Apart from being a purveyor of poisonous food, McDonald was a surveyor originally from Dumfries in Scotland back in the early days of Australian history and I assume, but cannot confirm, that the track bears his name. McDonalds track connects Kuranda with the Douglas Track up near Red Bluff. Apparently, these old tracks followed aboriginal travel paths from the Tablelands down to the Coast and were heavily travelled back in the big resource extraction days of the late 1800's.
Looking down into Barron Gorge
The first part of the walk is a steady climb – thankfully under dense rainforest for the most part – up to Red Bluff. After about half an hour, you reach a huge mango tree that is drooping with green mangoes, and, soon after that you climb up some iron steps and cross over the Kuranda Railway line – a wonderful place for trainspotters. After 2.6 km and about 300 metres of elevation gain, you come out on the hillside above the Barron River and under some power lines. This seems to be a popular turn-around location for the early morning exercises as we saw no-one else past this junction. The Douglas track takes off to the left (west) while McDonalds Track goes roughly north following the route of some power lines.
We had worked up an impressive sweat by this time. Doug was leaking water like a politician leaks promises and I could probably have wrung a litre out of my shirt. The track undulates along for almost 5 km mostly in rainforest but occasionally out in the sun by the power line. At one point, you descend a fair distance to cross Surprise Creek, which was surprisingly stagnant and black looking at this time of year and in a few places you get views up Barron Gorge and even a tantalising glimpse of the lower Barron Falls.
Near the end of the track we passed a big red grader, a fallen tree, and came out at Wrights Lookout which offers a seat in the sun as you look down on Cairns and the Barron River. You can continue another two kilometres along the road to Barron Falls look-out but I hate walking on tarmac especially in the baking sun on a humid day, so, after eating half a sausage (good primal snack) we turned around and walked back.
Stoney Creek is too shallow for a real swim, but you can lay down in one of the deeper pools and feel the heat leaving your body. There is a track up the creek to a weir and it is possible that there are some deeper pools up there.