12/7 The Timber Trail

Pureroa Field Base to Bog Inn Hut

19 k

We sleep in and it is wonderful. As much as I dislike trying to find camp in the dark, there is something magical about waking up and seeing where you are camped for the first time in the morning light.

There’s also something magical when you realize your sleeping bag isn’t molding- each time I had to roll from side to side last night to relieve the ache in my hips, a strange and terrible waft assailed my nose, hinting at something putrid hiding. The only thing I could come up with was my sleeping bag starting to rot. With more intellectual function this morning, I trace the smell to my clothes bag, which I use as a pillow- the ‘clean’ socks that I washed and rinsed and scrubbed and wrung in the creek, and then dried on the fence last night, are the source. Every time I rolled, a puff of air would squeeze out through the zipper and into my face. Yeech.

There’s a picnic table to cook breakfast on, and we have coffee and oatmeal with Mike the Scot. (Prana decided last night to call him No Evil- he has leg and arm tattoo sleeves, and one is of three lifelike chimpanzees in the classic gestures of self-restraint. I agree this fits.). This turns into a great lengthy chat about hiking, photography, Scotland, the States. He teaches some Scottish words and performs a few different dialects from around his country, to my delight. Ellie emerges from her tent, and seems not too worse for the wear. We linger, unsure if we should start our day, or wait for Bro; unsure if we wait for Bro, if/when he will show up. We decide to wait a short while, in case he got up early to make it here. When Mike No Evil takes his leave, we trade info in case it works out for him to join the canoe flotilla. I assume he will get far ahead, but I hope it does work out.

As it approaches 10:00, we decide to start moving slowly. As we are filling our water and leaving a note, Bro, Tristan, and Jennifer appear on the horizon. They’re alive! They recount their epic of yesterday- Bro had been unsure of a road turn, then had developed blisters. All three had suffered from the heat, then run into the same problem with the unreachable water, and hadn’t seen the cairns and water sign.

They are still game to continue on, although Tristan and Jennifer might camp sooner, and Bro is down to try for the Bog Inn. Then the Shroomer and Coyote crew seems to appear out of the woodwork! They had been camped at a difference area of the picnic site, and are meeting a mountain bike supplier to ride this next section. It’s good to see them, but I am suddenly overwhelmed by all the people, especially since I have been prepared to start walking for an almost an hour. I feel the day slipping away and start to bristle, so I alert Prana I will wait ahead, and slip into the woods.

The next section is the Timber Trail, and is supposed to be well maintained through scenic forest. I read all the signs at the entry- describing the parts of the timber operations and tramways it follows- and step into the cool shady world.

This forest is beautiful. There are so many massive old trees, and the air is saturated with birdsong. I walk slowly, savoring the music, savoring the light play, savoring the colors. Some of the white pines are almost 200 feet tall; some of the other trees whose names I do not know have artfully curled branches, braided and layered upon themselves. I hear a bike behind me, and knowing how many are coming, I find a flat dry spot to just sit and be until they all pass by. A tiny fantail bird hops on a tree next to me, and another tiny bird roots for food in the leaf litter. There’s a cantata of Tui notes echoing out of the canopy. A bright green fern leaf is artfully, perfectly, arched over a darker moss backdrop. It might be the single most beautiful color combination I have seen. But then, there are tiny pinpoints like this every single day, dozens of moments, hundreds of moments, if only we look for them.

I had thought that sitting out of the way of the bikers would be helpful, but they don’t notice me until they are just past, which causes an alarming wobble in some of their trajectories as they turn to look over their shoulder. I wonder about the choice to ride- I am sure it is nice to move different muscles, a different motion, but this forest! Why toil at length through what preceded this, and then dash through and therefore compress this portion that is a treat to all the senses?

I am so relaxed I am almost sleepy after our long day yesterday and the slow pace of today. I take a side trail down to check out an old abandoned tractor.

It was built in Illinois in 1920, probably in Decatur, and used for logging until a piston blew a hole in the side of the engine case.

The trail alternates between lush dense old growth forest and open clear cuts in initial stages of grow back. When in the open fields, I can see Mount Pureora looming over the valley.

The trail used to go up and over, but it was rerouted this year- in the ambitious peak of my morning coffee, I see no reason why I shouldn’t day hike up to the summit. When it comes to actually taking the turnoff, though, lassitude has set in and I can think of plenty of reasons why getting to camp early sounds equally compelling.

We stop for lunch and Tristan and Jennifer make tracks while the four ducks linger. “What would be a good name for Tristan and Jennifer?” I ask. “A power couple name, so I don’t have to write ‘Tristan & Jennifer’ each time I want to talk about them.” We come up with Tristifer and Jennistan. “How about Super Mario for Tristan?” suggests Prana. “You know, he designed race cars, Mario Kart…” It fits, we agree. “Well, then who is Jennifer?” “The Princess, obviously.” “Did the princess have a name?” “Princess Peach,” Bro supplies. Perfect, we all agree.

Even though lunch is standard fare, something doesn’t sit right. My guts twist and cramp for the rest of the afternoon, but thankfully, although it’s painful, nothing more comes of it. I suspect it’s simply due to exertion and residual dehydration from yesterday. My relaxed pace slows even more for the afternoon, and at one point I sit to take a break and nod off by the time Ellie catches up. At least there are plenty of fascinating nature details to look at as the hours unwind, as well as many interpretive signs to read; the trail stays wide and smoothly manicured.

At one point before the turn off for the Bog Inn, a sign announces cell phone coverage. Bizarre. Indeed, in one place, there is, and I use 2 minutes of battery to call and see how my mom’s surgery went. So far so good! I hike on feeling a little lighter, and soon turn off the bike path onto the narrow foot trail bound for Bog Inn. There are some sloppy mud holes and swampy stretches on it, which I suppose should be expected from the name. A couple times I stop and check the GPS, convinced I had covered the distance, and finally I arrive at the Hut. Prana, Bro, Jennifer, and ten thousand sandflies are gathered around a picnic table. The Hut is pleasant, and the camping area behind it is just gorgeous- big brushless areas tucked between huge ornately arching trees. Tristan returns from gathering water, and Ellie arrives. We present the three name proposals to Tristan and Jennifer; they seem politely appalled at all three.

We cook dinner together at the picnic table, accompanied by much laughing and swapping of stories. Two more hikers, Jo and Rob arrive; we had heard on the grapevine that Jo had been bitten by an eel. “It’s true,” she confirms. “I was swimming and it chomped right onto my toe.” I knew it! I knew it!! It happened at the exact swimming home we almost swam in midday day before yesterday, at the picnic table and second swing bridge. I thank every fringe science and deity that could have caused the events to line up in a way that culminated in the choice of not swimming there.

Dinner done, I drift to bed before anyone else to get a little writing in. Not much gets typed before falling asleep.

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