The plan was to spend 3 days circumnavigating the entire Craigieburn Range. Gale force head winds, gravel bashing, pristine ribbons of single track and river crossings. Rumours of a hut infested with cockroaches lead to a 10 hour day in the Saddle on the 2nd day...
A loose plan had been hatched to take in as much of the craigieburn singletrack as possible to make a bikepacking loop of the Craigieburn Range. Joined by by old school mate Rod Harrhy we started with a blast over Hogs back. Fast and flowy. Blue skies and fresh legs. Back on the road at Castle Hill village and long enough on the seal to remind me why it peaves me off so much.
A lovely fast gravel descent ,mostly from lake Lyndon to lake Coleridge turned into a brutal head wind up the lake until we reached the Harper turn off. Tired legs pounded on till a musterers hut for lodging.
Day 2 brought a clear still morning and wet feet as the riverbed became the track. A silly mistake slipping in a creek crossing lead to falling in the water which made for a dash to Hamilton hut to dry out and gorge ourselves on food.
Initially the track to Cass Saddle is to die for, open flats close in to misterical beech forest and the perfect pitch to be able to ride. Babbling streams are regular. Shortly though the trail starts to head up the fall line and gets ballistic steep. A good 2 hours of bike carrying resulted in a few litres of water being consumed.
We started to fizz when we got to the bush line and quickly thereafter we were able to mount the bikes and ride! After pics at the saddle we began one of the gnarliest descents I care to ride. Baby head rocks in a at times creek bed resembling a track. Steep with tussocks hiding loose rocks, bedrock and deep ruts.
After not too long and one unplanned dismount we reached Cass Saddle hut w a bit of trepidation. We'd come across a family whilst climbing to the saddle who had spent the night at the little 3 bunker. They'd given us an account of a cockroach infestation that came out after dark and rained down on them from the ceiling. Needless to say it sounded unappealing.
We'd decided to bivy outside the hut but it was only 2.30pm. After a discussion about sitting around as opposed to the merits of another 3.5 hours ride all the way back to the van and a ribeye and pint at the Bealey Pub. We opted for option B and got down to the business of some tight technical single track for the next hour.
After fixing a puncture of rod's it was back into river crossings like we had been 8-9 hours ago, before popping out onto the Arthur's pass road again. Very tired pins succeeded in grovelling the last few significant pitches back to Texas flat and Rod's van, a 10 hour day in the saddle. We bolted for Dinner at Bealey before camping.
The next morning We went for an earlish start with some honest singletrack climbing and a 3 hour loop taking in the Luge, Edge and Dickson's. Surely some of the best examples of flowing trails in Craigieburn Forest Park.
It ended up being an excellent tour de craigieburn with an awesome medley of terrain. Buff bike park, gravel smashing, riverbeds, alpine boulder gardens, the dreaded road sections and kilometres of technical backcountry singletrack. Craigieburn Forest park is close to home and close to my heart.