Saturday, 30 October 2010

Picket Hill

It's hard not to enjoy a ride like this.
I felt the need to ride out a few kinks this morning, so after a breakfast and reading the paper by Kingston Beach I headed down to Summerleas Road near Kingston.

The plan was to head up the trails from there and then around the side of Picket Hill, follow the backroads to Ferntree and see if I could find this trail I've heard about from Westringa Road. 

Nobody will be surprised to know it didn't go to plan.

It was a beautiful ride up to Cades Drive, lots of flowers around, and a few dogs that didn't seem to like me very much.  I was petty pleased that I cycled up a few sections that only 3 months ago I had thought were uncyclable.  Yay me.

From the top of Cades Drive instead of heading up the trail to the lookout on Pickles Hill, I instead followed the other junction.  It went down, way down until it came out on what I hoped was the trail headng around the hill.


This section of the trail was a fun ride (pretty overgrown) firstly through reeds and paddocks, but then through open bushland with lot sof wildflowers. 

I had to start pushing at a small washout as the track got really steep and rocky (for me) and then I saw a gate on the track above me, with a sign on it. 

A sign can be good or bad.  Sometimes, very few times, they say things like "Please shut the gate".  More often, much more often, they say "Private Property, No Trespassers".  This sign was one of the latter signs.  I checked on my GPS and I was only 300 metres from the main road in front of me, so close and yet so far. I took a few snap shots and then turned around and explored the trail going the other way.  It ended up running down parallel to the power lines and dropping out onto Cripps Road which is a cute little road.

An hour and 30 minutes after heading off I was back loading my bike in the car.  Not quite the day I planned, but that's a few more trails that I know about.

What does intrigue me though is when looking at my route back on the computer apparently there is a trail that heads down and around the property.  I can't remember seeing any trail leading off, but this means I have to put it back into my possible rides list for another day.,



The No Tresspassers Sign, Sigh.

Friday Frolic

View from my office, who wouldn't want to go for a ride?
My sister, Kathie, came down from Queensland for our Dad's 80th this weekend, and we'd agreed to meet at Rachel's for dinner and a catch up at six-thirty on Friday night.  I walked through the door exactly three minutes early, and said hello to everyone before ducking off into a spare room to get changed out of my cycling gear. 

As I stepped out to join them again a few minutes later, it was strange to think that I'd been out for a two hour bike ride and less than hour earlier I was lying on the ground checking for any dislocations after coming out second best with an argument with a tree.

But, I get ahead of myself.  The idea had came to me earlier in the week of a "Friday night foible", mainly because I liked the sound of it.  In my head this was a rambling, exploratory ride along the foothills of Mt Wellington after work to justify some guilt-free, yummy take away afterwards and blow away the cobwebs of the week.  The main idea, was to select one or more of those little trails running around the mountain like spiderwebs and head off straight from work to see where they went.

Unforuntately, after checking my disctionary, I found that although the alliteration sounded wonderful, a Friday foible was actually a Friday weakness, which actually made no sense unless I was talking about the yummy takeaway afterwards.  The one positive of this definitional error is that as well as enjoying the ride, I now also get to ponder new names for my planned friday ride, though the best I've so far come up with are "Friday Firefly" to "Friday Frolic", which is what it will go by until and unless I think of something better.

Unfortunately, my sisters suggestion that we should catch up for dinner seriously curtailed my initial nights plans as I only had an hour and a half after work, but after trying to justify not meeting her for dinner, I quickly realised that as I see her about once a year it would have been somewhat selfish to not join her every opportunity I got.

My Plan B, as I expounded to Stephan over a coffee earlier that day, was therefore to knock off work early, say 4pm, and still get a 2 hour ride in before heading down to see her.  He must have misunderstood my brilliance and determination in juggling these two feats, as his response was to laugh at me and suggest that the more likely outcome was that I would get to my sisters house just as they were finishing washing up the dishes and going to bed.  Strangely, there was a little voice in my head saying "You, know he's right, don't you?"

But, 4pm came and I was out the door and on my bike.  I had planned a brilliant route, which if it worked out perfectly would have me cycling not one, but three new trails, and what's more I had organised a location that if something should go wrong I had multiple exit routes so I could still get back to see my sister on time.  This was going to be perfect.

Hobart Rivulet Cycleway / Walkway
And it was, for about 20 minutes.  From work, I headed out through St David's Park and over to the Hobart Rivulet Path which I followed up to the old female convict gaol, where I cut off up towards McRobie's Gully.  As expected they were just locking the gates to the tip as I arrived preventing me skirting up onto Forest Road Track.  Cunning plan (and new route) number one ... just before the tip gates I cut off onto Louden St on the right, and after a bit of a steep climb, started searching for a gap between numbers 15 and 19 Louden street where I could see on google maps and the property indexes that a public byway existed that would get me up to Forest Track.  Except it wasn't there.  Well it was there, but the houses on either side had built driveways and other things where the throughway was supposed to be, and not wanting to be one of those rude cyclists who pedals through someones back yard without permission, I suddenly found myself unable to get onto the route I had planned without having to backtrack into town and cycle all the way up another way.  Something I didn't have time for in my remaining 1hr and 30 minutes.  My plan had come unraveled before I even got onto a single new track.  I was so certain that I could get through this part I hadn't even made a contingency plan.

But, it was a beautiful evening, the muscles and lungs had started to waken up, and after a short think I realised I could just head up around Cascade Brewery onto Old Farm Road and then cut off through the bush onto the Main Fire Trail from there.  All was not lost. 

I, on the other hand, was completely lost and disoriented just15 minutes later.  I had cut off onto the bush track as planned, only to find a new track being built which I dutifully followed until I got to the sign which said "New track being built, go away until it's finished, except if you're on a bike in which case just go away forever".  Well, maybe not that exact phrase, but it was pretty close.  I pushed my bike back up another steep hill until I got on what I thought was the old track, but wasn't, and that was where you caught me at the beginning of this paragraph emerging out into some pumping station or something, thinking "Hmmm, it could be that I'm lost again." 

