Visiting : Marysville, Lady Talbot Drive, Keppel Hut
Distance : ~48km
When : Monday 13th July 2015, ~8:00am @ Marysville
Ok, so I had a long one out of Hurstbridge planned for this month’s ride but when I saw the weather forecast and read the words “fiercest cold snap in five years”, I decided to change my plans. The forecast said there’d be snow down to 700m on both Saturday and Sunday so I took the Monday off work and headed to Marysville for some snow ride action. Hilarity ensued.
The plan was to drive to Marysville in the recently-resurrected Camry (new radiator and it’s good as gold), ride up Lady Talbot Drive until the snow became too deep, ditch the bike and keep hiking up to Keppel Hut, snowboard back down to bike then roll back down to Marysville.
I was expecting heaps of snow so I was thinking that I needed some sort of snow-going device that I could get rad on and really make the most of the conditions while I was up there. I explored various scenarios in my head but in the end I thought, “Fuck it, I’ll just take my snowboard!” Once I’d made that decision I just joined the dots: I’d need my proper boarding jacket, pants, helmet and mitts if I was going to be rolling around in snow and sitting on my arse a lot. The only bag I’ve got which can carry all that gear was my BOgear Chunky Toad. So, I dug out my board, lashed it to the bag and rode a few wobbly laps around the front yard to prove the concept. Nothing fell off or got in the way of pedalling so that was it. We’re on!
Lady Talbot Drive was awesome, as usual. I could have sworn it was closed over winter but apparently it’s not. No vehicles around though, it being a cold and wet Monday morning.
I cranked up the hill and enjoyed the serenity. It drizzled on and off. Sometimes it rained. I kept looking up to the hills to see if I could see the snow. Hm… nothing yet.
Water refill at The Beeches. I could have hung around there for a lot longer, perving on the wildlife. There was a thin tree branch that these tiny birds were scratching their beaks on – the bark was all scratched away where they’d been working it. And then there was a conspicuously dug-over area on the ground – it looked like something had scratched all the leaf litter away, as if they were looking for something. Lyrebird, I reckon. They’re common around those parts and they luuuurve to dig over the ground.
(Update: Lyrebird display mound)
On and on I rode, always up. Love Lady Talbot Drive. Still no snow up on the hills but I started seeing bits of icy slush on the side of the road. 700 metres my arse…
When I reached the intersection at Upper Taggerty Road I was a mite disappointed. I knew that was about 1100m and still, no snow! Just cloud, drizzle, rain and mud. Oh well… on on.
I kept climbing and the icy slush on the side of the road became more frequent but so to did the mud. Starting onto Keppel Hut Track the road conditions turned to crap and pretty soon I was hiking, pushing my bike through peanut butter slop and trying not to slip over in the slick pasty mess.
It went on like this for what seemed like ages until, finally, snow!
Well, just more icy slush really. There’d been plenty of foot traffic up here in the last day or two. Slush slush slush. The snow started only a few hundred metres from Keppel Hut. I rolled into the clearing with a weak “Yew!” and sat down at the picnic table.
No beer bottles and drunken campers this time, but there was a group of about six kids who’d recently arrived at the hut and were chasing each other around shooting snowballs at each other and collecting firewood. They looked not long out of high school (to my eyes) and there was no older person around that I could see. Bloody good on ’em, getting out and enjoying the bush by themselves. Wish I was into outdoorsy stuff when I was their age!
I said g’day and one of them replied, “It’s a little cold to be riding bikes isn’t it?” Ahhhhh, kids.
I asked about the snow and apparently a couple of them had stayed at the hut the previous night. They said there was great cover yesterday but the rain just ruined it. “You should’ve seen it yesterday!” Ugh… if only I’d come up the day before it’d be a completely different picture. Fickle weather! And “fiercest cold snap in five years” my arse! Serves me right for believing that bullshit. Australia’s good at a lot of things but winter is not one of them, I don’t care what anyone says.
Oh well, the snow cover was almost non-existent and it was still raining on and off so I figured I’d better get to work. There was no way I was going to carry my snowboard all the way up that hill and not go snowboarding!
