tassie’s glamorous. did we mention amorous? showing off for cell phone cameras.
cradle mountain is a scenic masterpiece, enchanting visitors with glacier-sculpted sawtooth peaks piercing the sky. it is a rock of ten-thousand faces, changing every minute from an infinite number of angles and weathers; bathed in the rich hues of summer or crystalline winter white, shrouded in morning fog or glimmering under the silken rays of a newly risen moon.
and if it’s been there for hundreds of millions of years, as the pleistocenes would have us believe, it’s also been the subject of hundreds of millions of photos, most of them taken since the advent of the cellphone. (i took nearly a hundred myself)
cradle mountain – lake st. clair national park was our mid-island stopover as we crossed from hobart, on tassie’s southeast coast, to the wilderness west, much of which is inaccessible to mere mortals. some places, we’re told, are 50 km (30 you-know-whats) from the nearest road. and tassie’s tiny.
we rented a cabin just outside the park entrance, and had two full days to explore the 1.4 million hectare (5400 sq m) wilderness world heritage area.
the eponymous escarpment was at first shy, peeking up from afar, partially obscured behind hills and forests as we wandered the expanses of the park, revealing herself in stages like the legendary fan dancers of antiquity.
no full frontal exposure. at least not on the first day. but with each new revelation, she became increasingly fascinating.
honestly, we didn’t grasp the grandeur of the escarpment on day one, preoccupied as we were with wombats and wallabies and willy wagtails and wonderful wilderness walks — and staying warm, as whistling winds whipped up wintry weather.
the star of day one may have been this little critter. wombats are mostly nocturnal, but hungry little fellows are known to pop out of the cradle for a snack when the sun’s not too oppressive.
we startled this youngster as he was out munching in the sun, and he waddled away to a safe spot out of reach. but as i stood watching, he inched his way back to within touching distance, eyes cast downward the whole time. he stood there quietly, as if to say, “hello, what are you?” wombats are solitary, but this kid was so young he may have been hoping i was his mom. (they don’t see too well) he reminded me of our kids and the old harry chapin song we used to sing with them.
wombat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
little boy blue and the man in the moon
when you comin’ home, dad?
i don’t know when, but we’ll get together then,
you know we’ll have a good time then
after a couple minutes, our good time together came to an end and little wombat, who must have figured out i wasn’t a parental unit, waddled away to resume munching.
the wallabies, mama and joey, were out lounging on a grassy patch in the morning sun, obviously unperturbed by humans. they only grudgingly ceded their perch when the camera became intrusive.
possibly pernille’s favorite find was a pink robin. here, however, you can see the difference between a professional photo and the cellphone shot.
day two in the park was as warm and wonderful as day one was windy and wintry. sweaters off, t-shirts on; long pants sweaty, shorts comfy.
the day began with a quest for cradle lake. i thought i had overheard trekkers discussing it. turns out there’s no cradle lake. i guess they must have been talking about “cradle ache”, a malady common to amateur hikers. there’s a hot tub for that.
the big lake in the park is dove lake, which may be most renowned for being in the foreground of everyone’s favorite cradle mountain selfie. it’s a natural, with the lake and a century-old wooden boat shed in the foreground.
something was up as we neared the shed on our hike around the lake; crowds of hikers with cell phones pointed at the majestic rock face. moving to “the spot”, we snapped a few ourselves.
sure, it’s a nice photograph. but it’s, it’s… flat! the time stamp on the photo shows it was taken at 12:24p.m. mid day! the sun is as high as the proverbial elephant’s eye. there are no shadows. no texture. no perspective. no deep, rich hues of dawn or sunset.
what to do? it was our last day in the park, and the buses that shuttle visitors from the park entrance to various trail heads stop running at 4p.m. sunset wasn’t till seven. there must be a way to get a sunset shot.
a quick check of the rules revealed that, while cars are forbidden in the park during the day, they are allowed as far as the first drop off point after the last bus run is finished. so we hustled back to the cabin, ate an early dinner, then drove in as far as possible and took off on foot. it was already 6:30.
the prospect wasn’t promising. the mountain faces north. dove lake is to the south. as we walked, the sun wasn’t visible. the sky was blah. there would be no “spectacular sunset” shot. i suggested we turn back. pernille told me to stop whingeing.
the longer we walked, alone in the gathering gloom, the gloomier i got. soon, however, we reached a way station where a park ranger was cleaning up the “facilities” after a busy day. as we were saying “g’day mate”, a van zoomed past. “what was that?” i asked. “oh, that’s the photo van,” she replied. “a local travel agency has a special pass to bring photographers in after hours for sunset shots.”
yessssss! sunset photos are a thing!! and sure enough, as we approached the lake, the mountain revealed itself. the cliff face that had appeared as one at midday now separated into a dozen shards sloping upward to the heavens. as the lake came into view, a lone boatman stood, silhouetted against the shimmering water.
then, as if a director off stage gave a cue, the cliffs began to glow, and the amorphous gray cloud hanging over the peaks dissolved into wisps of cumulus vapor. we stood transfixed.
but wait! the iconic boat shed shot! onward we pushed to beat the descending darkness! fortunately, the shed was no more than a few hundred yards/meters ahead. there, lo and behold, stood the photo van. photographers with their nikons and canons with superzoom lenses had staked out their tripod positions along the bank opposite the shed. they eyed me and my cellphone camera disdainfully. when i asked if could squeeze past them on the narrow path, no one budged.
i climbed over a few rocks to get around them and found a vantage point from which to snap a couple pictures, including the one at the top of this post. ok, maybe not hasselblad quality, but a hasselblad won’t fit in your pocket.
however, mother nature the lighting director wasn’t done yet. darkness quickly enveloped the escarpment, leaving only silhouettes. magical silhouettes. and curiosity. imagine what earlier eons of aboriginal people must have thought as they pondered nature’s phantasmagorical encore from the shores of dove lake, long before boat sheds and tourist busses?
and then i saw something! a lady!
could this be the reason cradle mountain was sacred to aboriginals? they left no written record. and the europeans who showed up in the early 19th century nearly wiped them out. tassie zealously guards the secrets of her past. one can only imagine how many humans have sat in eager anticipation on the shores of dove lake waiting for the image of a lady to appear at dusk.
or is this just the product of an overactive imagination?
and one last shot. the photogs had packed up their gear and driven off (without offering us a ride) so we began the half hour trek back to the car in the deepening darkness of a moonless night. we could barely see the road. looking out over the lake, i could just make out the rust-colored rocks lining the water’s edge.
hold on a minute! the camera has a flash. what would happen if…
or maybe, those long ago people were simply imagining the batman logo. squint at the shot below and see what you think.
all right, that’s fifteen photos in which the same mountain appears. time to move west.
p.s. after the last blog post, two of my former voa editors, mollie king and walter hill, wrote to point out that 10 gallons does not, in fact, convert to 38 kilometers. thanks to them for that, but notthatheinlein stands by our calculation.
Happy Easter! Thanks, reading this was a great way to start Easter Monday On Sun, Apr 4, 2021 at 7:03 PM not that heinlein wrote:
> notthatheinlein posted: ” tassie’s glamorous. did we mention amorous? > showing off for cell phone cameras. cradle mountain at dusk cradle mountain > is a scenic masterpiece, enchanting visitors with glacier-sculpted sawtooth > peaks piercing the sky. it is a rock of ten-thousa” >
Reblogged this on not that heinlein and commented:
my thoughts? don’t have any.