see it in the first photos of the pipeline). However it wasn't too heavy. The climb up to the West Northam tanks wasn't too bad as I wasn't carrying a load. The first hill is the worst, but it is only 400m before it flattens out a bit, but still keeps climbing.
I was at Fox Rd just after 10.30 am, which is over all the initial hill - it will be now more undulating or more gentle. It is a nice trail next to the pipeline. The ride on the Eadine Road was a bit boring, as it is a sealed but quiet country road. I found a cool 120 year old bridge along the route that is worth a look (see my route sheet notes for the exact location).
I got to Clackline about 11.30am. There was a lot to see - the school monument, Platypus Pool, the rail bridge, and the old station. Being the end of water, the pool was flowing nicely. I also had a quick walk around the old loco dam and the foundations of the original Goldfields Pipeline before getting on the trail again.
After Clackline, it all changes - the trail becomes old rail trail, so is much flatter and more solid base. The track pass through towns more frequently, meaning toilets, drinks, snacks, picnic tables and phone coverage!
I had my first decent break at the Bakers Hill pie shop at noon- it is less than 100m off the Track. I stopped only for 10 minutes to eat. My next stop was Wooraloo for an iced coffee at the little general store at 1.15 pm - it is a pretty little shop and right on the trail again. I crossed Old Northam road at 1.45 pm.
The next section has some big cuttings through small hills as well as some other rail related pits that are all quite old. I also stopped at Chidlow at 2.15 pm to eat a cake I had purchased at Bakers Hill. I used the toilets and took a few photos. The place was actually quite busy as a Cycle Sportif event was winding up.
I was at the junction with the Railway Heritage Trail at 2.45 pm. I could carry straight on and get to Midland via John Forrest National Park, but I followed the trail towards Mundaring.
The trail down to join the Railway Heritage trail was again pretty easy. It was a damp public holiday, so I only saw one cyclist on the trail (except on the close-to-Perth Railway Heritage Trail loop - see my other maps for details). I saw a horse rider, 2 motorcyclists on the Track (but plenty of damage they have caused especially between Chidlow and Clackline), and plenty of dog walkers.
I got to the turn off to Mundaring Weir just after 3.15pm. I was riding home so headed ontowards the Mundaring Sculpture Park, then down the Railway Heritage trail to Midland, which was a pleasant down hill run. I then rode on to Bayswater via back roads or cycle ways next to the train line. I got home at 5 pm exactly. 98 km in total, over 7hrs 15 mins. Sore but happy.
Sept 2014: Nannup to Northcliffe
This was a 3 day/3 night trip with a "back up team" who were going to drop me and pick me from the MB while they enjoyed the sights. So instead of the cheaper and more basic accommodation (but perfectible acceptable) at the Quinninup caravan park cabins, we opted for Clover Cottages. These 4 cottages are very nice, with a verandah over looking their 2 dams and the river. These cottages are spacious, luxurious, historic (the original house was built in 1875) and also priced accordingly. They contain jarrah logs from the property holding the roof up, polished jarrah floor boards, blackbutt kitchen cabinets, karri beams and rafters and pine ceiling. When I am based in the same place for 3 nights with my wife, Mum and Mother in law, the extra expense was worth it to keep me in the good books. The caravan park is great, especially if I am in just for the one night passing through, but this is a lot nicer.
I had checked the MBF website and there were no deviations in place.
We got in to the Cottage by 5 pm as planned. After a good dinner, a couple of drinks on the verandah and a good night's sleep, day 1 dawned cool but foggy, with a forecast maximum of around 24 degrees. We drove to Manjimup, then Nannup to start the ride. I had checked the MBF website and there were no deviations in place. We were there about 8am and I rode from the Blackwood River starting point to the turn off for East Nannup Rd, a couple of kilometre out of town. After that I threw my bike on the back of the car, and got a lift up the hill. I am not ashamed of cheating - the MB follows the road exactly, not even on the side of it - I believe it maybe the route of an old railway. It is uphill on a sealed road for xx km, then goes to dirt road. It is a lovely road, with pasture and karri trees, but it is a long up hill road. Having ridden down it previously, and established that the MB is totally drivable to Willow Springs, I took the easy option. You may not have this luxury. I did and I used it.
We drove all the way to Willow Springs, which was my starting point for actually riding. The 13 km ride to Donnelly Mill was often old form with some gradual slopes - all pretty easy (without a load). I dropped in to see the King Karri near Donnelly Mill - it is only 400m off the MB on a flat good path and is worth a look.
I was soon at Donnelly Mill, and met my back up team for lunch. Tip - do not eat your food outside the General store - the kangaroos are quiet annoying, but the emus are down right aggressive. But it does make for great photos.
The ride to One Tree Bridge from Donnelly Mill was too hard for us last September with the amount of fallen trees and saplings after a storm. This time, there were a few more trees and samplings down than the other sections of the trail, but nothing off the scale. The ride next to the river was a bit tough (very undulating) and worthy of its intermediate rating but great - the hill side was quite a steep drop to the river, as well as steep up the hill as well.
I had a quick break at One Tree Bridge, then started to the Karta Burnu hut. The zig zags up the hill side are pretty tough - it is all rideable, but it pushed me into the red zone. It was my own little Alp D'Huez, just with out the cheering crowds. Though it was only 22 degrees, I was soaked in sweat by the top. But the hut was a huge reward. The view from it is, and the hut setting is fantastic.
