It is always nice to get out and explore new terrain and this is one of those adventures. With a weekend away to Arthur’s Pass and childless (no dogs) we used the opportunity to discover some new mountain bike trails and hikes. Hikes to follow later….
Our latest ride is in the high country, on the drive across Arthur’s Pass to Christchurch in an area called Craigieburn Forest Park. This is pretty much ski field country but in the warmer months there is a great back country track up in the mountains of the Craigieburn and Broken River ski fields.
Thanks to a very dedicated group of volunteers predominately from the Canterbury mountain bike club and Castle Hill community and with the generous help of Ground Effect Clothing Company a new network of trails have been built to link the Park tracks with the small village of Castle Hill.
After seeing postings on Facebook showing the progress of the trail and reading of their efforts we thought we’d use this opportunity of checking the new trail out. Hogs Back – here we come.
Parking up in the Castle Hill village – basically at the end of the road our day’s adventure began. We didn’t really know what to expect, both of us for some reason under the impression that this was a bit of a flat valley ride – a ride for the family.
Oh dear how wrong we were. Heading into the beach forest, the trail immediately started climbing – that was pretty much us now for the next two hours. I’m the first to admit, this hurt. I biked where I could but found myself walking more of the first section than I was biking. I could see if this continued it was going to be long day for me out “with” my bike. The trail sign said intermediate – technical wise yes, fitness wise – rather large question mark.
Soon we came out of the bush-line and onto tussock land. Stephen made the comment “this should be pretty much flat riding from now on” …….. mmmm famous last words. We met three lovely ladies hiking in the hills who I only just found out after the fact, made the comment “oh you guys are keen”. Stephen thought they meant the climb we had just done – turned out they meant the continual climbing we were about to do.
The trail gently continued to climb at a slight gradient up, up and up – with orange marker posts our calling points which in some respects was actually more demoralising as you could see them off in the distance – or more like up in the distance.
Eventually we came to some downhill as the track dropped off the ridgeline and down across a river bed flat and into the bush again. Again climbing ever so gently – enough to know you were working.
The sections in the bush were good fun, ducking and weaving between the beach trees. I often think the NZ Rimu is my favourite of our native trees until I’m in a beech forest and then I think no it is the beech tree. This is predominately mountain beech covered in a black lichen. I think it is beautiful and the smell is gorgeous too.
Out of the forest and along another river bed, out again and up again and along again…. you get my drift. I have to say though the countryside sure is beautiful and since we were going so darn slow we had plenty of time to take in the views and appreciate our surroundings. Often we could see the Cheeseman ski field access road down below, meandering its way up the valley to the mountain.
After a stop at the Picnic Rock lookout – where we could see most of the trail we had just ridden, including the hill climb we would have to do to get back out, we had a final couple of knobs to go up and down before it seemed we started the decent to the ski field access road. We could see some other bikers climbing up and thought it really wasn’t necessary for us to stand at the sign at the end saying we’d made it, when we could see it from here and would only have to climb back up again – we’d both had enough climbing by now.
I say enough climbing, there was still the knobs to be done again this time in reverse but they actually seemed easier riding in reverse. Perhaps it was just the mental knowledge of knowing the real climbing was finally over.
Back at the Picnic Rock lookout we decided to wait for the other riders and let them go past us. They soon rounded the corner so we were able to have a quick chat. We thought they must have come over from the Craigieburn Forest Park and been on a mission but no – they were doing the same trail as us but just one way – downhill. Turns out they biked from the village, along the main highway, up the access road with the little climb we saw them on to now have some extreme downhill fun. Thanks for telling us guys – we know for next time!
So down we went – and it was fun. What took us around 2 hours to ride up – and that did of course include lots of stops for photos….. it did…….. took us, ready for it – 20 minutes to bike back out. Yes 20 minutes and that included the climb from the river bed back up to the tussock! The final section down through the bush from where we met the ladies way back at the start of our day was steep – fun but steep. No wonder I couldn’t bike up it or most of it anyway. I didn’t feel so bad after going down it.
Mission complete and all in all a good day out in the saddle. Note for self though – if want a challenge do the ride in and out, if just want some fun, ride the access road and out. Moaned as I did at times, and as hard as it was to breathe sometimes, it was a great ride in some amazing back country, in this land we call GodZone. We sure are lucky to have it and I’m glad we did it as an in and out.
Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth. They enjoy getting out and about and exploring and sharing their discoveries and adventures.