I got my boots on but didn’t bother changing into pants and jacket. There was shit-all that looked ridable around the hut so, for my first run, I went up to the dunny and scraped my way back down to the road. Ewwww, so much rock, so little snow.
For my second run, I hiked back up the road a little and tried to pick a ridable line between the rocks and puddles and mud.
There was not enough snow, not enough gradient, not enough of anything…
So I snapped some photos, walked back to the picnic table, packed away my boots and board, hoisted that heavy-ass bag onto my back and started hiking back up the muddy, slushy road, pushing my bike ahead of me through the slop.
I was extra cautious riding down Keppel Hut Track. It was rutted out and super slick and I didn’t fancy taking a tumble when I had a snowboard on my back so I definitely erred on the side of caution and walked the bits that looked too sketchy.
Soon enough I got back to the gate at the start of Keppel Hut Track and had a breather there at the top of Upper Taggerty Road. There seemed to be a bit of rubbish around on the ground. Being the inquisitive type, I had a closer look.
It looked like the whole area gets used as an informal carpark for people accessing the hut over winter. Keppel Hut Track is seasonally closed so that makes sense. Ok, so bullet boxes, rags, random catalogues and other bits of paper, ciggy butts. My guess is deer hunters staying at the hut. They walk back out from the hut carrying their crap, they start loading it into their vehicles and just chuck their rubbish on the ground before driving away. Those fuckers. Seriously, don’t even get me started.
I poked around the empty ammo boxes and, hang on… Oh nice! Fucken idiots! One of the boxes still had two bullets in it. Jesus, I mean general rubbish is bad enough but live ammo?! You kidding me?! C’mon!
I took the bullets and rolled on down the hill. Fuckers.
(Ed. Bullets have since been handed into the police.)
Anyway, the going was easy from here on. Road was ridable and nearly all downhill. Nice. Still really wet but at least I could just let it roll.
I came across a vehicle on a nice straight downhill stretch and saw that it was stuck. There was a small but long tree down over the road and they couldn’t move it. Guy was in the middle of the road with a little car jack trying to jack up the tree (!) while his girlfriend was sitting in the ute watching.
I said g’day, offered to help. They’d been stuck there for about an hour trying to move this tree. It was too big for the two of them to shift by themselves and I guess they didn’t have any ropes or straps so they couldn’t drag it off the road with their ute. They didn’t have a chainsaw but the guy had tried to cut through the trunk of the tree with a cordless angle grinder. It didn’t cut deep enough of course so he’d only succeeded in ringbarking the thing. Oy vey.
We tested the weight of the tree again and decided to try lifting it all together. Ha! Easy. So we lifted it all together and shuffled and ran one end of it back across the road and pretty soon we’d shoved it right off the road into the ditch.
The girl was pretty stoked to be unstuck so she gave me the rest of their bag of lollies as a reward. They’d mentioned a couple of times that they weren’t real 4wd’ers so I warned them about the slippery conditions further up the hill and, with that, we parted ways. Hope they didn’t run into any more trouble!
As I rolled down the hill feeling a bit like the littlest hobo, I reflected on the whole episode and how the bicycle is a great way of travelling through this sort of country. Downed trees and treacherous roads are common but, when I’m on my bike, neither of them are a problem. In fact, the little tree that had stopped this couple in their tracks for over an hour was so insignificant that I barely remembered lifting my bike over it on the way up.
Granted, this particular couple was clearly unprepared for the situation they’d put themselves into. If they’d carried more gear, a rope, a chainsaw, they would have been fine. But it seems like the more gear, the more stuff, you take into the bush with you, the more gear and the more stuff you need to save yourself when your gear and stuff breaks down or gets stuck. With a bike, a simple bike, it seems to work the other way – the less bike you’ve got, the less can go wrong and the less gear, the less stuff you need.
I dunno. Philosiphising again. All’s I know is I enjoyed my free lollies for helping those two out and I loved the long downhill roll back into Marysville.
It had been a wet, gritty, muddy day and even though the snow situation was a bit disappointing, I’ve gotta say it was still the best snowboarding I’ve ever done on a bike ride!