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Back to the Border

Rainforest Moss
Today’s adventure took us back to the spectacular country on the Border Fence along the top of the Border Ranges near Rathdowney.

This time we returned with a few more friends.

Rathdowney
The forecast for the last few days had been predicting heavy rain, and a few people decided to cancel at the last minute, but we still had 14 excited adventurers who decided to “turn up” to see what would happen.

Running Creek Road

So we rode out under cloudy skies from Rathdowney along Running Creek Road.

Interstate Railway
Tarter Creek Road

Weather is a fickle thing. I figured we might have some good luck with the rain, but the only way to take advantage of that good luck would be to turn up on the day, and adjust our plans based on the conditions at the time. We decided if things got too wet, we’d just turn around and roll back down the hill.

Philp Mountain Road
Philp Mountain Road

The big climb of the day was Philp Mountain Road. I had offered a tee shirt as a prize for whoever made it to the top first.

Philp Mountain Road
A few of us took it easy on the climb while a few “ninjas” decided to test themselves out and climb the hill as quickly as possible. We joked that we might end up passing a few exhausted corpses on the way up, but (thankfully) that didn’t happen.

Philp Mountain Road
Philp Mountain Road

As we slowly ground our way up the mountain, the views to the west grew more stunning.

Philp Mountain Road
Philp Mountain Road
In one or two places the gradient was too much and we pushed the bikes upwards.

Philp Mountain Ninja
Tim made it to the top first, so he was dubbed the Philp Mountain Ninja. Top effort, Tim!

Wild Mountains Environmental Education CentreWild Mountains Environmental Education Centre
Once we had reached the top we dropped in to see Richard and Susan Zoomers, who run Wild Mountains Environmental Education Centre. They had kindly prepared morning tea for a dozen hungry mountain bikers, and Richard told us a little bit about his vision for the property.

Richard explained how experiencing the beauty of nature first-hand changes us more than any political campaign can. Our attitudes and habits change when our hearts change. And the best way for that to happen is to help people see the wonder of our environment face to face.

Looking out the window while Richard spoke, I saw a rock wallaby sitting peacefully on a log in the rainforest.

Wild Mountains Environmental Education Centre
Loo with a view
They have some great facilities up here for school groups, volunteers etc to stay overnight.

Wild Mountains Environmental Education Centre
Wild Mountains Environmental Education Centre
Border Fence
Leaving Richard and Susan we made our way up to the border fence in the Rain Forest.

Finger Lime Orchard
“I imagine the view up here is pretty good on a clear day” someone commented as we passed the Finger Lime Orchard.

Border Fence
Some parts of the fence line are very steep. Our plan was to make a final decision on the course at this point. If it was raining heavily we’d turn around and retrace our steps. If not we’d push on. Amazingly there was no rain, so we continued.

I skidded my way to the bottom while a couple of other dare-devils released the brakes a and flew down…

Border Fence
… but we all had to work quite hard to push the bikes UP some of the sections.

Rainforest
Moss
I think this forest must often be shrouded in clouds. Moss grows thickly on the tree trunks. A few of us commented that it felt like “Middle Earth” from Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings” – giant mossy boughs reaching for into the clouds, surrounded by wisps of mist… I understood what Richard was getting at. Spending time here does affect you.

Repairs
Repairs
Russel got a stick through his chain which bent his derailleur up and broke his hanger. We weren’t able to replace the hanger, but Darb converted the bike into a single-speed while the rest of us watched, and Russel was able to ride out.

Gympie-Gympie
While we were standing around waiting, I noticed there were quite a few Gympie-Gympie plants around. These plants have horribly painful venomous stings. We made sure everyone knew about them and avoided them.

Cow Paddock
As we crossed the cow-paddock on the top of the range, we had our first bit of light rain. I was grateful for our good fortune. Against the odds we had managed to have a reasonably dry day.

Palen Creek State Forest
The next section worried me. The descent through Palen Creek State Forest was dangerously steep. I made sure everyone knew what to expect, then gritted my teeth and started down the hill.

Killer Descent
My front brakes were playing up, so I used my rear brakes a bit more agressively than I should have. Consequently I skidded down the hill, and was lucky to arrive at the bottom in one piece.

Palen Creek State Forest
But by some stroke of amazing luck we all made it to the bottom in one piece. A couple of people came off once or twice – but the ground was covered in leaf-litter and was soft and forgiving.

Palen Creek State Forest
Palen Creek State Forest
Palen Creek State Forest
We rode out of the forest in dappled sunlight and eventually jumped the gate at the top of Back Creek Road.

Back Creek Road
Back Creek Road
From there it was an easy roll past numerous cattle properties and quiet creek crossings back to the highway.

Sag Wagon
I had left my car on the highway earlier in the day with fresh water for people to top-up, and in case anyone needed a lift back into town.

Mount Lindesay Highway
Ruseel and I loaded up our bikes as the rest of the group rode off towards Mount Barney.

Barney View Road

Mount Barney was shrouded in clouds as the rest of the group slowly ground up Barney View Road.

Barney View Road
Barney View Road
Barney View Road
Jim shot up the hill with Jason a little further behind.

I was impressed how quickly these guys could climb.

I rode about 33km with 1,050m of climbing and burned about 3,000 kcal in five and a half hours including breaks.
The other riders completed about 53km with about 1,500m of climbing. I’ll rate the total loop about 9 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.

Thanks Darb, for helping me organize this ride.

And thanks everyone for turning up despite the weather predictions. You guys definitely aren’t made out of sugar 🙂

Update: Here’s Darb’s video of the ride:

Rathdowney Border Fence Back Ck 2014-08-17 from Darb Ryan on Vimeo.

6 comments to Back to the Border

  • Trev

    can’t wait to try this. trev

    • Hi Trev
      Before you attempt the ride, please consider a couple of things:
      1. You can’t get from Philp Mountain Road to the border fence except by crossing private property. You therefore need permission of either Wild Mountains EEC (WMEEC) or the Finger Lime Orchard owners.
      2. The owners of WMEEC are lovely people but they’ve specifically said that they don’t want a whole lot of people on bikes beating a path to their door. Their priority is to build on their environmental education vision. They need volunteers and donations. It’s an iconic part of the world, so if you really want to visit, please consider making a meaningful contribution. This will make a big difference to WMEEC, and to other MTB riders who come after you. As MTB riders it’s important that land owners see that we are considerate and responsible.
      3. It’s a tough course. Don’t do it alone. Getting up the hill is physically demanding, but getting down Back Ck Rd is technically challenging. If you’re not careful on the descent you could kill yourself – it’s very steep.
      Please PM me if you’ve got more questions.
      Neil

  • Great ride Neil. That weather looks like it really made it a special day.
    I am bummed that I was too sick to join you guys. Perhaps a re-do can be organised at some time. I am sure the WMEEC could use some funds? Perhaps we can do a “first timers” ride seeing as you’ve done it a couple of times.
    Anyway, great reading.

  • Mark Robinson

    Thanks for great day and adventurous ride Neil, it certainly was well worth the effort and training for the Epic. Great bunch of guys and will most certainly join in again. Heinz Beans rides again!
    Cheers, Mark

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