This past weekend we hiked around the Mt Somer area, up Woolshed creek to the DOC hut there. That means we didn’t have to carry a tent, and we had a heated place to cook! Molly carried Milo, his diapers and clothes, while Jeremiah carried all the rest of the paraphernalia.
I think these tussock grasses were native to the area, so I imagine that these hills were grassy instead of wooded before people came along. It’s kind of hard to imagine the natural look, actually, since just about every nook and cranny is changed to grazing land if it’s not so steep that sheep and topsoil fall off the slopes.
It’s a rather brown landscape right now, but I must remember that it’s still early spring. The tussock grass on the tops of those hills must get green at some point.
When we stopped for lunch Milo gets to stretch his legs, and eat the cheese off his sandwich. He likes Mama’s bagels when they’re fresh and soft, but rejects them later.
Starting in the mid 1800’s, miners tried to make a go at digging coal out of the earth. The mine is still there, closed off, and some of the steep tracks they made to carry the coal down to the train. Ug, what a cold, dirty, nasty way to make a living. For some reason, plants don’t seem to grow back around the mine site, so it’ll take a long time (in people time) for that scar to heal over on the landscape. I guess in geological time it’s still just a blip.
Check out those clouds! It’s cold when they cover the sun and warm when they pass.
There’s our hut, down in the valley next to the stream.
The “hut” is actually a pretty luxurious cabin with 26 bunks, a woodstove, and nice stainless steel counters for cooking. Here we are, ready to walk out after spending the night.
What you can’t see in this picture is the outhouse, but even that was well built and minimally smelly. You can hear the brook even inside the hut.
Milo seems to have remembered the hot wood stove at home, he respected this one well. “Hot” is one word he does say, and he used it well, making sure everyone knew that the stove was hot.
Peekaboo! The other campers were reasonably tolerant of Milo, but someone complained about the scampering feet in the morning when Milo and his 3-year-old new-found friend Sophie were playing chase.
Many trails don’t have bridges where they cross creeks, and Kiwis say they just walk though the water, shrugging off freezing wet feet as a fact of hiking life here. We’re not so convinced, and as pansy Americans we still adhere to the sacrament of dry boots while hiking. We LOVED this bridge, not only because it prevented wet feet, but because it WIGGLED.
“1 person maximum load.” Whoops, Milo and I exceeded that limit, but the bridge didn’t fall down.
This is a good time NOT to have a fear of heights!
There’s a little cave in the lee of a big rock along the path, and hikers have nicknamed it “The Bus Stop.” The weather can be pretty inhospitable here at times with wicked winds on the exposed south side of Mt Somers, so sometimes hikers park themselves here at the last shelter spot to wait out the weather. We had some chilly breezes, but nothing major.
The “Bus stop” even has a sign. But no bus, no tram, no train, no helicopter.
Here’s how we keep the little squirt warm when it’s windy–he gets covered in the pack cover! He has a little peep hole to see out of, but many times he just puts his head down and goes to sleep.
The soils up on these particular hills aren’t very fertile, with damp heavy clay soil, lacking nutrients. Mosses don’t seem to mind though! The lichens and mosses are most impressive, making their living where other plants can’t, at least not until their slow actions have helped weather the rock and improved the soil for other plants to get a toe-hold. I like them. They seem to be happy enough with the “make do with less” mentality.
The tree trunks are all black in the damp creek gullies. I think some sort of fungus is growing on the bark, making delicate little hyphae with bulbous water droplets. Need to learn more about that one….probably I’ll have to go back and ask old Tom Bombadil (Hugh, caretaker at Hinewai Reserve).
More scenery….we just can’t help ourselves. There were two guys at the hut who had carried in their skies, looking for a snowy slope to hike and ski down. They didn’t find any that were accessible from the hut, but we enjoyed talking to them anyway. Both are from Dunedin, south of Christchurch, and one invited Jeremiah to call him up when he wanted to go hunting down there.