Mt. Richardson – Canterbury Foothills

‘Well, this was a waste of time!’ Ian announced as we arrived at the summit. Considering the effort it had taken to get here, I thought he would have been a little more ecstatic. He stood with his hands on his hips and shook his head from side to side. I personally thought it was quite a nice view.

What started well…

We were at Mt. Richardson, the next in the list of peaks that make up the Canterbury Foothills. We had recruited Scott, from Craigieburn fame, to join us on the trip. And I will admit that my initial excitement at the additional company was slightly dampened by the lack of Zeus, which I really felt was the ‘Fizz’ in the ‘Bucks Fizz’ partnership of Scott and Zeus. But Scott did bring a nice hat, which compensated nicely.

I was a little apprehensive as we set off from the large, grassy car park, mainly as it sounded as if we were walking into a forest sized wasps nest. The faint buzzing noise of thousands of black and yellow horrible flying things was everywhere. However, it may have been apt because if a wasp was a walking track, then it would be the Mt. Richardson summit track – a relentless, steep ascent with absolutely no redeeming features.

At times, the trail amounted to an awkward scramble over muddy ledges and under fallen trees – as if the forest was doing its best to prevent us from enduring the experience any longer. A warning that no better was to come. That it wasn’t worth it.

… ended badly


Or more likely, doing exactly what a wasp would do if it was a walking track.

With the canopy coverage obscuring any possible views that would improve the walk, it was left to Rusty and me to provide some entertainment for the humans. We ran back and forth between Ian and Scott, trying our best to inject some energy into the excursion. They generally responded with sweating profusely, breathing heavily, and emitting a tirade of unsavoury language.

Good times, I thought to myself with a roll of my eyes and a fake smile.

You would have thought, seeing as it was Ian’s idea, that he would have made more of an effort to put a positive spin on things, but it appeared that bone had been buried once the wasp metaphor had been sufficiently developed. However, the sting in the… abdomen, so to speak… you know what I mean, was still to come.

From out of nowhere, a small, green sign emerged from the bushes, declaring that we had made it to the summit.

I gathered from his fist waving and short exchanges with Scott that Ian wasn’t overly impressed with only half a view from the top. On one side was the Lees Valley and Puketaraki Range, and the other were… trees, that did a lovely job of blocking views over the Canterbury Plains and the east coast.

‘Well what was the point in that then?’ Ian shouted at the forest. I don’t think he was even being rhetorical, he wanted an answer. I guess he was expecting a panoramic, uninterrupted 360 degree view, free from the scars of civilisation. So the sight of neatly arranged, well irrigated fields may have spoiled the adventure a bit. So why he was so annoyed at not being able to see the Canterbury Plains, which basically consists of neatly arranged, well irrigated fields, is anyone’s guess.

Personally, I thought it was quite nice. The four of us spending time together. The sun was shining. There was no one aroun –

‘It’s going to take ages to walk back, too!’ Ian interrupted, evidently still angry at the situation he had bestowed upon us. It appeared the return track was a further distance than the route we had just come up, and Ian’s stubbornness at not returning via the wasp track meant we would be out for several more hours.

During the extended walk back to the truck, I couldn’t help think that Ian may have started taking this country for granted a little. Considering that he lived in London for several years before moving out to New Zealand, you would have thought he’d be a little more appreciative of any view that wasn’t obscured by concrete.

I went to explain that he may have been spoilt somewhat with the experiences we had shared together so far, and be grateful that he is in a position where he is fortunate enough to go on these tri –

‘Quiet Oshy!’

I don’t know why I bother sometimes.

Nature Trail – Hanmer Springs

Now don’t get me wrong, as you may have noticed from the many other Dog Tails, I love a bloody good adventure like the rest of them. But sometimes it’s nice to slow things down a little. Like a ballad in the middle of an 80’s mullet rock album, or an unnecessary sub-plot in the film True Lies, it can be good to just take a weight off.

As I lay sprawled on the sofa, getting up to speed with the latest season of Orange is the New Black, and enjoying some homemade strawberry daiquiris, I casually explained this concept to Ian. He looked a little dejected at first, standing in the doorway with his walking poles in hand, and camera around his neck. But he came round, which is how we found ourselves casually strolling along the Nature Trail in Hanmer Springs.  A short, 20 minute walking trail, which can easily be completed in 10 minutes, which is only a five minute drive from town – a lot of numbers which basically add up to a short intermission between New Black episodes and more daiquiris.

In keeping with the brief outing, the accompanying account shall be equally short.

It was pleasant. A bit morbid, but pleasant.


What? You want more?


Unfortunately there were no hot air balloons, ice cream vans or missing people. No new bags, or shoes. It was just a walk.




There was this weird thing where someone at some point had decided to label everything on the path with strange names. It first came to my attention when, for some reason, they had named the bridge ‘Hebe’.

