Sunday, April 14, 2013
After the most wonderful nights sleep I awoke so refreshed! My legs are a bit sore so I decided to go walkabout for the day. I went to the Heritage Center to learn more information about Dwellingup. It was so quaint and I met the nicest people. Everyone was so friendly. Then since I was still needing to move I decided to go to the Forrest Heritage Center.
The Forrest Heritage Center is an incredible building. It is built in the shape of a leaf. It was closed for visitors. It is open Wednesday, Thursdays and Sundays. So I'll have to go back tomorrow to take a tour of it.
I walked to the Dwellingup Railway Station to check on the availability of the Forrest Train. I was able to get a ticket for the 2 pm ride. I love train rides to this is right up my alley.
This particular train runs from Dwellingup to Etmilyn. The cost is only $24.00. That is very reasonable and fit into my budget. It is run by a Diesel Engine that might have been made in England and shipped to Australia. The Original line ran to Holyoake where there was a large sawmill. The sawmill was bought in 1920 and became "State Sawmill No. 5". Holyoake was a busy town while the sawmill was open. Like many places when the sawmill shut down the town also ended up recessing.
In 1985 the town of Dwellingup started to refurbish the railroad to be able to encourage tourists to come and enjoy the views. A Specialist Track Master was hired to help repair the rails that has fallen into disrepair. Volunteers cleared all the scrub that had overgrown the tracks and the surrounding area on either side of the rails. They also searched through tons of second hand dog spikes to find ones that were in usable condition for the repair.
Etmilyn was originally made as a watering point for the Steam run engines. They got the water from a small dam and gravity fed to an overhead tank to use with the engines. After the introduction of diesel engines the water tank was removed.
In Welsh, Etmilyn means "small animal". After a run around loop of track had been installed and a short forest walk trail constructed, all was ready for the official "First Train" on August 17th 1986. "The Etmilyn Forest Heritage Trail" keeps getting expanded and improved. It shows off excellent examples of Jarrah, Blackbutt, Red Gum, Blackboy, Banksia and a variety of palms and ferns unique to this area of forest. They allow time for the tourists to walk the trail and learn more about it. Over all the whole time is only 1.5 hours so it was just perfect for me. I loved hearing about all the history of the area from the narrator on the train.
I also found out that a regular restaurant train is also available on this Dwellingup Forest Railway. I thought that was a brilliant idea it leaves from Dwellingup at 7:45 pm and go to Perth. It costs $79.00 and you get to enjoy a 5 course dinner. The sights are softly floodlit so you can still see the forest as you eat and ride in air-conditioned cars. You start off with Cream of Pumpkin soup. Then move on to a Pan Fried Fillet of Fish (catch of the day). For your main course you enjoy Roast Beef with gravy, Roasted Potatoes and Roasted Pumpkin & Green Beans. For dessert you enjoy Hotham's Home Made Apple Crumble with Fresh Whipped Cream. The ending to a wonderful meal is a Cheese & Fresh Fruit Platter. The fruit is seasonal and changes. Your drinks of choice are Tea, Coffee and Mint. After dinner Port is served for those of age. Your whole meal is cooked on-board on a wood stove.
You arrive back to Dwellingup around 10:30 full of the sights and food.
Last but not least the Steam Rangers run from May - October. Steam engines run on coal for the fire and water to make the steam. It takes a very experienced engineer to be able to run one. There is nothing like traveling by steam. The sound is original and seeing the steam plume from the stack on the engine is a sight to behold. It is a longer ride that travels to Isandra approximately 14 km away.
If you want souvenirs from the railroad there are baseball caps, stubby holders (whatever that is) and toy trains. All of them are very reasonably priced and I can always use another hat.
Well I ended up walking 1,934 steps today to help work out the lactic acid in my legs. I also worked in the garden about 1.5 hours.
Well it's time for rest and water. Have a great night my trek friends.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Wow! After hiking all over Mt Dale my legs are sore! It is a good sore indicating muscle growth. We all are moving slow this morning and having to workout the Lactic Acid that has built up in our muscles from the hiking. More water is good and will help it all come out. We have a warm breakfast and pack up making sure to clean up everything. I'm excited to keep hiking and seeing this incredible land.
Mt Cooke is our next area of learning. It is 582 metres high. It is named after Ernest William Cooke, the first Government Astronomer of Western Australia.