Thankfully this is the reason that I have a GPS permanantly mounted on my bike.  It confidently assured me I was somewhere, and that there was a road just above me, and that if I followed it, this road would take me out onto Strickland Avenue, and if I was on Strickland Avenue then I wouldn't be lost, I'd be on Strickland Avenue.  10 minutes later that was exactly where I was, and not long after that I turned off onto the western end of the Main Fire Trail determined to link up with my planned route come hell or high water.  I at this stage stopped looking at my watch which was suggesting that I'd used up nearly half of my alloted ride time, and was yet to actually even get onto my planned ride route.


Main Fire Trail, Mt Wellington

I was surprised to see a sign as I entered the fire trail warning dog users that "Dogs on Leashes" was being particularly enforced in this area" with a $100 fine, which I thought was a shame, so I was very pleased when about 400 metres further on, I cycled down across a little stream to see two beautiful labradors frolicking around in the bush creek having a great time with no leashes in sight. 

I had probably better explain that I love dogs, but can't abide walking a dog on a leash.  A dog is born to run around and be free and crazy, at least that's what I think, so the idea of a dog being on a leash just doesn't work with me.  This being the case, I quickly assured the panicked dogs owners that I thought it was great that their dogs were running free, before quickly realised that in doing this I'd gotten distracted from a looming climb in front of me and wasn't quite in the right gear to tackle it.  God must have felt kind to me given my kindness to the dogs however and I somehow managed to keep turning the cranks until I emerged at the top of the Old Farm Track.

Main Fire Trail, a psuhy bit, with my trusty GPS
About another 500 metres past this, I got to the first turn off to McRobies gully (an unridden path set aside for another day) where I noticed my GPS told me that I should get off the main fire trail and try the path running just below, but parallel to it.  I dutifully did this, as I was on a frolic after all and exploration was my objective, but in this particular circumstance it wasn't such a good choice as the track was pretty overgrown and not really that much fun, dumping me back out at the lower McRobies Gully track where I rejoined the firetrail for the climb back up again.  Well, push.

So it was, at about 5.15pm I finally arrived at the top of New Town track which was actually on my planned route for the day.  However, having taken an hour and fifteen minutes to get here, and with only 45 minutes to get back again, I decided to postpone my first planned loop, and instead head straight for that track I'd seen those two riders disappear down last week.  The idea was to plummet down there, which I was pretty sure would drop me somewhere around Knocklofty and a quick dash back to my car.  I'd have time to spare, in fact I made a mental note to give Stephan a call and mention this to him.

With this thought in mind, I turned my bike off onto the new trail and began a descent down what looked like a great bit of single track that I would never have known about if it hadn't seen those two cyclists disappearing down it by sheer stupid luck. 

Doesn't look that steep, does it?
It started off wonderfully, flowing down and along the hill, but then it got a bit steeper, turned sharply, got more slippery, and then suddenly I realised it was all about to go wrong. 

I like the way we get that Adrenilin shot that seems to slow down time so we have all the time in the world to appreciate every single moment of a crash.  Firstly, that moment when I realised that my forward motion was too much, that my front wheel was sliding as I touched the breaks, that feeling of weightlessness as the front wheel jammed against a root and I was propelled over the handlebars, the realisation as I flicked my eyes up off the track to where I was going to see a thick tree right in front of me, the impact with the side of my head and helment, the bruise as I felt my legs hit the handlebars and then the bike come down on top of me from behind, and then just as quickly, the stillness as I realised, I was on the ground and had stopped moving. 

Then there's that moment when time starts speeding back up, you realise you're alive and you start moving arms and legs to see what hurts, at the same time you start to realise that EVERYTHING hurts, and yet still, there's that impulse to forget your own aches (a good sign they're not too bad) and check out your precious new bike instead to see if it is in one piece. 

What finally gave me the confidence that I wasn't too badly hurt was the realisation that I was more worried about being late for dinner than I was about my various scrapes and bruises.  I couldn't stand the thought of Stephan being right ... again.

So it was that I pulled myself and my bike together, and continued downwards.  Now the track isn't really all that steep and technical, it's not easy, but most competent cyclists could get down it, but my confidence was now thrown a bit, and I was also fast coming to the conclusion that this trail might not be dropping me on to the Knocklofty trails, it was just going down, down, down.  I checked my GPS and it showed me that I was heading down towards McRobies Gully which I was OK with, and soon enough I crossed over McRobies Creek and expected to jump out onto the trail which would wend it's way around the tip so I could announce to the world a new trail discovery. 

Except, again it didn't, the track turned right and started to follow the creek upwards.  Suddenly, my bruises and scratches were completely forgotten as I realised that this trail meant to head all the way back up the the Main Fire Trail.  I had less than 35 minutes ot get back to my car.  This was a disaster.  Any other time, I would have enjoyed that trail, actually truth be told, I did enjoy that trail, just a bit less than I otherwise would have.  It was great riding, with a bit of pushing, and I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere, not less than a kilometre from Tasmania's largest refuse tip and 2 or 3 kms from the centre of Hobart.

More trail (if you can see it).
This trail eventually emerged back out onto the lower McRobies gully road mentioned before, but an unmarked trail headed straight up in front of me to what I presumed was the upper McRobies gully road, I decided to bee line for this, and at 6.53pm I did indeed emerge onto the upper trail and quickly pedalled out onto the Main Fire Trail.  I had about 15 minutes to get back to my car, but I knew the route from here and it was mainly downhill. 

I have to admit, that even in my rush, I did have to respect the rules of Friday Frolic, even if I was making up the rules on the spot, but the philosophy of the frolic is to explore new trails whenever they appear, and so even here I decided to cycle that little firetrail just below, but parallel to, the main fire trail in the other direction to see if it was nay fun, but it wasn;t really and that's about all I have to say about that.

From there it was a quick run down onto Old Farm Road, an even quicker descent down there, popping back out onto Cascade Road just behind the Brewery, and a further downhill pedal into a frustrating headwind back into town.  I pulled up next to my car just before 6.10pm. 

Seventeen minutes later I walked into my sisters house as though I'd just come from a relaxing ride straight after work.  Unfortunaltey I hadn;t had the time to send that text message to Stephan.

I think I'm going to like my Friday Frolic, bring it on.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Tasmanian Trail - Great Lake to Bronte Park

I'm a bit obsessed with finding new trails.  I rationalise it as a combination between the fact that I get bored doing the same thing over and over, my love of all things that require a processor to make them function, and an essentialy curiosity that there must be another way, a better way, a more interesting track.

