Day 101: Waiau and Henry River Valleys
Sunday, February 18, 2024 9:51 pm
Location: Anne Hut (2089.8 km)

After two steep passes and rugged trail, most of today was a pleasant stroll through a (very long) meadow.

Knowing I had a (relatively) easy day ahead of me, I didn’t feel much pressure to get up early. Neither did my hut-mates, apparently, and I was the first person out of the hut this morning.

Nearly 8:30, the sun hadn’t yet come over the ridge to illuminate the valley, so it was still quite cool out. Steam rose from the meadow, but didn’t form the big clouds that engulfed me yesterday.

Steam Rises from the Meadow
Steam Rises from the Meadow

It didn’t take long before I reached my first creek crossing, and I got my feet wet. I lost count today of the number of wet creek crossings I had; the creeks were just too deep (or too wide) to rock-hop across.

With a few exceptions in the morning, the trail went through a grassy meadow the entire day. Occasionally, there were stands of trees trying to establish in the meadow, but the trail today was largely a flat, wide-open expanse.

Trees in the Meadow
Trees in the MeadowTrees beginning to colonize the meadow, ready to expand the forest.

To avoid a large creek crossing, the trail climbed into forest, between a fence topped with barbed wire and a huge rock, with a steepness that felt like it rivaled the climb up Waiau Pass. Then, the trail disappeared, with orange marker arrows on the other side of the fence on perfectly good trail. It was unclear to me when or how I could have gotten off-trail, but clearly, I had. The solution, of course, was to jump the fence. While I was doing this, two small birds flitted about like they owned the place, and they were clearly unhappy I was hiking through their space.

A bird sits on a fence capped with barbwire.

Most of the day was just traveling down valleys, first the Waiau River valley, then the Henry River valley after making a turn to the west. The trail was quite easy, and with the scenery changing only slowly, I put on podcasts to take the edge off the monotony.

Waiau River
Waiau RiverThe Waiau River flows through a meadow.

Over the course of the day, I passed half a dozen northbounders, far more than yesterday.

Waiau River Valley
Waiau River ValleyThe trail travels south along the Waiau River valley, shortly before following one of the valleys to the west.

Around the time the trail began turning from the Waiau River valley to the Henry River valley, the wind picked up, and continued to blow strongly for the rest of the day. This was unfortunate, because the wind was mostly blowing directly in my face, making it a bit slower to hike. Otherwise, it was a beautiful day out, barely a cloud in the sky.

Henry River Valley
Henry River Valley

Like yesterday, there were very many creek crossings, and my feet rarely ever stayed dry, until after the last creek crossing. By the time I made it to Anne Hut, the intense sunlight (and high wind) had done a good job drying out my shoes and socks, and it didn’t take long after I was done hiking to finish drying them out.

After entering the Henry River valley, the TA joined the St James Walkway, a (mostly) loop trail around the nearby valleys. The TA follows the southern half.

The trail continued to be quite nice to hike, though after 19 km of gradual downhill this morning, the trail had begun a gradual uphill towards Anne Saddle, which I’ll cross tomorrow. (The saddle, and Ann Hut, seem to be named after the Anne River.)

Anne Hut stands quite exposed on a meadow. I was surprised such an exposed location would have been selected for a hut, but, it was also quite scenic.

Anne Hut
Anne Hut

Two other hikers were at the hut already, two older women who were on the St James Walkway. Over time, Adrian, Marine, and Maud arrived, as did Sky (also doing the St James Walkway), two northbounders, and one more southbounder who’d come all the way from Blue Lake.

I was pretty exhausted when I got to the hut; most likely from not drinking enough water, but the sunburn on my shoulder may well have played a factor.

In the evening, it was still quite windy out. I hope the wind will die down before tomorrow, or else I’ll have to continue hiking through it.

Tomorrow is a question, though. It’s about 17 km to Boyle Flats Hut, and from there, about another 13 km to Boyle, and the highway. Options are to do that in two days (my original plan), or one day. The latter option suggests a hitch into Hanmer Springs that would get me into town late in the day, which would imply a zero the day after just to get chores done. (Or staying at the Boyle Campsite or the Boyle River Outdoor Education Center and then hitching into town, doing chores, and hitching back out in a day, might also be an option.) Ultimately, I think the deciding factor will be what time I get to Boyle Flats Hut tomorrow.