And that was it, for now


Note: photos will be added in a  later post…

Last Friday I left home early in the morning and found the James Reserve near Swanpool in Victoria where Rebecca, Eliana and I would be camping for the weekend, got camp set up, put a new mountain bike tyre on the back rim of my bike, took it for a test ride, then waited for the girls to arrive, which eventually they did.

Sabbath morning we went for a bit of a walk after breakfast and I tried to explain to Eliana what it meant to have a sense of ‘wow’. Later we went for a drive around the area and were greeted with rain, rain, and more rain. Wow! But it was good to have a Sabbath out in nature without any artificial stimuli. After the rain stopped Eliana decided that it would be fun to climb up and down the earth embankment on the other side of the creek with the girls camped next to us. If the level of mud she collected on her clothes was any indication then she really enjoyed herself.

Sunday we woke early, had breakfast, packed up the girl’s camping equipment, and while they headed home I headed to Yea to ride to Alexandra with 2 Strava friends on the Great Victorian Railtrail. By 8am we had started the ride, and we passed through the Cheviot tunnel, then down to Molesworth. From there to Cathkin proved interesting as the recent rains had made the trail somewhat boggy. From Cathkin the trail was better, AND uphill to within a few km of Alexandra.

We stopped there for a while, had some sustenance, and then started to head towards Yea. For the first few kms back I went ok. But then I seemed to run out of energy which didn’t matter too much until the climb out of Molesworth. But by then the lack of energy really took it’s toll as I ever so slowly slowly pedalled up the 10km or so to the Cheviot tunnel. By the tunnel I was exhausted, thankfully there was some downhill most of the way to Yea from there.

At Yea we discussed the ride, and it was suggested that I might have been dehydrated or not properly fuelled for the ride, both of which I had the opportunity to test later on my holiday.

From Yea I travelled back to camp and made myself some soup / noodle / veggie concoction which tasted great. The next day I packed up camp and travelled to Mountain Creek Campground near Mount Beauty and set up camp.

From there the 4×4 track beckoned so I took the bike for a spin towards the Eskdale Spur. As there were a number of creek crossings I chose to use the bridges on the parallel walking track for the creek crossings where they existed. Even still, I had to traverse at least one creek where there was no walking bridge. About 5km into the ride I decided enough was enough – those hills just seemed to be getting steeper! And so turned and headed towards camp. At one point a stick jammed itself into the rear derailer which caused a failure of one of the many vital components. Not to worry, it was mostly downhill back to camp.

The next day, Tuesday, my plan was to ride along the Trappers Gap Road from the campsite until it stopped going up hill, which was about 8km, and then return back to camp. But first I had to make the vital component that failed the previous day not-so-vital.

Wednesday, and this was to be a real challenge. The plan: ride the ascent of Mt Buffalo. I decided to have a high protein breakfast to start the day – 2 x Nutolene sandwiches, an Up-n-Go, and a banana. And before the ride I had 600ml of water. So dosed up on carbs, protein and water I started the ride from Eurobin Creek Picnic Area. This ride should have been harder than the railtrail ride, but overall my energy levels were better than the railtrail ride and more consistent over the 20+ kms of climbing probably helped by the more regular sips of water along the ascent and the banana and Up-n-Go I had at the Mt Buffalo Chalet. And I guess the promise of 20km of downhill roll on the way back spurred me on somewhat too. I suspect I need to pack some low-GI snacks and plenty of water on long or hard rides in future and not be reluctant to actually partake of them enroute.

After completing the Mt Buffalo ride, I headed back to camp and as I had heard that there was going to be rain I decided that it would be better to break camp while everything was still dry, and so packed up and travelled to my parents-in-laws for a few days to see if there was likely to be any more fine days before the weekend.

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Nail Can Hill and WJ Steers Hike


Yesterday, Jesse (my 15 year old son) and I decided that it would be a good to spend some time outdoors instead of being inside and attending church. And so after some discussion we decided to do some hiking in an area with a very inviting name called Nail Can Hill (can you sense the sarcasm). Actually the Nail Can Hill reserve is a very pleasant area to hike in inspite of the name, and is very accessible from numerous roads in the Albury (New Wouth Wales) / Wodonga (Victoria) area. The reserve, and the WJ Steers tracks, basically follows a set of mountain ridges between a War Memorial monument that overlooks the Albury central business district to a location called the Jindera Gap.

War Monument Albury

War Monument Albury

The reserve is home to eucalyptus trees and various wildlife, the trees generally being quite short (20 feet or so). The ground is generally rocky. The main tracks themselves are quite well defined and are about wide enough to drive a car along although it is usually used by walkers, mountain bikers, joggers, and the like.

Walking Trail Nail Can Hill Reserve

Walking Trail Nail Can Hill Reserve

View of Albury from Nail Can Hill main trail

View of Albury and Airport from Nail Can Hill main trail

Rebecca dropped of Jesse and me at the Albury Botanic Gardens, and we proceeded to hike up to the monument between the houses and on the well defined asphalt paths leading up to the monument from the urban area. Then we hiked through a ‘wildlife corridor’ into the Nail Can Hill reserve proper. Some of the tracks we walked were quite steep and required considerable effort. But as we are both fairly fit we made it up each ascent without problems.

