We decided to base ourselves at Kendenup Campground which is on the western side of the Stirling Ranges. This was a real hidden gem with great flat shady sites. A newly refurbished amenities block, drinking water and a large grassy field right next door. We opted to get power which was only $15 a night (bargain!). Ian one of the hosts gave us a map of the area and suggested some local sites to see.
There was two hikes we wanted to do, Bluff Knoll & Mt Toolbrunup. As we had setup and settled into camp all by 1pm, we decided to do Bluff Knoll that afternoon. We drove over, and arrived ready to tackle our mid afternoon hike. It was clear skies when we left the car park but we could see a few clouds off in the distance. We decided since we were here, we’d play it by ear and see if we can make it to the summit.
The hike up was relatively steep in sections, but manageable. Keeping a constant eye on the weather we started to see clusters of grey clouds forming. They were moving in the opposite direction to us, so we kept hiking. After an hour we got approx 9/10 of the way to the summit and made the call to abort the mission. The clouds had changed direction and we could hear thunder and saw a few lighting strikes.
We RAN down the mountain in 30 minutes, fueled by our adrenaline, we made it safely back to the Nav. About 5 minutes after driving off from the carpark, you couldn’t even see the top of Bluff Knoll it was covered by clouds. Headed back to camp, we discussed what a close call that was and a friendly reminder on how quick the weather can change at altitude.
The next day, we awoke to a clear sunny day with no clouds in sight. We ran a few laps around the oval with Rusty, warming up our legs for Mt Toolbrunup. A 4km class 5 hike, with the peak 1052m high above sea level. It was a challenging hike with the first 2/3 loose shoals and the last 1/3 was hiking over steep boulders. It took us 1hr 45mins to reach the summit and we were rewarded with epic 360 degree views of the surrounds.
Definitely recommend this hike if you are physically fit. We are in no means ‘athletes’ but we like doing the occasional challenging hike to test ourselves and work off those extra beers. Plus it's always a good endorphin rush when you successfully make it to the summit.
Well we made it back to camp around lunchtime and put our feet up to relax around camp for the rest of the day. In the morning we packed up and set off to explore the nearby sites Ian had suggested. Right across from the shop in town (there is only one store) is some large chess pieces carved out of wood. Hot tip: ask around on why the chess pieces and how they came to be there.
A 5 minute drive from here we went and saw the first ever gold mine in WA! Setup in 1875 with a battery, water pump and other machinery. All the machinery was rusting away and it was a shame it's not preserved better, considering its significance. About 50m up from here we saw the original shaft.
Next stop Normans Beach camp & Bremer Bay!