A forecast for rain in the mountains and hot, dry, winds in Christchurch often has us thinking about Banks Peninsula tramping. And Packhorse Hut easily become part of most circuits.
We drove over Dyers Pass and around Lyttelton Harbour to Orton-Bradley Park. It was mid afternoon so we parked outside to avoid being locked in later.
A bush-bash up Mt Bradley
We set off up the track to the Tablelands and further up, turned west on the track across the upper Loudon farm towards Packhorse Hut. We had a detour planned and weren't to be going directly to the hut.
Honora had talked to Margaret Clark recently about a route she and Jim had once taken descending Mt Bradley. Honora wanted to check out their route in reverse.
The bush gully on Mt Bradley, above the track from Orton Bradly Park to Packhorse Hut
At the bushy stream we planned to follow the stream upwards to Mt Bradley. However the bush was too tangled and scrubby , so we sidled on out to the far side of it and just climbed the open tussock slopes to the ridge. It was easy travel that way.
The weather was still warm on the top of Mt Bradley and we appreciated the steady breeze blowing across the summit plateau.
...and then to Packhorse Hut
Honora led off down the western ridge toward Packhorse Hut. The proper track descends in long zigzags well down the Kaituna valley side. But we took a more direct line and stayed on the ridge. We didn't travel on the very crest of the ridge, which can involve rocky outcrops, boulders and scrub. Instead, Honora picked a line slightly off to the Kaituna side. This was easy travel with only one steeper section, with a bit of dracophyllum scrub and rock slabs, to descend.
Down at the Packhorse Hut we found Brian Smith, of the Peninsula Tramping Club in residence. He was there for the night with his brother and young nephew.
It was 7.00 pm, and as we'd left the road at 3.00 pm we thought a late "lunch" stop was reasonable. So we stopped and chatted awhile.
Brian provided some excitement too. His Coleman stove leaked some fuel and caught fire, whereapon he launched the flaming object through the door.
With the excitement over, Honora thought it time to go. We headed off at 7.20 and took the track back around the Lyttelton harbour side of Mt Bradley.
The sun was dropping quickly in the sky and we set a good pace to get back to the park's gates in exactly an hour and a half from Packhorse Hut.
The sun sets through the pines on the Tablelands above Orton Bradley Park
How easy it is for us to get exercise in wonderful open country so close to Christchurch. And it was a bonus to share some of the time with good company at the hut.