This year's family trip on the Heaphy Track was just Zack and I over a couple of days in the middle of the winter. The Heaphy track is always a special trip with my kids, really rewarding to see them grow and progress on each trip. Each time we take them through we always talk about sections of the trail they have had challenges on, like the first time Zack cleaned the notoriously slippery coal seam (RIP), or highlights like getting to the Heaphy hut or reaching the tops of major climbs... but mostly we end up talking about food.
We always end up driving in the dark to the start of the Heaphy as we can get in an extra night away and stay a night at Brown Hut. Mint to arrive at night and get the fire cranked up and to wake up in the morning to hear the morning chorus and nearby river bubbling away. We have a tradition on these trip to start the morning off with pancakes and coffee which sets us up for the rest of the day.
The great thing about mid-winter riding is it's usually dry and frosty making for superb trail conditions. The climb up to the Aorere shelter for lunch was uneventful; Zack did super well! Cracking views down the Aorere valley. It always seems to be sunny here too, great to warm up the body before heading back in the cool sub-alpine bush before getting to Perry Saddle Hut for coffee!
Great to hit the first downhill to Gouland Downs, it was surprising to see there was basically no one on the trail. No drama riding through to Saxon. Interesting to see the swing bridges have been removed and replaced with lower bridges/boardwalks at the Gouland Downs river crossings.
Saxon Hut is one of my favourite older huts on the trail with the surrounding sub alpine landscape and views to the bordering mountains. It is a great place to explore, I always make a point to head out after dinner to see if we can spot some great spotted kiwis, we heard some this time!
We hit the trail early from Saxon as it was going to be a big day ride out to Kohaihai. The weather was mint and trail conditions were prime. The section of trail between Saxon and James Mckay is always entertaining with lots of variation going from bush sections to open tussock country.
James Mckay to Heaphy Hut is an iconic section of trail descending about 700 vertical metres, a trail that just keeps on giving. Conditions of the trail were a far cry from a few years ago when it was a bog fest; there are still some bogs for a few challenges. It's pretty much a grin inducing trail from top to bottom. Mint to get to the Heaphy and yes for coffee and lunch before the final section along the coast.
The Westcoast section is an outstanding ride along the coastline, with short climbs and fun flowing descents. The nikau palm is an iconic feature of this landscape and is one I always look forward to seeing. There have been a few changes on this section, you no longer have to do the beach bike carry, they have cut a trail through the bluffs avoiding the beach as it's sometimes risky when there is a high tide. Trips into the back country small or large are like having a reset and great to have a good couple of solid days in the hills connecting with Zack, stoked to see him buzzing on being in the outdoors!