February 25, 2017
km traveled today: 24
total TA km: 2609
Today was awesome. The lake walking grew a bit tedious toward the end but otherwise all was totally great.
We got a late start this morning to enjoy the comfort of our excellent YHA beds. We packed up and ran some errands in town, heading off to the trail at around 9:30 AM.
The lake walking was stunning. Lake Wanaka is incredible and the mountains surrounding it are hilariously beautiful. Before getting onto the lake track proper, we passed a middle school cricket match which sealed the deal in terms of our thinking of Wanaka as a great place to live.
We passed by the Wanaka tree, a tree growing right out of the water which has gained an incredible amount of notoriety. I thought it was funny that the small tree in the water receives such hype despite the absolutely colossal tree in the garden just a few hundred meters further.
The track took us over the beautiful undulating lakeside, leading us through corridors of driftwood close to shore and up steep brushy hills further away. Along the way we got to say hello to plenty of runners/bikers enjoying the lakeside track. One from New Jersey in particular was very excited to hear about our progress and push us on.
We had lunch 2 km short of Glendhu Bay. Meat and cheese wraps plus Wanaka lake water made a great meal before we finished up the walk to Glendhu Bay.
From there it was a couple km of tedious road walking until the turnoff to the gravel track to the Motatapu Car Park.
The estimate from there to Fern Burn Hut is supposedly 3-4 hours but we’d end up arriving with 1.5 hrs.
The track took us through straightforward tussocky creek-walking until we entered the Stacks Conservation Area, where things got really beautiful.
An incredible and picturesque stream decorated the track and beautiful surrounding forest. There was plenty of climbing but it was made easy by the cool temperature and quietness of the woods.
Upon leaving the stacks, the track got much steeper, climbing up and down on the true left bank of the river. The climbing was quite tough at the end of the day, but we knew we weren’t far from the hut so it was easy to crank the km’s.
Soon we arrived at the last big climb, which provided great views back through the valley in the direction of Wanaka. After reaching the top of the climb we saw the track had taken us quite a bit higher than the hut, the most frustrating kind of climb.
We descended to the stream and back up to the hut to find that it was quite full. A short walk (comparatively) from the carpark, Fern Burn Hut is a popular hut for overnighters. No matter, we are just as happy pitching our tents outside and cozying up against the cold in our sleeping bags.
After a few rounds of hearts, a full spaghetti + tomato sauce meal with an onion and plenty of spices and garlic, some more rounds of hearts, we decided to crash. Just before heading off to bed Sam and I spoke briefly to a kiwi hunter before a sweet talk with Stefan, an Austrian dude who has crossed the Austrian Alps and walked most of the PCT, CDT, and TA. Cool guy, very fun to talk to.
A great end to a really sweet day. That forest before our big climb today was really special, one of my favorite bits in a long time.