Fri - Sat: Overnight day trip to the Avon Valley National Park
Fri 15 Aug 2014 - Sat 16 Aug 2014
Enjoying Some Spontaneity!
Quite a few events and several months after our first family camping trip through part of South West WA in March, I suddenly got the urge to get away from everything again and go exploring for a bit. Even if it was for just an overnight trip.
Clancy had prior commitments for the weekend, so considering it was likely to just be me and the two 'Monkeys' as Clancy fondly calls our rather energetic toddler duo, I promptly decided it would be a very lazy trip (no grand ideas for any big strenuous hikes!), and preferably somewhere close. A quick check of My Custom Google Map, a msg to interested younger sisters, and the planning began.
One of my sisters Sharelle loved the idea and figured she had the time available, so original planning for 3 became planning for 4. Not to mention a hint of relief felt by me for the added toddler wrangling assistance I'd recieve! So with about 6 workable daylight hours till departure, things were organised and packed on the go.
Where to go?
Choosing the Avon Valley National Park as the place to go for this trip was an easy choice to make. Both Sharelle and I had grown up about 20 minutes away from the park, and had enjoyed quite a few camps and day trips there over the years.
Plus only two weeks earlier, we'd enjoyed an early cool morning visit to the park to see some of the Avon Descent action at Emu Falls. The Avon Descent is an annual 124km, 2 day, white water race for power dinghies and paddle craft (eg. kayaks) on the Avon and Swan River. A lot of fun for both competitors and spectators alike! So yes, for a quick spontaneous camping trip, being able to go somewhere close (45mins - 1hr away from where we live now) and familiar was rather helpful.
As to which campsite to use... neither Sharelle or I really had any preference as all sites had similar basic facilites (toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, maybe water at some).
- Valley Campsite - the closest readily accessible park camping site to the river. However there is a major rail line (East-West line from Perth - Sydney) between the campsite and the Avon River. So train noise may be an issue for some. And for those who obey signs, your conscience may prevent you from reaching the river, as WestNetRail (May be Brookfield Rail now, as this is an older photo) have erected a sign near the line stating "No Access to River via Railway Line". To find Emu Falls, cross the tracks and turn right to follow the road/river upstream.
- Homestead Campsite - located on a flat nearby a creek that flows well after recent winter rains. Not so well if no rain for a while during winter. And not at all really during summer.
- Cec Barrow Campsite - is a group only campsite requiring the Ranger or Mundaring Parks and Wildlife information centre to be contacted for bookings.
- Drummonds Campsite - tucked away behind a hill/ridge on the way to Bald Hill Campsite. The road into this campsite is a bit steeper, but not too bad. There are some nice views across the valley to the hills on the other side of the river.
- Bald Hill Campsite - as it's name suggests, is near the top of Bald Hill. Plenty of rocks for climbing and playing on, and once again some nice views up, down and across the valley.
We ended up departing later than what we'd hoped for. Arriving at the park well and truly in darkness. Several 4WD vehicles arrived behind us whilst we were filling out the self registration and payment forms at the park entrance. It was my hope that they would complete their forms and continue on in front of us, as we yet had to choose which site we wanted to camp at. I didn't really want them following us in wondering what we were doing while we drove around each site trying to make our minds up! It ended up working out ok despite us going first, as I didn't see their lights in my rear vision mirror till heading up past the group campsite towards Bald Hill. When they didn't follow us into the Bald Hill campsite (empty at that stage), that made our decision for us and we ended up choosing a rather good spot there.
On the drive in, I remembered that I'd forgotten to pack matches or a lighter! So the first thing we did before setting up the tent was to check all possible hiding spots in the vehicle and bags. No luck. Cold food and no campfire for us. Untill..... another car drove in while we were setting up the tent, and when asked, offered us a spare lighter! Thanks again, and apologies to you on forgetting to return it the following morning! We then started the arduous and illegal task of gathering firewood, as that was something else I had forgotten to bring/do. Trekking back and forth carrying both a clingy 2yr old and an armful of firewood provides a rather good workout! Particularly in darkness, and also as it looked like many others had previously undertaken this same task, resulting in no dead wood to be found anywhere close by.
