Dayle Drummond offered to help us improve the tramping route to Ranger Biv. To say I was happy to accept his offer is a bit of an understatement.
It would take a full day just to tramp in there. We would then only have one day of the Labour Weekend holiday to work on the route before tramping out on the Monday. There was too much work for just the two of us to get through in a day. And having someone of Dayle's capability with us, meant we wouldn't feel we had to be looking after our helper all the time.
We drove up early Saturday and parked at the Andrews Shelter in the Waimak valley. The intentions book in the shelter showed five parties had headed for Ranger Biv in the previous couple of weeks. It's good to see more people going in to experience the place. But it also showed how important our task was in making it possible for people to have a chance of getting there.
We tramped up the Andrews Stream, over Casey Saddle and down to Casey hut. Casey was our lunch stop. Again there were numerous references to people planning trips up to Ranger.
Across the stream, in the bush, I heard my first shining cuckoo of the season. It's a special event for me every year the first time I hear that distinctive call.
A bit further on we left the track to cross the Poulter river to Fenwick stream. A solitary black fronted tern flew overhead catching insects on the wing.
Up in Fenwick stream 15 or so canada geese honked and flapped noisily into the air, forming into their v formation as they flew out into the main valley.
We caught one by surprise still on her eggs. She rose straight into the air, leaving her large half dozen unguarded.
A cairn at the start of the gorge marked the start of the deer trail up through the bush. We climbed quickly up the spur toward Ranger biv. The thick pole stand of beech at the top slowed us down a lot, but we still got to the biv in 3 hrs 20 from Casey hut.
Two hunters had got there ahead of us. They'd left their packs and gone off with their rifles.
We set to, preparing our campsite and put up the fly on a flat spot on the rib a short distance above the biv.
Rifle shots from high above echoed around the hills and signalled early success for the hunters.
When they got back, Craig and Mike, had a good chamois head with them. They also said they'd seen a good sized red deer stag. They didn't attempt a shot at that as the route up to Ranger, so far, wouldn't permit an easy carry out of a heavy load.
They were just a day too early. And it was going to give them a good reason to come back now.
In the morning the guys headed down to the Poulter. We got to work on sorting out the route down below the biv.
The first section we just marked with tape.
The forest floor here was covered with a deep carpet of 'advance growth' beech seedlings under tall mature trees. 'Advance growth' is where beech tree seedlings grow exceedling slowly and not much more than a metre tall for many years. Eventually a mature tree falls, opening the canopy and letting in the sunshine. Then growth is explosive, and they quickly become an almost impenetrable thicket.
The 'advance growth' section we worked through had a fairly good deer trail but it was only easy to follow uphill. Going down it was hard to stay on it and the lie of the land was a constant lure to drift off route.
The tape now makes it easy to stay on course through there.
Then we got in amongst the 'regen' (short for regeneration). This was where extensive areas of forest had been blown down years ago. The ground was still criss-crossed with stacks of tree trunks. Growing over the whole areas were exceedingly dense stands of tall thin poles of beech saplings, all trying to outgrow each other in a desperate race for survival.
The poles were too close to get through easily with a pack on.
This is where Dayle showed his class. With his energy and enthusiasm we were able to cover a lot of territory, establishing the best line. Where it was most difficult we marked it with our thin pieces of plastic tape.
Wildlife seen: NZ Falcon(surprise crk monday), kaka(ranger ridge monday), grey warblers(ranger ridge), kiwi (male & female - ranger biv sunday night), variable oystercatchers (riversdale monday), brown creepers(throughout), bellbirds (alarm call - owl? - ranger ridge - andrews),
muehlenbeckia in flower(poulter terrace monday),