Must be tuckered out after the last couple of days on the trail, no usual spring in my step as I plodded my way up the hill from Lake Guyon, the paradise ducks with the ducklings unusually silent, the many geese certainly not.

The Stanley Vale Hut was a surprise, not often you encounter a 19th century musterer’s hut in fairly original condition, the studs packed with clay, no internal wall lining, plenty of evidence of fires in the roof timbers, local beech that have been cut into quarters, there’s a 40 book library, with the hut conservation report and a brief history of the hut, a pile of magazines about horse trekking in the back country, signs of recent long-term occupation and, most surreally, a couple of deer hides hanging under the trees, and beyond, at the old kennel, remnants of a boned out deer or two, ie, the bones, and the ribs swaying from some wire, well, that’s hunters for you.

It was after 11 am when I left the hut, plenty of blue sky, I adorned myself with sunscreen, haven’t seen the sun since the equally sunny Day 1.

I’m off the edge of my map here, I do have a GPS but while the topographical info is okay in the main, the actual track can sometimes be not so accurate.

Three major highlights: an overly large trout for a small pond in the clear Stanley River, not quite living up to that precise nomenclature at the top reaches where it’s decidedly more stream-like; an extraordinarily bright red medium-sized butterfly that wasn’t so keen to pose for my camera; and then a major finale, really quite the surprise, the Stanley Gorge, plenty of exposed rock and some river crossings, six in total, unbelievably there was once a bulldozed track through here, it’s also a branch of the St James Cycleway, classified as expert, but having some experience with the off-road biking I’d be reluctant and to traverse this route myself, deep, soft, soggy grass that would require stamina to hack through, some pushing through smooth rounded head-size boulders at times, actually I think a fair degree of walk-the-bike phenomena, or even at times carry-the-bike.

The cycle path, err, route continues up Racecourse Stream but I peel off on the old unmarked, and getting overgrown with spiky matagouri, farm track up on to The Peninsular, a lateral moraine left from the time of a distant ice age when the major glacier inching its way down the Waiau River bifurcated and one branch creating Lake Guyon, headed down the Stanley River, this moraine left at the point where the split glacier rejoined.

The Stanley makes its way down below through some narrow gorges, yup, she’s gorgeous, the water has turned a milky blue, it’s quite the sight from some elevation. Then a few hundred metres on this view into the Waiau, Pool Hut just down there on the other side, the ancient Bridge Hut, down near the new MacArthur Bridge, built recently for the St James cycleway, rebuilt in fact, the old one was the derelict as the nearby hut.

This two options to get to the minimal Pool Hut, down the river to the bridge, maybe a kilometre and a half, crossing the Stanley for the seventh time required just as it exits from the last section of gorge, later seen to be quite problematic, it’s in a rocky gorge, or, the direct route, plow straight across the Waiau, a more serious prospect down here, but the river fans out somewhat above a set of rapids, from this elevation you can see the bottom, doesn’t look completely ridiculous, I planned the route from on high, a trusty stick, and it turns out knee deep, flowing swiftly, 6 inches more would have been interesting, the main thing is to take it slow enough to be sure of the footing and stashing those two cameras in waterproof bags.

Later I wander down to the new suspension bridge, must’ve been fun getting flocks of sheep across the old one back in the day, the water down below is deep, smashing into a rock, vivid azure blue, very exciting, a couple of young brown teal ducklings, almost adult but huddling together. In the second historic hut visit for the day, bush sawn timber, dirt floor, fireplace removed, the Lysaght corrugated steel walls still in good nick 100+ years on, inscribed with the names of people long gone, almost 100 years ago, all clearly discernible.

Yes, it’s been quite the historic day.

← Day 5 | Lake Guyon, more honking geese, lots more Day 7 | Anne Hut: finally back on track →