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7 March 2010

The Filter Track

The Filter Track runs from the Scenic Drive for just under a kilometre down to the service road a little west of the Filter Station, or vv.

I'm not recommending this track if you're in a hurry. After a gentle enough start, it descends very steeply, and one is frequently lowering oneself to the next step below by hanging on to tree roots at eye level. However, I'm 68, 180cm, and 140 kg (blushes) at present, and I can tell you it's manageable both ways, if you take your time and go carefully. ARC time 45 minutes. Fatman time, 68 minutes each way. In wet weather or after recent rain, I wouldn't bother.

(Note that in making your decisions about tracks described on this website, you have as starting information the fact that the track has been successfully negotiated by a man in his mid-late sixties weighing at least 120kg and sometimes a bit more. I might grumble a bit, but I got there, without trauma, and without being so tired along the way that my feet were stumbling.)

Elevation from Memory Map

It makes sense, dealing with this track on its own, to park at the end of Christian Rd and walk through the Filter Station grounds to the bottom of the track, then walk it each way, which is what I did. About 2hr30 all up, fatman time.

There is no room for a carpark on the Scenic Drive at the top of the track.

As a track, it is not one that people rave about. (Yay, Goodfellow Track!!!!) It's chief virtue is that it is an easier route than the Eastern Tunnelmouth Track between Scenic Drive and the Filter Station, and I have included it as an add-on to Day 1 of the Fathmandu Trail.

Anyway, here we go.

What the ARC needs to realise is that their little box of spray bottles and a scrubbing brush is not working - for me at least. Most of the bottles contained fluid, but in not one case did the spray attachment work. Not being overly sure of what was inside I wasn't all that much in favour of unscrewing it and sloshing it around. The same has been the case elsewhere. The boots get a good scrub at home, with disinfectant, but I'm not sure how good that is.

For those wondering about all the fuss, the bad news is that a soil-borne disease of some kind is attacking and destroying kauri in the Waitakeres and elsewhere, and DoC and the ARC are trying to prevent it spreading by way of tramping boots, sticks, and the like by encouraging trampers to disinfect themselves before and after every track.

The first ten to fifteen minutes or so is genteel tramping.

ARC does an excellent job of track maintenance. In many respects I think they are on the whole more enlightened than DoC. I understand that that they have no intention of turning every track into a "motorway" and don't expect or want that — some people like a challenge when they go walking — but climbing over fallen trees has never seemed to me to be relevant to my entertainment needs and I am grateful for the teams that keep the tracks open year after year.

In choosing my tracks, I try to travel always at a pace that allows me to see where I'm walking. It may be something as simple as a perfect fern frond laid out in front of me"

or the play of light that focuses attention on a small sedge. (Later in the van I will pat Alice and notice that she has a coat full of the small hooked seeds.)

Or maybe it's a small miro emerging from the litter of leaves and twigs:

This is the essence of fatman time, on a track that has very little that is "grand" or "important". (I wonder what that small cone is from...)

We do get one moment, and as I stand up straight to get a good look out, I realise that the muscles in my back are begining to protest at their unaccustomed exposure to the Waitakeres. (Get used to it, guys, there's a whole autumn ahead of us yet.)

You know, you'd think that with Auckland being such a narrow isthmus, the haze would simply get blown away, but no, and as autumn moves on to winter, the haze will turn a light brown. One of the things I noticed at Norfolk Island was the clarity of the light, the relative brightness of the colours everywhere.

We are walking down the end of a ridge, and the ground drops away from us on either side, thankfully well covered in vegetation. One of the most impressive of the ridge community is kauri, which are often seen - on the Anderson Track, and down towards Piha, for example - growing together thickly. I'm not sure why that kauri in the middle has such a red growth on its trunk. Most of these are small to middle size,

but here and there is the occasional bigger one

The track heads seriously downwards and continues for some time, and my attention is occupied peering around my camera and my stomach to the ground to find out where my next foot is to be placed. Here's where sturdy boots and good sticks are a boon.

As the track eases off this steep descent, after some twenty five minutes, it is tempting to lengthen the step, speed up a little, but that descent has taken a small toll and a hurried step now could see a twisted ankle or a grazed knee or worse. I consciously slow down and resume my careful descent.

I take a moment out to notice a small bush lawyer.

When we reach this helpful little fellow, we have about ten minutes left. I haven't a clue how or why it arrived here.

Past a particularly demanding drop over a tree root, and there in front of me is the first of the steps that will take me in a rush to the bottom.

From being right behind me all the way, Alice has disappeared. I call loudly, but no small dog rustles back to me. I pause at the bottom and call again for Alice and shortly she comes running back from the direction of the van, in the company of a couple of guys, who tell me she was waiting down by the van for me to get there. I put her lead back on to go through the filter station

and we walk past the big white building,

and straight ahead a couple of hundred metres to where the van is parked.


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