Preview of a Rail Trail


Yesterday (Sunday 12h Oct) I was able to take part in a ‘not-quite-rail-trail’ ride. The reason it was ‘not-quite-rail-trail’ was because it followed as closely as possible where a planned rail trail would go, but was not on the exact route of the trail. The ride was planned by the Albury Wodonga Pedal Power group, a group of ‘lycra is optional’ cyclists who main aim is to enjoy the pleasures of cycling, having fun, excersizing and socializing ( website ).

The ride was to promote the idea of converting the disused Culcairn – Corowa railway line into a rail trail. These trails have become quite common in all areas of Australia, except NSW! Although it looks like that is soon to change.

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Landscape near Orielda Siding

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Various shots of riders on the ride

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Near Orielda Siding

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Probably the highest point on the ride, this was about 6km from Brockelsby, and a good place to have a rest before the final downhills into Brocklesby.

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Old timber railway bridge near Brocklesby

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Near Orielda Siding

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Burrumbuttock Silos and Station

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You can tell we are in the country

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Various types of bikes – Lloyd’s recumbent cycle. Other types of bikes on the ride included single-speed BMX, fold-up, road and mountain bikes.

The plan was that when we reached Brocklesby we would attend the dedication of a tourism site commemorating a mid-air collision of two Arvo Anson aircraft near the town in World War II.

BrocklesbyHotel_with_2_ArvoAnsons_0589Then we packed the bikes into the support bus’s trailer, found seats in the bus and got to enjoy the return trip to Walla Walla in motorised comfort, eating orange cake and discussing the ride and riding in general, and the future rail trail. And something happened that rarely happens for me – I had a kind-of post-ride ‘buzz’, a sense of contentment and almost extreme happiness that I don’t remember ever experiencing after a bike ride. Maybe that is because I got to spent time riding with other cyclists (a rarity for me) in the beautiful countryside and a very pleasant spring day.

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Bike trailer and packed at Brocklesby

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Some of the group.

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.

Looking Forward


While I sit at home, battling a bronchial cough, and wistfully looking forward to getting back on the bicycle again, I have been considering how my cycling efforts might be of help to more than just me. There are obvious health benefits (not just physical but mental and spiritual as well) from cycling for the individual cyclist and I have been the grateful recipient of those benefits over the 5 or so years. But up till about a month ago my cycling has not been any real benefit to wider society.

Cutting near Alexnadra on Great Victorian trail

Cutting near Alexandra on Great Victorian trail

 

Rail Trails

Corowa turntable on what would be the Culcairn - Corowa trail

Corowa turntable on what would be the Culcairn – Corowa trail

About a month or so ago, I offered some photos to a rail-trail advocacy website. The result of that was that I was approached by the co-ordinator for Rail Trails for New South Wales ( http://www.railtrailsnsw.com.au/ ) and have been working as part of a team working on a proposal to turn the local disused railway line near where we live into a rail-trail. For those who don’t know what a rail-trail is, they “are shared-use paths recycled from abandoned railway corridors. They can be used for walking, cycling and horse riding” ( http://www.railtrails.org.au/what-are-rail-trails/introduction ). Over the last year or so I have personally experienced the benefits of rail-trails, having ridden a number of them so far:

  • The Murray to Mountains trail between Wahgunyah and Rutherglen, and between Wangaratta, Beechworth and Bright.
  • The High Country trail between Wodonga and Old Tallangatta.
  • The Bass Coast Trail between Wonthaggi and Anderson.
  • The Great Southern trail between Toora and Koonwarra.
  • The Warby trail between Lilydale and Warburton
  • The Great Victorian trail between Tallarook, Alexandra and Mansfield.
  • Belgrave – Ringwood trail.
Yarra Junction Goods Shed on Warby trail

Yarra Junction Goods Shed on Warby trail

And I plan to ride more as time goes on. I live in the state of New South Wales (Australia), but there are relatively few rail trails in this state. All the trails I just mentioned are in Victoria, which has developed the concept of rail trails to what I would describe as a ‘fine art’ – there are rail trails everywhere, and there are a number in various stages of development across the state as well. But New South Wales up till now has only a few trails scattered throughout its bigger-than-Victoria area! Hopefully that will soon change, and it’s nice to think I might had something to do with that.