At 3 pm I headed off for Manjimup. Most of it is good gravel road or forms. It didn't take me long to get to Deanmill - I was there about 4.15pm. I had a very quick look around, then hit the rail trail into Manji - I was there 30 mins later. After the first 1km it was all super smooth, firm and flat, like a good form should be. I waited at the visitors centre till 5pm, when the support crew with food and drink collected me and took me back to Clover Cottages for a relaxing night.
Day 2 started at Manjimup at 8am. The weather was forecast 22 degrees and dry. The ride out from the Visitors centre took you to a bush section surprisingly quickly - within 500 m. After that there was a short section on roads, before there was a turn off onto old form. It was a sweet section as the trail was easy riding yet straight and narrow. Most of the riding to Quinninup was old form. The best sections were the old form that followed the Warren River - it was very pretty.
When you cross the Warren River bridge, look for old rail bridge on your left - how cool is that! Access to it is just before the road bridge down some old form on the left.
I got to Quinnup about 11.30am, but the pub didn't serve lunch till 12 noon, so I chilled till then (yes there is 3G service here). I had a burger and an iced coffee and was back on the MB by 12.30. The first couple of kilometres through the Greater Dordagup National Park are on a fire break, 5 "chains" (approximately 100m) from the side of the Wheatley Coast Road. There was one section that was blocked off with no diversion indicated, but a large recently fallen tree appeared to be the reason for the sign. It was awkward to climb over, but not impossible.
Another especially nice section was East Brook, not far out of Pemberton. Perhaps it was the afternoon sun or the gurgling water, but it was very pretty. By contrast, Golf Links Rd was a bit boring, but the ride along the back of the swimming pool in to Pemberton was very nice. This route takes you passed the old steam engine on the main street - see my notes in Overview. I have tracked the route from Brown's Rd straight into Pemberton if you want to go straight in to town - see the route sheet.
I was in Pemberton by about 4 pm, after doing a total of 83 km. It was now a round about drive back to Quinninup, as I didn't want to do the short cut of Grays Rd (it is gravel and the bike would get filthy on the back rack).
Day 3 - I was dropped in to Pemberton and got away from the tourist centre just after 8am. The ride up to Gloucester Tree is an early morning heart starter but there will be a reward for that later. See more on the Gloucester Tree in the overview. I decided not to climb the tree today - I had enough cardio booked in for today.
The ride off the hill into the valley behind the Gloucester tree is spectacular - it looks fabulous with the karri trees lit by the early morning sunlight, the bush is so green and lush, and full of birds. And the ride downhill is F-U-N! There are 9 switch backs, and they get closer together and steeper as you get further down - number 7 almost caught me out. After about 5 minutes of bliss, I was down on the sealed Burma Rd turning right. If you are heading up this section, especially fully laden, you can stay on Burma Rd and it comes out near the rangers hut at the Gloucester Tree. It is still a horror climb, but it is all sealed and rideable, whereas riding up the switchbacks and cornering at very slow speeds is hard.
On the trail today and yesterday, I saw 2 sets of tyres in front of me, and my wife said she saw 2 cyclists in Pemberton. I saw the trails again today, but the only people I saw on the MB over the 3 days was some walkers heading towards the River Road Bridge. However my wife saw them in Northcliffe and had a quick chat. They were double hutting, and one of the riders was looking definitely fatigued. Unfortunatley, a storm front was forecast to come through tomorrow, so it may spoil their trip.
When I came through here this time last year, the South West had been hit by bad storms. This time, Perth had its hottest September day in nearly a century ( it was over 34 degrees!). I was 28 degrees in Manjimup, which made for warm riding. I was glad that the Sun wasn't at its highest, as most of the trails were in shadow. It kept me cooler, but spoilt the photos a bit as the contrast gets too much for the camera to handle.
The first 25 km from Pemberton to Northcliffe was all under karri and jarrah forrest, often on old form, or on good, quiet dirt roads. It was great. The old form following Spring Gully is especially nice - a stream on one side and lots of shade under the big trees. There is also lots of signs of the old railway - occasional sleepers, I even saw a rail nail, some cuttings etc. The only drama was I just missed a dugite (a poisonous snake) by a metre, so from then on the stick strewn form suddenly seemed to be full of snakes! I did see another one later lying in the middle of a trail later- I did an emergency stop about 2 metres from it, but luckily it left in the opposite direction. There were a couple of hills I walked up, mainly to stretch my legs out. I also saw a small bandicoot just after a 1080 fox baiting sign, so Western Shield must be working (see more under "What you will see").
The Warren River bridge is an old railway bridge that looks great. I think it is about 100m long. I am just sorry my photos could not do it justice.
The last 20 km into Northcliffe is even gentler, but mixed gravel roads through farm land or bush. The last 5 km has one hill after you cross Gardiner Road (after turning off Middleton Rd), but once you are at Hollowbut Picnic site (a big hollowed out karri tree) it is all pretty cruisey into Northcliffe. I was there just before noon, so it was time to have a wipe off and change of clothes before heading back to Perth.
June 2014: Collie "3 Ways" to Nannup
I left Perth about 8am, and was dropped at where the MB crosses Mornington Rd near Wallis Form about 10.10 am. I unloaded and got ready, then rode the 3 km to the three way junction in about 15 mins. It is easy riding on the form with a gentle downward slope. I was at "3 Ways" at 10.30am and started to ride to Donnybrook. It was quite cool and overcast - I reckon about 15 degrees maximum, and cooler in the valleys and shade.The first section was pretty easy as it is on undulating form, short sections of single track or good quiet gravel roads. It is mainly in the bush, but there is some sections in farmland, and all the hills are gentle.
