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June 2016 Issue
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Kid-friendly Tararua tramp

Roaring Stag Lodge. Photo: Nina Mercer
Total Ascent
Roaring Stag Hut, ($5, 12 bunks)
Tramp starts at Putara Roadend, access from Eketahuna
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Roaring Stag Hut.Tararua FP (gpx, yo 26 KB)
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Roaring Stag Hut, Tararua Forest Park

As a keen tramper from a young age, our son Fenn is now 10 and getting stronger and fitter by the day. My husband and I recently took him to Roaring Stag Hut in northern Tararua Forest Park – a perfect trial run for longer tramps that he and his Dad are planning in the near future.

A few minutes down the track, we crossed a swingbridge and followed the Mangatainoka River for about an hour. It was an easy walk with several short tracks along the way down to the river.

Crossing a second swingbridge over a small creek, the track moved away from the river and then started to climb. We enjoyed the initial gentle gradient up the spur, but it quickly became steeper and soon there were short banks, huge tree roots and other obstacles to clamber up. The track was slippery and muddy in places, but continuing at a steady pace with regular breaks we made it to the top of the spur in just over an hour. The forest on the ridge was more open and spindly with very little undergrowth.

At the top of the spur, the track reached an intersection: to the right was the track to Herepai Hut, a standard 10 bunk hut (2hr from the roadend) and to the left the track continued to the 12-bunk Roaring Stag Hut.

The descent was much more gradual and very pleasant. There was plenty of birdsong, including the chatter of kakariki. Reaching the bottom of the slope, it was time to boil the billy by a picturesque creek and enjoy a Milo in the quiet surroundings.

From this point, it was about a kilometre or so to the hut. The track was fairly flat most of the way, dropping down to cross a couple of creeks and then a final short and steep descent to the hut.

Roaring Stag Hut is on a beautiful plateau just above the Ruamahanga River. The swimming hole just down the slope from the hut looked inviting, but the weather just wasn’t warm enough. It was, however, a good chance for Andrew to pull out his fishing rod and cast a few lines. There are several good fishing spots near the hut, but while a trout was sighted, trout was not on the menu for dinner.

A party of nine from Wellington and another smaller group had already reached the hut, making it a hive of activity. We chose to sleep on the covered deck and enjoyed a night under the stars.

The next day we retraced our steps. The climb from the hut side was much easier due to its more gradual nature, with the subsequent downhill being steeper, but no problem for Fenn’s young knees. We investigated a couple of campsites and swimming holes alongside the river. One area had been well set up with wooden benches around a clearing – a great place for a family picnic in summer.

At the car we swapped boots for lighter footwear, headed to Eketahuna for ice creams, and then home to show off the photos and tell the rest of the family about our trip.

The trip to Raring Stag has to be one of my favourites.

–  Nina Mercer