Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Trail running on the GNW (Girrakool - Patonga)

When I found out that a certain crazy Canadian lady, Leslie Gerein, was heading south to Australia to visit, I had to take her out on a trail run! I had been resting and recovering post-UTMB, and was looking forward to getting out for a 25km stretch of the legs.

Leslie hails from Banff and is known by all the locals as "that crazy mountain runner woman." This title is no exageration - photos abound of Leslie trail running in pink underpants on the snow-covered trails of the Canadian Rockies! What a woman!

I decided that we would explore a section of the Great North Walk (GNW), a 160mi trail that runs from Sydney to Newcastle. We started at the Girrakool trailhead, about 10km from Gosford (the trailhead starts behind the Girrakool picnic area, marked with a sign for the "Piles Creek Loop Track"). The beauty about this run is that you immediately feel like you are in the middle of Aussie wilderness. For most of the run you are on open sandstone platforms that give unobstructed views out across the Brisbane Waters National Park. The trail also takes you through lovely Eucalypt forests, across fresh streams, past a must-swim-in waterhole complete with it's own waterfall and gives plenty of opportunities for "bonus trips": little side trips that add extra mileage but take you to amazing places, like the top of Mt Wondabyne.

Hopping across a lovely little stream (great opportunity to have a drink on a hot day):

Awesome sandstone cave along the track:

Dried-up river crossing:

Running across one of the open sandstone platforms:

Leslie: "I'm going in."
Me: "In your running clothes? What about your shoes."
Leslie: "I'm going in like this. I'm Canadian, my feet are used to getting wet from rain and snow."

This run is awesome if you want a great run in the bush on a mixture of technical single track, open stretches on rocky platforms and wide fire trail. The scenery shows the magic that happens when bush meets ocean, and leaves you as a runner sweaty but so happy to be out on trails and not mid-city road. In the words of Leslie: "I'm in Australia, I'm in Australia!"

There is plenty of information about this trail on the Wild Walks website, found here.

On the top of Mt. Wondabyne:

Leslie descending the mountain:

Reaching the coast, behind is the Hawksbury River is meeting the Tasman Sea:

Patonga Beach - the end of the trail:

1 comment:

  1. OMG 25Kms, Brilliant, must have been a breath taking experience.