Friday, 9 October 2015

The iconic nature of Cradle Mountain

We are lucky to have so much natural beauty around us in the age we live in. There are colourful canyons, beautiful waterfalls, and majestic mountains. One of the most interesting of natural attractions is the volcano. Volcanoes, even the extinct or dormant ones, shape the geography, geology, and culture of the Earth. Examples include the Glass House Mountains, Mount Warning and the Tweed Volcano, and Yellowstone in America. Wherever volcanoes are, they dominate the folklore of the indigenous inhabitants and attract thousands of tourists each year.

Sometimes, after the volcano erodes away so much there is nothing left of the original mountain, the solidified lava that flowed from its top millions of years ago takes shape as a mountain. These mountains can be even more beautiful than the volcanoes that created them. Mount Barney is a good example of such a mountain. Mount Barney is well known as a mountain with amazing views. However, Mount Barney is not well known outside of South East Queensland.

Cradle Mountain is situated in the northernmost part of the Western Wilderness in Tasmania, by far and wide the largest temperate subalpine wilderness left on Earth. Cradle Mountain has been formed out of a vein of dolerite rock. Like most volcanic rocks, dolerite has a tendency to fill crevices in other rocks, creating veins usually about a metre wide, but veins can be as much as 300 metres wide in the case of Cradle Mountain. Dolerite, being one of the hardest rocks in the world, allowed Cradle Mountain to stand without eroding while the rest of the land around it continues to fall away under the relentless toil of water and wind. Cradle Mountain now stands 400 metres above the surrounding plains.

One of the numerous ways visitors see Cradle Mountain is from across Blue Lake, a natural alpine lake. Other visitors like to get closer to the mountain through one of numerous walks in the area, walking to Crater Lake or Marions Lookout. Still more climb to the top to see world-class views and unbroken wilderness extending for 120 kilometres to the horizon line. Walking or even parking in the area of the mountain used to damage the fragile ecosystem of the Cradle Mountain, but since then rangers have installed metal grating on the pathways and established a shuttle bus to transport people to Dove Lake. Because of this Cradle Mountain shows less damage by people than places like Yellowstone do.

Cradle Mountain supports a large array of different animals and plants that depend on Cradle Mountain and its mineral-laden soils. These plants and animals include the Tasmanian deciduous beech, the only Australian plant which sheds its leaves in winter. Due to the high amount of rainfall, cold temperatures, and good soil in the Western Wilderness, the biodiversity of Cradle Mountain is even higher than that of most rainforests.

Cradle Mountain is not the tallest of all mountains in Tasmania, but it's one of the the most accessible and also the most beautiful. I have been to the Grand Canyon, travelled to the fjords of Iceland, and seen the Himalayas from a plane, but the most spectacular place I have ever been to and seen is Cradle Mountain and the Western Wilderness of Tasmania.

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