Find out the latest news about the Track and the Foundation before you set off for your next walk.
6 April 2021
BTF volunteers were busy recently at both campsites near Mt Cooke.
A large group of maintenance volunteers (with Track sections in Perth Hills District) gathered at the Mt Cooke campsite for their annual Field Day.
There were plenty of tasks to keep them busy for the morning – from sanding and varnishing the bunk boards, fixing the gutter and pipe system, reoiling the cladding and replacing the broken whirlybird on the toilet; to removing the obsolete boot cleaning station, repairing the picnic table and fireside benches, and installing new signage.
Meanwhile, a group of Support Volunteers spent two days making some improvements at the Mt Cooke Group campsite. These included filling a gap in the southern gable end with clear sheeting, installing new gutter guard, constructing new box steps towards the lower level and some new benches around the fire ring, and upgrading the water collection system.
We applaud the hard work and dedication of all our volunteers!
2 April 2021
If you think you’d like to do a long trek but you’re not sure you could make it, you’re wrong! It’s all in the preparation. Here’s some tips from a former non-trekker.
It’s never too early to start preparing! Although you can definitely decide one day and start the next, you will have a more enjoyable and potentially successful trek if you take time to get your gear, mind and body ready. Here are the main areas to cover:
- Food – it goes without saying that it’s a good idea to spend time figuring out what you like to eat, how you’ll cook while you’re trekking, how and whether to dehydrate your own food, how much food you will need, and what type of food you need to eat to support good health. Food becomes one of day’s highlights and out on the Track you’ll wish you brought more than 2-minute noodles and protein bars after few days!
- Physical – expect to feel really stiff and sore for the first week or so of your trek and gradually stronger as the weeks go on. Unless you walk with a pack four to five hours a day in your normal life it’s worth taking the time to physically prepare to reduce the risk of injury and to make the transition to ‘trek fitness’ less painful. The Bibbulmun is undulating and at times loose underfoot so make sure you train for endurance in ascending and descending for hours at a time as well as for the required daily distances. This will also help identify any physical issues early that could be solved with professional help from a physiotherapist or podiatrist.
- Gear – make sure you try out all your gear (equipment, backpacks, clothing, bedding and shoes) in the sorts of conditions you will have on the Track before you start. This is necessary to check that they fit, work as supposed and that you like them as you can’t easily exchange things while trekking. Remember backpacks fit differently when full and weighted, you may lose weight after a while and your feet will swell after walking all day so check your clothes, shoes and backpack will still work under those conditions.
- Mental – it’s a huge mental challenge to keep going when you are tired, cold, hungry, dirty and sore. It’s worth practicing mindfulness or other mental strategies for dealing with emotional and physical pain since, unless you are in a position where you need emergency help, you’ll have to walk out to the nearest road even if you decide to stop trekking before the next town. See next tip.
Vow not to give up until you’ve walked at least the first 8-10 days. The first 8-10 days on the track will be the hardest, hands down. You are new to the trail, your body is not ‘trek fit’, you have a heavy pack full of food and the whole trek to go. Here are some reasons not to stop before 10 days are up:
- Muscles take around 8 days to acclimatise to the work and get stronger; once this happens the soreness will reduce significantly and the trekking will be more enjoyable.
- Over the first week you will develop small routines that will streamline your packing, bed set up, cooking etc. This will make living on the Track a lot easier and less stressful. After a while you may even start to enjoy the simplicity of living on the Track.
- Within a week or so (if not the first few days) you’ll likely meet other trekkers who are in the same position as you and that will feel strangely comforting. You’ll share fantasies about the first things you will do, eat and drink when you get to a town, laugh together about silly things that happen and problem solve issues together – this will help to keep you motivated and keen to keep going.
Try to set aside enough time to do the whole track even if you don’t think you’ll do it.
- Once people get past the challenge of the first week they’re often hooked and want to keep going. They get hooked by their increasing ability to meet challenges and different experiences on Track, the simple living, landscape, and definitely by the enthusiasm of other trekkers they meet and walk with. It can be a wrench to wave your group good-bye as they head off down the Track and you’re back to ‘real life’.
- Even if you decide to tackle the Bibbulmun in sections you’ll soon realise that you’ll have to go through the challenge of getting trek fit each and every time you start out – if you can it would be much better to start only once so you only have to live through that pain once.
Ask everyone you meet for tips, highlights and things to avoid.
- There is an enormous amount of experience and expertise on the Track and you’ll find people are happy to share. Even if you don’t have a problem it’s worth asking for tips as you may be given something that becomes useful later or that you would never have thought of doing.
- It’s particularly a good idea to ask trekkers going in the opposite direction what the condition of the track is like and for any advice. This could help you plan your day’s activities and/or avoid small issues becoming big challenges.
Live for the day, accept the challenges and condition of your body and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. It sounds like a new-age poster but really is the best way to ensure you enjoy your time on the Track.