The relatively rare Darling Range ghost gum or butter gum can be found on the west facing slopes of Mt Cuthbert and Mt Cooke. This tree is another variety of Eucalyptus. It can look from short and crooked to tall and straight. It has smooth white bark, small white flowers and light green leaves that frost can tint purple. The foliage of nearly all species has a strong pungent odor similar to menthol. It reminds me of the Cuckoo-borough song so I teach it to everyone and we start singing it as we hike. It helps us take our minds off our sore muscles in our legs. lol With the Menthol in the sap the trees have very few pests that threaten them. However, the eucalyptus beetle poses the greatest threat with oval-shaped holes being one of the signs of infestation. I am happy to say none of the trees we pass have the holes and look very healthy.
The Albany Highway was originally called Albany Road in 1853 by Lt William Crossman of the Royal Engineers. The road was originally built of wood block and limestone by convicts in the 1850s. Of course as time went on and cars came it was sealed and improved.
The trail we are on parallels the Highway. We hike through huge areas of pale barked wandoo, before crossing the highway close to the North Bannister roadhouse. Wandoo is yet another variety of Eucalyptus. It is only found in WA naturally. It is one of the varieties with smooth white bark. It is slow growing and is drought tolerant. It also produces excellent honey. I'm sorry to say there isn't any in the tree where we are hiking. It is also considered moderately salt tolerant with potential for rehabilitation of saline soils. The Wandoo produces one of the toughest and most durable woods of any eucalyptus. In the past it was used for railway sleepers, poles, flooring and for heavy and light construction. The bark was also formerly harvested as a commercial source of tannin. Natural stands of this species are now valued for their watershed protection.
The North Bannister Roadhouse is also known as 'Three-ways’. The roadhouse is located 85km south-east of Perth, and is accessible from the Track via a spur trail. It provides southbound walkers with their first opportunity to enjoy a hot pub meal and a shower. We pass by the spur since we are on our way to Dwelling up and the lure of soft beds and showers.
As we hike we keep sharp eyes out for the Fairy-wren and other native birds. Fairy-wrens have a way of telling their chicks apart from cuckoos. Cuckoos lay their single egg in the Fairy-wrens nest. The egg looks very much like a wren egg but it hatches a few days earlier and the cuckoo baby pushes the other eggs out of the nest so it can get all the food. But, there's a catch. The Fairy-wren mothers sing a special tune to their eggs before they’ve hatched. This “incubation call” contains a special note that acts like a familial password. Sort of like a surname. The embryonic chicks learn it, and when they hatch, they incorporate it into their begging calls. Horsfield’s bronze-cuckoos lay their eggs too late in the breeding cycle for their chicks to pick up the same notes.
We hike on into Dwellingup with no issues and are so happy to be there. Dwellingup was first established as a timber mill town in the late 19th century. The name is an Aboriginal word which is believed to translate to "place of nearby water". Dwellingup was the town with services including a hotel, a doctor, two butchers, a baker and a saddler. In 1961 Dwellingup suffered a huge bush fire that was started by lightning strikes. Dwellingup Hotel was the only building that remained. Everything else was burned to the ground. It is interesting to see how the area has recovered from the fire. The town was rebuilt after the fire and is a lovely place to stay now.
We all check in and showers abound! It feels so good to be clean again and the bed is just heaven. lol I look forward to a meal that is cooked for me and not reconstituted on a camp stove. After chatting for a while with the group I'm so tired and go to my room and collapse onto my bed and fall asleep before I hit the bed snoring like a bear!
Friday, April 12, 2013
In the morning we wake up at different times. I'm up with the sun and the birds. It's hard to sleep when the sun comes up for me. I really need it dark to sleep. I also love waking up to birdsong. Up at South Lake Tahoe there are birds that call out "cheeseburger" and sometimes they call out "cheeseyburger". It is so funny to lay there and listen to them. On the trek though those birds are not there. This morning was the screeching of the cockatoos as well as the chittering of the wrens and other sounds I was not familiar with. So I just got up and made some Teecheno to have something hot to drink while I made breakfast. A quick breakfast of Oatmeal, dried fruit and nuts was just what I needed as the camp started to come awake.
