Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cradle Mountain Tasmania

At Christmas friends went to Tasmania to trek on the Overland Track. Their enthusiasm was contagious even if their stamina wasn't. They convinced us to spend more time in Tasmania and to fit in a lot of hiking. Our planning started with Cradle Mountain in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and the beginning point for the Overland Track. It was the most remote area of our trip, and we were advised to buy our provisions before we came. We stayed at Discovery Holiday Park; its small provision store (it had milk but no fruit juice) that closed at 6.

On our way we spotted a sign for a scenic view. Given the line of cars parked by the side of the road we assumed that stopping was worthwhile. It was. A short hilly climb took us to the Vale of Belvoir an ecologically valuable grassland that was inhabited by aboriginal people 18,000 years ago. Our views included a river, mountains, foliage and grasslands.

Background center - Cradle Mountain
Ready for autumn
The benefit of traveling  in Australia at the beginning of fall is that it is neither too cold or too hot. Some flowers and plants still are in bloom. At the same time we missed the orange glow of Cradle Mountain's autumn foliage and the hills filled with spring wildflowers.

Cradle Mountain is a large expanse of a temperate rain forest, which has been invaded by foreign plants. Some trails included long board walks; they cover fiber optics, water and sewage lines. We could stop to admire the vegetation instead of watching where we placed our feet.

Board walk at beginning of Crater Lake Walk

Pandani (looked like yucca to me) 
Three different foliage snaps
We took two walks: Dove Lake Circuit (6 km) and Crater Lake via Wombat Pool (8 km). The Dove
Dove Lake

Lake walk was relatively level and bug free. We took 3 hours for a 2 hour hike - lunched, watched  large birds that we couldn't identify, and took pictures. The Crater Lake walk was hilly in sections and had more scenic variety. One rocky outcropping (just before Wombat Pool) was particularly dicey. Younger nimble hikers didn't hesitate a second in scrambling down. Both trails were well marked and easy to follow. The signs give a time estimate instead of distances - in our case the time estimates were aspirational.

Crater Lake

The trails were totally trash free. Undoubtedly the result of consciencous hikers. But on one walk we followed this ranger as he picked up stray tissues and other debris.

At Wombat Pool not a wombat was to be seen. This was hardly surpising since it was midday. Much of the wildlife is nocturnal and we're not!

Since our accommodations were in the forest we saw wallabies as dusk. As we left a kangaroo crossed the street in front of us. Too fast for a picture, besides I found it hard to believe that I wasn't watching a Disney Cartoon.

A few logistic notes: During the day Cradle Mountain has free shuttles to take visitors in and out of the park. The stops are at the various trail heads. On the Dove Lake Circuit a few signs pointed out the foliage. I didn't take notes or pictures. I assumed that there would be pictures of the common foliage and animals at the Visitor Center. There weren't. The large birds at Dove Lake had a distinctive call, but we found nothing on the birds of the park nor a ranger to ask. Park rangers and private companies offer guided interpretive hikes. The ranger led hike was $35 for two hours, so we skipped it. As for nocturnal animals I suspect that our accommodation's camping areas would have rewarded a patient, alert camper.

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