Big Valley 2011

Trip Leader: Martin & Karen, Roger & Janice Freegard

When: 18th – 21st November, 2011

Location: Big Valley Campsite , Rosa Glen, Margaret River.

Participants: 23 vehicles

Big Valley camping weekend was held Friday November 18 to Monday Nov 21. Big Valley is a working sheep farm off Rosa Brook Road about 7 kilometers East of Margaret River. The farm is owned and run by Kevin and Shelley and their daughter. Shelley operates the caravan park as a support business for the farm. I wont go into describing the facilities because you have to go there to understand how relaxing and enjoyable the location is. It is sufficed to say that we are well looked after as a club by the Silverthorne family.

This year we had 23 vehicles booked to attend, of which, after a few late withdrawals, 19 turned up. That still presented quite a crowd for Roger, Jan, Karen and myself to organize trips and activities for. Some of the members drove down to Margaret River a week earlier for an extended stay. Karen and I arrived Wednesday with Grandson Locky in the back seat. Our intention was to get there a day or two early so that we could pre-trip the intended day run planned for the Saturday. Everyone else turned up in drips and drabs and by Friday afternoon the Johnsons arrived to complete the role call.

The Kingston’s kindly offered to assist Karen and me in the pre-trip on Thursday. The intention was to follow the Blackwood River keeping off-road as much as possible to the coast at Augusta. I had earlier located an interesting track to the coast, north of Augusta, on Google Earth. I had plotted this on OziExplorer, so we decided to go and check this track out first and backtrack the route to Big Valley. The coastal track lived up to expectations with some bum clenching steep washouts that needed a lot of pre-walking and decision making before negotiating them in the vehicles. Karen, sitting in the death seat, voiced the odd objection. However, fully aware of my own, and the vehicles, capability (no hesitation whatsoever Huhummm) I continued down the steep winding tracks towards the beach with the Kingstons not far behind. Unfortunately upon reaching the last dune before the beach we found that the access has been washed up into an insurmountable mound. We could have got down there, but getting back out would have been extremely difficult.  So finally common sense prevailed and we decided to scratch this location from the itinerary. Recent rains having dampened the sand tracks aided the climb out and as a result there was nothing the Pajero’s traction control found too difficult. A couple of spots needed full momentum to clear dug-outs.

So we found an alternative location at a civilized grassed beach near Augusta to use as the trip target. Disappointingly though, we discovered that the tracks I had plotted along the Blackwood south of the Vasse Highway had all been fenced and gated. This was not going according to plan! Perhaps the tracks north of the highway would prove useful? So we continued north towards Margaret River turning into the Great North Road from the Vasse Highway heading for the Blackwood River crossing at a location called Hut Camp. The tracks were good off-road forest driving with nothing more challenging than the odd washout. But things soon turned against us when we reached the crossing. Recent rains had turned the Blackwood in white water and the crossing was about half a meter deep and running fast. This is where you must listen to your gut instinct. And my gut was saying no, even though the rebel in me was saying ‘yeah go on, do it!’ 

But I had Richard and Karen standing next to the water’s edge with me also saying ‘no way’.

So after an enjoyable day scouting the South West we decided to scrap the trip plans that we had for Saturday and look for something else.

Meanwhile, Roger and Jan had been planning a second day trip in order to split the group into manageable convoys. They discovered that their planned route to Joey’s Nose north of Prevelly had also been blocked. This time it was a barrier erected by DEC who had recently taken over the area from Margaret River Council. It was apparently to stop people camping on the beach and leaving their mess behind. Despite this minor set back, the Freegards continued with their trip planning which was to finish up at historic Ellen Brook Homestead.

After a few days relaxing, Friday evening soon came which was the official commencement of the club weekend. Keeping up the tradition, Friday afternoon saw a fresh lamb placed on a spit by Farmer Kevin and cooked over flames for about 6 hours. Six hours goes reasonably fast watching the spit go round and round and round and round with one or two beers in hand. Some of us did break up the time with a round of 9 pin paddock golf.

