Mt Misery Walk, Huon Valley Retreat, Ranelagh

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Picnic on Flat Rock: Margaret Hulme
Picnic on Flat Rock: Margaret Hulme
Boots on the summit: Katherine Marden
Boots on the summit: Katherine Marden

Mt. Misery! Well it’s certainly not miserable the day we go in July, mid-winter in Tasmania. It was sunny with a vivid clear, blue sky.

A misnomer, although it appears it was named thus because it’s in full view of Huonville, albeit slightly to the South-West, and as prevailing weather comes this way it gives a thirty-minute warning to residents when miserable weather is approaching.

The track starts at Huon Valley Retreat and is privately owned and maintained so a donation of $10 each is requested at this difficult time with less tourists around, up from $5. And well worth every cent, especially for our group from South Arm, used to coastal vegetation. It’s been a while since we walked in lush rainforest like this. You wander through huge old-growth eucalypt forests, then into the ferny rainforest surrounded by gullies and glades of tree-ferns. Almost a fairyland for children, and truly an insight into the forests of Gondwana. And if you’re new to this area there’s interpretive panels along the way making the Gondwana connection, the Indigenous history of the area, and European influence. The indigenous group that lived in the area was the Melukerdee band, part of the South East Tribe.

Ferny forest: Lou Cunningham
Ferny forest: Lou Cunningham

The walk is five kilometres, about three to four hours return, if you want to stop to observe the plants, ferns, lichens, moss, birds and rocks along the way as we did. It is designated an easy to moderate walk. It is Tasmania so you need to be prepared for all seasons, as it is quite exposed on the plateau. There is some board walk and some natural track that can be uneven or muddy. Walking boots or shoes are best as it’s a 690-metre climb to the summit. It’s a steep incline, and that feels like a bit of a trudge, until you reach Flat Rock, where the terrain changes totally to sub-alpine heath and then fairly flat walking to the summit. From Flat Rock there are magnificent views to the South-West National Park and Bruny Island. We sat in the sun on Flat Rock admiring the view while we had our morning tea.

‘Spirit Face’: Lou Cunningham
‘Spirit Face’: Lou Cunningham

Then it’s an hour onward, through flowering red and white heath (Epacris) to the summit where you sit on giant standing rocks almost level to the tall tree tops. A perfect lunch-spot, and a chance to admire ‘the spirit rock’, or ‘lion’s head’ as some of our group commented. Natural weathering has formed this intriguing face. Don’t miss it!

It always seems quicker on the way down. This gives time to do the waterfall diversion. There wasn’t much water when we were there but we were gobsmacked by a log along-side the waterfall covered in white fungi. It looked like a covering of snow.

This is a wonderful and very do-able track from Hobart (55 minutes’ drive), or if you live in the Huon it’s in your back-yard.

A moss and lichen magic garden: Lou Cunningham
A moss and lichen magic garden: Lou Cunningham

There is the option to stay overnight in the self-contained cabins at the Retreat if you really want to immerse yourself in this 40 square kilometre reserve, where the bush and its creatures are protected.

We even had time on our drive back home to stop in for a coffee at the Summer Kitchen Organic Bakery at Ranelagh, then on to our homes pleasantly weary but very content.

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Lou Cunningham
Lou is a beachcomber, rock fossicker, bushwalker and traveller. She grew up in Tasmania, but lived and worked overseas for many years as a teacher in international schools in Indonesia, China, Hungary and Germany. She now lives by the beach at Lauderdale. She regularly travels around Tas. and outback Australia in her Troopy van. Her book, ‘Because I Can- One Woman’s Journey’, was published by the People’s Library in 2018.