Bobakine Nature Reserve
Start - Searle Drive
Length - 6.9km (Loop)
Rating - Black
Terrain - 4x4 Track, Off Track Wandoo Woodlands and Granite
Vertical Climb - 233m
Time - 2-5 hours
Signed - No, map and GPS waypoints required (see WalkGPS website)
Date Hiked - 1st June 2020
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Directions - Bobakine Nature Reserve is about an hour and 15 minutes east of Perth. Follow Great Eastern Hwy until you reach the Old Coach Rd turnoff. Turn left here and then an immediate right onto Eadine Rd until you reach a left turn for Smith Rd. Turn left onto Bobakine Rd and follow this through the farm area until you see the Bobakine sign on your right.
The Hike - After a fantastic introduction (an entree if you will) at Clackline, I was ready to move on and experience the second of the WalkGPS hikes I had planned for the WA Day public holiday. As with most of the WalkGPS hikes, this requires a membership to the website and a way of navigating using the downloadable GPX file and PDF track notes. I was using AllTrails and as I discovered at Clackline, there were some idiosyncrasies I needed to adjust to before getting things entirely right (and even then it was still difficult). After snaking my way along Bobakine Rd through the various farms, I was happy to see a healthy stand of Wandoo leading all the way up a moderate hill that is home to the Bobakine Nature Reserve.
Parking my car on the side of the wide gravel road opposite the old CALM logoed Bobakine Nature Reserve sign, this marks the start of the walk. Unlike Clackline, there are no fences around the reserve at this point, a good thing for wildlife coming and going from this small oasis in a large sea of cleared land. Starting up AllTrails and checking the notes, it seemed the first section was all along vehicle track, which suited me just fine given my lovely experience at Clackline. Initially the scenery is a bit dull and muted with the track following along the border of the reserve and away from the stunning Wandoo you can see at the start. It does provide a lot of variety compared to the rest of the hike with less Wandoo and more sandy heath mixed with some lovely Marri trees. Straight off the bat there was a splash of colour provided by some red wildflowers that belong in the Calothamnus grouping (perhaps One Sided Bottlebrush), the white flowers of a budding Sundew and a flowering Parrot Bush.
An unexpected treat was waiting just up the track as it narrowed slightly with the emergence of a Woolly Bush. These were never my favourite plant growing up because they were just haphazardly planted in gardens around the area I lived in and looked really awkward. Out here in their natural environment and when I found them near West Cape Howe, I am a convert to their overall appearance now. While the grey conditions didn't make for eye-popping vistas of the farmland to the east, it did provide a more even lighting for this first section and I was able to pick out some of the details as I hiked along. Character filled tree trunks, lichen on the rocks and Parrot Bush flowers were in abundance along here and I'm sure in spring there would be a lot more to see. Reaching the first turn of the hike, the vehicle track heads uphill to the west and towards the Wandoo Woodlands that I was very much looking forward to seeing.
A fence borders the track to the left where I spotted a few kangaroos hopping away in the distance and I caught sight of one of the largest Zamia Palms I've ever seen. Even from a distance (using my zoom lens to capture it), it was massive and I estimated it to be well over 2m tall including a base section that would have been over a metre off tall. These ancient palms don't grow at a fast rate so this one could have been upward of 500-600 years old (happy to be corrected on this). Keeping an eye on the map, it suggested an off-track excursion was on the cards soon instead of following the vehicle track all the way up to the summit of Bobakine Hill. Spotting where this would occur, it made sense to follow the natural ridge so I made my way through the open undergrowth, passing over another vehicle track before joining up with the one I was originally on. This short off-track meander wasn't entirely necessary but it was nice to break up what is a very long vehicle track section to start with (more so if you follow the route correctly but more on that later).
Back on the navigational safety of the vehicle track heading NNW, it was a case of enjoying the scenery around you as the terrain flattened out. More large Zamias appeared next to the track, survivors of the extensive land clearing that has devastated this part of WA. Now near the highest part of Bobakine, the views to the west really started to open up with occasional gaps in the Wandoo providing glimpses of the farmland looking back towards Clackline Nature Reserve. The area up here was really nice to walk through with lots of healthy trees, large habitat logs and a mushroom that had started poking out of the vehicle track. A gloomy looking stand of She-Oak provided something cool to photograph with views to the east becoming prominent. Eventually I located the survey marker for Bobakine that is a combination of the newer yellow diamond sign and an old school concrete marker with a metal plaque on it (I much prefer the old school method but I understand they can be much harder to find as a surveyor).
