Saturday, May 30, 2015

Overland Track in Tasmania, Australia

Hiker: Cheryl Strayed, author

executive summary by darmansjah

The Overland Track in Tasmania, Australia. It's a 40- to 50-mile-long trail (depending on where you finish) that goes through some of the wildest and most beautiful natural terrain on the planet (or so I hear). The trail is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Plus, it's in Tasmania! I've always wanted to go there. —Cheryl Strayed

Length: 40 miles (51 miles with the hike around Lake St. Clair)

The Details: Tasmania is a living ecological laboratory. Nearly half of Australia’s southern island state is protected. It’s home to a menagerie of famed wildlife, including the wombat, platypus, and, of course, Tasmanian devil, the largest carnivorous marsupial on the planet. It’s also an incredibly diverse landscape, encompassing everything from highland mountains to eucalyptus groves to rain forest.

Though shorter than many great thru-hikes, the Overland Track packs a big punch. The trail delves straight into the biodiverse wildlands of Cradle Mountain–Lake St. Clair National Park. It starts with a gut-busting climb up into the most mountainous highlands of the island before rambling by alpine lakes and grasslands, then diving down into the rain forest.

The trail and surrounding park are carefully managed by Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, who break it down into a six-day event. Slow for some, but the agency’s plan may be the best way to savor the trail, since it includes extra-credit side trips such as a scramble up Tasmania’s highest peak, 5,305-foot Mount Ossa. And it’s easy to pack light since a hut system on the trail means you don’t need a tent. Many hikers also tack on the worthwhile hike around Lake St. Clair—Australia’s deepest lake—to end the hike instead of riding a ferry across to the finish.

When to Go: Tasmania Parks and Wildlife requires hikers to book reservations and travel north to south during the prime season of October 1 and May 31. The weather can be rough in winter but you are free to hike as you please.

About Strayed: Cheryl Strayed began as the most unlikely hiker in this group. When she first headed out to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail—as an escape from the death of her mother, divorce, and a battle with heroin—she was woefully unprepared. So much so, in fact, that she began to walk with a pack she could barely heft and boots that fit her so badly that they shredded her feet. Strayed persevered, however, and finished 1,100 miles of the PCT a toughened hiking veteran. She recorded that experience in her memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2012), which hit number one on the New York Times best-seller list not just for its deft and witty depiction of the rigors of a long-distance hike, but more so for the way it reveals a woman evolving, conquering her demons, and finding meaning by putting her boots to the dirt.

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