Christmas TRee Well
Directions - Located an hour east of Perth, head east along Brookton Highway, passing both the Munda Biddi and Bibbulmun Track crossings until you reach the left turn for Christmas Tree Well that is just before Yarra Road. It's not well signed until you're there so you may need to turn around at Yarra Road. Follow the gravel road towards the parking loop where you will find some picnic benches. Christmas Tree Well is located by walking down the sandy track that is not accessible by 2WD cars anymore.
The Hike - After a long summer of hot weather, plenty of cycling and lots of planning for the upcoming hiking season, the return of the cooler weather of Djeran meant it was time to head back out and get stuck into some hiking. For 2022 I had decided the concentrate on hiking more of the WalkGPS routes that Dave has mapped out on his website as the Wandoo Woodlands east of Perth are less dependant on flowing water or epic wildflower displays to provide an enjoyable experience (although it certainly helps). Having already visited the Wundabiniring Walk and loved that walk, I had a few routes to choose from that I didn't mind seeing out of the ideal window.
In the end I chose Christmas Tree Well (not to be confused with Christmas Tree Creek in John Forrest National Park) as my destination for this mid May weekend adventure, mainly because I knew the area contained some lovely mixed forest. I'd driven back from a Great Southern road trip in 2020 through here and it looked enticing, so wanted to explore it a bit more. With some wet weather hitting during the week and some more forecast for the afternoon, I was hoping for a few wildflowers to be out and possibly some early season fungi but a decent walk through the forest alone was going to be enough today. Arriving at the Christmas Tree Well car park after shooting past the turnoff (it's not marked until you're right there), I parked up and wondered where the well or the Christmas Trees were actually located. Getting my gear together and loading up the GPS file on my phone, I knew it was to the north west of the car park so headed along a chewed up sandy track and eventually found it. The Christmas Tree (Nuytsia floribunda) is an iconic sight in early summer as the bright orange flowers light up the areas they are located and are the largest specie of Mistletoe in the world.
To the first nations people the Moodja represents a place for the soul to rest and they are treated with great respect. Traditionally they do not touch the tree or sit in the shade of one so it was particularly disappointing earlier this year when it was discovered that a gin distillery in the South West was using the flowers of the Moodja in one of their products. This website I found to be very good at sorting through the various colonial misrepresentations about the Moodja and it's uses. Reaching the small pocket of trees that seem to only grow in this one area, there is an old well that has since been covered by metal wire. I wandered down the path to take some photos and was impressed by the thickets of Bracken Fern that surround what is a naturally moist area (hence the well). As a whole, this area looks like a bit of a mess with sandy vehicle tracks, rubbish from idiots camping out here and the sight of a scrappy pine plantation in the distance. After walking down a vehicle track for a while, I was thankful to be pointed into the nearby woodland by the GPS and begin what was a much better walk than the first 300m. Heading on a NE bearing for quite a while, I could set my internal compass in one direction and focus on enjoying the lovely atmosphere of an early morning walk through mixed Jarrah and Wandoo woodlands.
Keeping an eye out for anything wildflower or fungi shaped/coloured, I had some good finds early on with an Astraloma variety (red bottle shaped flower), some flowering Parrot Bush and lots of Common Pin Heath (Styphelia tenuiflora). The open forest was a delight to walk through with a mix of Jarrah, Marri and Wandoo providing plenty of variety to photograph as I looked for the first waypoint that was marked as a Granite Tor. I overshot it to the north by about 20m so when I spotted it, I corrected course to pay it a visit. Continuing on, I was impressed with the quality of the forest, even if certain areas showed evidence of previous logging (what part of WA is this not the case though). Being located within a State Forest, this isn't surprising as State Forest in WA just means "to be logged or mined eventually" but at least there were some healthy examples left from a time when forestry activities were carried out in a less heavy handed manner. Starting to descend slightly, I was on the lookout for more wildflowers, especially the early blooming varieties of small red bottlebrushes that can be found in autumn.
Reaching a sandy valley, the woodland opened up a bit more and the emergence of more Grass Trees brightened up the landscape. Always looking to capture the little things that catch my eye, I was loving the green tinge that attaches itself to the base of certain trees and provides them with a look similar to the hallways of the Ministry of Magic. Also catching my eye was a fallen Grass Tree with the golden orange internals of the structure exposed to the elements and looking like an echidna. Leaving the sandy valley and heading into a thicker part of the woodlands, I was loving the cloudy conditions as I was basically walking directly towards the morning sun and the clouds provided more even lighting. Reaching the crossing of Yarra Road, it kind of throws you a bit from the experience of off track walking to be presented with a wide road but a reward was located on the other side. I had been searching for some Bunny Orchids on the first section and was delighted to spot some tiny examples on the edge of the road that looked to be early bloomers. Having seen a lot of them on a recent visit down south to do the Stirling Ridge Walk, I did not expect to see them on this walk.