- You can prepare all you like but you can’t control how well your body will respond to the challenges, whether you get injured or what you see while you are walking. Ruminating over whether you will be able to complete your trek, how slow / weak / unskilled you are compared to others, or what you will do if you get injured doesn’t help you trek well.
- Worries can distract you from what you’re doing, increasing the risk that you’ll forget something, miss the track markers or have an injury. Any of these things have the potential to end your trek.
- Worries can also distract you from enjoying your trek. If you’re constantly thinking about how slow you are or how disappointed you will be if you can’t finish, then you’re not seeing the wildflowers at your feet, the enormous grass trees or the beautiful vistas you’re passing by. Seeing and experiencing these things are why you are trekking and so, particularly if this ends up being your last day on the track, you want to make sure you experience as much of it as you can.
- Practicing trekking each day as if it’s your last is not only good for the track, it just might help you in life off the track too.
I started my Bibbulmun trek in September 2020 and finished in November 2020, end-to-end. I hadn’t planned on trekking the Bibbulmun but COVID restrictions meant a planned overseas hike was not possible. It was a hard, exciting, exhausting and ultimately enjoyable experience. I am so glad that I did it and would encourage anyone with a glimmer of an idea to trek to give it a go – you won’t regret it!
Author: Tanya Gawthorne
BTF Member and End-to-Ender
19 March 2021
While we applaud the fact that more people are exploring our beautiful State, it has unfortunately resulted in an increase in off-road vehicle (ORV) activity in non-designated areas - including on WA’s premier long-distance hiking trail, the Bibbulmun Track.
Why is so important to stay off the Track?
The BTF (Bibbulmun Track Foundation) helps to maintain and promote the Bibbulmun Track which attracts hikers from around the world to the south west. The facilities along the Track and the Track itself are purpose built for walkers and walkers alone.
Other than a very few short sections where it is unavoidable (eg access roads to property and near towns) - ORVs are not permitted on the Bibbulmun Track for various reasons. Some are -
- Many areas through which the Track passes are of high conservation value with unique flora and fauna which is easily damaged, destroyed or disturbed by ORVs.
- Dieback poses a serious threat to flora and is carried easily on tyres. Find out more about Dieback here. The Bibbulmun Track Maps show Disease Risk Areas (DRA) clearly, if there is not a red or green car pictured on the map then you are not permitted to drive along that road to access the Track. You can find more information on our website here.
- Over 350 passionate volunteers spend over 30,000 hours a year caring for the Track and infrastructure - including steps and water bars to minimise erosion. Damage by ORVs is very demoralizing.
- There have been close calls when vehicles have driven through campsites and nearly run over tents.
Importantly – it is also the quality of the experience for hikers that we wish to protect.
Legal riding areas in WA: The problem
We are aware of the argument that there are limited places for trail bikes to ride and we continue to advocate that the government support the recommendations in the WA Trail Bike Strategy released in 2008. You can see these letters here and here.
So where can I go 4WDing/riding in WA? Resources and Maps.
1. You’ll find a very handy map here, courtesy of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSC). This map outlines each area currently available across the state, including information on the areas below the map. You’ll also find an ORV guide for WA here, including where to ride, a list of local clubs and Facebook groups and explanation of Off-road rules in the state of WA.
2. We also recommend joining the Pinjar Motorcycle Area Facebook Group here. As one of the only designated riding areas in the metro area, they are a great place to find like-minded ORV riders and are very much family friendly. See the Trail Network here.
3. If you are getting into Trail Riding for the first time, the Victorian Government has also released a useful publication here outlining trail types, safety, trail etiquette and guidelines on respecting the environment in which you are in.
4. Finally, RTRA (Recreational Trailbike Riders Association of WA) are the premier representative for trail bike riding in WA. The website alone has plenty of helpful information, including places to go, rules for riding in WA, licensing laws, and up to date information on current projects.
We are lucky in Western Australia to have a wealth of different trails and camping grounds that cater for the various user groups, including those who use ORVs. However, please don’t use ORVs on tracks and trails designated for only walkers.
If you found this article helpful PLEASE help us to spread the word and pass it on to your members/user groups/mates and family – your support to get this message out is greatly appreciated.
Thank you for your assistance.
18 March 2021
Our superseded gear found new homes with worthy recipients.
The sleeping bags were donated to an organisation that runs camps for Aboriginal youth in foster care, to reconnect them to country and culture.
The backpacks went to one of our Affiliated Organisation members, The Boys Brigade WA, that caters for children and young people during their school years. Part of their program is to develop knowledge and skills for trips into our great outdoors. They also work closely and share resources with The Girls Brigade.
It is very rewarding to see organisations encouraging outdoor activity and growing our future members and volunteers.