Once I crossed the Coalfields Highway, the track follows old form, but then moves onto a single track that undulates along a valley side, almost following the contour line. It is abit harder than riding on forms (it is rated as medium) as it has short steep up and down hills but it is interesting and has nice views in spots. It finishes near River Rd with a downhill section that includes a series of switchbacks. It was pretty tight going down- I often had to stop on the bends and walk around them. I remember pushing up these last time with the BoB trailer and that was hard! I had mobile signal for most of this section.
When you cross River Road for the first time, you will be entering a challenging section of the MB. Be warned- it is full on MTB'ing. This is ok if you are not carrying panniers or towing a trailer. If you are heading South without a load, as I am today, you have some steep gravel roads to ride up (they are mostly rideable) and then some windy, rocky, rough downhill that had me walking some sections (to err on safety's side). If you are heading North, it would be so steep and rough, I doubt most riders could ride it at all! So my advice to most riders is to create your own touring route down River Road to Honeymoon Pool, then on to rejoin the MB. There will still be hills on the road, but all are rideable. River Rd is a gravel road used to access Honeymoon Pool, so on school holidays or long weekends there will be some traffic, but most of the time it is very quiet. Your call, but you are warned! There is nothing on this bypassed section that you have not seen before, plus you will get a chance to stop at Honeymoon Pool. I rode for 100mins to get to Honeymoon Pool over 3 hrs and 40 mins - it seems slack, but I did stop for snacks, photos and often to catch my breath on the hills. I had 20 minute break there. There was occasional mobile signal in this area only.
After crossing the Collie River, there is a short, steep, rideable climb on the sealed road, and then some more switchbacks to ride down as you join the old form on Riches Road, a long gentle uphill road. It has Riches Gully on your left, and in some parts it is so green, mossy and moist it looks like temperate rain forest. The turn off for the Nglang Hut is along here - this hut is half sized hut on an old form over looking a small valley.
After the Hut, you return to Riches Road and keep riding upwards. The Trail then passes through a now drier, gravelly open jarrah forest- the change is quite noticeable. You get to the top of the hill and cross Pile Road. You then pass through the Wellington Discovery Centre, with a few old mill huts that have been restored as accommodation. Even during the day the lawns attract many kangaroos. The trail levels out abit, then starts a long downhill section. Firstly it is a rough road, then the gravel road improves as you leave the bush and enter farmland- look for the sweeping views of farmlands to the Coast. The last downhill section is sealed. There is good mobile signal around this section.
After a short section on Ferguson Rd, I then joined Ironstone Rd - all sealed roads. There was a section of single track cutting the corner off Crooked Brook Rd and Boyanup-Ferguson Rd, opposite Crooked Brook Forrest for a couple of kilometres. It was a bit rough but all rideable single track. Once that section was over, I joined the dirt Boyanup-Ferguson road, that joins Joshua Brook Rd, before becoming sealed. At the T junction with Hurst Rd, the MB turns left to Donnybrook, but I turned right towards Bridge St, then left into Boyanup. It is about 2 km from the trail to Boyanaup, and the end of my trip today. I sat inside the very nice bakery as I waited for my lift to arrive. We were staying the night at the Jarrahwood Community hut, so we drove to Donnybrook to get some dinner at the IGA supermarket, then drove directly to Jarrahwood. It is about 18 km of dirt road this way.
There was a bit of rain overnight, but it cleared up on Sunday morning. We drove to Boyanup from Jarrahwood. The bike got a bit dirty on the rear car rack from the muddy slurry flicked up by my car, so I gave it a quick wipe down in Boyanup. I was on the road by about 9.20am and at the MB by 9.30am. There was abit of drizzle between Boyanup and the South West Highway near Donnybrook, but it was fine after that. It is all sealed quiet back rural roads to the South West Highway, with no big hills, so easy riding.
After Crossing the South West Highway, the trail follows an undulating dirt road and gets to what I call the "Donnybrook 3 ways" - keep straight on for Donnybrook (you will have to back track this section on the way out), turn right for Jarrahwood, or back the way you came for Boyanup. I turned right for Jarrahwood. There were a few hills, but nothing unrideable, and mainly form. I got abit more drizzle, so I stopped and waited for it to pass - it was the last rain for the day. Some of the trail was narrow and a bit rough, others were good. I came out on the sealed Goodwood Rd and stayed on that for 4 km to Vernon Rd. There were a few big hills, but if you got abit of speed up going down, you got mostly up the other side.
The Vernon Rd deviation has been in place since March 2013 due to logging and is horrible. Instead of turning off Vernon Rd at the start and following forms, you got straight down Vernon Rd to Claymore Rd, then up Shearwater to rejoin the MB. Vernon Rd starts off ok, but the hills start getting steeper and the corrugations worse. I took a photo, but the corrugations don't really stand out much. Towards the middle I was walking up the hills and riding down them at walking pace as the road was so bad. And it is fairly boring as well. Remember - "This too shall pass". The only good things about it is I did see a few emus, kangaroos and wallabies in this section, and it is very easy to follow - there are maps at both ends, the old markers have been removed and the new markers are in place.