We all pack up and head out. Looking around as we leave the campsite making sure we packed out everything that we came with. It is always important to leave a campsite cleaner than when you came so the next people will have a clean campsite as well. We are all chattering and talking about Mt Dale excited to be underway.
Mount Dale is named after Ensign Robert Dale who in 1830 led a reconnaissance party from the Swan Colony in search of fertile land. Mt. Dale used to be the site of a fire lookout tower as it provides almost uninterrupted 360° views over the National Park and surrounding State Forest areas. It is no longer used for that purpose. The whole area is filled with wildflowers in spring almost making a blanket of flowers. It also has wildlife such as eagles, kangaroos and reptiles.
An animal viewing hide has been constructed on the north side of Mt. Dale and provides incredible views over the Helena National Park and the Darkin River Valley.
I keep looking at the wildflowers taking tons of pictures. I'm trying to catalogue all the different flora and fauna that I see on this trek. It truly is incredible. The Kangaroos are interesting to watch. The locals call them 'Roos'. The kangaroo is one of Australia’s most identifiable animals, and some only live in Australia. There are over 60 different species of kangaroo and their close relatives, with all kangaroos belonging to the super family Macropodoidea (or macropods, meaning ‘great-footed’). The super family is divided into the Macropodidae and the Potoroidae families.
The Macropodidae (macropod) family includes kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos, pademelons, tree-kangaroos and forest wallabies. Species in the macropod family vary greatly in size and weight, ranging from 0.5 kilograms to 90 kilograms. The Potoroinae (potoroid) family of kangaroos includes the potoroo, bettong and rat-kangaroo, which live only in Australia.
Kangaroos only eat plants and, in some cases, fungi. Most are nocturnal but some are active in the early morning and late afternoon. Potoroids, for example, make nests while tree-kangaroos live above ground in trees. Larger species of kangaroo tend to shelter under trees or in caves and rock clefts.
All Kangaroos have one thing in common: powerful back legs with long feet. Most kangaroos live on the ground and are easily identified by the way they hop on their strong back legs. A kangaroo’s tail is used to balance while hopping and as a fifth limb when moving slowly.
All female kangaroos have front-opening pouches that contain four teats. This is where the ‘joey’, or young kangaroo, is raised until it can survive outside the pouch. Watching the Joey's hop in and out of the pouches make me thankful that I don't have one for my baby.
Most kangaroos have no set breeding cycle and are able to breed all year round. Because they are such prolific breeders, a kangaroo population can increase fourfold in five years if it has continuous access to plentiful food and water. That is why they are 'culled' or selectively having their numbers reduced to make sure that they don't over run an area and eat up all the vegetation and decimate where they are.
I couldn't believe it but kangaroo meat has been exported to Europe since 1959 because of interest from the European game meat industry. Today kangaroo meat and skins are exported all over the world. Interest is growing because of its well-flavored, slightly gamey taste. Kangaroo meat contains very little saturated fat relative to other meats and is high in protein, zinc and iron.
The Habitat Blind was so cool to be in and see the animals on the other side acting so natural because they didn't know we were there. I loved the birds that were happily searching for seeds to eat. The Fire Tower was interesting to see and realize that someone in the past was luck enough to live out here and work out here with the almost 360 degree view of the valley and national parks as well.
The decent was much nicer since it was going down hill! lol We were all happy about that. We came to the Brookton Hwy and crossed it. The Brookton Hwy is 504 kilometers long running from Brookton to Challis (a suburb of Perth). It is a sealed highway since it is only wide enough for one vehicle. It is known for the curious rock formations that run on either side of the road. Apparently cyclists use this hwy as well. It is very hilly with some inclines up to 20% which is extremely steep. People who are towing things are warned to be careful.
We were able to see some of the rock formations and take pictures of them. The wildflowers were all around as well. The town of Brookton takes its name from John Seabrook, the first European settler in the area. As we walk we cross the Abyssinia Rock. It is literally a huge rock in the middle of nowhere. Believe it or not there is a Geocache there! I couldn't believe it. So we take a few minutes and find it. That's so cool!
As we continue walking we come upon the Monadnocks Conservation Park and our campsite for tonight. We are so glad to be there because all our legs are like rubber and very sore from the climb up Mt Dale. When others pointed out the Possum it really confused me because it didn't look like the ones in the USA. Ours have naked tails that they hang from. They are ugly and put off a horrible stink when they play possum. The one here was fuzzy and cute with very cute pointy ears.
