On our way back in the bus from Dove Lake we noted various bridges and boardwalks that were clearly part of another walk that tracked along the valley down-hill from the road the buses took. We were able to have a chat with the bus driver before we got off at the Information Centre who highly recommended it. He said it was best to start at the Interpretative Centre as the slope of the walk was mainly downhill from There.
Cradle Valley Board Walk is approximately a 5.5 kilometre track which is a ‘Board’ walk all the way to Ronny Creek Car Park/Bus Stop. I really appreciated the change that nearly 50 years has made to the design of hiking trails in this National Park. No longer is it a slog along muddy trails that when they are too wet, the hiker has to move off the trail and trudge through the tussocks with the resulting damage to the environment. It is an almost care-free walk where you can spend the time admiring your surroundings and not be worried if you are going to get bogged along the way! The first part of the walk is down into the valley and eventually the boardwalk meets up with the Dove River which exits Dove Lake and wanders all the way down the valley until it eventually merges with Pencil Pine Creek.
As the image above shows, the boardwalk traverses open mooreland, at times covered with large amounts of button grass tussocks. This is a ‘sedge’ plant that thrives in wet, poorly drained environments and is very common in this National Park. It is a descendant plant of sedges and rushes that once grew in Gondwana 100 million years ago. The Buttongrass Tussocks are a curious plant that burns easily when fire enters the national park. However as it is so well adapted to fire, it regenerates quickly from new shoots at the base of the plant that the moist soil has protected.
Eventually the board walk encounters Fysh Creek which is a small waterway that hurries down the mountain slope into Dove River. No dangerous creek crossings for modern hikers, the bridge over this barrier to safe-walking is a beautiful thing and the views on rainy days are spectacular. The boardwalk then follows the valley up hill until it eventually enter more open moorland where tussocks and grasses become the main vegetation. It was along this section of our walk that we encountered our first wombat of the day. One of the special features of Cradle Mountain National Park is that because the board walks are so separate from the environment, native animals like wombats are not as disturbed as they would be in other environments. We had already encountered a Pademelon back at the camping ground and earlier in this walk we had disturbed a Bennets Wallaby at the side of the boardwalk. The wombat that can be seen on the left below was about 20 metres off the track and it completely ignored us and continued feeding as we slowly strolled by.
We eventually arrived at Ronny Creek, thrilled by our beautiful walk. Over the road from the bus shelter was the turn off to Waldheim as well the start of the overland track that takes hardy walkers up and around Cradle Mountain and onto Lake St Clair after five or six days of mountain walking. I decided to cross the road and have a look at the standing stones that marked the beginning of the track and tried to recall if this was the path I had followed 48 years before. All I could remember was a track that we had to hurriedly climbed before nightfall or we would have been out on own on a windy mountain with no cabin to provide some protection against the cold and the prowling possums. Distracted from these thoughts, I noticed a wombat trundling along beside the boardwalk and when I went to get a photograph, this marsupial quickly turned left into the bushes.
We didn’t have to wait long before the bus came along to take us back to the Interpretative Centre where we could walk down the road a little towards Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge where our next short walk would start.
The aptly named Enchanted Walk was little over a kilometre in length that took visitors up one side of Pencil Pine Creek and back down to the grounds behind Peppers Lodge. As it had been raining for a couple of days and it had now started to lightly rain again, we were not surprised as we approached the road bridge over the creek to hear the loud roar of water crashing down from a height. Dodging the passing buses, I was able to get the photo that needed to be taken from the edge of this narrow bridge.
Encountering wombats had been a feature of our trip since we met our first wombat at the start of our drive up the Tamar River valley. However, the ultimate wombat encounter happened along this boardwalk not far into our walk. I was casually strolling when I heard a yell of surprise from Gayle who was a little ahead of me on the path. I turned the bend in the walk-way and there, shuffling along past her, was a wombat that seemed to be put out by the fact she was in his/her way as he went about his business keeping his feet dry on the boardwalk. I think the wombat thought he could ignore me by looking down at his paws as he headed back to his burrow but when I ducked back past him to get a better photo, he decided enough was enough and turned right, down off the boardwalk and scurried into the undergrowth. I read later that wombats can do up to 40Kms an hour if they need to.
Much further along the trail, we came to an area where there were some serious holes in the bank at the side of the path. Given that most wombats are herbivorous, nocturnal marsupials, this is where the local wombats were getting their daily sleep; they apparently can sleep up to 16 hours a day before feeling the need to go prowling. Our mate we encountered earlier on the boardwalk must have been an early riser.
I can only presume this hike was called the Enchanted Walk because we were passing through an old-growth rainforest, similar to the Ballroom Forest we visited on the shore of Dove Lake earlier that day. The trees were very old, some almost totally covered with lichen. The ground was covered with moss and everything looked like we should keep our eye out for small children with ‘riding-hoods’ escaping from gnarly old witches. If we had actually encountered such children, I am sure they would have been too busy playing in the ‘interpretative tunnels’ beside the path, rather than worrying about fairy tale personages.
There are a number of Tasmania’s 60 ‘Great Short Walks’ around Cradle Mountain and I wasn’t surprised to find that the Enchanted Walk was another one. The text from the sign announcing that it was one of the great short walks is on the right. It was almost completely accurate in its description, particularly about the wombat.
But by the end of our walk I believe we were offered more than the sign suggested. As we came out of the rainforest we spotted a very wet Pademelon grazing on the grass beside the track After watching him at lunch for a while, we headed up closer to Pencil Pine Creek and we spotted another grazing marsupial. It looked like a Bennetts Wallaby. It had detected our presence and was just sitting up straight keeping an eye on us. It then went back to grazing and we noticed it had a passenger, a small baby wallaby, half out of its mother’s pouch. This was a wonderful place, not just for the ancient scenery, but for the amount of native animals safely going about their business without fear of interference from visitors.