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28 April 2007

Piha Valley Track

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(plus the extra 100 or so metres of Centennial Track to get you as far as the Black Rock Dam.)

We walked part of this track when we did the McKenzie and Forbes Tracks a week or so back. This time I walked right up to the Black Rock Dam, mainly to see where I made my navigation error last week that had us heading up a near vertical, near bush-bashing poison line (see Poison Track) instead of up the Centennial Track.

I was both pleased and disturbed to find that I wouldn't have been any the wiser if I had taken some more time to explore last week. There are three tracks leading uphill from the river bank just opposite where Centennial Track comes down from the Anawhata Rd. One of them, and the most obvious, right across the stream from the Centennial Track, was our Poison Track, the middle one I didn't bother to explore, and the third was the one I descended today.

None of them is signposted. And both the first and last of these are pretty much mountain goat territory for the first 50 metres or so, while still showing signs of use as a path. You know you're in steep country when the tree roots are smooth from being used as handholds.

As it happened, I arrived just as half a dozen teenagers who'd come down the Forbes Track were trying to figure out where to go to get to Piha, and I was able to direct them. Maps would have been little help at this point. (Like many older trampers, I wish I'd started fifty years ago.)

Anyway, back to the original subject. This track is in the process of being blacktopped,

courtesy, I presume, of the special relationship that exists between the ARC Parks Dept and the Community Service section of the Corrections Dept. This work looks really recent, and unfinished, so by the time you get there you may be on blacktop and wooden steps all the way, as we now have with the Kitekite Track.

I'd originally planned this walk with Miranda, but with another overnight baby, and a full week ahead, she decided to spend the day catching up on sleep. I'd waited until she woke this morning to see whether she was a starter, so it was around 12.30 pm when I finally checked in at the Glen Esk Carpark. It felt too early for lunch so I stowed the thermos and rolls in my pack and settled for a cup of tea. Alice made friends with a couple of new arrivals, and I transferred a can of Steinlager into the fridge for later on.


Considering my whingeing about absent signage at the dam, I have to marvel at the feeling for completeness that prompted this ARC craftsman to inform us that we were but a minute from the carpark. Perhaps that proximity is also the key to the grafitti, which, considering the number of signs in the Waitakeres, is pretty close to zero overall.

This bit of track is also a useful example of the caution necessary with ARC and DoC times. ARC Parks Division is mostly dealing with ordinary citizens rather than the dedicated trampers who tend to be DoC customers. In terms of fatman time, ARC are a lot closer than DoC to the times I might expect to achieve.

At the junction with McKenzie Track, the sign indicates a half hour trip to the carpark. On the way in, dawdling over photographs, I took 45 minutes, and on the way back, over pretty much level ground, and with no time out for photos I took 15 minutes.

Beside the stream, the vegetation is lush.

In fact, with plenty of time up my sleeve, I start to notice a whole heap of stuff that I missed when I was striding it out the other day.

Alice is now pretty much used to the routine and stays handy.

A sturdy kanuka trunk hosts some shining hound's tongue fronds — there are some very big kanukas in the canopy along this stretch of the valley.

Young mapau (Myrsine australis) add their bright red-infused green to the side of the track.

and everywhere you look, young hangehange seedlings are coming away robustly. They must be about the most universal of that group of plants I call "the usual suspects", lining nearly every tramping track around here.

Just behind it is a small cut-leaved creeper I still haven't tracked down.

Spleenwort (Huruhuru whenua) is also common along here.

It's lovely peaceful walking.

Off to the left is a patch of bright green parataniwha. I haven't found out what it is that at times gives them an almost strident browny pink hue. They're a (non-stinging) member of the nettle family, nearly always found near water.

Here's a panako, or thread fern growing on a punga. This fellow is unusual for three quite different frond forms. the "threads" are the fertile spore bearing fronds.

When you see a punga like this one you're looking at a very old plant.

About a foot up from the bottom are some tmesipteris fronds. This is one of the oldest of still-extant ferns. Strictly speaking they are classed as "fern-allies"

I think this one is T. lanceolata.



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