CRADLE MOUNTAIN PRINTS
Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania, Australia.
Last winter I was (quite unusually for me) looking for more winter! I was searching for colder, stormier, snowy weather. I wanted to feel cocooned in nature, to hike and breath in the freshest of air, and to do it alone, at my own pace.
I was seeking solitude and peace in the stillness of nature and I found it in the wilderness of Cradle Mountain National Park, just 2 1/2 hours drive from Launceston in north western Tasmania.
This rugged world heritage listed park has a diverse landscape of ancient rain forest, icy glacial lakes and streams, jagged mountains, ancient pines, buttongrass plains and heathland, and was the most beautiful piece of wilderness to be still and re-connect with oneself.
Each day I hiked with my camera, a couple of lenses, my packed lunch, water, maps, and quite a few layers of clothing, well prepared for the changeable weather this region is renowned for
Each evening I was enveloped in the comforts of Cradle Mountain Lodge located just on the edge of the park’s northern entrance.
After a full day of hiking it was at the lodge that I was greeted by the warmth of an open fire, a glass of red and a hearty dinner, followed by a brisk walk (or a complimentary 4wd lift) back to my forest cabin where I would map out my journey for the following day.
The Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park runs north to south with Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain in the North and the deepest lake in Australia, Lake St Clair in the South.
The aboriginal custodians of the Cradle Mountain and Lake Dove area of the park are the Weebonenetiner people who were part of the traditional lands of the North tribe. While the custodians of the Lake St Clair or Leeawuleena (meaning ‘sleeping water’), were the Larmairremener of the Big River tribe. (For your interest I have listed a few books at the end of this post that relate to the harrowing history of the dispossession and destruction of the First Peoples of Tasmania).
The Tasmanian Aborigines existed here for more than 35,000 years. They hunted game and collected food plants using simple tools, and their imprint was so light on the landscape that there are few remains of their extraordinary existence.
The plains of buttongrass that you will see in some of my images (including below) indicate where the Aboriginal people used fire to manage the grazing lands and attract an abundant supply of animals for hunting.
These plants are one of the most distinctive of the Tasmanian wilderness and support an incredible variety of other species, from burrowing crayfish and grasshoppers to wombats and frogs.
Tasmania was part of Gondwana, known as the super continent up until 160 million years ago when it broke away.
This area of Tasmania has many ancient plants of Gondwana origins including the endemic conifers such as the King Billy pine, pencil pine and celery top pine as well as the deciduous beech (fagus) whose display of autumn magnificence attracts many visitors.
One of Australia’s most iconic walks is the Overland track , a 65 km 6 day hike that attracts walkers from all over the world and traverses the heart of this rugged park. Cradle Valley situated in the Cradle Mountain end of the park is the starting point for the long walk with the end point being at Lake St Clair. (head to the link above to obtain restrictions and guidelines for the walk).
The boardwalks that exist in some areas of this park are strategically placed as a preventative measure to help conserve this incredible, fragile and unique environment, as well as for your safety. It was sad and maddening to see some people disrespecting this.
Waldheim Chalet nestled in the forest of myrtle and King Billy pines and overlooking Cradle Valley is a must visit.
Built by the Weindorfers in 1912 as their home and guest chalet, it continued to be used as accommodation up until 1974. In 1976 following a fire it was demolished and an accurate reconstruction was built using traditional bush carpentry techniques made up from shingles split from King Billy pine.
A remarkable couple, Gustav Weindorfer (an Austrian immigrant) and his Tasmanian born wife Kate Cowle fought together to preserve this corner of wilderness and are behind the creation of the Cradle Mountain sanctuary that they sought to share with the world.
“She climbed mountains, at a time when few women dared; he grew up at the foot of the Austrian alps. Their passion lit an urge to save a corner of the planet when they climbed the Cradle summit in January 1910 with Ron Smith…”. A quote from the beautifully written and heart warming book ‘Kindred A Cradle Mountain love story” by Kate Legge.
Waldheim Cabins offer simple and rustic accommodation set in magnificent forest and only meters from the Waldheim Chalet. Pack the car up with everything you need and nest here with Cradle Valley literally at your doorstep.
Take the track from the Waldheim Chalet nearby and wander around the Weindorfers Forest Walk, an ancient and beautiful rainforest of King Billy pines, pandani and deciduous beach (Fagus), even more spectacular in Autumn.
