At 6am on Saturday Barry and Wayne met up with Ben and headed out of town for Huxley Forks in the Hopkins Valley. The weather predictions had been a bit uncertain, and still was, with some light rain and the possibility of some light snow predicted. The weather forecast was not too daunting so we decided to do it. The early morning drive to Fairlie was uneventful where we stopped there for a pie and a hot drink. Next stop was at the gate at the start of the Hopkins Valley. Barry had his small 4WD which we hoped would get us some of the way up the valley and avoid as much as the tedious road walking as possible. The weather was good, the snow level high and the road was dry. We got about 4.5km up the shingle road before it turned to a mud bog and Barry parked up. We walked the remaining 4.5km to Monument Hut in an hour and stopped for a snack and a chat with some hunters. It looked like Huxley Forks Hut would be full this weeked – it didnt look too good for us – we could also see 3 or 4WD vehicles in the distance parked at the start of the Huxley Track.
We made good time up the main valley to the start of the Huxley Track, doing a side stream crossing along the way. Next was a short climb up and over a ridge to the swing bridge over the Huxley. We made good time going up the Huxley River flats and river bed, stopping for a chat with a hunter part way up. The river was low, being only knee deep at the deepest crossings. The weather started to rain lightly as predicted around early afternoon. We put rain jackets on, but the rain did not come to much and we arrived at the Forks hut mostly dry and to our surprise it was empty of packs and people.
We quickly lit the fire and had a hot drink and a snack. There was ample dry frewood in the hut and woodshed, but the water tank was empty due to a faulty tap, however the river was not too far away. We got in some more dry firewood and enought water for the night. Barry and Ben had a quick look upstream at the river and swingbridge. A light rain started to set in but we were warm, dry and comfortable in the hut. A couple of hunters came down from Brodrick and joined us for the night. That night Ben put on an excellent meal of pasta and pasta sauce with mild salami and roast pork – a very tasty combo. Ben caught up on some well deserved sleep that night and Wayne slept in the nearby unheated 3 bunk Officers Quarters hut and got in a comfortable 11 hours sleep.
We found an unused locator beacon with a surname and phone number on it in the main hut and decided to carry it out and see that it went back to its rightful owner.
The hunters left just on dawn the next morning and we woke at 7am to clear skies and an unexpected white frost. The predicted overnight rain did not eventuate. It looked a bit grey down valley when we started walking about 8am. Again we made good time going down valley. There was a cool breeze but the predicted light rain and snow did not happen. As the river was low we skipped using the Huxley swing bridge this time and walked streight to the start of the hillclimb track beneith the swing bridge.
We were soon back in the main Hopkins Valley for a fast walk back down the 4WD track to Monument Hut. We arrived there at around 11am where we had a quick snack and then we continued on down the road to the car – arriving there around midday. The weather was sunny, but the air was still cool.
Ben phoned the owner of the locater beacon as soon as we had phone reception. It belonged to a lady in Dunedin. She was very greatful that it had been found. Ben offered to post it down to her.
We called into Tekapo for a quick break on the way home and we were back in Timaru around 3pm.
Thanks to Ben for planning and leading an enjoyable trip, and to Barry for getting us further up valley more than we expected.