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Shadow Lake Circuit

Shadow Lake Circuit

Lake St Clair National Park

Directions - The Shadow Lake Circuit is located two and a half hours north west of Hobart in Lake St Clair National Park. Take the Brooker Highway north and follow the signs for New Norfolk. Cross the River Derwent at New Norfolk and then follow the Lyall Highway north west all the way to Derwent Bridge. Turn onto Lake St Clair Road and follow this all the way to the car park for the Lake St Clair Lodge. The walk trails all start from the same location a short distance west of the lodge. 

The Hike - With our stay at Lake St Clair coinciding with a bit of a cold snap, some snow on the mountains was making for a great experience. After one day of it snowing at lower altitudes we woke up on the last full day we were there to normal conditions around the Lake St Clair Lodge. With an enjoyable group outing on the Larmairremener Tabelti after breakfast, my main focus for the afternoon was to tackle the 14km Shadow Lake Circuit that seemed like a good compromise given Mount Rufus was a little longer and possibly harder to navigate with the snowfall we'd received. 

After our morning walk, Caris and I headed out to Derwent Bridge for a spot of lunch at the Hungry Wombat Café before heading back to Lake St Clair so I could prep my gear. Candy and Hal were off kayaking on the lake and along the River Derwent so Caris would get some time off to read her book and have a nap in the warm cabin. Filling up my water bottles and packing some warm gear, I said goodbye and headed off along the edge of the lake towards the start of all the day walks near the lodge. With partly cloudy conditions, this was the first time I'd seen the lodge with blue skies around and I enjoyed the different look, even if it wasn't as cosy as when it was covered in snow. Walking past the little information hut at the start of the Watersmeet Track, I decided to do the circuit in a clockwise direction. It doesn't matter what direction you do it in but I wanted to be on unfamiliar territory much earlier and was soon on the shared path with the Larmairremener Tabelti as it leaves the Watersmeet Track. Walking past Banksias and small Buttongrass Plains, this marks the start of a very long uphill section all the way to where you turn off for Mount Rufus. 

I would have loved to have done that track but given how many photos I take on a typical hike, trying to average 4kmph over the remaining five hours of daylight would be a challenge and I didn't want to feel rushed. Walking past the sign for the Larmairremener Tabelti turnoff, from here until the crossing of the Hugel River would be all new for me and I was excited to see what was in store. You can read all about a walk in guide books or look on the interwebs for reviews but nothing really prepares you for being in the moment. Initially I was a little disappointed that I hadn't done this the previous day when the ground was covered in snow but the quality of the forest through here was very enjoyable. Passing the girthy trunks of the larger trees was fantastic and there were plenty of details for me to photograph including Coral Fungi, different varieties of berries, lichens and flowering Banksia. Not expecting it to be a warm hike, I found early on that I didn't need my jacket so put that in the bag not far from the first turnoff. As I climbed, it became apparent that not all the snow had melted and I was ascending into a winter wonderland as the altitude got higher and higher. 

This made me a very happy hiker as it would be my last opportunity on this trip to hike in snow and it would be an amazing experience to have an extended walk in the snow without worrying about a spotty lens. Initially the snow was limited to small patches in the undergrowth and areas where it was very shady but the higher I climbed, the more frequent it became. During this transition period, the mixture of snow and mud made for some interesting walking as the ground was quite wet from the snow melt and at times I was walking through a flowing creek, much like my hike up Mount Sprent. This would end up being the story for most of the afternoon as I had to watch where I was stepping to avoid sinking my boots into shin deep water or a boggy patch of mud. The first of many cool finds in the snow was a large fungi that was about the size of a dinner plate bursting through the white powder. It was by far the biggest fungi I saw on the trip and looked comically large just sitting there in the snow. Continuing to ascend, I had a bit of a giggle as the snow on the track got thicker and it dawned on me that higher up I may be walking in much deeper snow, a prospect that excited me. 

Enjoying the juxtaposition of classic Australian flora against the wintery feel of the snow, I had cleared the thicker forest and was now heading up towards a more sub alpine area. The undergrowth thinned out a little and the thinner trees now stood out a lot more. This also marked the emergence of the Snow Gum, a tree that I adored on my first visit to Mount Field National Park thanks to the vibrant colours of the trunk when the bark has peeled away. This would be my first time seeing a Snow Gum in snow and with the filtered light of a partly cloudy day illuminating the colouring, it was a joy to photograph them. I was expecting the open forest to continue up towards the high point of this walk but soon found myself under an enclosed canopy and one of the more magical places on the circuit. Coming across a little creek system, the combination of white ground, mossy logs, dark breaks in the white for flowing water and a golden tint to the lighting made this a pretty special spot. It reminded me of the Forest of Dean scenes in Deathly Hallows: Part One where Harry finds the sword of Gryffindor and the three main protagonists are reunited. I would be finding no magical objects here so just stood still for a while and soaked it all in.