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Lake Cristabel trip September 23/24th 2018

Friday, September 28, 2018

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Lake Christabel -23rd -24th September

Leader: Paul Knox with Ben Heese, Lois Hamilton, Noeleen Bonner and Sue Weller

After this tramp had to be cancelled the week before due to a very unfavourable weather forecast, five of us left Christchurch at 7am on Sunday 23rd in eager anticipation. The frost along the way gave way to a beautiful spring day.
At Springs Junction we turned on to State Highway 7, then turned off into Palmer Rd after around 14kms. This picturesque, narrow gravel road between the Beech forest indicated the sort of scenery we were going to enter on the Lake Christabel track which is part of the Victoria Forest Park. The start of the track was 10 kms along the Palmer Rd, just before the Blue Grey River bridge.
It was over the stile and along some grassy areas before entering the forest proper alongside the Blue Grey River, which lived up to its name - crystal clear blue water, a stony bottom and bush down to the water's edge on both sides.  Vegetation along the track had not been cleared for some time so we had to watch our step especially through the grasses and astelias. As to be expected on the West Coast, we encountered muddy patches, but they weren't too bad and we managed to negotiate them without too much difficulty. There were some significant log jams in the river and evidence of rocky landslides along the track indicating some major weather events had occurred in the area over the years.
The forest canopy was quite dense – tall trees were all Beech – predominantly Red Beech with quite a dense mid canopy and lots of beautiful ferns and mosses. We heard bird song intermittently and saw tomtit. The track had some quite demanding ups and downs with slippery rocks, tree roots and logs to negotiate. After several hours on the track, the sight of Lake Christabel itself was very welcome. The lake is quite large and pristinely clear and the hut was beyond the end of the lake, so we still had a few hours walking ahead of us. Part of this was quite gnarly, but fortunately the last ½ hr was nice and easy. A swing bridge across the river took us to the hut. The weather had stayed sunny and clear and we had enjoyed a wonderful day. The hut was bright and airy and there were NO sandflies! A pair of robins were a delight to see hopping around outside. Paul soon had the fire going and the normal cooking dinner routine followed. There wasn't a table in the hut, so playing cards or the like would have been rather difficult. But it didn't matter because we were all rather tired after our long day and were soon in the land of nod!
On Monday morning, we left the hut at 8.00 and followed the same track out. It was drizzly at first, cleared for a while before the rain returned to stay. Ben spotted a kereru at our morning tea stop sitting quietly up in a tree.  The conditions were not uncomfortable until about the last hour when a clap of thunder seemed to coincide with a significant drop in temperature and heavier rain. After close to 8 hours on the track, return to the car and a change of clothes was very welcome.
We enjoyed some food and coffee at Springs Junction before the drive back o Christchurch. We encountered sleety rain, almost snow on the Lewis Pass with the temperature dropping to 2 degrees. 
We enjoyed a warm journey home and our thanks to Paul for stepping in and leading this tramp. A great experience and sense of achievement for us all. 

Photos are available on the Photos drop down menu and clicking on Backpacking trips.
Scribe Sue Weller

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