I will happily sit in front of my computer for hours comparing potential routes on google earth with those I have on 1:25000 topographic maps just to see if I can discover a combination of squiggly lines somewhere that might come together into a brilliant new route.

This is in part why Stage 8 of the Tasmanian Trail has vexed me for so many years.  This is the stage south from Miena, on the bottom edge of the Great Lake down to Bronte Park.  It mainly follows the Marlborough Highway (don't be fooled by the name, it is a fairly narrow, poorly maintained, infrequently used gravel road) but according to the Tasmanian Trail map there were three sections that headed off the highway, and what vexed me was that (1) when I cycled the route many years ago, I completey missed the first two sections, and (b) no amount of searchign for indistinct trails or lines on any of my maps showed me where the route may actually be.  

Now, with hindsight, I migth have read something deeper into the fact that I couldn't find these routes and that the route guide recommended that cyclists by pass them, but I was pumped up from my walk on Thursday and wanted more outdoor challenges, and this was the one I wanted most.

So Saturday started early with a three hour drive up to Great Lake, via a rather circituous detour through Waddamana.  I parked where  Waddamana Road comes out onto the Great Lakes Highway, and I set off on a warm up ride which was a planned figure eight up towards Poatina, but cutting across onto the Tasmanian Trail and following it back along Arthurs Lake, and then along the water race to Toby's Corner and from there back to the car.  It was a nice ride, with the highlight being when I came to a pretty deep river crossing with three young motorcyclists sitting there scratching their heads deciding how to get their motorbikes across.  I just said g'day and plunged straight into the river on the bike. It came up to the bottom of my knicks, but was worth the look on their faces. 

Well, it was worth it until about 15kms later when I was pushing into a antarctic headwind and my soaked feet were feeling like Icicles.

The whole circuit was just over 30km, and ended up on a splendid downhill.  It was nice, but nothing to rave about, just nice.  I did come across another Tas Trail Registration both where I eagerly devoured visitor numbers and comments.  Comments were much more positive than the box I found south of Geeveston, but numbers were still very low at aroud 30 entries with the earliest in 2008.

It was about noon when I got back to the car, so I headed to Miena for a nice hearty lunch.  The hot food choices consisted of three varieties of meat pie.  I took mine with a side of tomato sauce.  It was half warm and disgusting, so without any further delay I headed south to Little Pine Lagoon in search of the first section of trail I had missed all those years ago.

Unfortunately it is now no longer part of the trail.  To the trail signs credits there are now some good signs clearly indicating you should continue straight down the highway rather than detour into this section, so somewhat disappointed I did just this until I came to the very well signed turnoff to the section.  However, I had hatched a brilliant plan and continued on down to the southern end of thsis ection of trail with my idea being to cycle it South to North from Pine Tier Lagoon and thus having a nice downhill on the way back rather than an uphill haul.

With this plan in mind I drove as far as the first gate over Howards's Way (not signed) just above Pine Tier Lagoon, I got the bike together, threw it over the gate, and set off into the rain.

20 minutes later I was still cycling up the steepest hill I had encountered on the trail.  I mean this hill was so steep they've actually cemented some sections to give vehicles more traction, and remember this is an area where the highway is still a gravel road.   However, it can't have been more than 2kms to the top, and from there it was a lovely downhill past a huge quarry, a bit more of a climb and another long downhill to where I hit another gate I had to throw the bike over. 

It was a left from here, then up a steadily climbing gravel road, which veered off to the right into the bush, but continued along well graded roads and as I crossed what I assumed was Bung Bung creek and filled up my water bottle I started to wonder what the heck all the fuss about this section was.

Sure enough, another 300metres up the road I found out as the trail left this road and headed off a rutted, rocky, tree strewn trail. 

I valiantly set off to pedal up the hill in front of me, only to be ignominously dumped of my bike before the back wheel had even gotten onto this new trail.  I decided to push.

The trail continued to deteriorate as I climb up to the crest of the hill, and then, well it just pretty much vanished, and it was just, my bike and regular TT signs, speced out every 50-100m leading me ahead into the unknown.  At last I knew why I could never find this section of the trail on any maps I've looked at.  It isn't a track, it's a trail in the truest sense of the word.  The only sign of it is those regular signs.



I loved the next hour as I pushed, carried and even managed to squeeze in a ride my bike through scratchy, but beautiful open bushland, carefully scanning out in front to catch sight of the next sign showing me where to go.  Thankfully every sign was there, because it would only take one missing sign and there would be no way you could follow this trail due to its twist and turns.  As it was I found myself getting momentarily mislocated on several occasions.




After the first hour however the novelty of carting my bike had started to wear off somwhat, so it was good to break out onto some open ground where I could actually cycle some short sections, as I watched the numerous wallabies around me getting startled out into the open and leaping away, and as I crossed a few open grassland sections I started to think I was getting near the road.

It was just past one of these, that I came across the Little Pine River crossing mentioned in the guide, which means it was only 800 metres to the road.  Woo Hoo.  After a very slippery crossing (I walked across barefoot as I was on my second, and last, pair of shoes and they were nice and dry) I had a bit of a search to find the trail (it's straight ahead) and set off expecting to hit the highway pretty quickly.



The reality:  It took me nearly another hour, most of it carrying my bike, to travel that last little bit, and what had started out as a bit or a lark, now was feeling like a really stupid idea.  

The path became incredibly overgrown and scratchy, tearing at my unprotected legs every step I took.  What really frustrated me was just to my right there appeared to be a nice open meadow that the path could follow and 100metres to my left there looked to be a forest snigging track, but I was too nervous about leaving the trail markers as I just didn't know where these alternates went, so I slogged on the signed route, stradling my way around the meadow, then started my descent to the road. 

The last 300 metres were perhaps the most frustrating.  It was all fairly well uphill, and there seemed to be tracks criss-crossing everywhere.  The trail even crossed a major road, but it was like whoever set up the trail deliberately tried to avoid the easy route and instead aimed for the most difficult and torutrous options they could find.  Actually I did consider at one point that maybe they got lost and so just wandered along knocking in trail signs and then when they reached the road thought to themelves "That'll do, I'm not going back in there".