4 March 2021
This last year, more than ever, people have looked at the bigger picture beyond the normal fast pace of life. Stuck indoors, with excess time to think about priorities and what gives us meaning and purpose, we may put family and friends at the top of the list. Many also reflect on the disconnect from nature and lack of open space, particularly for those of us in cities. As a result, walks and trails – whether metro or country, coastal or inland – have seen a huge increase in walkers. That search for meaning has also started many on a journey on the Bibbulmun Track.
Walkers find great joy and connection to nature through getting out on this beautiful and iconic trail. Some have gone further and become builders and keepers of the Track. Jim Freeman is one such caretaker, responsible for tending and maintaining the track for over twenty years. He demonstrates many pathways to a better life.
Finding your way around life's obstacles is something Jim takes in his stride. Working on a remote farm in Merredin and in the forestry industry in Dwellingup, with no hardware warehouses or supermarkets nearby, he became a master at innovation and making do.
Jim talks passionately to me of his time on the Track and how he sees it as a reflection of life. He started walking the Track back in 1976 and describes how easy it was to get lost in the early days. The Track yellow markers were simple equilateral triangles with no waugal, which made picking direction an interesting choice, rather than a definite guide. Many a time on his 14 end-to-end treks over the years, he had to backtrack and find a way around heavy flooding or impassable rivers. Jim found that trail placement – to avoid hills and dams – sometimes complicated navigation.
At that time, clean drinking water was sometimes a two to three day walk away. Trying to stay clean was also often a challenge, and it is not hard to imagine Jim as “The Mad Axe Man” (his Track name) he often wrote about in one of his many bush poems:
I'm the axeman mad, but I'm not as bad, as you hear some people say
I may look green, but that don't mean, that I can't walk all day
I set a good pace, with whiskers on my face, and I don’t have a wash for days
For the dirt will keep till the end of the week, that's the true mad axeman's way
I cook my tucker in a baked bean tin, boil my tea in a rusty can
I've a jam tin cup, and I wash up, in the same dish I use as a fry pan
Last thing at night, I blow out the light and I snore myself to sleep
I don’t comb my hair, coz there ain’t none there, and I never wash my feet.
Poetry of a Mad Axeman Book your spot here to experience an evening on the Track with Jim.
Jim used to get ready for a long trek by walking to work with up to 40kg of lupins in his pack, to build up some walking strength. "But the equipment has changed so much too now, and for the better" he remarks. No more cooking in baked bean tins on open fires! "Tents are now half the size and weight, but three times the price" he comments. The choice of food now is also wide ranging – a far cry from the packaged dried potato that was one of very few offerings in earlier days. The choice is even bigger now when you can hire dehydrators to make your own (from the BTF, of course!).
There have been huge improvements in safety equipment (like Personal Locator Beacons), well mapped Track access points and water tanks at every shelter; these have greatly reduced risks without taking away from the experience of being on a true wilderness trail. The many Track realignments allow for a better experience for new and experienced walkers, allowing them to complete long distances in smaller sections; in this way weekend and day walkers are well catered for.
“What's your favourite section?” I ask Jim....
"Aw, somewhere between Kalamunda and Albany" he replies with his usual cheeky dry humour. "The Track now is perfect for all to walk on" he adds.
Jim sees the biggest challenge on the Track nowadays as being the amount of people using it. But he has risen to the challenge over the years, along with hundreds of other maintenance volunteers.
Starting all the way back in 1998, Jim has undertaken varied and interesting work looking after a couple of different sections of track, in the Perth Hills and Donnelly districts. Sometimes the work was as simple as trimming back bushes and trees, to keep the path clear after storms; through to rerouting parts of the Track washed away in heavy rains. He remembers having to find and mark the trail again after a fire, which burnt tree stumps below ground level and annihilated any sign of where the track once was. "Part of the problem is you know the Track so well you could follow it without trail markers, so you have to put yourself in the boots of someone walking it the first time, when placing signs" he says.
Jim was also one of the BTF’s volunteer event guides. He enjoyed being ‘Tail End Charlie’ on the Team Challenge events, which brought out not only his skills as a guide, but his ability to entertain all with his humour, bush poetry, and stories. He was continually awed at the profound transformation these tours brought to people's lives. On the Team Challenge he often saw people from the city completely change as they immersed themselves into living in the bush. The bush proved a great leveller of the hierarchy brought from an office environment.
In all the years of walking the Track, Jim never had to use his First aid training that he acquired as a guide. But he did get to use it successfully at his local bowling club, when one of the older players had a heart attack and required CPR until an ambulance arrived. His most memorable walking injury was a self-inflicted puncture with a safety pin whilst doing up a bandage - something he would rather forget.
Jim finds it hard to describe what twenty years of working on a wilderness track means to him. His description of "wanting to give something back" is so simple and yet so powerful. It’s the kind of task that can give our lives meaning and purpose, and to leave a legacy beyond family and friends. A gift, of a wilderness track built and kept for all to use. The example of Jim Freeman’s gift to the Bibbulmun Track is one we can all follow.
Feature by BTF office volunteer, Gerry Killian.