Directions - We started on Wearne Rd, a 1.5 hour drive from Perth along Albany Hwy. Turn off on Wearne Rd, about 1km before North Bannister and drive along until you see the Bibbulmun Track markers on either side of the road.
The Hike - After a summer of unpredictable and weird weather, the autumn of 2017 is proving to be a bit of an Indian summer with temperatures consistently in the mid to high 20s and not a rain cloud in sight. The wettest February on record has been followed up by one of the driest autumns on record and the start of the hiking season hasn't felt like it has arrived yet (I was out snorkelling in board shorts the previous day). After a warm Anzac Day hike out at Sullivan Rock (in stark contrast to the previous year where it was raining the whole day), I had my sights set on some more granite hills along Albany Hwy so assembled the Puma Bait Squad for an early pre-dawn departure one fine Sunday morning.
Our target on another pristine sunny Sunday was a day hike to Boonering Hill, a granite dome unsighted as you drive past on Albany Hwy but one that provides some of the most spectacular views you will find in the Darling Range section of the Bibbulmun Track. The drive out to the starting point was very familiar, having taken this route countless times before heading to Sullivan Rock but this time we were going a little further to where the Bibbulmun Track crosses Albany Hwy. Our actual starting point would be where the track crosses Wearne Rd after doubling back on itself to visit the Gringer Creek campsite. There is a 4x4 track on the south side of the highway where the big red Bibbulmun sign is located that you can probably park at but I was happy with our start point, which added just under 3km to the trip. Upon arriving the car was saying it was a brisk 4C and showing this by sporting a snowflake symbol next to the temperature gauge.
Given we had left Fremantle with balmy 14C air, it was a shock to the system to exit the car and breath in some very fresh forest air. Having only packed a thin jumper I was keen to get the body warmed up so we laced the boots and headed into the bush towards the Albany Hwy crossing. This first section is actually quite enjoyable as I had not heard great things about the stretch between Mt Cooke and crossing Albany Hwy. Open Jarrah and Wandoo forest dominates the landscape with a relatively thick canopy and a very open undergrowth. Given that large stretches of the Darling Range and Dwellingup sections are now recovering from bushfires/burn-offs, it was nice to be amongst some mature forest. Golden Banksia flowers dotted the forest floor, gleaming in the morning sunshine and we even spotted a couple of kangaroos in the distance. The open forest floor takes a detour through a weird patch of thick parrot bush before popping you out on the other side for more Wandoo goodness.