The Scenic Norseman Hyden Road in WA

Thursday, Oct 22, 2015 at 08:32

Member-Heather MG NSW

May 21st 2015

We left Salmon Gums this morning quite early, despite the cold temperature (minus 1 and apparently WA's lowest today) and were in Norseman filling up the diesel tanks by 9.30 ready to explore the Woodlands Discovery trail and to find a scenic camp for overnight. On both our previous trips to the west, this road has been closed due to wet weather.) The showers appeared to have cleared and the weather was looking more promising than we had seen in a few days.
Details of road closures may be obtained online at both the Shire of Dundas and Shire of Kondinin wedsites.

The first section of the road was sealed and we decided to leave the tyre pressure as it was until we were actually on the dirt.It was a sensible decision as it turned out, as the unsealed road was like a dirt highway..smooth and fast and with no dust due to the showers the previous day.

We stopped briefly at the very scenic Woodlands Picnic area
with huge salmon gums, and then at Disappointment Rock
[Image not found]where the short access road was quite overgrown and proved to be a bit of a challenge, towing the van, with scrubby trees which brushed the sides of the van.The parking area was small there but we managed to park and get the van level enough to turn on the gas for the fridge while also being off the main turn around area, and did a very fast walk to the top of the rock to have a look at the views. The wind chill factor made it very unpleasant and we didn't linger as,despite wearing the Goretex jackets and multiple layers, it was freezing. A composting toilet in the parking area was in surprisingly good order and a small rig would find a place to camp here overnight in better weather without too many problems.
Our next stop was Lake Johnson

where a small A van was parked in the camping area with views across the mostly dry salty surface. We pulled into the picnic area so i could take some photos but John kept the engine running and didn't bother getting out for a look.
McDermid Rock was 1.5 kms off the main road on a good access track and would be an excellent place to stay overnight, but it was too early in the day for us. We pulled into the day area and walked to the top of this very picturesque rock, substantially larger than Disappointment (which is i guess why it got it's name) , finding small pools of water fringed with vegetation, where tiny brown frogs hid under the small rocks. Stunted trees grew in the more protected and wetter places, and the same small clumps of the hardy orange spiky plant we had seen at peak Charles National Park clung onto the rocky surface.There were good views from the top and it was an easy walk up the rocky surface.

We decided to have lunch before we continued on our return to the van.

Our next stop,and the place we decided to stay overnight, was the Breakaways. What a surprise this place is as there is really no indication as to it's beauty from the road, despite it only being a few hundred metres down the track. There had been a fire through the area quite recently although most of the immediate area around the camp ground had been spared. The spindly black tree trunks provided quite a stark visual contrast to the red earth and blue sky. What was even more surprising was that there was no one else there.

The Breakaways has 5 main camping areas, one suitable for groups, with tables and seats and a fire pit provided in each, and we parked close to the stunning backdrop of the multi-coloured ochre embankment where the table and fire pit was located in a small circular enclosed area a bit sheltered from the still icy wind. There is one composting toilet which was usable but didn't appear to have been checked or cleaned in a while. (The bucket and brush used to clean it appeared to be long empty).The ochres along this almost a kilometre in length, organically curved low exposed bank of earth are unbelievably vibrantly coloured and range from a deep maroon-red through oranges and mustard yellows to a light putty grey.
The ribbon gums added to the beauty of the place, with long strips (ribbons) hanging from their branches.
After we had set up the van, we took a walk along its length and around the loop track along which I frequently stopped to take many photographs. We foraged for firewood and got a small fire going and had a lovely afternoon sitting around until after dark, at which time we retreated inside to cook a pizza. The oven warmed the vans interior enough for us to have a shower comfortably while it was cooking and after dinner we watched a couple of hours of TV, finding the satellite dish very handy.
It was quite a cool night and I used the gas heater for an hour or so to get us warm as when we woke up the weather was once again cloudy and looked like rain. We made a decision not to stay a second night and after breakfast, we were soon back on the road. By the time we left, it was raining lightly and our 4WD and the van were soon both spattered with red mud. In a couple of places the surface was quite sticky but we were driving in 4WD high and didn't leave any real wheel marks so we correctly decided that the road was not closed. We passed a road plant doing maintenance close to one of the mines and when we arrive in Hyden there were no signs indicating that it was anything other than open.
Towards Hyden the road changed again to bitumen and we traveled past and between small salt lakes and some agricultural land, the landscape gradually becoming more populated. We called in at the 'Forrestania' rest area and also at the Vermin Proof fence, where it crossed the road, noting the $2,000,000. fine for driving along the fence maintenance track.

We didn't stop at Wave Rock as we had visited it on a previous trip but we did drive into Hyden to refuel and to pick up a few grocery items at the well stocked IGA supermarket.

During the two days that we traveled on this road we saw almost no other traffic which is surprising seeing it is touted as a shortcut from Norseman to Perth. It is certainly a very scenic alternative and with the road in such great condition, would be no problem to normal 2WD vehicles in dry weather.

Also the power issues we were experiencing earlier in the trip seem now to be resolved, so long as I unplug the Satellite TV dual channel receiver after use and also while we are traveling, and we use the long LED strip lights conservatively. (There are plenty of lighting alternatives in the van which are consume less power and every bit helps in cloudy weather).We are convinced that when we had the van checked in Esperance, something had not been plugged in or there was a loose connection as since then we have had no issues, as we would have expected with 300 watts of solar and two 100amp hr batteries.

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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