The Cape to Cape Track in southwest Western Australia has to be one of the most beautiful hike trails in the world. There is stiff competition for such a prestigious title, I know, but there are not many places you can walk along perfectly white sand beaches, pink sparkling granite boulders, deep green vegetation atop limestone cliffs and towering Karri forests every day. You have it all to yourself most of the time too.
I walked the top half of the track from the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse to Prevelly back in 2016 with my husband Jed. For three nights and four days we hiked over the hills and along the sandy beaches completely alone. On a few occasions we passed some northbound through-hikers but that was about all. Access points to the track are fairly widely spaced and although you do see day hikers and tourists around the more popular places you pass, it’s not long before you are in the wilderness again.
We loved our multi-day hike on the Cape to Cape and had planned to return the next time Jed was home from work to complete the southern half. However, before we could return we discovered, with great joy, that we were pregnant. Although I felt fine and had good energy at the beginning of my pregnancy, I was uncomfortable with any pressure on my stomach so carrying a heavy hiking pack with a waist strap was out of the question.
We resolved to return and through hike the track with our baby as soon as the time was right. Now that Maddie is almost a year and a half and my fitness is almost back to pre-pregnancy levels, I feel the time to try again is drawing near.
Although we have not taken Maddie out on an overnight hike yet, and have not slept in a dome tent with her, we have covered a lot of ground on day hikes. Maddie is pretty happy in her Osprey Poco Premium baby carrier now. She sleeps whilst I walk and, so long as we give her plenty of run-around time, we can do 10-15km hikes with no problems.
We were planning a last-minute mini-break to the Margaret River region and decided to include a day hike on the Cape to Cape. During that first multi-day hike on the Cape to Cape we passed Quinninup Falls. The falls were only a small trickle at the time as it was towards the end of summer and there had been no rain. In the weeks running up to this mini-break there had been a lot of rain and so we decided to hike out to the falls to see if they were flowing.
Jed is the trail planner of the two of us. I tend to leave all the route and supplies planning to him. He tells me what time we’re leaving and that’s about it. I like it. Jed is in his element in the outdoors and I quite enjoy following his lead. I think it’s fair to say I am the decision maker and planner of big, important things in our relationship. I have spent my whole career working in male dominated environments and asserting that I don’t need to follow a man’s lead just because I am female. In a way, taking a back seat outdoors, letting Jed do all the planning and putting my fate in his hands is a welcome relief from feeling like I need to be in control all the time.
Jed did his research and decided that we would drive to Moses Rocks car park and hike from there to Quinninup Falls and back. This is quite a short route compared to some of our day hikes, only 4-5km all up, but he wanted to leave plenty of time to take photos and let Maddie play around. We spent the previous day exploring the foreshore at Sugarloaf Rock. A fun little escapade but one where we had to carry Maddie and keep her very close by as we were so close to the rough ocean. Today, we wanted to make sure she wasn’t restricted in her carrier too much. This little firework needs plenty of exercise every day or else she’s up playing around late into the night.
We arrived at the car park around 9am to find only one other car; a surfer checking the waves. There is a staircase leading from the car park down the 30 or so metres down to the narrow sandy beach below. Maddie had a wonderful time playing climbing and descending the steps. The steps were wide and not very high which made them manageable for her. There was a chill in the air but Maddie was wearing her little fleece-lined jumpsuit, which kept her nice and warm.
We took our time getting set up, enjoying the fresh morning air. Maddie is always happy to play with her pack, putting things in and out the pockets and pulling on the straps. We take this as a good sign that she’s happy and comfortable in her pack for these long walks. We make a point of putting the pack on the ground for ten or fifteen minutes before each hike so she is familiar with it.
When we were ready we set Maddie up in her pack, loaded up and set off. The start of the track north from Moses Rocks car park runs over a granite outcrop with thin soils and lots of shallow bowls for water to accumulate. It is not slippery but after so much rain it was a bit muddy in places. Not that we minded. What’s the point in playing around outside if you don’t get a little dirty?
