Last winter our main volunteer project was hand-benching the first stage of our intermediate-grade Park traversing track, Skullduggery. You can read what a mission that was in our blog archive for November 2010.
This year we undertook Stage Two, the connection between Flamin' Nora and Bay View. We still had steep sided slopes and damp gullies - this is Kaiteriteri, after all - but somehow the work didn't seem quite as hard this time. Even with it being 100m longer!
Maybe we're just getting better at it. We certainly had a lot more fun (see 'The Fun Factor' post of August 2011) and you'll notice the difference in character of the two sections when you ride the complete length.
It's a great credit to all of those people who gave up so many of their Sunday mornings to swing grubbers. A huge no. of individuals were involved but these guys were the ones who got to celebrate the breakout...
So what have we got?
1.6kms of narrow, flowing singletrack that weaves across the upper flanks of the Park. It is best accessed from the top of Big Airs but you can also drop onto it from Velocity or, half-way along, Flamin' Nora.
You'll ride through a rich diversity of flora that includes kanuka, pine, beech, rimu, broadleaf, ferns & pungas. There's plenty of birdlife in there as well but you'll probably find that, once you've got your flow on, you won't want to stop.
To make sure you get the best from this new circuit, we've decided to make all of Skullduggery and the top section of Bay View down to just before the water tank ONE WAY.
This is a major move for us in terms of our track network. It acknowledges how many more people are now using the Park, the preferred direction they ride in and our need to ensure they can do so safely.
The nature of Skullduggery makes passing hazardous in several places and the top bit of Bay View has a blind corner with the potential for a high-speed collision. We'd rather you can bomb both tracks as fast (or slow) as you like without risk.
It also means those on a DH blast down Rockface get to prolong their buzz for a bit longer...
This marker post indicates the entry to Skullduggery. It's graded Intermediate due to the narrowness of the track and the fact if you fail to stay on it, you could potential tumble a long way down. I always tend to cast a quick glance over the side in a couple of places to make sure there's nothing down there that shouldn't be. So far, so good :-)
Next on the post is the logo for this track's sponsor. It's the support of local companies like Kaiteriteri Kayaks that help fund our work in developing the Park. It's certainly not limited to locals though. If your company would like to sponsor a track, we're always adding more!
A few posts back I blogged about our 'forest royalty'.
A shady gully shortly into the new section is home to three magnificent rimu. They're estimated to be about 500 years old. That they escaped the bush-clearing fires & loggers of the last century is a marvel, esp. given Kaiteriteri and the region's history.
When we discovered them, we felt as though they'd just been waiting all this time for us to come along...
Another feature of these giants are their hemiepiphytic rata vines. Metrosideros robusta begins its life as a seed high in the upper branches of the host tree. Over the centuries it sends down tendril-like roots that thicken into matted 'pseudo-trunks'. Northern rata has greatly suffered from the predations of possums both in the North Island and upper South, the limit of its range, which makes their survival here even more remarkable.
We've created a small clearing here to enable you to enjoy a few moments sitting in their presence.
Beech trees always make their contribution to the tracks, as well. After all, who doesn't like riding in their dappled shade or beech leaf litter!
This impressive stand frames one of our mini-roundabouts.
Controversial at the time - because it was initially so tight that hardly anyone could ride it - it now provides the perfect site for a group photo!
One thing we learnt while building this track is that sometimes it's a good idea to leave the chainsaw behind.
People have to be more creative and that makes for a more fun track - unless you're over 6'5" , I guess :P
In fact, there's stuff happening all along Skullduggery.
At least, while concentrating on what may be around the next corner, you won't have to worry about a biker coming in the opposite direction!
We're hoping that this sign on Bay View, just above the water tank and the entrance to Heartthrob, will take care of that.
If you're used to riding/pushing/carrying your bike up Bay View and Rockface for a downhill run, it's not all bad though.
We've just finished benching a climbing track that will get you all the way from Ziggy to the top ridge! We'll be closing it again in a couple of weeks to complete the grooming but, in the meantime, you're welcome to sample it (in DRY conditions only, please).
When the tape goes back up, you can rest assured its opening isn't far off...