“trees of an immense height, and proportionate diameter, their branchless trunks covered with evergreen foliage, some looking as old as the world; closely interlacing in an almost impenetrable forest, they served to support others which, crumbling with age, fertilised the soil with their debris; nature in all her vigour, and yet in a state of decay, seems to offer to the imagination something more picturesque and more imposing than the sight of this same nature bedecked by the hand of civilised man. Wishing only to preserve her beauties we destroy her charm, we rob her of that power which is hers alone, the secret of preserving in eternal age eternal youth.”
– French explorer Bruni D’Entrecasteaux in 1792
The next stop on our sort-of-almost circumnavigation of Tasmania by campervan saw us visit Mount Field National Park, or as some people somewhat confusingly call it, Mount Danger (for reasons still to be understood). This was as far south west as our trip would take us.
The south-western corner of the island is apparently home to the most rugged and remote parts of Tasmania, where some real extreme adventures can be had, but Mount Field National Park is really only on the fringe of this and, as a doorstep to the truly wild Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and Southwest National Park, is a much more accessible alternative for those pressed for time, being only 82 (slow and winding) kilometres from the capital, Hobart.
Within Mount Field there are two visitor centres. At the entrance to the park is the busier of the two with picnic facilities and some very basic walking trails, and deeper into the park is the Lake Dobson visitor centre which serves as the base camp for the longer day walks and, in the winter, skiing areas. This being another of our mid-morning stops, with limited time, we stopped at the first visitor centre and set out for a casual stroll with planned visits to the Russell Falls, Horseshoe Falls and the Tall Trees loop.
The trail starts by heading straight into a rainforest like environment as an abundance of plant life escorts you along a meandering river. The trail is an easy stroll with no real challenges so stop and smell the flowers and before long, you arrive at the spectacular Russell Falls, reportedly the most photographed falls in Tasmania, though I cant help but wonder who is actually counting stuff like that. This is a three-tiered waterfall and its broad, cascading appearance with a tree growing in the middle really does captivate the senses and make for a great backdrop for some profile photos. From here, a short, steep climb up some stairs gives you another perspective as you look from the crest of the waterfall as the stream falls away to reveal a forested mountain landscape as far as the eye can see in the distance.
Only a few hundred metres further upstream, lying tucked away among tall tree ferns lie the Horseshoe Falls, much smaller in stature but still very picturesque and enchanting in their own right. After a few more selfies here, it was time to head up the Tall Trees Link track, where small kangaroo-like animals which were repeatedly non-chalantly referred to by the Australians as Potoroos foraged about in the undergrowth. It was only upon later inspection of some of the postcards in the souvenir shop that we learned these were in fact not at all Potoroos but rather Pademelons. To oversimplify it for the sake of brevity, Wallabies are like small Kangaroos and then these Pademelons are even smaller than Wallabies, but otherwise look pretty much exactly the same to our untrained eyes (they’re all macropods). Why the numerous Australians we encountered insisted on calling them the wrong name throughout our trip we never quite came to understand.
Soon you arrive at the Tall Trees walk itself. This is a loop of approximately 1 kilometre, that navigates through the towering swamp gums (Eucalyptus regnans – after the latin word regnan, meaning ‘to rule’) with information boards shedding more light on the trees along the route. These are some spectacular specimens which hold some noteworthy accolades, such as the tallest flowering plant (angiosperm) on earth and the tallest hardwood tree in the world. Incredibly, some of these ancient giants were already growing when Tasmania was first discovered in 1642 and can reach up to 100 metres in height, surpassed only by the California Redwood.
Once these trees had done a pretty solid job of reminding us just how insignificant we are, we humbly shuffled back the way we had come to get back to our van and continue our journey.