Later, we noticed several other plaques for oddly named people, such as ‘Twiggy Coprosma’ and ‘Prickly Mingimingi’. It then dawned on me; this was a walk through grave yard. Of course, the bridge had been built in honour of Hebe, presumably a generous donator to the trail. These small plaques we passed were actually head stones to some fallen naturists, whose dying wish was to be returned to the forest that they had once loved.

At the grave of the fallen Twiggy Coprosma


Oh, and I think I may have found some secret pools too.

Approximate Track Stats

Distance: Not very much

Time: 15mins

Elevation: Not a lot

… it’s very easy basically

Map courtesy of


Waterfall Track – Hanmer Springs

I’d heard much about the Hanmer Springs hot pools; the soothing, calming effects of the geothermally heated water, the relaxing environment, reasonably priced coffee and so forth. All the things a more civilized canine, such as myself, appreciates when out on a morning walk. I attempted to explain this to Rusty, my fellow furry counterpart, but he didn’t seem that interested, and just continued to lick himself in areas I’d rather not go into detail about here. So you can imagine my excitement as we drove past the Hanmer Springs welcome sign. Finally, I would be able to experience the pools and give my associates at the Canine Club something to be jealous of.

We drove along the gently meandering access road towards the quaint, alpine village located at the base of Mt. Isobel and Mt. Dunblane. Tall, proud trees lined the road as we entered the township, with people everywhere going about their morning routines. Sipping cappuccinos and browsing the morning paper, this was my kind of scene. All in good time my friend, I had to keep reminding myself, we’re here for the hot pools. I shouted out, ‘Good day to you all!’ to the morning folk, who just responded with a slightly concerned look and shake of their heads. Obviously the morning caffeine hadn’t taken effect yet.

The closest I’d ever get to a Maître D


We trundled past local shops and houses, and soon we were in the depths of the forest, negotiating gravel roads and potholes. Coming to a stop at the end of the road, Rusty and I were released to explore our new surroundings as the humans, Ian and Kat, gathered our things – presumably towels, cosmetics, hair dryers and the like.

OK, so I like the setting, very natural, I thought, but where are the pools? We were surrounded by the green and brown blur of the forest. Skinny trees extended high into the canopy, and the sound of running water could be heard in the distance. The only thing of note was a sign that read ‘Waterfall Track 2.5hrs’, and a path leading into the forest. Well I guess the pools need to filled somehow I mused, and then dashed after the others as they disappeared into the blur.



The rocky track zig-zagged its way through trees, crossing several streams in the process, as it gradually climbed up the hill side. Slowly, the temperature started to drop and things began to get a lot whiter. A thick blanket of snow coated the branches above us, and a layer of skiddy ice encased the ground below. I had secretly hoped that we would be able to enjoy a nice thermal dip surrounded by snow. I began to get excited as my mind went into over-drive, painting an over-elaborate mental image of what our experience would be like. Nestled deep within the forest, we would soak in the deep, warm waters, surrounded by bitches and chew toys. A cute waterfall would patter behind us, as I tucked into a fine T-bone steak, sipped strawberry daiquiris, and delivered witty, insightful anecdotes that entertained our pack.

With a renewed sense of purpose, I impatiently waited for the humans to keep up, as they slowly negotiated the ice under paw. I ran between them attempting to demonstrate the superiority of our four legged walking technique, over their two legged method, shouting out instructions in the process. But they were having none of it, instead telling me to be quiet and stubbornly continuing with their ‘frantically wave arms around and wobble up the path’ approach.

Not even a single bitch

This continued for a good half hour, before the tell-tale sound of falling water gave away the approaching waterfall. I bounded into the clearing, eyes wide with a sense of anticipation, to be greeted with a tall, noisy waterfall pouring liquid into a shallow, moss covered pool below. Where was the Parisian-style tiling, the foot spas, the Maître D’?

The humans seemed pleased enough though, evidently having much lower standards. They busied themselves taking photos and saying ‘Oooh,’ and ‘Ahhh,’ as their eyes scanned the column of water tumbling down the cliff face. I approached Rusty and expressed my concerns, who just shrugged his shoulders and went back to licking himself. How does that saying go; ‘Ridgeback Staffie crosses from Saturn, Huntaway Collie crosses from Mars,’ or something like that.

With nothing left to lose, I leapt into the pool, safe in the knowledge that if nothing else, at least the water would be warm, soothing and comforting. It was not.

Wet, cold and disappointed, I followed the group back to the car. At several points I just watched with a blank face, as the humans slipped and skidded down the icy track, letting out whoops and yells which echoed around the forest. It was dark by the time we returned to the car. I stared glumly out of the window, my hair wet and matted, trying to understand how things could have been so different. We turned onto the high street and I absentmindedly watched smiling adults and children in swimming attire and carrying towels, walk towards a wooden, steep roofed building. A flag hung from a tall lamppost that read ‘The Pools’. Ahhh…

Approximate Track Stats

Distance: 3.3km

Time: 2hrs return

Elevation: 300m

Map courtesy of

Mt. Thomas – Canterbury Foothills

‘I don’t know where the other bootie is,’ I defensively replied. Ian stared at me for a few seconds, pretending not to understand what I just said. Finally, he threw his arms up in the air and stormed off towards the bushes to continue looking for the missing shoe. We had only experienced several minutes of the Mt. Thomas car park, before being promptly ushered back into the truck and interrogated. Rusty and I watched from the rear seats as Ian and Adam wandered around, poking through bushes and grass. Several minutes passed before they returned looking glum, and we were released again to begin our walk.

