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Original Route Idea - 5th December 1999It's funny what you find out.
Having lived in the Blue Mountains for plenty of years, and having been a bushwalker a lot of that time and a runner for a few years, I thought I knew the trails up that way. In the last few weeks, browsing some mountain biking websites and books, I uncovered the existence of two sister trails to the Oaks fire trail, which the Woodford- Glenbrook 25K is held on. If I had run further down Bedford Road, Woodford, during my warm up for that race in July (okay, a lot further) I'd have uncovered the 30K Murphys Glen Trail, and the 40 odd K Anderson Trail, which wound up the mountains to Wentworth Falls.Long beloved of Mountain Bikers (apparently), they run through a section marked on the topo maps as the Blue Labyrith.
How could I resist that? Just the name was way too intriguing for me. As it worked out, I was heading for Woodford this morning with a fat waistpack, some bottles and maps of the wild and wooly sounding Blue Labyrinth sealed in some ziploc plastic sleeves. I was going to run the Murphys Glen trail, I liked the sound of Anderson's but I wasn't sure I could carry that much water myself (no drinkable water out there- the rivers and dams are all polluted, apparently). Maybe another time, but for now I was trotting along a rocky firetrail open to a bright sun. Off to my right, through the trees, I caught the occaisonal view of where I was going to descend. From here on until almost the finsh, I would not see another such view because of densely packed trees on all sides.After about half an hour the trail became a cutting, passing through a stand of turpentine trees.Nice to smell, but I have sen these spindly trees, when set on fire, to go FWOOSH! like some kind of skyrocket. They are a real danger for bush firefighters.
Before long came a trail off to the right, signposted as Bedford Creek Walk.That was where I wanted to go- down to the creek, across, then, depending on your route out, you would be following Murphys Glen trail or Andersons. On the Woodford side of the water, they are a common path. I passed this turnoff to drop into Murphys Glen camping ground itself. It was a very steep descent, but not too long, and I spent a few minutes ambling around without seeing anyone. I didn't bother trying to run the climb out, just walked up and turned onto the Bedford Creek approach. About 50 minutes had passed.
The 3K or so of descent into Bedford Creek was steep, winding and had enough loose gravel to send me skidding a few times. Eventually I arrived at the fast flowing waterway. My feeble attempts at crossing waterways have amused many over the years, and it looked like it was going to happen again, as I found myself perched on a mossy rock in mid stream with nowhere to go. I looked up from my feet, and Lo! there was a fallen tree across the water a few metres upstream. I iiiiinnnnched out across the log and hopped onto the far bank. Climbing up to the junctions of Anderson's and Murphys Glen, three mountain bikers came rolling up slowly. "Real people," I joked, then spent a few minutes halping their navigation with my maps. They headed down to the river, looking resigned to three Ks of tough climb, whle I headed up the ridge on Murphys Glen trail. This section was marked on the map as hiking path, but was wide enough and (mostly) even enough for vehicles.They might have had trouble with the loose rock and gravel though. The top of the ridge was an outcropping called South Hill, and before long I was wondering if I was on another Flying Dutchman hill climb.My fears faded when the trail wound round South Hill and arrived at a T junction.
To my left was the way out of here. To my right was about a kilometre descent to the popular Ingar camping ground. I had used about half my water by now (it was pretty sunny and not windy), so I headed right to see if there was a water source down there. Plus I liked the look of the climb back out.
Ingar contained a waterhole that is used for swimming, but not drinking, and I didn't find any other water in this clearing, so I turned around and trudged back out. My watch said I had been out here for two hours, as I passed where I had emerged from the creek, and upwards, ever upwards. Mountain bikers love Murphys Glen and Anderson trails because they drop 487m from the Wentworth Falls end to the Woodford end, so they have plenty of chances to work up speed. I doing the reverse, and thus had a net climb of the same amount. From here to the finish was pretty much constant uphill, mostly gentle, but steep in a few spots. The trail reached the top of the ridge when almost into the back of Wentworth Falls, and a windswept lookoutprovided the first real look at the ehole of the Blue Labyrinth I had just negotiated. In contrast to the Grose Head South lookout I talked about a few weeks back, where the gorge and the cliffs fill your immediate vision, this excellent view of twisted ridges and gorges piled on top of each other, encased in blue haze, rolled away to the horizon. After a few minutes, I was running again. With little water left, I reache dhouses and persuaded one gentleman watering his garden to fill my bottles with his garden hose. Bidding him a good afternoon, I swung onto bitumen again on Kings Tableland Road
This graduated to the Great Western Highway, and I ran about a mile on the shoulder of the road before entering Wentworth Falls' commercial district (such as it is) and onto the train station for the trip back, after presicely four hours. I was satisfied with theday- another long run, mostly uphill, laying my base for the 2000 racing season, and a new network of trail to explore. I'd like to do Andersmeans an Oaks- Murphys Glen extended run is more likely. In some shape or form, there will be a Blue Labyrinth, Part Two. In fact, if you combine the trails right, you could even put on a 100 Mile race....
Sean has also written the following articles that are published on CoolRunning Australia :