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reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

In Tasmania Day 17

February 6th, 2020

In Tasmania  Day 17 (Jan 31) Launceston to Cradle Mountain park

Ronny Creek to Windemere  Hut 18.5 Km

The group from the Arthouse Hostel nearly filled the Overland Transport van that took us first to a little town called Sterling for breakfast, then on to the visitor center for the incredibly popular park. We were all there to hike the Overland Track, generally considered Tasmania’s finest.  Unlike the beginning of Port Davey where I just hopped out of the van and started walking, the prep for this thing is intense. The overland driver is full of information and tips but also is clearly in the business of selling or renting a whole range of equipment he just happens to have in the van— and he moved a lot of merch. The visitor center is all business, with detailed briefing about how to comport yourself on the track. There was a lot of information, some perhaps exaggerated. The first hut—today’s target was not available so the option was to hike down a steep slope to a nice but fairly far off the path camp, or have a big opening day by pushing on to Windermere, technically the second day’s target. The other factor everyone was pushing was a major weather front on the way which was supposed to bring high winds, lots of rain and later cold. Getting caught a couple hours out on a plain could be a problem. I opted to hold the decision until I got to the crossroads.

Got on trail (actually boardwalk) at 11, and soon was heading up a steep incline that brought small waterfalls, large lakes and incredible views of Cradle Mountain and its assorted junior peaks. There was the usual press of dayhikers in the first 5 or 6 km, gradually their voices faded after passing the fork for the path to climb Cradle (given weather warnings it seemed prudent not to take a 4 hour detour on an exposed ridge). Then it got magical— the uplands are founded on hard stone with a wonderful heath burbling with little pools and streams, what the Scots call a burn.  I felt like I’d been transported to the Cairngorms—smack dab in the middle of a Nan Shepherd book.

The air was clear so I took lots of pictures, and as I found myself completely alone, I wandered a bit, looking at the plants. The wind picked up later and so did my pace. I had pretty well planned to stop at the substitute hut but just before I got there I passed two women who said many people had trouble with the steep path down. I then met a ranger and consulted. She said the path to Windermere was well maintained and I decided to make a run for it, getting to the hut just moments before the skies opened. Rather than tent, I ended up in a very crowded and noisy hut, but it was well out of the weather. Lots of interesting people including a Kiwi who hiked Nepal with buddhist monk and a wonderful Scottish couple (David and Vanessa) who have a small farm in the northernmost part. Will consult with them about springtime Scotland treks.

T. Hugh Crawford