My first walk was circumnavigating the spectacular glacial lake known as Dove Lake, a wonderful introduction to the diverse nature of this wilderness. While it is described as a 2 to 3 hour walk I walked it in over 4, savouring the magnificent vistas and the sounds of currawongs and trickling glacial streams as I circled the icy blue lake, crossed dense silent forests, passed tiny little lakeside beaches and walked under the scraggy wild and snowy peak of Cradle Mountain itself.
The Ballroom Forest (above) located on the Dove Lake Circuit is a low light ancient forest of spectacular myrtles and deciduous beech tress. Its forest floor is covered in a luxurious looking moss that also makes its way up the tree trunks.
The King Billy track is situated very close to the Lodge and is an easy stroll of 2 kms through a temperate rainforest of Myrtle, Sassafras and enormous and ancient King Billy pines. These magnificent trees can grow up to 40 metres high and up to 1500 years old! Once much sought after for their timber they are now thankfully protected.
A short but magical stroll that ends or starts (depending on where you are) just outside the doors of the Cradle Mountain Lodge, is the Enchanted walk. This is a beautiful forest walk to share with children of any age.
Pencil Pine Creek meanders through moss covered rainforest and you’ll pass by wombat burrows and most likely even come across one or two of them hanging out somewhere, most commonly seen at dawn or dusk, and most likely to be seen eating!
Cradle Mountain is a habitat for many of the world’s largest carnivorous marsupials such as the Tasmanian devil, the eastern and spotted quoll, wombat, platypus and echidna.
I took the boardwalk from the Interpretation Centre for the 2 hour walk to Ronny Creek (or 3 hours to Dove Lake) and marvelled at the moorlands of buttongrass that appeared before me.
On the last day I hiked my longest and most challenging walk. I intended to make it to Marions Lookout and was excited that it was forecast to snow as I very much wanted to capture the wild terrain under a soft white blanket.
I started the walk at Dove Lake walked up past Lake Lilla and onto the Wombat Pool track, passing through buttongrass fields, rainforest and beautiful little streams and water pools until I arrived at Wombat Pool itself. I then continued my climb up the Wombat Pool track and climbed until just before I hit the famous Overland Track.
Unfortunately it was about then that I realised that I wouldn’t have the time to make it to Marion’s Peak AND get my lift back to Launceston!
Disappointed I made my way down as more light snow fell, vowing to return to reach Marions Lookout another day! The view over Dove Lake from there is apparently awe inspiring and has been described as one of Tasmania’s best lookouts, (so I’m keen to climb up one day)!
My time amongst the deep beauty of Cradle Mountain was a privilege and an extraordinary experience. Perhaps I will be lucky enough to have the opportunity to explore this unique and magnificent alpine region of Tasmania further.
MORE PRINTS COMING
I will be adding more images from my time in the wilderness of Tasmania to the print shop (most probably weekly over the next couple of months) and look forward to sharing them with you.
Access to all these walking tracks is super easy and regular with shuttle buses leaving every 10 or 15 minutes and running 7 days a week between the visitor centre and Dove Lake, with 3 stops at various other locations along the way.
You will need a National Parks pass in order to board the shuttle buses, and you can purchase them at the visitor’s centre or at the lodge if you are staying there (if not check with your accommodation at the time of booking).
Vehicle access is only allowed outside of these shuttle bus operating hours which run from 9 am to 5 pm in winter and 8am and 6 pm during summer.
For your safety it’s important to remember to sign your name, intended destination and time of departure in the logbook provided at various locations including Dove Lake, Visitors Centre and Ranger Station (especially if walking alone). This is for walks designated moderate or difficult.
You should also always take good wet weather clothing and gear with you as the weather can change from beautiful sunshine to snow, hail, rain and wind in a matter of seconds, and at any time of the year.
Picnic lunch – if you are staying at the lodge order your lunch pack the night before (before 8pm) and pick it up in the restaurant at breakfast.
I especially love this… A trail rider, an all terrain wheelchair is available for hire which enables visitors with impaired mobility to enjoy some of the tracks in the park. Assistance dogs for visually and hearing impaired are also allowed.
BOOKS OF INTEREST
Kindred A Cradle Mountain Love Story by Kate Legge
Truganini Journey through the apocalypse by Cassandra Pybus
Van Diemen’s Land: An Aboriginal history by Murray Johnson and Ian McFarlane
See Venice and die, but see Crater and Dove Lake and live – to see it again” John Savigny