Visiting : Mt Dandenong, Silvan Dam, Sherbrooke, Lysterfield
Distance : ~120km
When : Sunday 11th April 2010, 7am @ Fed Square

Again, lots of climbing and lots of dirt on this one. We’ll head up the front face of Mt Dandenong and then link a bunch of good spots on the other side including Silvan Dam, Sherbrooke Forest, Micawber Tavern and then straight across to Lysterfield Lake Park and on through Churchill National Park before hitting the Princes home.

Beautiful old forests, plenty of dirt (i’ll be running knobbies for this one) and stunning views. Why do yet another boring 1:20 repeat with the roadies when you could come scurrying through the bush like a little wombat with me instead?

Wet start

It started pissing down just after I left for Fed Square at 6:00. If that rain – and the wind – kept up I was thinking it was going to be a long day. Honestly didn’t expect anyone to be waiting for me at Fed Square but when I got there I found Tom eager to get going.

We got the boring bit out of the way quick – Canterbury Road to Eastlink then Dandenong Creek Trail all the way to the end. We passed a rail underpass that was flooded out and it had a big whirlpool in the middle of it. Must have been draining out into a stormwater drain like a bath emptying out a plug hole. Wouldn’t want to let your dog swim in there!

Up the mountain

Got to the end of the bike track and we were at the foot of Mt Dandenong. Fed some friendly horses and then started traversing the base of the mountain looking for the start of our trail proper.

The road started going straight up so we got off and walked – just ahead of us there was another cyclist walking his bike up the hill – except he had full downhill kit on – pads and armour and full-face helmet – and the DH machine he was pushing was basically a motorbike without an engine. Yeah, that should have been a hint as to what sort of bike was appropriate for the terrain we were about to encounter.

We found our trail and started heading up through Doongalla Forest. Most of it was unridable – lots of walking – both uphill and downhill – punctuated by small flat and not-so-deadly downhill sections. We were bouncing down one steep and gnarly section and I was putting on pretty heavy back-pressure and doing little skips to try and keep it in check when PANG! the chain let go and I started accelerating down the hill. Fortunately I was way over to the uphill side of the trail so I just steered into the embankment and drove it into the ground – which was nice and soft with leaf litter and mud so I came out of it with only a few scratches. Lucky me.

Fortunately no damage to bike and the chain was fine too – it felt like it snapped but evidently it just dropped. Chain back on and we continued our walk uphill/bomb downhill/walk uphill/bomb downhill routine until we popped out onto the tourist road at Kalorama.

Down to Silvan

It was pretty cold and it had started raining again. Felt a bit grim actually. So we hit the tourist road for a few hundred metres and then found the turnoff that was going to take us to Silvan Dam. A reasonable sized section was downhill and ridable – and heaps of fun after so much walking – but pretty soon the trail just went straight down beneath us and we were walking again, trying not to fall over our own feet.

Hit the bottom pretty quick and then we were following Olinda Creek up to the dam. (We had a quick look for “The Evil” but I couldn’t find the exact spot – it’s been 20 years now, maybe it’s all overgrown? Maybe it’s better that way…) Nice and ridable up to the dam wall where we filled our bidons and sat down for a bit.

Sweet arboretum

The next section was actually good riding – gravel road from Silvan Dam all the way up to the lookout in RJ Hamer Arboretum.

It was a nice long steady climb on a well-maintained gravel road through some awesome scenery – “arboretum” must be latin for “forest full of cool old trees”.

This took us to the highest point on our ride – Woolrich Lookout. Fantastic view of Mt Donna Buang to the east, Mt St Leonards to the north and a whole bunch of beautiful country in between. Apparently the Morris Car Club was enjoying the scenery too – the carpark was full of vintage Morries.

After a quick rest we pushed on up to the main road… and couldn’t find our trail. Oh well, we found a small detour on my google maps printouts and headed for that. Hacketts Road. The mentalist road I’ve seen.

Hacketts Road

So it starts off as a gnarly, rutted gravel road. At the top there’s signs saying “4wd only”, “No turning beyond this point” and a 30% downhill gradient sign. Yes, 30%.

A bit further down there’s a big sign nailed to a tree – half of it was ripped off but it didn’t take much effort to fill in the blanks :

“STOP! READ THIS! This section of the road is no longer maintained by the council. It is extremely slippery and dangerous when wet. If you choose to ignore this sign, do not ask the neighbours for help. You’ve been warned!”

And then, just a bit further down from that, just to drive the point home, there were bits of blue and white police tape and bright yellow tape with “DANGER” written on it tied to the trees on either side of the road – obviously the tape was strung across the road not so long ago.

And, the best part, there were driveways and houses all the way down this road. Madness!

Needless to say, we stumbled down it on foot and almost fell over our own feet and bikes. I thought Breakneck Road was a killer – Hacketts Road is a frickin’ madman.

Through to Lysty

Just down the road we stopped at Kallista for lunch. We were going to stop at the Kallista Tea Rooms but there was a King Charles Spaniel out the front and I swear he glared at me.

Quick stop at Grants Picnic Ground to see the cockies and then on down the road… the wrong way. We went straight down to Belgrave instead of doing a big loop around Sherbrooke Forest. We looked at the map, looked at the time and decided we’d rather spend more time at Lysterfield anyway and so we bombed a couple hills through Belgrave and cut through to a trail that led us to Dargon Track and into Lysterfield proper.

It’s amazing how one minute you’re in big old growth forest in Sherbrooke and the next minute you’re in scrubby, grassy Lysterfield. Maybe the stark difference in flora is why they always seemed so far away from each other – it was kinda cool to link them together in one ride and see that they’re actually almost side-by-side.

Fast singletrack at last

Lysterfield was awesome – it was good to get on a decent stretch of fast, ridable terrain at last. There were plenty of miles already in the legs but we were stoked to be on some nice singletrack and that kept us going. A few mud puddles about but it was all in pretty good nick despite the recent rain. I had fun bashing my pedals over the logs – and then bottling out and planting a foot over the taller ones – I keep thinking I should just spend a day doing nothing but log repeats until I grow some balls – gotta work out how to set the pedals just right on the approach so I don’t slam a crank and launch myself.

Feeling the day’s efforts when we rolled into Trailmix for coffee and a sit-down. So stoked to have made it that far. We decided to head out to Hallam North exit, get on the road for a bit and then dive into the Police Paddocks across from Churchill Park main gate. From there we hooked up with Dandenong Creek Trail again and it was easy rolling. Back on the flat at last.

Bike track rolling

Neither of us could be arsed going all the way back to Fed Square so we kept rolling on the bike track. Came across a few flooded underpasses which we rolled right through – pffft, it’s only water! Except the last one we hit was well over a foot deep – hehe, the soles of my feet looked like wrinkly gristle when I got home.

Tom took off at Boronia Road and I kept going on Eastlink Trail and reached Bulleen Road just as the sun went down.

And that was that

All in all, it was a great day. A little too much walking but we saw some cool stuff and spent an awesome day riding in the bush with only the animals watching. Sunrise to sunset, and nothing left in the tank at the end.


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