The intrepid trapper: Week 21

After 21 weeks of exploring and seeing, up close, a part of the country I never would have otherwise, my adventures came to an end at the Southern Ruahine Kiwi Habitat Restoration Project.

Life is a funny old thing, and the only certain thing is that everything is uncertain. It is nonetheless sad for me and a very difficult decision to have made to leave. Due to a number of reasons – none of which had anything to do with working outside, in sometimes challenging weather, cleaning rotten critters out of traps, and often being knee deep in mud or cow poo – I made the call to move on.

We went for a run on the beach on a beautiful sunny day which was good, and topped it off by scoffing down some fish & chips which was perhaps not the healthiest but very good. You win some, you lose some.

Ultreia et suseia

The intrepid trapper: Week eight – 28 Feb – 1 March

28 February – Knights Track service

After not much sleep, and a too early start on a Monday morning, Gerry and I got up to meet Nina in Feilding for a trip to the Limestone Carpark and up the mountain. We were due to check the traps on that line.

The weather forecast looked okay, even though predictions for some windy and cool weather were on the cards. And perhaps even a few spits of rain.

Knights Track involves two stream crossings. I took an extra pair or running shoes again for the first couple of kilometres, after which I swopped into my hiking shoes. Fortunately, the stream levels were down enough that we could rock-hop across, so the extra shoes were redundant.

The steepness of the hill has unfortunately not magically changed. It’s still goes straight up. We were cruising along nicely, huffing and puffing up the mountain, with nothing exciting to report, when I got the distinct smell of ham. We were reasonably high up the mountain, but still in the bush. For a short stretch the flavour accompanied us, making my mouth water.

When we finally made it out of the tree line and not far from the top, we stopped for a few minutes to catch our breath and have a snack.

Unfortunately, there were no pests in any of the traps. We did replace the mouldy bait as well as where the bait was missing, with dehydrated rabbit. Just as an experiment, I replaced the bait in one trap with the core of an apple I was eating. Would be interesting to see if it lures any pests into the trap. On a previously occasion I noticed that the bait looked like it melted in the trap. I thought might be the heat above the treeline, or the humidity. But on closer inspection, I saw that it was the work of maggots processing the bait to look like it was ‘melting’ away.

Mist was rolling in over the ridge, but we had near perfect conditions again. While walking up and down the mountain, my mind kept drifting to Squadrun head honcho Kerry Suter, who had a very serious MTB accident the past Saturday, when he broke his neck. The thought that he will likely be paralysed and not be able to walk again, is too much to fathom. He is a good athlete, a coach, an active individual. It is heartbreaking to imagine the outcome, the trauma and a forever changed life and future he and Ali will have to work through and deal with.

In an instant, life as we know it, can be something of the past. I am grateful to be able to still walk up the mountain, and will try to never become blase or take it for granted.

1 March – Cone Creek

Can’t believe how time flies, but it’s been a month since we set out the traps in Cone Creek. Since it is on Jim’s property, Ian arranged that we pick him up in Apiti at 9am.

I met with Ian in Ashhurst, and together we drove to Feilding to pick up Nina. The season is starting to change, and it is only starting to get light at 6:30am. The night temperatures have also dropped somewhat and I had to put on a few layers when we left home. Fortunately there was no wind, and as soon as the sun was out, the day warmed up. In the shade I still felt cold and was glad I kept my polyprop top with me.

We parked the ute and started walking the line not far from Jim’s private hut. The first section is through the forest and down into the valley to follow the stream. As usual, we criss-crossed through the water going upstream while stopping and checking a trap every 100 metres.

The dehydrated rabbit was again either missing or mouldy in most traps. They do seem to do the job, as we caught a few pests.

In one of the traps, I cleared out what looked like it could have been a black possum. Initially I thought it might be a cat, but the verdict between us four was that it was a possum. It was so decomposed, that it only came out in drips and drabs, making the cleanup quite challenging. Bits of possum were stuck to the bottom of the box, underneath and on top of the trap mechanism, in the mesh where it negotiated the small hole to get to the trap, and it was generally speaking a gigantic mess of rotten possum, maggots and dreck to get out of everything. As I was covered in rotten animal, I couldn’t take my phone out for photos, but Nina and Ian took some.

