The intention was there, I’d popped out of my sleeping bag at 6 15 am, just after another favourable weather report, packed up and left two hours later, a couple of cups of coffee and all. And if you think 8 15 iam s not early enough, even at 7 30 am you would be needing your headlamp in the forest.

Porter’s hut was reached just on the time stated by the sign, four hours, and I munched lunch at the table that seems to be part of the full tramping experience these days, the first time I’ve not had my cheese and cake on the trail this trip, except, now he thinks of it, Thirds on Day 1 in the mizzle.

Luncheon scoffed before 1 pm, I packed up and I made the 80 m down to the creek, flowing, and wondered why with all this good weather am I rushing to the next, and last, hut.

With the rumours of a lack of water proving unfounded, there’s no compelling reason to keep blasting on, so here I am basking in this early autumn afternoon sunlight, ventilating my toes and starting to feel a glow to the cheeks.

Hunters Hut is 852 m, Porters Creek clocks in at 895 m but the morning wasn’t without effort, couple of undulations and my GPS says I’ve climbed just on 600 m in elevation in the meantime. There were a couple of steep shattered rock slopes to shuffle down, no handholds here, they never seem as bad going up, at 10 or 20 m fall for anyone who slips to contemplate, if you choose to, slowish travel for the middle aged who might not have the complete agility, or bullet-proofness of decades previous.

Surprisingly there’s a string of mud puddles in the manuka scrub despite the lack of precipitation for 15 days, the minor creeks even have some flowing water.

The bright coloured hut, it’s painted like Top Wairoa Hut — the hue called Rescue Orange seems to attract wasps and small versions on bumblebees. One big one ping-pong balls its way around, a small lizard disappears under the hut, I guess there’re no rats around. This hut was actually in the Right Branch of the Wairoa River until it was helicoptered here in 2011 to replace an earlier, past its use by date, version.

It’s like other NZFS SF70, ie, similar to Mid and Top Wairoa Huts, but the open fireplace has been replaced with a fire box, a new floor and porch added, but those original louvre windows remain. Not sure why they didn’t add a water tank due to the distance and quality of the water from the creek but it’s comfortable enough for another night on the track.

The hut is set on a clearing just before the Red Hills rise up, I’m still in the Mineral Belt, manuka scrub, mostly, some open tussock areas, the bright green top to the Gordon Range now some distance behind.

It’s Sunday afternoon, the birds are chirping, six nights since my rest day at Old Man Hut.

I’m happy as.

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