Set on Mother’s Day of all days, the Pioneer Women’s Trail is the trail the Pioneer Women of Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills used to carry their fresh produce to market in Adelaide before any roads were built.
The trail we ran today was not the same as the original trail, but rather the trail marked out by the Department of Recreation and Sport (who by the way haven’t finished the trail yet because of the little matter of a $400k footbridge at Vurdon).
In excess of 80 people had signed up to participate in at least some part of the trail run and in the gloom of the pre-dawn day most gathered at the finish (Hazelwood Park, Burnside) for the bus ride up the Freeway to Hahndorf.
The bus ride, on a double decker bus mind you – to fit all of us in, didn’t seem to go as long as the bus ride the previous week to Athelstone for the Greenbelt Half. This to me was a good mental sign that I was going to have a good day as this run was 7km further (if you didn’t take any wrong turns) than a half marathon.
We were greeted and set on our way in Pioneer Park, Hahndorf, by the mother of descendents of the founding families of Hahndorf, and the chief ambassador for the marking of the trail. Following a brief recount of some of the trials and tribulations of previous walks of the trail, we set off down the main street of Hahndorf on our journey to Adelaide.
Don’t get me wrong, with the official trail markings and the detailed trail instructions and maps, you would think it would be easy to make it all the way to Burnside without making a wrong turn. History tells us that this wouldn’t be the case and it was barely 5 minutes later that reality set in.
Terry C had made an announcement minutes before that we were turning left at The Cedars, the home of Hans Heysen, but as The Cedars came into view we were greeted with shouts calling back at least a dozen of the front runners who were obviously too busy nattering away to notice it.
It felt like minutes later that I looked at the Garmin to see how far we had come and lo! we had already covered 7km. Gee time flies when you are having fun and then to cap things off an unexpected drink station appears before you complete with lollies and chocolate.
In defense of all those who took a wrong turn, or missed a turn somewhere, the autumn colours of the leaves did a marvelous job of camouflaging the trail signs and you had to be really alert to see some of them thanks to some challenging placement by the trail markers (Rec and Sport).
FRANKY! That was my cries as we emerged from under the bridge in Bridgewater to be greeted by the medicated wares of Frank and his beautifully arranged water stop at the Old Bridgewater Mill. The Mill was the gateway to yet another stunning part of the trail through wooded forest like landscape.
The hardest part of the run for me, started on Old Carey Gully Road. We came out from the Mt Lofty Golf course onto the road and began the slow climb up over the freeway into Stirling. Not actually knowing the exact route I approached the intersection with Spring Gully Road with trepidation. I knew if we turned up that road I would definitely have to give it my all to get to the top without walking…we have history, that hill and I. Fortunately for my legs we passed by without turning and I think I became lazy after that as the fog started to close in. I stopped frequently to walk and take photos.
It was not far past Spring Gully Road that David C, Zacman and Chilliman came up from behind…”Where the hell did you guys come from?” I joked. Another bunch of lost runners. They had been on a detour up the Heysen Trail to the the Scout Camp on Spring Gully Road. I suppose it helps that I was always following people who knew where they were going, with the downside being that I have no stories of misadventure to report.
At this point I wondered why the Pioneer Women had weaved around to Stirling and then back to Crafers when they could have headed straight over Mt Lofty, passed the Scout Camp (well obviously the Scout Camp wasn’t there in the 1800s) as these three had tried to do. It was not to be the last time I thought the Pioneer Women of Hahndorf to be completely barking mad masochists.
The scenery through the Crafers/Stirling area of the trail was stunning. The dark autumn reds and yellows of the trees as seen through the mist were splendid and complimented the historical buildings beautifully.
Across the freeway on the footbridge and we were in Crafers preparing to make the last uphill climb before the descent from Eagle on the Hill to Burnside – The Old Bullock Track. The random assortment, or pack, of runners I had been running with since the start had spread out over the slow climb up to Stirling (with me bringing up the rear) and I thought I had been left behind. But lo, as I came over a little rise on the way to Eagle on the Hill, there was the rest of them still “galloping” along. Had they slowed down? or was I going faster? Charging on, suddenly the group splintered again and I sprinted up the short hill to the final aid station as Chilliman fumbled in his bag for his camera…just getting it out in time…
After the long gradual 18km of uphill it was refreshing to be finally running down and the legs just ticked over, drawing me quickly to the finish.
The top gate of the bullock track (otherwise known as “The Big Kahuna”) by the Friday Morning Running Group came and went. I knew how far (well I though I did) it was to the finish now!
Though I have seen it before, many times up the Big Kahuna, the view of Adelaide as you round the Mt Osmond golf course still took my breath away. Everything was so green, the sun was shining, what a beautiful contrast to the autumn colours and mist of Stirling and Crafers.
This is were things got silly. Instead of heading straight down the “Centre Track”, the trail wound itself around the hillside in what seemed like never ending zig zags. At one point we ran a kilometer and were only 10 meters further down the hill! WHAT WERE THEY THINKING! “Surely the Pioneer Women were barking mad.” someone muttered, “If it was the Pioneer Men’s Trail we would have gone straight down the hill” someone else muttered (OK, that might have been me).
So add two kilometers to how far I thought it was to the finish at the top of Mt Osmond and then fast forward through zig after zig and zag after zag – there is me, belting down Glynburn Road at 4:30 pace, sprinting like a mad man for the finish – because I can, there was sausages to be eaten.
Now in the defence of the Pioneer Women, I am informed that the original trail did infact go straight down the hill and it was the wise old heads at the Department of Rec and Sport that decided it was too steep and that, in the interest of safety, they would add an infuriatingly frustrating wiggly bit to the end of a stunning trail. (more photos)