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Cradle Mountain, Tasmania
Our agenda today: climb Cradle mountain. It was a fine sunny day, but we left rather late from Burnie. Drove through Hellyer Gorge State Reserve on the way up to the mountain, and while it was pretty, it wasn't worth stopping. At this point, we've overdosed on pretty canyons, even if they have lush green forests in them.
After stopping at the store to get some water for the hike, we then intended on driving to the trailhead... but I noticed that the left rear tire was quite a bit flat before we left the store, and further investigation showed a small pinhole leaking air. Sigh; guess we get to change the tire for the first time. Digging into the back, we found the tire wrench that lowers the spare tire from underneath the car--but no jack. The car didn't come with one. Grrrrr. The women in the store found a scissors jack, which I didn't quite trust, but it didn't matter because we couldn't get the spare tire lowered--the wrench just wouldn't engage. After 15 minutes or so, two guys from the Cradle Mountain Scenic Flights shack next to the store came over and offered to help. Turns out we were using the wrong wrench--the tire lowering wrench was also missing from our car. With the help of their wrench and jack from their Toyota Hi-Lux ute, we got the replacement tire put on and were on our way.
A quick stop at the Visitor Center (nothing too interesting), then on to the Rony Creek trailhead. Busy day--the car park was full, we parked on the side of the road. Oh, my, was the trail busy. This was Easter Monday, a holiday in Australia, as well as the first day of Victoria school holidays, and everyone was out. The first twenty minutes out we passed a good thirty people on the trail, some hiking in thongs. The worst was a group of older backpackers setting out on the Overland Trail--they didn't quite get that they when they're going Very Slowly up the hill, they should let the dozen people behind them pass. It was frustrating, even saying "excuse me" didn't help. No sense of solitude for any period longer two minutes, when a group of kids would run past, or when some hip young things would be chattering about their 'stupid roommates' or car maintenance intervals.
We ate lunch below Marion's Lookout, then headed across the flat shelf to the juncture with the final trail up Cradle Mountain--and gave it a thumbs down. It was a 300m very steep climb to the top, and you could see the trail. There were a good two dozen people on the trail, moving slowly as they climbed the boulders (many were hard to miss in their aqua or pink tops). We decided to head along the Face Trail down to Dove Lake and back to the car... passing some backpackers cutting their own trail across the heath and cushion plants.
Passing more pink clad women, we arrived down at Dove Lake, where there were more chattering masses. One had an off-road stroller for her kid--first time I've seen a stroller on a hiking trail! Then we passed an Indian television crew filming, a few more kids running around, and then--mercifully the car.
What a mess. The GPS said the whole trip was 12.6km, and we must've passed a good 250 people on the trail. Not my idea of a relaxing outdoors experience in the alpine wilderness. Blech.