Mt. Rufus, near Lake St. Clair

Tasmania, Australia

March, 2012

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We had camped just outside the south entrance to Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. We had decided on a longish hike, for us, the night before, so we got up early and drove to the Visitors' Center where the trail started. We packed our lunch and water bottles, and after a brief look around the Visitors' Center, we were off.

We had decided to hike up Mt. Rufus; it seemed about the right length, and we would get up where we would have a nice view. Our run of outrageously good weather looked to be holding, and we were delighted to be out stretching our legs again. The information at the Visitors' Center said our hike was 7 - 8 hours.

We started off in a fairly wet environment, with some good-sized eucalyptus trees here and there. Where the overstory was dense enough to keep things cool and shady, there were carpets of moss.

Eucalyptus with burls Moss Carpet
Eucalyptus with Burls Moss Carpet

There were a few birds flitting around, among them a Yellow Wattlebird. I'd hate to have to fly around with those things hanging off of my cheeks!

Yellow Wattlebird Yellow Wattlebird
Yellow Wattlebird

Mt. Rufus itself doesn't look like much; it's just a hump with a rock-slide on one face. It didn't even look to be very far. But the forest we were hiking through was a lot different from the forests we were used to at home in Montana, so there was lots to keep our attention.

Mt. Rufus Rivulet Pink Flower
Mt. Rufus Rivulet Xxx Pink Flower

We came upon a grove, if that's what you call it, of Man-Ferns. The had some weird looking buds or something at the base of the leaves; and the ends of the leaves came to a fine point that ended in a long curl. They seemed to be of two kinds; one got rather tall and the fern was just at the very cap; and the other seemed lower to the ground. Maybe the lower to the ground ones just weren't as old as the others.

Man Fern Grove Man Fern Grove
Man Fern Grove
Man Fern Fruit Man Ferns Man Fern Curly Leaf
Fruit? at Base of Man Fern Leaves Man Fern Man Fern Curly Leaf

We didn't have a good flower book, so a lot of the flowers we encountered we couldn't put a name on, which was frustrating.

Xxx Red Flower
Xxx Red Flower

As we gained a little altitude, the surrounding terrain started to reveal itself.

Lake St. Clair
Lake St. Clair
View to the Northeast View to the Northeast
View to the Northeast

Despite the altitude not being particularly great, and despite the relatively mid-latitude location, after a while we appeared to be approaching treeline. That must say something about the harshness of the climate. I was glad to be there on a nice day...

Mt. Rufus
Mt. Rufus

We took a lot of rest stops as we got higher. We were one of the first parties to start on the trail that morning, and every 45 minutes or so someone would pass us. I managed to keep my ambition in check and just enjoy the world we were passing through. It was pretty cool. There were a lot of skinks scurrying around among the rocks and low vegetation.

Dona at rest stop Skink
Dona at Rest Stop Skink

Having a roundish summit dome, Mt. Rufus had a summit which was not where you wanted it to be. We had set our minds on what looked like the summit, but as we neared more mountain would pop up beyond. But with that disappointment we still got a better view, and the view over the top kept promising to be better still, so we pushed on.

Heading towards False Summit
Heading towards False Summit
Lake Lake St. Clair
Lake Xxx Lake St. Clair

Xxx White Flower Xxx White Flower
Xxx White Flower Xxx White Flower

As we worked our way up the ridge to the summit, we could look down on the valley and the trail we would take back down. We topped a rise and could finally see the summit cairn in the distance.

Summit Cairn in Distance
Summit Cairn in Distance

And then we were there.

Summit Cairn
Summit Cairn
View of Descent Route Trail Down
View of Descent Route Trail Down

We had been leap-frogging two elderly women all the way up, so when we got to the summit we took their picture and they took ours. I wish I had taken a photo of them with our camera as well as theirs, as they were an inspiration. I kept thinking to my self,

"If I get to have as much wisdom as they much have, I hope I can get up in the morning. I hope I can get in the car by myself. I hope I can drive the car. I hope I can get out of the car by myself. I hope I can bend over and put on my own hiking boots. I hope I can walk around a short nature trail. I hope I can take a short hike... let alone climb a mountain on a 18 km trail in one day!"

