Mokine Nature Reserve
Start - Leaver Drive
Length - 6.7km (Loop)
Rating - Black
Terrain - 4x4 Track, Off Track Wandoo Woodlands and Granite
Vertical Climb - 123m
Time - 2-4 hours
Signed - No, map and GPS waypoints required (see WalkGPS website)
Date Hiked - 31st July 2020
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Directions - Mokine Nature Reserve is an hour and 20 minutes east of Perth. Follow Great Eastern Hwy until you reach the Great Southern Hwy turnoff. Turn right here and keep driving until you reach Wambyn Rd. Turn left and follow this to the end and turn right onto Leaver Rd. The small parking area for Mokine is a kilometre up the road on the left.
The Hike - I had a plan back in early June to tackle the "hiking degustation" of Clackline, Bobakine and Mokine all in one day but time got away with me as I had so much fun exploring Clackline and Bobakine. This left Mokine as the one I had to cancel that day but vowed to return in the near future. Fast forward a couple of months and after racking up some time in lieu on a particularly annoying project at work, I made plans to take a Friday off and spend a day exploring the Wheatbelt. Expelling the non-resident tax treatment of non-cash income for Managed Investment Trusts from my head (it's as boring as it sounds), I pencilled in Mokine and a visit to York as my activities for the day. Friends Tomas and Mel were meant to join me but they had to cancel so I would be adventuring on my own today.
With Perth experiencing a warm and sunny winter so far, these conditions greeted me once again as I drove out along Great Eastern Hwy and then Southern Hwy to reach the reserve gates. Marvelling at the canola fields and also the signs telling the Instagram crowds that security cameras are capturing their unwanted trespassing, it was a relaxing drive to start the day (I do enjoy my driving). Making this an extra special trip was the arrival of my new camera during the week, a Nikon D7500 with an 18-140mm lens. This was a long overdue purchase as my old Nikon D5300 was very long in the tooth and no longer auto-focused (along with the body and lens being quite beat up). The D7500 and 18-140mm lens was chosen because it represented a good compromise between quality, cost and shooting range. It would have been nice to spend a lot more and get a D850 with two lenses (a 24-70mm and 70-200mm) but I didn't have $8k to spend and wanted to eliminate having to change lenses while out hiking. I'm happy with my purchase and now have the ability to shoot wide landscape shots and get better wildlife shots without any hassle. I think I'll treat myself to a better macro/astrophotography lens down the track that will be small enough to carry on multi-day hikes and be brought out for the right occasion.
Enough of the camera review/justification, on to the hike. After locating the somewhat hidden parking area on the side of Leaver Rd, I packed all my gear up and started by crossing the road to photograph the canola fields opposite the Mokine Reserve gate. It did look pretty in the morning light and I understand the appeal of them but I was respectful to the farmer and stayed behind the fence while taking my photos. Back at the gates, there was no indication that this was Mokine as unlike Clackline and Bobakine, there is no signage here (there is further up the road though). The walk initially heads through a She-Oak dominated landscape as it runs parallel with a small creek and unfortunately heading east to begin with means you're looking into the sun so the wide shots weren't great. Following vehicle tracks makes the early part very easy so I could concentrate on photographing everything that caught my eye, along with getting used to the new camera. I decided that from the introduction of this new camera I would be taking more control of my photos and switching to shooting in aperture mode, only letting the camera decide the shutter speed. While the scenery early on was a bit underwhelming and the area showing signs of disrespect (litter and fire rings), I found plenty of wildflowers and orchids to photograph. After a kilometre you reach the border of the reserve (unfortunately it's a tiny place) and turn left to follow another vehicle track.
With Mokine being touted as the better of the three WalkGPS walks in the area by both Dave the creator of the website and my podcast partner Donovan, I was beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about. That's not to say the scenery wasn't excellent to begin with, far from it. I was intrigued with the views looking east over the farmland and after crossing the creek, I started ascending up to the first real highlight of the loop. Passing under a fallen tree, I spotted a lone orchid in the undergrowth that turned out to be a Banded Greenhood Orchid and this would be the first of many cool finds along the way. Emerging from a thicket of undergrowth, you rise up towards an open area of granite. Warming up in the morning sunshine, I caught the last moments of a mob of kangaroos fleeing the area (they are very shy here) and was happy to have a camera that auto-focused again. All throughout here were lovely white stars that were still clinging onto the winter dew. Also clinging onto one example I decided to photograph were a couple of insects that unfortunately didn't make it into focus (should have chosen a wider aperture). Along with the white stars, there were plenty of droseras around of many shapes and sizes. One of my favourites plants in the whole world, droseras look stunning in the morning with their sticky pads glistening in the glow of first light.