I was so happy to emerge back out onto the Marlborough Highway that I could have kissed it.  I compromsied and had a chocolate covered muesli bar instead.  It had taken me nearly 3 hours to travel probably 10kms.  Just for the record, from the time I turned off the forestry road I had probably ridden 10% of the section, pushed my bike 40% and carried it 60%.






It took me less than 45mins to follow the alternate route down the Marlborough Highway back to my car, and most of that was rectracing the climb back over the hill I had first come over. The climb was much easier and ridable going North to South.

So that was pretty much my day.  I can now happily sit and stare at the little line on Google Earth that my GPS recorded for the days meanderings and think ... so that's where the trail is.

For me that actually makes it all worthwhile.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Heritage Falls, Douglas Apsley National Park

Is it unmanly of me to begin this blog with the word ... ouchy!

See if you can figure out where there's a bit of a logic gap in the following idea:

Yesterday (Thursday 21 Oct) was a public holiday here in Southern Tassie, so I had planned on taking the Friday off and heading up the east coast for four days hiking and biking.  Unfortunatley as the new kid at work in a three person unit where the other two guys had already booked the Friday off and where I'd just been granted five weeks leave in May next year to head off to Europe, my boss decided it might be a better idea for me to stay and work on the Friday.

It was a reasonable case, and hence my brilliant idea: fat, overweight, unfit me who is only 7 or 8 weeks into my fitness campagin after having done virtually no exercise for the previous year, will just drive up the East Coast early on Thursday morning, do the overnight walk I had planned in a single day, and travel back down to Hobart that night ready for work on Friday.  Even typing that now, I'm struggling to remember how or when I managed to convince myself it sounded like a good idea.

So here's how it went.  As usual about 10pm on Wednesday night, what had seemed like a brilliant idea for the last week, was suddenly seeming like a not so good idea, and the little procrastination gremlin in my head was providing me with a new argument every 3.6 seconds as to why I should put the walk off until another day.  Just as the gremlin was about to win the argument,  I found some last reserve to fight back and deciding that if I am to win this fitness battle, then I have to actually get out there and do things that will get me fit, I set the alarm for 5.30am, tossed all the gear I would need tomorrow out in the hallway (that's as close as I come to packing) and headed off to bed to continue reading "The Man who Cycled the World".  Tonight was fortunately just the New Zealand section which was pretty quick.

5.30am my alarm went off.  I switched it off, rolled over and tried to get back to sleep.  5.40am I startled awake, got a case of the guilts, and struggled out of bed, threw some clothes on, scooped up all the gear in the hallway, transfered it into my car, made a sandwhich for lunch and headed out the door at 5.58am exactly.

First stop was Sorell for a cup of coffee at Banjo's.  Just as I arrived, a poor woman parked her electric mobility vehicle right across the front door of the Bakery so she could get easy access into the shop.  This I didn't mind one jot.  It was the German Sheppard that was attached to the chair which caused me some concern as it lunged and snarled at me as I too tried to enter the bakery.  Still I mimiced what I hoped was my friendliest smile, assured the lady who was trying to tell me that the dog was just trying to protect her, that it was all OK, I understood, and stood there patientlay.

Meanwhile, the evil side of me was thinking, just get through the effing door so I too can get into the shop and out of your dogs reach, but instead I stood there for soseveral minutes as she shuffled back out to assure her dog that it was OK, then shuffled back to the door, whilst her dog never stopped its snarling and snapping at me.  I really did feel sorry for the lady who was obvioulsy concerned about the fuss her dog was causing, but it just felt rude to say to her "Well, get into the bl*#dy shop then, so I can get away from your dog and it might calm down". I really needed that coffee by the time I got to the counter.

An hour later I grabbed some breakfast at Swansea Bakery, before passing through Bicheno and finally onto 'E' Road, a small, unmarked side road that you'd easily miss 20-30kms north of Bicheno, and pretty much smack on 200kms north of Hobart. 

I saw a small young-at-foot wallaby about 200 metres along the road, which startled by my appearance, dashed off from its mother into the nearby bushes.  I mention this not because its cute, but because its mother had been dead for about a week based on its decomposition, most likely shot, and I had to feel a little bit bad about that given my previous job for the past four years. 

Mercifully, I was soon distracted by the fact that the road promptly disappeared down into what is euphamistically called "a low clearance crossing" but which is in fact roadsign speak for "the bridge has washed out, so we've just sent a dozer through here to make a path through the creek."  I slowly nudge my poor little subaru impreza down into the creek and cringed noticably as the front end scapped and banged its way through the creek and up the other side.  Thankful to have gotten through I contined another 3 or 4kms up the road to only be greeted by a second, larger "low clearance" creek crossing and there was no way that I was getting through this one.  It was about 10-15metres straight down. I'd have been scared crossing it in a proper 4WD.

I was still several km's from the start of my two day walk, which remember I was doing in one day, but I decided that I had come this far, and wasn't going to be beaten so I parked on the side of the road, and unloaded my MTB which I had fortuitously left in the back of the car, and set off up the road.   As it turned out, it was just over 3kms to the official start of thw walk, but I also gained about 150 metres in altitude on a very rocky, slippery road and it took me nearly 30 minutes to get to the start of the walk.  Good old parks had put a sign up, on what turned out to be one of the better sections of the road after the tow big washouts indicating "4WD's advised past this point".  If I had a knife I might have carved "Plus mountain bikes".

Justifying to myself that I wanted to leave my bike somewhere hidden and that the map showed the first section was along an old 4WD trail, I cycled the first km or so of the trail until it started getting a bit rough and there hid my bike in the bush alongside the track.   This at least allowed me to catch up a bit of time.

From there it was a fairly fast walk through open forest and alongside moorland to the junction with the Rainforest Loop which I would be returning on.  There were lots of wildflowers about, and other than a bit of cutting grass here and there to slow the pace it was pretty flat easy going.

Soon after the junction the track started heading down, though other than a bit of log scrambling it was a pleasant enough descent to the campsite, which I reached about an hour and a half after leaving the car park.  What did blow me away was the debris that had come down some of the valleys.  There had been a big flood through here recently.

I continued straight down to the falls, and it was here that I really noticed how much water had come through this valley.  Although the river was only a slight flow now, the track down to Heritage Falls had been pretty much washed away, and I ended up just rock hopping down the river to the top of the Falls after wasting nearly 15 minutes trying to follow the track.