Not too long after, we reached the far end of the line and turned around to return the way we came.  This trapline remains a mystery to me, and I know it will take me three times as long to find my way up and down the creek. With slips, fallen trees, side streams, and little waterfalls, you have to know your way to be on the right side of the stream for each section. Due to all of this, we cross the stream all the time to find the best path. Fortunately Jim knows this valley like the back of his hand, and despite often not walking the exact same route, he always finds the exact spots where we need to cross the stream, or clamber in or out.

Back out of the valley, we had our respective quick lunches and a cup of tea, courtesy of Jim, at the hut. From there Nina and I walked down the fence line to check the traps, while Jim and Ian drove up ahead to service a couple of possum traps and check the traps lower down the farm.

All up, we killed eight hedgehogs and one each of a rat, a stoat, and a possum.

On the way back to Apiti, we checked seven of the nine traps at Sixtus lodge (a school group was busy at the buildings and we didn’t want to intrude) that are also now part of our project. It’s been a couple of months since they were last checked, so things were a bit rusty (one trap didn’t work at all), and none of them had bait anymore. Some of the pests were quite decomposed, but we got rid of one hedgehog, two rats, and something unidentifiable.

A good day, and a good few less pests to worry about.

On my third work day for the week, Nina had a sick child to look after, so plans were made to work on the Friday and Saturday. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it this time, so will have to use some of my time in lieu.

The intrepid trapper: Week four – 30 Jan – 2 Feb

Day 10 – Knights Track, Toka Peak to near Tunupo Peak

It was a beautiful Sunday morning when we set off to Limestone carpark for another trip along Deerford and Knights Tracks, and up the mountain. Jonathan came up from Wellington, and Gerry offered again to help carry traps up the hill, both as volunteers. Since we only had three frame packs to carry traps, Gerry took my two traps, and I carried  all our snacks, water, warm clothing and safety gear.

The weather forecast looked favourable, and since we still needed to ground-truth the ridge between Toka and Tunupo Peaks, this seemed like a good opportunity. During our previous attempt, it was drizzly, super foggy and quite cold. And that was only three weeks ago. That is the nature of the mountain beast in NZ.

The steep uphill hasn’t miraculously flattened one bit. The relentless hill just goes up and up without respite to the top of Toka Peak, and beyond. Walking up the mountain with a heavy pack is, of course, slow going. It took a couple of hours to reach the place from where we had to start dropping off the traps (trap #15-10) and bait them. Some of the traps we set out were above the tree line already, in the dense leatherwood.

Once we got rid of the weight of the traps, we moved a bit easier as we headed further up the mountain. Another kilometre or so, brought us to the top. Once on the ridge, it is another few hundred metres to reach Toka Peak. The temperature immediately dropped, and I had to add a couple of layers, especially since we were soaking wet from sweating going up. The wind was also quite cool, which didn’t help. But, all things considered, it was actually very good up there – no adverse weather conditions.

We started ground-truthing when we reached the ridge and set a waypoint on Topo maps every 100 metres as the crow flies. A good few climbs on the ridge kept our hearts pumping and lungs burning. And a few steep clambers up and down on steep, tricky terrain, really engaged the attention. The ‘track’ is almost non-existent and unmarked, with leatherwood and tussock to walk through and over.

By the time we had marked twenty spots, we decided to turn around. It was already two in the afternoon, and we still had to make our way back along the ridge and down the mountain. After a quick snack (we left our sandwiches in the car), we started heading back the way we came. We were going at a reasonable clip, and it still took more than three hours (without stopping) to get back down the mountain. Every single step is a step down. Apart from a couple of super small and short wee uphills, there’s nearly nothing that is not a quad buster.

On the way up, I managed to go through both streams dry-footed, which was a welcome change to a usual day. But going back, I stepped on a loose rock at the last stream about half a kilometre from the car, and managed to get both my feet soaking wet. Yet again. No mercy for the wicked.

