Taking it easy

Walkers just need to give way to the occasional bicycle. Photos: Clare Fraser
Walkers just need to give way to the occasional bicycle. Photos: Clare Fraser
The Big Easy: it says it all. It goes up a big hill but it’s easy, writes Clare Fraser.

A zigzag track starts near sea level behind Logan Park High School and ends up at 393m at the Signal Hill lookout. But the climb is so gradual you barely notice you’re doing it.

To reach it follow the driveway left of the school. The track starts under the large wooden bridge.

Mountain Biking Otago built this 6km path in 2010, cleverly finding the long and winding route along the easiest contour. Walkers are welcome, having the responsibility to keep left and give way to bikers. Track width makes this easy.

Native clematis, Clematis paniculata.
Native clematis, Clematis paniculata.
Fish-breeding ponds, built in 1868, were discovered during track construction and one is clearly visible near the bottom of the track. Historically, brown trout were hatched here but faced a few mishaps caused by overenthusiastic visitors. Trout were stolen and another 19 died from overeating bread thrown to them. But trout from these ponds eventually became the first to successfully acclimatise in New Zealand.

Sometimes, the track passes through healthy native bush, especially at the start, where the delightful Opoho Creek keeps you company. At other times, though, it’s like walking through a life-sized compendium of pest plants.

The South American Darwin’s barberry is worse than gorse in that it actually invades bush. Even natives can be weedy, such as Coprosma australis, naturally from further north. Its weedy behaviour around Dunedin means thickets of the stuff.

Next thing, though, all is well again. Here’s a young tree fern solidly staking its ground and there’s a native clematis, strongly flowering away in the springtime.

A beauty of the very gentle gradient of the track is those new to jogging can go for a wee test drive without jarring the joints. The ease of the rise could be boring for more experienced runners but novices can get a puff going without risking becoming airborne at any stage (I speak from experience).

The new Accessibel website includes photos and comments about the accessibility of the Big Easy. This way, people can assess the route according to their own situation before they even leave home. So handy.

Darwin’s barberry
Darwin’s barberry
The Big Easy is one of many tracks on Signal Hill, most being reserved for mountain bikers. Walkers are allowed on the green ones shown on the map at the track start and on four-wheel-drive tracks.

If you get sick of the Big Easy’s mellowness, you can push the eject button at the 4WD Water Tank Track and soon exit at the top of Signal Hill. If you instead stay on the Big Easy, you’ll arrive at The Plateau, a flattish meeting place of intersecting tracks, complete with a drinking tap, seat and city view.

Once at the top of Signal Hill, follow the road down. The route is a bit of a bogan trap but for those of us with some hooning in our history, we can only mentally indulge the latest generation as they burn past, breaking their own new ground.

Coprosma australis
Coprosma australis
Turn left at Blacks Rd. At the dead end a sharp downhill leads you quickly back towards the track’s start, past creek and tree ferns suggesting a West Coast wilderness. The track is a bit wild too, and slippery when wet.

Blacks Bush entrance looks like someone’s private property but is a paper road extension of Blacks Rd. Head for the track at the left of the cabbage trees.

Once you hit the Big Easy again, turn right downhill, not left uphill. Bizarrely, that instruction needs including as the gradient is so gentle the downhill direction is not immediately obvious.


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