Day Two | Crescent Lodge to Cape Pillar Lodge
Start - Crescent Lodge
Finish - Cape Pillar Lodge
Length - 10.4km (One Way)
Terrain - Single Track, Rocky Path, Boardwalk
Vertical Climb - 388m
Time - 3-5 hours
Signed - Yes, Follow the Guidebook
Date Hiked - 20th October 2018
Best Time - All Year Round
The Hike - Waking up in a comfy king size bed with the sun streaming through the window is not normally the way I wake up on day two of a multi-day hike so it took me a few seconds to process where I was this morning.
Once it dawned on me I was on the Three Capes I had a big smile on my face. Today would be the first full day on the trail but a very easy 10km jaunt to our home for the next two nights, the Cape Pillar Lodge. It was still fairly early when I left our room as I wanted to check out the morning light but it had clouded over so there was a bit of a gloom hanging around. I had set my alarm for midnight in hopes of photographing the Milky Way and/or the Aurora Australis but the clouds had ruined that so I went back to bed. Breakfast had been wonderfully prepared by our guides and after we ate our toasted banana bread and maple syrup, Lauren gave us a run down on what to expect from the day. On the itinerary was a climb up Arthurs Peak to start with, a presence that had been with us since we arrived at Crescent Lodge as the lounge and all of our rooms had views of it to the south east.
We had some time to chill out enjoy the morning before it was time to pack up our gear and get ready for the day. Given we didn't have a lot of stuff with us it didn't take long so I went back to enjoying the lounge area and collected our lunch. Around 9:30am Lauren marshalled the troops and gave further instructions for the day before we said goodbye to Crescent Lodge and began the hiking for the day. Backtracking up the lodge path we were soon on the boardwalk section ready to continue on the Three Capes Track. Early on was easy going as we stayed on the boardwalk, heading inland and through fields of button grass that provided great views looking back towards the north and to the hills ahead that we were to climb.
Lauren had set the expectation that there would be climbing to start the day so I wasn't worried about the group bunching up at the moment. Sure enough as the steps started it helped to spread everyone out and we all carried on at our own pace. As per my last post, full disclaimer that I accidentally deleted the bulk of the photos from day one and two because I'm an idiot, so all images up until just before the public hut (first two slider galleries) are from Uncle Hal (thanks again Hal). The walk up the hill to Arthurs Peak is a pretty sustained climb for the first couple of kilometres so I stayed with Caris as we made it up at her pace. The views back to Port Arthur were pretty cool as you climb the stairs but the real treat is at the summit of Arthurs Peak as you are way up high looking out to the Southern Ocean, across the landscape to where our journey will take us today and back towards Cape Raoul, which is the third cape that you don't get to visit on the Three Capes.
A few of the group had stayed at the summit but as we arrived they quickly departed and we enjoyed the views from just under 300m above the ocean. Ahead of us was a mini descent along the cliff line where occasionally you would see some jagged rocks through the scrub and got the sense of how far down it was to the water below. At the bottom of the descent the group was once again waiting in a little off track area and it was decided that morning tea shall be had there. The views here were even better with a wider view of the coastline and the massive doloritic (I'm making up a word) structure that you were hiking next to earlier but couldn't see. The guides boiled the water for tea and coffee and brought out the biscuits that would become a favourite for Caris. She was really bummed when they told her the supplier that makes them only makes them for the Tasmanian Walking Company and you can't buy them in the shops.
As we were finishing up morning tea the rain arrived but only as a slight drizzle. It didn't look too threatening so I left my rain jacket off as we made our way to the highest point for the day. It was a 100m ascent over the next kilometre to reach the top and Lauren let us know that this was a great introduction to the cloud forest of Tasmania with several new species of plants found in this particular area. We certainly noticed the change as we neared the top with some very cool spiky flowers from the Pineapple Heath plant and some berries that Lauren said were Cheese Berries. Purple in colour, we had a good laugh because Caris all wrapped up in her purple rain jacket looked like a big cheese berry.
