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Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain

Doug basking in glory at the Cradle Mountain Summit

Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park is, one might say, the jewel in the Tasmanian National Parks crown.  People come to Tasmania just to come to this park. 

What's the difference between Cradle Mountain and Lake St. Clair?   It's the same difference as Cincinnati and Cleveland.  Cincinnati and Cleveland are both in the state of Ohio, just on opposite sides of the state.   Cradle Mountain comprises the northern entrance of the national park, Lake St. Clair the south.  

The Cradle Mountain area features its own range of challenging hikes, and I did 'em all, from the Dove Lake Loop Walk to the Cradle Mountain Summit to the Crater Lake Circuit.   Nights got chilly and one night, it rained.  I realized that the waterproof tent I purchased on eBay Australia for AUD 20 was only waterproof up to the first two hours.

Dove Lake Marions Lookout Dove Lake
Cradle Mountain experiences (l t r):  Doug alongside Dove Lake, Doug at Marions Lookout, Doug above Dove Lake

I slept in a tent at the main campground, quite crowded, for what I recall was AUD 15/night. This might not seem like much, but at the time, I had recently arrived from Southeast Asia.  For slightly more than that (based on exchange rates then), I could have my own air-con room, bed, and bathroom in Bangkok.   I remember first arriving how much I missed being in Asia.   I was in my "I'd love to get the hell out of Australia" phase, which lasted my first four months there.  

It didn't help that the the skies were overcast and the indoor cooking facilities, while nice, were stretched to the hilt with families and groups.  I look back on it all fondly now, but I didn't feel that way when it was happening.   The February temperatures outside were extremely chilly, not what a foreign visitor would think of as late Australian summer weather.  In fact, the temperatures in the Central Highlands area of Tasmania were, more or less, what you'd expect temperatures to be in the northern hemisphere that time of year. 

I had planned to do the famous Overland Track.   This is a 65 km trail, taking 5-6 days, that takes the walker through a variety of Tasmanian ecosystems, to waterfalls, up mountains.  Some die-hard hikers dream more about completing the Overland than of sleeping with a fashion model.   I'd already pre-booked it and paid the AUD 100 fee.  I remember the night before, anticipating in my tent at the campground, thinking about the 6 exciting days which awaited me.

I should've thought things through a bit better.  I was thinking that this trek would be much like the treks I did in Nepal iback n 1995-96.  There, you need only pack warm gear and a sleeping bag.  Accommodation and food were taken care of.  While good boots are an asset for hiking in Nepal, they're not required.  The sherpas don't use them. 

Well, it's different in Tasmania, and I'm not talking about the lack of sherpas.  I knew there were free huts one could stay in along the way, but I discovered at the last second that these were all first come, first served, and with it being peak hiking season, I was told by "those in the know" that there was chance I could arrive and not find room in the huts.  This, by the way, was greatly exaggerated, I found out much later.   In late February, it would've been easy securing a bed in a hut.   Everyone is encouraged to trot about with a tent on his person.  With a tent, you then need a mat, heaters for the tent, generators for the heater, and so on. 

pocket stoveI remember, quite comically now, trying to stuff a two-burner Primus stove along with a 2 kg gas cylinder into my knapsack, and it just wouldn't fit.  This was the camping gear I'd purchased in Melbourne to make me self sufficient on the road.   Self sufficiency on the road, let me tell you, isn't the same as self sufficiency on the trail.  The two-burner stove, even a three-burner, with the accompanying cylinder was perfect for thousand kilometer drives in Oz.   For a 65 km hike, you need a pocket stove.  Why hadn't I thought of that?  Indeed, I realized the morning I was packing up to start the Overland Track, how inadequately I was packed for such a trip and the rest of Tasmania.  My sleeping bag, borrowed off a friend, was fine for a temperate eve.  It was woefully under-insulated for the cold evening temperatures of Tasmania.   I had a flashlight.  That's fine for walking around your house in the dark.  It's not the best appliance for being able to setup a tent in the dark.  

So what happened in the end?   Nothing.  Well, not exactly nothing.  I cancelled the trek and managed to get a refund on my Overland Track fee.  I spent the next few days doing every hike in sight in the Cradle Mountain area by day and bonding with Australians in such spiritual ways I don't think would have been possible on the Overland.  For example, a lady and her husband at the Cradle Mountain campground segued from spotting a Tasmanian Devil to trying to convert me to Christianity.

My Overland insufficiencies were a cue to what I needed to purchase to crank my Australian trip up to the next level.   Within a month, I got the headlight, the thermal sleeping bag, the pocket stove, the lantern, and shone as a living example to others how a man travels through Oz in style and grace.   

Cradle Mountain


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  Cradle Mountain has a great Crater Lake and is the origin point of the Overland Track in Tasmania