Monday, 22 September 2014

BMH: Books for Mountain Huts

Books for Mountain Huts

I had an idea for an initiative I'm going to start while I'm out tramping.

I really enjoy reading the magazines and books that people leave in tramping huts, you get an eclectic mix from books, FMC/Wilderness journals, hunting catalogues, Woman's Weekly to Marie Claire. I've decided that I will start planting books/magazines in the huts that I visit, for the edification of fellow trampers.

Magdalen Hut, the table top magazine stash

Some of these will be books withdrawn from the library I work at, some from my own collection and other items will be newly brought.

Examples of ex library books to be donated
My idea is to systematically leave these items for anyone to use, both at the start/finish of longer tramps and individual huts. I'm going to label them and leave a message to please leave for the next person/ in the same catchment. Hopefully, these items will move back and forth along tramping routes and provide some useful recreation for people spending the night in a hut.

Packhorse Hut, Banks Peninsula

I just chuck a small book into my pack when I'm going out for a tramp, I tend to use novels although I have dropped a couple of thinner non fiction items as well. 

I know a lot of these will just get used as fire-lighters but that's OK as well. 

Interior Boyle Flat Hut, St James Conservation Area

Book drop off locations

Here is a list of locations I have left books at:

Hawdon Hut, Arthurs Pass NP (3)
Bealey Hut, Craigieburn CP
Andrews Shelter, Arthurs Pass NP (4)
Anti Crow Hut, Arthurs Pass NP
Carington Hut, Arthurs Pass NP
Bealey Spur Hut, Craigieburn CP
Lagoon Saddle Shelter, Craigieburn CP
Craigieburn Shelter, Craigieburn CP
John Hayward Memorial Hut, Brooksdale Station (Near Porters Pass)
Mid Robinson Hut, Victoria FP
Lake Daniels Hut, Victoria FP
Cannibal Gorge Hut, Lewis Pass SR
Ada Hut, Lewis Pass SR
Nina Hut, Lewis Pass SR (2)
Anne Hut, St James CA
Christopher Hut, St James CA
Magdalen Hut, Lake Sumner FP
Boyle Flat Hut, Lake Sumner FP
Rod Donald Hut, Banks Peninsula (2)
Packhorse Hut, Banks Peninsula (2)
Packhorse Biv, Banks Peninsula
Camp Bay Shelter, Queen Charlotte Track
Anakiwa Shelter, Queen Charlotte Track
Awapoto Hut, Abel Tasman NP
Anchorage Hut, Abel Tasman NP
Lakehead Hut, Nelson Lakes NP (2)
John Tait Hut, Nelson Lakes NP
Cupola Hut,  Nelson Lakes NP
Upper Travers Hut, Nelson Lakes NP
Coldwater Hut, Nelson Lakes NP

Carrington Hut, Arthur's Pass NP

Watch this space for more locations!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Lake Daniells Track: 19th September 2014

A wee walk in the rain...

I was hoping to get away for a 3 day tramp this last weekend to escape from the idiocy of the election campaign. Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas with rain and high winds in the Southern Alps.  Instead, I took the opportunity to go for a day tramp into Lake Daniells on the Friday before the deluge arrived.

Heading for Lake Daniells

The track to Lake Daniells is on the west coast of the South Island, it is just off  SH 6 on the far side of Lewis Pass.

Jon out walking in the rain at Lake Daniells

I left the car parked at the Marble Point car park, there are a number of camp-sites here, toilets and water supply. There is a shelter near the start of the track with some maps and interpretive panels about the area. The Lake Daniels track starts to the right of the shelter in the photo below. 

Marble Point: the Lake Daniells Shelter

It was raining and mildly cold but the track is first class, so I just hunkered down in my jacket and went for it. I got as far as the Alfred-Fraser stream confluence when it started to sleet and hail: discretion being the better part of valour I turned around and headed for the car park. 

Marble Point and the Lake Daniells Track


The 'Red Beast' at Lake Daniells track car park

Lake Daniells track information board

Lake Daniells Track start
As you can see the track is in fine condition, it is almost like a Great Walk: wide, level and bridged. Because of this the track can be walked in all weather conditions.
Lake Daniells Track approaching the Sluice Box

Lake Daniells Track looking out to Calf Paddock
After 10-15 minutes you approach the bridge across the Maruia river, known as the Sluice Box. I think they named it this because of the fast powerful flow of water through the narrow gorge, also gold was mined in this area in times past. The bridge is a solid steel and wood version, not your more usual suspension type bridge.
Bridge over the Sluice Box, Lake Daniells Track
Yes, if you fell into the river you would be 'LTD',  Long Time Dead!
Maruia river, Lake Daniells Track

Maruia river, downstream of bridge

Lake Daniells Track: heading up Alfred River
The track overlooks the Alfred river for about the first hour or so, as you can see it is bank to bank on this day.  In low flow conditions it is possible to ford the river to access the Freyberg Mountain range to the North-East.
Alfred River, from the Lake Daniells Track
There are significant amounts of board walk on this track, laid down to cover swampy areas of the track. This makes for quick and comfortable tramping. Last time I was up here back in the early 90's this track was a total bog for much of its length. This is a great improvement: otherwise you would be swimming through a sea of mud.
Board walk on Lake Daniells Track
This is an example of the large Beech trees on the margins of the track, this beauty is probably 200-300 years old. I'm surprised any of these big trees remain as the area has been cut for timber before.
Probably a 300 year old native tree
The Alfred was so full it was topping the banks and flowing across the river flats as you can see in the photo below.
An overflowing Alfred River
The track is superb, it would easily be up to great walk standard with bridges on all side streams, gentle gradient,  board walks and gravel in the boggy spots.This would be an excellent track for first time trampers and families.

