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Weekend at Cradle Mountain National Park

RooFlyer

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I have a confession to make. Promise you won't pass it on. When I was at Uni - the first time, in the late '70s - I did a botany course called Weeds of Tasmania Field Botany. Why, on God's earth, you are entitled to ask! Mainly, because the 'Physics girls' were doing it and there being b-all females in Geology after first year (before you sneer, 2/3 of my Year 12 geology class were girls!). Plus it seemed like an easy 3 credits and it was held late in the summer holidays, after vacation employment with the Mines Dept had finished.

Basically, a week at Mt Field National Park, out of Hobart, staying in huts and going out each day in the group led by the wonderfully eccentric head of Botany at UTAS, Prof Jackson, assembling a collection of native plants which we had to identify, mount in a folder and present. My main remembrance of it was in the National Park, with the Prof identifying some plant-or-other, and the the students descending on it, ripping twigs or branches off - whatever came loose - as specimens for their collection. Left a trail looking not unlike a plague of locusts had descended in a narrow line through the park. Well, not really. The park was a big, abundant place. Only some of the plants were rare. :eek:

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Anyway, that's my background with plants. 🌳 Oh, except when doing field work of course as a student and through my career. In Tas it was mostly rain forest - with the emphasis on RAIN, with the wonderful Fagus (including a wonderful deciduous species that changes colour in Autumn), the sassafras, King Billy Pine, Huon Pine (if you were in the deep-south-west), blackwood and all the rest. Nice enough, but unfortunate when they got in the way - like 'ho. That's why they invented machetes and axes and chain saws. Oh, and later, field assistants. :)

And of course they were home to leeches. I never, ever got used to leeches, which was why I never worked in western Tas, Ugh.

And then there was the 'horizontal scrub'. This is accurate:

The tree develops thick solid branches that droop under their own weight while still thin. They then thicken up and grow more vertical shoots, which in turn may droop as they thicken. The result is a tangled mess of very thick solid branches, as well as thin stems. The process is repeated until a lattice-work of tough, slippery branches covers acres of rainforest.

All rain forests are described as impenetrable but the habit of this species to form a vertical and horizontal tangle of branches made progress through this kind of countryside notoriously difficult for early settlers.

Tasmania's horizontal scrub did have some benefits though. The guards at penal settlements surrounded by rain forest, such as at Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania's west coast, knew that even if a prisoner escaped, the chances of getting through such a tangle of forest were virtually impossible.

Today, the only way for a bush-walker to negotiate such entanglements is to scramble over the top, often at a height of 6 to 10 metres above the ground. The walker, especially in winter if the thicket is snow-covered, is then in danger of slipping through rotted sections and, so the story goes, of being trapped without leaving a trace.



ANY-way ... as we are trapped in Tas, and I get a discount with the Cradle Mountain Hotel via the RACT AND got $100 from the Tas government to spend, some friends and I decided to visit Cradle Mountain National Park, where I haven't been for ooooohhh .. 30 years? When I get home I'll post some pics of when I climbed Cradle Mountain and did a lot more very fit-type-stuff.

The drive up from Hobart was rainy nearly the whole way (typical spring weather), so unfortunately no ;pics along the way.

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The road gets very bendy as you approach the park - into the area of Hydro schemes, big impoundments and lakes

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We reached the hotel. Its just outside the National Park - its not the 'Cradle Mountain Lodge - that's the place to be, if you can afford it. Cabins, each with log fires etc ... There is also an extensive 'Wilderness Village of lower-end huts etc. All put in in the past 20 years.

My room rather plain:

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I got a spa for those post-walk aches and pains

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View out to the forest:

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There are also lounges scattered about with log fires. We took our own wine and pre-dinner snacks to have there and no-one minded. This isn't as '70s as it looks ...

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We went to the relatively new Visitors Centre. Inside this grey Taj Mahal (photographed from the HUGE car park) its basically a ticket office. No displays or interpretation, just booths that will explain walks etc to you, and sell some souvenirs.

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I think this display is about bush fires? No idea.

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But there was some stuff to keep the interest up:

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RooFlyer

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The rain was just passing, so we went for a few short walks around the Lodge. In the rain forest it was still dripping, so as good as raining, but that's what you get with a rain forest. :cool:

Our first walk was a 30 min leg-stretcher 'Enchanted Walk'. Its the one that everyone does, quick and easy and level if you go half way and back the same way.

