The 3 hour reccy ride.
I’ve been through Walhalla a few times, but never with enough time to poke about. It’s the lunch stop on my Wood’s Point Century ride, but that’s not the kind of ride where a leisurely lunch fits in the schedule too well. Walhalla looks like it hasn’t changed much from some time around 1872 and is steeped in gold rush history. There is a cricket field pitched high above the town and I’ve been meaning to get up there to check it out from the first time I’d heard about it.
The road into Walhalla was covered in bark and leaf debris form the recent winds, and somewhere along this route my partner decided that her planned ride on the TT bike wasn’t such a great option. Instead, she’d come with me. She sounded me out on my intentions, I just wanted to head up and check a few roads out that I hadn’t been on before. Her plan wasn’t to spend all day on the bike, but to ride for around 3 hours. “It’s just a 3 hour reccy ride, not a 7 hour adventure ride” may have been spoken by me with some authority.
In the morning, we duly packed up, went for a wander up and down the main street of town and kitted up. It was a wee bit brisk, but the day was looking fine. The start of the ride took us up and out the back of town on the Walhalla Woods Point Rd. We took a right turn onto Binns Rd that took me into new territory. I’d ridden between Woods Point and Walhalla a few times and always wondered where this road led to. I was excited, and we were climbing. Such a great piece of road.
Onwards and upwards we hit McEvoy Tk and kept climbing. By the time we got to our turnoff and near to where this road tops out, we’d climbed for most of 90 minutes. The clouds were moving fast, but the weather still seemed pretty harmless, but we were definitely in mountain country and the changes close in fast in these parts. We turned off onto Donnelly’s Creek Tk, and had a brief chat about our options.
“I don’t know where this road goes, or what condition it might be in. We may well wish we had mountain bikes and not the cross bikes, it could get a little adventurous”.
“Well what do you want to do?, we’re here now, we may as well keep going”.
What a gal. What followed was a hooning decent, a little steep
and rough to get too loose, but pretty wild fun. It was also a fair bit cooler down here and the wind had picked up. At the bottom, we had a quick map check and a couple of ol’ mates camping in the hut came out for a chat. They thought we were mad. TIme to get rolling and and our first creek crossing. It was low enough to use some stepping stones and keep the feet dry. Tempting to hit it on the bike, but I’ve seen an unsuspecting river stone take out more than one rider in my time.
What followed was a magical cruise next to the Donnelly Ck. We came across a larger group of guys camping at a shelter, a few of them had been out riding moto’s. By the time we bumped into them, it seemed it wasn’t the first beer they’d cracked. Again, a couple of them were amazed that there were a couple of idiots out riding road bikes in the middle of nowhere. Certainly a great PR exercise for cyclists, chatting to a bunch of blokes that would normally have a fair disdain for pushies. Never hurts to break down a few barriers, and some of these guys will know these roads as well as a local. One of them was incredulous, which was quite entertaining, and pretty certain we would never make it back before dark. Looking up, I realized my better half had started to roll off. I guess she though ol’ mate might be right.
A couple more creek crossings, one of which I gambled and rode through, sweet. And then the fords. The first one was a decent size and no chance of riding. It looked like the feet were going to get wet. And then the second one. When you get wet feet and the temperature is probably hovering around 6 or 7 (before the wind chill), looking across a large creek crossing to a river crossing on the other side can be a little daunting. There weren’t many options, so I waded straight through. I figured it wise to a) set a good example and b) be just far enough ahead so I had trouble discerning the frown on my partners face.
Suddenly my words describing this as a 3 hour reccy ride came floating back to me. We were well over 4 hours in, we had wet feet, the wind was up, weather threatening and the light fading. Mmm, this seemed a little adventurous after all. On the upside, I was having a ball. The climb out of the fords was solid, a beautiful grind with a few steep pinches thrown in to keep you honest.
And then we hit it. Back to the main Walhalla Woods Point Rd, woohoo. I knew my way from here, back on familiar roads. Across we went, down we went, back up we went. Past all my old favourites, the climb up to Barnes Lookout still fun, Point Champion (remember that time Nick photobombed me here…) and back to where we turned off at the top of the first rise. The sun was starting to set and it looked a quite romantic view from Barnes Lookout, not really the time to stop though. It was high time to get down off this mountain, warm, dry and fed.
We took it easy down the last decent in the fading light and rolled back into town with about 4 minutes before daylight ended. So my “it’s a 3 hour reccy ride, not a 7 hour adventure ride” had us out for 6 hours, 47 minutes and 09 seconds. A quick change into warm clothes, dry socks and with the van packed in record time we were standing by the fire at the Wally pub with huge grins.
The day hadn’t turned out quite as we expected, but what an awesome adventure. These are the kind of rides I live for, with days like this, there is no drive for me to pin a number on. I’m a lucky boy.
And I still have to get back to check out that cricket ground.