Central Whirinaki Hut to Verns Camp
The hut was freezing when we woke and seemed to get colder as we ate breakfast and packed. We swept the place out and walked outside into a perfectly clear blue day that we knew was going to be short and very sweet.
The river was still pretty high and it had eaten away at the track in a couple of places but otherwise the forest seemed untouched by the recent cyclone…
…and that’s about it for our journey. We walked. Birds called. The river roared.
Beside a washed out side bridge on the Kakanui Stream we came across a set of Whio prints in the mud. If rivers are too high they will move into tributaries to feed…and the Whirinaki River was very high.
Then after only two and a half hours of walking we arrived at the fantastic Verns Camp. We really had very little idea what we were in for when the camp became an accidental destination for us but we knew it had a kitchen shelter. Having somewhere to cook and possibly sit when tenting can make the cramped experience of living ‘under canvas’ kind of comfortable.
Verns Camp had that…and more. Probably three times larger than a traditional Forest Service Hut, Verns is a cooking shelter on steroids.
Open at one end it resembles a traditional Maori meeting house from the outside. Its very low eves effectively make it weatherproof on three sides. It’s only solid wall is the back wall.
A large fire box sits in an alcove in the back wall and a built-in mattress-sized platform lies in front of it. Three large bench seats lie down each side of the shelter and the two closest to the fire are walled in and have mattresses.
It’s an open air hut!
Out front there’s a picnic table and composting toilet. It sits in a large, flat, grassy clearing that has the Whirinaki River as a boundary. This setting really reminded us of the place we called the Fake Burttons Whare in behind Shannon. It’s on a part of Te Araroa that is without any sort of shelter and we reckon a building like Verns Camp would make an ideal stop-off for the ever increasing numbers of trail hikers making their way through a part of Te Araroa that is – to put it bluntly – is a bit crappy. It may not be a cheap solution, but it’s a pretty future proof one.
The Richmond Range’s fragile hut system is also suffering from an influx of trail hikers. Some innovative solutions like Verns added to it in lower parts of the mountain range may help alleviate some of those pressures.
We settled in for the night by lighting the fire. We’d collected and broken up a good pile of dry windfall branches so had plenty of fuel. It was a bit of a struggle, but once we realised the big fire box wasn’t designed for efficiency we managed to warm the place up by throwing nearly all the wood we had into it. The result was a big bed of glowing embers that warmed the ‘bedroom’ end of the shelter till late into the night.
Once the fire died down our night was brightened by a full moon that slowly arced its way through the sky in front of the shelter’s open front.
We went to sleep warmer than we had the night before in a ‘real’ hut.
If this was glamping we’re all for it.