Tarn Shelf Track

The tarn shelf track is a part of Mt. Field National Park, one of Tasmania’s oldest national parks. Despite some dense cloud cover, we made the long drive from Hobart to the track’s entrance at Lake Dobson and set off with crossed fingers that we would avoid the rain.

We were barely underway when a very large, jet-black snake slithered itself from almost under our feet. A few moments later, an echidna snuffled along through the underbrush and, upon noticing us, stuffed itself headfirst into some leaf litter and left us to admire his (or her) spiky backside. This seemed like a good sign, but the rest of the hike ended up nearly devoid of wildlife.

We descended through a scrubby, temperate rainforest, while the beautiful, multicolored bark of the eucalyptus trees marked the way. After passing a couple of the namesake tarns, we came out of the trees to find a small mountain cabin next to a lake, filled with photos and artifacts from Tasmania’s first ski club, founded in the 1926 (the cabin was built the following year). From there, the trail turned uphill again, coming out of the forest into a flat, windblown zone where the warped, white trunks of dead trees littered the landscape like twisted fingers protruding from the underbrush.

This exposed, rock-strewn area was covered in small mountain streams, standing pools and larger tarns. The abundant water provides enough sustenance for a variety of hardy plants, growing low enough to escape the brunt of the wind and eke out a living. Among the plants living in this zone is the pandani, one of the world’s largest heaths, whose windblown, curled leaves stood out among its neighbors. The trail wound around rocky outcroppings, overlooking a fertile green valley and passing small lakes precariously perched on the edges of cliffs. Eventually, the trail began to descend again, and the familiar colored eucalyptus trees came into view before we found ourselves back at the trailhead.

Total Distance: 10.0 miles (loop)
Elevation Gain: 1,832 feet

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