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Conondale Magic

The long dry season has ended.  Creeks are flowing and the air is cool. This is perfect weather for climbing big hills, exploring thick forests, and getting wet feet.

We started our ride at Charlie Moreland Campground, at the foot of the Conondale Range.  School holidays had just started and the grassy flats were full of campers.

There was no gentle warm up.  We immediately started our long climb up Sunday Creek Road.

As we snaked up the range we enjoyed views of thick pine forests on the opposite side of the valley.  Although hill climbs are physically demanding, they do give you more time to soak up your surroundings than when you’re rushing down the other side.

 

Part way up the hill we stopped at a lookout to take in the panorama and catch our breath.

Recent storms and fallen trees had closed the road to vehicular traffic.  This was perfect – we could ride the wide gravel road in peace, knowing we wouldn’t be sharing it with four-wheel drives.

 

As we approached the top of the range, the road flattened out, gently rising and falling over the hilltops.  Bellbirds tinkled from the surrounding slopes, leaves rustled in the gentle breeze.  This was perfect.

Eventually we left Sunday Creek Road, slipped around the gate, and followed Summer Creek Road down the hill.

  

The track narrowed.  Like eager horses, the bikes seemed to love the rough twisty terrain.

We followed the narrow trail down the hill, dodging trees and fallen logs.

 

Summer Falls was spectacular.  We parked the bikes and clambered around on the rocks.

(Photo: Russel Scholl)

Perched on the edge of a cliff, the creek cascaded through several rockpools before plummeting into the valley below us.

This was the ideal spot to have a quick break, enjoy a snack and just soak it all in.

There’s a remote walkers camp at Summer Falls.  If you’re keen, it’s possible to hike through these hills for several days and pitch your tent at stunning spots like this every night.

We hopped back on the bikes and followed the walking track up the hill.

(Photo: Tony Ryan)

We had to clamber over fallen trees in a couple of places.  When you’re riding solo, this can be tricky.  It’s much easier in a group when riding buddies can help you lift your bike over some of the obstacles.

The narrow track snaked around the hills…

…and past giant fallen trees that had been sawn through to make it easier for us to pass.

We stopped on the Spring Creek causeway for another quick break before the next major climb to Mount Allan.

Because some of the tracks were narrow, we had to ride in single-file.  This is a different experience from riding on a wide fire trail.  Everyone is restricted to the speed of the slower person in front.  You can only really have a meaningful conversation with the person immediately in front of or behind you.  Your vision is restricted because of the person in front.  But the extra intensity is enjoyable.  Greenery blurs either side of your tunnel vision as you concentrate on the winding ribbon of track immediately in front.

 

Tall, ancient trees, lush rain forest, leafy tracks – Mount Allan is magical.

As we neared the top, the track grew in steepness.

Eric and Darb got off and pushed.  I took this as an excuse to also stop pedalling and push.

Kaye took it as a challenge and somehow managed to grind her pedals almost to the top of the hill.

(Photo: Tony Ryan)

Eventually, we made it to the summit.

From the top of the tower we could see to the horizon in every direction.

Cross-country mountain bikers love maps.  We spent ages going over this one, matching it against where we had ridden today.

Many “Great Walk” hikers come here on the last section of their multi-day walk, and are able to get an impressive summary of the size of the forest, and the distance they would have covered on foot over four days.

 

(Photo: Russel Scholl)

Russel is an avid Geocacher, and found one more cache up here while the rest of us rested in the grass.

Before we left the tower, I said “Hi” to a trio of walkers who were on their way to Summer Falls for the night.

 

The track down the mountain from the summit is a lot of fun.  It zigzags sharply in places as it snakes down the hill.  Thick trees on either side of the track block the light.  It’s cool and quiet.

We had to dismount a few times to dodge fallen trees.

But most of the time it was difficult to stop smiling as we rolled downwards for over five kilometres.

We stopped to chat with hikers on the way down.

“Where are you going? Where have you been?  Gee they’re big tyres!”

The conversations were simple, but everyone seemed happy.  This was a great place to be exploring.

We finally reached the bottom of the mountain at Booloumba Creek.

The creek level was up.  Kids floated over on inflatable tubes, four-wheel-drives waited eagerly to splash through.

We were going to get our feet wet.

(Photo: Tony Ryan)

 

We have a fairly simple strategy for creeks.  Stay safe, wade through, try not to slip on the rocks, try to keep the bike reasonably dry.

It seemed to work.

The succeeding crossings were shallower so we just bumped through over the rocks.

 

We were almost back to our starting point.  Signs reminded us we wouldn’t be able to get all the way through to Jimna – unless we were on bikes 🙂

We battled the dust from passing vehicles as we bounced back along Sunday Creek Road


We rode about 34 kilometres in about four and a half hours.

During that time I burned about 2,500 kcal and we climbed about 1,070 metres in vertical elevation.

Despite the short distance, I’ll rate this ride 8 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter. The steep hills in Conondale National Park are challenging – travelling even short distances will take more time than usual.

Thanks Eric, Darb, Russel, Kay and Stephen for a fun day out!

 
UPDATE: Here’s Darb’s video of our ride.

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