3 Feb 2013 - Shadow Lake Circuit

Our first Walk-A-Month for 2013!  This was a long day, travelling up and back from Hobart, with a walk that was longer than anticipated, but still well worth doing. We (Robert, Bob, Kat, Philip and I) left town at 8.15am and got to the Lake St Clair carpark by 10.30am.  

Here we mixed with runners who had completed the 80km Cradle Mountain Run through the park the day before - all mad.   We set off from the Lake St Clair Visitors Centre around 10.45am, and soon noticed some disturbing information in the walks hut: the Shadow Lake Circuit, described on the NP website as 4 hours, was here described as 4 to 5 hours!  Uh oh.  But it was a lovely day, so we kept going.

From the Visitors Centre, you simply follow the Overland Track. The first section, up until Watersmeet, is level, broad and well graded, you could ride a bike or a wheelchair along here.  We passed the fork to the left which heads to Mt Rufus, as we had decided to take the loop in an anti-clockwise direction.  At Watersmeet (1.5 km from the start), which is the junction of the Hugel and Cuvier Rivers, we found a smart new bridge, and the joining of the rivers was beautiful.  

We took the signposted left hand track on the (near) south side of the bridge. All the signposts looked recently updated and were very clear on directions and times required.  
The track up to Shadow Lake has been recently maintained and was fairly easy walking.  It heads up the Hugel River and soon crosses over another smart new bridge to the northern bank. 
Cyttaria gunnii (Beech Orange) 
 The track climbs gently through rainforest, rising approximately 270m over a distance of 6.6km from the Overland Track to Shadow Lake.  There is a small tarn on the left shortly before Shadow Lake.   Near the lake the rainforest vegetation changes to sub-alpine forest, with snow gums, buttongrass and sedges flourishing, and pencil pines fringing the lake edge.  Apparently the lake contains the introduced brown and rainbow trout, which can be fished if you have a licence.

It took 2 hours to get to Shadow Lake, where we stopped for lunch.  Unfortunately it was a very short stop, as the clouds covering Mt Hugel decided to drop down and over us, and we got cold and damp quite quickly.  It turned out we would be in and out of heavy clouds /light showers /sun all the while we were up on the ridge.

There is a short walk along the eastern side of the lake and northwards to Forgotten Lake, and a further short walk (steep) to Little Hugel (2 h return).  We didn't do this today!  Instead we got going again on the track toward Mt Hugel.  The turnoff back southwards to join the Mt Rufus track appears some 15 mins from Shadow Lake.  Here the signposts confirmed our earlier fears.  The remainder of the circuit would take 2h 45min, making the whole Shadow Lake Circuit a total of 5 hours.                      

The first half of the new track is fairly level, and runs through delightful sub-alpine moorland, with long stretches of new duckboard snaking across a beautiful broad plain.   It looked as if the ferns had been hit hard by the recent heatwave.  If you wanted to avoid the Mt Rufus track, you could turn around after enjoying the moor and head back the way you came.

The track then rises toward the next ridge, through highland eucalypt forest.
Trigger plant
At the Mt Rufus track, we turned left and descended for what seemed like forever.  This track has not been upgraded, and is quite hard on the old knees.  By the time we reached a new Indigenous exploration path near the bottom, we had no energy to investigate.  Finally we rejoined the Overland Track, and on reaching the Visitors Centre, feeling somewhat rickety, we headed home.

Another sight to see just south of the turnoff to the park is The Wall ($10 adult, $5 child).  We'll check it out next time.  Robert and I decided to visit the Teez Cafe at Tarraleah on the way home.  It was well advertised from the highway, but we were dismayed to find that it was not in fact open and the whole place looked very quiet.  The highland cattle were cute though!
We had to wait until reaching Hamilton to enjoy a good cup of tea, with lamingtons as consolation.  Hamilton seems to be doing good things in working to preserve its heritage and to attract visitors.
The show might be good!
Another bonus from this trip was that I discovered a new anti-blister product which may supersede our old favourite Dr Scholls Moleskin  i.e.  Bandaid's Blister Block.   Must pack some on future walks, to apply at first hint of a blister!
In summary:
Getting there:  It is a 2.5 hours drive west of Hobart via the Lyell Highway (A10).  At Derwent Bridge, turn right onto the 5.5 km long access road to the Visitors Centre at Cynthis Bay.

Walk time:   5 hours
National Park entry fees apply
NP grade this as Level 3, and Group C items should be taken (gaiters and wet weather gear always advisable).  

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