With the drizzle still hanging around it felt very much like a cloud forest as we reached the summit at 319m ASL and started the descent. With the group spreading out again it was a laid back stroll down the hill along more duckboard. The wildflowers were in full display here as the terrain opened up into a thick and wild plain. Reaching the bottom we stepped off the duckboard and onto a compact single trail that I imagine would have taken a while to cut given the abundance of vegetation. As we reached another rest point marked by some wonderful public art (a big bench in the shape of a leaf and/or sail) Lauren told us a story of the Hobart Bushwalking Club's effort to cut a track all the way to Cape Pillar back in the 60s and 70s so they could be the first ones there. Apparently they spent years out here battling the undergrowth only to get to Cape Pillar and find someone had already put a cairn on the edge of the cliff.
Heading off again towards our lunch spot we left the open plains and were back into some dry forest. At this point the sun had made an appearance and it was turning into a very pleasant day. Skirting the edge of Tornado Ridge we caught up to the group again as they had settled in a swampy area filled with paperbark style trees and a thick undergrowth. With salad wraps for us pescetarians (not a fan of the canned tuna that was on offer) we grabbed a spare section of ground to sit on and enjoyed a well earned meal. After lunch we headed towards the four ways intersection where as you might guess, there are four trails that meet. Running N-S is the old Cape Pillar Track that is used to access Cape Pillar for day hikes from Fortescue Bay and running E-W is the Three Capes Track that is brand new for this experience.
We were heading south from the intersection on the final stretch towards our lodge for the night. I was quite excited here as we saw our first little area of wetter forest with some of the famous Stringybarks and lusher undergrowth. This is what I had been excited about the most on my visit to Tasmania so to see it here, albeit on a much smaller scale, was a delight. Moving through a denser, tunnel-like vegetation as we came closer to the public Munro Hut, occasionally it would open up and you could tell for the first time that you were hiking along a peninsula with two bodies of water on either side. Not long after the helicopter pad I noticed a two storey building through the undergrowth and surmised that this must be the Munro Hut but as we got closer it became apparent that this was only the toilet block.
Impressive stuff so far and as we rounded the corner the full Munro Hut came into view and what a spectacular collection of buildings it is. The group had gathered on the platform overlooking Munro Bight, Mount Fortescue with Cape Hauy in the distance. A set of binoculars provides an opportunity to look for passing whales, bird life or just check out the cliffs in more detail. With all the group now in one spot we made our way through the Munro Hut, marvelling at the setup and wondering again if this is the public offering, what we were going to be in. Walking along the boardwalk section out of Munro, Lauren soon stopped us all at the secret spot where the trail goes up towards Cape Pillar Lodge. To the groans of a few we had to ascend up a long series of switchbacks to get to the lodge but once we were there you appreciated why this is the case with some amazing views looking back towards the Munro Bight, Mount Fortescue and Cape Hauy (just like the public hut but different).
The main buildings were setup in exactly the same layout as the Crescent Lodge so felt very familiar, the difference being the separate lounge pod was slightly bigger with an open deck to enjoy the views and there was another building for the optional spa treatments you could book (we did not partake). Because of the spa treatments we also had another person at the lodge and she had baked us a lovely chocolate cake for our arrival that went down a treat. The afternoon was spent relaxing around the lounge area playing scrabble and uno, drinking some wine and enjoying the chill space of the separate pod. Dinner was a sweet potato and leek pie and we were treated to an absolutely stunning sunset with a blaze of purple, magenta, orange and yellow (see gallery below). Not a bad way to finish a day of hiking and the best thing was the hike would only get better from here.
Final Thoughts - With a slightly longer day on offer today it was an easier affair knowing that the whole day would be spent hiking and relaxing instead of travelling.
The scenery on display was pretty spectacular and I'm still a little annoyed that I don't have all my photos to show what it was like. Thankfully I took enough that the memory card switched over to a new folder just before the Munro Hut and I could show the stunning sunset we experienced.
One thing that struck me about this day and the rest of the trip was that there scenery changes so quickly here with this day covering open plains of button grass, rocky cliffs, cloud forest, wild thickets of undergrowth, dry forest, wet forest and swampy areas. That's pretty impressive for only 10km of hiking so you definitely get good value for your kilometres.
The highlight of the day had to be the sunset at the Cape Pillar Lodge but there really wasn't a minute of this day where I wasn't enjoying myself.
Get out there and experience it!
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