When you turn onto Claymore Rd you have one hill to get up, but it is all good after that, as was Shearwater Rd. Let's hope the diversion is not there for too much longer.
After rejoining the trail, there was lots of old form into Jarrahwood. I was starting to get tired now as I hadn't had much of a break and this last section did seem to drag on, but it was sunny, pretty and flat. I got to the hut about 2.30pm. According to the ride log, 90 riders had been through in last 12 months. I spent the afternoon at the community house with my wife, then drove into Nannup for dinner. It was cool at night, but not really cold (12 degrees I guess), so the slow combustion heater was nice.
I was up bright and early on the public holiday Monday. The temperature was about 12 degrees minimum, with a maximum of about 20 degrees. The forecast was for a few showers, but I completely missed them, whereas my wife caught a couple as she drove around in the morning (she went to Cambray Sheep cheese factory on the way to meeting me at Cambray Siding).
We packed up our gear and I rode out of Jarrahwood about 8.15am. You are on the MB or Old Sidings Trail as it is also known as soon as you cross the Vassse Hway. The track is solid, pretty well straight and only a slight rise then falls nearly all the way to Nannup. This makes for fast times even with luggage. I saw more old sleepers, rail spikes, rivets and even rail line lying on the track in this 25 km than on the rest of the MB. There was also a few old rail bridges - a couple you can ride over, and others that are unsafe and have a small galvanised bridge next to them. Most trees in the area are small - 30 cm in diameter, but you will see some bigger fallen logs and stumps near the trail, hinting at the size of trees in the past.
Less than 2 hours later I was in Nannup, crossing the old rail bridge over the Blackwood River. Makes sure you stop at the end to admire the leaf shaped bench made from bike parts, the stainless steel bike repair rack and the flood tree with markings of the depths of past floods. The MB continues across the car park and turns left - the marker is hidden behind a tree.
After a short break, I turned around and followed the Sidings Rail Trail/MB back across the old rail bridge, then turned left at the sign for the Old Timberline Trail. This trail is more windy, sandy and gravelly than the Sidings/MB trail, but it is also prettier, more fun to ride and has lots to see on the way. It will take you longer. The first 7 km took me about 45 mins as I walked some hills due to sand, lack of momentuem etc. The section after Mowen Road was great - windy single track heading down hill, so it was great fun on a bike without luggage.
My first stop was Workmen's Pool. I had a quick look, then followed the trail next to St John's Brook to Barrabup Pool. I stopped for a short break and took more photos before continuing over the wooden bridge on the form on the other side. Most of the rest of this leg is now on old form, so is faster and easier riding. The single track sections usually are short only. I admired the cutting coming into Sleeper Hewers Hut (it would have been hard work digging that out by hand), then I had a look at the hut and campsite. I was ok for water so I didn't top up my bidons. Keep an eye out for some nice views down on to the river. Now it was an easy ride into Cambray Siding along the old form. Right on the intersection of the Old Timberline Trail with the MB was a tree stump with the cut outs where the timber fellers had inserted their planks to cut the tree down. We don't have a lot of history, but I enjoyed seeing so much around here
June 2014: Dwellingup to Logue Brook Dam
The King Jarrah diversion map on the website is poor - there are better maps on the gates at start and end or at Bidjar hut. This is a long term diversion - I read this as permanent - due to mining.
The Winter weather forecast was dry but cool as 3 of us set off from Dwellingup to Bidjar hut. We had vehicle back up that was going to meet us near the hut with all our gear, so we were travelling light. We had left Perth about 9am, so by the time we had an early lunch in Dwellingup, unloaded and hit the trail it was nearly noon. The first shady downhill out of Dwellingup didn't let us warm up, but the undulating trail to the ranger's hut soon had us up to operating temperature. The ride up the hill after crossing the Murray River was easy enough, then the ride along the form into Nanga was a fast cruise. The diversion straight off the form into Nanga was still in place even though it was due to have been finished about a month ago, but it only cut about 1.5 km off the trail. It takes you off the form down a steep hill straight into Nanga, rather than following the form that gentley swings around the back of Nanga.
Most of North Junction form is easy riding, but there are a couple of small dips & rises with a few rocks where I assume old rail bridges had been burnt out. We were soon on King Jarrah form. The King Jarrah tree is 500m off the trail. It is on the King Jarrah walk, which heads from the MB trail straight through to Nanga. The first 100m is narrow single track, but once you cross the little stream, it is all uphill and completely unrideable - leave your bikes behind. The steep walk is worth it though - the jarrah is truly magnificent, roughly the diameter of a decent sized karri tree, and nearly as tall. I guess it survived because it is on such a steep slope and was not easy to harvest.
We were at the hut by 3pm. Our back up team had already carried up our gear in so after afternoon tea we had a browse of the waterfall near the hut. We decided to follow the stream up the hill and see how far we could go. Firstly, we put a waypoint for the hut on our mobile phone's GPS - that way if we got lost we could navigate back to the hut. It was pretty dense up there, but we did find an old form that was so overgrown it was a struggle to walk along! We also saw a rocky out crop that was on the map, but we did not get to the top of the hill or anywhere near Nanga Rd. However, we did get a weak signal on the mobiles, so we all feverishly sent texts to home. It is a long way to walk just to send a text, and the risk of getting lost is high (you won't see the hut till you are pretty close) so I wouldn't recommend chasing the signal unless it was an emergency. We used ours sense of direction to get back to the hut ok (GPS was like an umbrella - you never need it when you are prepared) and started getting ready for an early nightfall. Sunset is about 5.20pm at the moment, but in the valley the hut is in it started getting dark and cool pretty early. Our chef took down a 3 burner gas stove, so we had a veggie curry, a chicken curry, an Indian side dish, naan bread, then a traditional Indian dessert - what a treat after rehyd meals. We had a HF radio, so we threw up an antenna and tried it out. We managed to contact Perth, but communications were patchy.
