With a goblin forest walk to a cascade of pools in an old lava flow, Wilkies Pools is a must-do on Mt Taranaki.
The 1-1.5 hour loop seemed manageable with our nearly three and five-year-olds. Loaded up with scavenger hunt bags, winter woollies and snacks, we headed out. The whining dissolved as patches of crisp, icy snow were soon discovered on the side of the track. Snowball fights were inevitable, as were the wet socks and gloves that followed.
The spiked mountain totara, gnarled, peeling, pale limbs of tree fuschia and fern, liverwort and lichen-covered kamahi enclosed the hard-packed track, making for a mystical, path of delight for the kids. Scavenger bags were soon full of red and green leaves, berries, stones and twigs, and tummies full of morning tea snacks when the first glimpses of the pools came into view as our tree tunnel opened up. Soon after, a sneaky sighting of the swingbridge over the Kapuni Stream emerged. The kids bounded off, stomping across the newly built bridge.
We led the kids up the rock face beside the falls to a perch where we ate lunch. The mountain glided in and out of view as the clouds crisscrossed its snow-covered sides.
We chose the alternative loop track back to base and soon found that sometimes the least travelled path is the most rewarding. Its ruggedness delighted the children, with stepping stones over small creeks, large steps to swing down, twittering tomtits to chase, rivers to traverse, and boulders to leap over. With 10 minutes to go, the predicted ‘sore legs’ complaint started up, but my standard reply of ‘it just means your legs are getting stronger’ seemed to suffice, and the promise of the track end and visitor centre carried them on.
Holly was joyed to hear she had earned a DOC Kiwi Guardian medal for her hard efforts and reminded me as soon as we were home to apply for it. Will was busy trying to con us into buying him a soft toy native bird from the visitor centre – tempting, but no chance. It was time to head home after a great outing, glad that our world of family adventures is widening.
- Nic Roderick