… Ian and his apparently awesome shorts

Ian was sulking, staring at the floor and responding to my attempts at making conversation by telling me to be quiet. I was going to make a joke about his electric blue shorts, a small, but overall not particularly great improvement on the orange pants from the Mt. Grey outing, but thought better of it. I looked over towards Adam for encouragement, hoping to build on our relationship from a week prior, but he was busy wrestling with Rusty, as he attempted to drag Adam though the mud.

Well this is a great start to the walk, I thought.

For what it’s worth, we were walking up Mt. Thomas, the next peak along from Mt. Grey. There were some similarities to the week before; the same pack, horrible, muddy conditions and a sky full of clouds, but morale was at an all-time low. After the success of the booties at Mt. Grey, the humans had brought them along again. However, they had not done the straps up tight enough, resulting in several of the shoes instantly coming off, which was now somehow our fault.


To make matters worse, at the start of the trail we had come across a missing person sign for someone called George Jack Russell.  It was dated several weeks ago, which didn’t bode well. However, in the never say never spirit of canine optimism, Rusty and I called out, hoping that the lovable sounds of our voices might entice the human from the depths of the woodland.

Poor Mr. Russell



‘Quiet Oshy. Quiet Rusty,’ Ian shouted, seemingly more directed at us than the dense, green forest.

We plodded onwards and upwards, the track seeming to steepen in grade the further we climbed. On the plus side, the mud had subsided, evidently having collected in the quagmire at the bottom of the track. Old pine needles now littered the floor, carpeting the ground between tree roots and rocks. Higher and higher we climbed until the canopy above began to thin and tall trees were replaced with bushes and shrubs, treating us to the first view of the day. Well, I say ‘we’ – technically, it was just the humans who got to enjoy it, as we weren’t able to see over the surrounding vegetation. I’m therefore unable to describe it for you, however Adam described it as ‘quite nice,’ if that’s of any use.

Unable to enjoy the ‘quite nice’ view, Rusty and I resorted to trying to locate Mr. Russell again, running up and down on the zippy, lead thing, calling out his name.




I couldn’t help feel that Ian was really hindering our search effort, possibly as a result of still being annoyed at the missing bootie earlier that morning.

Several minutes later we were at the summit, and were able to enjoy the view for ourselves. As it was much like the view from the top of Mt. Grey, I suggest you go read that account to save me repeating myself here. Otherwise, imagine a ‘quite nice’ view and you’re pretty much there.

Some dogs haven’t quite grasped the concept of posing for the camera

Our descent off the mountain was via the picturesque Wooded Gully Track, accessed via a short walk along the mountain top. It snaked its way through the forest, crossing small streams, bridges and fallen trees. The clouds above us finally lost their absorbency, and rain fell from the sky, causing the surrounding forest to glisten. Crossing a final bridge and climbing up an unexpectedly steep section of track, we were back into pine forest, where the trees lined themselves in neat, orderly rows, almost as if it was done on purpose.



Still no response.

Unfortunately, we arrived back at the car park empty handed, unable to locate either Mr. Russell or the missing bootie. Ian’s mood began to darken at the realisation that we’d have to leave without either, although I have to admit he seemed a little more concerned about a missing shoe than a person, but that might just be a reflection on the sort of person he is on the inside. We watched from the confines of the truck as Ian and Adam hunted around in the nearby foliage, attempting to locate the missing items.

Ian returned first, looking beaten and unhappy. He stared at me through the rear window. I stared back. His nose was up against the glass, and his angry, short, sharp breaths began to steam up the thin, transparent layer that divided us. He filled his lungs with air in preparation for emptying a tirade of blame onto me, when suddenly a victorious Adam appeared. Holding the bootie high in the air, a beam of sunlight broke through the clouds, causing his shiny, perfectly aligned teeth to dazzle us all in his triumph. My hero. Ian’s demeanour abruptly softened, and suddenly all was forgiven and forgotten, such is the fickleness of his temperament.

We drove back to Christchurch. Ian was finally smiling and chatting for the first time since we had arrived. Rusty spread himself across three quarters of the back seat and fell asleep. Adam casually stared out of the window, now wearing his cool shades and humouring Ian as he waffled on. I stole quick glances at Adam from the rear of the truck, hoping he wouldn’t notice, before eventually falling into a peaceful, happy sleep.

For those of you who care more about a missing person more than an easily replaceable, generic bootie, Mr. Russell spent nine days in the forest before being found.