Lake Daniells Track next to Alfred River
Here we are looking at the Alfred River again, it was up to the top of its banks and swift. Anyone on the far bank was staying there for a least a day or two because it would be suicide to try to ford it.

Alfred River from the Lake Daniells Track

Swollen Alfred river

Lake Daniells Track
You pass two large flats while walking along the track, in fine weather these could be good spots to camp near to the river. This is the first flat about 2 km's from the Sluice Box.
First flat on the Lake Daniells Track

River terraces, Lake Daniells Track

First grade track, Lake Daniells Track
After about an 40 minutes you reach the highest point of the track, there is a clearing with views of the surrounding hills. Exercise caution as there is a bluff falling towards the river gorge at the end of the clearing.
View from high point of the track towards Pell Stream

Another view from high point of the track towards Lewis Pass
The track is nicely benched, I imagine it was probably an old horse track in days past.
Lake Daniells track

Pell stream lookout sign
Here is the infamous "seat with no view"! Many years ago, so I'm told, there was a great view from here of the Pell Stream confluence, now the semi mature beech trees block the view all together. All you can see are trees, bush and hillside. Scenic wonders abound!
Pell Stream lookout bench
Just past the bench seat is this bridge, this is the half way point of the track, 4.1km's behind you- 4.3kms ahead.
Lake Daniells track
I passed a DOC worker who was cutting up the windfall on the track, a lot of trees fell during the wild weather earlier this year. This is some of the work he was doing.There is a whole hillside just outside Springs Junction where all of the trees have fallen over. Sad loss, but part of the natural pattern of renewal for a beech forest.
Windfall on the Lake Daniells track

Troll stream bridge
Cool name for a bridge, "Troll Bridge"in all its glory!
Troll bridge
Approach to Alfred-Fraser confluence
Eventually I made it to the Alfred-Fraser confluence, about 2 km's or an hour from the hut. Because of the worsening weather, and the 2 hour walk back to the car park I decided to turn around. Stupidly, I didn't take a photo of the bridge that spans the Fraser, below is a photo from 2015.

Alfred-Fraser Bridge in 2015

Here I be on the Lake Daniells track
Couple of photos of me near the Troll Bridge, hard to see here but it was hosing down with rain.
A 'wet  look' Jon on the Lake Daniells track

Board walks on the Lake Daniells track

I noticed on the way back to the car park just how thick the bush is in this area, it kind of reminds me of the jungle you strike on Pacific Islands, but colder and with no snakes or bird eating spiders. The board walks tend to channel people along a determined path, you don't see many side tracks running off into the bush. They are quite common on New Zealand forest tracks, you sometimes wonder, "Where in the hell are they going"?

I'm sure that there are probably areas of virgin land surrounding this track, even though the track and hut get so much use.
Lake Daniells Track: Look at that thick bush
The second set of flats (as seen on the topo map) are on the other side of the Alfred River. They are inaccessible in this kind of weather, but normally you can ford the river to reach them. There is a 4w/d track over there in the bush edge that goes up to Pell Stream. If you are contemplating a trip up the remote Pell Valley, the 4WD track is the easiest way to get to the confluence.
Second flat from the Lake Daniells track..half way home
The side streams were all up, luckily you have bridges so no problems with access. It doesn't look very impressive but it was probably a metre deep and running very, very fast. It would definitely knock you over if you had to ford it.
Swollen side stream Lake Daniells track

Eventually you reach the Sluice Box again, and the last 15 minutes of the track. There is nothing quite as satisfying as reaching the end of a track with dry clothes and a warm car waiting for you

The 'Sluice Box' over the Alfred River

Last forest margin before the Lake Daniells track car park
As you can see, there was a lot of rain and clouds on the West Coast over the weekend. The track heads up the valley to the left of the sharp mountain in the centre of this shot.
Stormy weather......
I really should have taken my overnight gear as I would probably have been in the hut by myself that night. The Manson - Nichols hut at the lake is normally a scene of bedlam as a LOT of people use it. Not my kind of scene at all, I like a bit of quiet.

The Saturday was fine up until 1 pm so there would have been plenty of time to get back to the car before the weather turned to custard. Never mind, there is always a next time, and an excuse to visit a nice spot again!
Storm clouds over Harwaden area
Above and below are a couple of photos of the stormy weather over the Lake Sumner area, this is from the highway just outside of Culverden. Totally bizarre, sunny and warm here but cold and rainy about 10 kilometres away.
Storm clouds looking back towards Lake Sumner area
Even with the weather this was a good trip, it is a nice track, great natural scenery and a good workout. I will definitely come back sometime and stay in the hut for the night.

Access: On SH7 5 km's past Maruia Springs. From Marble Point camp site, follow the Lake Daniells Track over the Sluice Box and then up the Alfred River Valley to the Fraser - Alfred confluence.
Track Times: 2.5 hours to the Alfred-Fraser Bridge, then 2.5 back to Marble Point
Miscellaneous: Lake Daniells Hut is another 1.5-2 hours from the Fraser-Alfred Bridge, it can be busy on weekends and holidays.