Luke Pen Walk
Directions - From the centre of Albany, find your way to Ulster Rd heading north and keep following this as it becomes Lower King Rd. Keep going until it becomes Nanarup Rd, turning left just after the Kalgan River Bridge onto East Bank Rd. Follow this all the way to the end where you'll find a car park and a trail head.
The Hike - Having scaled four of the six day hikes in the Stirling Range in the past two days I had my sights set on the Porongurups on Day Three, followed by what I had hoped was a clear summit of Bluff Knoll before the rain came in the late afternoon. This was based off a weather forecast I had seen three days previous and I had not checked my weather app when I was on top of one of the peaks in the past two days. This meant I was not expecting any weather until the afternoon and woke up to the sound of rain on my tent. With no reception at Moingup Springs I had no way of knowing when it would stop. This put me in a bit of a pickle because the plan had been to visit Nancy Peak and Devils Slide so I could share it with everyone on here but if the rain and clouds were going to be around for the day then the photos would be a collage of different shades of grey.
Lying in my tent I came up with a Plan B of driving into Albany and doing the walk I had planned for the next day (this one). This would give me the opportunity to get coverage and check the weather forecast for the next few days along with doing a walk that I didn’t mind doing in the rain. I packed up all my gear loaded it into the car for the hour long drive to Albany. As I passed the Porongurups they weren't visible at all so continued on to the Luke Pen Walk. I found reception just outside of Albany and sure enough the weather had fined up when I arrived. As I was already here and there was no guarantee that the weather would improve in the Porongurups, I headed to the start point of the Luke Pen Walk on the banks of the Kalgan River. Driving through the peaceful looking neighbourhoods, it reminded me why I would love to live down in this part of the world in the future. Once you have located East Bank Road, the route to the trail head is signed well enough to follow. East Bank Road comes to a dead end about 3km after the turn-off and this is where the trail head is located, although it's not obvious to start with.
I took the path next to the river and soon came across the information board that officially marks the start of the 11km Hobbit Trail (there and back again). The information board is completed with a map of the walk, a summary of who Luke Pen is (thankfully a local and well respected botanist instead of colonial figurehead) and one very appealing trail marker denoting this as a TrailsWA Top Trail. This rating isn't handed out lightly and this would have to be one of the more low key Top Trails to those outside of the Albany area (and perhaps within it). I started up my GPS tracker and moved past the wooden bathroom facilities and started the trail properly. With blue skies and fluffy white clouds I was happy to experience this walk with near perfect conditions instead of the drizzle I was expecting as I drove to the start. The first thing I noticed as I made my way to one of many bends in the river was the great selection of wildflowers on display. Being spring this wasn't unexpected but normally there are a few species that dominate a trail. This wasn't the case today with every twist in the path revealing a different colour or display.
Following the eastern banks of the Kalgan River, this trail is a peaceful stroll along the river edge, providing some great views of the calm water and surrounding landscape. The first bend provides a chance to view the nearby Elbow Island that is a haven for bird life in the area and a small granite outcrop gives a clear viewing platform. Moving on you see a stunning art installation that is the most impressive I have seen on a trail in WA, a giant metal kingfisher with its wings expanded. If you aren't expecting it then I imagine this would be a cool surprise and one any young kid (or big kid) will love anyway. Looking south when you view it means it will most likely be in the best light for photographing this magnificent feature. When you are done admiring the giant avian sculpture it is time to move on and towards a little inlet in the river.
Although it takes you away from the main river, you are compensated by a damp excursion over a bridge that crosses one of many streams that feed the Kalgan. I love little scenes like this and despite some thick undergrowth around the stream I was still able to see the flow of the stream and admire it for a brief moment. From the bridge, the trail takes you up a slight hill and you walk above the river for a long stretch. To your right is a small hill you can't quite see over, providing a nice sense of mystery and also diverting your attention always towards the river on your left. The wildflowers continued to impress along this section and were joined by a few sizeable grass trees. By this point I had forgotten about the Porongurups and had immersed myself in a slow amble along this amazing hike. With each bend in the river there is a new view to experience and subtle new feature to enjoy.