Training on the steep bit of the High Country Rail Trail


Because of an upcoming 300km charity adventure bike ride I will be part of in February 2015 called the 25000spins Great Ocean Road Adventure, I decided to try the toughest section of the High Country Rail Trail today as part of the training for that event. The High Country Rail Trail follows the formation of the old Wodonga – Cudgewa broad gauge railway line and traverses a mountain range which has (or had) the highest railway station in Victoria – Shelley railway station.

Trestle bridge between Shelley and Koetong.

Having not ridden any of that section of the trail before, I really didn’t know what to expect, although I had seen a Victoria Railways Gradient Chart which showed some long and steep (1:30 or 3%) grades. I also read about about the Tall Trestle Treadlie, an annual event which rides down from Shelley to Darbyshire, and then some of the flatter sections of the trail from Old Tallangatta to the Sandy Creek bridge. And that ride is downhill from Shelley. But as I didn’t know where to access the rail trail except at Shelley I decided to start at Shelley, and go down through Darbyshire and then ride back up to Shelley, a distance of about 43km in total.

View near Darbyshire station site

I figured that as it was going to be a warm to hot day I would leave as early as possible (around 6:30am), so I could start the ride and hopefully finish it before the heat set in. I also figured that as the section I was going to ride was higher altitude than where I normally ride it would be cooler than elsewhere, which it was but only by about 4 degrees. There was also the added benefit of the body having to work harder (but not that much harder) in the higher altitude.

View of Koetong fromn Rail Trail

Although I wasn’t specifically riding the trail for sight-seeing, I was glad I took my camera as there was some awesome vistas along the way, and some trestle bridges I had never seen before. The rail trail is not a road bike friendly surface, but is ok for hybrid bikes, and well suited to mountain bikes. My bike is a foldable bike with mountain bike rims and tyres so I didn’t think there would be any problems with the bike travelling along the trail.

Long trestle bridge south of Darbyshire. The views from trains travelling over this bridge when the railway was open would have been amazing!

Hint of the view from the long bridge south of Darbyshire. The railway formation on both sides of this bridge has almost vertical drops at the side, and this bridge was very hight offering unobstructed views to the mountains over in the distance.

The whole ride took about 3 hours, including stops for taking pictures (more than I thought I would), and exploring some of the surrounds of the trestle bridges I encountered along the way. The whole ride had total ascents of 600 metres (1800 feet), 400 metres of that being on the return journey back UP to Shelley. So I am now looking for some other mountain climbs to try to help me get ready for the ride in February. The ascents in the 7peaks challenge offers some interesting possibilities for some pretty hard ascents up Victorian mountains, as does a mountain road between Tawonga and Mitta Mitta which gets near the highest mountain in Victoria.

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Old Friends?


Normally we think of friends as being those fellow human beings that we have a bond of friendship with, people we have something in common with. And certainly those fellow human beings are friends. But maybe friends can be more than just human beings. Dogs are often referred to as “mans best friend”, so maybe other non-human things can be friends too in some way? When I was growing up in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges in eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria (Australia), my dad and I would sometimes spend a Sabbath afternoon exploring the national parks / state forests not far from where we lived. My parents still live there, and it is good to go back from time to time and experience the fond memories of days gone by, days that somehow seemed to be more relaxed, less stressful.

Interesting gum tree

Interesting gum tree

Over the New South Wales September 2014 School Holidays I had an opportunity to go on a mini-holiday with Eliana, my youngest offspring, to visit my parents and re-discover some old friends that I haven’t connected with in a long time. At church on Sabbath I had an opportunity to catch up with a number of ‘old friends’ (‘old’ not referring to their age, but rather how long they have been friends!). In the afternoon after lunch mum and Eliana went for a drive and I took the opportunity to do some hiking in the nearby forests. The plan was to hike from my parents’ house along Paddys Track and Neumanns Track to Grants Picnic Ground in Kallista then loop around via Coles Ridge Track and Welch Track back to my parents house through the Dandenong Ranges National Park. It had been many many years since I last walked that loop – at least 30 years I think. Some things stay the same and some things change. Near the start of the walk, just past the bridge that spans the Monbulk Creek there is a location called Jack the Miners in Selby. I have memories of going there for family picnics when I was young, and of it being a big expanse of open space with nicely mowed grass. But today it looks like the photo below.