And they have even paved that section! Very surprising, but it makes it accessible to almost all.

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Button-grass, the old friend. When coming across this in the bush, the trick was to leap from clump to clump, as in between thar be snakes!! Trouble is, the fronds are sharp! Sort of like WA spinifex, only wet ...

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Another old friend, Richea pandanifolia. Old friend has a nasty habit though. Those leaves have silica barbs on their edges - will cut you like a knife.

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Its been a very wet spring ...

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This is one of Tasmania's most visited National Parks and the infrastructure is excellent.

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RooFlyer

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Next walk was "King Billy track'. Named after the King Billy Pine Athrotaxis selaginoides, which has been found up to 2,000 years old! Its a conifer Cupressaceae , but not a pine and endemic to Tasmanian alpine regions.


This track is a walk through 'typical' rainforest and has a good boardwalk and many steps. Maybe 45 mins circuit. Totally green and mossy, little rivulets across the ground after the recent rain.

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This seemed to be a fungal 'bolus'?? Paging @JohnM ...

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Here are some more:

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As I mentioned in another thread, with the rain and recent wind, this giant got up-rooted ... very shallow roots!

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Trunk of an old King Billy Pine - an apartment block for critters.

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RooFlyer

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Next walk, another short one to complete the afternoon. Pencil Pine falls and Knyvet falls, both still around Cradle Mountain Lodge.

Head down, bum up, doing what wombats do. Tasmanian wombats are always out during daylight

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Pencil Pine falls

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Kynvet falls:

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The water colouration is of course natural the tannin staining that occurs throughout western / SW Tasmania. In fact, all over.

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Its not just your step you need to watch:

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Swimming is allowed :eek:

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Returning towards the Lodge. As I said, this is the place to stay.

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And our mate was still going strong.

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kookaburra75

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Ahh horizontal scrub. When I was first told about it when I arrived in Luina, overr in Western Tassie in 1980 I thought they were having me on. But as a surveyor, trying to cut lines for boundary through the rotten stuff, as well as falling through it more than a few times I realised they had been optimistic. In some areas we traversed up the creeks as it was easier.
 

RooFlyer

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I actually had the Tas Wilderness Society's version of that poster up on my wall when I was at Uni. 😝 :eek:🤫

This morning started very bright and cheery. First, the weather was sunny and still, and second, the first thing we saw was this fantastic basalt flow, with columnar jointing:

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I mean, just phwoar, right?

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View of Cradle in the distance.

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There's a shuttle bus (hybrid Volvos) from the Visitors Centre to Dove Lake, every 15 mins with couple of stops in between ... abt 20 mins. They have a forward-looking camera on board for any wildlife on the road.

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Amount of Tas in World Heritage National Parks.

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Fun fact: To get UNESCO World Heritage status, an area or object has to satisfy one of the 10 various criteria for natural, cultural etc significance. Most places get one or two ticks. Cradle Mtn National Park passes seven, only one of 2 places in the world to do so (other is in China).
 

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There are many great walks around the Dove Lake area. Beyond the Lake and immediate area, it gets a bit challenging and beyond me and my dodgy hip these days. Just doing the Dove Lake circuit this morning.

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On arrival at Dove Lake its a board walk start down to the lake, through some button grass.

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The Dove Lake circuit takes between 2 and 3 hours, and is a mixture of gravel and board walks (with chicken wire anti-slip). Mostly easy walking, a few flights of steep stairs, some passages of 50-100 long steps up small rises.

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They are building a new observation/interpretation building at the bus arrival point. Scheduled for next year.

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A geological stop, to witness one of the catastrophic consequences of climate change. This all used to be covered in a glacier, and the rocks entrained in the ice scraped along the bottom, creating these gouges in the bedrock. Then the glacier melted! Leaving what we have today.

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Another use for columnar jointed basalt - when they break horizontally, they make good stepping stones. They'll break concavely towards the base of the column.

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Typical track along the lake.

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I think my favourite Tasmanian native, Richea pandanifolia, or 'Pandani palm' (not a palm; a It is dicot of the family Ericaceae, whatever that means :) ).

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Those nasty serrated edges I mentioned:

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They grow in diverse habitats in the alpine region, by the water to up the hillside:

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There are two other Richea species. This is Richea scoparia, a smaller, bushy type. Good for scratching you as you walk by.

