Sunday, 7 September 2014

Tin Dragon Trail - Day 1

They're the boys that bring you Velocipede Monthly, the Klousia videos and rumour has it that they're the ones who released the little blue monsters which are responsible for so many cycling disappearances in the Meehan  Ranges.

(For the sake of balance, when challenged about this release they responded that after accidentally releasing their amorous pet foxes in the State some years ago, and the kerfuffle that caused, the breeding and release of the Monsters was "a release that had to happen to reset the ecological balance in the State" ... which seems fair enough, especially as no foxes have been sighted in the Meehan Ranges since the introduction of the Monsters.

But those achievements pale now as Oliver and James reach the pinnacle of their mountain biking lives in bringing to you the first guest posts on tassierambler.org ...

Or am I the only one that thinks that any of that is true? over to them ...

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When we were first asked to blog about our recent ride along the Tin Dragon trail, we said 'absolutely not.' It was to be the “Ride that Never Was”, never to be spoken of again.

Clearly, we are men of principle.

The bruises (both physical and emotional) are now starting to fade. We've mostly forgotten about the near poisoning from a chicken burger at a cafe in Derby. The memory of the agonising climb up the endless hill of doom (of which there were many) is becoming almost wistful. We are almost at the point where we can acknowledge that there some genuinely enjoyable moments. Are we ready to adventure again?

Of course!

The inspiration for the trip came from a conversation with the Rambler. Having just completed one epic cycling adventure (http://www.tassierambler.org/2014/07/rambler-and-rough-stuff-fellowship.html), the obvious question was, what’s next?


A revisit to Derby / Weldborough was suggested, and His Rambleriness (knowing full well he was away on the particular weekend) suggested the Tin Dragon Trail (See: http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/Tin-Trail).


We’re not saying that he made the suggestion because he wanted to watch us suffer. We wouldn’t insinuate that we were guinea pigs, unsuspecting innocent wanderers sent into the dragon’s lair. He did, after all, temper his truancy with claims that he ‘wished he could be there’, believable as that may be.

It sounds great on paper. St Helens to Weldborough and back again, through some of the most beautiful rainforest in Tasmania. There’s a bit of climbing, but this is Tassie - there’s climbing everywhere.

The original Tin Dragon suggests a three-night trip, with stops at Weldborough, Ringarooma and Pyengana. We only had two nights, and all the accommodation (except for Weldborough Hotel) was fully booked. So we made the decision to shorten the trip, staying two nights in Weldborough and re-mapping some sections.

Off course already, and we haven’t even packed! This turned out to be the best decision we made the whole trip.

Day 1 - St. Helens to Weldborough

Galileo and Figaro enjoying a final moment of peace before following
in their ancestors footsteps.
Dragons will be dragons.
A quick trip from Launceston to St. Helens (via Weldborough to drop off supplies) and it begins...

In Which They Begin Their Adventure

The seaside sun heralded a brilliant start to the adventuring, with St. Helens quickly being left behind. Two kilometres in, a drink bottle of Hulk Juice (dragon-speak for Gatorade) was remembered as being forgotten, all the way back in the car. High in spirits due to the splendid weather and still-working legs, it was deemed ‘not a problem’, because, after all, what’s the worst that 70km of hill climbing can do?

(For those playing along at home, the worst that 70km of hill climbing can do is pretty bad)

The first 15k rushed by; a scenic highway section from St. Helens past the Binalong Bay turnoff and into the Bay of Fires. A euphoric feeling that can only be described as naivety told us that at this pace, we’d be at the Weldborough Pub well before beer o’ clock. Continuing along the coast, we were soon at the Gardens - it was a gorgeous day, we were averaging a good 25k/hour (after rounding), and nothing could stop us!

So we stopped to take some photos, obviously. With plenty of time up our three-quarter-length sleeves (it wasn’t like we were going be out until after dark), it was the perfect opportunity to make like true ramblers, and take pictures of all the things.

And if we keep going this way we hit NZ singletrack
Ah optimism - I remember that.
An impressive inland ocean
I call this the "Awesome Dawson"
(Ed note - I may have added the awesome"
The Sirens ... the call me,
You guys go on ahead, I'll just hang out here for a while ...
Play Time is Over

After this brief interlude, it was back to the very serious task at hand - adventuring.

Climbing up out of the Gardens towards Ansons Bay Road was a pleasant reintroduction to the notion that we had 1500m of climbing still ahead of us. What started as a fantastically ungroomed rough and rutted sand-track with a couple of fast downhill sections, soon devolved into a sadly well maintained gravel road, which ejected us, uncaring, onto Ansons Bay Road.

This put us at the 31km, 552m mark. Don’t worry, it won’t be on the test.

Crossing ABR, the disappointing high quality of the forestry roads continued. The inexorable march of plantation forests kept us company for the next 7km, when it was universally decided that it was time for Dragon Snacks.

From our lunch-time vantage point atop the Lunch Stump, it was just possible to tilt back our heads at an angle great enough to make out the top of the Blue Tier, our high-point for the day (in altitude only). This was somewhat depressing, equating to around a further 750m of climbing in 11km. A spot of lunch, followed by a hearty dose of denial, was enough to get us back in the saddle, even if our legs were not in agreement.