After a well earned hot meal and quick wash, it was definitely time for story and bed!
What to do?
Some of the things that I've experienced and enjoyed during previous visits to the park have been Emu Falls (Here's Sshaunaa's blog on their fun adventure to find Emu Falls!), Emu Springs Falls, exploring the river in general (in all seasons), and clambering around the numerous hills, rocks, ridges and gullies that can be found everywhere just enjoying being out in the bush. For this trip however, the plan was to be 'lazy' and 'take it as it comes'.
Saturday morning brought light to an amazing rocky playground for two slightly grumpy kids (late nights do not result in happy toddlers!). Moods improved after breakfast was begrudgingly consumed, and the rocks finally received their due attention. Mum and Aunty dutifully completed the clean up and tidy away duties, then joined in the fun of rock and bush exploration toddler style!
It wasn't long before a longer walk was suggested to see what else we could find. There were several unmarked tracks leading away from the campsite, of which we chose one that started in the general direction towards Drummonds Campsite. It wasn't long before the track petered out to nothing and Kaden decided he didn't want to walk anymore. Thankfully I'd thought of this, and had started the walk wearing our empty Kathmandu child carrier, along with a few snacks hidden in Sharelle's bag. After a bit of discussion, we decided we'd continue to follow the ridge we were on untill we'd either had enough, or found Drummonds Campsite.
Interesting things (sticks, leaves, flowers, rocks etc) were constantly catching Sonia's attention, so it was a rather leisurely walk for Sharelle and I. I do have to say though, that there were quite a few different flowers out including some orchids (I think they were anyway!) which were really nice to see. Before long, Sharelle spotted the road leading down to Drummonds Campsite, so down we went. Meeting the same group of 4WD's who'd followed us in the night before.
A Geocache was located not far from this campsite, however there were several people preparing for a hike not far from where our GPS was indicating it to be. We continued on through the campsite to find an opening in the bush with a large flat area of rock to sit on and look out across to the hills on the other side of the valley. Very peaceful and picturesque. Snacks were very quickly devoured after some ingenuity of using a SmartRider card (public transport pass card) as a knife to cut and divide an apple! Then back to succesfully finding the Geocache. Both kids were rather worn out by then, so a unanimous decision was made to follow the road back around to our tent and lunch.
A fire was utilised for making lunch much to Sonia's enjoyment. Then again afterwards for some toasted marshmallow treats. Both Sharelle and I were rather surprised to find ourselves being practically force fed the majority of the toasted marshmallows! Sonia and Kaden seemed to prefer them untoasted, but thoroughly enjoyed feeding us. Making us bite the toasted marshmallows off the end of their green sticks! So yes, we all had fun getting totally covered in pink and white sticky goo!!
Things to be aware of?
Another interesting event to occur over lunch was meeting a group of Scouts who were on a one day overnight orientation training exercise throughout the area. They'd been informed to keep to main tracks and roads due to 'Unexploded Ordnances (UXO's)' from when the park had been used as a Department of Defence Artillery Training Area in 1958 - 1966. I had previously heard this during a group hiking expedition I participated in many years ago, but we had never worried about sticking to tracks. Frequently finding our own way through the bush to get from A - B!
After lunch, it was time to pack up fire, pack up tent and head down to the creek at the Homestead Campsite for a quick paddle before heading home. We found a slightly deeper pool that would've just come up to Sonia's thighs if she'd wanted to go fully in. However she was more content to watch tadpoles and jump on/off the log (with assistance!) that Kaden and I were standing on above the pool. Mosquitoes were also out in full force despite the general coolness, so it wasn't too long before dry clothes were found and the trip home continued.
Totally!! Sonia and Kaden saw it as one big adventure. While both Sharelle and I agreed that yes, we still needed to expend a fair amount of energy watching out for and looking after the kids, but the overall rejuvenation obtained from just being in the bush, and being able to take our time with no real deadlines well and truly made it worth it.
Things to remember for next trip?
- Try to arrive before dark
- Flannel for hands/face/feet washes
- Spare camera battery
- Spare torch batteries
- Wood for campfires