Hiking at Cradle Mountain

I thought hiking at the end of winter would be fine, but it was cold and foggy at Cradle Mountain! The park was still incredible with amazing views! Some of the trails were steep rocks with chains to hold on to.

Day 460

I woke up in my cabin at an apple orchard/distillery feeling refreshed. I slept in and saw that someone delivered gravel for the homeowner, Jo, who had run into town. I walked into the main house to use the bathroom and noticed Jo left some food for me. I enjoyed orange juice with my breakfast and then got ready for a long hike. 

I drove 45 minutes through the windy roads filled with farms and trees until I reached Cradle Mountain. The blue skies faded away, and gray clouds now covered the sky. It also dropped several degrees. 

road through farms

There was a large parking lot at the entrance with a visitor center, so I talked with someone at the help desk. I asked the young woman which hikes she recommended, and she showed me a map. 

The woman explained that most people hike around Dove Lake, but if I were to hike the trail wrapped around the mountain, I’d see fewer people and get a good workout with the climb to the top of the peak. I was sold. I bought a Park Pass and hopped on the shuttle to Ronny’s Creek. 

nature park
river and mountains

The hike started with a wooden boardwalk through a meadow. A slow river snaked through the grassy area. I saw my first wombats in the wild, grazing just a few feet away! They were stocky and uninterested in me. They were focused on the delicious yellow grasses. 

boardwalk through meadow
boardwalk through meadow
wombat in meadow
wombat in meadow

I walked up a hill, but it led me to some cabins. I turned around and walked back through the meadow and then took Crater Lake Trail to the falls. There were small ponds of clear, still water. Once I left the field, the few people I had seen earlier disappeared because they were only hiking a short distance. 

still water in meadow
pools in meadow
yellow grasses
hiking trail

I followed the path and was in awe of the waterfalls! Wooden steps led up the left side of the falls, and they seemed to go on forever. A canopy of lush trees surrounded me. The bright green moss wrapped around tree trunks, and I felt like I was in a rainforest. 

wooden staircase in nature
moss on tree log
fallen tree over river

The raging waterfalls created mist in the air, and I noticed the droplets all over me. I couldn’t believe I was able to enjoy the waterfalls with no one else around. 

woman in front of waterfall
wooden steps in nature

I followed the path up wooden steps that were buried into the side of the mountain. I came to a clearing with views for miles of the surrounding mountains. 

trail of steps up a mountain
dead tree
hiking path in meadow
hiking path in mountains

Next, I arrived at Cradle Lake, and there was an old, small boathouse on the edge of the water. Mountains on all sides surrounded the lake. The peaks across from me had snow, and clouds hovered at their tips. It was a cold and gloomy day, but I loved it! It was a beautiful landscape. 

boathouse at lake
lake with boathouse and trees

Two women were taking pictures of the boathouse and left shortly after I arrived. I sat on a rock and ate some tuna for lunch. I was cold, but I was also sweating from the climb. 

trees surrounding lake
lake surrounded by mountains
mountain and lake

I continued climbing up the trail, and it became steep and rocky. The path reminded me of the John Muir Trail in the California mountains. 

steep rocky trail
steep hiking path
waterfall down mountain

Halfway up, I came to a clearing with beautiful views. I could see Cradle Lake with the clouds starting to move down the mountain. I loved seeing how far I had climbed up. 

crater lake

On the other side was the opposite end of the park. I could see two lakes close together. I felt like I could see everything! The landscape reminded me of Norway and Alaska, which made sense because they’re all close to poles, just opposite ends. 

two lakes in landscape

The next section of the trail that would take me to the top was extremely rocky and steep! There was a chain attached to metal poles going into the ground that I could use to help me up. The rocks were sharp and jagged, but at least I was climbing up, which is easier when traversing that type of terrain. 

wooden and rock steps up mountain
wooden and rock steps up mountain
jagged rock steps
jagged rock trail

The air got colder with each step of elevation that I took. I wasn’t exactly sure what the temperature was, but I guessed it was close to freezing. When I started, it was around 50 °F (10 °C). It dropped significantly, and I couldn’t help but laugh. 

