I stumbled across the Craigieburn Forest almost by accident, while driving the Arthur’s Pass between the West Coast and Christchurch earlier this year. Signs on the side of the road flashed by: “Mountain Bike Trails”. I immediately depressed the brake pedal. “Come on,” I said to Francelle, “We have our bikes on the back. Let’s have a look.” The landscape was Stunning. We jumped on a trail not far from the road and were soon weaving through dense beech forest and along tussock-covered hills, all beneath a 270-degree vista of snow-capped mountain peaks. I only wished we had more time. I knew that one day I’d be back.
That day came last weekend, at my sister’s book launch in Oxford, Canterbury. I’ve learned the best plan is to map out your ride in your head before you leave, otherwise you get easily disoriented and lost (with no phone data connection). The trails are well set out on a number of different internet sites (see here and here). One of them caught my eye – the Craigieburn Edge trail. Here’s a description:
“Best suited to intermediate to advanced riders… Riders’ nerves are tested from the start as the Craigieburn Edge trail cuts across a steep scree slope before dropping into beech forest for a thrilling descent.”
Excellent! Sounds like a bit of me. I strapped the bike on the back of the car and set off. The trail starts at the end of Craigieburn Ski Field Rd, which is about a 700m climb from the main West Coast Rd. It was off-road stuff, one lane only with fords. It’s places like these where 4-wheel-drive vehicles come in handy.
When I reached the top there was a car park and a ski village, but no sign of any bike trail. That’s a pain, I thought. While I was wondering what to do next a Double Cab full of bikes and bikers turned up. This looks promising. I asked them if they knew where the Craigieburn Edge Trail was. “We’re heading there now,” they said. “You can follow us.” Perfect.
Well I was glad they arrived because I would have NEVER found the beginning of the trail. We traipsed with our bikes through the last of the winter snow to the bottom of the ski lift and there, very evident, was the Edge Trail.
After taking a few pics of each other we mounted our “steeds” and headed off.The trail was a bit tricky and you had to navigate through the shale and pieces of rock that had slid down the mountain. Every now and then the path disappeared altogether and you had to stop, pick up your bike and walk over the rock. But the view was stunning (as you can see).
Here’s a couple of more pics on the same track I leached from Mountain Biking Zanes’ Blog:
Less than 10 minutes into my ride I came around a corner and my front wheel hit a rock which spun my handlebars violently to the right and sent me flying full speed into the rock face. It was the hardest fall I’ve had yet. I felt a sharp pain in my right arm – really deep at the bone level. I looked down and saw a bunch of skin missing and quite a bit of blood coming out. Fortunately, I hadn’t broken anything. But it was a close call. I probably should have sat down and taken it easy for a few minutes. But, like most bikers, I got back up, straightened up the handlebars, and took off (I paid for this later).
It was only early afternoon and I had a few hours left. Even with my sore and bloodied arm I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to investigate one or two more trails. There was one I wanted to re-visit, when I was with my wife earlier on in the year: the Dracophyllum Flat Track. It’s a beautiful ride along a plateau that weaves through tussock while you have an almost 360 degree view of mountains.
The pictures I took just didn’t do it credit so I grabbed a couple from the web to give you an idea: I just love places like this. I love the beauty, the ruggedness and the remoteness of it all. It’s time where I can unwind, unplug work devices and breathe in the mountain air. I not only see the beauty of God’s creation; I experience it.
Reflecting once again on all this, Psalm 104 came to mind. It beautifully describes the creative power of God in forming the earth. I’ll leave with a few verses:
He established the earth on its foundations;
it will never be shaken.
You covered it with the deep
as if it were a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
At Your rebuke the waters fled;
at the sound of Your thunder they hurried away —
mountains rose and valleys sank —
to the place You established for them.
You set a boundary they cannot cross;
they will never cover the earth again.
He causes the springs to gush into the valleys;
they flow between the mountains.
They supply water for every wild beast;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
The birds of the sky live beside the springs;
they sing among the foliage.
He waters the mountains from His palace;
the earth is satisfied by the fruit of Your labor.
Psalm 104:5–13 (HCSB)