Jack the Miners, near the Monbulk Creek bridge and Paddy Track.

Jack the Miners, near the Monbulk Creek bridge and Paddy Track.

The obvious source of the name would be that it is named after a fellow named Jack who was a miner. And I have heard that there was once a hut there. But I also read that there was a timber tramway through the area at some point in the early 20th century that ran through the area, and Welch Track seems to follow that tramway for at least part of it’s distance. So Jack the Miners might have been a timber storage area or something else at some point as well. There is no real evidence of what it was used for evident today. So exactly where the name came from or what the clearing was used is not entirely clear. The track itself seemed little changed from what I remembered of it.

Paddy Track joins Jack the Miners and Neumann Track.

Paddy Track joins Jack the Miners and Neumann Track.

I remember the hill in the photo above a bit too well! But I didn’t remember quite how long it was. But in spite of doing virtually no excersize for the previous month I still managed to get to the top of the hill with only a little breathless-ness by the time I got to the top. At the top I heard some lyrebirds – at least I was pretty sure they were lyrebirds. Lyrebirds have been known to mimic all sorts of sounds including steam trains, car horns, chainsaws, someone chopping wood, and all sorts of other sounds. They look a little like a peacock, especially with their tail fanned out.

Lyrebird

Lyrebird

And it must have been breeding season as it was doing it’s dance and song to try and attract a mate. I managed to get reasonably close to the lyrebird I heard, but before I could take a photo of it close up it would scamper off further into the forest. I managed to get this photo of it’s mound.

Lyrebird Mound

Lyrebird Mound

About this time I saw a fellow walker who was walking in the same direction as me. It turned out he was from Ringwood and was spending a day hiking in the forest. For the rest of the walk into Grants Picnic Ground we talked about all sorts of things including religion (he was a Christadelphian), the state religion (Australian Rules Football) and the worship in the temple of sport happening that very same day (I still don’t know who won, but I suspect the Hawks going by the shear number of Hawks colors flying from cars, trains) and how that meant less people in the forest and more serenity for those who were walking in them, our different walking experiences, different places worth a visit (he had walked in the Little Desert near Dimboola, Victoria), the history of the tracks we were walking on, etc.

Dead but majestic looking tree

Dead but majestic looking tree

At Grants Picnic Ground we parted company and I continued along the Coles Ridge Track. Some months ago I purchased a Shofar (probably best described as a rams horn trumpet). The Shofar was used to sound a warning of attack, to call warriors to arms, to call people to religious feasts, and to announce important events. I took it on the walk with me and along Coles Ridge Track, and in a nice quiet spot I got it out and started ‘playing’ it. The echo of it’s sounds in the forest was pretty cool to listen to!

Crimson Rosellas

Crimson Rosellas

Then I continued on to Welch Track, through Jack the Miners again and back to my parents house. Are you are still wondering about the ‘non-human friends’ idea I talked about at the start of this post? In this particular case, the ‘friend’ would be the forest surrounds – the sort of friend that expects nothing of you except maybe a visit every once in a while. The sort of friend who continues to surprise with new experiences, while evoking old memories of past time spent together. And while walking in the forest, it’s hard to forget the ultimate friend, the “friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24), a Divine friend who guides our steps and watches over our path (Psalms 23), who knows our innermost secrets (both good and bad) and remains the most stedfast, truest and loyal friend.

(For some more info on the weekend, see: http://www.jimsmodeltrains.ws/blog.php?id=390 .)