Start - Boyagin Nature Reserve
Length - 17.7km (Loop)
Rating - Black
Terrain - Off Track, Granite Dome, Forest
Vertical Climb - 388m
Time - 5-9 Hours
Cost - WalkGPS Membership Required
Signed - No, map and GPS waypoints required
Date Hiked - 11th August 2018
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Traditional Custodians - Wiilman People
Directions - Boyagin Nature Reserve is about two hours east of Perth off Brookton Hwy. Follow Brookton Hwy until you reach the York-Williams Rd turnoff. Turn right here and follow down until you reach the left turn for Boyagin Rd. Follow Boyagin Rd until the left turn for Pech Rd. The car park is a little way down on the left and is well signed.
The Hike - Despite starting a mildly successful but thoroughly enjoyable podcast together, Donovan and I have not hiked together very often. Besides a couple of group hikes early on when we didn't really know each other, we have only hiked together three times. Odd considering every fortnight or so we spend a couple of hours drinking wine and talking hiking for the podcast (not to mention the various group chats we now talk on daily). A theme that started to develop in 2018 was Donovan's pursuit of off-track hiking and his "chasing the dragon" as I like to call it of unspoiled hiking experiences outside of the marked offerings currently available. With our weekend availability matching up for once he invited me to check out Boyagin Rock with Alissa.
The route we were going to walk was mapped out by Dave from WalkGPS and can be viewed here (membership is required for this one but he does have hikes he lists without requiring a membership). Donovan was very interested in a few photos he saw with giant granite boulders and a healthy smattering of one of his favourite trees, the Wandoo. With a confirmed date in place we headed out very early along Brookton Hwy (after a breakfast stop) for an hour and a half before reaching the turnoff. With a lovely morning fog in place over the surrounding farmland we hoped it would last until we were on Boyagin Rock. What amazed us turning off Brookton Hwy were the huge granite boulders found on the farmland and the fact they only survived because the people who were responsible for the extensive land clearing in this area must have put them in the "too hard basket". Arriving at the Boyagin Rock car park, we set about gathering our gear for the hike whilst also trying to stay warm (it was around 0C). There is a short (official) walk that you can do to the top of Boyagin Rock, which is the reason for the car park, information packed gazebo and basic toilet facilities. While Donovan got his gear together and loaded up the GPS I had a poke around the car park and photographed the lovely forest and the small glimpses of Boyagin Rock you can see.
When everyone was ready Donovan pointed his phone at the terrain and said we had to go directly into thick bush instead of the path leading towards the granite dome. Our method of navigation today was the ViewRanger app on Donovan's phone that had a cool augmented reality feature where the waypoints appear on the screen as you point it at the scenery (kind of like Pokemon Go). Luckily the bush bashing was very short and we soon arrived at a lovely granite slope that would mark the first climb of the day. Very much like Sullivan Rock with lots of moss, lichen and sundews covering the areas where soil had been deposited into the cracks, we were very careful to pick our lines up here so as not to step on any moss (it's a very fragile environment). As we ascended it became clear as to why this route was chosen to start with some pretty cool views of Boyagin Rock and the surrounding forest. Being able to see most of the nature reserve was pretty cool and it served as a good warm-up in the chilly conditions. At the summit of this particular section of granite was an out of place camouflage lock box that we guessed the purpose of, after some light Googling it turns out this is a wildlife monitoring station so they now have some photos of a few hikers in their natural habitat.
With plenty of photos taken it was time to descend down into a small valley area for our first taste of the lovely Wandoo forest that would be home for the majority of the hike. Picking our way down a couple of tricky spots, we eventually made it to the valley and Donovan got excited for the first of the waypoints he was looking forward to. Having seen the photos of the giant granite boulders this became the start of a game I like to call "Is this it? No I don't think it is". The ViewRanger app kept telling us to go in a different direction to the boulders but after a while Donovan realised it looped back on itself as a way of circling around the granite outcrop we had spotted. Keen to check out the area we did the loop around and explored the top of the rock first with Donovan and myself scrambling up to appreciate the views back to Boyagin Rock. I may have posed for a few photos for Donovan's write-up in an exaggerated manner (being in front of the camera is fun stuff) but we eventually joined Alissa at ground level to explore the cave underneath.
Just outside the cave I spotted some cool fungi including a large egg shaped variety that was cracking with the pressure of the extreme growth. The cave itself was pretty cool with a hollowed out area large enough to stand under and a comfy looking bed of leaves that I could have taken a nap on. With one really cool granite outcrop under our belts Donovan pointed us in the direction of the next waypoint and we began the first extended stretch of Wandoo walking. Wandoo is a favourite of Donovan's (and mine) so we were in heaven as we crunched our way through the open forest (this type of dry forest lends itself to lots of crunchy bark being deposited on the ground). The combination of golden tree trunks, clear morning skies and an ample green canopy produced the most amazing scenes and I was happy that some of that translated to the photos. After crossing one of the management tracks Donovan had a physical display of his Wandoo love by hugging one of the wider examples with Alissa looking on with a worried look on her face.
