Gringer Creek to White Horse Hills
white horse hills
The Hike - North Bannister to Dwellingup has been one of those sections I've planned to hike countless times but have always been thwarted by one reason or another. I think I've delayed or postponed this section about four or five times now since getting serious about my sectional end to end in 2018. First it was because of an achilles injury, then the Google Trekker opportunity came up, then in 2019 the area around Boonering Hill and Chadoora went through a large prescribed burn so had a temporary campsite installed and finally I was busy with work so delayed once again. So here we are, over a year since I first planned to hike through here and this would be the second last section I needed to tick off before finishing my sectional end to end.
The original plan was to finish my end to end by completing Walpole to Albany in two sections so it's a bit muddled having a section of the Darling Range splitting them but here we are. I was beginning to wonder if there was a cosmic reason why this section was delayed so many time, only time would tell. The logistics for this section are a bit tricky if you're on your own as Dwellingup doesn't have a TransWA service so you either have to go with a friend and leave a car at each end or have someone willing to pick you up in Dwellingup when you finish. Luckily Caris once again agreed to pick me up so I booked my ticket on the TransWA service that departs the East Perth Terminal for Albany and stops at North Bannister. This handy access point to the track is a short spur trail from Gringer Creek so on a warm spring day I arrived at North Bannister ready for action. It was 11am by the time I reached Gringer Creek so with a tick under 18km to hike with a couple of hills in between I had to be mindful of the time. Having already done the first 10km of this section as a day hike back in 2017, I was familiar with what to expect so wasn't worried about time. After signing my name in the Gringer Creek log book, I immediately set off towards Albany Hwy on the short linking trail.
Having been in the area a month and a bit ago completing Sullivan Rock to Gringer Creek, I was impressed with the increased variety and quantity of wildflowers around. Yellow Buttercups were everywhere and looking resplendent in the bright midday sun. My favourite plant, the sundew, was also out in force and this would once again be a time where I would go crazy photographing almost every one I could see. The 2.5km section to the highway is a lot of open forest, intersecting various 4x4 tracks with the constant drone of traffic indicating that civilisation is not too far away. With headphones in this could be in the far reaches of a national park and so I pretended that was the case. Oddly, the track puts you out onto the highway where you must walk along it for 100m or so before joining up with a 4x4 track and heading back into the forest. Surely a better track alignment would simply move the track to where the crossing is but I think the added expense of a bridge over the small water course you cross while on the highway must be the reason. As the track continues along the 4x4 track I noticed an increase in wildflowers just in the area near the road, some I'm not entirely sure were native but the extra colour was very welcome.
Spotting wildflowers along this section would be a pleasant distraction as the track runs alongside a blue gum plantation for 5km, a long time to be spent on a 4x4 track, especially when one side of your view is unnatural looking plantation. I'm all for renewable forestry and would like to see more of this on land that has previously been cleared instead of pillaging the state forests of our native timber. My annoyance with this section is the choice to have the track run parallel with the plantation when the Dwellingup State Forest is right there and it wouldn't have taken much effort to put in a single track 50-100m further north so you didn't have row after row of blue gum in your eyesight for kilometres on end. Having hiked here before I knew it wasn't going to end soon so instead played a game of trying to spot and photograph as many wildflowers as I could. Being the middle of September I had come at the right time with plenty of variety dotting the forest floor. The quality of the forest was also quite spectacular with some very mature trees providing a good amount of shade and also a feeding spot for some Red Tailed Black Cockatoos that paid me a visit.
I didn't manage to get a good shot of them but it served as a good time to stop and just observe these funny birds. While I didn't spend much time staring at the blue gum plantation, I did notice that it looked much taller since my last visit, something that was confirmed when I looked back at photos after my trip. About halfway down the 4x4 track you come to a large granite expanse that provides a break in the monotony of the 4x4 walking. The blue gum plantation also takes a break and a field of green appears so try not to get overwhelmed by all the changes when you're walking through (kidding). Another change from the dead straight 4x4 track is a short little half loop that takes you into the forest and over a small water course. Why the track couldn't have done this earlier and then continued a little further away from the fence line is beyond me. As you reach the start of the incline relief is not far away with a departure away from the plantation. This is the biggest incline you will face since Mt Cooke with the initial climb being over 150m and is quite steep in places.