With everyone eager to get stuck into the lamb, as soon as the lamb was carved and John K had cooked the sausages, an array of salads was presented. John remained at his station to serve up the meat, but as always there was plenty to go around more than 40 hungry people.

By the time Saturday arrived we had decided on an alternative day trip route. I ended up with 7 vehicles in convoy and headed south with Glen as TEC. Our first off-road track was called Boulter Road, which runs between the Bussell Highway (at Sebbes Drive) and Caves Road. The track was closely grown in providing a few more hairline scratches to the sides of vehicles. It was otherwise an interesting find with the track being cut in and built up to make it reasonably level. It was thought to have been an old logging track, hence the leveling for either a railway or a horse drawn logging trolley. We exited the track on Caves Road and then continued south to another forest track, which ran toward the beach of Hamelin Bay. This track proved to be mildly challenging with sand stone outcrops and the odd washed out and dug out descents. We eventually let tyres down before heading onto the beach. The trip leader intentionally didn’t let his tyres down enough so that he would get bogged immediately and have to demonstrate a recovery (It is trip leader’s privilege to make the story up as he likes). Obviously 20lb was not low enough. 

Despite eager calls to snatch the vehicle out, I followed the instructions learned from our Training Officer who has always said to try every other avenue of recovery before snatching. So with shovels in hand we began to excavate the beach beneath my car. After which a couple of Max Tracks and several members pushing failed to move the Pajero out of the hole. Did I mention I let a further 5lbs out of the tyres? Piers suggested we use his exhaust air bag to lift the car off its belly. And I was suitably impressed when the air bags began to lift the rear end of the car beyond the suspension travel, enough to slip two of his ‘waffle’ boards beneath the rear wheels. After which it was a simple matter of driving off, and with tyres down to what they should have been, the rest of the beach was a piece of cake. Cake was also consumed after we had stopped for lunch when the beach ran out.

The second group had headed in the opposite direction from Margaret River towards Joey’s Nose. The group had stopped prior to the barricade at Joey’s nose and walked down to the beach, only to find that the barrier had been removed. There were no other stories emanating from the group so Roger and Jan must have led an incident free and enjoyable morning run which ended up with lunch at Ellen Brook Homestead.

Following dinner that evening most people congregated in the camp kitchen for several rounds of Karen’s Quiz Night. It was decided to charge a nominal fee for participation in order to raise money for the Cancer Council. Tables were also charged a dollar per person if they wished to take a chance on doubling their scores each round. As a result we raised over $130 from the evening. This was later added to the money over from the lamb spit to make a $200 donation. A certain life member had forgotten to bring change along to the evening and produced a $50 note to pay a $3 IOU. He was duly handed a handful of loose change, which is not that easy to count after several bottles of red wine. 

He was last see trying to walk to his caravan with one pocket dragging him around in circles.

Sunday morning was spent with everyone doing his or her own thing. We took Locky to see his first cave. Unfortunately I think we picked the one with the most stairs. It was a good workout before our planned meeting with everyone for lunch at the Woody Nook Winery. Once again the Woody Nook put on a wonderful meal that was enjoyed by everyone. It’s pleasing to find a restaurant that will service a group as big as ours with a smile and efficient service. During our lunch, Roger presented the winners of the Big Valley Golf tournament with their respective prizes.

Some members returned to Perth directly after lunch, while the remaining members returned to camp for another relaxing evening at Big Valley. Thanks to all that attended for being an enjoyable bunch to camp with and we hope you join us again next year. A big thanks to Roger and Jan for their help in organizing the weekend. Karen did a marvelous job preparing and planning the quiz night, not to mention standing firm when inebriated individuals disputed answers or questions. And a final thank you to Kevin and Shelley at Big Valley for looking after us every year.

Martin

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