We had a week off work, so decided to head to Gympie to check out the trails and the Noosa Trail Network. This went to plan until on Wednesday it started to rain. RAIN...well we weren't going to sit around watching it fall, so we checked the weather radar, saw where it wasn't raining and took off there instead.
We drove out to Moore early, little sprinkles on the car windshield along the way that we did our best to ignore – till we couldn’t actually see, so had to turn on the wipers. Arrived at about 8:30am and the weather didn’t look too bad. Unloaded the bikes and then……put on our rain jackets to complete the getting ready process. A check of the Radar and there didn’t seem to be much rain in it so we where still optimistic. Packed in the bike lights just in case and took off at 9am heading for Yarraman, or whenever we get sick of climbing. Rain had stopped and rain jackets were packed away again. Feels good to be on the bike and feels good to be somewhere it isn’t raining – Brisbane is getting raining on and every MTB trail is closed.
Moore to Linville was the first target, 7km and it took us 45 mins. Started to count the gates, as the rail trail is all about riding than stopping to open and shut gates. 7km and 7 gates between Moore and Linville. Also, the old railway bridges are all either non-existent any more or have barricades up so you can’t ride them. So there are lots of dips down to gullies and back up again, usually a steep downhill and steep uphill ascent. Trail in good knick though, firm underneath and unaffected by recent rainfall. Trail to Linville also relatively flat. Linville station was cute, it even had a old train parked there for all eternity I think. Not much to see in Linville apart from the station and only one bar on the mobile phone here too.
Time to push on, we had some climbing to do to get to Blackbutt. 22.6 km, 400 meters elevation and 8 gates. So far the weather was pretty good. Occasionally the sun would come out and occasionally a small shower would come over . We were neither too hot or too cold and the track was good. Some sandy bits in parts that you had to concentrate on but otherwise nice riding conditions. The old railway line weaves its way up the Balfour Range and is very scenic. Rolling hills, cuttings to ride through, grass trees and cows, lots of cows.
John had readjusted my seat height on the bike at Linville so I “no longer looked like I was riding a BMX bike” as he so eloquently put it and as a consequence of that I was eating up these hills to Blackbutt. Leading the way and riding up ahead. This never happens when we ride together – ever. John was trailing and trying to work out where he left his mojo for the day. The trail gradient never got above about 3% so climbing wasn’t too bad. We came across a few information boards telling us interesting facts along the way and than at the Benarkin Bellbird Information board John found a sign that indicated “single track”.
Now….single track is what Mountain Bikes love, riders cannot resist the temptation of single track especially after riding on hard gravel that bounces you along for the last 24 km. John could not resist this sign even with the “difficult” trail marker. Off he took, me… I yelled out looks like mud, I’m staying on the trail. I have ridden on a few rail trails and whenever single track appears it usually follows the main trail for a while and pops you back out about 10 mins further up. THIS IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED. After about 10 mins of riding, still no John. After 20mins, still no John. I started to get worried. Worried I ‘d have to go find him and worried that he left his mojo behind today and I was hoping he had found it by now. We both had our phones on “airport mode” so I turned mine on and sent off a WHERE ARE YOU text, and with little else to do, I just kept riding.
There was 10km to go to Blackbutt from where we last saw each other. At about 5km out I finally got a text back – phew. The trail had led John out of the Benarkin Forest and down to Jessie’s Well on Old Esk Rd (wherever that was???). He said there was a point of no return on his single track adventure (or misadventure)where he had just gone down and than back up a huge hill so had no option but to keep riding. I had 3 km to ride on lovely Rail Trail to get into Blackbutt, John now had 10km to go…along a mixture of fireroads and back country roads and hills, lots of up hills. Fortunately for me Blackbutt is more of a town than Moore and Linville with a bustling main street and a selection of cafes. I chose the bakery which was nice and warm inside and thankfully out of the weather as it had just decided to start raining. I ate a pie while I waited about 45mins for John to turn up. He looked wreaked so I ordered him food too and we spent another 30 mins there recovering with hot chocolates and coffee.
