Sunday, February 5, 2017

Fitzroy Falls To The Valley

As you may have noticed over the last year or so, I have been a bit slack in keeping this blog up to date. While I have been doing plenty to blog about, well, doing that stuff takes up a lot of time and I have no time left to blog about it. Vicious circle eh?

In that vein, this post is a little late as the ride occurred waaaay back on the 28th of December. 

We were all down in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales for Christmas and having our bikes with us I was keen to do something a little different. Different to riding single track that is. I happened across a map of where to ride in the Southern Highlands and one ride lept out at me. The Fitzroy Falls To The Valley was a point to point forest ride with a net altitude loss of 500 metres (1650ft). 

I thought "that sounds pretty easy, especially as the kids haven't done a lot of riding lately"......

So, a few days after Christmas we catch the "Mum" shuttle to Fitzroy Fall carpark. Well, almost to the carpark. The trail heads back 300m in our direction so we just hopped out at the first turn off the sealed road, Gwen Rd and proceeded to kit up.

The road started as a rough sealed affair but very soon turned to dirt. Almost immediately we were at the Twin Falls lookout. There were a lot of people there, including a dumb German tourist who had to ignore the fence and stand right on the edge of the 1500ft drop in her thongs (flip flops to everyone else). No wonder they take a header off this mortal coil at times......

We quickly moved on so we didn't have to witness any sillyness. Well, apart from our own ride that is.

The trail consisted of the usual sandstone/sand mix that is found everywhere along the Great Dividing Range. The undulations weren't too steep and the kids chatted away, Chatting = good. Silence or whinging = bad.

We popped out onto a quiet back road for a while before plunging back into the bush on a fire road.

After dodging a bunch of four-wheel-drivers we had a little trouble finding a link track. 

Luckily I had downloaded a gps track of the trail but even with that to go on the link was really hard to find. Once we found it though it proved to be a very pleasant little section of single track with the odd downed tree that needed skirting around.

This link simply let us cut across the hypotenuse of the fire road network thus saving a little time. We soon met three other mountain bikers who couldn't find the link and had gone the long way. Win!

More good fire trail ensued. While it rolled up and down, there was no whinging so it must have been ok. It passed close to the edge of the escarpment in a few places which provided us with some glimpses over Morton National Park.

We soon came to the fun bit. Griffins fire trail drops off the escarpment something like 500m vertical. Well, not vertical but in a very business-like manner (5.2km). 


The forest changed almost immediately from the typical dry sclerophyll forest that is the Aussie "bush" to something much more tropical like. We liked it!

This was a brake burning descent and my climbing senses were tingling. This happens whenever I ride down a road that is too easy, too steep. 

I have been caught out with some massive climbs over the years shortly after a road tips steeply downhill. But today was meant to be about descents, right? This ride had a 500m net drop, right?

At the bottom of the descent the trail followed Yarrunga Creek. It was a pleasant rolling ride but the increase in temperature here in the valley was noticeable. It had gone from maybe high twenties to almost mid thirties Celsius. Not ideal and Miss 14 started to whine a little.

Griffins Farm turned out to be a nice flat area alongside the creek that would make a great campsite in cooler weather. We checked it out while Miss 14 rested. 
I must pencil in some bikepacking around here.....

Now, there WAS one climb in this ride that the brochure mentioned but it was only 150m (500ft) and one that I thought the kids would have little problem with. The issue was that someone was getting "hangry" and wouldn't do anything about it. "I'm not hungry" was shot back at me when I suggested (several times) that she eat something. Arriving at the creek crossing, where the climb out began, I enforced a sit down rest break to try to restore some equilibrium to a short person because frankly, it was starting to piss me off! 

When you are deep into a ride, self rescue is the only option which I thought I had taught the kids over the last few years. You can't give up because there will only be embarrassment at one's weaknesses if you can't get yourself out of what you have got into..
No folks, I was not happy!

After a respite it was time to get the ugly bit of the ride over and done with. This first entailed crossing the creek and the kids excitement at this bode well for the climb.

That excitement quickly fizzled though. Why is it always hot as hell when you are climbing. No seriously, why does the wind stop and the sun seem to beat down upon you?

The next 1.5km and 500ft of climb were hot (my Garmin said 38C/100F and our progress slowed to a crawl. Well, actually it stopped altogether quite a few times. I ended up pushing Miss 14's bike quite a bit as she could only barley walk up the hill. When I offered the same for Will he said "No, I am going to do this" and wouldn't accept any help. 
Bless his little cotton mtb socks!

Some more sitting seemed to help......

National Parks Dept rangers passed us in a ute and asked if we were ok, had plenty of water. Yes, we sure did. That might have been the problem as the kids were hauling 3 litres each from the start of the ride. They would still have at least half that now and it would be dragging them back but you can't bring too much water with you in Australia!

Eventually we crested the climb and exited the National Park onto Jack's Road. There was much rejoicing!!

The road became a little more civilised now but I think the kids were cooked. I HAD forgotten about their relative lack of fitness. Three weeks of sitting around in the air conditioning since finishing school had turned them into marshmallow. Even the sight of an Echidna crossing the road did little to excite them.

The 13 kilometres from here took about 50 minutes even though they were for at least half of the ride on sealed road. We arrived into a very hot Kangaroo Valley township and headed straight for the pub for a jug or two (or was it three?) of squash(soda) and something to eat.

Despite the whining, the heat and that one bugger of a climb the kids did actually do really well. The ride was a solid  38km(24mi) with 500m climbing but thankfully also 1500m descending.

It is a ride that I would highly recommend to anyone visiting the area. In cooler weather it would be a doddle. The views and sights along the way make for a pleasant few hours in the saddle. Maps can be found at the Southern Highlands Visitor Centre in Mittagong or below from Strava.