Sept. 3, 2013
Wow! What a day! Today was our day to hike in Cradle Mountain area and we did it up good! The weather was perfect, cold (-1 C.) and clear in the morning when we started hiking just before 8 AM and quickly warmed to almost 20 C. by early afternoon.
The ranger in the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre suggested a hike he thought would take about 6 hours and encompass many of the beautiful sights and views that this park has to offer. He also said that if we got an early start and were feeling particularly ambitious we could add 2 hours and try to climb Cradle Mountain. So these hikes were our plans for the day. Our hike started from the Rooney Creek Car Park on the main road through the park.
We’re not sure how many miles we did but it was well over 12 miles. We hiked through a low valley, up along side a steep creek with lots of little waterfalls, to lots over overlooks and up and down a mountain. The mountain climb started gently enough and then went straight up. We had to scramble over huge rock gardens where the rocks were the size of small cars. Then there was the crossings of snow fields, some of which were scary steep. We made slow steady progress until we reached a saddle about 20 meters vertically from the summit. The view to the back side of the mountain showed lots more snow and the final short distance to the summit was mostly snow covered. These snow fields were icy and very steep and the consequences for a misstep would have been deadly so we decided to make the saddle our turn-around point. The views from up where we were stopped were breathtaking~snowy peaks, lots of little lakes and trails snaking across the landscape, all under sunny, blue skies! We were concerned that the decent would be treacherous but it ended up being manageable. I found myself sitting on my bottom to do a controlled slid down some of the steep rock faces, and fortunately I didn’t wear our my hiking pants!
We stopped for a long lunch halfway down the mountain, where we could sit on some flat rocks in the sun! The view was incredible and we watched other hikers as they moved across trails below us.
Our final hiking destination was the car park at Dove Lake. Dove Lake is the lake that sits below Cradle Mountain and acts like a reflecting pool for,the mighty mountain. Our route took us around Dove Lake at a ridge line elevation so we continued to enjoy spectacular views.
When we finally arrived at Dove Lake we decided to wade into the lake to cool our feet. This turned out to be a painful decision as the lake was about 33 degrees F., because the water was all snowmelt off the mountain. Some of us stayed in the lake longer than others, but we all agreed that it had been a good way to cool off our hot, tired feet.
We took the park shuttle bus from the Dove Lake car park back to the Ronney Creek car park and then drove our car back to our villa. We made a stop at the Cradle Mountain Lodge where we checked out our options for dinner out and then made one more stop at the Visitor’s Centre. At the Centre we talked with a couple of other hikers who had tried to summit Cradle Mountain today. One got as far as we did and the other stopped when the boulders got as big as cars!
When we got back to our villa, I was told I could be the first in the shower and that is when I discovered that we had no hot water! This problem was resolved by moving to another villa with a similar layout. Everyone moved quickly and our re-settlement was done in record time and I was back in the shower, this time with hot water.
We celebrated a great hike with a nice pub dinner at the Lodge. On the drive home we saw a wombat along the side of the road and we made a stop in the dark car park of the Visitor’s Centre to do some star gazing.
Cradle Mountain was a better experience than we dared hope. Tomorrow we head back to Launceston for our flight back to Melbourne in the early evening. We have some ideas about things to do along the way!
I hope my photos can give you a sense of the beauty of this area.