Along the way we found a side track to a lookout, and decided that as it was only a kilometre to the lookout that we would go and have a look.

View of Wodonga and Murray valley

View of Wodonga and Murray valley from lookout

View of Wodonga and Murray Valley

View of Wodonga and Murray valley from lookout

View of Wodonga and Murray Valley

View of Wodonga and Murray Valley from lookout

Lookout Summit

Lookout Summit Cairn

After that we continued on our way and eventually reached Centaur Road, one of the only about 3 roads that crosses through the reserves. I think at that point the reserve changed name to WJ Steers or Hamilton Range, according to the map I was using to navigate. North of Centaur Road the trail was quite different – it was not as well defined, and so was harder to follow in places, and more ‘wild’. The sounds of the city of Albury and it’s suburbs could no longer be heard either.

Steep trail north of Centaur Rd

Steep trail north of Centaur Rd

The plan was to try to go from the southern edge of the combination of reserves to it’s northern most extent, but along the way we must have taken a wrong turn because we ended up back at Centaur Rd after looping around somehow, and so we decided to have lunch there instead of Jindera Gap like we had planned. Then we hiked back to the Monument, where we had a well deserved rest while we waited for Rebecca and the girls to pick us up.

Fungus

Fungus? Around a tree root on the trail.

The weather was overcast for most of the hike, so the humidity was quote high and so the sweat didn’t dissipate but at least the cloud cover made the breeze on the hills quite pleasant! We really enjoyed the day and the suggestion that we set one Sabbath aside each month we we go for a hike or do something outdoors was well received!

Sweat

Sweat!

For GPS data for the hike, try the following links:

It only took 5 months!


Thats how long it took for me to complete the Great Victorian Rail Trail (GVRT, previously know as the Goulburn Valley High Country Rail Trail). In September last year I rode the Tallarook – Mansfield trail, which is most of the trail, but I didn’t do the Cathkin – Alexandra branch at that time. Today I rode that section, so now I have completed the whole GVRT!

Alexandra Railway Crane

Alexandra Railway Crane

The Cathkin – Alexandra branch is a 14km trail with all the old railway bridges rebuilt, similar to the Tallarook – Mansfield trail. The trail surface was a little corrugated in places, but not to the point of being dangerous unless you have no idea how to ride a bike! It closely follows the formation of the former Victorian Railways branch of the same name. There were some great views towards the Cathedral Range near the highest point of the ride.

View from trail near highest point on ride

View from trail near highest point on ride

View from trail near highest point on ride

View from trail near highest point on ride

I had left home at 9am, and travelled along fairly boring highways and freeways till Euroa then turned towards Alexandra via Merton. Arriving at Alexandra about 12:10, I got my bike ready and headed towards Cathkin. The trail at Alexandra starts with a fairly tough but short climb, followed by a deceptive descent. I say deceptive because it wasn’t very long and then there was another climb to the highest point on the trail. Then there is a fairly steep descent for a few kilometres followed by a gradual descent pretty much all the way to Cathkin.

Along the way I had a couple of snake-related scares – I saw one brown snake and managed to avoid it, but a few kilometres further on I saw another longer one and ran over the end of it’s tail. As I knew I was going to run over it I promptly put my legs up as high up as possible (with my feet at about handlebar height, if you want a mental picture). The snake didn’t seem to strike but I did a quick check for twin puncture marks which would suggest a snake bite but found none, and as I didn’t feel any strike I figured the possibility of being bitten was low so I continued on. That second encounter scared me a bit, but the snake didn’t seem to take much notice of my running over the tip of it’s tail. It should be noted that these two encounters with snakes were the first times I had every encountered a snake on a bike ride. And I wondered whether it was the time of day – most of my rides are early in the morning or late towards evening. Mental note: watch out for snakes on this holiday! Following are some photos of the trail.

Shelter near highest point on the ride

Shelter near highest point on the ride

Cutting

Cutting a few kilometres out of Alexandra

Eglington Gap

Eglington Gap – the highest point on the trail

I completed the ride at about 1:45 and as I had not had any lunch (I didn’t want to ride on a full stomach!) I then promptly found a take away shop and purchased a Vegetarian Burger which didn’t take long to get devoured.

Alexandra is on the Maroondah highway so I decided to continue along it to Healsville then turn south to my parents house where I was going to be staying for most of the holiday. But as there was a car hauling a large boat I decided to go the scenic route and turned off at Buxton onto the Acheron way which goes over the mountain range to Warburton. Travelling along the Acheron Way and through Warburton was probably no quicker than going through Healsville and the Black Spur. Actually it probably took longer! But it was really pleasant driving along the Acheron Way and I am glad I went that way as I only saw two cars between Buxton and Warburton – one was trying to turn around and had managed to block the road not far fro a corner. I’m guessing he got his licence from a cereal box!

From Warburton it was a veeery leisurely drive to Woori Yallock, then to Cockatoo, and then finally to my parents house.