Ambling along, the track starts a gentle decline from this point, providing some excellent vantage points looking down into the Wandoo stands further ahead. I heard some noises off to the right and through the trees I could see a group that had driven in and setup camp the previous night. Not knowing the usage restrictions around the nature reserves in the Wheatbelt, I assumed that with no signs or fences at the entrance, this was allowed and moved on. Reaching a section of the vehicle track where it veers off to the west, this was the point of an intersection of the route. Assuming it was a loop, I headed off to the left and started the first big off-track section of the walk. There is an old saying about making assumptions and I should have checked the waypoints and route notes before blindly following the gps route to the left. Turns out this is meant to be walked as a Figure 8 instead of a loop but in the end it didn't really matter as I was following along on my phone. In hindsight I actually think this is a really cool way of doing it as walking along the exposed granite sections in this direction means you aren't staring into the sun.
Entering the undergrowth at what looked like a normal walking track, I thought that this would be a pretty easy section to navigate. As I descended I saw more kangaroos but they quickly disappeared out of sight. I was enjoying the Grass Trees leading up the hill and it wasn't long before I was skirting the contours of the slope where the granite sections start. I had a big smile on my face when I saw the granite as Dave (creator of the WalkGPS website) really loves taking you to granite formations and I completely understand why as they really add to a walk. Boyagin Rock is one of the walks he mapped out that is just a lovely series of granite formations linked with excellent Wandoo and I highly recommend that one if you are comfortable with lots of off-track navigation. The granite here was simply brilliant with this being the windward side of the hill, it receives more water from incoming cold fronts and thus the moss can thrive here. I absolutely adore the patterns of the lichens, mosses and little plants that grow in these conditions as they are super photogenic. Add in plenty of my favourite plants in the Darling Range, the Sundew, and I was having a great time.
While the vehicle track had been relaxing to walk along, this section was just on another level with a certain magic about it that would continue for a while. The views looking down towards the Wandoo Woodlands is something else and is the main image I have in my head now when I think about this place. Seeing the large golden trunks soaring into the air with towering crowns proudly branching out is pretty cool and really is highlighted by the large tracts of farmland in the background. Navigation on the granite was fairly easy with the route following the contours and I tried to pick the least destructive path along the rock. Occasionally I would pick the wrong animal track that led back up the hill but for the most part I stuck to the proper route. Heading properly downhill for the first time, there is some slippery black granite here to negotiate but you can see where a track would naturally go based on the vegetation along here.
Following along the western side of the vegetation, you come across more granite platforms but this time you head along the base of them (well I did anyway) and eventually reach some thicker forest near the base of the hill. There is a properly formed trail here that according to the trail notes is a mountain bike trail, most likely illegally put in and I would suggest is not used very often. Having a trail to follow down the hill was nice as I'd done a lot of checking and re-checking of the notes to this point and hadn't yet realised I was doing this in the opposite direction. Reaching the lowest point of the walk, this was a really cool area with plenty of Grass Trees, some She-Oak and open Wandoo clearings. Spotting a series of granite boulders,I assumed Dave would want to take you there but I quickly discovered this was the wrong way and course corrected myself as I headed into the open section. I'm guessing this isn't a natural bit of the woodlands, there are clumpings of Wandoo here among some large cleared areas so I think this was once used for something else. Looking at the map, it is quite close to neighbouring farmland so I think my theory might be correct.
Roughly following the correct route through here, I found a very odd Grass Tree that looks to have been clipped to resemble a childhood favourite character of mine, Grug. It was odd to say the least and really had me scratching my head. I kept going and soon reached yet another highlight of the walk, the deep creek system that has been carved into the landscape over the ages.
Standing on the edge of the deep channels is pretty neat and I kept thinking about how much rainfall would be required to actually get a trickle flowing. Donovan and I have had discussions on the podcast about the Bibbulmun Track mentioning Wandoo creek systems along the track but not actually going near them and that thought popped into my head when I saw these. It would be cool if the Bibbulmun visited scenes like this (if they exist in the areas they say) given how nice they look. With the sun now out in full force, the golden colours of the Wandoo were looking a treat as I stood on the edge of the ravine trying to pick out the easiest route up the steep banks.
Once I'd located a good route I ventured down into the channel and the view was even better from this position. I felt hidden away from everything and looking up at the Wandoo from this angle was really enjoyable. Crossing over to the other side of the creek I heard the screech of a couple of Pink and Grey Galahs so tried to locate the tree they were in. Unlike the Black Cockatoos, the Galahs are less likely to move when you walk past so once I found them I had time to swap out my lens and take some better photos of them. With blue skies in the background instead of the grey I had at Clackline, the colour contrast was a lot better between the Wandoo, sky and birds. With my fill of Galah photos I moved on and picked my way through the undergrowth towards the vehicle track that I would take back up the hill, finishing this loop of the Figure 8. Happy to have some walking that didn't require me to check the GPS every few minutes, I relaxed a little and enjoyed the walking. Realising I was close to the area I loved looking down on from the granite, I was excited to check out the large Wandoos I had seen from a distance.