Gary and Dona on Summit of Mt. Rufus Gary and Dona on Summit of Mt. Rufus
Summit of Mt. Rufus

The view from the top was wonderful, although hazy, but we weren't complaining. Wow! There were lakes in little pockets all over the landscape; mountains to climb and valleys to explore everywhere you looked. Definitely worth coming back for if life gives you enough time.

Summit View Summit View
Mt. Rufus Summit View
Summit View Summit View
Trail Down

We spent a half hour eating lunch and relaxing, and then it was time to head down. We still had ten or so km to go, and it was 3:00 in the afternoon. It was a good thing it was the Australian summer/fall.

Dona Starting Down
Starting Down

The trail down wound its way past some cool house-sized boulder cliffs.

Approaching Boulder cliffs Into the Cliffs
Approaching Boulder cliffs
Dona heading down View of Boulders from Below
Dona Heading Down View of Boulders from Below

Because it is so wet, and apparently because this is a popular route, places where the trail would be eroded and muddy had a boardwalk. They usually had chicken-wire or something similar covering the boards to give you traction in wet conditions. The trail crews put in a lot of work building that stuff. I wonder how long it lasts, and in the end whether or not it turns out to be a time-saver as far as maintenance goes. It certainly prevents a lot of erosion, and I suspect in wet weather it makes for better walking.

Part of the trail went through a fairy-land of moss. It would have been a real bog without the boardwalk.

Boardwalk on Steep Descent Boardwalk across Moss Carpet Moss Carpet
Boardwalk on Steep Descent Boardwalk across Moss Carpet Moss Carpet

We came to a man-fern which had had its leaves in curlers. And then we were back in the Eucalyptus forest, with Yellow Wattlebirds and Wombats.

Curly Leaved Man Fern Yellow Wattlebird Wombat
Curly-Leaved Man-Fern Yellow Wattlebird Wombat

There were some big old eucalyptus trees growing at about a 45 degree angle. And some with really colorful wood just under the bark.

Leaning Eucalyptus Eucalyptus Colored Bark / Underbark
Leaning Eucalyptus Eucalyptus Colored Bark / Underbark

It was a weird landscape from bottom to top and back down. Sometimes when we would stop and pause and I would look around, I felt like Alice in Wonderland.

Dona Resting Pond
Dona at Rest Stop Pond
Wow! That's a Red Fungus

Our feet and joints were a bit sore when we arrived back at the bottom. It had taken us ten hours, not eight, but we were happy to have had such a great day. We debated checking into a hotel for a hot shower and a nice bed, but they were expensive. We inquired about the campground -- it was still open, and had hot showers. So we pulled in and pitched the tent. Dona headed for the shower while I worked on dinner. While I was doing that, an Eastern Quoll came ambling by. Then Dona and I swapped. The showers were great, except... they were coin-operated, six minutes for a dollar. We each discovered, the hard way, that the six minutes is wall-clock time, not running-hot-water time. I would run the water then turn it off, thinking I was stretching my hot-water time. I'd soap up, then turn the water back on. I had just soaped up one last time when I heard a click, and realized I was out of hot water. I quickly shut it off. Then I thought a bit and realized there was pipe between the heater and the shower head. That pipe had to have hot water in it, so I turned it back on, rinsed off in a hurry, and shut it down just as it was turning cold.

We went to bed tired but contented, and woke up the next morning to an incredible medly of wonderful bird sounds. I have no idea what they all were -- I was half asleep, and I can't identify our own bird sounds, let alone strange Tasmanian ones. But it was wonderful. Why waste $125 on a plain old motel room when you can wake up to a serenade of birds for $25?

This was the day the weather was supposed to change, and we had a long day of traveling planned -- we were going on a search for Tasmanian veneers.