Showing posts with label Canterbury. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Canterbury. Show all posts

Monday, 21 May 2018

Packhorse Hut- Volunteer Hut Warden, March 2017

Hut warden duties at Packhorse Hut, Banks Peninsula

In March my daughter Georgia and I returned to Packhorse Hut for the second stint of hut wardening I volunteered to do. It is not an onerous task the job consists of taking hut booking details, checking payment, cleaning and some minor maintenance duties. 

We also volunteered to check the pest trap-line in the nearby Parkinsons Bush.

Georgia gearing up at the Kaituna Valley car park

Setting out from Kaituna Valley

As with our first volunteer stint we set off from the car park at Kaituna Valley, this is both the closest and most secure spot to leave a vehicle for a couple of days. The car-park is next to the road down Parkinsons Road off Kaituna Valley Road.

Map: Kaituna Valley-Packhorse Hut Track
To start you travel across farmland on a well marked track, this 4 W/D track goes all the way up to Packhorse Hut and allows DOC to deliver supplies to both the hut and biv at Kaituna Saddle. It takes about 2 hours to reach the hut as the track is steep for much of its length.

Start of the Kaituna Valley-Packhorse Hut Track on Parkinsons Road

Crossing farmland on the Kaituna Valley-Packhorse Hut Track

Crossing farm on the Kaituna Valley-Packhorse Hut Track

Georgia on the Kaituna Valley-Packhorse Hut Track
There is a medium sized stream running down the valley, it is usually dry but due to rain for most of the previous week was running at  a moderate level. Georgia stopped in the deepest of the four crossing to show you how deep it was, this is three days after the last rain fell in the area.

Kaituna Valley-Packhorse Hut Track: stream crossing one

Kaituna Valley-Packhorse Hut Track: stream crossing two

Kaituna Valley-Packhorse Hut Track: Georgia in stream crossing three

This same stream in flood in 2014, from The Tramping Report

Once past the fourth stream crossing the rest of the track is steep until just short of the saddle.

The farm track to Packhorse Hut

Georgia having a snack, the Kaituna Valley-Packhorse Hut Track

Jon on the Kaituna Valley-Packhorse Hut Track

Mt Bradley from the Kaituna Valley-Packhorse Hut Track

Steep section of the Kaituna Valley-Packhorse Hut Track

Kaituna from the Kaituna Valley-Packhorse Hut Track
Below is a nice photo of Parkinsons Bush Reserve snaking up the rear of Mt Bradley, it is quite a large area of regenerating native bush, possibly +20 hectares in all.

Mt Bradley and Parkinsons Reserve

Kaituna and Birdlings Flat from near Kaituna Saddle

Good view of Parkinsons Bush Reserve

All of the bush you can see in the photo above is included in Parkinsons Bush, I believe it is QEII covenanted land so it is protected for the rest of time.

At Packhorse Biv and Packhorse Hut

We had a great day for our walk into the biv, clear and sunny with a nice breeze blowing.  We arrived just after 2 pm so we had a bit of time to set up our camp and do a few jobs around the hut before the overnight visitors arrived. Packhorse Hut was full both nights we were there, now it is on the hut booking system it is usually full most weekends.

First view of Packhorse Hut, Kaituna Saddle

Packhorse Biv was constructed by students at Ara, the polytechnic where I work. They built it as a part of the trades skills course they were doing and then it was donated to the local DOC office. It is a neat little hut and has plenty of space for 1-2 people.

They have also built a number of other items for DOC including picnic tables, relocatable toilets and wood sheds. Its all good practice for when they go out into the industry.

View towards Kaituna Saddle from Packhorse Biv

Packhorse Biv (2017)

Sign on the outside of Packhorse Biv
There was a lot more gear in the biv than when we last visited: some blankets, water containers, gras seed, tools, spare food, cleaning products etc. I think each of the people visiting the hut have left some contribution. 

Georgia and I spent about 15 minutes stringing up an inside clothesline (something we thought was missing the last time we were here). We also gave the hut a good clean as it was a bit dusty inside due to the large bare earth patch in front of the hut. DOC had given me some seed for this which I scattered about the place

Detail of the bunk and storage inside Packhorse Biv

Plethora of signs in Packhorse Biv

One of the jobs DOC asked me too do was add a couple of coats of yellow paint to the sign at Parkinsons Reserve. Once we had the hut set and ready to go I went down for an hour and painted the wording...I think it came out OK...

