Crooked Spur Hut to Camp Stream Hut
I leave Crooked Spur hut while others are still sleeping. I feel like a ghost. Now that I am alone, I rise before dawn. My heart beats fast with anticipation. I don’t even eat breakfast, I just get up and start walking. The early morning mountain shadows keep me cool and lucid. A herd of wild goats grip the side of a nearby mountain, I can smell them before I see them, they smell like blue cheese. We stop to stare at one another. Who’s gonna make the first move fellas?
My mind and body are numb from the split at Lake Coleridge. This time its so bad, I know I won’t see him again. I want to cry but the tears won’t come. Thankfully this section is challenging enough to keep my mind focused on the task at hand. There’s no trail, just miles and miles of tussock. When I leave New Zealand, I will remember the way the wind whips the tussock from side to side, the moaning and swirling, a sound so deafening it might make you feel existential anxiety or set you into a deep meditative state. I am somewhere in between right now.
After Stone Hut I come across a nobo thru-hiker. He almost passes me before I stop and ask “Are you hiking the Te Araroa?” “You’ve got a long day ahead of you,” he says businesslike. He looks like the kind of person that has never sharted his pants, or at least the kind of person who would never tell you about it. He tells me it’s going to take me three hours to get to Stag Saddle from Royal Hut. That seems too long. In fact, I have been hiking the DOC’s predicted times in half. “Uh huh,” I say and move on.
The route is marked but the markers are few and far between, so I end up stopping a lot to check my position. But I’m having one of those days where I can’t get a sense of where the route is going, so I end up zig zagging a lot. I end up fighting more tussock than I have to, but I feel like a warrior. I feel strong even though I can hear him calling me weak. He used to think I was the toughest girl he’d ever met but not anymore. No I am not No I am not No I am not weak.
I’m on my way to Royal Hut and my map informs me that Prince Charles and Princess Anne reputedly visited [Royal Hut] as children, hence the hut’s name. I wonder if it’s going to be purple and gold with gems scattered around. I take a short lunch break and finish off an old cigarette butt I find inside. Just keepin it classy. It makes me feel dizzy.
After Royal Hut you begin the climb to Stag Saddle, the highest point on the Te Araroa. It is not as difficult as I was told, and get to the top in 1.5 hours.
From here you choose between a tussock choked creek walk to Camp Stream Hut, or a gorgeous ridge walk with trail. PLEASE CHOOSE THE RIDGE WALK! Head to the right. Here’s why:
If you do the lower route you will not get to see these beautiful mountains! Also, the ridge is a lot easier to walk.
That turquoise body of water is Lake Tekapo. The reason for its color is due to glacial feed created by glacial flour, the extremely finely ground rock particles from the glaciers. This is my favorite color and I decide at that moment to name my first born child Teal, if I should ever have a first born child. Any takers? Ha! I kid I kid! Uhhhmm.
Eventually you’ll have to exit the ridge on the left and back into tussock. Down here it’s thick, and you’ll miss walking the ridge where you were able to stretch out your stride and look around. Eventually, you’ll catch a 4wd dirt road on the left of the creek and this leads to the old but quaint Camp Stream Hut built in 1898.
An old timer greets me but he’s hardier and sets up his tent outside the hut. He tells me his first and last name and that he can’t hear very well. “It’s taken me three days to go what you’ve done in a day!” he says with regard. I wish I knew him, I wish he was my grandfather. I like old people better than young people. Young people can be so sarcastic and mean.
Someone has left honey soaked rice crispy treats for anybody! Trail magic! It’s still early enough to push on but I like this little human-made structure too much. So I read every magazine left behind, and try on silly hats someone hung on nails. There is a Canadian flag draped across the door, and I wonder if it’s left untouched because Canadians are neutral citizens of the world. When there is nothing left to do, I sit on my bunk and wonder what the old timer is doing. I wonder where Cam is and I wonder when this deep guttural pain is going to gush out of me in the form of tears.