Twin Creeks Conservation Reserve
Start - Off Knight Road
Length - 7.9km (Loops)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Vehicle Track
Vertical Climb - 112m
Time - 2-6 hours
Signed - Yes
Date Hiked - 29th September 2020
Best Time - Winter through Late Spring
Traditional Custodians - Minang People
Directions - Located north of the Porongurups, from Albany take Chester Pass Road until you see the turn-off for Porongurup Road. Turn left and follow this past the café until you reach Knight Road. Turn right and keep going until you see the sign for Twin Creeks. Open and close the gate then drive to the end of the vehicle track where you will find the car park.
The Hike - Twin Creeks is not on many people's hiking radar and I only found about this one by chance a few years ago when I was passing through the area. Having completed the Nancy Peak/Devil's Slide hike, I was having a Devonshire Tea at the Porongurups Tearooms and noticed an old school binder filled with information about this place called Twin Creeks. It peaked my interest as it seemed to have a variety of different flora types so I put it on my list for a future visit.
Fast forward a few years and with a big road trip taking me to the Albany area, I pencilled in a visit to Twin Creeks to see what it was all about. Given I had hiked all the marked day hikes in the Stirling Range and Porongurups, this was the last area to explore. Deciding to pack as much adventure into the day as I could, I started with an absolutely stunning sunrise at Bluff Knoll. With that experience providing a buzz, I tried to sort out some breakfast but the Bluff Knoll Café was shut (in the middle of school holidays!!!) and the Porongurups Tea Room wasn't big on the vegetarian options so I just grabbed a coffee and kept moving. Locating the reserve, I drove through the gate (and closed it properly on my way in) and was pleasantly surprised to find a newish toilet block donated by Elders and an empty car park. A bit of history on Twin Creeks - the land was purchased in 2002 by a passionate community group through grants, fundraising and personal donations and has since been turned into a conservation reserve. There are plants located here that only exist here and it's an amazing effort that this small 511ha pocket of the Porongurups has been preserved given the massive amount of clearing that has occurred around the Stirling Range and Porongurups (check out a satellite image on Google to see what I mean).
The reserve is open to the public and they've made a solid effort to map out some walking trails throughout the reserve to showcase the stunning variety of flora. I had a rough plan based on the maps but was going to be pretty fluid with my walk based off what I saw on the ground. There is an information area showing you all the different plant species that have been documented on each walk and a little undercover area with water tank and BBQ. All up I think there is probably over 20km of tracks you could walk so it's a full day out here if you want to experience it all. While I didn't have anything planned for the afternoon, I was wary that I was up at 3:30am and had a big day planned for tomorrow that I wanted to be fresh as a daisy for. Deciding that the northern part of the reserve looked more interesting thanks to water courses running through it, I headed in that direction following the yellow markers. It was still very grey and a bit windy so the terrain didn't look terribly interesting as I made my way along the vehicle track but the joy here is looking for the diversity of wildflowers. I've switched up the format a little for this post due to the sheer quantity of wildflowers I found so each gallery has 20 photos instead of the typical 10 or 15. Apologies for the OCD among you looking at this on your mobile and seeing a blank space at the end of the galleries.
While the scenery wasn't what I was expected with a lack of trees, even the wetland varieties I would expect running near the creeks so it wasn't turning out to be a good start. There were a few plants in bloom including a Melaleuca and a variety of Hibbertia so that was a start but I got a bit worried when I found what looked a Spider Orchid that was a bit past its expiry date. Worried that I might be too late for orchid season here, I moved on and kept up my search for various wildflowers and orchids. Reaching a turn for the blue loop, I took a look down where the yellow walk continues and made a decision to turn here and just explore this area. Being essentially a square loop on vehicle tracks, there is nothing special about the physical trail apart from what you will find lining the edge. By this point on my road trip I was getting used to searching the undergrowth for different wildflowers but it wasn't very difficult here. One of the more common sights was the Purple Enamel Orchid that popped up a lot along this road along with a few different varieties of Hakea and some Fringed Lily. Finding the wildflowers was one thing but photographing them was another and this was particularly difficult given the stiff breeze that was blowing in this pretty exposed section.