Approximate Track Stats

Distance: 11km

Time: 4 hours

Elevation: 750m

Map courtesy of

Mt. Grey – Canterbury Foothills

‘I mean seriously. This is just a total disaster.’ I turned to Rusty, who was busy posing for the camera, looking very pleased with himself. ‘Anything for a bit of attention,’ I muttered, and returned to staring at the thick quagmire that extended ahead of us. The humans set off, side stepping over roots and rocks, attempting to negotiate the brown, muddy puddles underfoot. Rusty leapt after them, not a care in the world, as he ploughed through the sticky horribleness. I looked down at my new shoes, all clean and fresh, and quietly sighed.

Today’s fashion parade was to be at Mt. Grey, which made a nice change to the long drives, cold mountains and deep snow that we had come to expect on our adventures. We also had a new human in the pack, who went by the name of Adam, whose only redeeming features I could tell was a winning smile and a preference to not wearing orange pants… unlike Ian.

Some were more impressed than others with the choice of footware

After the Mt. Potts incident, the humans had got their act together and kitted us canines out with smashing new booties, courtesy of the lovely people at Further Faster. With our paws nicely protected within a combination of fabric, rubber and Velcro, we were ready to take on the world; and every sharp, uncomfortable rock it could throw at us.

Smugly charging out of the truck once we had parked up, my heart instantly sank when I saw the state of the track that we would be walking. ‘A pair of gum boots would have been more suitable,’ I sarcastically said to Ian, who just ignored the comment and told me to stop barking. I looked over at Adam, who smiled back. He gets it, I thought. Maybe there is more to this human than nice teeth and choosing not to wear orange pants.


We set off, and soon each step began to feel heavier and heavier, as mud started to accumulate around my paws. At one point I looked down and could just see my ankles, with the rest of my legs, and more importantly my spanking new shoes, submerged under water. I’d given up tiptoeing by this point, and instead just stomped up the path in protest.

But by the end of the day, someone had definitely changed their tune

Finally, we left the bog behind us and the trail began to zig zag, as it climbed through the forest. A tributary of the Grey River followed the track below, the sound of flowing water a constant companion during the ascent through the dense, green trees. Unfortunately, the soothing, calming properties of the forest weren’t to last, as we broke through the tree line.

Our bubble of tranquillity was now replaced with bland, low lying, grassy wafts, reminiscent of our Double Bunk trip to Hakatere. Now free from the protection of the trees, a deafening wind howled all around us, causing the grass to ripple like waves, and my smart, well-kempt, long black hair to descend into something entirely unmanageable.

We soldiered on, battling against the wind and the humans’ stubborn insistence to make it to the top. Emerging onto the final ridge line that would lead us to the summit, expansive views appeared in all directions. On one side was the flat Canterbury Plains extending out to the coast where they promptly fell into the sea. On the other were the dark green peaks of Mt. Thomas and Mt. Richardson, with the snow topped mountains of Lake Sumner in the distance.


The summit was nice. Windy, but nice. The humans tried to make the best of a bad situation, mainly by having lunch and struggling to hold a conversation over the noise of the incessant wind. Rusty and I killed some time by posing next to the summit sign, and getting stuck into some Bitchin Beer Treats. Thankfully, at Adams request, we began our retreat to the safety of the forest. He’s alright that Adam, I thought.

The windy summit

With Ian’s orange pants flapping away in the wind, I opted to stay up front with Adam, trying my best not to be associated with that fashion disaster. Like the forgotten Japanese soldiers who still thought WWII was being fought long after it had ended, Ian now resembled a warehouse raver; lost to the hills many years ago, and ignorant of the knowledge that the 90s were over.

Ian’s glow sticks are just out of shot

With my booties now clean and dry, and a more respectable human to accompany, we descended off the mountain. Out of the wind and into the peacefulness of the forest, I started to enjoy myself again. Which was a mistake, as I‘d forgotten about the bog we would have to endure to be able to make it back to the truck. My heart sank once again, as the path quickly turned spongey underfoot, indicating that the fun was over and it was time to get my freshly cleaned shoes muddy… again. Taking solace in the fact that no matter how muddy I got, I wouldn’t look as ridiculous as Ian, I instead decided to embrace the situation, and bounded past, covering him in a spray of water and mud, ensuring that the fashion hierarchy was firmly established. Catching up with Adam, I gave him a cheeky wink, and he responded in kind. This could be the start of something beautiful…




Approximate Track Stats
Distance: 13km
Time: 4 hours
Elevation: 700m

Map courtesy of

Double Bunk Hut – Hakatere Conservation Park

Sat on the sofa, Ian continued to stare at his phone that was resting on the coffee table. He looked over at me, currently stretched out by the fire, and we locked eyes. His gaze then returned to the lifeless phone in front of him. This series of uninteresting exchanges continued for the best part of the morning, until he eventually reached out, picked up the phone and tapped the screen a couple of times. Holding the phone to his ear, a few moments passed:

‘Hello. This is the owner of the blue Nissan Nivara… yeah; I think I owe you an apology…’

Several days earlier, we were leaving an incredibly wet Christchurch, heading back to our stomping ground of Hakatere. In the front of the truck were Ian and Kat, who stared out at water violently bouncing off the windscreen. Every few seconds a wiper thing would scrape across the glass, momentarily clearing the view, before it quickly descended back into obscurity. Even for someone of little understanding of the world in my two years of existence, the wiping did seem a little futile.

