As a kid I never liked Townsville. My family would drive up from our cane farm in the Burdekin district to visit Grandparents in Townsville a couple of times a year. I can’t recall how or why the dislike began but bizarrely it stayed with me over the years – until I flew into the city a while back and from the window of the plane spied hillsides dripping with single track… perhaps I needed to get my shit together and check Townsville out grown up style!
So I’ve been staying with my folks in the town of Ayr, located in the Burdekin district which happens to sit on a giant flood plain. Yep dead flat and covered in sugar cane fields. Not surprisingly mountain biking isn’t a popular pastime with the locals. Head an hour north though and help is at hand, in the shape of mountains that surround the coastal city of Townsville.
I headed up to Townsville just after sunrise to ride the Douglas Trails before the day heated up. Finding the trail head on Angus Smith Drive was a snap thanks to the large signs and the dozen or so cars with bike racks already there. Directly in front of the car park is a skills area with a range of graded wooden structure challenges. Cool stuff and fun to mess around on before or after ride.
I geared up and took the well worn trail up Easy Street, passing under the excellent Hump wooden flyover, then onto Beefwood and the Long Way to reach the Top Summit. I checked out Spiderbait before heading down on Rock and Roll 1, 2 and 3. Keen for more I climbed back up to the Top Summit, this time heading down Hammerhead and somehow ending up at Ironbark Junction, not really where I wanted to be as I was keen to finish with another run down Rock and Roll. A bit of backtracking and it was job done. Rock and Roll really is good fun.
Highlights? Seriously there was no shortage of highlights.
VIEWS: The Douglas Trails have non stop awesome views. Wherever you look it’s going off. Whether it’s to the surrounding rugged hills or over the city out to the ocean there is always a feeling of massive space and elevation to one side of the trail, with sparse but picturesque Australian bush on the other. The views are 24/7 with the local crew also regularly heading out on night rides with the city lights below. Reckon I’ve got to get along to one of the night rides while I’m up this way!
TRAILS: The trails at Douglas are sweet and the MTB Reserve is a seriously impressive achievement. Being the dry season the trails were dry and dusty but not blown out. Rocks? Yeah lots, of all shapes and sizes, but not any more so than Mt Joyce or Central Victoria. Add a bunch of dirt to the mix and you’ve got a fun and interesting trail surface that keeps you on your toes. The trails are stacked and graded green, blue and black so there’s something for everyone. It also makes it easy to piece together rides e.g. cruise up the greens, fang down the others. In some ways Douglas has a similar feel to Mt Joyce – raw, rocky, dry, fun, fast – except Douglas is in the perfect location, with a compact trail network right on the edge of a city… and those huge views out out to the Pacific Ocean.
My favorite trail so far would have to be Rock and Roll. When Rock and Roll #2 kicks into gear it’s just huge dumb grin fun – rolling, jumping, flowing, lots of turns and stuff going on. Features like the wooden Hump flyover and the Meat Grinder rock garden make it even sweeter. Like several other black trails at Douglas, Rock and Roll is one way so you can have a crack without worrying about an uphill rider lurking around the next corner. I’d love to have a run like that in Central Victoria.
If there’s one catch to Douglas it’s the lack of shade. By mid to late morning things were starting to heat up. You either have to suck it up or make or plan to ride early, late or at night. Not sure of when I’d be able to make it up to Townsville again I sucked it up, drank lots of water and kept riding.
I was buzzing after the morning at Douglas MTB Reserve, and funnily enough was feeling a little guilty for thinking poorly of Townsville all those years. I’d heard of other local trails at the Pallarenda Conservation Park. I could only recall a fairly ordinary high school excursion to Pallarenda Town Common, but if I’d learnt anything in the last few hours it was how wrong and dumb you can be about a place.
Riding new places… it’s real good for ya!
Next Stop: Pallarenda Conservation Park