We arrived back home a bit before seven, and after sorting the animals, I was ready to go to bed. But of course we still needed to make dinner, finish cooking the preserve I was going to do during the day, get ourselves clean and myself sorted for work on Monday. I only managed to get into bed by midnight, and with the heat and wind, sleep wasn’t very flash, so I knew I’d be starting the new new week tired already.

All up, we covered 16km, with 1600m elevation.

Day 11 – Cone Creek

We met at the usual spot in Ashhurst, where Ian picked us up to collect 17 new traps from Ryman Residents. Afterwards we drove out to Ian’s farm to check that everything was working as it should, and spray-paint them with our logo.

It had been overcast when we woke up, but by the time we met in Ashhurst, the clouds dissipated and the mercury started rising already. By midday it was blazingly hot. Even with all the car windows open, we still arrived in a dam of sweat at Jim’s place in the small town of Apiti.  Driving out to his farm, some clouds started to roll over the mountain from the east, but they were few and far between overhead.

We drove all the way to just above Jim’s private hut, named Edelweiss, from where the trail starts. Luckily Jim offered to help carry traps and show us the way. Despite having been up the creek to ground-truth some of it, I wouldn’t know be the best route to take.

The four of us each carried two traps, and Ian had an extra one under the arm that was dropped at the first spot. Luckily most of the walk is in the forest so we were sheltered from the sun. I was a bit sunburnt from the day before, and was happy to be under the canopy of the trees.

Slowly but surely we were making our way up the creek, criss-crossing through the water. One by one we dropped the traps off, until the first nine were all in place. On the way back for a second round we baited, tagged and recorded them.

Back at the ute, we had a quick bite to eat, before setting off with another batch of two each, so another eight traps. This time we had to pass the first nine traps before we could start dropping off the new batch.

It is quite slow going, as the track is rather technical with heaps of fallen trees to clamber over. Not to mention all the stream crossings, slippery rocks and other obstacles. I managed to step on a slippery rock in one such stream-crossing and gave my shin a good knock on a sharp rock, which developed a massive bump and turned all shades of purple by the evening. Finally we reached the spot for trap number 17, our final destination for the day. We turned around and on the way back, baited, set, and tagged all the traps.

It was after six before we got back to the ute. Nina and I checked two traps on the farm (we checked the previous week) that was en route, and found a hedgehog in the one. After Nina cleared it out and reset the trap, we were on our way. The hilly drive through the farm also takes a bit of time, before we headed home, dropping off Jim in Apiti and driving back to Palmy.

Another very long day, and quite challenging to boot.

Day 12 – Jocks and Pohangina Base

I have not met farmer Jock before, as I only started working at ENM after Ian and Nina had already met with him.

Nina and I met bright and early (7am) on another beautiful, warm, day, got a cup of take-away coffee before we were off to the farm to check the traps. Despite roadworks, and slow speed limits on the way, we arrived a few minutes earlier than agreed at the farm. Farmer Jock heard us coming, so came down on his quad bike from the house to where we parked.

Nina introduced us, and while I was still thinking we might be walking around the farm to check on the traps, farmer Jock offered to take us around with his quad bike.

With bait, gloves, spanners and tongs at the ready, we were off. I haven’t been on a quad bike much (and have never driven one) before, but sort of knew what I was in for. Some of the places we went seemed quite steep or at too much of a lean, and if you’re not used to it, it feels a bit scary at times. But it was obvious farmer Jock knew what he was doing, so I needed not worry at all. And he is very entertaining, as well as knowledgeable about farming and the environment.

We started checking the traps, and quite a good few of them had killed something. Mostly it was hedgehogs, but also a few rats. In one of them, only the head of the rat remained. Something else got hold of the body and ate everything – bones, guts and all, or dragged it away.

Being on the slope of the mountain, we went further and further uphill, until we reached his private (hunter’s) hut. From here it did not seem too far to the top of the mountain, and Jock offered to take traps as high as he could with his quad bike, for the line on top of the mountain. This will save us a lot of effort, which I for one am very grateful for.

