End-to-Ending Australia’s Bibbulmun Track

Before thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), I will be end-to-ending the Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia (WA).  The Bibbulmun Track is one of Australia’s long-distance trails stretching 1000 kilometers (about 600 miles) from the south coast in the historic town of Albany northbound to Kalamunda, just east of Perth (capital of Western Australia).  I will be taking 6 weeks (40 days) to complete the track and then flying from Perth to San Diego to begin my northbound PCT thru-hike.

Why am I hiking the Bibbulmun Track before the Pacific Crest Trail?

If thru-hiking the PCT isn’t enough, stacking two thru-hikes in one season must make me batty, right?  Well, I don’t really think so.  Maybe a little eccentric.  Long story short, one day I got to thinking it would be really neat to leave for the PCT early in the year and do some kind of training shakedown hike or “mini thru-hike” whereby I could build solid backpacking experience and log some miles before embarking upon my thru-hike of the PCT.  I considered the 500-mile Colorado Trail (CT) among others; of course, I quickly realized that there were few places I could go within the United States in the winter or early spring that wasn’t still experiencing snow and frigid temperatures.  I almost gave up on the idea of a “mother pre-hike” until it dawned on me…  What if I were somewhere where the seasons are reversed?  Australia!!

Bibbulmun

Since I was young, I’ve had an appeal for Australia.  By derivation, the Latin Terra Australis means “southern land” also Terra Australis Incognita, “unknown southern land.”  I was in Australia 18 years ago; of course, that was in New South Wales and the Blue Mountains in the summertime.  This is Western Australia, a whole new part of the country to experience. Originally, my plan was to hike the Bibb, fly back home and rest up, and then fly out to California to begin my northbound PCT thru-hike.  However, in reading the information from the Bibbulmun Track Foundation, I decided to heed the warning and wait until the first week of April to begin my hike so that I would miss their bushfire season.  This would still allow me to make the window for departing Campo at the Mexican border, but not by much.  This is why I have a later-than-normal start date on the PCT of May 14th.  Apart from the Dante’s Inferno heat of the Mojave Desert in May (all the more reason to night-hike!), this also makes for another constraint – only 40 days to complete the Bibbulmun Track.

The Game Plan

I’ll be starting the Bibbulmun right after Easter weekend on Monday April 2nd and will have to complete the trail on or before May 12th.  That gives me 40 hiking days.  On May 13th, I’ll fly from Perth to San Diego and depart the Mexican border on my assigned PCT start date of May 14th.  On the Bibbulmun, I will be averaging 15 miles/24 km per day.  This pace will allow me to make my windows for completing both trails.  If I should finish the Bibbulmun early, I’ll cash those days into “zeros” and rest up in Kalamunda (in Perth Hills) or Perth before the Red Eye flight back to California.

About the Bibbulmun Track

The name of this trail derives from the Noongar people who were Indigenous Australians of the area.  Hikers follow a snake “waugal” much like they would a white blaze on the Appalachian Trail.  Similar to the Appalachian trail, there will be sufficiently-spaced three-sided huts.  These huts have water cisterns connected to rain-collecting roof gutters to supply hikers with gravity-fed water.

To give you some grasp as to the distance, the length of hiking the Bibbulmun Track is the same as walking from Denver to Kansas City!

About the first third of the trail is coastal as it follows the Indian Ocean and eventually works inland to the Karri Forest with its gigantic Eucalyptus trees (Eucalyptus diversicolor) and beautiful flora and fauna.  Similar to river crossings on the PCT, the Bibb has a number of inlet crossings that are at times passable by sandbars and at other times impassable, requiring canoes to get across or some alternate route.

As spring approaches in the United States, it will be autumn in Australia.  Summer (our winter) end-to-end hikes are understandably discouraged by the Foundation due to soaring temperatures and risk of bushfires.
The Bibbulmun Track Foundation has been a great resource throughout my planning process.  Once a member, I was assigned a track counselor that helped evaluate my proposed end-to-end itinerary and answer all the inevitable questions.  And, as usual, I had a whole heap of questions!  My counselor was fantastic as she not only gave advice but informed me of ongoing developments on the trail, including inlet crossings and trail closures.  The Bibbulmun Track Foundation website offers interactive maps, clinics (if living in Australia), trail preparation ideas, and much more.  And yes, I hear there is track magic from track angels!

More About My Itinerary

Despite having a somewhat restrictive itinerary, I hope to absorb as much as I can in all the places I go through.  It’s the between-spaces, the small towns, the parks, the hostels, and the people I meet along the way that matter to me.  It’s not the final destination, it’s the getting there.  Gertrude Stein once wrote, “When you get there, there is no there there.”  I suppose this is a lesson that could be applied to ordinary life as I, intent on some goal, sometimes  forget to fully live each day along the way.
Walking northbound, there are 9 sections of the Bibbulmun Track (1004 km/624 mi):

Albany to Denmark (85 km/53 mi)

Denmark to Walpole (126 km/78 mi)

Walpole to Northcliffe (142 km/88 mi)

Northcliffe to Pemberton (59 km/37 mi)

Pemberton to Donnelly River Village (109 km/68 mi)

Donnelly River Village to Balingup (58 km/36 mi)

Balingup to Collie (86 km/53 mi)

Collie to Dwellingup (128 km/80 mi)

Dwellingup to Kalamunda (211 km/131 mi)

Where possible, I plan on shopping in these towns to resupply; however, I may send 1 box to myself along the way in the remotest and longest section between Dwellingup and Kalamunda.

Final Thoughts

The 40 days I spend on Western Australia’s Bibbulmun Track doing my preparation hike for the PCT will undoubtedly be both challenging and exhilarating!  This perambulation through the Great Southern Land will be an experience for which there is no substitute.  Two years of planning, some dogged determination, and an ability to adapt should go a long way to help me along my journey.

As Cervantes wrote all those years ago, “The road is better than the inn.”

 

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2 thoughts on “End-to-Ending Australia’s Bibbulmun Track

  1. We’re rooting for you

    Like

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