Two bunnies are down below the hut getting an early start to the day’s foraging, huddled close to the frosty ground. There were more proximate gnawing sounds at times during the night, from directly under the hut, a giant rat perhaps, or that kea more likely. She isn’t evident when daylight comes but I do catch a glimpse of a very wide winged bird acrobatically whirling some distance up the river later on.

There are plenty of ornithological specimens to be observed flitting in amongst the matagouri but they seem to be chaffinches, ie, introduced and entirely successful in their new environment, they chase each other in pairs, chirping merrily.

It’s not the blue sky days of the few previously, there’s a grey, bleak, feel, more what you might expect at this time of year, 5°C inside the hut, a slight frost, as stated outside, Cass Pass visible not so far away.

It can be announced that there is a new bridge over Hamilton Creek, replacing a walk-wire, much more fun back then. Just over the bridge there is a sign indicating a side track up to Mirror Tarn, which was both, a tarn and a mirror. You can walk around the mini-lake to get the best light, ie, over your shoulder, that assumes there is sunlight, today it was more diffuse thanks to that heavy cloud.

Many would be having morning tea at West Harper Hut, for me, well, I discover that’s the day’s destination. Who couldn’t pass up the opportunity in staying in this piece of history. The hut, squarish in plan, constructed back in 1953 by deer cullers, designed around the standard 8 foot length corrugated steel roofing, two lengths, overhanging walls beneath both sides, taking into account the 25° pitch, has a fireplace on one side, river stones for lining and I can report it functions adequately, it’s currently featuring a decent blaze, the structure the local mountain beech saplings, still with bark attached, split for the studs to give a flat surface to nail the exterior corrugated steel cladding, not for the dwangs, the top plate flattened both sides, similarly notched for the studs, and for many what might be most memorable feature, a dirt floor.

The hut structure has lasted for more than 60 years to date, DOC haven’t plans, apparently, to remove it yet, and I hope they don’t, so much of our backcountry heritage has disappeared in service of World’s Best Practice.

There’s a short walk across the river flat to the actual flowing river and it’s looking good, unbelievably clear like these rivers get when there’s an absence of rain, a bluey tinge that hints at cold water, and I test that hypothesis when I feel some water containers. Yup, that’s frigid.

So, not much activity to report, just a couple of hours walking on a benched track as good as you can get, with a decent view both down and up the Harper River Valley. Now snug in my sleeping bag, too embarrassed to reveal at the current time, but it’s, err, early, not yet fully dark, dinner over.

Better mention the bunks, five of them, in old style saggy canvas, which works well enough if you are substantially short of 6 feet height, fortunately the fifth bunk is considerably longer, with the inconvenience of being minimal in the width department. An old kapok mattress, must be as old as the hut although there is still some kapok not yet burst out, just have to get the lumps in the appropriate location in respect to my body curves and it should work out well.

A big day tomorrow, down to the Bealey Hut, at least that’s tonight’s plan.

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