By about 8pm we had finished everything so we ended up in the sleeping area chatting as it was abit warmer. However by 8.30pm we were all in bed.
Next morning was a struggle to get out of bed - my little temperature gauge said zero degrees. But a hot coffee, porridge and bacon & eggs soon had us firing up. We packed the gear up and carried it back to the vehicle, and hit the trail about 9.30am. The King Jarrah form after the Alcoa gate was similar to yesterdays - pretty flat, good surface and nice bush. The diversion turned us right and up a hill to almost join Nanga Rd. The MB follows Nanga Rd closely, but is a nice single track in most parts. After that the trail was mainly on forms. Martin's knee was a bit sore, so he had a couple Voltaren and made sure he spun up any hills in granny gear. This slowed us down abit, but gave us more time to stop and look, to take photos and soak up the sun and the fresh bush air - all very nice.
Just before crossing Hoffman Rd/Waterous Form at the 20.8 km mark we stopped at the old saw mill (I guess it is the Hoffman No 1 Mill, which is described as being located "at the head of Bancell Brook, 14 km east of Yarloop"). If this is the mill, it was put there in 1901 and destroyed by fire in 1917. All that is left is the very large concrete foundations and some saw pits, but it was worth a look. We saw some very large tree stumps in the area that were clearly cut by a saw.
When we came off Cowina Rd two of us took the challenging section, while Martin followed Scarp road to Logue Brook dam on the road on the map that follows the lake. He said it was 450 m from where the MB turned right off Scarp Rd to where he turned right (he said there was a LBD sign there). It shows as Blackburn Rd on my GPS, and is unnamed but on the MB map. If you carry straight on Scarp Rd you go to the caravan park/café via the east side of Lake Brockman via a gravel road. The "touring route" swings right up a slight rise and heads toward the dam wall along the north and west side of Lake Brockman. It is well signposted with a DPaW brown painted post and rail type of sign marked LBD and at a few other signs with maps, restrictions, etc. After 900m is another junction where the track along the northern side of the dam swings right and climbs a 10m ridge, and there is an impromptu track to the left that follows the shore of the dam around to the picnic spot. It's a bit lumpy but doesn't have the 10m climb. It might be the better touring route. The climb up the ridge is short but sharp, with minimal wash away and easy to negotiate, then there is a gentle run down the other side of the ridge to the carpark. Both tracks end in a carpark in another 600 m, and rejoin the MB. Total diversion is 1.95 km. As a general note the touring route is, at the moment anyway, very smooth and compacted by 4WDs and easy enough to ride, although the first part from the start of the challenging section was a little muddy and with a bit of rain it would be very muddy for the 450m to the track around the northern side of the lake. Do orientate your map to the ground and follow the lake edge if you take this route.
So now it was just a few kilometres around the dam and to follow the signs to the café at the Caravan Park. It was now 1 pm. The log fire was on, the coffee was hot and the lunch most satisfying, so all we had to do now was load up and head back to Perth. Surprisingly enough, after an 11 hour sleep last night, most people in the car fell asleep on the way home!
May 2014: Dwellingup to Collie
Friday afternoon, and I managed to get a lift to Dwellingup. I was dropped near the pub and started riding at 3pm. The forecast for 3 days was 13 to 23 degrees approximately and chance of a shower or 2 over the 3 days. So the weather looked great, but the days are pretty short at this time of year (sunrise 7am, sunset 5.30pm). I was riding on the X29 er with the Bob trailer, but not too loaded as it was only a 2 full day ride.
The ride into the Murray River valley is pretty easy - it was mainly down hill for this direction. Around Nanga the trail is mainly old form, so it was all pretty flat and easy, and even the challenging section was all rideable. I had the one small diversion at Nanga, and it was easy to follow.
It got very dark as the trail here is very shaded and Bidjar is in a valley. Got in around 5.30pm and had a soup & snack bar, then unpacked my gear. I had the green thai curry rehyd meal for dinner. Bidjar Hut water was decidedly green (not tea coloured from the tannin in leaves), so I filtered it and used a Steripen on it and I suffered no ill effects. It had no taste either, so another good sign. (I reported it to the ranger the next week as Winter is a good time to empty clean and refill the tanks - one at a time of course). Over 12 months about 100 multi day riders passed through and signed the log. The last rider was through here a couple of days ago. Read the riders notes about the Antichinus (native rat) stealing food and local feral pigs in the area. I went to bed about 8.30pm with a talking book on my phone. I had my usual uncomfortable night - even 2 sleeping mats is not as comfortable as my bed! It was cool, but not cold - I guess 12 degrees minimum.
When I got up at 6am in the dark, there was lots of fog which makes it hard to see with a helmet light - you just get a wall of white in front of you as the light hits the water drops. I had coffee, weetbix and fruit for breakfast and packed and ready to go by 8am. I had a quick walk to the waterfall and I loved the big jarrah by toilet.
