The Great Dividing Trail runs from Bacchus Marsh to Blackwood, to Daylesford (branching to Ballarat), to Castlemaine, to Bendigo – over 280km of trail mainly through forested areas. The GDT was initially envisioned as a walking trail but has now evolved into a multi use trail, including MTB and unicycles!
I figured it was about time I started to check the GDT out and did an afternoon ride from Mt Franklin (yes the bottled water one!) through to Castlemaine. I’ve driven to Castlemaine many times along the Midland Highway which follows a fairly barren and bland valley and because of that didn’t have high expectations of the walk. Boy was I wrong! The Mt Franklin – Castlemaine section of the Great Dividing Trail is an awesome muni ride with +20km of single track, and almost all the ride through forest – you could be anywhere!
I left the Midland Highway near Mount Franklin early afternoon – not a great start time really for a +30km off road ride you had no idea about when the days were still relatively short – but that aside, I was pumped and ready to go! I had the KH29, with the pedals in the 125mm holes anticipating a fast ride like my earlier ride through the forests from Sailors Falls to Bullarto.
The 125 crank setting held up well until the going got tricky – a few high speed UPD’s on the single track due too a lack of control encouraged me to stop and swap the pedals to the 150 holes. How weird does that feel – swapping crank lengths mid ride! It took me some time to get a smooth rhythm going again.
The riding was unicycle bliss – endless single track, not too technical, through the forest. Mid afternoon I arrived at Vaughan Springs – the walking track comes in above the springs and swimming hole on a rock ledge – would make a great unicycling photo. I should’ve filled my water here, and considered ending the ride due to how little of the day was left, but decided to ride onto Castlemaine.
The Vaughan Springs to Castlemaine section was a lot rougher, harsher terrain, and more heavily mined. My attitude wasn’t as relaxed as I felt pressured to make it into Castlemaine before dark, and I ran out of water with 1-2 hours to go. As the last rays of sunlight fell I could see Castlemaine down in the valleys ahead. I’d opted to follow a disused aquaduct which made for flat and fast riding with the pedals now back in the 125 holes to try and make up some time, but the aquaduct track also wound its way in and out of the hillsides, many hillsides – turning out to be not an especially direct route! It’s a great section of track though and one I hope to revisit – where the single track is narrow, on one side the drop into the aquaduct, the other side the drop down the hill. Not a great place and time to have a big UPD!
I got into Castlemaine just on nightfall. Overall it was a great ride and has really got me inspired to ride the length of the Great Dividing Trail this summer.