Visiting : Royston Range
Distance : 41km
When : Sunday 9th July 2017, 7:00am @ Rubicon Power Station

It had been a ridiculously good snow season this year (by Australian standards!) so I decided a snow ride was in order. After much online scouting, planning and weather watching, I decided on a full traverse of the Royston Range from north to south. I figured it would provide a good mix of rideable roads and snowy hike-a-bike given the elevation and the forecast weather conditions on the day.

I was wrong of course.

An early drive out to Rubicon Power Station had me rolling on two wheels about 7am.

Herbs Road took me from the valley floor up to the start of the Royston Range.

It was a great climb even though the mud was sucking at my tires.

I’d read about Morris Lookout in my research so I figured I’d better take the short detour and give it a look.

Supposedly there were great views out over Eildon but it was a cloudy day so all I got was this :

Meh. I wasn’t too upset – this was a mid-winter snow ride after all. Here’s what it might have looked like if it was a clear day :

(I can’t remember where I nicked this photo from. If it’s yours, let me know and I’ll give you proper attribution!)

From Morris Lookout I headed out along the Royston Range. It was cloudy, wet and raining intermittently but I was happy.

Lovely riding so far, bar the occasional bog hole.

I reached a road intersection and consulted my Garmin. The purple line keeps going straight across and over this big log :

Yep, ok, no problem. So I climbed over the log and kept riding.

Until I realised I was in the middle of a recently harvested logging coupe. And the ground was so churned up that it became unridable.

I persevered for probably a little too long, stubbornly following the purple line on my GPS.

The mud was sucking the shoes off my feet as I hefted my bike through the freshly ploughed forest. And when my wheels stopped turning because they were so clogged with mud…

…I thought I should probably backtrack and find a better way.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to backtrack far to get out of the logging coupe and back onto a real road where I could shake off all that crud.

It did bug me slightly that the GPS track that I’d planned and plotted so meticulously at my computer was not lining up with the conditions on the ground. But, for now, I was happy to be rolling on smooth roads up through the cloud.

The going was easy but I was obviously still in logging country. The non-standard signage was a giveaway for a start. Clearly off-model!

Ersatz and broken. That’s no way to go through life.

The regrowth was particularly thick and overbearing in this section.

After a fair amount of solid climbing and some hikey pinches, I finally emerged from the claustrophobic regrowth tunnel into a wide open landscape.

I can’t say that I preferred it.

A bitter wind raked suffocating clouds across the burned and ruined hillside.

It was bleak.

All colour and life had been burned out of this place.

The sludgy mud and ice had me hiking a lot of pinches through this section. I was also stopping to take a lot of photos – this landscape was was not what I was expecting. Hard to imagine the lush greenery of Herbs Road was a mere 10km earlier.

Dog tracks in the snow (dead centre in frame) showed that this place wasn’t totally devoid of life. The apex predators were still alive and on the prowl.

I moved through multiple logging coupes. Occasionally the clouds parted and offered a brief glimpse of a distant view.

Seed trees stood alone, left by the loggers to tower over the snowy waste.

A few months ago, all the trees would have been that tall.

I reached a well-maintained road…

…and looked back up at where I’d just come from.

I followed the well-maintained road for a couple hundred metres before reaching this intersection.

Ha ha.

So the well-maintained road is for logging traffic only. Any punters wanting to use the Royston Range Road have to take the “B” line. And, just to make it crystal clear :

Uh-huh.

I was tempted to take the easy option and stay on the well-maintained road but I did want to stay true to my goal of riding Royston Range Road from start to finish and, truth be told, I also wanted to see how this half-arsed diversion would play out.

As I thought, it was pretty much unridable due to steepness and the fact that it was a completely un-made track – little more than a bulldozed line up the hill, pushed through as an afterthought. This half-baked track with its misspelt handmade signage seemed like a mockery. Yes, it was technically a through road, open to all recreational users, but it felt like nothing more than a lame token – no use to four wheel drivers, no use to trail bikers, no use to hikers, no use to me.

I pushed and hiked and slogged along the ridge past the aptly named Bleak Hill.

And then past Pyramid Hill.

The top of Pyramid Hill is just up there :

I tried to find a way to access it but the regrowth was too thick.

Finally I was through the logging coupes and heading down the tail end of Royston Range.

I was happy to be rolling again. My average speed was sitting on around 5km/h for the day, what with all the hiking, photo-taking and general lolly-gagging. It felt good to move at normal bike speed again.

Job done. I’d reached the other end of Royston Range Road, despite the fact that it was pretty solidly fubared.

Mount Bullfight just over there.

Browns Road was a treat. Great rolling and great views.

Royston River Road just over the way. I’d be intersecting with it in a few k’s.

Last time I was at this intersection I could have sworn there were more trees around.

Looking back across at Royston Range. Wonder how much printer paper that translates to?

The last section of Royston River Road is a deadset ripper of a descent. I tucked down and let it roll.

And the loop was closed as I fanged past the end of Herbs Road and back over the bridge to Rubicon Power Station.

This was an eventful ride but it certainly did not meet the expectations that I had for it. I enjoyed the labour of moving through such sub-optimal terrain and I was glad that I stuck to my plan and rode that track from end to end. Of course, I had planned to ride for another 40-odd k’s but I’d burned so much time that I had to cut it short. So be it. The physical and mental lessons learned from a good slog like that are worth much more than a bigger number on my Garmin.

I was expecting a pretty bleak and snowy landscape but I wasn’t expecting the apocalyptic scene that I found. The icy snow over the charcoaled hills made for a stark and affecting vision of the destruction wrought by logging in our forests. After this ride, I did a lot of reading about logging in Victoria, learning about those who support it, those who oppose it and those who profit from it.

Me? I oppose it.

Nearly every ride I do these days takes me through logged country. It’s changing before my eyes, being turned into a plantation from one ride to the next. Once a place is logged it will never be the same as it was. And if by some miracle it does return to its original state, it’ll take so long that I’ll never see it. Neither will my children. Or yours.

Go ride it while it’s still there.

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