I rode back to main route and the start of the deviation. The white gate was open, the markers indicated to head South, but I over thought the deviation and headed back along the King Jarrah form - the wrong way. I followed the Waterous Loop Trail deviation to Nanga Rd via Dawn Creek Rd. I had come along this way last year, and I got confused even with the obviously clear signage. The riding on Nanga Rd (a wide gravel road) was abit boring and after 13 km I rejoined the MB. I think my "deviation" added 10 km. Luckily I will be down this way again next month, so I can track the right route.
The MB had some nice single track along side Nanga Rd. There was a fair bit of old form and even some gravel road. The tunnel under the mining road was interesting. I didn't go to the arboretum - I see a lot of trees on this ride! The only challenging part was near Lake Brockman Tourist park, and even then it was fairly short. I diverted in to the cafe at the caravan park, as I think nearly every rider does. The cafe is open 7 days a week, and they have a great menu of burgers, all day breakfast, drinks, ice creams and cakes. I spent an hour there - eating, charging my phone, using a real toilet, texting home etc.
I left at 1 pm and had no drama re joining the MB trail. I think I most probably cut out 2 km all up with my diversion, but my all day breakfast and take away cake was worth it.
There is another diversion on Stromlo Rd, which I think is an old form itself. It was really well sign posted, with a map at the start, the diversion markers in place, and the old trail markers had plastic bags over them to show they were not in use. It was a great job by DPaW. The trail is now nearly all old form, good surfaces and no big hills. With this perfect weather (no rain today), this is just perfect!
I was at Yarri hut by 5.30pm, which is actually on the trail with a view over a small valley. Had a soup and a snack bar again as soon as I got in then Mexican chicken with cous cous rehydrated meal - bit spicy but good. By 8pm I was ready for bed with another talking book. It was a warm night (maybe 15 degrees minimum) with a bit of rain overnight, and drizzle in morning. There were a few complaints in the riders log regarding the water here (a bit brown from tannin, but I thought it was OK), but especially Bidjar, where it was green. I had no ill effects but I did treat it.( I did advise DPaW when I got home, and of the poor deviation map on the website for King Jarrah Form). Both water tank taps face the same direction ie face you as you ride in from Perth. The one facing in towards the hut (ie the second one as you approach from Perth) has better coloured water than the tap facing up the trail (ie the first one).
Next morning I got wet from "Tunnels of Green" near Yarri that were dripping wet. Otherwise there was just a little drizzle that I didn't even put a rain coat on for. It was very humid and I was wetter from sweat than the other 2 days. It was 17 degrees at 10am, then the sun came out.
Zephyr Rd was wonderful - a smooth, solid undulating road under some big jarrah trees. The soft overcast light made for wonderful photos. The photos show you what I mean. It was a highlight of this section. There was diversion around the Zephyr rd logging area recently (2013). The diversion was on the MBF website in March '14, and directed you down Niger Rd and onto Mornington Rd for an extra 4 km approximately. When I rode through in May '14, the route as per the map was open, and signs of logging on Zephyr rd were obvious, including many marked trees. There were a few notes in the rider's log at Yarri complaining about the diversion around the logging area that takes you down the power line trail- one said it was a 14 km roller coaster on pea gravel (dated Oct '13). The diversion down the power line trail would be very hot in Summer as there is no shade.
On my drive home I noticed permanent MB markers on Mornington Rd much further past the section I rode. This section turned off Mornington Rd onto Niger Rd (unmarked) in the vicinity of Big Tree Rd (which is on the opposite side of the road, and not shown on the MB map- it is near the Muja- Cannington power lines on the map). I spoke with DPaW and they say they used both the powerline track and Mornington Rd as the diversion - both had their positive and negatives. I was advised there is no more harvesting in area for foreseeable future so no diversion is needed but they have left markers on Mornington Rd just in case it needs to be reactivated. However there will logging nearer to the Yarri Hut in future and this may need a diversion in years to come.
When you cross Mornington Rd you can turn right if you want to high tail it into Collie. The downside is this road has a few hills and the your are sharing it with cars doing 100km/hr.
The MB has less hills, but has more pea gravel and can be a slow hot ride in Summer.
I also heard a few chainsaws at various points on the trail as locals collected firewood, but didn't see any 4WD or motorbike (just their trails). As usual, I had the two huts to myself and saw no riders on the track ( except 2 day riders 10 km out of Collie going the opposite way). Ahh, the serenity!
18 April 2014: Jarrahdale to Dwellingup
Good Friday was forecast as 28 degrees, and with most activities curtailed by the religious holiday I thought a days cycling was in order. I got a lift to Jarrahdale (unfortunately there is no bike friendly public transport to Jarrahdale, so you either get a lift or ride there from Armadale - see my "Getting there" notes). No suprises, but everything in town was shut, so I unloaded at the general store without a coffee and was on the trail just before 9am.
The ride down into the Serpentine River is okay to ride down but is very hard to ride up if you are coming the other way due to the slope and the pea gravel. I have used the Scarp Rd to get up to Jarrahdale in the past -it is a steep, long climb, but Scarp Rd is firm enough to be rideable where as the MB is very difficult. Scarp Rd crosses the MB three times from the river to Jarrahdale so you can jump from one to the other if you change your mind.
