Pemberton is situated on the side of a big hill, we were smart enough to grab a motel room at the top of that hill yesterday, which made for an easy start this morning.
A few kms out of town is the Gloucester Tree, a massive Karri at the top of that hill in the Gloucester National Park. Back in the day they used to use large trees which stuck up above the canopy as fire lookout towers; this 500 year old Karri is one of only three remaining lookout towers in the area and is the largest at over 75m tall.
They used to be manned by forestry staff 24/7 during summer given the density of the surrounding forests and risk that fire posed to the towns.
You can still climb it using the reo bars that are hammered into the tree to form a spiral ladder; there’s around 150 of them that take you up to a steel structure approximately 55m up.
Tennis had heard about this climb and had been looking forward to it for the entire trip. As soon as we arrived he was up it like a rat up a drainpipe. I got about 15 rungs up and realised it wasn’t for me. I’ve never much liked heights, and I’ve become accustomed to having my spine and neck in the same alignment. Cleated cycling shoes didn’t help.
Here’s what Tennis says about the climb:
The reo bars were pretty evenly spaced at a good lanky step size so it made climbing a quick exercise. There was a mesh fence attached to the outside that I suppose provided some safety if you weighed less than 20kg. It doesn’t take long to start getting a pretty good view which improves with every rung. As you get towards the top it starts to get a little sketchy as the reo bars have been placed around branches and steel members. But it’s all worth it once you get to the top with an absolutely incredible 360 degree view.
The climb down is a little more interesting because you are watching your feet rather than your hands, and you start to notice the reo bars bending a little more that you would like. By the time I was coming down, some other punters had started climbing up so squeezing past each other wasn’t the most pleasant, but I knew Dan was hanging at the bottom to catch me so I was fine.
Once back on terra firma we set off for the days ride. The area south of Pemberton is called the Southern Forests and Valley region; there’s a distinct change in landscape here from red, mineral rich earth and Jarrah trees to sandy Karri forests.
The trail leaves the Gloucester National Park on some awesome hard packed single track, no doubt built by the same guys that built the competition trails on the other side of town. It was a lot of fun first thing in the morning when our legs were fresh, even with the trailers on the back.
From there the trail gets onto some beautiful old rail formation, you can still see the old sleepers if you look hard enough.
The rail trail then drops down onto River Road which follows the Warren River until it eventually crosses it at the River Road Bridge. This is an old 200m long rail bridge and is still in excellent condition. The Warren River widens out at a bend at this point and forms small pools underneath the bridge.
We saw quite a few trout swimming around and we spent a while working out what we could Macgyver into a fishing line.
After a testing climb out of the river valley, we stopped for a bite to eat and a coffee in the shadows of some massive Karris. We also snuck in a cheeky nip of port.
The trail continues on dirt road and forest tracks, past farmland and through bushland for another 15km or so. We rolled into Northcliffe at about 3:30pm and headed straight to the pub. The Northcliffe Hotel is a great country pub, surprisingly busy given the rest of town is so small…I guess the Caulfield Cup drew a few locals out for a punt.
We met a couple of older blokes who were starting their Munda Biddi ride in Northcliffe and heading north. We chatted with them for a while and shared some tips we’d picked up along the way (“turn right at the tree with an axe in it….” that sort of thing).
We ended up grabbing dinner and a room there too. The rooms are modest; ours was sporting a little decorative mould in the corners.
Northcliffe is also the spot where we stop heading south and start heading east. Here’s a shot of the trail showing where we’ve been and where we’re heading.