By Margot Bigg
Tasmania has long been a popular summer holiday spot for urban Australians willing to give up a few hot summer days in exchange for outdoor adventures in the island state’s expansive forests. Although I’m neither Australian, nor the type of person to easily sacrifice sunshine for the forest chill, I’d been dreaming of exploring Tasmania since childhood. So, when I found myself visiting family in Sydney earlier this year, I decided that I, too, would explore the island.
After spending my first night in the quaint seaside town of Strahan, I headed to Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. The park serves as a popular base for hikers, some of whom spend six days trekking through alpine landscapes on the 65-km-long Overland Track.
As much as I love to hike, I lack both the ambition and the tolerance for freezing temperatures necessary for such a journey. Instead, I opted for the quick-and-easy Dove Lake Circuit, by far the park’s most popular trail. As the name suggests, this six-kilometre track loops around the park’s centrepiece, Dove Lake. While the two-hour walk is good exercise, most visitors come here for the gorgeous views of Cradle Mountain’s twin peaks, which rise up from the lake like a pair of worn, jagged teeth.
At the suggestion of a traveller I’d met the day before, I set off, anticlockwise, around the lake. My plan was to tackle the more challenging part of the trek — characterised by gravelly hills and rocky steps — at the beginning of the circuit, and save the reputedly easier stretch, for the second half of my journey.
The trail, which as I had been warned, started off as a mix of gravel and rock, before transitioning into a stretch of elevated wooden boardwalk. Despite cloudy skies and a thick mist of drizzle that hung over the park, the lake retained a still, mirror-like sheen, as if it were not a body of water but a giant bean-shaped slab of lapis lazuli.
Although my visit fell at the beginning of the Southern Hemisphere’s autumn — one of the busiest times in Tasmania — Dove Lake was far from crowded. In fact, aside from birds and a solitary spiny anteater I spotted on the side of the trail, the only other sign of life on the loop was a couple I’d seen leaving the trail just as I was entering it.
As I neared the head of the lake, the drizzle that had accompanied me so far quickly swelled into thick, cold raindrops. It dawned on me why there were few other hikers. I would later learn that the forecast that morning — which I’d lacked the good sense to check — had predicted heavy rainfall with a chance of snow, and I had nothing more than a hooded sweatshirt to protect me from the elements. I rushed down the boardwalk as the rain turned to sleet, trying not to slip as I made my way along the western shores of Dove Lake.
As I neared the trailhead, the sun began to break through a small gap in the pillowy sky. However, by this point I was too wary of Cradle Mountain’s idiosyncratic weather to slow my pace. Just as I was about to leave the trail, I encountered a trio of young men clad in boots and long trousers, each with a brightly coloured all-weather coat. “Hi,” I muttered, embarrassed, from under my soggy hood.
“Hello!” chirped the first in line. “How was it?”
“It was…” I hesitated, not knowing how to describe my experience. I was very cold and very hungry, but I’d also just spent the last couple of hours walking around a glimmering lake framed by craggy mountains, in complete solitude and complete silence.
Margot Bigg is a US-based travel writer
Peak Season: This summer, leave the city behind and step into a comfort zone. The hills are alive with birdsong, the air is crisp and the flowers are in bloom. In this special issue, we bring you destinations where you can learn to be still