Heading up the hill was more enjoyable walking as the track snakes its way through the trees. From this perspective it was just as lovely as what it looked like from the granite platform and about halfway up I came across a rocky section that looked like a good spot for a break. Checking the time and realising I would also have some more off-track walking to do, it dawned on me that I would only just get through this walk and the next one I had planned at Mokine before dark. Having spent most of the previous day out hiking too, I thought it best to save Mokine for a time when I wouldn't be rushing it and would call it a day after this hike. With that in mind I settled myself on a nice rock and broke out my lunch (two of my super yummy rolls). Exploring the immediate area, I thought to myself that this would be perfect echidna territory because I'm a sadist like that. I climbed the little rocky outcrop and stood silent for a while hoping to hear the rustling of a spiky monotreme but my hopes and dreams would be dashed once again. Having a further look around, this really was a beautiful spot to stop with views looking down on either side of the track and a nice vantage point to see back towards where you had already walked. I settled on a fallen log to finish my lunch and noticed a bee hovering around my drink bottle, probably trying to see if the name on the drink bottle was his.
With revised plans, I could slow down even further and not have the issue of time management in the back of my mind for the remainder of the hike. Heading off from my lunch spot, I still had a bit of climbing to do before rejoining the area where the trail split earlier. It was a nice climb and once at the top the views really opened up. I left the vehicle track and walked parallel with it because the views were much better just to the west. With the sun out the farmland was looking much better and I soon recognised the area I had passed before. Picking the right direction to finish the last section, I headed off-track again to explore the eastern slopes of Bobakine. With no big granite features in this area, It's a case of pointing yourself in the right direction and trying to stay on course. This is hard sometimes as you dodge logs, Grass Trees and thicker sections of bush or just follow an animal track that looks like the right way to go (it usually isn't). There were a few course corrections on my route but for the most part I roughly followed Dave's plan through the mixed woodland. I was happy to see a flowering eucalpytus still in bloom given they mainly flower in summer and autumn but it was getting on for winter now.
There were Grass Trees a plenty along this stretch along with some daisy looking wildflowers that really brightened up the landscape. As I said before, I'd love to come back and explore these walks in spring and I might have to make plans for a return visit next year. The views looking east from here were really nice and occasionally the trees would open up and you could see the top of Bobakine Hill to the south. Crossing the first of a couple of creeks, it was a matter of picking a line down into the valley from up above and sticking to it despite the many animal tracks in the area. This spot was one of the best in terms of Grass Trees that thrive here along the creek line and there was a really cool looking She-Oak that had a grey curtain of needles draped down over one of the Grass Trees. Climbing up over the other side there was a rockier section that was more white quartz than granite, something I found quite interesting. Now heading in a general downhill direction to the finish, you are still fairly high up compared to where you started and as such the views looking down towards the stand of Wandoo on the opposite side to where you park your car looked pretty cool from this distance. Rays of sunshine would illuminate patches of the trees and I tried to quickly snap a good photo before they disappeared (mixed results ensued).
Reaching the second and last creek crossing, this was one is bigger than the previous crossing and I decided to follow the animal tracks down to it and also running parallel to it. The rocky path led all the way to a natural crossing point and I spotted an early Trigger Plant sprouting up from the valley floor that was nice to see. I was hoping for some Sundews like I saw at a similar spot at Clackline but I couldn't see any lurking around. Rising up out of the valley and over a slight hill, the rest of the way is a direct downhill to the finish. The notes say to join a vehicle track all the way to the end but I couldn't see a clear track anywhere so once I spotted my car, just made a beeline for that. As a last surprise I found some Common Pin Heath near the Bobakine sign along with a variety of the Calothamnus so that was a lovely sight to end with. The car was right as I left it and as I was driving out the view looking back to the reserve was so good I stopped and took one last photo. A couple of nice Wandoo WalkGPS hikes under my belt and time well spent out in nature, it was time to hit the road and head home.
Final Thoughts - While it would have been nice to get the full hiking degustation in, it's nice to have something to look forward to with a future trip out to Mokine definitely in the works.
Bobakine is a fantastic little nature reserve that offers much more than Clackline in terms of varied scenery and better views. If you enjoyed Clackline like I did then Bobakine is next level in terms of wow moments.
The granite, the Wandoo, the Grass Trees and the awesome creek crossings all added up to a fantastic few hours exploring the sad remnants of a once great Woodland area.
Having followed the route a little differently in terms of direction, it didn't detract from the experience and given these aren't marked trails, it doesn't really matter.
I think I say this with every WalkGPS hike I do, if this was a marked track then it would easily be better than most of the hikes we have on offer in the Perth Hills. It's crazy we have these walks all mapped out in beautiful areas and the investment in trails seems to be zero (although the environmental process to make these into trails would be very hard).
A bit harder in terms of terrain and navigation compared to Clackline but thoroughly worth it if you have the experience and know how. Can recommend.
Get out there and experience it!
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