Monday, 4 October 2010

Tasmanian Trail - Sheffield and the Gog

I've discovered that aching legs and loudly singing football holigans (yes they even exist in Sheffield, Tasmania) don't make a winning combination for a good nights sleep. Add the daylight savings change last night, and I didn't wake up in the bubbliest of moods this morning, so my early ride from the hotel was abandoned in favour of the lazier option of driving to the trail, and then this further expanded to "well, my backsides sore, so it won't really hurt to drive those sections of the trail which are on gravel roads" and thus a planned 20km out and back ride before breakfast, turned into a more sedate 10km out and back ride.


Now my recollections of the section of trail from out near Stoodley Plantation into Sheffiled were an interminable section of gates, I recall having to stop at what seemed like a dozen locked gates, unclip my panniers, lift them and the bike over the gate, clip them back on, cycle one hundred metres and repeat ... I remember hating this little section 10 years ago.



My how things have changed, thanks to the joy of modern farming practices, the trail now follows a lane way right through the property, and other than one slightly ambiguous section where the trail takes you into a paddock signed "No entry - Shooting Range" (yes, you go proceed ahead unless you see any red flags or hear any bang bangs) there are only a few gates left, and they're all unlocked.

This means given that that they're about to log my favourite sections of the trail on White Timber Trail and near Pillies Road, this is my new favourite section of the trail.



So the route, basically you leave the main road heading off on a paved road, appropriately named Railway Rd (I think) through a nice flat section through pines, emerging fairly quickly onto Stoodley Rd, turning left it's less than 100m before you hang a right back onto the railway line.  Unfortunately here now need to look only to the right, as they;ve recently  harvested the pine plantation all the way along this section of the trail, and whilst I've got no problem with logging, with my visitors hat on, you can;t help but sigh when you look at the beautiful planation to your right and compare it to the visual mess to your left.

My mood was also lowered substantially when about halfway along, I again found the trail covered in downed trees.  Admittedly these trees looked to be mainly windthrow (they still had their root stock, indicating they'd been blown down) but this section was even harder to navigate than the previous days bit, and if I were a realy tourist I reckon at about this stage I think I'd really be asking some questions about this trail.  Fortunately the trail cleared again about 300metres before crossing back over Sheffield Main Road and into what I think was the best section of the trail.

This last section first circles around Stoodley Plantation, then along a creek and across farmland in Sheffield.  It is all flat, easy riding, and with the grasses all lush and green, a farmer out feeding his stock, dew on the grass and even a bit of early morning mist, I fell in love with this section, stopping what seemed like every 50 metre to take another photo of something else that had grabbed my eye.  To think I almost skipped this section because of my gate phobia.

After a disappointing breakfast in Sheffield (10am, and there was still only the bakery open and it's idea of breakfast was an egg and bacon roll), I continued driving along the trail route to my next planned cycling adventure along the Star of the West Road along the base of the Gog Range to the Meander River.

The guide (3rd edition) had suggested I could drive in about 2kms along this road, then I'd hit a boom gate, and I planned to ride from there.  Except there was no boom gate.  Instead I found myself driving through all sorts of warning signs about active logging operations (none said turn around, just lots of warnings) and I think I passed through some sort of selective logging operation, before re-entering the bush  and having a quite enjoyable drive out as far as Gregory's Road.

Shortly after turning onto Gregory's Rd however I saw more warning signs about active logging operations (they should have been bigger) as I emerged into one of the largest contiguos clearfell areas I've been in.  The next 4 to 5kms of the trail just passed through a series of recently harvested pine plantations.  There were log stacks and equipment everywhere and I really felt like I shouldn't be there.  However, the Tas Trail markers continued and there were also firewood collector signs so I figured that it must be open to the public.

Finally I exited the clearfelled area, and from there the road seemed pretty up and down as it made its way to the Meander River.  I can see that this area may once have been beautiful, especially with the Gog Ranges towering above you, but it's just not a pleasant place to be as a tourist.  There was one final big downhill which dropped me out on the river itself in a beautiful little area where you can camp.  There was even a toilet and a small cabin, both a bit run down, and I'd camp next to the river in preference to using them any day.  The Registration book was missing so I wasn't able to see if anyone had been in the area, and the river was running too high and fast to cross so from there I had to retrace my route to Gregory's road and follow the Alternative Trail (which I cycled last time I came through) to Deloraine.  Again, I couldn't help but reflect that of the two routes, the Alternative Trial appears to be a lot more scenic.

Just to finish the day off, after lunch in Deloraine, I headed out to cycle the short section along Montana Falls Track, but once again, when I got there,  the Tas Trail signs at the start of this section from Long Ridge Road indicated that this off road section has been bypassed and now just followed the road.  At this point I had had enough, and decided to just head home to Hobart.

All up, it was still a great weekend, but as much as I want the Tasmanian Trail to be great, it just seems to be falling apart at the seams.  It is to be quite frank an embarresment.  If any cyclist came to Tasmania to ride this trail they would be bitterly disappointed, and I say that as someone who has cycled on nearly every continent on this planet and has seen the goodness of riches which is out there for touring cyclists.

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