My plans for these two days were to do an overnight hike in Mt Field National Park. This would allow me to discover more sceneries in this park on one side, and to test my hiking setup on a multi-day hike before the Overland Track on the other. Indeed, my backpack is rather small (only 55 litres) and I intend to use trail running shoes instead of classical hiking boots, that are too heavy, bulky and inconvenient to bike with.
The circuit I chose to hike was the combination of two alpine day hikes, the climb to Mount Field West (1434 m, the highest mountain in the park) and the Tarn Shelf circuit. The start of this hike was 16 km away from my campsite, and most importantly around 900m higher. My plan was to bike to the start, with my backpack for the walk on the rack, as a (solid) warm-up. This, however, proved to be a clumsy plan, because it was impossible to tighten the backpack properly to the rack when full: after less than one kilometre, the backpack had fallen three times already. Fortunately, a nice couple of Ducth people traveling around the world gave me a lift in their van up to Lake Dobson, the start point of the hike. This allowed me to save precious energy and to practice my Dutch! I recommend to everybody the gravel road leading to Lake Dobson, because it offers a fantastic overview of the different “vegetation levels” due to the change of altitude, from giant eucalyptus to moorland, including fern tree, fagus trees, snow eucalyptus and pandani. Moreover, at Lake Dobson, the Pandani Grove Circuit is totally suited to casual hikers and offers spectacular views on the lake and the surrounding vegetation.
With all the time needed to switch from biking to hiking mode, gather information about the hike and tighten the backpack on the rack, I started my hike at a very late 12:00. A rather steep forestry road led me to some old ski lifts of one of the two ski resorts in Tasmania. Then, I had an easy walk on boardwalks until a nice viewpoint to Lake Seal. Then the climbed continued towards Rodway Range, offering other beautiful views on Tarn Shelf, a sort of plateau nestled between ridges with many beautiful small lakes.
Once on the range, the tracks became difficult to follow accros a boulder field. Navigating here in misty conditions must be really challenging! In the distance, I could see Lake Gordon, a huge artificial lake used to produce hydroelectricity, Tasmania’s main source of electricity. The little town of Strathgordon was created specially to host the families working on the construction of this dam on the Gordon River during the early 70´s. Pete and Mary lived there for a few years because Pete was involved in the testing and commissioning of the electric part of the power plant. We will come back to the subject of dams and hydroelectricity in a few days.
After a quick lunch in the K col hut, I continued my way towards Mount Field West. The climb was a bit steep until Naturalist Peak, but then, I reached a plateau with a myriad of little water ponds everywhere and beautiful moss patterns that offered a stunning contrast with the mineral environment! A bit before the top of Mt Field West, I overtook a German couple aged 60 hiking really fast! This is another proof that being active outdoors helps keeping you in shape!
After enjoying the stunning view from the top, I had to hike back to K-col,then I crossed Newdegate Pass and went down on a steep and slippery path towards Lake Newdegate.
From there I hiked for one more hour on an easy boardwalk path along Twisted Tarn until I finally reached the camp spot on the shore of Twilight Tarn at 19:30. There, I met Tim, from Melbourne, who was doing exactly the same circuit as I do. He kindly accepted to take me with him back to the visitor centre and on the next day, we hiked together for about three hours to return to our starting point.
Back at the visitor centre, I had lunch, then I hiked two more hours in order to see the beautiful waterfalls (Russel Falls, horseshoe Falls and Lady Barron Falls) and the impressive Tall Tree forest. This forest hosts the tallest flowering plants in the world, giant eucalyptus (Eucalyptus regnans) that can live more than 400 years and around 100 metre high!
After this second hike, I had to reorganise all my gear before biking again. I was about to leave when suddenly I met Damien and Elaine again! I knew that they were planning to come today with a friend from Melbourne, but still it is amazing that I got too see them again in Tasmania!
I still managed to bike 32 km in the afternoon, towards a nice campsite between Ellendale and Ouse, in order to be able to reach Derwent Bridge the next day.
Overall, it was a fantastic and demanding hike. I learnt that packing all my gear for the Overland Track in the rather small size offered by my backpack will be challenging, but I am sure that it will work! Hiking with trail running shoes was absolutely not a problem, despite the demanding terrain. In fact, I discovered that you can feel the terrain much better than with high upper hiking boots, so your body reacts better to it. Of course, the ankles are more solicited, but the weight saving compared with hiking boots (around 600-700 g per foot!)allows you to hike much faster and with much less fatigue. These impressions have to be confirmed on the Overland Track, however.