I’ve been trying to write this blog for over a week. I’ve started a couple of times and just couldn’t form the words on the page. I’ve found this a hard trip report to write as although I got home safely not accomplishing “Plan A” has been bugging me; it’s that “goal achiever” part of me raring it’s head.
So here goes…
On Monday June 5 I loaded ADNZ Ben, our packs and myself into the car for my partner to drop me off for a 2-3 day hammock camping tramp through Burtton’s Track. The track is around 17km, is a dual use mountain bike and walking track and part of Te Araroa. Posted as a 6 hr walk going south (downhill) I was planning on setting up the hammock at around the half-way mark and would see how I was feeling Tuesday. Tuesday morning, depending on how I was feeling; I’d either have a rest & chill out day and head out on Wednesday, or head out Tuesday if I felt up to it.
The first part of the trail is through the Gordon Kear forest along the forestry road, in which areas have been recently felled. Although I understand the need for this type of forestry and that it’s simply farming on a bigger scale I find these kinds of “forest” somewhat depressing, especially after felling. And the kicker of this stretch of track is that not only are you trudging along hard gravel, you’re also cranking up the main “climbs” before the track crosses into Tararua Forest Park and undulates southward.
We’d made pretty good time chatting with Anthony for a couple of hours before Anthony headed for home and left us to an early lunch break. We were just starting to get into the “proper” bush and nearing the top of the trudging up the hill, I was looking forward to heading into the “downhill” sections and then we hit the mud.
I’m known for my planning, and at times I’ve been called “a little over the top” but for me it’s essential, due to having to account for my physical limitations. I’d put a “point of no return” into my plan at the first stream crossing of the track. A “point of no return” is a point that you’re better off to keep going rather than turn around if things aren’t quite going to plan.
We’d barely gotten into the forest park proper and the mud got thicker, then it got deeper. I couldn’t see my foot placements and with my sensation not being so great I quickly found myself slipping and sliding around. After 3 significant slides, one almost resulting in a faceplant in the mud, I was tiring more quickly and getting somewhat annoyed. I’d heard that the track was muddy in my planning and I knew that I was headed downhill into the valley so it was only going to get worse.
It was time to stop and reassess where things were at, I’ve spent years teaching basic bushcraft skills and we always stress to people to know their limits both in fitness and skills. It took me 15 minutes of sitting in the middle of the track weighing up my options before I made the decision to turn around and go out the way I came. I figured that with the mud probably getting worse and a couple of stream crossing before camp that I just wasn’t going to have “fun” and I’d end up just wrecking myself and not taking any of the journey in. Due needing to use 2 walking poles all the time when on the trail and the lack of sensation in my feet, well its just plain difficult to adjust and recover from a slip.
So I decided I’d rather be a example of making good decisions and sent out an InReach message to put “plan b” (come back to where you dropped me off and pick me up) into action. We hear so often of people trying to “push on through and she’ll be right” and then getting themselves in trouble. Many LandSAR operations could be prevented if people actually stopped and made better decisions.
It was a stunning winter’s day and I proved to myself that I can do a 10km day with 3 days of food and “down to zero” gear.
As an instructor we often assess a trip to be a “success” when a trip has no incidents or near misses and teaching objectives were met. Personally I have had to redefine how I view success on personal trips as I am very “goal orientated” and I realized that I need to take the time to take in the journey instead of just focusing on the goal/s I am trying to achieve. Although I didn’t “finish” my section of Te Araroa, we made it home safely and had a “good day out”, which is a success in itself.
I want to thank Outdoor Training NZ, Manawatu for the ability to hire a InReach to keep me safe and able to communicate with the outside world to put Plan B into action easily.