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MIT Great Barrier Reef Initiative: Climbing Castle Hill

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MIT Great Barrier Reef Initiative: Climbing Castle Hill

[fusion_text]By Zoe Lallas ’20

Despite being hard at work all week long, the students of the MIT Great Barrier Reef Initiative have still found time to go on adventures and explore our surroundings. This past Saturday found us hiking one of Townsville’s heritage-listed landmarks and drawing features: Castle Hill. The top of the hill houses the monument to Robert Towns, the founder of Townsville.

The hike was no small feat, especially with the lack of reliable public transportation options near our home. The journey began with a nice relaxing sunny bike ride through town, until the hills started. Then we were lucky enough to get to walk our bikes up and over three very large hills on our way to the car park, where we were planning on putting our bikes.

That in itself was almost enough to make purely getting to the base of Castle Hill’s goat trail an adventure big enough all on its own. But we were determined to get to the top of the trail, just over a kilometer of walking, very steeply nearly vertical. With music blasting and sunscreen slathered, we set off, singing along loudly and stopping often to admire the continuously rewarding views of our home for the summer (winter? I’m still very confused about what to call this season here). The warm morning and sky almost devoid of clouds was a magnet for other residents to the trek; we were met by many people on the path, some trail running, some stopping at vantage points to do squats, some meandering, some lapping us up-down, up-down, and some already heading home.

The top of the hill had another car park, for the less adventurous or those with less time who still wanted to soak in the view. It also greeted us with a bathroom, some shaded benches, and a water fountain. A couple of the higher elevation trails that loop around the apexes of the hill were closed, so we took the only one open and got a completely panoramic view of Townsville, another couple meters above the car park at the top of Castle Hill. After taking the appropriately absurd number of pictures, refilling our waters, and taking a brief rest, we set back out to reunite with our bikes.

Hiking down proved to be a lot faster than climbing up, especially when one of the students suggested we trail run once we cleared the stairs. As we have yet to shy away from a challenge, the group set off at a safely speedy rate down to our bikes. The adventure continued as we chose to attempt to bike the three hills we walked on the way up. This proved surprisingly successful and we set off for home in the sun, still in awe of all the views the top of Castle Hill had to offer.

The return journey seemed to take no time at all and we were back home before we knew it, after a 10-mile bike ride and almost 2 miles of hiking.

Castle Hill on the hike up

Drone image of castle hill with effect to make surroundings look like a planet. Courtesy of John Michael Reyes

Madison Pickett (’20) and Amber VanHemel (’19) on the hike up Castle Hill

View from Castle Hill. Courtesy of John Michael Reyes

Zoe Lallas (’20) and Amber VanHemel (’19) at the top of Castle Hill. Courtesy of John Michael Reyes

Zoe Lallas (’20) at the top of Castle Hill. Courtesy of Amber VanHemel

[/fusion_text][fusion_text]Zoe Lallas ’20 is spending the summer in Australia and New Zealand and participating in a new research and engineering project in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University on the Great Barrier Reef. [/fusion_text]