Coming out of the Serpentine River valley, the MB follows Scarp Rd for a few kilometres. The old route out of Serpentine River valley heading South was an amazing goat track just below Scarp Rd - you can glimpse it in places. It was incredibly steep and quite dangerous to ride down when loaded with panniers. Going up it was impossible if fully loaded, so the ride up Scarp Rd is tough, but far easier. In fact you cross Scarp Rd regularly on Map 2, so again you can make your own "Touring Route" by staying on Scarp Rd till the MB crosses again. Scarp Rd appears to cross more contour lines than the MB and is therefore hillier, but it is rideable in granny gear - but it is boring, and any cars going past may coat you in dust.
The first time I did this ride in 2004 on the old route in 38 degree heat, it took me 2 hours to do the first 10 km, pushing up the now disused goat track. Today is forecast 28 (I don't think it got hotter than 26), and on an unladen bike I did the first 10km in 1 hour exactly. Later in the day my average speed was abit better (about 13 km/hr), but there was still plenty of pea gravel and hills to over come. There is no rail trail until the 10 km mark - it is when the MB leaves Scarp Rd and there is a white gate blocking out cars & motorbikes that the fun starts.
The Karnet Brook crossing was quite damp considering it was the end of summer and Perth was still well behind in rainfalll. I noticed some different flora around the brook - it was very noticeable. Dirk Brook was not as big, but still a pleasant change from jarrah trees and gravel.
There was still plenty of pea gravel, but it was much better after North Dandalup Dam. It was great to top up my water at the "real" toilets at the Dam, and enjoy the views. The picnic area was starting to get very busy even before noon - it is Good Friday. It is a steep downhill to the picnic area, so I have never bother going down on a bike. I had a quick break and pushed on to the campsite, about 30 mins further on.
The campsite was spotless as usual, with both water tanks about 2/3 full. I had a break there as well - this time sitting at a table, not hanging around a toilet! Although the trail was generally easier to ride, I was abit fatigued after lunch so my average speed did not increase as much as I was hoping. It took me 2 hrs to get there. I had good mobile service at the hut.
Whittakers Mill was full of fallen trees and the MB was very hard to follow. Someone had put sand arrows on the ground but I still couldn't follow it around the trees so I cut around the Mill area as I outlined in my track notes. There were also a few markers missing after the hut, but my track notes means you will know when they are coming up.
The Alcoa conveyor was running so it was easy to hear when I got close. The ride alongside it is up hill through the arboretum and with the pea gravel I was pushing again. The top is marked with a big tower and mobile phone reception is good up there.
Soon after crossing the conveyor and rejoining Scarp Rd the new diversion is in place. Oakley Dam is straight on a couple of kilometres away, but I turned off on the realignment. It was easy to follow, although there were a few stretches of 800m without markers where you start wondering if you are on the right track. But it is all pretty easy riding and easy to navigate.
Because it was a long weekend and school holidays, Dwellingup was packed and the over flow of campers who hadn't booked a camp site at Lane Poole (yes you will need to book your campsite on line!) or the caravan park where being sent to the Marrinup campsite. There is no toilets or water there, and with a lot of campers and caravaners in a small area, I was glad I was passing though. I come out here for peace & quiet.
The ride into Dwellingup was now flat, often rail trail, and easy. My lovely wife was there to pick me up again as I was sure I was not up to a 3 hour ride into Mandurah then a 1 hour train ride home. Again, there is no bike friendly public transport to Dwellingup.
All up I drank about 3 litres of water today.
Apr 2014 Day Ride Albany H'way to Jarrahdale:
Today is a nice cruisey ride with friends. The weather was pleasant - warm and dry. We got dropped at Gleneagles before making our way through the old town site roads, across Albany Highway and on to the Wungong campsite. After a short break and a look around for those that had not been to a MB hut before, we returned to the MB then continued along the old train lines. This section of the trail is excellent - undulating, good solid surface to ride on and quite green (even at the end of Summer).
After crossing the sealed Jarrahdale Rd the trail follows gravel roads instead of the forms - not quite as nice as the rail forms, but still very good. We had one decent hill on the ride, and at the top you can get phone signal, so as we stopped to catch our breath, all the phones started chirping as messages came in.
We had a stop in Balmoral as we waited for the riders from Jarrahdale to meet us. There is not much of the POW camp to see, but it is a beautiful spot with tables & toilets.
Most of the ride after Balmoral POW camp to Jarrahdale is along old rail line. The first few kilometres after Balmoral are particularly nice - a narrow straight track, but firm and stable, with only slight rises. There are a few sections where you can still see the old rail sleepers.
The other Map 1 deviation shown on the website (current April 2014) is nearer to Jarrahdale due to a fuel reduction burn. However it was not in place so we followed the MB as indicated by the maps. The diversion puts you on to the gravel Balmoral Road instead of riding the rail trail near by it. The diversion was from Balmoral POW camp to almost Jarrahdale, so it does miss some nice sections if it is in place.
We got into Jarrahdale in time for a late lunch at the general store before packing up and heading home.
Mar 2014 Day Ride Midland to Albany H'way
It has been a long hot summer and we have gone 100 days without rain in Perth and none is in sight either. But the forecast was for a cooler day at 28 degrees so I thought I'd catch a train to Midland, ride the Railway Heritage Trail to Mundaring, then ride the MB to Gleneagles on Albany Highway. The total ride was about 93km, nearly all on dirt on the MB, but I was hoping that as I was riding unloaded it would help make the ride easier. Perhaps I should have made the ride abit shorter so I stayed more in the "loving the ride" zone instead of creeping into "when do I get to the end!" feeling!
