Nelson and me had a second go at Living Springs last night, after bailing on it the other week. It was COLD in the valley bottom, so we layered up to get rolling, up the entry trail, across a creek and up under some gums then nice singletrack in a patch of scrub, onga-onga at face level carefully avoided. Across the creek again and across the paddock and into the nasty steep climb up to the Pines. Wheezing like crazy I was left behind by Nelson who jetted on up ahead. Passed a farmery-type couple walking here, then into the trees and climbing, Nelson's light visible zigging and zagging ahead of me. I was getting hot by the time we got to Rhymes With Orange, and was thankful to find Nelson stopped at the usual resting spot. So, jacket off and stowed, and off around and up to the gates. We planned on a bit of exploration, and boy were we in for a treat.
Examining a map of the area we headed up into the gums and found our way onto a reasonably recently built singletrack into first some douglas fir forest (which I'd explored once before), and then into a steep gully of bush, switchbacking back and forth, so tight you're almost looking backwards over your shoulder to see where to go next. Sweet we area of trails, tight, twisty and steep, with a couple of nicer sidling bits thrown in too. Then a fence on a slope so steep that you couldn't climb it easily, bikes over, backpack off, and squeeze through. Onwards a ways, and out onto the grass and tussock hillside, ever climbing on new(ish) singletrack. Switchback onto the older trail (quadbike size), and up towards the left, little walking, steep for a bit then mellowing off, and through a gate and more bush around, but not immediately on the track, climbing still, up into a valley and across the next slope then steeeeeep bits, walking, and more switchbacks and there's the top! Mint. Fence has a sign facing the summit road area saying "No Admittance, Extreme Rockfall Risk"... Sat on the 'Memorial' seat for a bit, for a bit of a munch, and then off we went down.
Slow and steady to start, not letting speed get the better of us on the steepest stuff, tho not going that slow. Sweet run down down down, hanging a right at the cabbage tree, and taking the now narrower trail across towards the manuka scrub. Into this and weaving up and down for a bit to the tight fence. Then into the best part. What was walking on the way up was now techy, low speed enjoyment, blanched with bouts of handlebar scuffing speed. A lot of fun, winding down the corners, back and forth, across, then all too soon to the next fence, then douglas fir to the badly hinged gate. Gums, poppy jumpy down across above the outdoor centre, and back to the gates to climb and head for Mississippi. Thinking about it now, the way to do it, if you weren't keen on climbing all the way to the top, would be to ride up the older trails up the paddocks, and come into the top of the manuka forest for the singletrack descent... hmmmm - definitely next time. Makes riding over there more than just a couple of laps...
Usual fun in Mississippi, twisty turny down back and forth, tiring (for me) climb to Zanes and blast down this, me feeling weirdly off my game and taking it really easy. Meeting Nelson at the bottom, I discovered my rear shock was on 'Climb'... AH! Switched it up to 'Trail' and we got on with it, heading up the new entry across to the pines for another loop.
Much more comfortable this time, rear wheel sticking to the ground, grinding up to a rest in the Orange Rhymes, and then across to Mississippi and blasting this much betterer, staying tighter on Nelson's tail, even on the climb and not far off down into Zanes until a stick went clickity click in my rear wheel. Cleared that and chased, but never gained much. Out to the bottom at a much more comfortable and rapid speed than earlier, and around again, this time checking out an as yet unbuilt trail from the new entry to the pines downwards (would be the way up to the pines in the future) onto the usual, then across to the paddock, across to where we'd climbed in at the start, and down through the creek, gums, creek and last blast down between the fences to the car.
... A steeeeep 600m climbed, all in 13kms.