Freshly painted sign for Parkinsons Reserve
For dinner the first night we had cream of chicken soup, then mashed potatoes with an Absolute Wilderness stew as the main. We still had the use of he DOC gas cooker but I also brought my gas cannister stove with me so I could fix hot drinks in the hut.

Packhorse Biv: eating on our makeshift table, soup with an Absolute Wilderness stew to follow
Those Absolute Wilderness meals are really good, they are rich and flavoursome. The problem is they are very difficult to find, the only place I consistently see them in Christchurch is at Hunting and Fishing Tower Junction.

A visit to Packhorse Hut

Georgia and I went up to Packhorse Hut after dinner so that we could check the hut tickets for the people staying in the hut that night. It was a mixed group of kiwis this time three parents, a grand parent and 5 children. This is typical of the groups you see staying in the hut. 

On the second night it was a large group of English tourists who wanted to experience a kiwi tramping hut before they went home. Both groups were very friendly and asked a number of questions about volunteer hut wardens.

Packhorse Hut (1907), on Kaituna Saddle

Kaituna Saddle with the Port Hills in the background

View East from Kaituna Saddle...the Te Ara Pataka track is along those distant ridges

Georgia and I checked out the hill to the south of Packhorse Hut this is Pt. 570 and we decided we would climb it the next afternoon. On the Friday a couple of the people staying in the hut went to the top so we knew it was an easy enough climb.

Packhorse Hut with Pt. 570 to the rear

Checking the Parkinsons Reserve trap line

On the Saturday after a leisurely breakfast and a quick clean of Packhorse Hut, Georgia and I went and checked the DOC trap-line around Parkinsons Reserve. There is a fence around the reserve to keep the sheep and cattle out but there are a lot of introduced pest on Banks Peninsula. We found a variety of catch : possums, rats, mice and hedgehogs. 

All of these either damage the vegetation or predate the native birds who nest in the reserve.

Map: Kaituna Saddle, Parkinsons Reserve is inside the thin red line

We saw this tussock Moth laying some eggs on a tree not too far from Packhorse Biv, the eggs are the bright orange-pink spots you can see on the tree trunk in the second photo. There were a lot of these moths flying around in the bush.

Tussock moth on a tree in Parkinsons Reserve

Moth eggs left on the tree in the reserve

Pt 570 from the east side of Parkinsons Reserve

Georgia having a snack half way around the reserve
Parkinsons Reserve is made up of both bush and some large specimens of native trees. The predominant bush seems to be Matagouri and most of the larger trees were Matai/Miro/Ngaio/Mountain Totora. There is also a LOT of ongaoanga in this bush, so we took care to avoid it.

This type of podocarp forest once clothed 90% of Banks Peninsula, it was milled for timber or burnt off in the 1850-1870's as the land was cleared for farms. 

Mixed Matagouri and native trees, Parkinsons Reserve

There was a lot of water flowing in the creek through the middle of the bush, there is a lot of run-off from the rain that had recently fallen. This stream feeds into others and eventually becomes Kaituna Creek down on the valley bottom.

Parkinsons Reserve Stream...quite a lot of water due to the recent rain

Parkinsons Reserve Stream: cascades at our crossing point
Georgia and I managed to cover about 3/4 of the trap line, I estimate that the circuit around the reserve would be about 3-4 kms with roughly 90 odd traps around the fence which surrounds Parkinsons Reserve. 

That works out as roughly one trap every 25-30 meters.

Map: Cleared Parkinsons Reserve trap-line in blue

Possum caught in a Trapinator, Parkinsons Reserve

View of Mt Bradley from the lower end of Parkinsons Reserve

Parkinsons Reserve, Georgia records out pest trap catch...
We finished checking the trap line around 1 pm, went back to the hut for a wash and some lunch and had a bit of a rest before going up to the top of Pt. 570.

A walk up Pt. 570, Kaituna Saddle 

When we were up here in February we were going to climb Pt 570 next to Packhorse Hut, unfortunately some bad weather meant we never got to do this. We decided early in this trip that we would get up to the crest of Pt. 570 before we left for home.

Packhorse Hut with Pt. 570 to the rear, Kaituna Saddle
We walked up to Packhorse Hut and started the climb to the top of Pt. 570. It is a fairly easy walk, steep but not technically difficult. The only hard part was just down from the crest where you have to do some easy rock climbing (2 metres tops...)  to continue on our way. It wasn't just needed a bit of consideration as to the easiest route forward.

