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June 2012 Issue
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Back to the front country

The very ‘blue’, Blue Range Hut. Photo: Neil Silverwood
Blue Range Hut, Tararua Forest Park

Along with an enormous array of huts built by the New Zealand Forest Service and Department of Conservation there are also many built by tramping clubs and other organisations. There is something special about these. They are often well made, unique and have a lot of character. The Blue Range Hut, in the eastern Tararuas, is no exception.

The track up to the hut ascends some 700m, but is fairly easy going. The route is well maintained and winds its way through gnarled beach forest. On my way I thought about members of the Masterton Tramping Club, who would meet every second weekend and carry in the materials for the four bunk hut. It was built over two years in the late 1950s. Trampers must have been a little hardier then.

At the top of the hill (Pt 978m), the track branches to the right and descends to the hut. Even though Blue Range Hut is in the front country, it has a backcountry feel about it. The place seems removed from civilisation and the area is pristine. It’s also quirky. Strange maps line the walls and there is a sign on the door which reads Psychiatric Centre. While tough, these Masterton trampers obviously had a good sense of humour.

There is a potbelly stove that’s still in good condition and with this going the hut provides a cosy shelter.

The hut is surrounded by stunted beech trees, covered in hanging mosses. They thrive in the mist that often blankets this area. The area also receives its fair share of rain, up to 5000mm every year. The Blue Range is fairly well protected though with the western aspects bearing most of the brunt.

To the west lies an impressive network of huts and tracks, most of which are well maintained. Immediately past Blue Range Hut turn-off is the track down to Cow Creek Hut located at the head of the Waingawa River.

The Mitre Peak Hut can also be reached in a day from the Blue Range. The tracks provide good travel and there are (with some short detours) bridges on all the major river crossings.

Walking back down the track I thought about the scale of Tararua Forest Park. I had covered less than 10km but the park covers some 3000km² in total. You could spend a lifetime exploring it and Blue Range Hut seems like a good place to start.

With its close proximity to the road end it is the perfect place for a quick trip if you’re based in the Wairarapa and in winter you should have the place all to yourself.