Dec 1 day 92 Stone Hut to freedom camp 7:30-5:30 26 km
Some days seem as if they a going to be simple, and veer off track in unexpected ways. I slept in a bit, in part because I was tired from the previous day, but also because I found Stone Hut comfortable– unsure why, I guess it was where it was sited, looking down Bush Stream as it bent around the knoll. In what seems now a requirement, the first thing I had to do on leaving was wade through that stream– and it was a cold morning. I had a lot of tussock hiking, still not my favorite way to spend my time, but by late morning I had gotten to the top of Stag Saddle, the highest point on the Te Araroa. On the way up I hiked through all these moss bogs, springiest surface I’ve ever walked on. The views up top were amazing, snow covered peaks with the desert below. The descent was a lot of scree, then a whole lot more tussock hopping. I got the hang of it I guess as I made it to Camp Spring Hut early afternoon, just as it started to sprinkle. That hut didn’t have the feel of Stone Hut, and the rain was light, so I decided to hike on and freedom camp at some point later on the trail (that had the advantage of shortening the day’s hike into town tomorrow). Not long after the hut, the trail began to follow the Coal River downstream. For the last two days the trails have been sparsely marked, so much navigation is by topography. I knew the trail would go with the flow of the river and so did not worry much when a long time went by without seeing a marker pole. They usually showed up a some point. Late in the afternoon, it had been very long since I had seen one and the river’s edge was getting completely choked by impregnable sticker bushes. The main trail had made a turn I missed and was now several hundred meters above me on a ridge. After briefly considering continuing on down the river, I opted for heading straight up the side of the mountain to regain the trail. An afternoon of getting really poked by stickers and an unexpected long hard climb was not what I had hoped for. On getting to the plateau above, I soon found the trail, a place to camp beside a stream and a gravel road, crawling into bed vowing to read my maps more carefully next time.