Surrounded by mountains and sitting within a deep rocky bowl, Hidden Lake is the latest region design by Num Bing-Howlett (Num Bing) and her SL partner Clifton Howlett. A Full region that is fairly packed to the gills with detail and touches large and small, it is a wilderness setting that cries out for exploration – although some viewer adjustments might be required in order to fully enjoy it.
The titular lake occupies the middle of the region, an uneven oval of blue water that looks both inviting and cold. It is almost entirely surrounded by rugged uplands that form an inner ring to the off-region mountainous sim surround that lies beyond them. “Almost”, because the rocky circle is broken to south-west, where grasslands roll gently out to the watery edge of the region, offering a low-lying area to explore.
The landing point sits to the west side of the lake, where a large deck extends out over the water to offer both a welcome and a place for visitors to sit and appreciate the view – the first of many such locations waiting to be found here. Set a little back from this on the lowlands between water and cliffs, sits a rutted track that emerges from a tunnel just to the north-west and points the way towards the south-west lowlands where it vanishes into another tunnel, presenting the impression that this is a place awaiting discovery along a trail perhaps only driven by a few.
Just across this through route from the landing point, there rises a set of wooden steps that climb up a lightly wooded shoulder of rock by way of several wooden platforms and desks to reach a lodge. Comfortably furnished, this peeks out from between fir trees to look down on the lake, while the decks outside also offer a view up to the higher peaks on this side of the region, and the promise of more to explore among them as they sit above the tunnel entrance.
A path winds eastwards around the toes of these peaks, in part using a wooden board walk, but I’d personally recommend avoiding that route to start with, as it can all too quickly lead you to the region’s major features that should be left until last. Instead, follow the rutted track towards the south-west and the lowlands I mentioned earlier. Doing so will lead you on a journey around the region that allows you to encounter all that should be seen in the lowlands, before you scale the heights to find what awaits above.
This route will bring you first to where the woodlands drop down to the grasslands, and a little setting ideal for glampers is nestled among the trees. Beyond this, sitting with is back on the lake to look out at the surrounding mountains, lies an old warehouse now converted into a cosy (public) home, a sea of grass washing around it and a little brook splashing its way from lake to open waters now too far away. A wide wooden bridge allows the road to pass over this brook so that it might reach the second tunnel, but those on foot can scurry across a pair of logs set over the water if they prefer.
Past the tunnel, the route is over grassy ground sitting above the rocky shore of the lake. This follows a line that leads east and then north, offering visitors the chance to completely circumnavigate the lake’s shoreline. Along this route are several attractions, but I’ll mention just one here: the shallow cavern within its ornately carved arch. Hidden within it is a TARDIS police box that offers the means (by accepting the local experience) to visit Num and Clifton’s other region, The Empire of Dreaming Books, a place that pays homage Walter Moers‘ Zamonia comic series and which we visited in May 2020 (see: An empire of books in Second Life). With a similar TARDIS located within the catacombs of that region (where visitors from hidden Lake arrive), those travelling through either region are offered a neat way to visit the other.
But it is the northern side of the lake that will eventually draw visitors. Here the path loops its way back to the rutted track, but as it does so it passes by the open-air station of a cable car system as it sits over the waters of the lake. There are two cars operating on the system, which will take visitors up to the higher peaks of the region, and they can be ridden as they reach the platform by touching the red button at the boarding point as one reaches it. This will stop the car to allow your to take a seat, then pressing the green button on the same panel to set it moving. The ride offers a grand view of the lake, and will carry you up to a second platform station (same method to get off) that is linked to a large events stage, which also offers a grand view down and over the lake.
The upper station also sits at the edge of a small mountain pond from which waters roll and tumble down the cliffs in a series of steps to eventually flow into the lake. These falls pass directly under the path of the cable cars, and are also crossed by three bridges. The first, and lowermost, forms part of the path circumnavigating the lake. The upper two offer the means to explore the lower slopes of the mountains and also to find your way up to the high decks by way of rugged paths and metal stairs that cling to the more vertical faces of rock. The start of these paths breaks sits between the lower cable car station and the waterfalls.
When exploring, there’s a lot of small details to keep an eye out for – all the places to sit, the birds overhead, a squirrel frolicking in the grass, goats grazing, and more, both outdoors and in the various buildings, all of which have been carefully decorated to give a greater sense of presence to them. However, as noted at the top of this article, some may find a little patience is needed with Hidden Lake, as their is a lot within it to keep the viewer very busy with mesh and textures. For those on middle or lower spec machines, dropping draw distance and / or disabling Shadows when moving around might be the order of the day. Nevertheless, making such adjustments is worthwhile, as this is an extraordinarily picturesque region.
With thanks to Shawn Shakespeare for the pointer.
- Hidden Lake (Nova Island, rated Adult)