Sunday, 2 April 2017

Pillans Lake Track

If you zoom into the Great Lake on a map of Tasmania, and then find Liawenee on the western shore, you should also find a road heading off from there towards Lake Augusta.

If you then zoom in even further you'll find a little 4WD track heading off north through Lake Augusta and out the other side into the middle of nowhere ...

That's Pillans Lake Track, and that's where Oliver and I headed off to ride today.

This had been one of those rides that took a long time to get to.

It was also a ride where everyone that had ridden it unanimously agreed on one piece of advice:


Descriptions of rocks and pained bodies were uttered through words and eyes that, even months or years after the ride, glazed over with the painful memories of the ride.  It was like talking to soldiers returning to a memory of a battle best forgotten.

I tried to tell Oliver this, but he was undeterred and so I rationalised going on the ride on the basis that it had only been three people that I knew of who had ridden this track - and two of them had done it on hard tails, so maybe our full suspension all-mountain bikes would turn those rocky tracks into smooth, buttery trails.

That, and the fact that it was somewhere I hadn't ridden were enough for me ...

So, on a slightly overcast Sunday morning we found ourselves parked on the lake bed (the trail is only open when the lake is low enough to allow access), bikes out and ready to go and see what we should see ...

Head towards that hill.
First impressions as we crossed the lake bed weren't great, but nor were they desperate.  Sure this wasn't a track you could just cruise along on cruise control, but with a bit of sensible route choice the riding was possible, even fun.

Even as we left the lake and started up the first little climbs, we could see why people described the track as rocky, but it was ridable and in a perverse way even fun.

As we pulled up to Allison's Hut, about 4.5kms into the ride, I was completely convinced that the horror tails we'd heard of broken bodies and shattered souls was simply due to poor bike choices and inexperienced riders.

Not too bad at all.

It might not be flow nation, but it's ridable. 

On top of that first hill seen at the start.

Rough and Rocky.

Allison's Hut

Take the time to check out the roof art inside ..

I have only the broadest memories of the next section of the track around to the junction to Kerrisons Hut No. 2 and those memories were all good.

My recollection was of challenging trail interspersed with easier and fun sections and an increasing kaleidoscope of views and flowers ...

We didn't go all the way into Kerrisons Hut No. 2 instead taking a turn north to first get out to Hut No. 4 on Pillans Lake, with a plan (later abandoned) to visit on the way back out.

The personality of the trail changed really quickly after this junction, going from rocky, but easy graded, riding to suddenly becoming yo-yo like with lots of short, but sharp, climbs and drops.

Perversely as the views got better, the riding got harder and harder.

Somewhere along this section, my enthusiasm and energy for the ride started to seep away and I found myself pushing up more and more of the little climbs.

Those rocky tracks which had seemed such a hoot to this point ... well they started to irritate me as I had less and less of the rapid surge-energy needed to push through or over them.

However we still had enough energy to push on for another couple of kilometres past Hut No. 4 when we found an unexpected trail continuing on into nowhere, but it just seemed to keep going and going and my energy petered out before it did.

Back at Hut No. 4, we met a couple of the owners who were in residence (it is a private hut that is locked) and so we had a bit of a natter with them as we ate our lunch on a nearby rock overlooking the lake and they prepared to head out in their four wheel drive.

I wasn't looking forward to the ride out (so rocky!) and so after lagging further and further behind Ollie for the first kilometre or two, I suggested he take off and go and check out the detour to Hut. No 3 (also a private hut) near Lake Field and that I'd just meet him at the junction.

This worked out well and gave me a bit of a chance to recharge slightly as I waited for him.

Then we headed back, and I have to admit, the ride back became a bit like hell.

All those trails that hadn't seemed fun and challenging on the way in, well they must have sprung up an extra thousand rocks per kilometre, because I felt that most of the ride out was like riding along a rocky stream bed, and I don't recall the word 'fun' entering my mind once.

To say I was glad to get back to the car would be the understatement of the century.

It had gotten cold, and it had been a long day (we'd been out there for six and a half hours and I'd only ridden 39kms), but I was still a bit surprised when Oliver, who seemed to be taking it all in his stride, said what I'd be thinking ... this isn't a ride he'd be coming back to ride again.

In fact, as we quickly packed up and headed our separate ways, I think we would both give the same advice if someone asked us about heading out here for a ride:


Epilogue ...

It's amazing how quickly a change of clothes, a coke and a warm car can turn your thinking around.

By the time I had gotten to Deloraine I was already well into planning my return to the Lake Pillan Track.

In winter, with a nice thick cover of snow on the track and on the fat-bike of course.

I just know Oliver will be in when I suggest it to him ...

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Lauderdale to Cremorne - The Coastal Route

There are many moments when I think "And I'm doing this ... why?"

And then there's moments when I think "Uhm ... this is actually getting a little scary now ... I could be on my way to being awarded a Darwin Award".

I had one of those moments about 5 minutes after taking the shot below and sending Kim a text that basically said "this isn't easy".

