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
Cost - WalkGPS Membership Required
Signed - No, map and GPS waypoints required (see WalkGPS website)
Date Hiked - 1st June 2020
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Traditional Custodians - Wajuk People
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 entrée 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.