Monday, January 17, 2011

The Pineys

Finally, we are on the way home and a regular destination to break the drive is Armidale, NSW. There is something that I love about this part of Australia that is to do with the elevation. It is about 3200 ft above sea level, which is about as high as it gets for any town in Australia. This attracted settlers from northern England, in particular the Scots and they have left their distinct mark on the New England Tablelands. They planted trees native to England and now 150-200 years later there are some majestic old trees gracing Armidale and lending to it's character.

A plus on this layover is that in the latest issue of Australian Mountain Bike was a write up of the trails in The Piney. Armidale State Forest, it seems, is home to both walking and MTB trails that are worth a look. Well, any excuse to get out in the countryside is good enough for this little black duck. So it was a 5:30am stealth mission so as to not wake the family. All was going well until I found I did not have the point and shoot camera on me. It was safely in the motel room with three sleeping family members! D'oh! The camera on the trusty Samsung Galaxy phone would have to suffice.

With lots of current information at hand I set off for The Piney. It is a mere five kilometres out of town on Rockvale Rd and is the child of the New England Mountain Bike Club. The first fly in the ointment was that the second forest entrance at 4.9km on Rockvale Rd did not look like the map and the trail markers were orange on white, not black on white as advertised. This very quickly sorted itself out, as black arrows on white signs appeared. Maybe I had missed an entrance to the forrest in the fog during the ride out.
This was it! I was in! Despite the fog!
I went left, up the hill, from this photo and quickly found myself at the top of Angry Eyes.

The big difference that I noticed right off between here and Kinross pine forest in Orange was that this was an older forest with more widely spaced trees. This allowed the grass to grow between the trees and made for a beautiful riding experience, with ankle deep green grass everywhere. Quite a novelty in January in Australia! The trail was also very well marked. On some of the longer stretches, just as you would think to yourself "am I going the right way?" a trail marker would appear to ease your concerns. Very nice!

Some very nice trail features adorn the track. The "A" lines would probably be "B" lines here in Brisbane, but it makes you feel good to ride all the A lines for a change!
From here it was around to Lucy's Leap

Then over to the newer section of forest. Big Dog's Den was fast fun zipping across the hillside through the pines.

From here you make your way back into the older forest and climb Snakes and Ladders to Crows Nest and back to Angry Eyes.

There is about nine kilometres of trail in here and it doesn't take too long to get around, so the obvious thing to do is to complete a few laps. The 3000ft elevation helps take the sting out of your legs. I found that I was gasping for air yet my heart rate was fifteen to twenty beats lower than when I gasp like this at sea level.

I really enjoyed the trails here in Armidale. As I rode back to town I struggled to put my finger on the reason why I had enjoyed it so much. The trails were well marked....tick, the trails were very picturesque....tick, the trails were fun to ride....tick, I could ride A lines for once....tick!, it was a beautiful, cool, clear morning....tick, it was the last ride as my annual leave petered out....tick. So many reasons and I guess they all had a part to play in helping me cement a very pleasant memory of Armidale Pine Forest. I know where I will be breaking the drive in future, so there had better be room for the MTB.

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