Sandy Creek bridge on High Country trail

Sandy Creek bridge on High Country trail

Ocean view from Bass Coast trail near Kilcunda

Ocean view from Bass Coast trail near Kilcunda

 

25000 Spins Great Ocean Road 2015

Over the last year or so there have been a number of ways that my cycling could have been used as a fund raiser for charities helping those less fortunate. A cycling friend of mind suggested some time ago that I go on the 25000 Spins Great Ocean Road ride, and since the start of the year I have had that goal in mind. Well, yesterday I signed up for the February 2015 ride, and gave a sizeable personal donation towards the fundraising goal I have set. The goal I have set is $5000, and I have till late January to achieve it. But there is more than just a monetary goal – I have to be able to ride 300km in 3 days. So far I haven’t been able to achieve that, although I have managed to ride 200km in 2 days. Another milestone I will need to achieve before I will be physically ready for the ride is to do at least one 120km ride – so far 104km has been my longest. So there is a bit of work ahead before I am ready to embark on Great Ocean Road experience, but it gives me two goals to work towards and they will help keep me focused.

My personal fund raising page for the 25000 Spins Great Ocean Road 2015 ride is located at: http://greatoceanrd25000spins2015.gofundraise.com.au/page/JamesStanford if you feel inspired to donate.

So while I sit here coughing and spluttering and recovering, I look forward to the 25000 Spinsaventure in February, and getting back into cycling again and meeting the challenge.

Sore muscles and other enjoyable things


Mount Lawson Valley View and Flaggy Creek Gorge Hike

Yesterday Bec and the girls were at an ‘Adventurers Day’ in one of the ‘nearby’ regional cities, and so Jesse and I took the opportunity to engage in some hiking in the ‘church with the big blue, white and grey roof’. Thats just a fancy way of saying that instead of being cooped up inside a church building made of bricks, wood and plaster we spent it outside in the great outdoors. The weather forecast said there was a ‘possibility of showers’, but that didn’t deter us.

Mount Lawson State Park is located in Victoria (Australia) about 60km east of Albury / Wodonga between the Murray Valley Highway and Murray River Road. The information brochure on the park said it is known for it’s steep slopes, cliffs and prominent rocky bluffs and is described as semi-remote. Seems to me thats a pretty reasonable description! We set out for The Kurrajongs, where the hike was to start and made final preparations to our day packs and set off. The Flaggy Creek Gorge walk is a rugged walk (again, thats what the brochure said, and it proved very true) with a number of climbs and descents. The end of the path is at the Flaggy Creek Gorge waterfalls, which is definitely worth the effort to hike in to see.

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

The scenery along the walk and at Flaggy Gorge reminded me somewhat of Missinghams Steps, a walk in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, except the cliff faces were not quite so sheer as what I remember seeing on the Missinghams Steps walk and other areas of the Illawarra. After the first ascent we reached Valley View. This provides views across the Murray River valley and looking north into what I would reckon is the Woomargama National Park.

View of the Murray Vallery from Valley View

View of the Murray Valley from Valley View

View of the Murray Vallery from Valley View

View of the Murray Valley from Valley View

Along the walk there were various interesting rock formations and I took some photos of some them.

Rock Formations

Rock Formations

Rock Formations

Rock Formations

Valley View Rock Formations

Valley View Rock Formations

After passing through Valley View we descended down onto a saddle and climbed again towards a location called The Oaks. This location didn’t seem to have any oaks at all. Maybe they got burnt out in a bush fire at some point. But we did hear a lot of Lyrebirds in this section of the walk. I hadn’t heard Lyrebirds for many years and it surprised me somewhat to hear them here. But the sheer number of different lyrebirds we heard in close proximity to each other was also something I don’t think I have experienced before. I remember hearing Lyrebird calls in Sherbrook Forest near my parents house when I was growing up. We would go for walks and we would hear lyrebirds and maybe even see one, but I don’t remember hearing a number of different birds in fairly close proximity to each other like in Mount Lawson State Park. We heard so many Lyrebirds that I concluded there must be a Lyrebird colony in this part of the park. But we didn’t see a single Lyrebird, only heard them. We saw a number of Wombat holes too. But no actual wombats except for a poor road-kill wombat on the main road that borders the park.

