20 May 2007
Ian Wells Track
formerly Auxiliary Dam Track, or Upper Nihotupu Track
This track takes you from the Piha road, just past the Upper Nihotupu Dam Carpark, first, by way of a broad metal and grass road to the old Auxiliary Dam, now decommissioned, and from there by way of a track "suitable for experienced trampers only" to join the Cutty Grass Track.
Ian Wells was a former senior ranger in the area, highly respected. He is commemorated at the far end of the track by a plaque.
It occurs to me that his memory might better be served by a more durable plaque, and one on which the spelling has been previously checked.
I'd be interested, as I've said elsewhere, to see the criteria that determine whether a track should be posted as "suitable for experienced trampers only". Apart from a couple of stream crossings which involved wet feet and a bit of a scramble for the elderly and stout, I'd have said the Christie's Track across the road was far more deserving of the designation, being just as boggy, muddy and slippery, and much steeper and longer than this one.
In fact the gentle slopes encountered on the Ian Wells Track make it eminently suitable for upgrading - a couple of small bridges and 150m or so of boardwalk - to suit the moderately experienced and moderately fit. Botanically it's interesting enough to warrant time out from placing your feet carefully as well. It's a piece of open native scrub land hosting some less common species, several orchids, a scattering of larger trees and a wonderful collection of young rimu, miro and kauri and the odd totara along the track. As we climb towards the Cutty Grass Track the bush becomes less scrubby, more substantial, but by no means your standard Waitakeres serving.
Anyhow, get your boots and your poles - essential in muddy and slippery conditions - and your thermos, and let's get started. Once again it's just Alice and me: Miranda has a couple of ladies overdue, and can't leave cellphone range.
Palm leaf fern (kiokio) is lush along here, and in the photo below you can see a small koromiko, and to the right a mapau, a Pittosporum tenuifolium, and a young rimu. The last will be a special feature of this walk.
Over to the left is some gorse, which in the open and slightly scrubby bush we pass through will be an almost inevitable feature. Fortunately it's mostly still small - the odd old man specimen could usefully be dealt with before it becomes even more of a seeding problem.
Just ahead is the buff pink of some fresh kanuka growth, rather beautiful.
I pass an old painted apple moth trap and wonder idly how biodegradable these are.
Here and there a bigger kahikatea rises above the kanuka.
Just beyond this we come to a fork, the right hand branch leading down to the old dam.
A narrow footpath takes us (briefly) past a "Dangerous Structure" sign and a look across the top of the dam. I'd be interested to learn something of its history.
We head further down the big track to the edge of the stream below the dam
This one's just a tiddler alongside the Upper Nihotupu Dam across the road, or the Waitakere Dam, but it's still possible to feel small alongside.
Someone's been busy with a bloody big drill to carve those holes out.
It's a grand environment for koromiko
In fact, just across the stream is a magnificent specimen
But we have distance to cover. Back to the "For Experienced Trampers Only" department.