Sunday, 23 August 2009

Sunday 23 August 2009 - Old Great North Road + Spiders

An Epic Ride - absolutely beautiful, big, exhausting, great fun.

Perfect weather, perfect track conditions, great company.

Life is excellent, and mountain bike riding on a day like this, in Dharug and Yengo National Parks, is a great way to be reminded of that!

Whisperer, Dylan (aka LadyToast) and Stephe set off at a leisurely 7.30am from Chatswood, arrived at the 'chook shed' end of Mangrove Mountain at around 8.45am. Where we bumped into Glen, who was also about to set off on an explore of the Old Great North road environs, and convinced him to join us...

So, we all set off together, down the big hill, across the valley floor, up Simpson's Track to Ten Mile Hollow and then up to the Western Commission Track junction with OGNR.

Glenn demonstrating along the way that he was a fit bugger, so keeping Dylan company, and Whisperer being kind and keeping Stephe company a little way behind on the hills. We then stepped up the pace a little on the single track, although Glen had to leave us about five minutes in so that he would get back in time...

The track was beautiful and flowing - the air was clear and the sky a fantastic shade of blue. And the riding was fun - all of which distracted us from taking too many photos unfortunately.

We did stop and play on the two stage rock platforms for a while, where Dylan discovered major front wheel tyre burping (more than once) on the challenging rock step - which kept he and Whisperer amused for a while on a "technical review".

From there it was smooth sailing along the ridge to the Spiders Track turn off, where we grabbed a bite to eat. The temperature was getting up, but still pretty near perfect...

Our first real shock of the day was when we started down from the obviously graded turn off point to discover that the grading continued along the Spiders Track itself. Turns out that it's now a major two lane freeway (give or take...) graded in for burn off access, running the entire length of the track until the launch point for the downhill run.

But, as it happens, that just made the ride to the top of the descent a good little blast - and then the fun started...

Apparently a bunch of (400!) horses had been through recently, with some major churning of the soil cover (and lots of hoof marks on the sandstone along the track generally). The net result for the descent into the creek at the end of Spiders was that there was a lot of sand filling in the bigger rocky bits, and a lot of sand loosely covering rocks - which made for a fast, broadly uncontrolled descent with one or both wheels slipping at any one time. It was a deadset hoot and a holler. Ear to ear grin stuff. Much goodness.

In any case, we made it to the creek alive, tried to do 'limited dabs' along the creek with varying degrees of success, and then emerged into the farmland at the other end, where we bumped into Ranger Richard (apparently he does South Yengo, and Ranger Jeff who we previously met out there does North Yengo). We had a good yarn about horses, erosion, burning back, the meaning of life and such like, and then headed off on our way out to the road.

After an uneventful passage on the road, and then a challenging (now getting hot) ride up Shepherd's Gully, we made it to Devines Hill where Stephe demanded a rest and another feed (the healthy lads had been pushing the pace all day, and it was beginning to show on the less fit members of the crew (well, actually, just Stephe) at that point).

We then cruised back along the ridge line, with Whisperer and Dylan challenging each other on each of the climbs (as elite athletes are wont to do!). At Ten Mile Hollow we diverted up to Clare's Bridge, and then down Donny's Trail - which was yet another absolute blast - including a fast and sketchy drop back to the valley floor.

Not ashamed to say that at least one member of the crew was using the granny gear up the big hill back to the chook sheds at the end, after more than six hours of elapsed riding (but only four or so actually riding, according to Whisperer's records - hmmmm).

The track looked like this:

The minimal photos are here, and the .kmz of the track is here (a google earth 'flyover' of the track, with 'terrain exaggeration' turned on to 2 or higher, is *really* cool... Don't forget to turn off all the waypoints though (it works much better just doing a tour of the tracklog)).

400 elapsed minutes, and 64kms of pure bliss... and we all slept very well that night!


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