2nd January, 2018.
We had been looking forward to spending a day at Cradle Mountain but the weather had been uncooperative. Checking out the forecast, this looked like the best day weatherwise. It was around 40 kms drive from Waratah to Cradle Mountain and we got off to an early start, hoping to arrive in good time to beat the crowds.
The temperature was around 10 degrees when we arrived at the car park at the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre and we were pleased we were well prepared for whatever the weather could throw at us. We even had our thermal beanies and gloves in the backpack and were wearing our thermal socks and hiking shoes. Others were woefully unprepared for the cold weather, arriving in shorts and thongs.
Anxious to get started, we queued in the Visitor Centre to show our National Parks Pass and collect our free Shuttle Bus tickets. One can drive a vehicle further but the road is narrow and winding with lots of blind corners so I was pleased to let our experienced bus driver handle the road. There are set call points along the road where each bus announces the call number and either “in” or “out” so the other busses know who is where. There are several stops along the route where visitors can hop off the bus to take various walks but we decided to head straight to Dove Lake so that we could do the 6 km circuit walk before it got too busy. The drive to Dove Lake takes about 20 minutes on the shuttle and the car park was already full at this relatively early hour. One of the stops along the way is at Ronny Creek and is the start of the Overland Track, a 65 km hiking track that starts at Cradle Mountain and finishes at Lake St Claire, taking experienced hikers 5 to 6 days to complete.
Just as we left the bus, it began to drizzle but we had come this far so we decided to keep going.
Looking across the lake at the start of the walk.
We took our time, stopping along the way for photo opportunities, but were overtaken by many who seemed to think it was a race – or maybe they were just trying to get warm.
For the most part, the track was compacted dirt and boardwalk and a moderate grade for the first half.
A Waratah flower coming to the end of its life.
Trying to get both peaks out of the cloud was a challenge.
The last third of the circuit was quite strenuous for both of us with a lot of steps up and even more steps down and we were both quite hot by the end of it. Seeing this iconic hut ahead of us showed us we were almost there.
We caught the next Shuttle Bus back to the Visitor Centre as there was no way we were in the mood for the other walks and it was lunchtime and we were hungry. Surprisingly, the cafe at the visitor Centre offers good and reasonably priced meals and also good coffee. With our hunger satisfied, we drove back to our campsite at Waratah hoping that we may have time to return to Cradle Mountain towards the end of our 4 months so that we can do a couple of the shorter walks.