Summiting Mount Lodestone

New Zealand is known around the globe for it's awe-inspiring natural scenery. (I mean, that was the biggest appeal for us when we planned this trip). And with thirteen national parks, there is an abundance of nature-viewing opportunities to be had. Last Thursday afternoon, we decided to get out into one of New Zealand's biggest and most remote national parks: Kahurangi.

Kahurangi National Park encompasses 4,520 square kilometers (1750 sq miles) of forest, rivers, and coastline. Not sure where to start, Emmett and I left Motueka and drove about 40 minutes to the start of the 7 km gravel road up the Graham Valley. From then on I did my best not to kill the car completely by driving it up such a steep grade.

At the carpark, we took a look at the map of Mount Arthur and the surrounding mountains to determine which hike we could potentially do in about 6 hours or less. We ultimately picked Mount Lodestone to be able to reach a summit and get some choice views.

The hike started out at a pretty intense incline through natural beech forest. At first, we couldn't even tell where the trail was in the low-light of the forest. Luckily we soon stumbled upon a series of bright orange triangles assuring us that we were indeed going the right way up. There wasn't a single other person on the trail with us; bird calls were about all that we could hear beyond the crunch of leaf litter beneath our feet. Though the trail was a bit tough, it was easier than it could have been thanks to natural steps created by the beech roots that terraced the mountainside.

At the first ridge on the trail, we discovered moss-strung trees that opened on to a panoramic view straight to the coast. We could see all the way to Nelson (over an hour and a half of driving away). 

Then, after hiking through more shaded woods, we found ourselves just below the actual summit at a shady little lookout rock.

We left that lookout and then suddenly we broke through the trees back into the sunlight and found ourselves on top of Lodestone.

We could see for miles and miles: more lush beech-forested mountains, some rocky peaks, the Nelson coast, Motueka city...

After spending some time soaking up the views, we were ready to descend. That's when we saw that the descent was a lot less walking and a whole lot more climbing.

Eventually, we managed to clumsily scramble our way down before hiking on our slightly shaky and out-of-practice knees down into the valley and across a stream to the historic (1927) Flora Hut.

After taking a peek at the bunks and general lodge setup, we decided to make our way up the valley on the 30 minute walk to the carpark. This portion of the trip was the easiest yet - we merely walked a gravel access road to the hut. Just before we left Flora Hut on the gravel road, we turned back once more and saw Mt Lodestone peeking above the forest (see bottom left). Taking delight in the obvious, we each exclaimed "we were just there!"

Back at the carpark, we checked our route on the DOC-provided map (Mt. Lodestone is the orange-capped mountain on the bottom right of the map below) and made friends with a cheeky little weka. I promise it's not a kiwi bird, though it is also flightless. Kiwi are nocturnal and have longer bills.

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Summiting Mt. Lodestone was the perfect afternoon "tramp" for a day with absolutely clear & wonderful end-of-summer weather here in Tasman. It got me pretty excited to do even more day/afternoon trips here in this country of endless hikes.