The last few months of Tour Divide training have kept me busy and churning through the miles. 600+km a week of work, hill repeats, efforts, long rides, trail rides, racing the Otway Odyssey, but maybe seemingly counter intuitively; not a lot of bike packing. The truth is I get a lot of long, slow, junk miles at work and so instead with the help of coach Jess Douglas, I’ve been focusing on getting stronger and faster.
A few weekends ago however I did take advantage of the long weekend and head out for an overnighter.
After taking the train to Moe, I headed north, working my way through the typical green rolling hills of Gippsland that always welcomes you to the mountains.
The climbing started as I rejoined the Moe-Walhalla Rd, plugging along the bitumen at a decent pace. A quick pitstop in Erica for a couple of disappointing potato cakes and then onto South Face Rd.
The gravel road briefly descends before pitching up and winding its way towards the Mt Baw Baw summit. The road was mildly corrugated, which made climbing difficult at times but was mostly shaded by dense trees which helped ward off the rising heat.
5kms from the ski village South Face joins the sealed tourist road and I made the mistake of letting myself think the hard work was done. How wrong I was. The road pitched up to consistently around 12% all the way to the village.
At the top a treated myself to a coke and a Gatorade from one of the stores and enjoyed them whilst taking in the view back over Gippsland below.
From here I followed the trails across to the summit cairn before beginning my traverse of the Plateau. Heading off on the XC mountain bike trails before joining the walking track across to Mt St Phillack and then Mushroom Rocks. This section required a few short stints of waking, but nothing serious and was mostly rideable.
Once reaching the beginning of the ascent to Mt St Gwinnear I noticed a cross country ski trail skirt off to the left. Consulting my map I confirmed it diverted around the summit and decided to follow this around to the Gwinnear ski carpark where I could join onto the Thomson Valley Rd.
This would carry me north along the western edge of the Thomson Dam, although I couldn’t even grab the slightest glimpse of it through the trees. A great gravel road, but there were a lot of signs of heavy logging activity in the area and the lush green of the treeferns was dulled by a thick coating of dust kicked up by the logging trucks.
I soon joined Nine Mile Rd, passing very near to the head of the Yarra River as the sun began to get low in the sky, casting long shadows through the towering gums.
I arrived at the junction of the Warburton-Woods Point Rd just in time to be treated to a spectacular sky as the sun set across the valley and I enjoyed the smooth sailing of a short section of bitumen before the road again turned to gravel. Rolling up and down along the ridge it was soon time to turn on my dynamo light.
A right hand turn onto Frenchman’s Spur Track pointed me north again and would carry me down to Big River. Although I was getting low on water I decided to make a dry bivy on one of the grassy firebreaks off the main track. Big River is a very popular spot of car-camping and 4wDers and I decided it would be more peaceful to pull up for the night a bit short of the river.
As I threw out my bivy and sleeping bag the night sky came alive with bright stars. Laying back in my bivy taking in the massive sky I was content. A hard day’s riding and a quiet spot to rest my head is all I need.
Waking in the morning to an amazing sunrise and a ripping descent down to Big River, I scoffed down a couple of muesli bars and filled my bidons at a little creek. Filtering my water with a new Katadyn filter that I’m trying out.
The road was in a great condition up to Cumberland Junction, compacted by the heavy traffic through the area, and despite the mild incline I was flying along.
Down the amazing Observation Rd through to Warburton taking in spectacular views of the Yarra Valley laid out before me.
From Warby it’s back into well trodden territory. O’Shannesey Trail, Don Rd over Panton Gap into Healesville, Lowes Rd (a new one for me and a banger gravel climb) up to Toolangi before the classic hit Old Toolangi Rd back down to Dixon’s Creek.
A few last little kicks up Uplands Rd and Tuans Track to Skyline then into Buttermans and the Smiths Gully wiggle and banging down Red Shirt Gully into Hurstbridge for the train Home.