Bibbulmun Day 18: Sunday April 22, 2018

Km 553.1 – 592.3 (39.2 km)

Pemberton – Schafer Campsite

I was hoping to sleep in today but ended up waking at the same time as I do on trail. I woke to the sound of howling wind and heavy rain falling on the concrete outside. I feel so lucky with the timing of my arrival in Pemberton. I may yet avoid walking in the worst of the storm which was expected to ease around mid-day today.

As I had completed my grocery shopping and did all the hiking chores yesterday there wasn’t much I needed to do this morning but relax in bed, read a book and wait for the thunderstorm to pass. I spent a couple of hours reading while waiting for the hotel cafe to open for breakfast. Before heading out to breakfast I opened the curtains and was surprised to see sunshine outside.

I got so excited, the storm must have passed, I may be able to leave earlier then planned and may still make Schafer campsite before dark. I wolfed down my scrambled eggs and coffee, checked out of the hotel and was out the door by 8am. So I left the comfort of the very Best Western Motel and headed back on trail. Sadly the sunshine I saw only half an hour earlier must have been an illusion.

Before I was even out of town, dark skies descended and I could hear rolling thunder behind me. What was I thinking? Leaving the hotel was so impulsive, I didn’t even check the radar.

Anyhow too late, I was committed. First stop on leaving town the trail passes by the Gloucester Tree.

Visitors come to Pemberton to see the Gloucester Tree, which is about a kilometre out of town. Seventy years ago, firefighters put some wooden pegs into a karri tree spiraling around the tree to be able to climb it and use it as a fire lookout. Steel spikes have replaced the wooden pegs and tourist can now climb up the 153 spikes which wind around the 61m tall tree. Hammer and I had visited here before and there was no way I could go up more then a few spikes. I don’t like heights even with safety barriers. I can’t believe no one has been killed climbing it. There was a family there when I stopped to have a look. There is still no way I would even consider climbing it, unless it was to save a life.

Despite the sound of the rolling thunder above me, it was nice to be back on trail and the silence. I was less then half an hour out of town before the skies opened and heavy rain set in. After leaving the Gloucester Tree the trail enters a green tunnel and stays like that for some time. With the heavy rain and walking through the green tunnel, time and space seem to get compressed and you are moving but don’t get a sense of getting anywhere. It was warm, there was no wind with the rain so it didn’t feel all that bad. Just rain falling straight down from the sky.

It was encouraging to meet another hiker out in this weather. We stopped for a quick chat keen to keep moving. It was Armand from France. He is a northbound e2e hiker hoping to finish the hike in 28 days. Nice to know I’m not the only crazy person out here. It rained for a couple of hours and then started to ease.

And when I popped out of the green tunnel I could see sunshine. I really can’t work out what’s going on with this weather. The sky stayed a brilliant blue for almost the whole day. It was great to see the sun reflecting off the tops of the trees. Very little of that sunshine made it to the trail where it stayed damp and dark, for most of the day.

I could see no interesting trailside plants but quite a few interesting mushrooms poping up out of the ground. The most curious ones were a bunch of bright purple one glistening after the rain.

I reached the Warren campsite, which was my original destination for today, just after 1pm. Two hikers were already set up there sitting out the rain. I took a short break, wrung out my wet socks, refilled my water bottles and was on my way.

On one occassion the trail left the forest and passed a beautiful green field framed by blue sky. It was so uplifting to come out of the dark, wet forest and see this sight. A brief moment and then you are plunged back into the forest.

From Warren to Schaffer campsites, the trail meanders along the very pretty Warren River, dropping down to the river at times. Crossing the river on the River Road Bridge was really interesting. It’s an old tresle bridge which looks far longer then it needs to be. I can imagine it was built to enable timber logs to be hauled to the mills.

It was a lovely section of trail along the river and would have been far more enjoyable if my feet were dry. I thought of all the things I could have done to keep my hiking socks dry but it was all too late. My feet were suffering, I could feel blisters forming. I just hope its not too bad.

By mid- afternoon I was ready to stop. But I still had at least four hours before I reached Schafers campsite. I could see the sun was shining above me and illuminating the tops of the trees. But at trail level it was not so happy. The sun did not penetrate to the trail at all throughout the day. So there were no opportunities to stop and rest my feet.

It took hours of mind games to stay motivated and make it to camp. About half an hour before reaching camp the trail popped out in the open just in time for me to see the last of the sunset. Brilliant to see the setting sun reflected off the trees.

And just before it got dark the rain returned. I was enormously relieved to make it to the campsite at last. And I didn’t need to worry about disturbing anybody in the dark, as I had it to myself. I set up the tent under the shelter and could finally take the wet socks off my pickled feet.