Route: Return trip from Kiwi Ranch Road carpark to Joe Gibbs Hut
Weather: Humid, no wind
DOC travel time: 8hrs Group time: 9hrs (with 3 stops).
While others were at home no doubt preparing for the coronation of His Majesty King Charles III, a small group took to the hills on a hut bagging mission to find the legendary, unmarked Joe Gibbs Memorial Hut.
Online sources dropped tantalizing clues about the hut being ‘near a water body’, ‘on the true left of Rodgers Stream’ and ‘a short scramble up from the main track’, but there were also comments saying ‘posted co-ordinates are incorrect’ and ‘couldn’t find on our second attempt’.
We departed Wellington at 7am in the rain, but this cleared by the time we arrived at Kaitoke. The day remained dry and the Tauherenikau Valley was windless and warm. The track is benched, well used and clearly marked, however, there are stretches of clay path on both sides of the Puffer Saddle that are treacherously slippery.
We made the abysmally grim Smith Shelter in 2 hours and stopped for a snack before continuing past a curious nod to Joe Gibbs in DOC colours.
Editor’s note: Joe was a well known bushman who resided in the Tauherenikau Valley in the 1960s. He built the first Tauherenikau Hut for the Tararua Tramping Club and spent a lot of his time there (See: https://gwbn.org.nz/history/joe-gibbs/).
The track was very muddy at times, there was the occasional small slip to negotiate, but generally our pace was fast and we reached Rodgers Stream by lunchtime. A quick scan up the creek confirmed that this was probably not the route to the hut and we backtracked 20m or so down the path. Anne showed why she was once the Club’s Chief Guide by quickly spotting a sidetrack, and within 5 minutes we crested a ledge and sighted the hut. It is a dry, musty space with 3 bunks, a bucket of flour, and a collection of odd gear and rubbish.
Over lunch we debated whether we should post the co-ordinates online, but decided we would uphold the mystery. There are enough clues available for the observant.