Nerang to Gringer Creek
Start - Nerang Campsite
Finish - Gringer Creek Campsite
Campsite - Standard
Distance - 16.7km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 227m
Time - 4-6 hours
Date Hiked - 28th July 2019
The Hike - With an overnight hike planned in late July to plug in a gap in my sectional end to end, I had a good night staying at Nerang with no issues sleeping in the shelter. With a nice finish to the day into Nerang, I was looking forward to more of the enjoyable forest I had experienced.
Having forgotten about Gringer Creek in our Darling Range podcast episode, I was keen to see what was out here that made it so forgettable for Donovan (I had somewhat of an excuse). I was kind of expecting another very flat day through the forest but it turned out to be not super hilly but there were a couple of slight bumps to get over during the day. With the track now extending away from the popular areas around the Perth Hills, the days are starting to become longer (kilometre wise) and this is the longest campsite to campsite section so far. Jim and Ollie were up at first light and busy preparing all of their gear while I was quite happy to lie in my sleeping bag enjoying the warmth before having to get up and start the process of packing away.
I finally dragged myself out of bed as Jim and Ollie were finishing off breakfast and getting their gear together. With a reasonably short day on the cards and a 2pm pick-up at North Bannister arranged with Caris, I wasn't in any great hurry so made a coffee and enjoyed a Clif bar for breakfast. Ollie and Jim departed, stating they'd probably see me along the trail at some point but little did they know how slow I walk when I have things to photograph. I was still away at a relatively early hour for me (8am) and figured that I could meander along at 3kmph and have more than enough time to reach North Bannister by the agreed upon time.
Leaving camp I was hoping for some thick winter mist clinging to the forest but was disappointed to find the sun already blazing through the open canopy. That's not to say that there wasn't some mist but it wasn't at levels this area is known for (the drive out past Armadale on Albany Hwy is crazy most winter mornings). The temperature was pleasant enough to leave the jacket in the bag as I began the days walking. The area around Nerang is really nice with lots of grass trees, white barked eucalyptus trees and a bevy of sundews. I'm not joking when I say about 10% of my 1000 odd photos over the two days were of sundews. I love seeing them and in the early morning light they look really photogenic as the sun catches on the sticky residue used to catch small insects. It took real control to not include too many sundew photos but I've sprinkled in some of the prettier ones.
As I've said numerous times in other posts, I really enjoy walking due east around sunrise so it was nice to have the first little section go in that direction. I think it's a combination of the warm sun directly on your face and the bright light hiding details further afield that provides an element of mystery. Either way I was enjoying myself as the trail picked its way through flat terrain and eventually crossed Pikes Rd. It really felt like you were in the middle of nowhere staying at Nerang so to find a road so close to the campsite threw me off a little but I soldiered on. Photographing the cascading light as it danced through the canopy of the forest, it was a great start to the day. As it wasn't quite peak wildflower season, the forest can become a bit samey as you wander through but I'm always on the lookout for something out of the ordinary and this was provided by a bevy of sundews, some thick mossy patches and a few flowering plants along the way.
One of the features of this day of walking is the Jarrah forest and the entire day apart from patches of Wandoo is spent traversing through a very similar terrain. That's not to say that it is repetitive or boring, there is plenty of detail to admire and the forest changes in subtle ways. I'm always scanning the forest floor for details so when something catches my eye I like to stop and take a moment to admire it. A new wildflower, a vine of small drosera, a patch of moss on a fallen branch, it's all the little things that add up and make for an enjoyable walk. Of course this means I slow down quite a lot but in the warm morning sunshine this was a very relaxing way of travelling.
Often I find myself rushing or setting a pace that would see me finish with plenty of daylight hours left. While some campsites are great to sit around and enjoy, others don't have that same appeal so if I had the choice between walking in the afternoon light and sitting around camp, I would choose the walking. On this day I had the luxury of time so if I saw a log that looked inviting then I would have a sit for a while and take in the noise of the birds and the calm sounds of the forest. It's a much more enjoyable way of hiking I've found and these days I tend to meander or amble rather than hike, unless I have big kilometres to cover (Denmark to Albany was like this).
After a bit of meandering I reached a 4x4 track (McDowall Rd) and this would be home for the next kilometre. Normally I prefer the single track walking to the 4x4 tracks but on a day dominated by single track through mostly the same type of forest, it was nice for some change. With the morning sun blazing strong it was nice to have a decent canopy as I walked along the wide track but that was about to change as I left the 4x4 track for more lovely single track. Passing through a series of grass tree patches, the landscape changed dramatically and it was clear that a large burn had happened in the past few years. The relatively thick canopy from the morning had been replaced by the green jumper effect of the epicormic resprouting and so the area felt quite exposed.