Well after a wonderful hot dinner I collapse in my tent hoping to be able to walk in the morning!
Thursday, April 11, 2013
OK, here we go! As we start out from Kalamunda in the Perth Hills we go into the Jarrah Forest. For those of us in the USA we would know this as a Eucalyptus Tree. The aroma abounds around us as we hike through the trees.
Eucalyptus marginata is the species that the modern day Jarrah tree was descended from. At first the aroma is over powering but as we continue on the hike we become accustomed to it. If nothing else our lungs and noses will be well opened hiking through here. That is unless one is allergic to the trees. The morning is glorious and the sun filtering through the branches is just so picturesque so of course I take a few.
This area is the only area in the world where this type of natural forest can be found. These trees have worked out how to survive in the climate of this area by their specialized root systems. First they have huge very long "sinker" roots that search out the clay under the soil. It is there that the water from the rains, when they come, congregate. That keeps the tree in water year round. Second they have fine "Feeder" roots that stay on the top. These roots are designed to quickly grow and absorb the rare summer shower and take in the nutrients of the forest floor. The other specialty of this tree is how they deal with fire. They are widely spaced with a huge canopy that in ancient times is likely to have been a dense canopy that controlled the undergrowth and helped stop wildfires since there was nothing for the fire to consume. Due to human disturbance the delicate balance has been altered so the forests are to easily damaged by fire. There is also now a disease called the "tile deadly dieback fungus" which is why there are shoe cleaning stations on the trail so the fungus isn't spread by the hikers.
As we hike along there are many different Orchids hanging from all over. Since most Orchids have "air roots" they can sprout out of anywhere. They don't plant themselves in soil preferring the arial branches of the trees. There are also a myriad of flowers on the floor when there are little thickets that the sun reaches down to the ground. On the granite outcrops different types of feather flower form masses of bright rust, yellow or pink at the fringe of the rock.
Grass trees abound, attracting swarms of bees when they flower. The Grass trees are extremely tough. They can go through a fire that burns off all the leaves and blackens the trunk. When the next rain fall comes it springs back to life regrowing and usually sends out the flower stalks! These trees have a symbiotic relationship with organisms that live in the soil. They are called Mycorrhiza. The Mycorrhiza feed the Grass trees and the Grass trees feed the Mycorrhiza. Whereas it is illegal to take a Grass tree if you see one with a flower stalk and can get the seeds they readily grow from the seeds. They are slow growing so don't expect to have one overnight!
Banksia also abounds along the trail. The Banksia is related to the Protea plant that many florists love to use in center pieces since they are very unique and last for many weeks! The Banksia along the trail usually have the long oblong flowers. Each flower stalk has hundreds of individual flowers that grow into a "cone" after the flower is finished blooming. These "cones" then fall to the floor to start their own plants. These plants are a bit tricky to start but once it is started are very hardy.
Wildlife abounds as we cross the Granite outcroppings. Lizards of many kinds scurry around. Some of them are called Ornate Crevice Dragon and Kings Skank just to name a couple. Birds abound as well. The Wrens are flitting from bush to bush as we pass and you can hear the Black Cockatoos calling to one another high up in the trees.
Surrounding Boonerring Spring, tall blackbutt trees are there. The Blackbutt trees are another species of Eucalyptus. They are known for being very fire resistant often surviving forest fires. The lower part of the trunk becomes black hence the name. It was a favorite wood for making houses, railroads etc due to it's resistance to fire. Because of that the remaining trees that are in the wild are all in reserves. The grain of the plantation grown tree is very even and a honey color. The wild grown trees have more of a variation. This tree is also known for it's honey as well. It is also known as the Yarri, WA Blackbutt, or Swan River Blackbutt.
At Boonerring Spring we come upon a permanent water hole at which honey-eaters, wrens, wattle birds and many other species are to be found, squabbling amongst themselves. The noise is almost deafening.
We arrive at Beraking Campsite with just enough time to put up our tents and make our dinners. I went to REI and purchased all of my meals there. They have an amazing selection and I was able to have a nice warm meal before collapsing into my sleeping bag for the night. Tired but satisfied I fall to sleep reviewing all of the sights I saw today wondering what I will see on the marrow.
I was able to get in 1,365 steps today and an hour of PT once I was in my tent.
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