Clackline Nature Reserve
Start - End of Connor Rd
Length - 3.3km (Loop)
Rating - Black
Terrain - 4x4 Track, Wandoo Woodland
Vertical Climb - 108m
Time - 1-2 hours
Signed - No, map and GPS waypoints required (see WalkGPS website)
Date Hiked - 1st June 2020
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Directions - Clackline Nature Reserve is about an hour and 15 minutes east of Perth. Follow Great Eastern Hwy until you reach the Spencers Brook Rd turnoff. Turn right here and then an immediate left onto Eadine Rd until you reach a left turn for Sleeper Rd. Turn right onto Railway Rd and then left onto Connor Rd. Follow this to the end where you'll see the CALM sign.
The Hike - The June long weekend for the past two years has marked the beginning of a couple of week long sections of the Bibbulmun Track. With my sectional end to end now over and a vow to do more day hiking in 2020, my plan was to get myself a WalkGPS membership and start tackling some of the off-track adventures Dave has mapped out around the Perth area. With most of the hiking around the Perth Hills requiring a bit of water or the introduction of wildflowers to make them more enjoyable, I had my sights set on exploring some of the Wheatbelt nature reserves that are remnants of what used to be the predominant landscape in this area.
Unfortunately with the intrastate borders closed this scuttled my plans but with nothing planned for the June long weekend this year I rescheduled the hikes to then. Dave describes the trio of walks in this area (Clackline, Bobakine and Mokine) as a "walking degustation" so I was intrigued to take all three in on the same day. As with most of Dave's walks, there are off track elements so you will need to download the GPX file and PDF file to make sure you are going the right way. Navigation would be a case of finding an app where I could load the GPX into it and also track my hike at the same time to ensure I could follow along on my phone. While Donovan uses the augmented reality feature of the ViewRanger app, he's had some issues where it initially needs to validate your subscription via an internet connection so I instead went with AllTrails and would just be following along with that. Driving out along Great Eastern Highway, I was treated to a beautiful sunrise full of colour and it certainly was a great way to start the day. Reaching the gates to the reserve I loaded everything up and set out on what would be the entree for my hiking degustation. I had a good laugh at the old CALM sign on the gates and on the wooden sign, mainly because that was three name changes ago and this area seems to have been forgotten (which I think is actually a good thing and I'll explain why later).
Starting the hike, you head south along the fence line and slightly uphill. An inconspicuous start to proceedings with the open field of the neighbouring farm not being particularly interesting but as you rise the views across to Bobakine Reserve (the main course of the degustation) start to open up. As always I was constantly scanning around for interesting things to photograph and there was enough here to peak my interest thanks to some cool lichen, nicely coloured quartz and the sight of the golden barked Wandoo that dominate this part of the state. When you reach the top of the hill you make a very sharp right turn to continue following the 4x4 track (the first 2km is all on vehicle track so very easy to follow). This was a nice moment and one that made me a little giddy as the track turns into what I dubbed the "Avenue of Wandoo", a squiggly track leading into the distance lined with beautiful Wandoos that were looking amazing even in the muted light of an overcast morning. Welcoming me to this lovely part were a couple of Pink and Grey Galahs hanging out in a nearby tree so I swapped over my lenses and got some closer pictures of them muppeting about.
I couldn't stop taking photos as I left the Galahs and slowly walked along the vehicle track. It's always nice coming along a healthy stand of Wandoo when in the Perth Hills but to be completely surrounded by these magnificent trees is something very special. Having a variety of shapes and sizes was great to see and some of the older examples just ooze character that you really have to see up close. Continuing to ascend, the views across the farmland to the east and over to Bobakine kept getting better, although I was hoping for more mist rolling through the valley. An unusually warm early winters morning meant that only a few wisps were visible but having the gold of the Wandoo trunks in the foreground more than made up for that. One aspect I wasn't enjoying was having to avoid large horse deposits that littered the vehicle track. A trail group that most of the time aren't very considerate of others, it's a shame that you really have to watch where you're walking instead of just enjoying the relatively easy going nature of this early section.
As the trail flattens out a bit you can just stroll along completely immersed in the woodlands. I'm not going to lie, around this point I was thinking to myself that this was prime echidna territory (still haven't seen one in WA while out hiking) so kept an eye out for anything moving along the floor. Alas it wasn't meant to be on this hike but I didn't care as the quality of the scenery was just amazing. To think this was just the appetiser was giving me pleasant thoughts and I couldn't wait to explore the rest of the walks. Wiggling around, the track then reaches a junction so I checked the notes and a left turn was in order so that's what I did. Just near the turn I was happy to spot my first wildflower of the day, a red bell shaped variety that might be One Sided Bottlebrush (Calothamnus quadrifidus) or something very similar. Another interesting feature was a two-faced Wandoo with one side being very dead looking and the other side looking completely healthy. It's something I noticed quite a lot as I went along, parts of the tree would be blackened while the rest continued to live.