When I told people on the mainland that I was going to Tasmania, I kept hearing, “You know it’s really cold there, right?” I explained that it was the end of winter, basically spring, so it wouldn’t be bad. I definitely underestimated the cold, but thankfully, I had winter gear with me. Now I understood why the guy at the visitor center (when I first arrived in Tasmania) said it had been a long winter. 

Crater lake

I arrived at Marion’s lookout, and it was incredible! I could see a little farther than at the lower lookout point. There was another peak slightly higher, but it required going deeper into the mountain range. The clouds and fog were now moving at warp speed as they closed in the area. 

view of hiking trails on a mountain
two lakes in nature
bird on cradle mountain
rock statue

There were a few people at the lookout spot who had taken a shorter trail there. As I stood there taking in the view, a couple of kids came over with snow they had gotten around the corner a little farther up. I decided to climb up a little bit just so that I see and feel the snow. 

view of dove lake
woman on mountain
crater lake
dove lake
snow on mountain peaks
snow on mountain peak with lake in background

I met Sam and Luke on the way, and we talked as we hiked. They were from Victoria and planned to hike the whole trail – 80 kilometers (50 miles) over seven days. Their backpacks weighed 21 and 23 kilograms (46 and 50 lbs). They planned to stay in a hut on the trail that night, but their tent was their last-case scenario if they didn’t make it. They had gotten a later start because of the shuttle schedule. 

The men appeared to be in their 30s. Sam was a teacher, and Luke worked with train tracks, making sure it’s safe when they work on them. 

still water on mountain

I told the men that I hiked the John Muir Trail (JMT) in California in three weeks – 225+ miles over ten mountain passes. I had a few freezing nights during that trip and advised them to put their water filters inside their sleeping bag, so they didn’t freeze overnight. The men weren’t used to snow or freezing temperatures. We bonded over the fact that we all carry extra water, just in case. 

fog and snow on mountain

The three of us arrived at the snow and saw a snowman that the kids made. Sam realized he would need to put his gloves on soon, and I couldn’t believe he didn’t have them on already. The men needed to continue hiking, and I needed to go back down, so we said our goodbyes. 

two men on a mountain

As I hiked back down, I realized how much I missed hiking the JMT. Long-distance thru-hiking is a fantastic experience. Everything you need is on your back. It’s freeing to be away from society. 

snow and fog
fog over lake
fog over two lakes

I stopped at the lookout point again and looked at the map to see which trail I wanted to take back down. There was a shortcut loosely marked on the map, but the girl at the visitor center warned me that it was extremely steep. I was tired and felt that it would be shorter, and how steep could it be anyway?

trail sign

I regretted that decision almost immediately. It was the steepest trail I think I’ve ever hiked. The path was massive slabs of sharp, flat rocks. They were slightly wet, and going downhill is much harder to avoid a slip and fall. 

steep rocky trail

The trail was so steep that there was a chain on one side with metal poles going into the ground for most of the path. I grabbed the cold, wet chain and tried to hold the poles whenever I could. 

steep rocky trail with chain railing
steep rocky trail

I went very slowly down the trail. Many sections were more like jumping down rocks or occasionally sliding. My legs were shaking from the intensity. I was all alone, and there was no turning back, so I had to keep pressing on. It was clear why nobody else was on that section. It felt like I was going straight down. 

steep rocky trail

I made it to the bottom, and my legs were quivering! Then, it was an easy 15-minute walk around Dove Lake back to the parking lot where the shuttle would arrive. 

hiking trail by lake
hiking trail with mountain
lake, hiking trail, mountain

Once I was on Dove Lake Trail, I quickly noticed that the woman at the visitor center was right – most people just hike around it. That is so unfortunate because they missed the best parts of the park. 

lake and mountains
lake with boathouse

The shuttle arrived ten minutes after I arrived at the pickup spot. I was so cold, I felt it in my bones. My body was exhausted, and I ate a protein bar for some energy. It took 20 minutes to get back to my car, and when I got off the shuttle, my stiff muscles hated me. 