The hut has a beautiful view down the mountain, and is well equiped. Jock showed us around while we checked the two traps at the hut. The firewood for the hut comes from a huge old fallen tree (totara?) that they dragged up the mountain. Each year they saw off a ring to split to provide wood for the year. I quickly used the loo – with a lovely view! – before we started heading down the mountain through paddocks, and towards a more sheltered, forest area. Jock has quite a few trees and sheltered areas for his sheep, including streams and wetlands to ensure his stock is well looked after.

Some steep ups and downs, a few lessons in tree identification, and weeds and feed, and we had made it back to the farm house a bit after lunchtime. Jock gave us a few faulty traps that needed fixing, and showed us his fridge with deer that was shot recently.

A good day, great weather, entertaining company and a good few kills. Roughly every third or fourth trap had some or other pest and all up we got 10 hedgehogs and 2 rats.

After finishing up at Jock’s, we drove to Pohangina Fieldbase to check the trapline there. Over the 15 traps, we ended up with another 5 hedgehogs and 2 rats.

This trapline follows the edge of the bluff, and at one point, Nina showed me a viewpoint in a clearing, with Ski Station just across the gorge from where we access the Mid-Pohangina trapline. The latter was on the agenda for the following day.

Unfortunately this trapline is also somewhat overgrown (which seems to be the norm), but one can’t really get lost; you with either end up in the gorge or in the road.

Near the end of the trapline we took a shortcut out to the road for the walk back to the car.

Day 13 – Mid-Pohangina

Back to the Mid-Pohangina trapline to check the traps for the first time after deploying them some three weeks ago. Arriving at the farm gate, some sheep were being mustered into a different paddock, and we had to wait a couple of minutes before getting access. The rough 4WD road through a few gates took us to the furthest point we can drive to. The walk from the ute across the farm and down into the valley to the start of the Ruahine Forest Park is about 1.6km, with some decent elevation.

Since we deployed traps along the river in the last few hundred metres towards the park, trap-work started as soon as we crossed the river. With the lack of rain the past few weeks, the river is even lower than when we deployed the traps.

This track is fast becoming a familiar sight, but some of it remains a bit nerve-wracking. One particular scree slope looks like it has become a way for deer to dash down the mountain, exacerbating the erosion. My worst nightmare is slipping on the slippery slope and sliding off the mountain. Sidling up the valley remains a steep and exhausting climb, including some hairy bits.

A couple of traps were set off which could have been due to tree branches falling on them, or deer kicking them accidentally, or whatever other random reason. In some, the bait disappeared mysteriously, so we had to rebait them. But a few had killed rodents – four hedgehogs and two rats. One was still quite fresh. Poor bugger.

The rope we attached to a tree the previous time, was luckily still there. The trees hanging over the track was unfortunately also still there, and with a cap on, I could not see that it was perfectly positioned at the exact level of my head, so I walk straight into it, knocking me back on my arse. I heard something that sounded like a crack and hoped it was the branch. A couple of days later my neck was still sore, probably (hopefully only) from the knee-jerk reaction, causing some tightness in my neck muscles.

I was quite surprised at how steep uphill the last few traps were. Somehow I had wiped this out of my memory. Once at the far end, it was just a matter of getting back to the ute. Servicing traps take up quite a bit of time, so going back was a notably quicker.

Back at the ute, it was very warm, as it has been the past few weeks. On the drive back to Palmy, we had lunch. We finished a little bit earlier, which was a welcome change to our routine.

I will not be working the following day, which will be Nina and Ian going back to Knights track to deploy the last few traps up the mountain, and checking the trapline as a whole so far.

The intrepid trapper: Week two – 17-19 January

Day 5

The week started off with another trip to Mid-Pohangina Track. The goal was to distribute a few more traps, particularly in the flat section on either side of the river, as well as the newly cut track, and to collect the monitoring cards from the middle section of the trapline.

For the task, it was only Ian, Nina and myself. We decided that both Nina and I will each carry two traps from the ute down and up the river, from where Ian will ground-truth, place and bait the traps. In the meantime, NIna and I made our way up the mountain again to collect the monitoring cards. 