Interesting tree near The Oaks

Interesting tree near The Oaks

Cute little fungii

Cute little fungii

On the walk in we experienced some discomfort in the feet and legs, but the walk back ‘matured’ the discomfort somewhat. Especially the last descent from Vally View to the carpark at The Kurrajongs. By the time we got back to the car my muscles so sore and I knew that if I got into the car without doing some form of stretching or cool-down I would suffer the consequences. Even though I did some cool down stretches my muscles were pretty sore by the time I got home and I hobbled around like an old man for most of the evening. It didn’t help that I had started to get blisters on my feet too. But in spite of the muscle stress, we really enjoyed the hike. There is always a sense of achievement when one finishes such a hike!

GPS data for the hike can be found here: http://www.strava.com/activities/156101073 .

Friends of High Country Rail Trail: ‘Jarvis Creek Jaunt’

Last Friday my wife told me about a bike ride around the Tallangatta area of Victoria (south west of Mt Lawson state park, and about 40km from Wodonga). The official information for the site said it suited Mountain Bikes or Sturdy Hybrids. Armed with that information I decided to do a test ride on Eliana’s mountain bike around Albury on Friday. This produced a decision to NOT take her mountain bike on the ride – it produced a lot of sore muscles, which contributed somewhat to the muscle soreness on the Mt Lawson hike. So I decided to risk taking my foldable bike with mountain bike rims and hope that it would handle the roads / tracks and terrain ok. I needn’t have worried – it handled the whole ride superbly – much better than the one riding it!

Leaving home at about 6:45am on Sunday and having some pretty thick fog to negotiate didn’t bode well but by the time I was east of Wodonga the fog was starting to lift. Along the way, at Edben, I saw this…

Fog over Lake Hume at Ebden

Fog over Lake Hume at Ebden

… and arrived in Tallangatta about 20 minutes later.

The ride is a 48km rail trail / road and mountain track ride. For the first part of the ride it was fairly easy being along the High Country Rail Trail, which follows the formation of the Wodonga – Cudgewa Railway. The rails have long since gone, but today a large portion of the railway formation has been converted to a Rail Trail. Then we headed across a very empty Lake Hume into Old Tallangatta and started to climb towards the highest point of the ride. Along Georges Creek Road was a steady climb with some undulations. And then we turned into Mitchells Track (I think that was it’s name). At this point it was getting foggy again, and the track was very damp but not too slippery. This climb was rather steep, and went for about 3km, with an average grade of 7%. That means there were some areas where it was steeper! An ascent of 7% for that length on a bike ride is something I have never experienced before – previously I would simply walk the bike up hills like that. Even still, I managed it ok today and would try it again, although not so soon after a hike that caused so much muscle soreness (ie, the Flaggy Gorge hike). Eventually we turned onto Plateau Rd, which as it’s name implies follows the plateau and soon we arrived at the designated place for some morning tea. Damper, muffins, tea and coffee were on offer. I decided on a choc-chip muffin and a piece of damper. Yummy! Damper is sort of a bit like scones, but is associated more with the Aussie bush and was or is cooked around a camp fire by swagmen, stockmen, drovers, campers and other travellers. After morning tea we continued on our way, for the most pleasant part of the ride – the downhill bits! Normally along this part of the ride we would have had some awesome views, but while on Plateau Rd the fog was mostly below us and so all we saw was the peaks of mountains poking through a sea of fog.

Fog below Plateau Road

Fog below Plateau Road

Eventually we turned onto Jarvis Creek Road, which marked the descent into Old Tallangatta. And coasted down the hill to where we would join the rail trail once again. Then it was back along the relatively gentle grades of the rail trail back into Tallangatta. The Friends of the High Country Rail Trail did a great job of organising the event, and providing morning tea, and provided check points along the way and an official rider at the back of the group to catch any who I guess couldn’t go any further. Some of the riders this year had done the ride in previous years, there were some like me who had never done the ride before, and there was even one rider who did the Jaunt as his first ride. After some lunch at Tallangatta I headed home and waddled inside, with sore muscles but that much sort after sense of achievement.

GPS data for the ride can be found here: http://www.strava.com/activities/156511052 .