Reaching one of the highlights of this section, you descend down into a lovely little valley where a gully snakes its way through the landscape. While there had been a bit of rain fall in the past week, these Wandoo creeks require a lot of water to even start to trickle so I wasn't expecting great things. It's still very pretty to look at and descending down you could feel a change in the atmosphere to be a little damper and cooler. Climbing out of the valley I couldn't stop turning around to look at what I'd just walked through and eventually stopped at a rocky outcrop to inspect what could have been an echidna burrow but probably wasn't. Reaching the top of the hill I spotted some different wildflowers and some flowering Parrot Bush (which I'm starting to be quite fond of despite being very scratchy to walk through). This flatter section looking down to the valley also boasted a very packed arrangement of young Wandoo that I'm sure will thin out over time as they grow bigger. This bit marks the end of the easy to follow vehicle tracks and from here on out it would be all off-track hiking.
I have to admit I missed the point where I was meant to turn because I was having so much fun enjoying the area. I quickly corrected myself and headed off into the Wandoo where the notes said I should. While the vehicle track walking was nice, there is generally a very good reason why Dave takes his routes off-track and this finishing section was no different. Apart from being more immersed in the woodlands, you get to see a lot more than if you'd just stuck to a wide track. The first little highlight I saw was a hollowed out rock structure that wasn't quite big enough to provide shelter for any fauna but looked cool. Still climbing, I was trying to match my position against the trail loaded onto the AllTrails app but I soon discovered that there was a bit of lag between my position on the app and where I actually was. It's all fairly open land so once you reach a waypoint it's fairly easy to see what the terrain looks like in the direction you're meant to be travelling in. Heading in an easterly direction to link back to the start, the views looking back at Bobakine start to emerge once again. Adding to the quality of the scenery was a very large nest up in the canopy that is home for a Wedge-Tailed Eagle.
Thankful I had brought my long lens, I observed for a little bit to see if the resident was home (it was not) before snapping away. The size of the nest is impressive and it would have been very cool to see an eagle in the nest or arriving back from a hunting trip. Happy with seeing a nest so close I followed the route as it heads south and starts the long descent back down to the start/finish. This is another cool section dominated by the lovely views and terrific Wandoo woodlands. You briefly join a vehicle track before exiting that where it makes a sharp turn to the left. You continue on and eventually reach a spot looking down towards a steep gully. There are plenty of grass trees here to keep you company and I picked a line down the slope that looked fairly gentle and eventually reached what looked like a walking path but was probably a well worn animal track. Following the creek line for a little bit (I wasn't following the exact course), I was very happy to spot some sundews near some rocks.
My favourite plant to see when hiking, I absolutely love photographing and admiring them so was over the moon to spot some here. Not only were there some of the larger varieties but I found the more delicate vine variety too. Pleased with this sighting I located the best crossing spot of the creek and headed up what looked like a continuation of the animal track. Spotting an orange fungi camouflaged near some laterite, it was an excellent finish in terms of variety of flora compared to the vehicle track. Picking my way through the undergrowth, it was nice to see some different tree types off in the distance with She Oak seeming to grow quite well on the lower slopes. Spotting my car in the distance I made a bee-line for the finish as I was quite keen to get to the next hike. Having spent an hour and a half on this easy 3km loop, mainly due to stopping a lot to photograph, I was conscience of having enough time given the next two hikes were longer and required a bit more off-track hiking.
Final Thoughts - I've mentioned Dave's degustation line a few times here but I think it's very apt, especially when referring to Clackline as the entree. A short and sharp introduction to the world of off-track hiking in the Wandoo woodlands that is easy on the palette and a good taste of things to come.
There are many positives to talk about on this hike with some very photogenic Wandoo visible from pretty much every metre of the walk and some cool features sprinkled in, like the eagle nest. Add in that you'll most likely have the entire walk to yourself and it's a wonderful escape from the trails closer to Perth that are getting more and more use (which is great to see).
It's refreshing to have these areas to hike in that seem to have been forgotten. It's just sad that these nature reserves are few and far between given the entire Wheatbelt at one point would have been filled with all kinds of interesting natural beauty.
One of the references on Dave's page points you to a management plan from 1985 that outlines that in the Shire of Northam only 0.6% of the total land is nature reserve and 2.7% is state forest (which gets logged). Given that was 35 years ago, I cringe to think what those numbers have shrunk to now. It's a tragedy that so much land clearing was allowed to happen and no one really thought that the natural beauty should be preserved.
If you're looking for an introduction to off-track hiking then this is definitely one of the easiest walks on Dave's website. Just be prepared and don't come out here without a basic to good knowledge of navigation and direction, especially if you are relying on technology.
Get out there and experience it!
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