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Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Frenchmans Cap Hike - Day 1 - to Vera Hut
After striking camp, we packed what we needed for 5 days hike and hit the road.
The trailhead of Frenchmans Cap is 30km from Lake St Clair, and has a very basic carpark and nothing else, except a sign pointing to the trail.
Gaye had stashed her valuables at Lake St Clair since as a sign in the trail head carpark said, vandals are known to break into cars here.
We got walking at about 9:45am – a bit late. The track almost immediately crossed the Franklin River on a swing bridge. The Franklin is fairly small here. The track climbs through cool rainforest then descends again to the Loddon river. During the descent, there were good views of the mountains surrounding Frenchmans Cap, and a glimpse of the Cap itself.
After the Loddon River, we came to the infamous "Sodden" Lodden Plains. They were not as flat as the plains around the Western Arthurs, and again they were not really plains, but a flat bog / marsh.
The track was very muddy – often to or above the knees. There were however a lot of sections with firmer ground.
I was finding it a bit annoying as I was continually having to wait for Gaye to catch up. The reason it was annoying however was because she was continually trying to go around all the mud holes, which took much more time, didn't do much to prevent getting muddy (even with gaiters), and destroyed vegetation in the process. I on the other hand was just wading down the middle of the mud, only going on a side track when it was so slippery as to be impossible not to. I just accepted that I was going to get muddy. One reason however that she might have wanted to go around however, was because at one point Gaye got stuck so she couldn't pull her feet out of the mud. I grabbed her pack and gave her a hand.
After the "Sodden Loddens" comes the Philps Lead, and I though the first part of this was worse than the Lodden plains, but by this stage at leas we had a goal, as there were mountains rising in front of us.
Finally the mud was over, but we still had a big hill to negotiate, climbing up over it, then down into Lake Vera. By this time, we were getting pretty tired, due to the effort expended in the mud. Finally the hut came into view.
After taking quite a while to get the mud out of my socks and boots, we got set up and had dinner. It was nice having a hut – there was no-one else there. I wasn't as good as most in New Zealand, with no matresses, or sink, but was still nice at the end of a day's hike.
There are a lot of dead trees, bleached but still standing in the area, killed by fires that have passed through in the last hundred years. The rainforest trees are not used to fire and don't survive.
The night was quite cold, it was 4°C in the hut when we woke (the thermometer is so you know when to use the stove – when the temperature is below 10°C)