When we parked in the paddock, it was super windy. The sun was out though, and the gloomy weather prediction from the previous week, was fortunately a miss by MetService. As we walked down the farm track, it became evident that it might be a hot day. Down by the river, criss-crossing, getting properly wet, we got to the point where Nina and I had to start following the track. We dropped the packs with traps and were on our merry way.

The newly cut track is so much easier to navigate and made for a far more enjoyable trip to the start of the Ruahine Forest Park. 

Thankfully it didn’t rain and things dried out since last week, which also made the going more comfortable. By now I’m getting used to the sketchy bits, and try not to look down the ‘straight down the mountain’ stretches. Unfortunately, I had yet another brush with Onga Onga. This seems to be my nemesis – I manage to get zapped by this pest way too often.

I also carried a rope in to attach on a tree at a gnarly spot that goes straight up/down on eroded soil. We’ve thus far managed to clamber up by hanging onto the grass next to the eroded bit, but a rope to hang onto will make it far easier, especially going down. Fingers crossed it stays there, and someone doesn’t decide to take it down for whatever reason.

We reached the far end in about two hours, collected the monitoring cards (near traps 20-24) before turning around to walk back the way we came. The day just got hotter and the wind less, so an enjoyable walk in the valley.

Back at the ute, we packed up and was ready to make our way out on the rugged farm road. Ian had to speak to a couple of farmers, so we drove to a neighbouring farm to catch up with Travis and George. They seem keen and are on board with the project, and also offered to help distribute traps with their four wheeler. So all good on this front.

Now just to get enough traps made so they can be distributed in the project area. While we can build the wooden boxes, the trap mechanisms are manufactured in Auckland, and due to COVID-19 restrictions, they have not been able to keep up with the demand. This is somewhat problematic, but at least Ian still has quite a few ready and waiting at his place. Carrying traps into the mountain at only two per person, is in any case slow and hard work, and not something that can happen overnight.

Day 6

The evening after our day in Mid-Pohangina, Ian was painting the Ruahine Kiwi logo on the remaining traps at his place. With this job done, the next step was to check the traps. The traps are made for free by some folk at the Ryman retirement village, which is awesome, as every trap they make is a huge task taken off our hands, for which we’re grateful. Before the traps can be distributed on the mountain, they need to be checked and tested to make sure everything works perfectly. The occasional adjustment may be required.

In the morning, we all (Nina, her son, and myself) met up with Ian in Ashhurst, from where we took his ute to his farm in the Pohangina Valley. Rows and rows of traps were laid out on his front lawn, which we wheelbarrowed to the shed for checking and adjustments. Every so often, the mechanism of a trap would be too close to the side, rendering it useless. But moving it a wee bit solves the problem in a tick.

By lunchtime we were ready to get 40 of the traps into Knights Track, at the furthest northern edge of the project area. On the way, we stopped at local farmer Jim and Sandy’s. Sandy also run a horse trekking business in the area. Jim offered to take us through his property, which borders on the DOC land, shaving off a few hundred metres of carrying traps. Jim also offered to carry a few traps up to the junction on Knights-Shorts and Deerford Tracks, which was very helpful. We did three trips and managed to take 30 of the traps to the junction. The others we left at the forest park entrance.

The walk starts with a short stretch downhill, after which we cross a stream before going up a steep little hill. Parts are narrow, with fallen trees across the path and of course a little Onga Onga bush right at my eye level. Luckily Nina warned me about it, so I could miss it with each trip out and back. She tried to break it off with a piece of stone to no avail. Will have to bring secateurs to get rid of it.

The day was super hot, and we spent half of it in the sun. But the part in the forest park was mostly shaded and a lovely, albeit steep, walk.

Day 7

While the weather gods remained kind, we decided to go back and start moving the traps up the mountain. Gerry had a day off, so he volunteered again. We left before seven in the morning to pick up Nina in Feilding. After buying a quick coffee to go, we set off driving out to the Limestone Road carpark, a kilometre or so past Sixtus Lodge.