Having to be patient and wait for the right moment meant more time to admire the various shapes and forms of the different flowers. The further I progressed along the vehicle track, the better the scenery became with some more mature woodland and varied styles of undergrowth. Reaching an old farm dam, this marks the point where you can turn right to follow the blue loop further or continue on and walk around the purple loop (this is another square section on vehicle tracks). I figured if I turned right here I could follow this vehicle track and reach the orange loop that contained Banksia, Jarrah and Marri. This sounded more like my style so after checking out the dam I followed this path and was rewarded with some wildflowers I had not seen yet (a theme for the day). This section had more of an old farm feel with a large expanse to your left being white sand and yellow daises that indicated that this was once a grazing paddock. From here I could see a much thicker section of forest leading up a hill and this had me excited given my love for Jarrah/Marri forest.
Reaching a crossroads where the blue, orange and purple loops all intersect, I continued south to start the orange loop. This involved a bit of a climb that rises about 70m vertically from top to bottom but given I was stopping every few seconds to inspect a new wildflower, this didn't feel like a climb. With a thick and unburnt forest to your left, this was starting to become a much more enjoyable hike. The change in soil type and vegetation meant different wildflowers on the side of the trail with Foxtails, Cottonheads, Bacon and Eggs and different types of Coneflowers. The left hand side was my main focus because to the right was a fence with a neighbouring paddock containing introduced grasses and some sheep. This is the reason why so much land has been cleared in WA and we have lost so much of the type of scenery that I was admiring to my left. The excessive land use is the big reason why I became pescatarian (along with the cruelty of factory farming) and over the years since that decision, I've tried to replace dairy products where I can. At the top of the hill I was very happy to look behind me and get my first glimpse of the excellent views that I will remember as being one of the highlights of this hike.
Being sandwiched between the Porongurups and Stirling Range, this area provides views of both of those hilly ranges and it was a delight to see the peaks of the Stirling Range in the distance. The Porongurups you only get fleeting views of behind the trees so it is the Stirling Range that provides the bulk of the distant views along here. Switching between looking through the trees at the views and scanning the undergrowth, I was a happy camper when I spotted a Leaping Spider Orchid in the undergrowth as I always love seeing a Spider Orchid. This particular variety was not on the picture boards they have at the start of the hike and took a bit of investigation while writing this post before I found out which variety it was. Continuing along, this section as you reach the point where you turn east was one of the best parts of the entire walk. With the vehicle track now surrounded by forest on both sides and starting to look overgrown (in a good way), it felt like a real hike. Being immersed in a bevy of wildflowers, both new ones and previously seen ones, my mind kept wondering what it would be like to enter the forest that the vehicle track borders. Due to dieback and conversation related reasons this is definitely not allowed but I imagine there are many more varieties buried in the isolated pocket of untouched forest.
I took my time through here, spotting Donkey Orchids, Snakebush, Rose Coneflowers, Triggerplants, Petrophiles, Catspaws and a whole heap of other wildflowers (see gallery). Reaching the end of the vehicle track, you come out next to the fence line of a bordering property and are hit with the best views of the Stirling Range on the walk. While the massive expanses of cleared land between here and the peaks isn't great, it does at least provide a clear view of them. You still get the Jarrah/Marri bush to your left for a while so it's the best of both worlds as you head down the hill. I had good fun taking photos of both sides but my gaze more often than not was drawn to the Stirling Range. I have such fond memories of my various adventures there and the sunrise summit of Bluff Knoll was still fresh on my mind. I could see Bluff Knoll was still covered in a layer of cloud close to the summit so I imagine the 15 minutes of clear skies I got in the morning might have been the only time you could see anything from up there for the day. As I continued along the fence, the views opened up even more and the grassy plains seem to get bigger and bigger as I got further down the hill. The Jarrah and Marri slowly disappeared, replaced with a cleared patch of sandy ground that contained only a handful of Balgas.
The plan was to turn left at the first vehicle track intersection but I kind of got distracted and ended up further north than I wanted to be. This just meant I could enjoy a different section and head back via the linking track near the old dam. One thing I had been doing along the walk was checking the dieback stations that are dotted across the various walks and I was a little disappointed in the state of all of them considering the quality of the flora located here. Most had broken brushes and one on the edge of fence bordering the farm was full of ants. I didn't open it all the way due to the sheer number of them but I wouldn't be surprised if they were after food that had been left there or perhaps something got in and died. I always carry in my car a spray bottle of methylated spirits mixed with water that I use before every hike so I had done my part to protect the area before I started. Looping back via the vehicle tracks, my last part of the day was to complete the southern and western sections of the blue walk. The sandy tracks provided some new wildflowers to photograph and it was a good way to finish my version of the walk. It started to rain as I finished so I briskly walked the last hundred metres or so to reach the information shelter where I studied what I had seen against their photos. What a lovely experience to finish the day with after a very enjoyable morning.