GPS data for today’s ride can be found at: http://www.strava.com/activities/117097685

Cycling Holiday Day 2 – GVRT – Yea – Bonnie Doon


Buying that packet of ‘Shapes’ savory biscuits that was on sale was not a good idea! I had a funny stomach most of the night and had to visit the ‘porcelain bus’ a few times to empty the bowels. And inspite of the 40km ride yesterday, I didn’t sleep very well. So I started getting ready about 6am, planning to depart Yea at 7am. When I left there was a fairly thick fog, but once I got through the Cheviot tunnel, about 9km from Yea, the sky was clear. There was a threatening sky around Molesworth, with banks of cloud rolling through the valley, but about 30 minutes later the sky was clear blue and it styed that way until Bonnie Doon.

Fog

Fog

The ride from Yea to the Cheviot Tunnel was across the Yea River flats, and so there were a lot of bridges. And then the climb to the tunnel began, which wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be but it was hard enough. The Cheviot Tunnel is one of the key features of the Goulburn Valley rail trail. It was (is) the only tunnel on the line / trail and was made using handmade bricks made from local clay. The tunnel is 201 metres (660 feet) long and is the longest rail tunnel in Victoria, although whether you would still call it a ‘rail’ tunnel could be debated as no railway runs through it today, only the rail trail. It is estimated that there are approximately 657,000 bricks in the tunnel.

Cheviot tunnel

Cheviot tunnel

Cheviot tunnel brickwork

Cheviot tunnel brickwork

Cheviot Tunnel marked a major cycling milestone for me: 500km in a calendar month (so far). The scenery so far on this cycling holiday has really been ‘good for the soul’. Around Trawool is very beautiful, but east of Yea is also beautiful. Here are a few pictures of scenery between Cheviot Tunnel and Molesworth.

Scenery between Cheviot and Molesworth

Scenery between Cheviot and Molesworth

Scenery between Cheviot and Molesworth

Scenery between Cheviot and Molesworth

After the tunnel, there was a pleasant down grade for quite a way, and a bridge (or more, I can’t remember) across creeks. Harvey’s Gully is in this area and was the scene of a derailment in 1911, and the picture I saw of it showed part of the train on the bridge and part of the train in the gully and the locomotive looks like it is upsidedown. I don’t know whether the picture of the bridge below are the Harvey Gully bridge, as the approaches to the gully in the 1911 photo I saw of the bridge looks quite different to the photo below. Also in the near vicinity was a concrete milepost, and a wallaby.

87 miles from Melbourne

87 miles from Melbourne

Bridge between Cheviot and Molesworth

Bridge between Cheviot and Molesworth

Wallaby

Wallaby

Molesworth Station area is now a car park, and had one iddy biddy section of track, which I assume is on the original alignment as it points in what appears to be the right direction.

Molesworth track

Molesworth track

Just to the east of Molesworth, the trail crosses the Goulburn River flats on a number of bridges. The two longest ones had concrete supports when the railway line closed, and some of the others were timber trestle bridges.

Goulburn River flats bridge

Goulburn River flats concrete supports bridge

Goulburn River flats bridge

Goulburn River flats concrete supports bridge

Goulburn River flats bridge

Goulburn River flats trestle bridge piers

Goulburn River flats bridge

Goulburn River flats trestle bridge

Cathkin, like so many other places that had stations when the railway operated, was little more than a few mounds of dirt and the occasional ‘evidence’ of there being a railway in the area. This location was where the branch line to Alexandra diverged, and apparently was quite a busy place when trains where split – 1/2 the train going to Alexandra and the other 1/2 going to Mansfield. I did see evidence of a web designer there…

Evidence of a web designer at Cathkin

Evidence of a web designer at Cathkin

Yarck and Kanumbra came and went, then it was the hard climb to the highest point on the trail – the Merton Gap, at 397 metres above sea level. The climb was long, and most of it I was using the lower gears on the bike. And just when I thought is was about to end, it just kept on going. Man, it was tough! But I eventually got to the top, and then it was a rather pleasand down grade to Merton, where I stopped to buy a fruit juice (Banana and Mango). I wish I hadn’t purchased the drink as after I drank it my energy levels seemed lower than they were before. Or maybe it was just that the climb to Merton Gap had used a lot of my energy reserves. Whatever the reason I found it hard going for the next 15km to Bonnie Doon. The scenery approaching Bonnie Doon was, well, rather than use an adjective to describe it why I just show you the pictures…

Lake Eildon approaching Bonnie Doon

Lake Eildon approaching Bonnie Doon

Pelicans on Lake Eildon

Pelicans on Lake Eildon

Lake Eildon near Bonnie Doon

Lake Eildon near Bonnie Doon

Old farm building near Bonnie Doon

Old farm building near Bonnie Doon

That brought the day’s ride to 62km. I guess I have a certain right to not have much energy after a ride like that!

A great, if somewhat tiring, ride! I would do it again, but not in Spring (swooping magpies gets a bit on the nerves after a while) and would probably not do it while wearing a pack on my back as my shoulders were getting pretty sore by the end of the ride.

For GPS tracking of todays ride, see: