Across the volcanic ridge.
Today was another day of flying down trail, 12 hours of walking without a stop and it felt great. My legs just love these long days. Today ended up being 24 miles of hard hiking, beginning with a stiff climb from the Lower Wairaki Hut to a Saddle in the Takitimu Forest, then across an exposed volcanic ridge to a campground on the edge of the Linton Station, read Linton Ranch if it was back home.
Our before the dawn.
From the campground I was on private land for the next 17 miles and we’d had lots of warnings that the owners were incredibly uptight about hikers straying off the official track through the station, yet just at this point, the TA became very stingy with its trail markings. All through this station and the next, it was nearly impossible at times to know whether or not I was actually on trail. This was infuriating to say the least for a hiker who wants to do the right thing. In forests where the trail was obvious, we had trail markers every few feet, often several in view at a time, but here, where it really mattered, I’d often find myself walking great distances not knowing if I was on trail or not. No markers! And to make matters worse, even my Guthook GPS App. was wrong a times. I’d follow it when I couldn’t find markers, and find after hiking a 1/4 mile along the Guthook, that I could now see the markers along a different fence line than the app was following. A few hundred more markers over the next few stations are desperately needed if the DOC wants to keep us on course across this sensitive private land.
Morning mists just before the climb.
In spite of the frustration with the trail through the Linton Station, it was beautiful country, lovely rivers cutting through rugged, rolling hills, patches of forest and old dirt roads that topped out to magnificent views, and pastures as far as the eye could see. Sheep, there were lots of sheep everywhere.
It was a sheep day.
Eventually the trail bottomed out at Birchwood, more a crossing than a town, and I found my way to the old Birchwood Lodge, a funky set of buildings that was clearly a working farm and had been at one time a bit of a dude ranch for city folk wanting to experience the country. Now the old bunk house was filled with Backpackers and other hardscrabble travelers from all over the world.
We hiked right through fields. These are turnips and those sheep are being rounded up by a couple of well trained dogs and their master.
I heard an American accent in the crowd and struck up a conversation with Elizabeth Morton, who was just finishing up a big section of the TA. Turns out she knows my good friends Nancy “Why Not” Huber, Erin “Wired” Saver, and Coyote! She lives part time in NZ and partly in the States and is a Triple Crown hiker who helped Nancy out while Nancy was hiking the TA 2 years ago and then went on to hike the Great Divide Trail in Canada with Wired. She’s an ice core driller who spends time at MacMurdo Base in Antarctica, so of course I asked if she knew Coyote, and she answered, “You mean Yote?” What a small world! There is such a tiny bunch of long distance hikers, and yet we meet each other all over the world, and it happens over and over again. These are very long trails we hike, but they’re extremely narrow.
I met a number of other really nice folks during the evening as well. Such an interesting bunch!
Oh, and there were mushrooms today, all day. I picked so many I couldn’t carry anymore. I had real mushroom soup for dinner, and my backpacker meal was filled with the little delights.
Another lovely day in this beautiful country.