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A visit to Cradle Mountain on a perfect day

30 November 2011 No Comment

Dove Lake - Cradle Mountain TasmaniaIt was great to be contacted by a recent visitor to the Park, Ian Smith. In this article he shares his story, and some magic images he captured,  as he explored  the Cradle Mountain National Park.  You can check out the full album over at the Cradle Mountain Tasmania Facebook page.

I had stopped 10 kms from the park along with, as it later turned out, a German photographer who was based in Melbourne. But it was well dark when I arrived and still dark when I left; I suspect it was the German leaving that had woken me because, when I arrived by Dove Lake his vehicle was there along with a couple of others.

Dawn was approaching and I hurried to the lakeside where the German was, then ran (something I hadn’t done for years) back to the carpark to retrieve my polarizing filter. The German, from Düsseldorf, then told me he’d been here until 10.30 p.m. the previous night and that there hadn’t been many stars.

Not to worry, light kissed the top of Australia’s iconic Cradle Mountain as my shutter started clicking. I felt privileged and lucky to be here while the weather was fine and still, an uncommon scenario up here. The thin mist rose and swayed above the lake, moved by the imperceptible air currents and highlighted by the reflected silhouette of the mountains.

I left and went to the famous boatshed, whose picture I suspect makes it the most photographed building of that type in the world. Here were two Asian girls that I’d come across before somewhere set in a spot on a protruding rock.
Wombat Pool - Cradle Mountain - Tasmania
We exchanged greetings but the photographer of the two somehow conveyed the impression that my nearby presence wasn’t welcome. I couldn’t help but notice that while I was enthralled by the numerous panoramas that presented themselves, she was totally focused on one thing though I never saw her push the shutter. They left and I did also soon after, headed for the tarns beyond where I hoped for even more possibilities. Lake Lilla delivered, then I climbed to Wombat Pool and it too was magical then I climbed further, over Wombat Peak and down to the boatshed at Crater Lake.

The whole time I descended I was in awe; here was a lake to rival any in Australia for stunning scenery on a grand scale, right up there with Lake Judd, Lake Pedder and Dove Lake. The presence of massive rock outcrops rising sheer from the waters and ghostly skeletons of long dead trees with tortured limbs askew in all directions made certain of that. The boatshed at the end merely added to the lustre of this, a finishing touch on a masterpiece.
Crater Lake - Cradle Mountain - Tasmania
I retreated to the main trail and started the climb to Marion Lookout. It was steep, or so I thought, then I got to the chains and the snow depth markers and I found out what “steep” really meant. After more than one pause Cradle Mountain finally peeped over the crest and I was there at this lookout I’d so wanted to get to. While the view wasn’t shabby, the memory of Crater Lake lingered and I knew the effort I’d made to get here before the weather closed in for the next few days hadn’t been in vain.

I met my first walker of the day 10 minutes later. This knowledgeable man told me three things I didn’t know; the Devonport Show was on, it was a public holiday in the north and, today was Friday.

I decided to take the direct descent to Dove Lake, a red warning sign cautioned “track steep and rough” when it should have said “very steep and very rough”. I thought coming up had been bad but this so-called track was one of the worst I’d been on. Still, I had a smile on my face when I met a group of Asians on their way up when I was near the bottom. “Glad I’m heading in the other direction”, I said as we passed and cautioned them to remove some of their overclothes because they’d be sweating very soon. They were smiling then, I knew they wouldn’t be in 5 minutes time.

No sooner had I returned to the motorhome when the preliminary to the weather change started blowing in. For once I’d been in the right place at the right time.

I tarried in the carpark for hours, catching up on my notes and photography corrections and occasionally glancing at the wonderful view outside. One of the great advantages of a motorhome.

Eventually I moved back to the park entrance about 8 kms down the road and went on a short rainforest walk that included, much to my surprise, a full on waterfall called Pencil Pine. Apparently there’s another smaller one just down the river further.

I stopped at the main Visitor Centre to report something, thinking why does it always have to be me. On one of the signs it had Dove Lake at 934 metres in height and then the carpark, that looks down on the lake, at 920 metres. I explained it was just a trait of mine that I couldn’t help noticing things, having stumped people at prestigious places like the Wallace Collection and the British Museum, so don’t worry about it too much. Obviously no-one had ever noticed before.

They had more trouble with a German who’d just arrived on a pushbike though. Apparently he had already paid to do the famous Overland Track (it’s about $160) but hadn’t received his okay yet. He’d also turned up without any food to do this serious five day hike into the wilderness because he’d been told you could get food here. Lord knows how they sorted that one out!

I moved north, stopping at a lookout that has distant views to Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff. While on the way down a busload of tourists exited onto the roadside but they weren’t allowed to walk the short distance up to the lookout. I had fun ushering them back on their conveyance which they saw the lighter side of but I doubt their guide would have seen the funny side.

I wound up at Wynyard, having no idea what to do on the morrow but awaiting weather developments.

Ian Smith is a very busy traveler who loves to write about and photograph his experiences. He has hundreds of images and reviews over at Virtual Tourist. The beautiful images in this article are all his work. 

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