Canning to Monadnocks
Start - Canning Campsite
Finish - Monadnocks Campsite
Campsite - Deep South
Distance - 16.1km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 441m
Time - 4-6 Hours
Date Hiked - 30th June 2019
The Hike - Peaceful and warm sleeps on the Bibbulmun are now a welcome normality for me since upgrading my sleeping mat to something with insulation and this night was no different. After enjoying a movie and falling asleep before it was done, I woke up to the morning light and the sounds of Malcolm starting to pack up his gear. The chance meeting with Malcolm was a very welcome one, having stayed with him at the Gardner Campsite a few weeks prior. As we all packed up our gear and I brewed Aron his first cup of coffee from the GSI Java Drip, we talked about Malcolm's finish and what he had planned for when he completed his E2E in a few days time.
It was great to share in the joy of an end to ender as they prepared to complete the 40 odd days on the track. Malcolm left camp first and headed north while we stuck around for a few more minutes checking last bits of gear and putting on the rain covers (forecast was for a wet day). I'd not done this entire stretch from Canning to Monadnocks so was looking forward to a day of unseen trail in my favourite type of hiking weather (light drizzle). This is by far the longest campsite to campsite section of the Darling Range you'll encounter coming from the north and takes you to some pretty important landmarks including the Canning River and introduces you to the Monadnocks. The start of the day is through mostly burnt Jarrah and She-Oak so a continuation of the previous day's walking. Being fairly flat for the first few kilometres makes for a nice introduction to the walking and lets you ease into a good pace. I put some quiet music on to gee us up for the long day but a combination of Aron not liking my music taste and me always stopping for photos meant we were soon separated. I've said this many times before but I really enjoyed this type of forest, even in the recovering from fire stage so had a feeling this was going to turn out to be a lovely day of walking.
We soon reached a low lying area that was full of water on either side of the trail after a plentiful month of rain in June. It was nice to see a good variety of plants here with the Banksia's really enjoying the area. We exited the single track and found the short section of 4x4 track that highlighted how far ahead of me Aron was. Getting a wider perspective, I was hoping this didn't last too long as it really threw me out of my cosy space of enjoying the enclosed single track in the rain. It didn't last more than about 500m and it was once again back onto the single track for one of many enjoyable sections for the day. Starting to climb a small hill, the track widened eventually and we were treated to a mix of plentiful regrowth forest and some old giants. The map had marked that there was an area of virgin Jarrah coming up and the forest along here certainly felt like it was well established in parts, even if it was still recovering from the 2015 fires. The trail opened up to wider 4x4 tracks and as the rain continued I was loving walking through this type of terrain with a good mate (who I'd caught up to by now). The photos go some way to showing how nice it was (for Jarrah lovers like myself) but it really was one of those "in the moment" experiences that I really enjoyed.
As we came to the top of the hill I started playing the rain jacket game where it would rain, then stop and I'd get too warm, then it would start raining. After a brief patch of blazing sunlight illuminated the forest I decided to keep it off for a while as we started walking downhill towards the Canning River Valley. The straight sections of track here looked really cool as your eyes followed the closing gap in the forest all the way down the hill. What really struck me about this area were the great views off to the west that were slightly obscured by the trees. My first thoughts were that this would have made for a much better campsite location with views over the valley and towards the hills in the distance, along with the Canning name actually having some relevance to the area. I did the math on the distances and it would mean a fairly long walk from Mt Dale if you doubled but the Darling Range section is full of weird distances between campsites so it might not have been so bad. Continuing downhill we transitioned from mainly Jarrah forest at the top through to She-Oak around the middle and then more Jarrah with a lush undergrowth of Zamia Palms, Snottygobble and the occasional fern. Coming up was an entirely different section and one that took me by complete surprise (I deliberately don't look at other blog posts about my upcoming sections so as to experience it for myself). As you come out of the forest, a large granite expanse opens up provides a really cool wow moment.
