Su Becket, Perth, WA
23 November 2016
This is a story of a very special person, Su Becket, walker extraordinaire, and her two daughters.
Like the Yellow Brick Road in L. Frank Braum's famous story The Wizard of Oz, the Bibbulmun Track lays its own claim to fame as a magical creation. Alana and Lindsey Reid were taken on a spell-binding journey along the Track very early in their lives when their mother led them on an unsupported end-to-end! This year, the girls decided to work their own brand of magic out in the bush. In between times the three of them through-hiked the Appalachian Trail, but that's another story.
Alana begins the tale:
In the Spring of 1999 my intrepid mother Su took my sister Lindsey (aged 8) and myself (aged 9) for a stroll on the Bibbulmun Track. This stroll turned in to an unsupported end-to-end hike, taking us two months to walk from Kalamunda to Albany. We finished the trek in November, and for Christmas that year our grandparents gave us A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. Mum read it straight away, Lindsey said she was never walking again, and it wasn’t until years later that I picked it up. I was instantly drawn to the idea of the Appalachian Trail—a 3500km footpath that crosses 14 states of the USA on its way from Georgia to Maine. Could we do this?
Of course they could, and they did, and this story features in Trailing Around the World.
Back to the Bibbulmun Track.
The epic Bibbulmun end-to-end trek started in early September 1999 and finished in early November. At that time the New Track was in its infancy and in near pristine condition. The walk took 56 days, with two days off. Sadly the trio took no camera with them, and the only photographic record of that time is the picture to the right.
So why did Su decide to take the kids on such a journey? Su takes up the story:
Before I settled down (Ed: How many of us relate to those words?) I travelled the world for about seven years, walked part of the Annapurna circuit, walked in the UK, hitchhiked around the middle east, worked in a Kibbutz…
When I returned to Australia I was keen to walk the Bibbulmun Track, but by then I had kids, and the Track was primitive, with no shelters, no water supplies and no toilet facilities—not a family friendly environment. A few years later, however, "The New Bibbulmun Track" project was completed and by 1998 a walker friendly, if still a tough, trek of 1000km through the bush was available for anyone who cared to undertake it.
I knew from previous walking experience that the distances between the shelters would be no problem for me. We split the gear between us, I carried most of the food and we had a great time—and I was the only one who suffered from blisters! We were amongst the first of the End-to-enders, following closely in the footsteps of the inaugural walkers of 1998 and for sure the girls would have been amongst the youngest—and they did walk every step of the way!
The highlight of the whole trip was just being out away from everything and seeing the amazing diversity of our bush. Every day brought forth something different. I think when you are walking, seeing just one little thing, maybe a flower, maybe a kangaroo, makes your day. Basically your life is broken down to a very basic level. I guess it's the simplicity of the walking lifestyle that appeals to me.
The weather was excellent and the bush was alive with wildflowers—and snakes! At the end of the walk we were interviewed by the media; Alana said she wanted to turn around and walk back to Perth while Lindsey's reaction was that she never wanted to walk again, but obviously that was a feeling that has since changed!
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then and I have done a lot of walking— the Cape to Cape, Cradle Mountain, the Bungle Bungles, and more than 5000km on the "Caminhos" of Europe. And now of course the Appalachian Trail. Whereas the Bibbulmun Track was my idea, the girls invited me to walk the AT with them.
And so, having returned from their stroll of 3500km in the USA, where the three were known collectively as Aussie Legs, and gained the individual trail names of Muddy Duckling (Alana), Firebear (Lindsey) and Redback (Su), in October Alana and Lindsey decided to do an overnight hike on the Bibbulmun Track.
Last week Lindsey and I went for an overnight hike on the Bibbulmun Track; we wanted to add some spice to our lives! We decided to join the exclusive club of ultra lighters and only took the bare essentials for our trip.
We elected to do a 21km hike out to Waalegh Campsite, stay the night and then hike back to our parked car. Other than overcoming some of our AT withdrawals, we needed to do some research on where the “bubbles” of end-to-end hikers are this year. Why? We wanted to perform some “trail magic”!
Our hike was fun; the weather was lovely, we saw two kangaroos, a snake, some kookaburras and quite a few day hikers. We stopped in at Ball Creek Campsite for morning tea, Helena for lunch and then got somewhat lost. We never got properly lost on the AT, but somehow (in our own beloved backyard) we managed to go over 2km off trail! When we eventually found the Track again (4km of extra walking later) we decided to head back to Helena Campsite and spend the night there. We spent it with two section hikers and passed a relaxed evening with a beautiful view.
While we were relaxing in the shelter, we trawled through the register to find where everyone was. I managed to find a “bubble” of about 11 end-to-enders who would be hitting the Track just south of Donnelly River. Our plan was to find these hikers and give them some "trail magic" as a payback for all the awesome magic we received on our own hike.
On Sunday morning the four of us, Dad included, packed up the car and drove for five hours to find a camping area in the Donnelly area near a Bibbulmun Track access point. (Ed: red car symbol on the map, folks!)
We eventually came to Chappel’s Bridge Campsite, where we were delighted to find plenty of room to camp, the Donnelly River next to us and the Bibbulmun Track right in front of us! We quickly set up camp and put up our homemade signs.
It was late afternoon, so armed with wine, beer and brownies, we walked up to the nearest shelter on the Bibbulmun Track, Boarding House, where we found four lady end-to-enders, who were thrilled to be treated to some of our "magic". The campsite register showed our original “bubble” of walkers had already passed through.
On Monday, late in the day, two sisters popped out of the bush, who we plied with beer, sausages, cheese, chips, cookies and brownies and next morning cooked them bacon and eggs for breakfast and sent them on their way with a snack pack each. Next day we drove north, parked and made our way along the Track to the Grimwade Campsite, where we shared snacks and drinks with one more lady hiker.
All in all we reckon our first attempt at "trail magic" went fairly well, considering we missed the actual bubble I’d planned for! Some things we noticed:
- Bibbulmun Track hikers are nowhere near as hungry as we were on the AT.
- At first, everyone was thoroughly confused by what we were doing and had to be convinced that it was okay to eat our food.
- We saw eight women and only one guy. Go girls!
- You really need to camp out for a few days to make it worthwhile.
- Everyone should begin doing Bibbulmun Track magic! It was a really nice way to combine doing something we love (camping and relaxing) with something that made other people smile. On the AT we were constantly overwhelmed by the encounters we had with trail angels, and we will definitely try to make this a regular thing.