Although it was considerate of the Cardinia Shire Council to spend over $600,000 of their ratepayers funds to build a new bike trail in an attempt to lure the Ghost Riders away from their home trail at Warburton, I am yet to be convinced that the trail represents any sort of value for the massive dollars spent on it. Having ridden its gut busting slopes and having fought my way through the numerous gates and other obstacles on several previous occasions I thought it was time to introduce the rest of the ghosts to its unique challenges.
It was unfortunate that the afternoon of the planned ride turned out to be cold and threatening, although I did not expect it to deter any of the “real” riders in the group. It was not surprising that Hooters, Spanner and Crasher did NOT turn up, they never do when there is any sign of a challenge involved. Our final peloton consisted of myself, Cheryl, Lex, Peter, Little John and Roger Ramjet. Apparently Peter would have been on time if he hadn’t had a puncture in the main street of Emerald.
After leaving the rotunda in Emerald we were soon heading down the gentle hill behind the Primary School. The recent heavy rains had resulted in the trail being damp enough to quickly spray a black mud stripe up each of our backs. In spite of the mud it was a pleasant change not to have ride through mountains of horse manure.
On the outward ride we followed the upper trail alongside the Puffing Billy line to Emerald Lake Park, before passing over the bridge and joining the trail proper. Then it was past the sewerage plant (hold your nose) and up and down a few short hills before coming out on Wright Rd. Since there are still no signs to mark the correct route of this trail it is essential to ride with someone who has local knowledge. I guess the $600,000 budget did not stretch far enough to clearly mark the trail with some signs.
After crossing the train line there is a long climb through the forest. The trail at this point is broad and in good condition, although it would be all too easy to take any of a number of wrong turns. Then it’s a steep descent down to Mal’s house. For some unknown reason someone has constructed a series of speed humps here – bad enough when you are descending but heartbreaking when you are battling the steep climb back up the hill. Watch out for the house on the right hand side which has a motley collection of yap dogs which insist on barking frenetically when anyone comes in sight.
When you reach the road it’s another 100m or so of steep descent before you reach the long wooden bridge. This is undoubtedly the highlight of the trail, but I really wonder just how many people have actually managed to discover it. Once over the bridge it’s a short ride to Cockatoo before tackling the steep climb up to the shopping centre.
By this stage the clouds were looking like they were ready to drop another inch or two of rain so we decided to terminate our ride at the local coffee shop. We hunkered down under a tropical canopy and enjoyed toasted sandwiches and coffee while a friendly looking bull dog tried to eat Cheryl’s leg. It was about this time that the hail started. We looked out at the white covering of ice and wished we had brought more clothes. Fortunately it was only a passing hurricane and it stopped within an hour. We were not really worried because the ride back was only a few km and we had plenty of time before sunset.
The return ride is a little more strenuous with a vicious climb up Baker Rd followed by another gut buster up the first few hundred metres of the trail. Cheryl made the intelligent decision and walked up this section, but the rest of us were controlled by testosterone and insisted on wobbling all the way to the top.
From Emerald Lake Park we joined the correct trail for the final push back up the hill to Nobelius Station. The final section of this climb takes the rider up a steep zig zag path back up to the car park. It was just as well Crasher Lewis had not turned up for the ride – he never would have made it up this section without falling off several times.
Although the ride had been much shorter than our standard Warburton Trail ride, we all new that we had achieved a very honest workout. Is it a trail for beginners ? Certainly not. Will we do it again? Yes, but I suspect that we will wait until the weather is warm and we can enjoy more of the great scenery.