“It was the best of routes, it was the worst of routes”, A tale of two trails.
The original intention of the trip was to go to Mitre Flats hut for the night, taking one of two routes, and hopefully allowing greater numbers to participate. The route choice was either by the well-used Barra track from the “Pines” entrance to the Tararua forest park, or via Blake hill in the Blue range, starting on the Mikimiki road end, an off-track route.
Only 3 signed up for trip, Myself as leader, Julie who was keen to take the off-track route, and David, who decided to travel in on the Barra track. All planned to travel back out via the Barra track, however Julie needed an early departure, and consequently she returned solo, while David and myself walked out together later on Sunday morning.
David tramped into the Hut on Saturday morning, with a mix of sunshine, and occasional light drizzle which had been forecast. The weather remained dry enough for him to take a short morning tea break, and to earn MTC mentions in dispatches for some cutting and clearing along the track, which had quite a bit of windfall across it in places.
Julie and Myself in the meanwhile did not leave until closer to lunchtime, and following prepositioning cars for the following day, actually headed out from Mikimiki at about 12.45pm. The first part of the track was the along the Mikimiki track up to the second bridge, where we changed direction to South-west along the old logging track on the tributary of the Mikimiki that starts below Bruce hill.
The original plan had been to travel up to the base of the spur that climbs up to point 632, then continue up to Blake peak, however as we travelled up the true right of the stream, we found that we had then followed up a side stream. The terrain was quite difficult to traverse, very steep bush in places, as well as quite high walled sides to the stream at times, which resulted in a new plan. We would follow the stream up to the base of the spur which travels directly up to the northern end of Blake peak. The stream was quite deep in places and required a couple of wades in water up to mid-thigh!
The weather at this stage was warm but humid, and so the cool water was not too
unpleasant, and we knew we had close to 500m of vertical ascent to complete, to warm up again. The ascent was not too difficult, with some occasional track, though whether human or animal we were often unsure. Part way up the drizzle started, and gradually it became fine rain. Stepping onto the top of the ridge was not as obvious as it might have been expected, and following the footpad towards the Southerly Point 865 meant brushing through a lot of very wet new growth, if anyone is keen to cut the track back….. Wet weather gear was by now the order of the day, and it was by now nearly 5.30 pm.
We started the descent down the spur in in South westerly direction, following to the north of Stoney creek. After approximately 10 minutes of descent, we saw the second marker tape of the day, and thought we may have a track to travel down! Unfortunately, not the case…the descent was steep, had a lot of windfall on it, and was not quick to travel over. We eventually dropped onto the Barra track, 10 minutes from the hut, at 7pm.
On arrival we found David was in a very warm hut with 5 others, a group of four and
another individual, and that he had assumed that we were not going to be coming, given it was quite late! He was camping on the flats, with a biv set up earlier in the day, having chopped some firewood for himself and for the hut. The group of four had come from Holdsworth with a night at Atiwhakatu hut, while the lone tramper had arrived from Arete.
Hot drinks and Dinner followed by some of the usual hut chat rounded of the evening.
Julie was up and away by 7am, she followed the Barra track out, a quicker way than the previous day, taking her just under 2.5 hours!
David had a good night under the biv, but we had woken to a decidedly more wet day than the previous day. The hut was given a really good cleanout post breakfast, and all the rubbish bagged and removed. The walk out was at a fairly good pace, as the weather didn’t improve until close to the road end. We had a couple of short stops at the creeks for a drink, or a bit of chocolate, and made the road end in just under 3 hours. The Barra track has had a bit of vegetation cut back at the farm end of the track, which has made it a bit easier to travel through.
It is worth noting that this was a trip I had looked at for a couple of years following a
conversation with a friend, as neither of us enjoyed the Barra track as a route in. I think I can say it is certainly possible, and while a good time can be had on the off-track route, it iscertainly not a great alternative to the Barra track, if time is of the essence!
Overall, a good weekend, thanks to the company of both Julie on the way out, and David on the way back.
Party – Julie, David, Conrad