Shannon National Park
Directions - Located 50km south of Manjimup, take South Western Hwy until you reach the Dog Rd turnoff. Turn left here into the day use area (not the campground) and follow the road until you see the left turn for Shannon Dam. There is plenty of parking by the edge of the water.
The Hike - Shannon National Park is somewhat of a white whale for me as my quest to hike here has come across a few road blocks over the years. Affected by the 2015 Northcliffe fires that ravaged a large section of Karri forest in the south of the state, I originally planned to hike here in the spring of 2017 when camping at Shannon Campgrounds on a long South West road trip but when I arrived at Shannon Dam, the walk trails were closed while they fixed them up (I had previously checked with Parks and Wildlife and was told they were open). Completing the Bibbulmun Track was then my main focus in 2018 and 2019 so a visit here was put on the back-burner. I thought it would be a good idea to take my niece out here for some early season fungi hunting as part of a birthday experience and this area would be perfect for finding them.
The original plan was to head out over Easter but the regional borders closed and that idea was scrapped, so it was just a matter of waiting for the restrictions to be lifted so we could organise another trip. A date was set in mid-June but my niece rolled her ankle at school on the Friday before we were due to head down and I thought I would never get here. It luckily wasn't a serious injury and she would be ready for the following weekend so here we are. Given Shannon NP is over two hours from Funbury and four hours from Perth, I thought it best that we stay in Funbury the night before to cut down on some of the driving on the day (Caris is not a big fan of long drives). With sunny but cold weather predicted we had a helping of Dad's world famous pancakes before setting off for the long drive. Getting the first low temperature warning on my new X-Trail (it was around 1C passing through Bridgetown), we finally reached Shannon Dam and it was just as nice as I remember. With not a cloud in sight, the photographic conditions weren't great so I've been sneaky here and posted some photos of the dam from my 2017 visit as the glare kind of ruined the wide shots from this visit.
The goal for today was to go fungi exploring and try and spot as many different varieties as we could. We had purchased a trio of small books on the Fungi, Wildflowers and Trees of the South West for my niece so she could try and identify anything we found along the way. After admiring just how still the water was and how clear the reflections of the Karri trees were, we started the official walk. It didn't take long for us to spot our first fungi (apart from me of course...) as a yellow pancake variety (possibly Crepidotus prostratus?) was easily spotted just off the path. We whipped out the fungi guide and started searching but soon realised this would take a while for each variety we found. Aiming to walk slowly while Alexa searched a little longer, time was not important on this hike so if we found it in the book then great but if not, it didn't matter. We could have easily finished in an hour if we walked at a normal pace but it was a lot more fun to slow down and scan the forest floor for anything that caught our eye. It turned out that there was an abundance of cool stuff to be found and soon after crossing the bridge we had spotted several different varieties along with a healthy stand of Karri She-Oak.
It was a refreshing feeling to really slow down to pretty much a crawl so we could give ourselves a chance to see as much as possible. Having three sets of eyes was also a big advantage as over the course of the morning we all spotted something that the others had missed. Also a great feeling was having a captive audience in my niece and imparting some of the things I have learned over the years of wandering the forests of WA. Pointing out different tree and plant species, explaining their different functions and sizes was really fun and Alexa was super interested in taking in as much as she could. I started to doubt our blood connection when she expressed a love for the messy Soapbush that lined the 4x4 track we were on. Having battled the stuff relentlessly for a few years now around Murray, I can't say it is my favourite plant but she doesn't yet know the pain of spending days on end trying to trim it back, only to have it regrow within a few months. As we ventured along the 4x4 track that is home for the first kilometre, it became apparent that trying to get good wide shots was going to be quite difficult due to the glare of the morning sun.
Luckily there was an abundance of fungi to photograph on the forest floor and we were only getting a few metres down the track before someone let out an excited cry and called the others over to have a look at their discovery. Alexa was particularly impressed when we found some Coral Fungi and I don't blame her as it looks really cool. One thing I was not expecting to find in any great numbers was wildflowers and so it was a fun surprise when I spotted a Flame Pea (aka the Miami Vice flower) lurking on the edge of the track. This would be the only one we'd find on the day and provided a spot of colour to the morning. While fungi spotting was the aim of the game, I was also looking further afield to see what I could find down in the valley and caught a glimpse of one of my favourite plants in the WA forests, the hilariously named Snottygobble. Besides the funny name, I enjoy the shape of the leaves, the character of the bark and also having a little nibble of the fruit when it's in season. Passing a giant ants nest, the hive of activity was really cool to see and made me wonder if perhaps a chance echidna sighting might be in order (spoiler - it wasn't).