The track meanders through the open cliff top and into a steep, narrow stream-cut valley. A small bridge crosses the valley and although you cannot see the running stream through the thick vegetation, you can hear the water trickling. A bench, thoughtfully positioned, sits at the top of the valley, looking out to sea. It is quite whimsical and I often wonder who plans these little conveniences. Being so remote, the bench would not get as much passing traffic as one in a town or busy place. Having said that, given the view and serene setting, I’m sure a lot more passers-by stop and enjoy a rest here than most public seating.
Past this we venture into more dense scrub. I find that by sticking my elbows out to the side a bit I can deflect any scratchy branches from Maddie’s legs. We stopped to check on her and found she had fallen asleep already. I think that being carried must be quite relaxing for her as she often falls asleep not long into a hike, whether she is due a nap or not.
We continued on until we reached a big sand dune, which I would need to somehow navigate down whilst carrying this big pack on my back. This is where things got a bit more ‘interesting’.
You see, I remember this big dune from our last hike here when we were going southbound. We approached this steep ascent and cursed the whole way up the soft sand. I was in far better shape then than I am now and found it quite exhausting.
I cursed Jed for planning a steep sandy hill climb for our ‘gentle’ little morning hike.
“Oops” he proclaimed sheepishly “I forgot about this part”
Well, going down wasn’t that bad. I pretty much slid down the whole way. At the bottom the path veers to the left to the beach but we turned right up a sidetrack, over some red ground, towards the falls.
Approaching the falls I had to navigate some more narrow paths and low branches, which I managed, with a little help from Jed. The problem all these carriers have are that they are quite tall. Once the sunshade is up they are well over a foot taller than me meaning I have to squat down quite low to get through some passes.
We could hear the falls as we approached and were delighted to see a generous flow when we arrived. There is only a small clearing, a few square metres, but enough for me to take off the pack and set up my camera for some waterfall photos. Amazingly, Maddie was still snoozing away.
We had the site to ourselves for about ten minutes when a young couple turned up. They were very shy and quiet and barely mumbled a response when we said hello. They did smile and coo at the sleeping baby though. I don’t know what they were planning but they seemed almost embarrassed to have encountered other people. Maybe something romantic? Who knows? Whatever it was, I hope they enjoyed themselves.
We bid them adieu and set off again. Coming back through the overgrown bush I found it easier to get down on my hands and knees and crawl through. This left Maddie lying practically flat on my back but she only stirred and slept on. She’s a good sleeper nowadays, bless her.
Coming back towards the monster sand dune we saw a family playing. A mother and three young girls were climbing and then rolling down the dune. This looked like fun! We stopped to chat to the family for a while and found a shared love of the outdoors and giving children as much nature play as possible. Maddie woke up at the sound of us chatting and laughed as the children rolled down the slope. The poor baby has a habit of sleeping through the best parts of our hikes. She slept through finding trace fossils in Kalbarri and walking through Mandu Mandu Gorge in Exmouth. We have lots of photos of these cool things to show her when she is older.
As we retraced our steps back to the car park we passed a lot more walkers, maybe 15 or so groups and families. Everyone had the same idea that the falls would probably be flowing full force. Several asked us how far the falls were and if they were running. Jed and I debated whether to warn people that they may encounter some frisky teenagers along with the waterfall but decided against it.
We got back to the car about lunchtime, collected our lunch from the car and set off down the staircase to the beach below. I cannot think of a nicer place to have lunch. The Margaret River region is well known for its world-class wines and fine-dining restaurants. It is a gourmet playground. But for me, nothing comes close to sitting on a beautiful beach with my husband and darling little girl, watching them frolic in the rock pools and study shells. This is what life is all about.
- Crystal Quest at Sugarloaf Rock, Margaret River
- Wooleen Station: An Eco-Tourism Oasis in the Murchison
- Hutt Lagoon: Gallery from ‘The Pink Lake’