There is a signed and cairned trail from the top of the falls (on the left hand side, looking down river) which you can follow down to the bottom, but it's steep, slippery scree for the last bit and it would be easy to have an accident down here.  However, it is also well worth it, and having arrived smack on 12 O'clock, I spent a great 45 minutes or so just playing in the pools and having a bit of a relax in the section between Heritage and Leebrina Falls as I had some lunch.

Hopwever, I was on a bit of a timetable, and what goes down, has to go up again, so I gingerly scambled back up the scree chute, but at the top, I decided on impulse that rather than fight my way back upstream to the campsite, only to then have to double back as indicated on the map, I'd try and bee-line it straight up the hill and connect onto the track heading south.  It only looked to be 400-500 metres in a straight line, compared to 1-2kms following the tracks, so seemed worth the gamble.

What really surprised me was that for once this actually worked out.  It was a steep, but very fun, scramble up the rocky slope until I reached a bit of a knoll, and from there it was only about another 100-150 metres through light bush land before I hit the track again.  I will say that I did have the big advantage of having a GPS unit which I'd programmed the full walking route onto the previous night which made navigation pretty easy in the open bushland.  I'd be a bit more hesitant following my route if I didn't have that advantage as it would be pretty easy to get turned around up there.

From there the walk out to the top of the ridge was pretty similar to the walk in, and I was at the southern end of the Rainforest Ledge Circuit before I knew it.  I didn't head back immediately, instead I took off south to climb Lookout Hill which looked very near on the map.  20 minutes later as I sat on top of the hill eating an apple, and shaking an empty water bottle.  It was at this point that I started to think that maybe I may have stuffed up a little on the water front, and the fact that I'm talking about water bottles and apples tells you everything you need to know about the view from Lookout Hill.  Trust me if you're that close, you're going to head up there no matter what I say, then you'll sit there like I did, staring out into the trees, seeing next to nothing, thinking ... well that was a waste of time, but a bit like telling a kid not to touch a plate because it's hot, you're not going to believe my until you do it yourself and realise, yes it is hot isn't it.

After backtracking to the junction, I proceeded, down, down, down to the rainforest ledge, grimly hoping that I'd come across a small stream or even a trickle to refill my water bottle.  I didn't.  Instead, what I thought would be an hours walk through nice rainforest to rejoin the main track, turned into a 2 hour epic.

This section of the walk is infrequenlty travelled, it's very overgrown, and there's one or two sections where the trail markers get very confusing as they lead me off on various old tracks.  I found myself constantly having to slow and scan ahead for any sign of a trail marker or blaze.  I even found myself navigating by searching through the thick ferns at one point looking for signs where the logs had been sawn off as signs of human track making.  I'm sure it was a beautiful walk, in fact I enjoyed it despite everything, but by this stage my numerous cuts from the cutting grass were starting to sting, I had been without water for over an hour, I had a bit of glass in my foot which was really starting to throb, and I was finding most of my attention had to remain on just staying on the trail, not on enjoying what was around me.  I almost had to laugh when near the end I backtracked about 100metres because I had missed a small marker high up in a tree which lead the trail back up over the ridge and out of there. I could still be there now.

Once back of top of the ridge, my walk turned into a charge as I was feeling very dehydrated and just wanted out of there.  The bush opened up, but the section back to the junction still needs you to keep your eyes open for the track, and there's plenty of cutting grass.  Suffice to say I was pretty happy to get back onto the main track.  I was fighting a losing battle to salt and rubbing in the groin area, so I lost my shorts and just walking in some thermal leggings to try and minimise the damage for the last 3kms out of there.

I almost collapsed with joy when I reached my bike, not because I thought I was home, but because it still had a half full water bottle on it.  I drank the water so quickly I felt a bit nauseus, but at least from there it was a very quick descent back down to my car where I had another 2 litres of water stashed and some powerade powder to aid my recovery.

This lasted me to Bicheno (my heart once again broken to see that little wallaby was still hanging around its decomposing mother) where I filled up on cold orange powerade and pepsi max for the trip back down to Hobart.

Got home by about 8pm, had a wonderful shower and threw some food into myself before jumping back into bed to read more of my book "The Man who Cycled the World" (he's now in the USA).

As I drifted off to sleep, my legs ached and pulsed from the hundreds of little cuts everywhere, my right foot with the glass shard in it throbbed, my neck and face pulsed from a bit too much sun and off course there was that nasty chaffing we overweight people have to put up with.  But my mind ... it was in a calm, happy and serene place.  The Gremlins were quitened and instead my whole being was thinking about this weekend ... thinking that maybe I should head up to the Lakes and explore some more of the Tasmanian Trail sections up that way ...  it was just like a week ago when I thought "Maybe I should head up to the Douglas Apsley and do that two day walk in a single day".  Every fibre of my being thought "that's a brilliant idea".

No doubt I'll be speaking to my gremlins again later tonight.

==================
POSTSCRIPT:

The day after posting this, I went back onto the parks website (http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/) and after scrolling down through the tracks and road closures for what seemed like several minutes guess what I found ... E Road had been closed.  You think it would be useful to put that on the website about the park :)

Sunday, 17 October 2010

A Sunday Ride: Kaoota and Snug Tiers

Good intentions to head for a ride were initially thwarted by my usual reticence to head outside with the thermometer reading less than 1 degree, and I managed to convince myself that it would be sensible to head down to Kingston for a coffee and breakfast, read the paper down by the beach and then see how things were looking after that.

However on the way down the outlet, I started thinking about that trail from Kaoota up onto Snug Tiers which I've been meaning to try and find, and the thought stuck in my head and grew as I flicked through the usual rubbish in the local Sunday rag and drank my coffee.

So it was that I found myself down at Margate unloading the bike at the town hall before getting changed into my still slightly cold and damp clothes from yesterday and headed off down through Margate and out along Sandfly Road.  I happily admit to churning along in granny gear as the legs and body warmed up, but before I knew it I was back up in top gear and had reached the turn off to Allens Rivulet Road where it felt like the ride began.  The section up through here is a lovely bit of country road, and  a bit like the proverbial frog gradually boiled in water as I was taking in the sites and saying hello to the walkers and farmers out and about, I hardly notice the gradual climb, as it starts to rise and rise until just after turning off Allen's Rivulet Road, I finally noticed that I actually needed to drop back a gear or two.