I found a vine variety too and was keen to get one in focus as their small size and winding nature makes it very hard sometimes. In-between two patches of granite on either side of the continuing vehicle track were a number of Donkey Orchids, showcasing the excellent biodiversity that this spot has. The second granite platform overlooks the farming land to the east and it was nice to get the contrast between the nature reserve and the endless farms that dominate this once pristine landscape. I said it before in my Clackline/Bobakine posts, it's a real shame that there are only these small pockets left, islands of refuge for native species that call back to a time before colonial settlement. After spending two kilometres on vehicle tracks, it was time to leave them behind and head off-track into the heart of the reserve. Following the GPS track on my phone I headed into the open Wandoo woodlands that dominate the upper hills and immediately noticed an abundance of flowering sundews. Vast clumps littered the ground with beautiful white flowers springing up from the centre. Treading carefully I photographed quite a few of them before deciding to move on out of fear of running out of space on my memory card (not really).
In the open woodlands, the hike really started to come alive with a comforting feeling of space and the emergence of the golden trunks of the Wandoo. One of the most photogenic trees in WA, the Wandoo really stands out on a sunny day with their bright trunks contrasting well against the background colours. A freshness of blue sky made for an excellent scene and it was at this point that I had a big smile on my face that lasted for quite a while. Dave's routes are usually pretty obvious once you understand his thinking so with a laterite ridge nearby showcasing the excellent views of the surrounding farmland, I made a beeline for the edge. I found a fallen log to have a sit down here as I wanted to just stay still and soak in the fact I was in the middle of a great reserve, on a day off and had time to appreciate the moment. I took a few deep breaths and admired the views, wondering what peak was most prominent in the distance (turns out it was Bobakine so that's a cool connection). Getting up to inspect a few wildflowers that dotted the edge of the ridge (hovea and buttercups), I also found my first Pink Fairy Orchid of the day. Earlier I had heard the calls of the Pink and Grey Galahs as they screeched in the distance so was happy when a couple had come over to take a closer look at me.
I've always found the Pink and Greys to be a lot more curious and a lot less skittish than other birds with the opportunity to get right up close to them without scaring them off. This was a good chance to test out the new lens at the 140mm end of the range and it didn't disappoint. While previously I occasionally carried a bigger 70-200mm lens that was brought out for photographing birds, it was nice to just be able to walk up to the tree and start shooting. After watching the Galahs for a while, they ended up being chased off that tree by an aggressive 28 parrot so when that landed I got a shot of it too. The 28 quickly flew away so I moved on along the edge of the laterite breakaway and through some more excellent Wandoo. It's flatter walking along the ridge as you slowly descend down to the tip, spotting the occasional Parrot Bush and Grass Tree (which had the same weird haircut as the one I saw at Bobakine). I continued to see wildflowers I hadn't come across before and on a clumping of Hovea near the tip of the ridge, I spotted what I thought was a large fly. After getting my camera focused, I saw that it was a black and white bee, something I'd never seen before and possibly a leaf-cutter bee if my Googling is correct. Unfortunately the photos turned out a bit noisy but it was still a cool sight to see up close.
This spot is a really cool one with some of the best views on the walk. Seeing the farmland in the distance not obstructed by trees was kind of nice and the rolling hills had a very Shire like appearance. You can see down the slopes quite well here and the next step to navigate is to descend down into the woodlands below. Doing a little U-turn to cut out some of the steepness, you get to see the edge of the ridge from below with a great contrast between the orange boulders and the bright blue sky. The openness here allows a good perspective of Bobakine in the distance but it doesn't last long and soon you are in the familiar surrounds of the Wandoo dominated landscape. The undergrowth here is much thicker than the previous section so I was careful not to blindly follow the animal tracks I saw skirting off into the bush. I wasn't careful enough and soon realised I was heading in the wrong direction according to Dave's route. It wasn't all bad as I discovered some more wildflowers and orchids on my travels including a large stand of White Myrtle that the bees were loving. On the right course again, it became obvious that Dave wanted to skirt around some granite boulders and avoid the thicker parts of the undergrowth.
After a small open field you head west into a lovely patch of She-Oak that happened to have the male flowers in bloom (She-Oaks have both male and female reproductive flowers, sometimes on the same tree). Further along I found some of the female flowers, usually referred to as Honkey Nuts, where I tested out the new camera by trying to get the blurred background effect from a low aperture setting. This section was a nice change with She-Oak needles covering the floor and a few new finds including a Diplolaena (droopy looking bell shaped flower). Heading south, I was excited to see an area come into view that I was very much looking forward to. The photo I remember most from Donovan's post about Mokine is the granite wall of boulders several metres high. Arranged in an odd 3x3 grid, it's a sight to behold and yet another highlight on this fantastic walk. The whole area is fascinating to explore with plenty of boulders strewn across the place, along with a variety of mosses, lichens and fungi that cover the rocks. I thought I would try and get a shot of me in front of the wall for a size comparison but for the life of me I couldn't figure out where the self timer was located on the camera (always read the instruction booklet beforehand kids). After searching every menu option I eventually found a dial on the left hand side that had a small timer symbol hidden away, only visible when you rotated it.