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The other type was Richea sprengelioides which wasn't very evident - a reedy type of thing.
 

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Some of the 'horizontal scrub' or just 'horizontal', I mentioned earlier. Andopetalum biglandulosum (or, Big pain in the ar*s um). Not the bush-walker's friend.

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Tasmanian endemic waratah Telopea truncata.

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Flower, from the web:

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Mosses and lichens are always a crowd-pleaser:

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But moving back to the heavy-weights:

A Pencil pine, Arthrotaxis cupressoides. Like its close relation, the King Billy pine A selaginoides, it's not a pine but family Cupressaceae.

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As you pass under Cradle Mountain and the south of the lake, you come under the sheltered western side, where a substantial grove of cool temperate rain forest grows, with a waterfall plunging into it:

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The lighter, pointy trees are King Billy pines, the 'medium' green majority are evergreen myrtle beech Nothofagus cunninghamii. 'Fagus', with its relative Nothofafus gunii (the deciduous beech which are the skeletal grey-looking trees in the upper parts of the forest shown) are two of the species actually useful in geology, as they are part of the 'Gondwana' flora. That is, its groups of plants that Tas shares with Patagonia, building the evidence for the continents to have been once joined as Gondwanaland (or Gondwana, as Wikipedia puts it :(). I checked out the theory from the other side a few years ago :) (but I have no idea where those words come from - they are from an adjacent juddles post, not the one I've linked to ...)


You can't see the deciduous beech properly on the hillside - just grey smudges, as they lost their leaves in autumn. You get magnificent 'changing colour' displays in the gunii forests. here, the leaves are just starting to emerge. They will have large leaves, like the northern hemisphere beech.

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Cuninghamii leaves are small and are not lost.

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The other great forest trees are the celery-top pine Phyllocladus aspleniifolius and the sassafras Atherosperma moschatum.

Unfortunately, its a case of 'not seeing the wood for the trees'; its hard to get a good pic. The Latin name of the celery-top gives a clue as to its habit. What look like leaves are actually cladodes - and the technical meaning of that is lost in about 35 years of drinking ordinary to very good red wine, except I think its actually modified stem. The leaves are actually very small and needle-like. Here is a young celery-top with some cladodes - so stems, not leaves. It is a conifer, however.

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Continuing the walk around Dove Lake. Again, the water colour is due to the natural tannins leached from the vegetation:

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A waterfall spills over the ledge above:

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Now, if you want a job done properly, do it in stone, I say.

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Black currawong. Nothing much to recommend them.

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The boathouse at Dove Lake

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And that completed our easy circuit and it was lunch time. So back on the shuttle bus to the visitor's centre and then back to the hotel where we had a self-catering picnic by the wood fire in one of the lounges. The staff didn't mind at all that we were noshing on our own food and drink. This is roughing it, Cradle style.

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Unfortunately my back had packed it in, so the others did a few more walks without me, while I recovered for a while in the spa in my room.

A few more views around the Cradle Mountain Hotel. I haven't quite done it justice here; its not bare bones by any means, but no luxury touches either.

Main lounge

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Outside

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Dining room. We ate here the first night. Menu was OK, but we were told that several dishes, including lamb would ONLY be cooked medium rare, per the chef. This seemed a bit limiting. One our party ordered pork belly entree and it came out not cooked enough. Breakfast buffet wasn't included in our rate and cost abt $25.

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Dining room fire. There is also a nice bar, and areas on the outside deck. As I said, it was a bit better than these pics indicate.

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The second evening, we had a reservation at the Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge (Accor). This was the original lodge at the Park and is still the place to stay, if you can afford. Right at the edge of the park, with several great walks right there (including Enchanted Walk, and several of the Falls walks, as above). In the old days they used to put fruit & veg out for the animals on the deck you can see here, and it was a parade of wildlife every night. Accommodation is cabins scattered in the bush, each with a log fire.

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There is a dry-fly trout fishing pond by the lodge, for guests (catch and return). The cabins go all the way back into the scrub.

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Some pics within the Lodge. These are for guests only - we were taken on a short cut to the bar for a pre-dinner drink.

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The dining room.

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Menu was better than the Hotel; a bit dearer - say total bill would be $65-$70 rather than $50-$60 for 2 courses. My steak was superb.

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