Climbing Pt 570 near Kaituna Saddle

Mt Bradley, Packhorse Hut from Pt. 570

Eastern part of Banks Peninsula from Pt. 570

Lyttleton Harbour from Pt. 570, Kaituna Saddle

From the top you have a 360 degree view of the surrounding area including most of Lyttelton Harbour, east to Waipuna Saddle and south to Lake Ellesmere and South Canterbury. 

Head of Lyttelton Habour from Pt. 570, Kaituna Saddle

Georgia on Pt. 570, Kaituna Saddle

Mt Bradley & Mt Herbert from Pt. 570, Kaituna Saddle

View South from Pt. 570, Kaituna Saddle

Kaituna Valley, and Pacific Ocean from Pt. 570, Kaituna Saddle

Jon on Pt. 570, Kaituna Saddle
After 20 minutes on the crest in the sun we walked back down to the Biv and had a hot drink. The views from the top are awesome, it is well worth the effort of climbing the peak, just be careful where you walk.

Camp life at Packhorse Bivy

Here are a selection of photos showing life in the area surrounding the biv...

Boiling water at Packhorse Biv, Gasmate 2300 in use

The grass seed DOC asked me to sow outside Packhorse Biv

Cooking some chicken soup at Packhorse Biv

The outdoor cooking platform at Packhorse Biv, chilly bin/table and Gasmate stove

Dinner on Day two was Chicken Noodle Soup followed by a Outdoor Gourmet meal of Venison and Rice Noodle Stirfry. I have tried five different Outdoor Gourmet meals now and all of them are delicious, this is my 'go to' brand for freeze dried meals now. The cost a bit more than the Backcountry Cuisine but they taste so much better.

Dinner day two: Outdoor Gourmet Rice Noodle Stirfry

What the Outdoor Gourmet Noodle Stirfry looks like plated
I don't normally carry a plate/bowl but it sure made dinner more civilised to be able to eat from a bowl rather than straight from the bag.

 Dusk at Packhorse Hut, Saturday

We went back up to the hut at dusk to check hut bookings, the sunset on the Saturday was beautiful so here are a few photos we took of the sun setting in the South West.

Dusk at Packhorse Hut: the sun goes down behind the Hut

Dusk at Packhorse Hut: the sun sets over Lake Ellesmere and South Canterbury

Dusk at Packhorse Hut: a sky afire as the sun sets in the South West

Dusk at Packhorse Hut: Port Hills from Kaituna Saddle

We had the first frost of the year on the Saturday night, Georgia and I were fine in the biv as we both had good down bags with a temperature ratting down to -5 degrees. With the small size of the biv, its excellent insulation and two bodies inside we managed to stay warm for all of the night.

Travelling back to Kaituna Valley

We were up early the next day, we quickly tidied up after ourselves, cleaned the biv and went up to the hut to check it before we left. I promised Georgia I would buy her some breakfast so we stopped on the way back to Christchurch at a cafe on the turn off to Gebbies Pass.

Dawn at Kaituna Saddle, cloud drifting over the distant Port Hills

Last view of Packhorse Hut as we head for home

Georgia packed and ready to make tracks

On the Kaituna-Packhorse Hut Track

Kaituna Valley from high on the Kaituna-Packhorse Hut Track

Kaituna-Packhorse Hut Track: Heading into the farmland

Kaituna-Packhorse Hut Track: at track marker at the only junction you pass

Kaituna-Packhorse Hut Track: still a lot of water in the stream on Sunday

I really enjoyed the two stints I did as a hut warden, Georgia also enjoyed the experience.  I will definitely be putting my name down in this coming Summer to act as a warden again. I would be keen to do this every year and volunteer for other  places like Nelson Lakes NP, Lake Sumner FP or Arthur's Pass NP. 

Access: Track starts at the Parkinsons Road carpark, off Kaituna Valley Road.
Track Times:  2-2.5 hours Kaituna Valley to Packhorse Hut, 2.5-3.5 hours Gebbies Pass to Packhorse Hut, also able to access from Mt Herbert Shelter
Hut Details: Packhorse Hut: serviced, 9 bunks, wood burner, water tank, wood shed, toilets, cell coverage in front of hut: Packhorse Biv: DOC use only, 1 bunk, water tank.
Miscellaneous: Packhorse Hut is on the DOC Hut booking system, must be booked for overnight visit before you arrive.