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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Black Duck Creek

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Old Cabin Glenrock State Forest

If you head south from Gatton towards the Queensland border, you’ll evnetually run into an imposing wall of mountains. The Great Dividing Range is difficult to cross here, except for a couple of hidden valleys. Today we visited Black Duck Creek and explored one of these secret pockets

About a year ago we rode through here from Goomburra National Park, over the range to Mount Sylvia via the East Haldon valley. It was a tough ride, with a treacherous boulder-strewn descent. Since then, Eric has wondered if there was a more suitable way down the mountain.

Norm Goltz ParkJunction View

We started at Junction View – where the East Haldon and Black Duck Valleys meet.

Tenthill Creek

Father and Son

Until last week, this place hadn’t seen a drop of rain for months. The thirsty creek beds were filled with dry boulders and dry, brown grass. The recent downpour has changed that. Watercourses are flowing again, causeways are flooded, paddocks are green, and farmers are smiling optimistically.

Artwork on the local letterboxes left us in no doubt which valley we were in, although some of the black duck “feathers” are turning a rusty shade of brown. Perhaps the weather has something to do with that?

Black Duck Creek Road

Although we harldy noticed it, we slowly gained altitude as followed the road up the valley.

Black Duck Creek Road

Black Duck Creek Road

The peaks grew higher on either side, the valley narrowed, and the road devolved into a track twisting over numerous causeways.

Removing obstacles

As grateful guests we thought it would be a good idea to remove a fallen rock from the middle of the road… I offered moral support while Eric and Darb did the hard work.

Feeding HorsesFeeding Horses

Feeding HorsesFeeding Horses

We said “G’day” to a couple of friendly horses too.

Creek Crossing

This place was idyllic: quiet streams, contented livestock, rolling hills.

Someone said, “Gee we picked the right spot to ride today, didn’t we?”

We all agreed.

Bushy Campbell

“You must be Kevin”, I called out to a giant of a man who strode towards us down the driveway from his “castle”.

“That depends on who wants to know”, he called back.

“Bushy” owns the last property at the end of the Black Duck Creek valley. His 647 acre paradise backs on to the national park.

“That’s Ham-and-Bacon”, Bushy said as he proudly introduced us to his pig.

“Faint heart never kissed a pig”, Eric replied. Although he didn’t actually kiss the pig, we did say “Hello”, wondering how it got its name, and what culinary adventures lay ahead for this impressive beast.

Bushy gave us some valuable advice about the track ahead and the safest way to proceed.

“You’s are mad”, he commented.

We couldn’t disagree.

Old Cabin, Glenrock State Forest

As we crossed into the National Park we came across this spectacular old hut. I wondered what things had transpired during the decades it had stood.

Creek Crossing

From here the track (it was no longer a road) grew rougher and steeper. Perfect for mountain biking!


The gradient increased.

Eric started pushing.

Darb kept pedalling.

I marvelled.

Steep Climb

Eventually it becamse too steep to ride. Eric and I ditched the bikes and decided to walk, while Darb continued to push his bike.

Head of the Black Duck Valley

We stopped at about 720 metres of elevation. This was as far as we wanted to go today. We had valuable information about the track, and agreed this would be an enjoyable way to come back from Goomburra National Park – much more pleasant than the East Haldon valley.

Hike without Bike


Mountain bikers call it “Hike-a-bike” When tracks get too steep, and you have to push. So I suppose these tracks should be called “Hike-without-bike” :)

Bushy Campbell


On the way back we chated a bit more with Bushy and his neighbors. Their dogs were working the cattle. Trevor was calling out to the dogs. It was impressive to watch.

Chalk Mine Road

Halfway back we decided to take a detour up an interesting looking side-valley. “Chalk Mine Road” had an interesting ring to it – so we had a look…

Chalk Mine Road

The boulder strewn valley leads to an old Diatomite mine. Diatomite is a chalky rock formed from the calcium remnants of small sea creatures. Millions of years ago this land was under the sea. The rocks are soft, and easily marked…


Towards the top of the road there’s a rock overhang with some ancient Aboriginal rock art.



We were gobsmacked.

This was “Chullawong” (also known as “Chalawong”) – a sacred site of a Yugarapul people.

For thousands of years Aborigines had travelled this valley en-route from the plains of the Darling Downs northwards to the Bunya Mountains in the north. The relatively easy slopes of the Black Duck Creek Valley had plenty of water and food. It would have been the most logical choice for this epic trip which stretched northwards through other significant sites such as Gummingurru and Maidenwell.

We’ve ridden much of that route. Completing it on foot would have been an impressive feat.

Chalk Mine Road

As we rolled back towards home, I think we were all amazed at our good fortune. We’d seen some amazing things today.

Tenthill Creek

“We can go for a swim if you like”, Eric suggested.

In the end we decided to have a quick look at the top of a nearby road. We’d like to bring some friends back here soon for a group ride, and wanted to gather a bit more information…

Tenthill Valley, Mount Sylvia

The views at the top of Paradise Road are stunning :)

We’re definitely coming back!

We rode a total of 51km in just over 5 hours (including breaks). It was msotly downhil once we reached the half-way point, so this would be a very easy section as part of a north-bound ride.

I burned a total of about 2,200 kcal as we climbed about 640m in vertical ascent.

