Two days before we were due to leave Tasmania we had booked into a log cabin on a nature reserve off Loongana Road close to Leven Canyon, so we planned to spend out last full day exploring the walks in the Canyon. There are two starting points for three walks: one to two lookouts and one to the canyon floor. Our plan was to walk to the lookouts in the morning, return to the cabin for lunch and drive back for the canyon floor walk. As it happened, we did all three in the morning.
The car park for the lookout walks is well served with picnic tables, toilets, maps of the two walks and, when we arrived, plenty of parking spaces. One of the walks leads down to the Edge Lookout, a return journey of about one hour and the other leads up to the Cruikshank Lookout, a return journey of 20 minutes. However, there is a short cut between the two – a continuous series of 697 steps that rise approximately 150m from the lower track to the upper lookout.
Decision time again – which do we do first! We opted to descend to the Edge Lookout and then decide how to approach the Cruikshank Lookout (ie by the stairs or back up the track). The descent was relatively easy, although the last section comprised a series of steps down to the lookout. Sitting on the outside curve of the river, this lookout provides views of the river and the canyon in both directions. Turning round to head back up the steps to the junction with the steps about 100m away, we debated about which way to go. It was either a long slow steady 750m climb back to the car park or the shorter climb up the steps.
Always keen to rise to the challenge, we took the steps, although in retrospect, this was not one of our best decisions – it was hard work! However, not half as hard work as was required to construct the stairs. The team, led by Stephen McTurk took almost twelve months, over 4 tonnes of concrete, 550 litres of water and 132 posts (all of which being brought in) in temperatures that ranged from minus 2 to 30 degrees. So, how could we possibly complain?
At about four intervals on the way up, there was a conveniently placed bench carved with a reminder of how many steps you had completed and how many you were still faced with. I am still not sure whether this was an incentive or not, but at least we knew what we were still faced with. Anyway, we managed to get to the top and, within few short strides, we were on the lookout experiencing the magnificent views. The 10 minute walk back to what was, by now, a very busy car park was very easy. We rested, had morning tea and decided to go direct to the canyon floor walk, which meant moving the wagon, before returning to the cabin for lunch.
The canyon floor walk is a steady 30 minute descent from the road to the bridge that crosses the river to join the Penguin to Cradle Walking Trail. We spent some time on the bridge watching the torrent of water flowing some 15 m below us. I was keen to take a few long exposure shots of the flowing river, but had to be patient while waiting for other walkers to move off what was quite a bouncy bridge. At this point you have the option to walk a further 15 minutes to the Devil’s Elbow, which of course we did.
As mentioned, this is a very short section of the multi day walk from Penguin in the north to Cradle Mountain in the south. Once again, I only had admiration for those who are younger and/or a lot fitter than us who regularly walk this track with full backpacks. Even travelling lightly, as we were, this was a challenging part of the walk, but worth the effort for the view of the river making a sharp turn through the rocks.
Having already climbed the 697 steps on the previous walk, the climb back to the car park was exhausting, even with the help of walking poles. So, our last day of serious walking took a bit of recovering from – I was glad of the next day’s drive back to Devonport for the night ferry – but we were so pleased we managed it for the experiences of the spectacular views, of walking through the pristine rainforest and of feeling the power of the natural environment.