Thankfully this is only a short section and after turning off onto Kaoota Rd the climb returns to a nice gradient and I found myself more distracted by the new season lambs playing in the field, the many wallaby runs criss crossing the road and the stream churning through the forest beside me than I was on the gradient I was climbing.

The road up to Kaoota wends its way in and out of bushland and past houses, and before I knew it I was heading into Kaoota itself.   The temperature had dropped significantly in the last kilometre of the climb and snow was again settled on the ground.  There's not much at Kaoota: basically a sign either side and a few houses in between.  From Kaoota I headed down Umfrevilles Road, where I met a couple out walking their dog, who were able to give me very useful directions on how to find the track and which turns to take (which I was later to ignore at my peril).  I set off pretty chuffed about this chance encounter as I'd been this way several years before and having taken a wrong turn ending up in some farmers paddock and having to haul my bike over his back fence to escape back out onto the road and eventually found myself Pelverata quite a way from where I planned to be.

Still glowing from my little encounter, it was a bit of the shock as I came around the next corner, to see a large dog charging out towards me, I turned on the speed with both eyes locked on the dog as he ran around me, and started catching up and alongside.  Just as I thought I was a goner, a ute came flying around the corner towards us and the dog nearly disappeared under the front wheels only just managing to jump out of the way literally as the car came over the top of it.  Fortunately none of us ended up worse for wear and I happily continued onto the end of the road and past a gate and onto the trails.

I soon came to the junction where I was told by the locals that I should head left, but my GPS showed the track heading off to the right.  I decided to trust my GPS, which I was to regret not much further on as the route I was on started to diverge from the supposed route on my GPS and I found myself backtracking to the junction humbled by my trust in technology over local knowledge.  That said it was a beautiful little detour so  I wasn't that disappointed.

From there on, it was a steady to steep climb, on slippery, rocky tracks, with cutting grass on either side and frequent downers across the track.  Despite this, or maybe because of it,  I really enjoyed the climb, and there were a few sections I could even cycle.  I was delighted when clumps of snow started appearing alongside the track, and then as it go thicker and thicker I kept stopping to take pictures and enjoy the sights.  If only I'd known.  By the time I crested the top of the climb, the snow was quite thick and an increasing number of  sections were obstructed by branches and trees weighed down by snow.

It took me nearly an hour to travel the next kilometer as I physically had to push and shove myself and my bike through increasingly thick sections of scrub, through puddles covered with ice, with my arms, legs and clothes drenched and frozen from all the ice and snow that covered them.

It was sort of fun, though if someone had been nearby to hear my frequent screams of frustration it may have been hard convincing them I was enjoying the challenge.  It was a relief to finally break out onto the main track, and after a fleeting consideration of heading on to the top of Pelverata Falls, I decided instead it was time to get warm, so I turned to the left and headed to the top of Van Moreys Road.  An Ice Cream headache convinced me to put on all the warm clothes I had, and get rid of the snow that had got caught in my helmet and was causing my ice cream headache.

From there it was a wonderful descent all the way back down to the car as kilometre after kilometer disappeared beneath my wheels.  I even passed another couple of cyclists heading up the hill, but didn't feel the need to warn them about what lay ahead.

It was only about 3 or so hours to do the whole loop, with the only downside being that I had to sit in front of the heater for an hour to warm up when I got home.

Churchill's Hut & the Adamsfield Track

Thursday nights weatherman cast dour predictions of an impending cold front that would sweep through on Friday to spend the weekend with us.  It was forecast to bring snow down to 400 metres and harsh 40 knot southerly winds, but as I got out of bed on Friday morning and greeted the day I found it hard to believe that any such cold front could be on its way as it was a lovely warm morning, and the sun was shining.

I even had a pleasant walk into work, in fact I was sweltering in my North Face puffy jacket.  However, sometimes they do get it right.  By 9am, the clouds had come in and an hour later the day had settled into a steady drizzle, thickening to rain.

It pretty much rained on and off all Friday, but unperturbed, I set the alarm early for Saturday morning and woke up with a big smile on my face:  Even though the thermometer had sat on freezing all night, I had barely heard a burst of wind or a drop of rain. I stumbled out into the hallway and pulled the curtains wide open to be greeted by a lovely blue sky ... and a bed of snow sitting on my front lawn at 300metres.

I set off regardless. Who knows: it was over a hundred kilometres to my days destination, the weather could be a lot different out there, I could get lucky.  In fact, an hour or so later as I drove into Maydena I thought maybe I had.  Sure there was a light cover of snow all around, with one particular small drift gathered around the "Water Restrictions In Progress" sign particularly catching my attention, but the sky was still promisingly cloud free, well free(ish).

Plan A was to head out another 20kms further along the highway towards Lake Peddar and try and get onto a track on my map called "Cooks Track" which would hopefully lead me back to Churchills Hut and onto  the Adamfield Track, however plan A was abandoned as I topped the Needles Pass (601m) in a near blizzard watching with concern as the road disappeared into the snow.

I was in a little subaru impreza with no special tyres and didn't particularly fancy getting caught over the other side of the pass with no mobile reception, no sleeping bag and no way of getting back again.  It was time for plan B which involved backtracking to Maydena and heading out about 13 kms along the Florentine Road and approaching Churchills Hut from the other end of Cooks Track.    The road surface which had been clear 10 minutes before on my way up was now covered in a centimetre of snow, which gave me some confidence that I had made the right decision.
  
After several distractions along the way, I finally arrived at the locked gate on Cooks Road, unloaded the bike and got dressed into all my warm clothes as the snow started to fall and set off.
Fairly confident with where I was, I didn't bother checking my GPS for a kilometre or so along the road, only to find that I had apparently cycled about a km or so past the junction to Adamsfield track which I was trying to get onto.

As I hadn't seen anything remotely looking like a junction heading off to the right since I'd left the car, I decided to go to Plan C which was reach Adamsfield track via a secondary route I had seen on Google Earth  the night before. 

I therefore proceeded on until I came to where my GPS indicated that a track should head off to the right and join Adamsfield Track.  I stopped and stared off into what looked like impenetrable Tasmanian bush to me,  I searched up and down and even tried bashing my way through for a while, until, now pretty cold and wet and scratched, the thought occured to me that the Google Earth image had been a road going through a recently logged coupe.  Having worked in the forest industry for nearly 15 years, I was also able to deduce by the dense undergrowth and rainforest trees towering above me, that this supposed track shown on my GPS was not in fact the track I was looking for, so I returned to the road to carry on and did eventually find a track which ran through a logging coupe towards roughly where I wanted to go.

