Fun on the Run, Not Much Sun (Australia)
Take two good friends, some bike paths and fire trails, and a sensational hilltop view. Add threatening skies on a Monday evening and people testing out their new lightweight camping solutions. What do you have? Well you have last March's micro-adventure to the Eastern Escarpment Conservation Area.
Myself and Brad (a.k.a. Mr Cyclocross) and Emma arranged to leave from my place, and pick up some dinner from a certain sandwich shop before cruising through Toohey Forest and heading south on the V1. From there it was Logan Road and then Underwood Road, which took us into Daisy Hill forest and eventually, by way of a series of linked fire trails and a little section of bitumen road, to the base of the climb to the top of the Eastern Escarpment Conservation Area.
This is a hill well known to mountain bike riders, especially those of us who are regulars on the MTB Dirt forum. For several years there was a regular Friday morning ride from Daisy Hill to the EE and back. I decided we would follow that same loop, and just see how it all played out.
Things I was testing out for this particular micro-adventure: Camping with just a hiker’s fly as my shelter; setting up said shelter (sometimes called a hutchie) using only guy ropes, and no tent poles.
Thing that Emma was testing out: A new ultralite hammock.
I don’t think Brad was testing out any equipment, although he did have the largest possible sleeping mat. It was like a giant self-inflating Therm-a-Rest (or similar).
The ride to the EE went without much incident. Night riding through the forest is good fun … but we were staying on fire trails rather than singletrack, because our bikes were all loaded up with stuff. There were occasional moments when I wasn’t exactly sure if we were on the right trail, which of course made it all even more fun. My being the self-appointed navigator at least gave the rest of the group plenty of licence to heckle me when I looked uncertain.
We rode and trudged and rode and trudged to the top of the EE. It’s a pretty big hill, and we were at the by top around 8 p.m.
Then it was on with the fun and frivolity of setting up camp. Most of the novelty was in setting up Emma’s new hammock. I managed to get my hutchie pretty much right on the first go, except for bending one of my new aluminium tent pegs, using a found rock hammer.
Brad looks for Martians inside his tent.
But the hammock was a more complicated beast, involving webbing and knots and carabiners and trees and a fence. It was after the second attempt that Emma was able to crawl into her nylon cocoon and declare it habitable for the night’s rest.
So with camp all set up, we ate chocolate and talked about things bike: cyclocross, gravel grinders, the Munda Biddi Trail, etc. and so forth until suddenly it was 10 p.m. and past our bedtimes. So, with a nervous check of the rain radar, we all said good night.
We had a couple of light showers throughout the night, but everyone remained safe and dry, each in their particular shelter. We were greeted by a foggy morning. Also greeting me was a worried text message from Annette: “Oh, dear, heavy rain here!” The message was sent at 1:10 a.m., and I must have been sleeping.
The old ‘take a photo while still lying in bed’ trick.
It took us a while to pack up and head off toward some breakfast at the Underwood Road shops. But on the way back through Daisy Hill, my MacGyvered Carradice Bagman rack began to exhibit some problems, leading to the transverse bag dragging momentarily on the back wheel. Bolts were tightened and off we went again, only for the problem to reoccur almost immediately. So, as I messed around tightening things up, Brad quipped: “Tighten it until it goes loose and then back off a half turn.”
Next thing I did indeed shear off one of the bolts holding the rack strut to the frame. Fortunately, there was still some of the bolt jamming the strut to the frame, so with a few cable ties holding it place we continued.
I was starting to be concerned about making a meeting in Ipswich on time, and so the ride back through the suburbanity was perhaps not as relaxed as would have been ideal. But the next thing we knew we were back in Salisbury, thanking each other and heading on our way to the rest of our lives.
We all (I think) had a great time, and as a bonus we managed to find (and fix) a fault in my bikepacking setup. Much better that it manifested itself in Daisy Hill than on the Munda Biddi Trail.
As we rode along Schoeck Road, Emma had turned to me and said: “We should have a micro-adventure EVERY WEEK!”
Favorite local bike shop: Epic Cycles in Paddington, Queensland.