Seeing one of our favourite hike trails in a new season
Kitty’s Gorge Trail is listed in the top 5 Western Australia day hikes and it fully deserves the accolade. The trail runs 12km from Serpentine Falls picnic area to Jarrahdale cemetery through Serpentine National Park, following the path of a brook.
We have hiked this trail a few times in the past, in different routes from one end to the other and starting at one terminus, hiking half and returning to the same point. If you want to hike one way you need to arrange a lift back to your car at the start, or arrange to hike with friends and leave one car at either end. This sounds easy enough but when you have to start transferring car seats between cars and leaving all the babies with one adult whilst the others go collect cars, it becomes much more of a challenge. For this reason we mostly hike a loop or backtrack.
We didn’t actually plan on hiking this trail today. We had planned to hike a section of the Bibbulmun Track that starts about an hour and a half drive from our house. However we set off later than expected and Maddie hadn’t slept yet, so somewhere along the drive we decided to change our plans. We are cautious not to disturb Maddie’s day sleeps too much as she then doesn’t sleep well at night. It was now about midday and so, if she fell asleep in the car we would want to give her a good hour or so of sleep before waking her. We were only 10mins drive from Jarrahdale Cemetery so quickly changed plans to keep her awake until we arrived at the start of Kitty’s Gorge Trail and hike this trail instead.
Each time we have hiked this trail in the past the brook had been dry and the ‘falls’ just another granite outcrop. However, over the past few weeks we have had a lot of rain and so this proved to be a great opportunity to see the brook in full flow.
Poor little Maddie started to drift off in the car and I spent the final kilometre or so playing games and waving, trying to keep her awake. She perked up as soon as we pulled into the car park.
She seems to get excited every time we arrive at our destinations in the forest, looking around and pointing out the things she can name. We let her run around excitedly at the trail start whilst Jed and I prepared. When we are ready we put Maddie in her pack, load up and set off.
The start of the track is wide, flat and well-maintained. The tall jarrah trees provide lots of shade. The forest here has a somewhat prehistoric feel with the big tree ferns and abundant grass trees. After all the recent rain, and with overcast skies, the area had a brisk, refreshing feel. We certainly needed jumpers when we set off – a move we usually regret within ten minutes as our walks intensify and we warm up.
Maddie usually like to have a little stick with some leaves to play with whilst we walk. Jed likes to call it her ‘motivation stick’ as she usually just bashes it on my head. On this occasion she only played with it for a few minutes before dropping it and falling into a deep sleep.
After a kilometre or so we came across a clearing with old abandoned toilet blocks nestled in a pine plantation. We would later learn that this is the old Gooralong Park, a campsite and picnic area that has been closed for many years now due to the unstable pine trees. As we walked through we passed many large tree trunks lying on the ground. We passed one recently fallen tree, still attached to its base and with almost its entire 30m length still intact. Several large wattle trees were starting to blossom, framing the opening with wonderful, yellow blooms. This is the very start of wildflower season, my favourite time of the year.
We continue on through the pine plantation and descend further into the bush. The trail meets up with Gooralong Brook here and then follows its path for the length of our hike today. There are a few little bridges and a small weir and gauging station, providing plentiful picture opportunities.
The brook was swollen and many puddles pond around its banks. Small seeps leaked from many of the granite outcrops, forming little flows across their surface. The leaves were a vibrant green and the mosses that covered almost every free surface were plump and verdant.
It really was quite different to how we have seen this trail in the past. We pass many small waterfalls and mini-rapids during our hike. We could hear the main falls before we could see them.
We approached the falls from the east. The brook opens up over the granite flowing through many pools before tumbling over the first of a series of meter-scale falls. We stopped on the first dry granite outcrop and considered trying to cross over a narrow section of brook but thought better of it. This is where Maddie woke up. She woke very happy and was fascinated by the mass of running water.
Walking just a few dozen metres further along the trail we came across the main falls, a 3-4m high, 20m wide undercut granite ledge with shallow plunge pool beneath. There was a 3m wide vigorous flow from the centre left with several additional smaller flows surrounding. It was beautiful.