Turning off the New England Link provided a relief from the monotony of smooth roads, although said relief presented itself in the form of a seemingly unending climb of ever-increasing grade. At least the climb up Murdochs Road was rewarding in a visual sense, giving us the first view back to the coast, and a feeling of dominion over the Hill Gods.

As always, they would have the last word.

Gotta Go Up to Go Back Up

If you ever find yourself wondering whether you should take the detour up that steep-looking hill in the knowledge that it’s a dead end and you’ll have to come back to the same point, the answer is always a definite probably. Especially if the KML file loaded into your GPS by past-self (who knows what they are doing) says that you must climb the hill, because there is potentially something there that might be worth looking at.

Some might call that a pretense, designed to trick one into climbing a pointless hill simply because it is there.

Whatever the reason, it was with such a decision we found ourselves presented. At the top of the hill, a potentially fancy fire tower.

At this point it was 3:30pm, giving us a mere two hours to complete the remaining 22km to the Weldborough. We certainly didn’t have time for an extra hill climb, but it was there, and so were we. Unfortunately, the logical choice was to skip the hill climb and continue on.

Logic?  Where we're going we don't need logic.
At the top of a tall, tall, hill, there stood a tall, tall tower. And at the top of that tall, tall, tower, the viewing platform was locked. Bummer. Still, we managed to get a fantastic view all the way back to the coast, and a feeling of great achievement.

If you look very closely, you can just make out the good sense that we left back in St Helens,
Hey, I can see my bike from here!
At least the sun was still high in the sky. Nope, that’s the moon. Time to skedaddle.

The descent back down from the fire tower was simply good fun. A few downed trees made for some good jumps, and we momentarily forgot about the impending upwardness of it all.

We’ll Show You, Sign!

It was at this point that we received a sign.

That’s not meant for us, right?
Signs are for cars, obviously, and anyway, the blue line on the GPS was pointing along Sun Flats Road. It seemed as though the sign was maybe an overstatement, as the road was perfectly acceptable for a couple of kilometres.

Suddenly, the road zigged right but the blue line of unquestionable authority zagged left into the bush, following a rutted track into the undergrowth. Adventure awaited.

Road quality quickly diminished, but as is often the way, balance was achieved by a drastic increase of incline.

This was the easiest bit of the track.
With fresh legs, it would have been fantastic. There’s always next time!
A good strategy for tackling steep, technical climbs when you’ve already ridden 50km and just want a couch to die in: Smile and Pretend Everything is OK

Best. Fun. Ever!
Sitting here, a fortnight later, it is relatively apparent that the Sun Flats Rd climb did indeed end, however we cannot be 100% sure. Each corner promised to be the last, but then cruelly presented another corner in the distance, the sun retreating ever so slightly with each pedal stroke.

We’ll Show You, Moon!

That’s no moon! Well, actually…
Finally, at the end of the age, we reached Poimena. Our sun-fuelled high spirits, keen to spur us on in St. Helens, had fled under the gaze of twilight, and it was now just a matter of getting to the Weldborough Hotel in the most efficient manner.

It was against this good sense that we decided somewhat unanimously to ride the Poimena MTB loop first, which of course was a mess of downed trees and general disuse, not living up to previous rides. When the riding was good, it was great, but there was also a lot of stopping-and-lifting-of-bikes.


Speed blur added for effect

A quick rest at the request of the dragons

Even so, with time against us, the creek crossing was a great place for pictures! We would be remiss if we went for a ramble without a single picture of a tree-fungus, after all.

Mmmmmm, dinner?
At 6PM we started the descent into Weldborough.

Maybe we’ll find something more nutritious in Weldborough
Not a bad spot to spend the evening. Not bad at all
The real tragedy of the day was leaving the best bit of trail until after we had wrecked our legs on 60km of up. The Blue Tier descent is one of the better pieces of tracks in Tasmania, but when you know that the hotel stops serving dinner in an hour, a lot of the magic is lost.

Impromptu Night Ride

In a rare moment of forward-planning and preparedness, we had opted to throw lights into our bags that morning, even though there was no way we would be out past dark. As it turned out, there was a way, but we were left to ponder whether, had we opted to leave the lights out, the weight saving would have enabled us to travel at a greater speed, thus avoiding the need to carry lights in the first place. Zeno would be proud.

After donning the lights, we met the first humans since Bay of Fires; a convoy of 4WDs seven-strong who were surprised to find us slogging up the pre-Weldborough hill in the dark. To be fair, had we been pressed, we would not have been able to find a good reason for being there in the dark, and adventuring no longer seemed self-justifying at this point.

All’s Well that Ends Weldborough

Crack on 7PM we rolled into the Weldborough hotel, startling some ring-ins from Snelens who were at the pub celebrating a football win, which must be some sort of sporting reference. It was either their infectious cheer, or the thought of impending beer and food, but we felt good. Dead tired, hating life, and never wanting to ride a bike again, but good.

Beers and steaks and burgers were had, to the merriment of all. As always, the Weldborough Hotel was top notch; crashing in front of the log fire with a tasty beverage was a perfect way to finish the first (of three, perish the thought) days.

Tired, hungry mountain bikers make the best food critics. Delicious.

Forgot the gatorade, but beer is full of electrolytes, right?

Day 1: That Happened

And that was Day 1. There must have been an adjoining period between that and the beginning of Day 2, as that’s just how time works. But, we don’t remember it.

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