As it turned out, carrying my bike up to the top of that rock was hard, but not overly technical or worrying.  The problem was that once at the top, there was no way to get back down the other side and so I had to push, climb, heave and throw myself, and my bike, up an even steeper, muddier cliff that felt like it was crumbling away beneath my feet.

That was my moment when I thought I might be about to receive a Darwin Award.

But let's rewind.

Way, way, way, way, way back in the mists of time, not long after I first started this blog, I managed to break my knee at a ghost tour at Port Arthur and so spent three months sitting on a couch, injecting myself with warfarin for a blood clot in my leg, and unable to get up off the couch without assistance.

This had a sort of silver lining, because with nothing else to do, I started to teach myself a bit of web stuff and launched the first version of which is why I am typing this and you are reading it now.

While sitting on the couch reading reports on mountain biking, I stumbled across a draft mountain bike plan which indicated that they were looking at building a route from Lauderdale to Cremorne.

This was very exciting to me, and so my first foray back into walking was to try and walk this route.  You can read about that here.

That was back in 2011, and although since then I have discovered, and regularly ride the May's Beach route from the end of Bayside Drive, and I have even been out and explored the trails around Calvert's Hill, I have never come back and tried to ride the whole route.

There is a  reason for this: between Calvert's Hill and May's Beach there is a big private property with a sign on it saying "Private Property - No Trespassing above the average high water mark".

But then I was out walking the dogs around May's beach a few months ago, and I saw this track (well foot-pad really) heading off around May's Point and this prompted a return visit on my bike where I found, after a lot of pushing and carrying, that the trail (foot pad) actually goes all the way around to where the surfers et al make their way down onto the surf break near Lauderdale Beach.

May's Beach

Track around May's Point - Surfers Below
This got me thinking about the Lauderdale to Cremorne route again and so I went back to ListMap, and overlaid the land tenure image over that private property and noticed two things:

  1.  on the satellite image there seemed to be a property boundary well above the high tide mark (ie. short grass and long grass) and 
  2. that area seemed to be some sort of council reserve ...

The red line is my usual 'May's Beach" route,
the blue line shows the possible route through a reserve where
the private property signs are.  The pin is where I hit the cliffs on the coast.
So today, knowing that this may actually be possible, I set off (at around low tide) to see if I could finally ride the route from Lauderdale to Cremorne.

Things started pretty well, probably because Lauderdale Beach is pretty flat and easy to ride ...

I was a bit worried about being able to get onto the footpad around May's Point (having been unable to get around the rocks on a previous visit at high tide) but the riding was actually so easy that I rode right past it on the beach and had to backtrack.

Now I do want to stress at this point that the footpad around to May's Beach is narrow, it goes right above several cliffs, it is steep and rooty and you end up carrying / pushing your bike around about 75% of it, so if riding to May's beach stick to the road and go that way.  I just went this way as I wanted it to be a full traverse.

Once onto May's Beach things got easy again until I got to the boundary of the property with the "No Trespassing" signs.  This is where I took a left down what looked like a likely track and plunged down a very steep track to the coast.

And, if you ever ride/walk down this track you'll know how happy I was to see that listmap seemed to be right and there was a reserve below the property.

Even more joyously - there was a track ... of sorts

well, there was a track for about 50 metres and then (trying to be good) when the track petered out, I headed down onto the coast and proceeded to try and follow the 'average high water mark' (there did seem to be another track heading along the coastal side of the fence).

Now some will say this is stupid, but I came here to explore, and I expected this section to be a long, slow haul across the rocks and so I was perfectly happy trundling along with my bike on my shoulder as I jumped from one rock to another, but I accept that there will be many others not so willing or eager.

Eventually the coast got harder to navigate as I came to a rocky point (you can see it on Google Earth and I expected this section to be a challenge).  After going through a cool crack in the rocks I came to the big rock at the start of this post, and realising there was no way forward (and being too lazy to go all the way back), I just went up the cliff face.

I would strongly, emphatically and totally NOT recommend going up the cliff face.  In fact, with hindsight I should have just jumped in the water and walked around the rock - it didn't look that deep at low tide.

After a few heart in stomach moments, I finally got to the top, and from there I got onto the track which runs below the fence (which I am assuming is the break between the private property and the council reserve).

It's not much of a track, but was mainly rideable on my Surly ECR.  With that said,  I have to confess I was pretty happy when I got to the fence marking the boundary with Calverts Hill Reserve, got over it, and knew that there definitely was a way out from here ...

And that was that.  I had a nice ride around the beach once at Cremorne and then just followed sections of the Tangara Trail back to Lauderdale.

It took me nearly six years to finally get from one end to the other, and I wouldn't really recommend this route as it stands to anyone else, but having ridden it now, I could see that with some track work and a bit of re-routing, this trail could become a brilliant part of the Tanagara Trail network allowing for an amazing circuit around the area.

Maybe in another seven years ...