As usual, Rusty and I were in the back. Rusty was curled into a ball, his tail wagging occasionally. I vacantly stared out of the drenched window, wondering why exactly we had decided to leave the comfort of the house. Occasionally Ian and Kat would have the same discussion, which normally ended with Ian saying ‘Well we’re out now’, and then going back to trying to work out exactly where on the tarmac the white road markings were. Things started to improve the closer we got to Hakatere, and soon grey clouds were replaced with white clouds, which were replaced with… fewer white clouds… and some blue sky.

Today we would be exploring a hut called Double Bunk. Located at the foot of Mt. Taylor, Ian apparently had grand plans of attempting the mountain, but wanted to see if it was possible to drive to the hut. Which again, I’ve only been around two years, but driving to a hut didn’t particularly seem to be in the spirit of things, but what do I know.

That, my friends, is what canine happiness looks like

Heading down the gravel road towards Lake Heron, we abruptly came to a stop. Ian looked at the map, then at an open gate on the right hand side, and then back at the map. He went to say something, but instead put the truck in gear, turned off the road and drove through the gate. The frequency of stopping, map checking and discussion between Ian and Kat increased the further we drove, and after negotiating a few fields, we arrived upon a new gravel road. The mood of the humans seemed to perk up at this point, and we followed the road for several kilometres, before we came to a stop and were released.

Ian and Kat unloaded the velocipedes (yes, if you have been keeping up with these articles you’ll notice that I actually know what they are called now. It’s amazing what you can find on Yahoo Search. On a similar subject, what the hell is Google?) and we set off along the Swinn River Track, marked by orange topped waratahs. With Lake Heron and Sugar Loaf Mountain behind us, we followed the brown trail as it gradually climbed through low lying shrub. Rusty and I scouted ahead, with Ian and Kat eventually bringing up the rear, proving that two legs and two wheels is no substitute for four legs.

It can be awfully bland out here at times

Arriving at a trail crossroad, we turned right, following the signs for Double Bunk. Shortly after embarking on this new bearing, we came across a small stream. Once again I am amazed at the lengths humans will go to not to get their feet wet. As Rusty and I walked back and forth across the stream, demonstrating that having wet feet really isn’t the end of the world, the humans attempted to build a crossing using various stones that lay around the river’s edge. Much rock carrying, rolling and throwing later, the humans were no closer to building a bridge, but were closer to having wet feet. Eventually giving up, they carried their bikes through, thus ensuring that a large proportion of the day would be spent listening to them bitch about how wet their feet were. The irony is not lost on the fact that we had twice as many wet feet, yet bitched about it half as much.

Spot the Flying Rock

After another gradual climb through tan coloured tussock, with tan coloured mountains surrounding us, and regularly losing Rusty due to his tan colouring, it did occur to me that this place can be a little drab at times. Granted, there was the blue of the sky, or the white of the snow topped mountains occasionally peeking through the clouds, but I couldn’t help feel that the place could do with a bit of colour. Explaining this to Rusty on the way home, he pointed out that as us canines are colour blind anyway, what did it matter, which I felt was missing the point a bit. Sometimes I despair with that boy.

Anyway, after a short ride, we arrived at the hut, which unsurprisingly, was an uninteresting shade of light grey. The small wood lined hut sat within two spurs of Mt. Taylor, which crept down from the mountain like tentacles. Inside the hut there were six human sized bunks, a fire place and table, but no dog beds! Disheartened, I then noticed what I could only assume to be a kennel, adjacent to the hut. Typical.

We sat outside in the intermittent sunlight and had lunch. Some awesome Bitchin Beer Treats for us canines, and some green, salad stuff or something for the humans. It was soon time to return back via the 4×4 track that would complete the day’s loop. All of the subtle ascending we had done getting to the hut paid off on the way back, as we cruised down the wide, grassy track towards the truck. Mt. Sugarloaf sat directly ahead of us, like the little volcano that could, with the shadows of late afternoon spreading across the mountains ahead of us.

Squelching feet and a lack of vibrant colour aside, it had been a good trip, I thought to myself, as we galloped back to the truck. We’d found a new place to explore, the weather had been kind, and Ian had another opportunity to shamelessly promote his Bitchin Beer Treats.

That was until we got back to the truck, and Ian found a note under his car windscreen.

Approximate Track Stats

Distance: 8km

Height Gain: 142m

Time: 1.5hrs (velocipeding)


Turns out we made a bit of a mistake getting to the start of the track, and drove through private property. Although the loop is in conservation land, and getting there is possible by public roads, check before you go. You don’t want to be making retrospective, apologetic phone calls to private land owners, like Ian had to.

