Recently I was asked to take two people walking on Mt Wellington tracks. One had walked on the mountain around 40 years ago, had left Tasmania for decades, and had returned to live in the shadow of the mountain. She had only the vaguest of memories of the tracks and the options for walking on the mountain. The other had not walked on the mountain and with strong views about cable cars on the mountain was eager to begin to explore.
However, primarily they both wanted to test their new backpacks for comfort and set up prior to a big trip elsewhere. They believed the undulations and irregular track surfaces would provide all the variations they needed to get a feeling about the character of their packs.
The weather had been cold and wet for days but undeterred we drove to The Springs planning to take a simple return walk to Sphinx Rock, then have a hot coffee at The Springs.
Getting the new packs adjusted took a long while with much laughter, while I waited in the car park.Then we set off.Before long it was clear that denim jeans with a particular belt and buckle made wearing the backpack uncomfortable and difficult to position, and pushed the clothing down. A first important lesson learnt.
But the walking went easily –on an almost flat well-made track. The tree canopy effectively prevented driving rain and our walk proceeded happily and pleasantly.
Within twenty minutes we had pulled open the child proof gate and walked onto Sphinx Rock. A young couple and their very young two children were enjoying the spot; the children sitting munching cheese on biscuits while the parents stood in a position to prevent their children falling over the unprotected edge. Introducing children to the wilderness and bush at a young age surely will prepare them to love the environment as they age.
The long range vista was missing; misty clouds surrounded us and the promised spectacular view down and across the Greater Hobart Area was absent when we arrived.
But the air was mobile and the speed at which it moved surprised us. Firstly a blurred view of the landscape and part of the Derwent River came into view.
The softness of the air and the land, and the toned down greys and greens were seductive and romantic. Before long we could look down onto the Derwent River from the Tasman Bridge towards Bridgewater further inland.
Reaching this point had been easy so we determined to create a round trip by dropping down the Little Sawmill track, connecting with the Shoobridge track and then the North South track. Some way down the Little Sawmill track we walked beneath the rocky overhang of the Sphinx Rock; powder dry compared to the sopping wet bush. We judged this to be a sensible stop-over if lost or stranded on the mountain in foul weather.On the edge of the steeply descending track small colourful fungi were feeding on the forest floor detritus.
Once on the Shoobridge track we realised that care was required; cyclists on their mountain bikes were travelling through. They could appear quickly around a corner without notice. We were impressed with the politeness of their communication – ‘only three of us’, or ‘one to come’ – so we knew what to expect from each group. Mostly they had parked out on the main road and started down the North South track. When we reached the main road we walked uphill and onto the track that took us back to The Springs.
We ordered hot drinks and sat inside the contemporary designed container and debriefed. The walk wasn’t testing but the backpacks had been tested. They still needed adjustment but were more or less a success . The stroll on the mountain had been a pleasure.
Outside in the carpark, a large signage map allowed us to trace the paths we had taken.From The Springs I looked up and there, up above the mountain top, I could see fast moving clouds shaping the rich blue sky. A clearly dramatic way to finish our walk.