I caught the first train from Bayswater to Midland at 7.40am. It is always fun catching the first train of the day on Sunday as it is half full of people who are off to work or exercise, and the other half is people catching the first public transport of the day home from a big Saturday night out. The mix of work clothes, lycra and bedraggled Saturday night finery is amusing, especially as they struggle to stay awake. 2 zones on the train was $4.20 for an adult fare.
The ride up to Mundaring was the usual steady ride uphill on a very good surface except for the couple of kilometres where several hundred runners were running down hill. It was obviously a race from near Mundaring to Darlington, mainly on the road but sharing the trail for a bit. It was ok for me riding up as I kept left as did the runners as they ran downhill, but for the riders coming down hill it was pretty hard to overtake. However the runners weren't on the Trail for long and the trail was nearly empty again soon after.
I had a quick stop in Mundaring at 9am for a snack, then it was downhill on the MB towards Mundaring Weir. There is some nice single track, mainly on the South side of Mundaring Weir Rd, whereas the right hand side is often the old railway line. Both are very nice for different reasons.
Soon you cross the Mundaring/Kalgoorlie pipeline and follow along next to it to the Mundaring Weir hotel. There is a short section of very steep down hill as you go past the pub - it can be scarily fast if you are fully loaded. You then turn left on the Mundaring Weir Rd downhill for a km or 2 - that can be pretty quick too. Turning off on the Pipeline track you basically follow the pipeline but usually on nice single track without following the hills that the pipeline goes over. As you cross the Helena River there is a little pool to stop and prepare for the uphill section.
Yep, it is now nearly all uphill to the Dell. Some sections are rideable, but some parts are quite steep single track with wash outs, so if you are unloaded and in the mood to test your maximum heart rate, you can ride it - otherwise it is push time. The touring route continues straight on when the standard route turns left (it is easy to miss the touring route as it is only signposted from the side) and is more uphill, before some downhill sections. It becomes more undulating ground, and flattens out as you get to the Dell.
When I got to the Dell I had a break on the picnic tables, used the toilet and watched all the MTB riders heading off on the myriad of trails in the area. There is up to 75km of marked and unmarked trail around this area and this car park can sometimes be filled to overflowing with mountain bikers.
After leaving the Dell you often cross the Kalamunda Circuit, indicated by a blue triangle. You cross a few MTB circuits which are one way so there will be no entry signs into them. And you will see a ramp over a log with a narrow plank to another log - you may wish to take your panniers off before attempting this! Or more sensibly, ride passed it like I always do.
The ride up to Mt Gungin is a gradual up hill slope, which would normally be quite rideable. But the pea gravel often made gentle slopes too hard to ride, especially if you lose momentum. It is not great hardship - get off and push for 100 metres or so, but this drops your average speed and makes you reassess your goal for the day. Rain does compact the pea gravel abit and keep the dust down, but will never eliminate it. For me, the Brookton highway was now looking a better place to get picked up from instead of Albany Highway, but it was too late to change my plans.
I joined the Carinyah circuit not far from the Carinyah hut. The Carinyah circuit is an easy 15 km mountain biking trail, consisting of mainly wide 4WD tracks, with moderate hills. It can become loose and slippery in summer though. I stopped at the hut for a break and a drink. In the visitors log only 16 visitors had passed through since 1/1/14 (the 3 months over the hottest part of Summer), with most favouring the cooler months. There is no mobile phone service here. The two water tanks were still reasonable full after such a long dry spell (1/2 and 1/4 full) - I wonder if DEC top them up if they get too low. The water tasted fine straight from the tank and I had no ill effects after the ride from it.
There is a big rough 800m down hill section about 21km from Carinyah. It is steep with big water-carved wash outs in it. It was so steep and rough I walked down half of it. That reminded me of a mate who rode up this hill on a 20 year old rigid MTB (no suspension at all) with panniers on - respect Richo!
There was a diversion on the website after 27 km from Carinyah which was there when I was last out there in Nov 2013. However the diversion maps on the trail had gone and I followed the trail as per the map until I hit a Y junction with no indicators. I checked both tracks out for a 100m or so, but neither was marked. I took the left one, as I could hear Albany Hway in the distance and Gleneagles was to the left of where the MB almost touches Albany Highway. It seems I took the wrong turn as I saw no markers, but after about 1.4km of good road with obvious signs of recent logging I came to a gate within 50m of the highway and a path crossed my track. Looking right I saw a trail marker, so I went down the trail to the right to see the right turn of the unmarked Y junction came out about 200m to the West of where I was. I had not missed uch at all. So I returned to near the gate and continued on and rode the last 3 km or so next to the Highway before crossing Kinsella Rd (shown as Ashendon Rd on some maps). I got into Gleneagles about 5.30pm, very tired and sore. I rode a total of 88 kms over 9hrs 15 mins. I had drunk a 3 litre camelback as well as 5 standard water bottles - it was still pretty warm on the trail. I was very dusty as well - check out the photo of my MB suntan at home! In hind site, Brookton Highway would have seen me finish about 3pm while I was still enjoying it more, rather than having to push myself to making it to Albany Highway.
This page is the property of Follow My Ride, a website detailing off road cycle tracks near Perth and in Western Australia.