This link is a good place to start:

Map courtesy of

Cuckoo Creek – Craigieburn

I bounded over fallen branches and spindly, green vegetation. The tall, skinny trees passed me as a blur, as I ran deeper and deeper into the forest. The scent I had detected was becoming clearer and more pungent as I homed in on the source. Finally, after all these hunting trips, I was able to showcase my ninja-like hunting skills, and prove to Rusty that the ‘Hunt’ in ‘Huntaway’ was completely justified. Rotten branches exploded under paw, and a loud rustling echoed through the trees, as I landed in a clearing to come face to face with… nothing. Just an empty, grassy clearing, enclosed by moss covered trees. I looked around, confused. I was convinced that this was where the scent was coming from. Rusty, the ever-annoying Labrador would once again put the ‘La’ in ‘laughing at me’ at my inability to catch anything. I took a moment to concede that the ‘La in laughing’ comment didn’t really work on any level, and then begrudgingly turned around to join the others.


Positioned within the centre of the circular clearing, I quickly realised that I had no idea which direction I had arrived from. The surrounding trees and undergrowth all looked the same, acting as a barrier to the shaded forest behind. ‘Not to worry, I’ll just follow my nose’, I smirked to myself, and looked around to see if anyone else got the joke, confident that it was an improvement on the previous attempt. Remembering that I was on my own, I instead raised my nose into the air, attempting to detect the stench of Ian’s tuna fish sandwiches, or the condescending aroma of oxidised iron. Smirking to myself yet again from a joke at Rustys expense, and again remembering I was on my own and no-one was here to witness my return to comedy form, my smirk turned to concern as I could detect neither scents. It started to dawn on me that I might be lost…

Several hours earlier, Ian, Rusty and I had arrived at the Mt. Cheeseman ski field access road, located in Craigieburn, 1.5 hours’ drive from Christchurch. It was another fresh day, with blue skies, no wind, and a radiant sun hanging high above us. Parking at Texas Flat – which is a bit of an odd name I know – we would the walk up the Cheeseman access track – which also is a bit of an odd name, I know – and then turn off onto the newly signposted Cuckoo Creek trail – I’ve heard worse names – and return via the Dracophyllum Flat track – it’s a native New Zealand plant before you ask.

Strutting my Stuff on the Access Track

The access track was typical of most access tracks, a winding rocky road that gradually made its way skywards. While Ian busied himself photographing every possible angle of it, Rusty and I inspected a new type of medium under-paw. Not quite snow, and not quite frost, a glassy film coated the road in several places still protected from the sun’s rays. It would either shatter with a satisfying crunch under our weight, or instead provide entertainment as we watched, with our heads cocked to one side, as Ian attempted to walk across it, his arms flailing and shouting words that I shall not repeat here. The amusement was eventually brought to a close an hour of wobbly walking later, when we arrived at a signpost indicating the start of the Cuckoo Creek trail.

The trail abruptly dropped away from the road, and we were immediately immersed in browns and greens, as the squidgy, earthy trail disappeared into the woodland. White, crystallised frost lined the fallen trees and branches where the morning sun hadn’t taken affect yet, as slivers of light penetrated the canopy where it could, illuminating small patches of undergrowth. Rusty and I darted around, exploring this territory full of new scent and sounds. As our names were called, we returned to Ian, who was making his way along the slowly descending path, to collect another delicious Bitchin Beer Treat, before heading back out on our investigations, which so far were proving fruitless. After thirty minutes and 2km of this, we arrived at the Dracophyllum Flat track.

We turned right and headed back towards the direction of Texas Flat. A little disappointed by my hunting endeavour, I was close to giving up, but then detected a faint scent emanating from somewhere through the trees. I sprang to attention and sprinted off to track it down.

Now stood in the clearing, it became evident that I may have been a little too ambitious with the exploring, and I found myself in a bit of a predicament. Unable to hear or smell where Ian and Rusty were, I frantically looked around, attempting to recognise something that would lead me back to where I came from. I cast my mind back to the blur that was the forest when I was dashing through the trees, and it quickly became obvious that my memory was going to be of no help. As my nose was failing me, I stood still and held my breath, trying to make as little noise as possible while I flexed my ears to detect any Ian or Rusty related sounds.


I thought I heard something in the distance, coming from somewhere behind me.

‘God damn it. Where are you? Katrina is going to kill me’.

That was definitely Ian. There was only one person I knew who lived in such fear of his partner’s wrath. Suddenly I was able to detect the unmistakable smell of terror, as Ian’s sweat glands went into overdrive. Acting as a homing beacon, I chased the scent down to finally be reunited with a relived Ian, and a nonchalant Rusty. Re-joining the path exactly where I had enthusiastically left it several minutes ago, Ian immediately clasped a leash on me and we walked in silence, with a smug Rusty up ahead, walking with that annoying swagger that he does.

The Look of a Canine Still Trying to Work out the Oxidised-Iron Joke

The remainder of the Dracophyllum Flat track climbed steeply out of the forest and into a grassy clearing, providing views over the surrounding mountains. By this point Ian had calmed down and released me from the leash so I could play with Rusty, as he spent several minutes photographing our every move. Which I will admit, was a little creepy.

