Field Hut and Table Top, Tararua Forest ParkIf it has been more than a year since your last tramp, like it had been for me, the three hour hike to Field Hut is the perfect way to restore your confidence. Cross the Waiotauru footbridge at Ōtaki Forks and wind your way uphill on the well-formed Fields Track. After about 30 minutes, just before entering the bush, turn and admire the valley below for a few moments – it will be the last chance to catch your breath before the trail steepens. Immediately on entering the shadowy forest, there is a breathtaking stretch of kamahi and beech forest. Look up and take it all in. From here, the track is studded with rocks and tree roots, which makes it hard going in places – I’d rest with one hand on my knee and the other grasping a tree to hoist myself up. Every now and then, through breaks in the forest, glimpses of the Tararua Range can be seen. The higher you climb, the quieter it becomes – tui, silvereye, pīwakawaka and kererū seeming to prefer the lower reaches of the forest. I reached Field Hut in the late afternoon and was quickly joined by a number of other groups. It has 20 bunks, but on this night 25 crammed inside. The hut is classified as a historic shelter by DOC as it was one of the first purpose-built tramping huts in the country and is the oldest surviving recreational hut in the Tararua Ranges. The next morning, I climbed through leatherwood for 45 minutes to Table Top (1047m) to watch the sunrise over the tussock and snow-capped mountains beyond. On a clear day, the view stretches north-west to Mt Taranaki, south-west to Kahurangi National Park and the Marlborough Sounds and south to the Seaward Kaikoura Range. Kapiti Island is sprawled out in the foreground. Returning to the hut to begin my descent to Ōtaki, I felt in awe of nature once again and was already plotting my next adventure. I guarantee you will find the swift two-hour lunge downhill over the same staggered rocks to the car park tough but immensely rewarding.
- Rachel Rees