The rain had stopped again and it was time to move on to push through to Yarraman, 18km away. I didn’t like our chances as it was now 1:30pm, but we rode on anyway to see how far we would get. The elevation map indicated half downhill half uphill. Map did not indicate that the trail went off the rail trail though, it was time for us to get lost together now. We followed the blue (intermediate) signs for a while for about 1.5km along a country dirt road. Signs where kind of small and didn’t say Rail Trail above them and it just didn’t feel like we where going the right way, so we turned around and went back to the rail trail. About 20 meters from where we saw the blue signs we found a gate with a black “advanced” sign on it. We weren’t going back up that hill on the road again, so opened the gate and rode on.
Trail was good, nothing advanced about it. Little more overgrown than we had seen so far but no real problems. We kept pushing on still hopeful that we would get to Yarraman, through another couple of gates (I’d stopped counting after Blackbutt) and to the old station of Gilla. Here we checked the map to see how much further we had to go. At best we had 8km to go – so that is about 45 minutes of riding. Even if we did a lap of town and immediately turned around that meant one and a half hours to get to Yarraman and back from Gilla. It was 2:30. We also checked the BOM and the radar and our lovely day looked like it was soon to have a big heavy rain cloud over it. So we made the tactically sound decision to turn around, time to head back down the range to Moore and to the car.
Uphill to Blackbutt and we arrived at 3ish for a much needed break again. Food, refill our water and put on some more sunblock all while sitting in the park and watching the local kids getting yelled at by their parents…..Nice. Left here at 3:30pm happy that is was literally “all downhill from here”. John seeing the first 10km of this bit of the rail trail for the first time. Me riding this bit of the 10km by myself again as John’s mojo had returned and he was blissfully enjoying the downhill run. We met up again when the light showers had turned into more like rain. Time to put on our rain jackets and stick more together and enjoy the next 10km of downhill. Was lovely to ride even if the rain was getting heavier. Last time we rode the rail trail – from Lowood to Toogoolowah we had lots of creek crossing to do. Today I didn’t want to ride with wet feet so I had bought my crocs along to avoid this. I carried them the whole way and today we did not have one creek to cross yet here I was with soaking wet socks and shoes. Trail once again good to ride on, mostly gravel with some sandy bits which we now treated with a lot more respect or we’d go ass up.
Just outside of Linville it had started pouring down. So glad I have a good Gortex jacket on, so I was dry on top and not cold. We rode through Linville train station which now looked like a tent city. Tomorrow is Good Friday, so that means camping over Easter for lots of people. Why you’d camp in Linville I am not sure at all, didn’t seem to be much here. We were the happy campers afternoons entertainment though, laughing at us as we rode by. Me, I was laughing at them because in 7km time I was going to a warm car and than a dry house and was not camping in Linville, in the mud.
7 gates and 7km to go and flat, so no free ride and we had all those gullies to ride down and up. I’d stopped riding up the gullies by now. I no longer had the energy to eat the handle bars pedaling like a crazy woman to get up to the top. I was saving that energy for the 7km of flat. John was on fire…. he still rode all those gullies.
Rain had somehow got even heavier, you could feel the individual drops through your helmet, we were filthy dirty and sodden from the waist down. I somehow made it up those last few hills and into Moore and to our car and to John who was already there sorting out all the wet gear in a handy nearby covered gazebo. 82km for me, 90.1km for John – big day. Garmin said sunset was at 5:50pm and I pulled in at 5:46pm. Seems that Gilla was the perfect turn around point. We did have bike lights, but where thankful we didn’t have to use them in the wet. We set about owning that Gazebo, wet stuff everywhere as we worked out how to get in the car. Along comes a car and a women and she also wanted to use the Gazebo to have a smoke!!!! Ahhhh. Back into the rain we go until she leaves. Took a good 30 minutes to sort ourselves out and get into the car and in dry clothes before the long drive back in the rain, in the pouring rain along the D’Aguliar highway with Easter traffic coming towards us….. the adventure continues.