The final obstacle before we made it back to the Texas Flat was crossing Tims Stream – I don’t know who Tim is before you ask. What should have been a straightforward exercise in fording a watercourse, was instead dragged out and complicated by Ian’s insistence of not getting his feet wet. Rusty and I stood, chest deep in the slowly moving water, with our heads cocked to the side once again, as we watched Ian pick his way over slippery rocks. Sadly not falling in, I was instead comforted by the fact that no matter how bad I think I’ve got it, Ian will always have it worse.

Approximate Track Stats

Distance: 8.5km

Height Gain: 273m

Time: 2.5hrs


Route can be mountain biked in the Summer

Map courtesy of

Mt. Potts – Hakatere Conservation Park

That’s weird, Rusty doesn’t normally bark that much, I thought. I turned back to look up the glistening, snow covered track. Rusty was either standing or lying in front of Ian. It was difficult to tell seeing as the snow came up to our bellies. Our paws were constantly breaking through the crusty top, and sinking through the fluffy centre to the harder pack below. I bounded over, through the snow and barking loudly, so as not to creep up and startle them. Appearing at Rusty’s side, I saw red liquid staining the whiteness around him, and Ian’s eyes had grown wide.

Regular readers of these articles may be able to guess where we were. If the title didn’t give it away, then the law of averages will have – it’s Hakatere time. We had a new human pack today, consisting of Ian, Denz, Alex and Meegan, and we were back where the Ice Cream Vans lurk. Arriving at the start of the Mt. Potts track, the pack faffed about, or chatted among themselves, or did whatever is traditionally done before setting off on an adventure. To kill time, Rusty and I scouted the area for ICV’s but alas, none were to be found. Returning to the pack, I noticed that all the humans had large, rectangular boards strapped to their bags. It suddenly occurred to me, this was a hunting party! Ian had returned with reinforcements and ICV clubs. I had underestimated him. With renewed enthusiasm, we set off towards the mountains.

Armed and Ready to Crush some ICV’s

The day was fresh and crisp, with uninterrupted views down the valley towards the snow topped Cloudy Peak range. The area was incredibly different to how I remembered it several months ago, now that the greens and browns were replaced with whites and blacks. Wispy white clouds hung above us, making it seem as if the mountains were extending into the sky.

It was only several weeks ago that I wondered what snow was, and now I was surrounded by the stuff. Sometimes soft, sometimes hard, or crunchy, or tasty, it seemed to cover a lot of bases. The pack seemed happy enough, with smiles all round. Beaming, Rusty bounded around, seemingly intent on rummaging through every bit of available white stuff.

Poor Guy, He Just Can’t Help Himself Sometimes

Overhearing the pack’s conversation, the intention was to follow the track to the old Erewhon Ski Field, at which point we would presumably be at a vantage point to pick off any stray ICV’s. Rusty and I would then get an opportunity to see the ICV kill boards in action. The track we were following was the old ski field access track, which was 4km long and ascended 600m into the surrounding peaks.

Yes… Obviously not all Photos of me are Adorable

The higher we climbed, the less the pack talked, as conversation was replaced with the crunching of snow underfoot. After two hours of marching up the track, we eventually came to a plateau, providing an excellent view into the valley below and over Mt. Sunday. The snow became thicker and crispier, and the surrounding mountains grew in size, as we crept deeper into the valley. Mt. Potts was on the right hand side, and some nameless peak on the other. With no confirmed sightings of ICV’s, the pack stopped and began to take the boards off their backs. Finally, we were going to see how these mighty, powerful, boards of destruction were meant to be used…

By strapping it to your feet???

Confused, I watched as one by one the pack set off down the track we had spent so much time walking up. And one by one I watched them fall over. As I chased after Denz, politely enquiring as to how sliding down a snowy track would help with locating ICV’s, I heard Rusty bark behind me.

I just don’t get it…

It appeared that the front edge of Ian’s obliteration board had collided with Rusty’s back leg, cutting it above the paw and causing a torrent of red stuff to spill out everywhere. Ian looked concerned as he inspected the leg, which then turned to worry. He set off down the mountain, instructing Rusty to run ahead. I followed the trail of bloodied paw prints down the track to where the humans had eventually gathered, huddled around Rusty. Wrapping a thin bit of cloth round and round Rusty’s crimson coloured leg, tension hung in the air. I did my best to break it by shouting loudly that everything was going to be OK, but this just seemed to make the situation worse.

With red juice now prevented from leaking everywhere and making an awful mess, Ian, Rusty and I set off down the track with Ian running ahead, board under his arm, in preparation to smack out the way any advancing ICV’s. What a guy. The rest of the pack descended behind us on the boards. Occasionally I could hear a shout or yelp, and a body fall to the floor; presumably another ICV had been taken out by the boards. After all the effort it had taken to get up here, all the failed hunting trips, it was typical that I would miss out on a kill because of Rusty.

