Sunday, September 21, 2008

The hard way to the Airwalk

Eating breakfast on Saturday I could see the hills that mark the edge of the World Heritage Area north-west of here still had a good covering of snow on top. Despite the windy season being well and truly upon us it's still a good time to be outdoors. And there are miles and miles of dirt roads and tracks in the bush near home, so this weekend was high time to get out and explore some of it.

Keith, from up the road, is a keen and accomplished cyclist who knows the hills and trails of the Huon as well as anyone. He suggested a relatively straightforward mountain bike ride from Judbury down to the Tahune Airwalk and back - a round tip of about 80 or so kilometres mainly along forestry roads along either side of the Huon River. It's pretty rugged country, lots of hills and not too many people. We set off about 8.30 on Saturday morning.

The weather was cool and overcast as we rolled past the few scattered houses and inched up the hill behind Russell River. Keith showed his local knowledge by picking tracks to cut the distance or to provide a more interesting ride. He pointed out the site of Denny King's old Sunset Ranch. We copped a bit of rain, but it wasn't enough to bother putting a jacket on. We made the visitors centre at the Airwalk about 11am. There weren't too many people about on what was becoming a cool and windy day. We took a table and tucked into a very fine lunch.

The weather turned a little on the way back, though sheltered from the worst of the wind by the rugged hills, the temperature dropped and intermittent rain meant rain jackets and long pants were needed. On one long uphill section we were pelted by hail, which meant the puncture gods knew exactly what moment to put a sharp pointy rock in the path of my front wheel. A quick stop and we were on our way once more.

From the top of this climb we had a long and very enjoyable descent down towards the bridge near the Ta Ann veneer mill. By my reckoning, the temperature had dropped to well under the five degree minimum that had been forecast but if you keep pedalling you stay warm enough. The final climb over the hill after the Denison River was a killer, and I had to walk the steeper sections. Keith was waiting on the other side for the exhilarating 70km/h descent down back across the Russell River and the final spin into Judbury.

I really enjoy riding on the road, but this was a ride to equal any I've been on and had some other benefits besides. We saw some magnificent countryside and in what turned out to be a 90km ride we saw just three cars. And the even better thing is there's lots more trails to explore. Yet another joy of living in such a magnificent part of the world.

4,220km so far this year.

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