As we ventured further into the whimsical Wandoo wonderland it may have been remarked that this area was prime echidna territory and that there was a 96.4% chance that we would come across one (I am exaggerating of course). The reasoning wasn't entirely wrong with a well protected and unburnt area of open forest that echidnas would thrive in due to the abundant supply of food so I had my hopes very high that we'd come across one of these spikey cutie pies. This was of course before my trip to Tasmania where seeing an echidna in the wild was still on my wish list so I was super excited for the possibility (it may have been promised before we left). With no echidnas showing their faces yet we instead had to marvel at this great stretch of forest and boy was there some fantastic scenes to photograph. I think you can see from the photos that we had the perfect conditions to experience the forest but in saying that, it's amazing what a forest can look like when you leave it to it's own devices. While not a tall species of Eucalyptus, Wandoo is still very impressive when allowed to exist in large numbers and the quality of this patch was some of the best I've seen in Western Australia.
Making the walk more enjoyable was the gentle slope we were descending so it hardly felt like walking at all. Arriving at another management track, the scenery changed from Wandoo to She-Oak as we joined the 4x4 track for a bit of on-track walking. The reason for this was to lead you to an old colonial relic and the site for an previous settlement. A clearing now covered in grass and moss reveals an old stone chimney that has been left here from an age gone past. We aren't sure what happened to the rest of the dwelling but it was a cool object to photograph and speculate about. Another delight was a smattering of sundews in the grass, a favourite of mine when hiking in the cooler months. After a short break here we moved on and followed an old wooden fence line for a while, making navigation much simpler. It's easy to be lulled into a false sense of security here and Donovan was aware of that as all of a sudden the route heads north away from the fence. With an eye on the ViewRanger we were prepared and soon made our way to the first of the flatter granite slopes.
These large open spaces will be familiar with anyone who has hiked the Bibbulmun Track in the Darling Range section and provides a break so you don't get too overwhelmed by the amazing Wandoo. With no obvious path along the granite we had to be very careful to once again dodge the moss as best we could (please also do this). Anyone observing from a distance would have wondered what we were doing but it's important to not disturb these environments if we don't have to. An unnatural noise interrupted us as we made our way across the granite with a plane circling the area at very low altitude. At first I thought it was a local farmer doing some crop dusting but as it appeared every now and then over the canopy, it seemed to just be doing acrobatics. In the end I didn't get a photo of it but it wasn't for lack of trying. Leaving the granite we were put back into the Wandoo forest again and we all remarked how excellent the walk had been so far. Nestled in the bark covered ground I spotted something that unfortunately wasn't an echidna but a purple wildflower.
For early spring there hadn't been a strong showing any kind of wildflower up to this point so it was nice to see one appear out of nowhere. This would be a trend that would continued as we eventually joined back onto another management track, much to the delight of Alissa who was excited about the prospect of good old fashioned road walking for a bit. As we climbed up a laterite breakaway Donovan realised that we needed to leave the road, much to the disappointment of Alissa. It was all worth it for the wildflowers as we spotted a good amount of Dryandras looking spectacular in the morning sun. As I'm not great with flower names (but getting better) and having never seen one in the wild it was Donovan that pointed them out from a distance. I spent a bit of time here photographing the golden and yellow colours of the various banksias along with some unopened examples that I found fascinating. With plenty more hiking to get through for the day we once again consulted the ViewRanger for the next waypoint off in the distance.
Another short but sweet granite patch gave another opportunity to view the plane that was still buzzing around but it wasn't meant to be. Coming up to the edge of the reserve and being up on the hill we got some views through the canopy of the surrounding farmland. Whilst examining one of the beautifully smooth trunks of a nearby Wandoo I noticed a local camouflaged among all the interesting markings. Being pretty chill as I tried to focus the camera in on it, the spider didn't seem to care about my presence. With Donovan and Alissa already in the distance I caught up and we entered a section of undulation and small granite boulders. Littered throughout the forest were these marbles providing a cool maze to walk through. Donovan had the ViewRanger out again and was leading the way up and over little creek valleys to a really cool spot on top of a little hill. Here the marbles turned into boulders and we enjoyed spotting faces or objects in the rocks. I saw a likeness to a walrus in one with a grassy moustache and Alissa went down for a friendly smooch.
A watering trough or feeding barrel lay near one boulder, hinting at possible grazing in this area before it was turned into a nature reserve, which is likely given the old stone fireplace we found a few kilometres back. Having a bit of a stop to take plenty of photographs of the moss and wildflowers it was a nice area to enjoy a snack so that's what we did. It's such a cool landscape to walk through here and you can imagine at night this would be full of the nocturnal life thriving in the protected areas provided by the boulders. Continuing on we transitioned back to the rockier Wandoo forest as we approached another laterite breakaway. With orange gravel becoming more of a feature the forest opened up to a drier landscape with less of a canopy. We took a detour down the breakaway to the edge where we were greeted with some sweeping views over the farmland to the north.