4,000 for 40 – Oct Ride 1

Granya Gap – both ways – 42 unloaded miles

Sunday October 2, 2016

So last Monday, it looked like we might finally get in an overnight ride. After two days of rain Thurs and Friday, Saturday’s forecast was for a 20% chance of rain in the morning of only 2mm. Yay – finally a camping weekend!

Alas, as the week wore on, the forecast got worse and worse. Saturday arrived and it drizzled and rain most of the day. It took a long time for the big system to move out – but we can’t complain… the entire state of South Australia lost power when the storm rolled through there earlier in the week.

I still thought I might be able to head up Saturday evening to camp at my local go-to spot, then ride on Sunday. But it was just too soggy and wet Saturday night to want to go. So I drove up at first light on Sunday (which felt super-early since we started daylight savings overnight).

So normally, I would reserve this journal for loaded overnight rides. But your luck is that you get to see an unloaded day ride here… just because I’m so frustrated with all the rain and this should have been an overnight ride!

The past week was pretty tough – every day brought sad or bad news or huge expenses. I was feeling pretty low by week’s end and desperately needed a ride. So today’s ride was meant to give me plenty of climbing to ride out my angst and sadness. I also wanted to start building some leg muscles again after the winter atrophy of riding flatter roads for the past few months. This all equates to riding Granya Gap twice (from each direction) and doing a loop to add two new roads to my list. The goal was to get all of this done before the winds were forecast to pick up around mid-day. It is also a long weekend for NSW and Victoria – so I wanted to be done before all the traffic picked up, too.

And lo, let the light shine unto you. On the way up on Granya Gap heading south and east.
Top of the gap – first go.

We had the four mile climb to the gap to ourselves this morning. It’s not a difficult climb – never really getting much over 5 percent anywhere. The cruise down the other side is on good pavement and there’s no need to pedal for those four miles. Just lean into the turns and consistently flow down at about 25mph.

We then had to get on the Murray Valley Highway – which can be a pretty bad experience with lots of high-speed traffic, no shoulder and plenty of curves and climbs. But today, we beat the traffic. Just as it was starting to pick up, we were ready to turn off onto the rail trail and then onto Yabba Road.

Our local dam, the massive Lake Hume is pretty much full, so it was a treat to see all the water. It was foggy down there, but still very good to see. Last time I came through here, the dam was at about 19 percent and there was definitely no water way up here.

The dam is full – 96.7% capacity. They don’t let it get much over that. Normally this area is all just open river flats and the creek flowing in its natural course. It has to get over 85 or 87 percent or something to fill this part of the dam – and we don’t get many years where it ever gets that full. Plenty of fog down here this morning.
Yeah, that’s normally all just grass, too. This is Tatonga Inlet – the Mitta Mitta River runs underneath. You know the dam is full when it gets up into these bits.

Lake Hume holds just over 3 GL – that’s 6 Sydney Harbours or 1200 Olympic size swimming pools. It has 400 km (250 miles) of shoreline and submerges 20,000 ha (49,450 acres) of land. It is the main supply storage for the Murray River – though one other dam upstream (Dartmouth) is even bigger in capacity (smaller in area but deeper). Lake Hume at full supply (NOW!) has a height of 192 metres above sea level with a 318 metre long spillway and dam wall that is 1.6 kilometres long. Yes, it is massive, and it is pretty bewildering to contemplate its size when driving/riding along all that shoreline!

I love ‘fill in the blank’ signs – it keeps my mind occupied for some miles thinking of words to go in the space.

But we don’t ride along much of it today. Today is the day to explore the Spring Creek Road – one that’s been beckoning to me on the map for some time now. This takes off over a low spot in a range of hills that separates the Mitta valley from the Tallangatta Creek valley.

We have the road completely to ourselves. It is a joy! My spirit lifts, and all is good with the world again. There is water everywhere. Every indent in the land, every little ephemeral creek, every drainage culvert under the road is full of water. There is the constant sound of falling water as I ride today. The abundance is beautiful even if incredibly soggy.

Our road heads up through all that bright green pasture backed by taller hills speckled with cattle and sheep. There’s a farmhouse every 500 metres or so. The creek we are following is going bonkers – slipping over granite rocks and crashing over boulders. It widens out in flatter spaces to run a swift murky brown over soil that rarely ever gets so saturated.

Fog is lifting to the sound of water cascading everywhere and a billion birds calling out.
After a very wet winter and the wettest September on record, every little creek is going gangbusters. This one is normally dry or just a trickle.
Spring Creek Road – are you jealous? You should be – this was divine. I saw no one on the road in its entire 10 kms. It was beautiful and the gravel was sandy/muddy and rode like powdery snow 🙂

Eventually, the road turns to gravel for a few kilometres – but I’m on the downhill now and the momentum carries me through all the softness. It’s an interesting mix of clay and granitic sand. I scoot through it like I’m riding through powdery snow. Really, it feels just like riding through about 3 inches of fresh snow. The only thing it doesn’t do is squeak like snow. I’m so delighted. I haven’t ridden in snow or felt that feeling in about 18 years. The fact that I don’t see a car in the entire 10 kilometres on the road makes me grin, too.

Finally, the road drops us down into the Tallangatta Creek valley and we pick up the pace as we pedal down the wide valley on a gentle decline. The only two magpie swoopings of the day come from this stretch. We follow the creek downstream – it’s running full and fast.

And then we are back to the Murray Valley Highway where we are able to dart back up to the Granya Gap Road before any cars have to overtake us on that narrowness.

I haven’t eaten yet today – so a snack is in order before we climb the gap for the second time today. I want to be sure that this side is no more difficult than the other direction – and it’s always nice to be able to say you’ve ridden a gap or pass from both directions.

The climb is fun. It’s not hard and it’s just amazing to see every rock face glistening or dripping water. The steep walls all have fresh slumps of earth sitting at their base. Every creek that flows down and under each curve of the road is a frothy cascade of aeration and volume. It is truly spectacular and certainly best seen from a bike. I love it!

We finally top out of the Mitta River catchment and drop down into the Murray River catchment. Yippee! The downhill is the sustained four miles, but it’s never all that steep, so you just roll on down in the 20mph’s and never even need to feather the brakes for the curves. There’s no cars behind me so I can play with the whole lane the whole way. Woo-hoo – thank you weather gods for at least one sunny day that coincided with one of my days off!

Yep, every watercourse is ‘running a banker’. This is Tallangatta Creek. With more heavy rain forecast the next two days, this one is going to be out of its banks soon.
Looking over to the Murray River arm of Lake Hume. There isn’t usually much water in those bits either – usually just the river course or a bit more. Hard to believe it’s gone from 16 percent capacity in late May to FULL by the second week of September.
Crack o’ dawn start means we are back to the car before the wind and traffic picks up. Daylight savings started today, so now there will be enough light to get in a short ride after work each day…. if it’s not raining!

To read more about Lake Hume – check out: http://www.mdba.gov.au/river-information/running-river-murray/hume-dam

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