In the wider world much has changed since then, but every time we’ve come back it seems scarcely altered. So we were hoping the enchantment would be alive for our two night stay with three of our granddaughters, and their parents (our son Stuart, and his wife Elly).
[Waldheim Chalet, near Cradle Mountain]
It being Spring in the Tasmanian highlands, the weather was cold and variable. That too seems never to change. Similarly the timeless fun of sharing a tiny cabin with lively children, the five year old twins, Remy and Clover, and their almost four year old sister Isla, reminded us of times here with our own three. There’s only so much “nesting” you can do – sorting out food and drink, deciding who sleeps in which bed, and settling issues like who sits on which chair – before cabin fever strikes.
I’d spoken with Remy about what she was hoping to see at Cradle Mountain, and wombats were high on her list. So, after a long session of getting the girls and ourselves into wet weather gear, we set off for nearby Ronny Creek. While there are no guarantees with wildlife, and a grandfather should use his words wisely, I think I’d assured the girls that they would see wombats. Thankfully it took only minutes before we’d all seen one, even if it was distant enough to look more like an animate bush.
But when we crossed the bridge over Ronny Creek, and wandered a short way up the track towards Wombat Pool, a classic stout wombat, straight from casting central, waddled into view. Thankfully the girls’ immediate shrieks didn’t scare the wombat away. It simply kept grazing along the grass beside the creek, right beside us. And we all kept on gazing, enthralled by this beautiful marsupial.
[Wombat watching beside Ronny Creek]
While the showers held off, we wandered a bit further along the creek and up the track, hoping to tire out young legs. We at least managed to tire out some older legs before we headed back to the cabin for dinner and bed. Of course it wasn’t that simple, but after a while the cabin did grow quiet, and we adults started towards bed. That fresh mountain air can take it out of you!
[Isla, Remy and Clover also delighted in water play]
The forecast for the night and the next day included the words “snow falling above 900 metres”. While Clover had mentioned that she wanted to see snow, I was very reluctant to promise we’d get any here. Of course I’d forgotten that Waldheim sits at nearly 900m. And so, to everyone’s amazement, we woke to light snow! That was both pre- and post-breakfast amusement for the girls, although that weather also meant we weren’t likely to do our planned walk around Dove Lake for a while yet.
[Snow! Clover and Remy play at Waldheim.]
Colouring-in books and pencils came out, morning tea was eaten, toilets were visited, and more food was eaten before the weather started to brighten. We grabbed our chance, packed lunch, and went to the bus stop at Ronny Creek. A short bus ride later and we had started the walk around Dove Lake.
Remy, who is very fashion conscious, was not happy with the colour of her new snow suit/waterproofs. Navy blue is NOT a colour she likes, AND it does NOT go with hot pink gumboots! But as it was all that was available in her size, she was stuck with it. And the track soon showed that snow suits of any colour, allied with gumboots, are just perfect for jumping in puddles. Although we struggled to imagine how she – or we – would keep that up for the whole 6+km, it was a good start.
[Remy delights in puddle-jumping]
[Stuart helps Isla along the track]
Meanwhile Clover and Isla were happy holding hands as much as hopping into puddles. The walk is so varied and interesting, even for littl’uns, that we managed to get nearly half way ‘round before stopping for lunch. After lunch we had to walk on through sleet for a while, but a few “wait till you see” hints, and some food bribes, got us all to Ballroom Forest. Another enchanted place, this kept them happy and amused for a while, as did the sight of their grandparents dancing in the “ballroom”.
[Scenes from Ballroom Forest]
After this, (nearly 4 year old) Isla began to flag, and a certain amount of parental carrying – especially by Elly – was eventually needed to get her to the track’s end. Even Remy had a little help, from Stuart this time, although Clover just kept walking. She was very much in her happy place, asking about the birds, the plants, the mosses, the lichens, and pretty much everything that we were seeing.
[Clover smiles for the camera]
And so the 4th generation of our family had shared some of the magic of Waldheim and Cradle Mountain. We were so proud of the girls for completing the walk, and for really engaging in all that was going on around them. As I watched them finish the walk, my grandfather heart wobbled afresh. Might they come to value this wondrous place – and eventually other wild places – as much as we do? Certainly an apprenticeship had begun.