We collected six of the ten traps we left at the park entrance the previous day, for the trip up the mountain. And boy is this mountain steep. From the stream-crossing we walk the first very steep stretch to the junction (the same stretch we did the previous day multiple times), before heading left around the Deerford track. Although the track still goes uphill, it is not as steep as the first bit. But after this short respite to the junction on the other side of Deerford Track, the mountain climb starts in all earnest. The relentless uphill had us puffed (pooped!) and winded. It makes for slow going with the weight of the traps, but I think we did well, moving 15 traps into their resting places. Nina made three trips, and Gerry and I did two, while also baiting and setting the traps, and signposting their positions. A numbered pink triangle goes on a tree where the trap can be found, to make future check-ups and documenting easier. Each time something gets killed, it is noted on a website containing the network of traps, to keep up-to-date stats on the killings and progress. Quite cool, really.

Another good, full day of hard grafting in the mountains. If I can keep this up, I’ll be fit and strong in no time.

For this week, I covered about 30km and 2180 elevation.

The intrepid trapper: Week one – 10-13 January

This week I started at a new job – as a trapper for Environment Network Manawatū, working on the Southern Ruahine Kiwi Habitat Restoration Project. Since it involves going out into the bush and mountains, I thought writing little anecdotes about my days in the outdoors might make for a good memento in the years to come.

Day 1

My first day involved meeting everyone, and getting the admin sorted. So an office day. I guess I won’t be having many of these.

The Southern Ruahine Kiwi Habitat Restoration Project runs over three years, and the aim is to recover threatened species like kiwi, whio (blue duck), native snail, and long-tailed bats, as well as the northern rātā, a forest tree endemic to New Zealand. In a few years, kiwi will be reintroduced to this part of the mountain range where they will hopefully be safe from predators.

We are a six person team, divided into two groups: three to mainly work on the eastern side of the mountain (three strong, young blokes), and three on the western side of the mountain (two girls and a boy, all a bit older). The three of us on the western side are Nina, myself and the project coordinator, Ian.

Day 2

On day two, Nina and I were meant to go ‘ground truthing’ (which in this context essentially means determining the positions where traps will be installed) a section on the ridge between Tunupō and Toka Peaks in the Ngamoko Range. The two of us will be working together for the most part, especially in the mountain. On the farms in the foothills we might be going out separately to check, document, clean and rebait traps. However, on this day, we met at the office from where we drove out together into the Ruahine Forest Park. It was an early start, meeting at 6:30. While Gerry is still on leave for the week, he decided to tag along.

From Sixtus Lodge we followed Knight’s Track to the junction with Deerford Track after which we continued on to Toka Peak (1519m). It was overcast, but otherwise the weather seemed okay. The stretch amongst the trees where we were sheltered from any potential elements, had some stream crossings (no getting away with dry feet on NZ walks), but was otherwise an enjoyable walk. 

It is six kilometres from the carpark to the peak, of which only the first kilometre is flat. The next kilometre is uphill, and after a brief downhill respite, the next four kilometres all go straight up. And reasonably steep to boot. After about three kilometres we were on a spur which we followed all the way to the top.

By the time we reached the leatherwood and were effectively above the tree line, the weather had changed significantly. It started to rain, horizontally, as the wind had also picked up quite a bit. As is typical of the mountain ridges, the temperature also dropped and by the time we reached the peak, it was pretty cold, partially also because we were wet from sweating up the hill, as well as from the rain and walking through tall, wet grass and tussock. If that wasn’t enough, it was also very foggy, to the extend that we couldn’t really see further than a few metres ahead. The whole point was to mark the spots for the traps every 100 metre on the ridge, but there is no point when you are unable to see where you’re going.

We had to call it quits and make our way back down the mountain. The ground truthing will have to wait for another day.

Day 3

On day three we carried traps up the Mid-Pohangina track. The Dannevirke team came over to help, as well as a couple of volunteers – Gerry and Amanda. 

It was another early start, and we all met in Ashhurst at 7am. Since the drive to the start of the day’s track required a 4×4 vehicle, some of us had to catch a ride with the 4WDers. 

