Sunday, July 13, 2014

Nano-adventure at Dularcha National Park

Since returning from a fortnight cycling in the South Island of New Zealand, I must admit I've been a bit off bike riding.  I'm not sure exactly what the problem has been, but over the past 12 weeks I've only ridden about 100km in total.  I'm not 100% sure of the reason for my lack of cycling motivation - maybe it was injury, cold weather, a particularly bad rheumatoid arthritis flare up, a general lack of inspiration - the list of excuses could go on and on really.  I seem to go through the cycling doldrums thing once every few years, and normally I claw myself out of it by starting back on the small rides in the local area.  This week I decided that I needed to snap out of it and get back on the bike, but this time around there is a critical difference to when I last went through this a few years ago - this time my oldest daughter Miranda has her own geared bike and is a capable little off-road rider.  Taking the daughter out bush on the bike satisfies her love of bike riding, and gets me back out on the bike exploring new places, without the need to ride hundreds of kilometres to have an enjoyable day.

Our destination today was Dularcha National Park, on the outskirts of the town of Landsborough, 75km north of Brisbane.  I've been trying to find some off-road rides suitable for little kids (Miranda is 6 years old), and from what I'd read the mostly flat fire roads of Dularcha gave us a chance to sample some dirt touring style riding in a quiet bush setting. After loading up the van and driving for about an hour, we hit the gravel into Dularcha National Park.

Riding into the entrance of Dularcha National Park at the Landsborough end.  There are a few car parking spots here, although the ride out from Landsborough town is all on dedicated bike paths so getting to the start is no drama.

After crossing the park boundary, we simply followed the main trail heading north through the park.

The tunnel track follows an old rail line that undulated very gently across a few creek beds.  The trail surface is smooth, sandy and firm.  There's nothing close to steep on the trail, with Miranda easily managing to ride the inclines and declines.

I've never said anything about horses to Miranda, but she is still obsessed with the things.  What's all that about???

Miranda walks a creek bed that was just a bit too rocky for her to handle.  On the way back she must have been a bit more tuned into the terrain, and breezed through the whole thing easily.

 The creek crossing seemed like the low point of the terrain, and from there the trail climbed up to the southern end of the old Dularcha rail tunnel.

It was pretty dark in the tunnel.  As we rode up to it Miranda said "Dad can you put your back light on? I'll just ride along behind you and follow the light."  I was impressed - there's no way I would have thought of that!

The tunnel is curved, making it a little bit dark in the middle - however the surface is smooth and firm.  Miranda and I got through with no trouble.

 Little kid in front of big tunnel - northern end.

Nut bar break at the tunnel.  We turned and went back towards Landsborough, although the trail continues on to the town of Mooloolah just a kilometre of so away.

Miranda emerging from the southern end of the tunnel.
 
It's all downhill from the tunnel back to Landsborough.

As a day out off-road / mountain biking with the kids, I reckon Dularcha is right up there with the best.  It's just far enough out in the bush to be a nice nature ride and, most importantly, it's technically a breeze.  The tunnel trail is very flat, and the surface has plenty of grip with just enough slightly sketchy bits to challenge the kids slightly without demoralising them.  Riding out to the tunnel gave Miranda a real sense of exploration and achievement, and left her wanting more rail trail / off-road style riding.  She's keen to do some overnighters, and I'm keen to take her.  However, despite the fact her moving average is about 7.5km/h, it still took us 2.5 hours to ride 7km today - I'll need to very carefully choose our destination for her our first overnight ride as riding with little kids definitely isn't the fastest way to get around.

The other cool thing about this ride is it gave me just a little taste of what riding around the Glasshouse Mountains might be like, and left me keen for more.  It occurred to me that getting the train to Landsborough, riding the Dularcha trail and continuing onwards might be a great way to start a weekend tour around the Sunshine Coast hinterland.  Miranda and the Dularcha tunnel track seemed to snap me out of my non-cycling malaise - time to hit the maps and get back out there again...!

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