Day 97: Lake Rotoiti
Wednesday, February 14, 2024 8:15 pm
Location: Lakehead Hut (2011.1 km)

A short day out of St Arnaud took me into Nelson Lakes National Park, alongside Lake Rotoiti and towards the next major highlight of the trail, Waiau Pass.

I again didn’t sleep well, and so got up later than planned and was generally pretty slow this morning. I used my last two shower tokens for a nice warm shower to wake me up a little, and then ate breakfast in my room, cereal and a muffin I got from the store yesterday. I’m disappointed there wasn’t a good option for breakfast in town, but at least this was cheaper (and faster).

From the lodge, I joined a trail that ran behind the property, along a creek leading to a parking area and boat launch at Lake Rotoiti.

Lake Rotoiti
Lake RotoitiThe St Arnaud Range is to the left; Mount Robert on the right.

The rest of the day, I followed trails along the eastern side of Lake Rotoiti. The first one, a loop, had several informational displays on native plants and the Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project, a work-in-progress to remove invasive species and their impact on native plants and animals. (Natural boundaries — Lake Rotoiti to the west, and the St Arnaud Range to the east, make the area more defensible from invasive pests.)

The trail itself was generally nice, though occasionally muddy. I made reasonably quick progress, but I didn’t really feel motivated to hike today, and part of me wished I’d double-zeroed in St Arnaud. (Not sleeping well probably didn’t help, but neither did my heavy fresh-out-of-town pack with 7 days of food.)

One notable thing about Lake Rotoiti is that it seemed to have surprisingly quick waves. I wasn’t sure if they were a result of the wind, or the water taxis that operated on the lake. (A water taxi was leaving shortly after I passed the boat launch; it occurred to me later that I might have been able to give them my pack and have it delivered to the dock just south of Lakehead Hut, which would have given me about 10 km of hiking without my pack.)

Waves on Lake Rotoiti
Waves on Lake Rotoiti

I’d initially planned on a longer day to the John Tait Hut, a 25 km day, but when I stopped for a break, I re-evaluated my plan in light of being unmotivated to hike today, and decided to stop at Lakehead Hut after only 10 km. That‘ll push the very steep ascent and descent of Travers Pass to the day after tomorrow, and make that day a bit longer to stay on my original plan, but at least I’ll have a day less food going over the pass.

Having decided today was just going to be a short day, I probably would have stayed at my break spot longer than I did. However, a bumble bee insisted on inspecting my head, and wouldn’t leave me alone, so I quickly packed up and hiked away. The bee followed me for at least a couple of minutes before it stopped bothering me.

Since entering the Nelson Lakes National Park, there have been signs warning of the need to take care to not further contaminate the lakes in the park with “lake snow”, a slimy substance formed by the algae Lindavia. As there is now known way to remove the algae, efforts are focused on preventing its spread.

Most importantly, it’s been discovered in Lake Rotoiti, which I passed today, and DOC wants to prevent it from spreading further upstream, in particular to Lake Constance and Blue Lake near Waiau Pass. Blue Lake is the clearest lake in the world, and it would be a significant loss if the lake became infected. For that reason, and also its significance to local Māori, it’s requested that people not touch Blue Lake at all.

I was the first to arrive at Lakehead Hut today, at least of people staying overnight. Eventually, three northbounders, two locals, and two other people doing other hikes showed up.

Tired, I took a short nap before other people started showing up. It helped, but I should probably go to sleep early today.