Muzzlewood wetlands - an ephemeral wetland on the Thredbo River Track. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man
As we pedal enthusiastically along the winding track, we take in great gulps of mountain air. Down below you can see trout leaping out of the clear waters of the Thredbo River. They are jumping with almost as much virility as the river itself, which laden with snow-melt bounds joyfully through the valley it has created.
The sides of the track are swathed in verdant spring regrowth, while up in the sky, white fluffy clouds are almost indistinguishable from the last patches of snow that cling helplessly to the top of the main range. Their days are numbered. A few more warm days like this and the snow will be all but gone. After a long cold winter, summer has finally arrived in the snowies.
Around the next corner is a most unexpected sight - straddling the river is a suspension bridge. Not any old bridge, but a bridge of gargantuan proportions. It's like one of those foot bridges that span some of our Canberra highways, only this one also has a specially designed mesh deck to handle big snow dumps.
Rob Naisby cycles along the new track which spans the Thredbo River. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man
''It's 30 metres long and that's not even counting the ramps'' explains Rob Naisby, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service project manager responsible for the construction of this new section of the Thredbo Valley Track (TVT), which opened earlier this week.
''We've made them this big to last a lifetime and beyond,'' explains Naisby, who adds, ''if you think that one is big, wait 'til you see the next two!''
And he's right; the next two bridges, at 37 metres and 42 metres in length, are even more impressive. The three grandiose crossings are currently called Bridge 1, 2 and 3, but hopefully more imaginative names will soon be bestowed on them. I'd have to say that The Golden Gate would be my short-price favourite for name of the longest.
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So, why so many bridges on such a relatively short section of track? ''It's due to the steep terrain,'' Naisby says. ''There are still two more bridges yet to be constructed on the track that will eventually link Thredbo Village with the Skitube Terminal - to form an iconic 17-kilometre one-way shared walk and cycle track.''
We eventually reach our turn-around point - a dead-end around 3.5km along the track near picturesque Bullock Yard Creek. Naisby points downstream to where the track will be extended next year. ''When finished, the track will pass through a wide variety of vegetation types including mountain ash forest, snow gum woodlands, riverine woodlands, montane bog, wet heath and sub alpine grasslands,'' Naisby says.
The return trip is up river, which means uphill - it's generally a gentle incline and we are rewarded with rich views of Porcupine Rocks which live up to their name by and stick-up, out of the rugged realms of the Ramshead Range which hold up the western horizon.
One of three new suspension bridges spanning the Thredbo River Photo: Tim the Yowie Man
Although it's a shared walking/cycling track, the sort of cyclists the TVT will attract aren't the speed-seeking dare-devilish down-hillers (there are facilities for them already in Thredbo), rather families looking to explore the valley or cyclists wanting a more gentle ride. A word of warning though - there is the odd hill where if you aren't an accomplished mountain biker you might want to get off and push for a few minutes, but hey, it'll give you a chance to smell the flowers, of which many are currently in bloom.
Back at Thredbo, we have a pit-stop for a hot chocolate before hopping in the car for the short trip to Thredbo Diggings, home to the trailhead for the other end of the TVT which, by 2015, will link up with the section of track we just rode.
There are three ways to explore this 2.5-kilometre of track downstream to historic Bullocks Hut. The first is the meandering walking track which hugs the river (beware of snakes soaking up the sun on the middle of the track), and the second is a standard bike track which winds through the forest. The final, and more challenging route follows the power lines but also takes you past a hidden gem - the Muzzlewood Wetlands, where water level varies and is currently at its highest for more than 15 years. This is the only ephemeral wetland in the Thredbo Valley and also provides important habitat for amphibians and reptiles. A range of birds can be spotted here, including the great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo).
Bullocks Hut on the banks of a tranquil stretch of the Thredbo River. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man
Apparently, muzzlewood was the term used by pioneering stockworkers for the wood of black sallee trees (eucalyptus stellulata) , from which they carved the muzzles that they used to wean calves from cows.
Like any new track that's been cut into the bush, the new sections of the TVT need a year or two for the revegetation to soften some of the edges, but given the ease of access, gentle grade, quality of the track and spectacular surrounds, it's bound to become a favourite with cyclists and hikers alike.
Enjoying the shared track - for bikes and hikers. Photo: NSW National Parks
Thredbo Valley Track (TVT): a shared-use track carefully constructed from compacted earth and gravel for walkers and mountain bikers following the Thredbo River. The track is still under construction but will eventually (in three to four years) link Thredbo Village with the Skitube Terminal at Bullocks Flat. At this stage you can walk or ride from Thredbo Village over the three new suspension bridges and finish up at picturesque Bullock Yard Creek (seven kilometres return). By autumn next year, you'll be able to go all the way to the Old Thredbo Ranger Station.
You can also drive down to Thredbo Diggings and walk or ride the northern sections of the TVT to the Skitube Terminal and historic Bullocks Hut. If you are on a bike, return to Thredbo Diggings via the new Muzzlewood Loop - a little more challenging but a heap of fun (five kilometres return).
Bike hire available. See thredbo.com.au.
Part of the new Thredbo Valley Track Photo: Tim the Yowie Man
Bullocks Hut: On the banks of the Thredbo River near Skitube Terminal. Built in 1934.
Day Trip: Thredbo is a 2½-hour drive south of Canberra via the Monaro Highway. As the TVT is in the Kosciuszko National Park, you will need a park permit (available at the entry booth to the park). From $16 per car per day in summer.
1. Rough-it: There are a number of campgrounds including Thredbo Diggings. Phone 02 6450 5600.
2. Live-it up: The Lantern Apartments, Thredbo. Four-star bike-friendly apartments with views. See lanternapartments.com.au. Phone: 1800 020 598.
Muzzle? If anyone has a wooden muzzle used to wean calves from cows, I'd love to see it.