That road also stopped however, and I ended up hauling my bike through the rest of the coupe until I hit the boundary, where by sheer luck I came across a few sets of footprints, and following these around throug the  mud, I came across some pink tape indicating the track to Adamsfield.  Yay me.  From here it was only a couple of hundred metres before I finally emerged out at Churchills Hut.
I first started looking for Churchill's Hut two or three years ago when a mate of mine asked me to try and find it, but it's not on any maps, and even Google doesn't seem to know where it was.  I did eventually fnd a sketch map to it on a Wilderness Society map which gave me the general area, but now I'd finally reached it.

This hut is supposedly where the trapper Elias Churchill stayed and caught the last Tasmanian Tiger seen alive in captivity.  I say supposedly, because a few years ago when I was cycling out at Adamsfield, we ran into an old timer who had lived out that way for many a year, and in the course of out conversation he had laughingly told me how they were restoring a hut over the ridge that they thought was Churchill's hut but all the locals thought it was a great joke, because they all knew that Churchill's hut was actually off somewhere else (I won't say where).

Anyway, it's a great little place, and dry inside which I was particurly happy about as the fingers were starting to suffer a bit and were happy to get dry, even if just for a few minutes.  There were even some old newspapers placed there which made entertaining reading. 


However, this was only meant to be the beginning of my ride, so having finally found the Adamsfield Track, I pushed on along the track towards Adamsfield.  I just didn;t get very far.  Now, you see I've got a cycling book on my bookshelf which lists the Adamsfield Track as one the only true wilderness bike rides in Tasmania, but strangely for a guide book, got pretty vague about how exactly to get there and follow the trail.  I now know why.  Not only is the track hard to find (as noted above), but it's incredibly overgrown and
nearly impossible to ride.  After pushing, carrying and shoving my bike for about 500 metres through snow covered heath, I decided to ditch it and push on ahead on foot to see if the track cleared.  It didn't and after a kilometre or so, with snow down my back, soaking feet and numb hands, I admitted defeat this day and returned to the hut, vowing to return another day with walking boots to follow this track to the end.

Rather than retrace my steps, I followed the Adamsfield track in the opposite direction, noting that in theory this should take me back to my car, and although I didn't get to a cycle a single metre, it was a great little walk / bash back to the road that way.  The logging which I had previously come through had been designed so there's always a 50m buffer of bush between you and the coupe, so unless you knew it was there you'd think you were walking through pretty bush.  There were lots of old moss and lichen covered loss, manferns bowing under the weight of snow and a few gorgeous little tanin stained creeks to cross.

Sure enough I was dropped back about 200 metres from my car, and could see why I missed the track.  Not only is it very hard to see (marked only by a small pink ribbon), it is directly across from the first road junction running off to the left about 200 metres past the boom gate.  I remember cycling past this junction and peering up it to make sure I wasn't meant to head that way, which succesfully distracted me from the fact that my real route lay immediately to the right.
By this stage, I was soaked and cold, so retreated once again to Maydena.  I went for a short stroll out to Junee Caves, then decided to head back to Westerway to do some cycling there, but between Maydena and Westerway the cold front hit in earnest and with strong winds and rain pelting my car, I decided to head home, and now sit here typing with the rain, sleet and snow hitting my window.
 

Lesson from today is that even in Spring, you can get ridiculously cold days in Tasmania, but I'm content with finding Churchill's Hut finally, and now I've got this idea for a great long distance MTB route in Tassie, if only I could convince someone to clear Adamsfield Track ... back to dreaming.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Jill, Christie & Daylight Savings

Hmmm ... not sure I really even want to write this blog.

I've recently become a huge fan of Jill Homer's "Jill Outside" blog having stumbled across it last weekend when seeing a short article on it in the Bike Bits section of the latest Adventure Magazine.  Jill just seems incredible, a real inspiration and more importantly for an online blog, she's also a brilliant writer.  I've been devouring her blogs for the last five days, and even ordered her book through Amazon.com (waiting, waiting, waiting).

Problem is, she looks very similar to she who broke my heart recently, which is really annoying as I keep wondering if that might be part of the reason why I find her blogs so fascinating.  Scary isn't it that I'm inside my head, I create most of my own thoughts (some even I disown) and still I don't have the foggiest idea what my real motivations are.

So, after reading Jill's latest blogpost Clinging to Summer about heading out into the hills for a ride after work, I suddenly found myself thinking of that trail around the back of Knocklofty that I'd promised myself I'd get back to explore, and with daylight savings having just kicked in, I figured why not.

Somewhat ironically, I therefore had to ride home on my electric bike, grab my mountain bike (and spot) and drive back down to town for the ride.  I'm no Jill.  I'm still weighing in at over 110kgs, and so a 3 hour ride after work is a bit beyond me, but with Spot suitably activated, I set off for a nice 45 minute ride covering the route I'd cycled the other week to the top of Knocklofty, but in reverse.  As I'd guessed, the track was mostly ridable heading up in this direction, although the steps were well beyond me, and before I knew it I found myself back up on the top of the hill with donwhill in every direction from there.

I wish I could regale you with epic adventures about the new bit of track I came here to explore, but the truth is I headed down to where it started (it was called the Mt Stuart Circuit Track) and after a fast decent down a wide gravel track, the route flattened out and before I knew it there was a sign pointing me back off the gravel track and onto a bit of walking track.  This section was a bit rocky, and I almost twisted my ankle coming off in one place, but probably less than 10 minutes after reaching the top, the track dropped me back onto the track I'd just ridden up.  The section couldn't have been more than a couple of kilometres which was a bit of an anti-climax.  From there it was a nice ride back to the car just as darkness was falling.

I went home and after a hot shower and dinner, I thought I'd jump online and check out Bec's Melbourne Marathon time and pics which she'd told me when she came around last night, and for some stupid, stupid, stupid reason after checking out Bec's time I did a search for "Harris" and before I knew it was looking through the Marathon Pics of Little Miss Heartbreaker.  I am so stupid, all the strength and positive energy I've built up over the last few weeks since last time I did something this stupid evaporated into that great big sucking empty abyss of loneliness, and so instead of drifting to sleep thinking of tracks ridden and epic adventures to come, I spent a restless night just missing her and wishing she were here.  It really does suck losing someone you love.

