11/5 Bridge Lurking

Papakauri Meadow to Start of Moreport Track

27.7 k

Today’s long march started out with one, quiet, almost innocuous, sound.

A patter.

At 6:15, I was lying quietly awake, thinking about the day before. At 6:30, rain was beginning to softly patter on the tent. At 6:45, rain was slapping down, rattling the fly and splashing in through the bugnet.

Really, I can’t believe we haven’t had more rain on the trail yet. While we have only had it at night or while inside in town, others have had it for days on end, on the beach, in the forest, in places where things were already dispiriting. We have been lucky.

It slows and we pack, even luckier because we can take our packs under the shelter to rearrange and shuffle once we have the tent town.

In some ways, rain is conducive to long days; since it can be difficult to find a comfortable dry spot to take a break, one just keeps going. Of course, this sometimes means not attending the basic needs, or even (gasp) the hanger being unleashed (noooooo!).

We climb through beautiful dripping forest, then follow Russell Road through farmland. The best part is the baby pigs that can fit through the fences and dart around in the ditches next to us. They are adorable!

It’s podcast day today, another thing roadwalking is conducive to. The audio companion du jour is Esther Perel, a couple’s psychotherapist that studies desire and the dynamics of coupledom (check out her book Mating in Captivity or her Ted talks). She is fascinating, with a compelling, expressive voice, and I have 5 podcasts of a variety of interviewers who feature her.

After 17 k, we are approaching the check in meeting point for everyone, and the rain picks up. Ugh, there will be no way to open the packs for lunch without drenching the insides. I have caught up with Prana, and we trudge, feet smooshed, the belly forges empty with the fire dying, when behold, salvation! So many things about this trail remind us of The Florida National Scenic Trail Experience, and here is another: a road bridge with a large dry area beneath it.

pc: Ellie

We prop up an umbrella and write ‘Under Bridge’ on an empty snack bag to signal the three behind us. We tear into lunch, and realize we had both downloaded, and just finished listening to, the same Perel interview. We talk about some of the points that excited us as we cozily watch the raindrops bounce off the stream.

Ellie arrives, then Parker. Where’s Mikkel? “He was in front of me,” Parker is sure. While under the bridge, the rain starts pelting, and we eat our lunch, hoping our fifth duck-compadre is dry somewhere. After an hour or so suddenly the deluge slows, stops, and then the sun comes out. What a difference an hour can make. We emerge, hoping it will hold- and the sky is actively clearing. Yes! Another half k brings us to the beach, with this stunning great-granddaddy of a tree extending one arm down in welcome.

The trail takes us straight up the hill behind the beach, which is covered in grass so thick and matted that each step I sink up to my thigh, depressing a 3 foot crater around me. It’s like walking upward on an exceptionally squishy mattress. What would it be like to sleep on this?! We top out and follow the road a few hundred meters to the trailhead for the next forest track, and there is Mikkel, decked out in his poncho (or rain dress as we playfully call it), finishing lunch. Deep in thought, he had missed the signs at the bridge.

This new forest track lulls us into an assumption of ease, before rocketing straight uphill along broadside of a ridge to reach an inspiring view back across Helena Bay.

This climb is the harbinger of a brutally steep up and down section, the clay made freshly slick by today’s rain. A few people go for bobsled rides on theirs butts down the slipperiest stretches, creating a perfectly unmarred slick-sided chute in their wake.

The release from this comes when we cross a stile onto farm tracks and pastureland, eerily obscured by a dense opaque fog. Cows coalesce from and then flee back into the mists, and invisible sheep bleat their plaintive woes. The fence line paths slowly merge and evolve into a gravel road, then a paved road the way a trickle of melting snow gradually picks up enough other trickles to create a streambed, and finally, finally. Finally. We see the entry sign for the Moreport Track, our camping spot for the day.

Almost home free, we pass a giant bull and his harem, all fences onto the road, who heaves himself up to glare at us as we go by. “Don’t look him in the eyes,” Prana urges. I’m too busy being indecently aghast at elsewhere to think about his eyes. Fortuitously, there is a closed gate between our flat spot and them, and as the tents bloom like night flowers, the setting sun beams out like a laser, erasing the fog as if it had never been.

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