Unfortunately the rain was a little more than a drizzle and with the sun behind the granite, shooting the area in all its glory was difficult. Struggling with rain on the lens, sun blazing off the wet granite and trying to frame the shots before the camera got wet was difficult and I think I'll return on a better day to fully enjoy this part. A very small hill blocks the views down into the valley and it's a cool feeling rising up above and seeing down into the final valley where the Canning River flows. Another cool granite patch full of moss is to your left and one you'll have to cross to get to the bridge over the river. Always extra careful on granite in the wet as you never quite know which bits are the super slippery ones, I got to slow down and enjoy the sundews in the moss. Aron was already heading down to the bridge so I snapped some photos and joined him. The Canning River was looking quite nice after all the rains and it was a lot wider than what I was expecting. You cross a few rivers in the Darling Range section that end up being quite wide further downstream but start out with quite humble beginnings (Helena River and Serpentine River come to mind). The banks of the Canning River contain quite lush forest and this is unfortunately a popular area for people to visit in their 4x4s (and leave fire rings/rubbish).
At the halfway point between Canning and Monadnocks, this is a great place to stop and enjoy the beauty of the river but for us it was a quick stop because it was still raining. There are a few cool spots as you walk along the river where you get some nice photos of the forest, river and hills all in one. Again I would love to return on a day with better conditions for photography but on this day we still had 8km to go before reaching Monadnocks and another 7km to reach Sullivan Rock so started heading up the hill. For the rest of the day it's a steady uphill from around 240m ASL all the way to the finish at 450m ASL. The quality of the forest leading up the hill was the best of the day with some very mature trees and a great variety of plants in the undergrowth. The occasional tall Kingia was a taste of what was to come later but it was mainly Jarrah and Marri forest as we climbed up the 4x4 track leading away from the river. The drizzle and the misty conditions were very pleasant to walk through and one of the things I enjoy doing in the forests of WA is to grab a rogue Jarrah or Marri leaf every now and then and crush it in my hand, releasing the beautiful eucalyptus smell. I likened the combination of the smells of the rain, the crushed eucalyptus leaves, the gentle misting on my face and the relaxing tunes coming from the speaker in my hip belt as the Bibbulmun Spa Experience. Add to that the endorphins that come with exercise and it was pretty cool way to spend a rainy Sunday. Aron was a little reluctant to immerse himself in the full experience but could see where I was coming from.
Eventually a sign pointed us off the 4x4 track and on to single track that would be home for the next little section. The difference in the forest started to show almost immediately off the 4x4 track with more tall Kingia Australis plants popping up everywhere. These ancient plants grow really slowly so we figured some had been here much longer than European settlement and had seen a fair bit in their lifetime. One really cool spot that popped up after crossing a few ephemeral streams was a granite outcrop surrounded by the Kingia's. A nice surprise, it was yet another highlight of a pretty cool day on the trail. Heading up the hill again towards the Monadnocks Campsite the forest switched to She-Oak and went through a period of opening up to provide an expanded view to that really creeping looking and typical She-Oak scene of dead needles everywhere. It felt like we were closer to Monadnocks as this section reminded me of the bit between Monadnocks Campsite and Mt Cuthbert. This was a really cool section to walk through so I was thrown a little to reach Randall Rd and find that we would have to walk along a 4x4 track for the rest of the way.
Passing through some bleaker areas where it was evident some clearing had happened previously, I kept expecting the track to turn off and head to the campsite on single track but this only happened right at the end. It wasn't all bad walking with some nice patches of thick forest but I think the day could be improved a lot if this last 4x4 section was re-routed through the forest on single track. We eventually reached the campsite and unsurprisingly found it empty (it was a rainy Saturday afternoon). Finally stopping for lunch as we had a dry place to sit we decided it was best to walk around Mt Cuthbert and Mt Vincent on the 4x4 track as visibility was going to be poor from the summits and the afternoon was getting quite late. If I didn't have work the next day (and some more food) I would have loved to stay the night and enjoy the campsite but real life was calling. The campsite is a really beautiful place up on the hill and set right in some great forest. There are plenty of tent sites and the Deep South style of shelter provides plenty of room. If you're looking for some great views of the Monadnocks then check out my Six Summit post for directions on how to get to nearby Mt Randall that is accessed from the campsite.
Final Thoughts - This was a section I didn't really know what to expect from and was pleasantly surprised by how good the walking was. The weather played a bit part in my enjoyment but there are sections I'd love to see in clearer weather that would be even better.
The forest leaving Canning Campsite is burnt and there is no getting around that for the time being but the quality of the forest after the Canning River crossing more than makes up for that. Big Marri and Jarrah trees, a great variety of flora and just a really enjoyable place to walk through.
There are a few nice two day hikes on the Bibbulmun around the Perth Hills and this one has been added to my list of future fun weekend adventures. That's not even including the next section, which is one of my favourite places to walk in Perth.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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