I'm reading Mark Beaumont's "The man who cycled the world" at the moment, but last night I gave up after 20 or 30 pages as I just couldn't concentrate on anything but her.

So, darn it.  Back to step one on the ladder, here we go again ...

Spot & Davros

I ordered a new toy on Tuesday: I'm the proud owner of a new Spot Tracker.

This might not sound very exciting, and that's probably because it really isn't (unless you enjoy online shopping and the fact that I can order something in Tassie on Tuesday and it's delivered to my desk at work the next morning), but the thought did occur to me a couple of weeks ago as I was ploughing along some dirt track where even I didn't know where I was after having just forded a waist deep river with my bike over my shoulder nearly getting swept downstream in the process, that sometime, somewhere, somethings probably going to go wrong, I'm not going to have any reception on my phone and nobody is going to know that I'm even out somewhere (never mind that particular where) and I'll be one of those sad outdoor people who get found days, weeks, months or years later and people will wonder what happened, or they'll just nick my bike and leave me there to rot.

So I bought Spot to come travelling with me so he can tell everyone if we get lost to come save me.  This is what Spots do if you don't have one ... They're a a satellite / GPS unit, a bit like an EPIRB on steroids, they won't tell you where you are (unless you have a phone with you with 3G coverage and internet browsing  in which case just turn on the GPS in the phone and figure it out the easy way or alternatively if you do have 3G coverage then most likely you're in the middle of the city so go ask someone).  But they do let you program "Check In", "Help" and one custom message with a list of mobile phone numbers, email addresses and even a facebook link, so you can tell others exactly where you are (they basically either send a lat / long coordinate or if being sent via email they also include a hyperlink which will show people exactly where you are on a map).  For an extra $US50 a year and a fortune in Lithium Batteries you can also use them to send out a location every 10 minutes so people can track where you're going. 

Oh did I mention that you have to pay $US115 a year for the pleasure of this service.  I figured my life is worth 30 cents per day to me, however if the Australian dollar weakens against the greenback next year, I may have to review this ... I doubt I'd be able to sell a day of my life for more than 40 cents on ebay so I have to be realistic about these things.

After very little consideration (ie. I got to the bit on the online registration where I had to name my spot) I decided to call him Little Grey Thing.  This is in deference to my ipod, netbook and phone which are called Little Black Thing I, II & III respectively ... it appears I am only creative when it comes to naming Roomba Robotoic Vacumn Cleaners, which despite being white, and little, I have named Davros due to its remarkably similar behaviour to said character on Dr Who.

I love my robotic vacumn cleaner.  Just the sheer pleasure of no longer having to think "God this place is a mess, I really need to spend 20 minutes cleaning up before I go out and do something" was worth every cent of the money to now just think "Yea, I should" as I then proced to get into my cycling gear, grab the bike, and head out the door, pressing the button on top of Davros to send him to work as I lock the door behind me knowing all will be clean and tidy when I return.

Admittedly, like the real Davros, my little Davros does sometimes go a little mental every now and then and when I return home I see the afternmath of his rampage of extermination as he's tried to consume one of the many recharging cables or other objects littered about my place.  He even managed to somehow suck my Polar Infra Red Heart Rate Monitor thingy off my computer desk the other day and try and eat that.  Though I haven't discounted that maybe he just wanted to check out his heart rate to see how hard he was working.

However, even if he does decide to try and extermiante something, he's generally calmed down by the time I've got home, and is just sitting in the middle of the floor, wrapped up in whatever object he's attempted to destroy with a little orange light glowing from his head (yep, he does actually glow orange).  A bit like a dog, you just have to be firm with him, take the object away, give him a quick pat and a clean and he's all good for next time.

Let's hope Spot the Tracker fits equally well into my life as I've planned a challenging introductory weekend for him down near Lake Pedder as we try and see if the Adamsfield Track still exists and if so if it is cyclable.  I'm also planning on giving myself bonus points if I can finally find my way to the restored Churchill's Hut where the last thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) was supposedly caught.

Weather forecast is looking atrocious.  Snow is forecast for the next couple of nights, and then strong winds and rain for the weekend. 

Yay.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Taking a Pay Cut : A European Trip in the Planning

Just received my first 'reduced' pay today.  $168.38 cents a fortnight less for the next 13 pays (26 weeks) in exchange for 10 extra days leave in May 2011.  What's that work out to (quick maths calculation takes place): $2,200 for ten extra days of freedom.  I think that's a pretty good buy.

So, all going well I get a flight out of Australia 21 April 2011,  the night before Good Friday (because there will be so many cheap flights out just before Easter), and fly back in Sunday 29th May starting back at work the next day where I can get over my jet lag and wallet pains in the safety of my own desk.  Give or take a few days for flights, that leaves me five glorious weeks(30 - 35 days) of travel.  Now I just have to figure out what to do with it.

The idea started with me ticking off one of the Hundred Things I have to do list, by spending ANZAC day (25th April) at Gallipoli then ...
Maybe fly / ferry to southern Italy, the Amalfi Coast and Rome, train up to Venice (tick the Gondola box) then bike/train my way up through the Alps into Germany, taster trip through Scandanavia, then ferry across to the Orkneys, bike ride through the outer Hebrides and home from Glasgow.  Gives me a good excuse to buy a folding bike.

or

fly / ferry to southern Italy, the Amalfi Coast and Rome, train up to Venice (tick the Gondola box) then instead head west, and spend some time cycling in the Pyrenees before heading up to do the Scotland bit.

or

maybe just head from Turkey to Egypt, see those darn pyramids, get down to Kenya and climb Killimanjaro and see all that wildlife (wonder when they're around?).  Be a cheaper, more adventurous option.

or

maybe head from Turkey up to Moscow, catch the Siberian Railway across to china and go visit the great wall instead.

or

maybe I should just head straight to the Outer Hebridies after Turkey for a couple of weeks, then come home via the US and spend some time cycling there ...

Oh, the pleasures you can buy for a few thousand dollars.  Even the planning is fun!!

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.