parking lot sign near lake

As soon as I left the mountain, the skies cleared to bright blue once again. It was still chilly outside but not nearly as cold as the mountain. I arrived back at my Airbnb around 5:45 pm. Jo, my Airbnb host, was talking with a guy about repairing his tractor. I told him there was no hurry for dinner because I needed to rest a bit. 

green pasture with road and blue sky
green pasture and blue sky

The sunset was incredible over the apple orchard, and I watched it through the window as I laid on the bed, unable to move. It was a long, strenuous hike, but it was worth the pain. 

sunset through a window
sunset over apple orchard

For dinner, Jo made sausage, veggies, and mashed potatoes. I brought some bubbly wine that I had gotten from another Airbnb, and we enjoyed it with dinner. 

sausage, veggies, mashed potatoes

Jo and I talked about how we react when someone does us wrong. We are both stubborn, and we fight back. 

Jo told me about a time he was visiting his sister in South Africa, and the waitress treated them horribly when he asked if she could cook the steak well done (that’s how his sister likes it). The waitress spoke in Africana, not knowing Jo also speaks it (because of his Australian accent). 

Jo described the woman as being a white supremacist and someone who had the old-school mentality. She refused to help him, and he went off on her. The next day, Jo went back to the restaurant with 20 black men from his old construction site. The staff refused to serve them, even though they were sitting at a table. His group stayed, making a scene until guests left. Jo told them that his goal was to shut them down. 

Jo said, “It’s been decades, but they are shut down now.” I completely understood Jo and his stubbornness when someone mistreats you. I told him about my awful motel experience in Newcastle and how the owner just kept going off on me in person and through email, all because I wanted to check in. Jo understood and said he would have made their life miserable. I told him that I left a bad review, but that’s about it. 

I asked Jo about his work before he bought the distillery. He was an engineer for underground mines. Many people in that field are only skilled in specific areas, but Jo knows the mechanical and electrical components, so they only needed to hire him instead of three people.

I told Jo how we’ve done away with teaching and encouraging skilled trades in the U.S., and now there is a national crisis. There are more than 1 million jobs in the U.S. that can’t be filled because people aren’t trained with those skills. 

Jo and I talked about the high salaries in Australia – the highest in the world. Jo has worked in Canada and the U.S for several years, and he said the problem with the high wages in Australia is that they’re priced out. They’re not able to earn that much anywhere else, so it’s not competitive. He made an excellent living doing his job around the world, but especially in Australia. 

Once we finished dinner, Jo and I sat on the couch and watched the Food Network. We talked about class differences in society and how it isn’t easy having neighborhoods that are all low-income. In Australia, they integrate low-income properties, so there aren’t slums. That seems like a good idea. 

Jo was a strict boss, but he was also fair. Jo said, “You need to get the respect of the people if you’re going to be a hard boss.” One time, Jo called a guy into his office to give him feedback. The man was large and intimidating and started going off on him. Jo put the man’s wife on speakerphone and told her that her husband was disrespectful, and if he didn’t stop, he’d be fired. The wife went off on her husband, and he walked out the door. When the man returned, he apologized to Jo and said, “You didn’t need to call my wife.”

I thought that story was hilarious! I would have loved to call someone’s spouse if they acted up, but I don’t think we could get away with that in the U.S. 

It was 11:00 pm, so I showered and went to bed. I laid in bed feeling so grateful for the beautiful hike that I was able to complete and for the dinner and company that Jo provided. So far, Tasmania was a fantastic island. 

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2 Responses

  1. Just beautiful, Christy! The backdrop of the view out your window (with the blinds) looks a lot like an open space near where I live, especially that mountain. Ours isn’t as tall but the resemblance is striking.

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Throughout her wild 3-week journey backpacking 220+ miles in the California Sierra Mountains, Christy encountered freezing temperatures, pelting hail storms, and losing her way, but found trail family, incredible views, and experiences that would change her life forever. Hiking up and over ten different mountain passes gave Christy a lot of time to think about why her nine-year marriage was falling apart, gave her the chance to truly embody her individualism, time to make new friends, and the strength she would need on and off the trail. Her life could never again be the same.
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