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Discovering Queensland's new Hidden Peaks Trail (... continued)
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Karmen and Sam return from a morning reconnaissance with very muddy boots and the news that the trail leading up over Spicers Gap is clog-your-wheels-up muddy. It has been unseasonally wet this year and this latest rain compounds that.
We sit by the fireplace drinking coffee and watching mist creep across the field in front of us. We can't see Mount Mitchell in this weather, but the scene remains mystically beautiful.
The Great Divide
Fortunately, the news comes through that the other side of the Great Dividing Range has been unaffected by the rain – we will get some riding in after all, albeit just over 6km of what should have been a 20km day. Even so, the powerful forces of the weather-parting mountains have saved the best part of the ride. Sam loads our bikes into the trailer and we jump into the van. We'll be bypassing the muddy section of the trail, which happens to include a long climb up over Spicers Gap. He's driving us out and around, then up to the top of the mountain to pick-up the trail at Governors Chair Lookout.
We jump on our bikes and backtrack along a short section of trail to experience a little of the World Heritage Listed Spicers Gap Road. This rocky road, built by pioneers in the 1850s, was the original route over the Great Dividing Range from Brisbane.
We turn around and start to ride down the mountain on a dirt National Park road. Our short ride is predominantly downhill, so we feel pretty good when we pull into the Hidden Peaks Eco Camp. We grab some lunch and settle in for an afternoon at leisure in what has become quite a sunny day.
The cabins here have been specially built for the tour, so we again have the place to ourselves. Spicers describes them as 'rustic' because spoilt as we are, gone are our king-sized beds. Out here we have laid out for us a sleep sheet and sleeping bag.
It's amazing how fast an afternoon passes doing nothing in particular other just enjoying your surrounding environment. It's just what I've been needing.
Day three is the biggest day of this journey – 60km – and it's quite different in style.
Today we start on the Bicentennial National Trail, a horse-trail that runs down the eastern side of Australia and is widely used by mountain bikers. It's only a short section of the BNT and it happens to be fairly flat with great views of the range. We soon emerge onto a quiet sealed road that takes us past the old Rosevale pub. This stop made for a lovely pub lunch when we rode the GDR Bike route, and Spicers had the same idea in mind, although the pub has sadly since closed and at the time of writing, no plans by the new owners to reopen have been announced.
So instead, it's a picnic lunch under a shady tree by an old church. Just when we start to get cocky about how cruisy the day has been, the trail notches it up a level.
We head off-road and start to climb, roller after roller, giving us something to work for.
I'm actually starting to feel buggered now, but I make it to the top and having just entered the Hidden Vale Adventure Park, the decent to Hideaway Cabins completes the day with some single-track good times.
If you're from around Brisbane, you're likely familiar with the Hidden Vale Adventure Park, but for those who aren't, I should perhaps give you a bit of the back story about Spicers and things will start to fall into place.
Spicers is an emerging chain of luxury lodges set in stunning locations, mainly in Queensland but gradually expanding throughout Australia, starting with NSW. The chain is owned by Jude and Graham 'Skroo' Turner, the power couple behind the Flight Centre network. Flight Centre also owns 99 Bikes and Bicycle Network, and Skroo Turner is quite the bicycle fanatic. Hence, the development of these magnificent mountain bike trails on Spicers' land.
Spicers has bought up vast tracts of private land surrounding the Scenic Rim and Main Range National Park and has begun to develop it into an eco-park, with guided multi-day hikes on the Scenic Rim Trail, the establishment of the Hidden Vale Adventure Park, and now, the new Hidden Peaks Trail tour for mountain bikers.
The majority of the Hidden Peaks Trail falls within this private land, with the exception of part of Day 3, and as a result, the trail can only be accessed by the guided tour I'm on right now. However, mountain bikers are given free access to the Hidden Vale Adventure Park near Grandchester, where we have just arrived. The park features an entertaining rabbit warren of World Trail-designed track with various levels of difficulty.
I emerge from my cabin to a glorious day.
Blue skies and 100% single-track down some of the Hidden Vale Adventure Park's most popular trails – back up Almost There, then down Ripple Effect, onto Fairywren-ly and finishing up on Plane Sailing, which takes us into the lodge at Hidden Vale.
Unlike the soft dirt on the new track on Day 1, these older trails are well packed, allowing clean runs and plenty of good flow. We truly have hit the playground. All up, it's only about 12km of riding this morning; a short but fun day designed to get us in for a lazy lunch before being transferred back to Brisbane.
Out on the grass under a big shady tree at Spicer's Homage restaurant, our group sits to share one last meal. Just a few short days ago we were all strangers, but bike trips have a habit of bringing people together and this one has been no different. The scene is picture perfect – a joey hops at the heals of a gardener tending to a very impressive organic veggie patch, trees gently rustle in the breeze and dappled sun dances across the country table.
These past four days have been medicinal – cycling, good food, nice people and beautiful landscapes – an antidote to the tensions of office-desk life; tensions left far behind while shredding the trails of Queensland's suitably named Scenic Rim.
Getting there: The Hidden Peaks Trail tour starts at Spicers Peaks Lodge and ends at Spicers Hidden Vale. It is about a two hour drive west of Brisbane.
Days: A four-day tour leaving Fridays and returning Mondays.
Cost: $2290 per person, twin share
Includes: City transfer, three nights accommodation, bike tour guide, use of dual suspension mountain bike and helmet, full tour support, all meals and beverages.
The writer travelled as a guest of Hidden Peaks Trail.
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