March 11, 2017
km traveled today: 26.5
total TA km: 2896.5
Since the night was overcast it wasn’t as cold as has been typical, so we woke up and could pretty comfortably get packing. As we left the road-end, Hamish was beginning to cook some breakfast, and we said we’d see him later as we planned to camp in the same area of the Ports Water-Race Track. (not exactly sure what a water race is but I think it refers to the irrigation systems put in place by loggers to help with clearing back in the day).
We started up the hill on walking track, through pretty dense but never quite North Island jungly forest. The track quickly became pretty wet, though, and moss covered all surfaces, so all in all it was a very North Island experience.
We shot up the pretty gradual hill for 6 km to the top (Bald Hill) and I don’t think we stopped for more than a couple seconds at a time.
Up on top, the ground turned to boggy mush and was a real bummer to walk on, and as soon as we broke out of the treeline we were surrounded by quick-moving cloud and could see no more than maybe 150 meters. No views but a cool experience.
At the very top some spooky tall metal structures and a building emitting a buzzing mechanical drone emerged out of the mist, and we took a moment in the sheltered doorway of the building to warm up a bit. One of the structures must have been a cell tower because the service up there was absolutely blazing! Weird day! Building on the summit!
A gravel road led away from the top and down the gradual southern slope and we followed it for maybe 3.5 km, collecting some water along the way trickling down from the forest on the left, until we reached an old quarry on the right, which had a couple pickup trucks parked right at the trailhead up to Little Baldy and the Longwood Range itself. Again we rocketed up without a break, only 2 km this time but 300 meters of elevation, and broke out through the stunted forest into alpine grassland again.
It’s cool how we’ve watched the treeline get ever lower as we progress South – here we were only at 745 m. From here it was 7 or so km just in and out of tree cover, climbing up and around little bumps. Within a k we passed a couple other hikers, one of whom was hiking the TA and the other of whom was just joining for this section.
Just after we passed them we stopped for lunch in a relatively dry spot under some trees, and after lunch we encountered a group of six or seven volunteers adding in some more markers leading up to Longwood peak – it was a good day for it as visibility was low so they could actually see how close markers might have to be, etc.
Up and over Longwood we caught some glimpses of the blue ocean peeking up at us from under the cloud cover. We stopped as soon as we got back into the trees for our one km descent to Martin’s Hut, so I could check out my feet, the soles of which have gotten some cellulitis somehow and were getting irritated by walking and especially walking with wet socks and shoes.
We continued on down to Martins Hut in the drizzling forest and spent about a half hour there; we knew we weren’t going to stay as it was only 3:00 or so but it was the last hut on trail so we wanted to spend some time at it.
As we sat on stumps outside of it (it is pretty rundown and old so we didn’t go inside) Hamish clambered down out of the forest as well. We finished the last 7 km, down a gravel road for a bit, and then onto the Ports Water Race track, which follows a water trench that used to be used for gold mining in the 1920s, in an out of gullies, staying super flat and hugging the contours. We stopped about 4.5 km from the start of the track, where there was some old rusty piece of huge machinery, and a little flat spot of open ground.
There was a stream right before so we filled up there. My feet were in the worst pain ever and had started weeping on the bottom so I sat with them out in the air for four hours on top of an old wheel and axle, as the other boys made camp and dinner and did all the tasks. Warning graphic photo!
We decided that we’d just get to the highway tomorrow and either I’d hitch to Invercargill to the hospital. Even with a short end it means 18km of walking still tomorrow which is not enticing. After dinner we recorded a little interview about the last few weeks and before getting into bed I wrapped up my feet with gauze and tape and neosporin and am hoping for some quick overnight healing. We’ll see!