I’ll rate this ride 7 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.

Thanks Eric and Darb for a great ride.

Thanks Bushy Campbell, John Burns, Barney Storey and Warren Goltz for your friendly hospitality and valuable advice. You live in a wonderful part of the world.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

East Meets West

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Eastern Branch Road

If you follow the Brisbane River upstream as far as you can go, it eventually splits in two branches. Our adventure today took us in a big loop through through the most upper reaches of the Brisbane River, along its Eastern and Western Branches.

East Meets West

We started our adventure at the confluence of the Eastern and Western Branches of the River. This is where the Brisbane River officially starts.

Where to?Phil

Eric and I had ridden through here a while ago on our way from Nanango to Jimna, and had both wanted to return.

As we were all preparing to ride off, local farmer Phil Lord from Mount Stanley Station said “G’day” while dropping off some feed for his cattle.

No Pig Shooting

We rode off along Eastern Branch Road, over numerous cattle grids, past one or two farm houses into the dry brown hills that form the source of the Eastern Branch of the River. As we passed the sign I think we all secretly hoped that there would be no pig shooting during our visit.

Eastern Branch Road

The area is in the grip of drought, the paddocks are brown, the ground is dusty, and the river has dried up into a series of disjointed ponds.

Eastern Branch Road

Occasionally we’d come across an oasis in the dry river bed bustling with thirsty birdlife and the occasional deer.

Even in its dessicated thirsty state, this is still spectacular country.


Darb on the Eastern Branch

The morning air was still cool, and we enjoyed the leisurely roll through the undulating hills, counting the creek crossings and wondering how many we’d pass before we began climbing into the hills.

Paul and Eric

After about an hour we pulled up under a couple of shady trees and had a quick break. The steep hillside in the distance was crisscrossed wtih the tracks of hungry cattle scouring the bare slopes for the odd blade of grass.


Shortly before “The Big Climb” we met Phil as he checked his cattle. He kindly asked if we had enough water (we did), then left us to take on the steep ascent up Wombi Creek Road.

Wombi Creek Road

We left the dry bed of the Eastern Branch and pointed our bikes up the hill. With the dessicated gully of Wombi Creek dropping to our left, we slowly toiled upwards.

Climbing the Hill

The slope was rideable for most of the way, but the loose rocks and gravel made it impossible to pedal in parts.

Climbing the Hill

Unlike the easy roll along undulating river flats, the climb up a big hill is often a solitary experience. Everyone conquers the climb at their own pace.

Top of the Hill

But its always a relief to finally reach the top and cool off in the shade.

Mount Gibbarnee Forest

The hoop pine plantations near Mount Gibbarnee stretch forever northwards. We followed some forestry tracks along the top of the mountain for a while.

Mount Gibbarnee ForestMount Gibbarnee Forest

Eventually we began the major down-hill leg of the journey.

Long descents are usually a lot of fun. Today we had the double challenge of dry lantana sticks poking out from the side of the trail, and large “baby head” rocks on the track. We had to take this drop carefully.

Yoga in the Bush

On the way down, Clare and Anna gave us a demonstration of “Bush Yoga” at one of the more scenic spots.

Yoga in the BushYoga in the Bush

I lacked their natural elegance when I attempted it.

Loose Descent

We continued our steep descent to the Western Branch, sliding over loose stones, flying over drop-offs, and enjoying the cool breeze.

Wire GateWire Gate

A barbed-wire gate marked our arrival at the Western Branch of the River. They’re sometimes tricky to open, but Eric deftly unhinged it, and let us pass through.

Western Branch Road

And so we started the long count-down of river crossings. The Western Branch of the Brisbane River would cross our path 31 times before we finished the ride. Riding here would not be a good idea after much rain.


The thirsty river had dried up and left a chain of shrinking ponds. We stopped for lunch in the shade by a one of the remaining small lagoons.

Brisbane River - Western Branch

The Stony PinchThe Stony Pinch

“I wonder why this is called The Stony Pinch?” I pondered out aloud, as I worked the pedals up this stony pinch climb.


This Goanaa stood motionless clinging to the trunk of a tree. He was a magnificent two metres in length and proudly eyed us as we admired him.


The wildlife must have decided it was time to say “G’day”. This eagle soared overhead as we pedalled along. I pointed the camera above my head and furtively clicked a few hopeful shots as I continued riding.


Not to be outdone by his flying friend, this Kangaroo chased us for a while…


…and a few friendly horses gallopped nobly past.



The river crossings became more frequent (and wetter) as we continued down stream.


Yoga on the Rocks

I think this huge boulder by the side of the road was irresistible to Clare, who practiced a bit more “Bush Yoga”.

I decided not to copy her this time.

Burnett Inn Creek


We eventually rolled back to our starting point at the end of Western Branch Road. The 50km loop had taken us about four and a half hours including breaks. We climbed about 1,000m in vertical ascent, and I burned about 2,500 kcal and used up about three and a half litres of water.

This is a spectacular ride. It would be stunning when the rivers are flowing. I’d love to return then.

This ride rates 8 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter. Take plenty of water, and some climbing legs for the big hill.

Thanks Clare, Kat, Anna, Eric, Darb and Paul for another memorable ride!