It was time to stop for lunch but we needed to find a suitable clearing so continued about a hundred metres to a slightly wider section of path. Here we set Maddie down and prepared ourselves some tuna and salad wraps. Maddie loves playing amongst the fallen branches and feeling the soft needle-like leaves of the grass trees. As always, she spent a good chunk of time playing with her carrier and finding long forgotten wrappers and bottle tops in the many pockets. We wanted to spend more time at the falls so once we were finished eating, we packed up and carried Maddie back the short walk back up the trail.
The problem with taking Maddie to this location is that there really isn’t anywhere safe to let her stretch her legs. Jed and I took turns to watch her whilst the other hopped around the rocks taking photos. Maddie enjoyed crawling close to the water, trying to put her hands in the fast flowing water and giving me a hundred mini heart attacks. She had fun climbing on the rocks but stumbled many times causing her to get frustrated and a little grumpy. I placated her by letting her drink from my water bottle; an activity she loves but leaves me with severely backwashed drinking water. Eew!
We realised that although this location is stunning, a photographer’s dream, it was not the best place to have a one year old wandering around. We decided to hike back up to the abandoned campsite and give Maddie some run-around time up there.
She was surprisingly happy to be put back in her pack – she is usually less enthusiastic each time we put her back in throughout the day – so we gave her another leafy stick and headed back up the trail.
This would be a wonderful location for some astrophotography with the wide opening in the forest above the falls. Jed and I talked about the practicalities of hiking out here with our camera gear at night but decided it was probably a little too challenging at this point in time with a toddler.
Maddie was still happy and chatted away merrily as we approached the abandoned campsite so we decided to keep going back to the car.
At the other end of Kitty’s Gorge Trail, the opposite terminus to the one we started at today, are the Serpentine Falls and large picnic area. We decided to drive down there and let Maddie run around for a while before starting the hour’s drive home.
The kangaroos in the Serpentine Falls picnic area are very friendly. Too friendly sometimes. A particularly confident young kangaroo once stole a cracker from Maddie’s hand as she was nibbling on it. There were seven kangaroos here today and although they showed great interest in us, they weren’t overly intrusive. Jed carried Maddie on his shoulders and she giggled energetically as the larger mother roo sniffed at her toes.
We walked the short trail to Serpentine Falls to see them flowing at a greater rate than we had ever seen before. Whilst walking back to the car Jed pointed out a beautiful colourful little bird, one neither of us had ever seen before. We tried to take a photo but it was just too far away for our phone cameras to capture. Sorry about that. (We referenced our Field Guide to Australian Birds book and identified it as a Western Rosella. You can read about them here).
Just before reaching the car Jed slowed down. I turned around to see his nose scrunched up and a displeased look on his face. “She’s pooping” he said. Maddie was still sitting on his shoulders at this point. “I can feel her farting and straining, and the back of my neck now has a new warm patch” he bemoaned, but continued walking. I asked why he didn’t put her down to walk but he said it was quicker to get her back to the car to change her nappy by carrying her. Oh well, it’s his choice I guess. I was just hoping that nappy didn’t leak!
We returned to the car and started to pack up only to be joined by our friendly kangaroo family again. They eagerly watched us as we loaded our pack and food containers into the car, hoping for us to drop some leftovers. I’m fairly sure, that if we turned our back for just a few moments they would have been in the car! There are a few things toddlers and kangaroos have in common; they’re always hungry, they rarely leave you alone, and given half a change they will get into something they’re not meant to!
Whilst driving out of the national park we were treated to one last little surprise. In front of us flew another colourful little parrot. This was different again to the one we saw up at Serpentine Falls. I pulled over the car just in time to take a quick, grainy photo. This was not a great photo, certainly not good enough to share (sorry again), but it did enable us to identify it in the bird book when we got home. This one was a female Red-Capped Parrot.
This hike, although unplanned, turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable one with bountiful surprises and nature at her most beautiful. We will be back here again in the near future I’m sure, next time with my good DSLR![mailerlite_form form_id=1]