In the end I couldn't find a suitable place to put the camera so abandoned that idea and instead set off to explore the immediate area. It was like being a kid again, climbing on rocks and finding new angles. I really loved the views looking off towards the Wandoo and Paperbark in the distance with golden wattle providing a carpet of yellow flowers. After a quick break I looked at my phone and found the right path to continue on. Leaving the She-Oak, it was back to the Wandoo that was visible from the back of the granite wall. Stepping into the next phase of the hike, you approach a small hill and interestingly you skirt around the edge instead of heading to the top. The views looking up the hill were pretty cool with just the right amount of Wandoos stretching all the way to the summit. You do a little bit of climbing here so the views over to the west do open up nicely and looking back from one vantage point I spotted a Wedge Tailed Eagle nest high in one tree. This wasn't mentioned in the trip notes like the one at Clackline so was a pleasant surprise to find. Once again, there was no one home as I took several photos of the amazingly constructed structure.
Still super happy with my eagle nest find, I walked straight past the granite platform I was supposed to follow, although I remember noting that it looked cool. Realising that I'd made an error, it was fairly easy to walk around the stand of Wandoo that blocked straight passage back there. I eventually joined the granite again but on the other side of the balancing boulder that is mentioned in the track notes. A smaller version of the famous boulder located under the Granite Skywalk in the Porongurups, it was yet another fun thing to see on what been a great hike already. A bit further down the hill is the "bivvy cavern", a very small cave covered by a big slab of raw granite. It's the little details like this one that are included in these walks that make for an interesting time for the entire length. Very rarely does it feel like point A to point B walking and along with the navigation aspect, this is the reason why I usually average between 1-2kmph. The wattle through here continued to provide a vibrant splash of colour as you make your way towards a small creek crossing. I love the Wandoo creek crossings that have been carved out over the aeons, this one being a mini version of the impressive ones found at Bobakine.
Being mid-winter and a very dry one at that, there was not a trickle to be seen so it was just a matter of navigating the quick up and down to get to the other side. Awaiting me was a vast array of what looked like Dryandras leading all the way up the hill. Unfortunately they weren't in flower but I imagine when they are that this area is pretty spectacular. Around this point I found a really cool clumping of Pink Fairy Orchids, totalling around a dozen in the same group. You start heading up a small hill towards another gorgeous stand of Wandoos before beginning the final descent down to the finish point. It's meant to be a fairly straight line for quite a while but dodging trees and taking a look at interesting details you find along the way meant it was more of a wiggle for me. One thing I took an interest in was another Diplolaena, this one with more colourful tips but it had a staunch defender. Normally the native bees I see are very placid and happy to go about their business no matter how close you get. I would say I have an excellent relationship with the bee community but this plant had a friend that did not like my presence. It first flew straight at my face and I directed it upward where it proceeded to sting my forehead. Not content to stop there, it buzzed around my hair, which has gotten quite lengthy since the pandemic started and also tried to lodge itself in the wilds of my beard.
When it was between dive bombs, I tried to escape by running away flapping my arms but it was determined to see me off the nature reserve. Eventually I thought I was rid of him and went back to photograph the flower but my adversary was there waiting for me. I struggled through the incoming pain to get the shot and accepted defeat by leaving it's territory. Given native bees don't sacrifice themselves with a sting, I think he was laughing all afternoon with his mates and I would have looked like a right muppet running around. Having never been stung by a bee before, I was a bit unsure if I was anaphylactic but luckily I wasn't. The finish down to the final vehicle track section was more open woodland where I found my old enemy from maintenance trips near the Murray Campsite, Prickly Moses (or a similar looking acacia type). With plenty of room to avoid it, I did just that and instead focused on photographing the Donkey Orchids along with another sighting of the Banded Greenhood Orchid. Joining the vehicle track it was a short journey back to the gates where the canola fields in the background were looking a treat. I visited them again and they looked even better with a few fluffy clouds making for a pretty cool scene. With a very enjoyable hike under my belt I savoured the drive through the countryside to York, ready for some lunch and to explore the town in the afternoon.
Final Thoughts - Having decided to skip this one when I first went out to hike the trio of WalkGPS routes in the area, I am really happy I did now.
Not only did I get better weather for this type of walking but a couple more months meant the wildflowers were better and there were plenty of early season orchids too.
The first hike with the camera was a pretty special one and I'm happy with the images that came out. There is still plenty of improvement and I'm sure over the following years I'll get better and so will the content posted to the website.
Mokine Nature Reserve may not be very big but it packs a big punch in terms of highlights. Dave's done a great job of linking up the varying landscapes on offer here to form an interesting and varied walk.
A fantastic combination of She-Oak, Wandoo, Granite and Farmland Views to make anyone a happy hiker.
Get out there and experience it!
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