Confirming the recent burn theory were a few scorched waugyls, large flower spikes on the grass trees and the aforementioned green jumpers. Judging by the lack of canopy left, this was another hot burn that I'm guessing got away from Sparks and Wildlife. A shame really because this area is really lovely to walk through so to have a large section unnecessarily exposed isn't the best to hike through. It will be several years now before the canopy starts to reform so we'll just have to live with it for now. A feature of this section is the presence of a water course to the east running parallel to the track. This is a tributary of a river you'll come across at the halfway point of the day and it would have been great to walk a little closer to it.
Mercifully the forest returns to normal and there are some stunning examples of the golden Wandoo dotted around the place. I always love seeing the Wandoo trees as they have such a beautiful colour and are very photogenic trees. After covering half the kilometres for the day I was on the lookout for a good lunch spot and not far up ahead was a river crossing that I was expecting to be much grander in person. The track crosses the Serpentine River and anyone who's driven down the freeway to Mandurah will know that it eventually turns into a pretty wide body of water as it makes its way out to the ocean. At this point though it was barely a trickle and if there wasn't a big sign alerting you to its presence, you might be forgiven for thinking it was just another small creek.
As it flows out to the ocean and heads downhill it picks up water from various tributaries and carves up the landscape but at this point it is little more than a shallow valley providing a more reliable water source for thickets of plants. I found a log on the other side of the river and decided this would be an excellent place to stop for lunch. Enjoying a Clif bar and some leftover chocolate, I soaked in the sunshine and admired the excellent Wandoo woodlands in this area. With an eye on the time I packed up and continued on my journey, hoping the Wandoo would last for a while. It did continue for a time but then transitioned into mixed forest before becoming some of the best Jarrah forest of the entire day. A random granite platform appeared and provided a photo opportunity before the canopy closed up once again to herald a patch of walking that was very enjoyable.
Looking like it was long unburnt, the forest floor was settled and the trunks of the Jarrah were the really soft grey that makes me a very happy hiker. Add in a smattering of yellow buttercup dotting the ground and I was loving this section, reminding me very much of the walking in Preston National Park just before Noggerup. I really slowed down my pace through here as the partly cloudy conditions were providing me with some really nice lighting that I didn't want to end. More sundews appeared, a little bit of purple Hovea and the occasional thicket of Parrot Bush, giving a little variety to the landscape (although I would never complain about the lack of variety if the lighting and forest are this good). Even with my slower pace I was still well ahead of schedule so when I saw a log that was shaped like a really comfortable day bed I couldn't resist having a 20 minute lie down.
It was just as enjoyable as I'd imagined and so I stopped thinking and was just being. I love these moments where you just forget about distances, time, scheduling etc and just exist in the moment. It also helped that the temperature was just so and there was a stillness to the air. Unfortunately I couldn't stay there all day as North Bannister was just up ahead. Some more excellent Jarrah forest greeted me leading up to the Gringer Creek Campsite and there was one last delight in store for me. After crossing Wearne Rd you enter a section of forest that had a really mature understorey complete with some beautiful examples of the Couch Honeypot (small banksia like flowers that rest on the ground). After taking a small half loop through this excellent stretch of forest you arrive at Gringer Creek Campsite. Nestled on the edge of a very small hill, the shelter overlooks a lovely patch of Wandoo and grass trees. It's a really nice campsite but being so close to Albany Hwy, you can't escape the noise of the passing traffic, which is really unfortunate given how picturesque it is.
I heard some noises from the shelter as I approached and found Jim and Ollie there signing the book and planning their next move. There is a spur trail leading to the North Bannister service station and Threeways Roadhouse, which at the time of writing was still closed (an ongoing issue) so there is only snack food and soft drinks available from the service station if you decide to make the trip. Given this was the end of my two day trip I headed off along the spur trail after offering Jim and Ollie a lift back to their car at Sullivan Rock (they said they would hitchhike). Caris had just pulled in when I arrived so that was perfect timing but what wasn't perfect was my car not starting when I got to Sullivan Rock, something that would plague me for the rest of my sectional end to end. After an RAC visit I was on the road again and happy there was a benefit to making this spot so popular for hikers over the years.