We divided the group of eight people into two groups of four each. Four of us, the three girls and Gerry, were going to carry two traps each along the track to the furthest end, deep into the mountain. The other four boys were going to start at the bottom, carrying the traps from the farmers paddock down into the valley, up the river for about a kilometre, before also heading along the track and valley to distribute traps at the previously identified spots marked with pink triangles (at 100 metre intervals). All in all, this trapline from the farm to the Mid-Pohangina Hut will have around 50 traps. We will only know the exact amount once we finish getting all the traps in place.

Unfortunately, by the time we reached the sign that reads Ruahine Forest Park (about 1.5km in), Gerry’s boots had fallen apart. What started off as just an unnoticed loose bit of sole, ended up with the whole boot in tatters. Apart from the knobbly, rubbery part of the sole that came loose, the rest of the sole completely disintegrated. There was nothing left apart from a thin layer of fabric and the flapping rubber. Disappointed, he had to stay behind and help the other four to get the traps to the bottom of the park once he could patch up the pieces with strapping tape and shoe laces. So us three girls set off on our walk into the valley.

Since the farmer cut-off entry to the park, the track has been in disuse. It is not too bad though, and the DOC orange triangles are still in place for the most part. The Mid-Pohangina Hut is maintained by the Palmerston North Tramping and Mountaineering Club, so I guess the track might also get some attention? However, due to slips, some sections of the track are quite eroded, others slipped away, leaving a few hairy sections on the verge of the chasm. Being not particularly good with heights, I found these parts a bit scary. All along we were gaining elevation as the track makes it’s way up the mountain. Carrying heavy wooden traps added to the stress of the sketchy bits, but we made it safely there and back. With the track being in the state that it is, it took us roughly six hours to cover the 10km out-and-back from the Ruahine Forest Park sign. This, of course, included baiting all the traps as we went, including the ones that the boys carried in from the bottom, and placing five monitoring cards (to identify types of rodents in the area) in the middle of the trapline.

Only eight remained to be done the following day – more or less in the middle stretch of the trapline.

We all walked the 1.5km down the river and back up the hill to the paddock, before heading home. It was a good day, with the weather playing along, and low river levels.

Day 4

Another early start, again meeting at 7am in Ashhurst, our team comprised of the six official trappers and again two volunteers: Gerry and Nina’s son Liam this time. 

It rained during the night, so everything was wet. A mist spray and cool wind made us don rain jackets for the first stretch of the walk. This soon became too hot, and being under the canopy of the trees for the most part, we could stay dry, apart from our legs collecting the water from the overgrown grass and ferns.

With all the traps already carried from the car to the Ruahine Forest Park sign, the first 1.5km over farmland and up the river was easier going without the weight of the traps. 

This time six of us carried traps in, while two (Ian and Shawn) remained behind to cut a track through the overgrown farmland. This is to partially avoid having to walk along the edge of the river for a kilometre each time, which is wet, slippery and will be very cold in cooler months. 

After collecting traps, Gerry, myself, Nina and Liam went up ahead, while Rani and Rangiwhera followed. This made carrying far easier, so instead of four people having to carry eight traps, some could only carry one trap each. 

Since I knew what I was in for and the terrain was somewhat more familiar, it felt like we were moving faster than the previous day. According to GPS data, this was not really the case, as it still took us about five hours to cover the 7km out-and-back.

However, I felt more comfortable the second time around and we placed the final eight traps at their assigned spots. Rani fixed one that was assembled incorrectly, and Nina and I baited them all. Bait in these wooden DOC200 traps consists of dried rabbit. Looks a bit like minced up and pressed together beef jerky – boots and all. 

Back at the park border, we met up with Ian and Shawn who walked us out on the new track they cut. We finished a bit earlier than the day before. And lo and behold – one day after Gerry’s boots took a turn for the worst, the same thing happened to Rani. This track is not kind to shoes it seems. 🙂

All up we covered about 35km for the working week, which doesn’t sound much, but with 2300m of elevation and some rough terrain, it certainly made for a pretty good workout.