Making it to the Bottom in One Piece. Mt. Sunday in the Middle Ground

Rusty and I followed closely behind Ian, as he ran the entire way down to where we had parked. Arriving at the cars out of breath and tired, he opened up the truck and we both jumped in. Rusty was happy enough, and Ian’s facial expression seemed to be a little more positive. Shortly afterwards, the rest of the pack arrived. Judging by the amount of snow they were covered in, I reasoned that it must have been one hell of a battle with the ICV’s.

The following day Rusty was taken to the vet to have the cut looked at, and was stitched up. Funny story – after all the piss taking he has given me for being ever so slightly camp, guess who ended up having a finger up his arse. I have no idea why exactly the vet felt it necessary, but who cares.

Not Smiling Anymore More are we Buddy

Approximate Track Stats

Distance: 9km (To the ski field and back would be around 15km round trip)

Height Gain: 600m

Time: 4hrs (walking up and running down)


The trip highlighted the importance of being prepared. Luckily we had a first aid kit with us. The nearest population is Lake Clearwater. Although judging by all the anti-dog signs there, I doubt you’d get much sympathy if anything was to happen to a fellow canine.

Map courtesy of

Lake Emma – Hakatere Conservation Park

I leapt forward again, hoping this time to land on firmer ground, but to no avail. Once again I was up to my furry chest in marsh water. I sighed and looked over towards Rusty, who was opting for the ‘head down and go’ approach, weaving his way through the pedestals of reeds. Glancing up at Ian, who was currently fighting with the marsh over who had ownership of his right shoe, I reminisced of a another time, all of ten minutes ago, when we were on a lovely dry path, enjoying our day.

Today’s exploration would be of Lake Emma, located within Hakatere Conservation Park. Ian had come across it on an earlier trip to Mt. Sunday, and from what he told us on the drive over, it was going to be an easy walk following a 4×4 track around the lake, ending at the unimaginatively named Lake Emma Hut.

Lake Emma Hut

However I was more concerned about the weather, as I stared out of the truck rear window into the dark and damp morning. ‘Maybe it won’t be that bad once the sun comes up’, I hopefully mentioned to Rusty, who stretched himself out further across the back seats in agreement, and fell back to sleep. The morning light of the rising sun served to only dash my optimism, as the moody looking grey clouds above us were illuminated. Undeterred, Ian continued to point us in the direction of the mountains and we sped across the flat, flat Canterbury Plains.

I drifted in and out of concentration, as the hypnotic properties of the endless fields spread out in all directions. I casually looked ahead and saw what appeared to be a thin slither of blue sky on the horizon. With a small sense of hope growing inside me, I nudged Rusty to show him the exciting new development. Barely lifting his head from the seat, he took one look out the window, and then at me with a facial expression of ‘you woke me for this?’, and went back to doing what he does best.

The distant slice of blue steadily grew in thickness as we approached, and in no time at all we had broken through the greyness and into dazzling blue sky. Ian nodded in approval and slipped his sun glasses on, no doubt attempting to imply that he knew this would happen all along. Or he was attempting to look cool. Whatever he was attempting, it really wasn’t working.

We turned off the gravel road that had previously taken us to Mt. Sunday, and followed a bumpy 4×4 track for several minutes before coming to a stop and being released. The cold, miserable climate of Christchurch had been replaced with the fresh, crisp air of Hakatere. Rusty and I did a quick perimeter check for Ice Cream Vans – a reference that will only make sense if you’ve read the Mt. Sunday adventure – and happy that the coast was clear, we embarked (clever pun intended) on the walk.

Setting off towards Lake Emma Hut

Located at the base of the Harper Range and hidden from the road, Lake Emma is peaceful and sedate. Mt. Harper is reflected in the calm of the lake, and views all the way to the snow-capped Cloudy Peak Range can be enjoyed. However Rusty and I had no interest in this, as we set about playing in the morning frost – ‘poor man’s snow’ as Rusty calls it – and gradually made our way round to Lake Emma Hut.

The ramshackle hutThe 4×4 track slowly undulated its way round to the hut, providing excellent views over Lake Emily and down into the valley. Arriving at the ramshackle hut, Ian disappeared inside while Rusty and I busied ourselves with a spot of swimming and general, good-natured frolicking. Which was fine until I jokingly referred to it as such, at which point an evidently sexually insecure Rusty decided he was done and it was time for lunch. Ian emerged from the shack, shrugged his shoulders unimpressed and sat himself down to enjoy the view and the warmth of the day.

Took this when they weren’t looking 🙂

Suddenly he announced that we were going to arrange a Bitchin’ Beer Treats photo shoot, requiring Rusty and I to join him by the lake. Obviously not looking my best, as a result of the aforementioned manly frolicking, I decided to freshen up by jumping into the lake. Emerging from the frigid water, I gestured to Ian to bring over some grooming products and kindly spruce me up so I was able to look my best. He, and Rusty for that matter, just stared at me blankly. I’d obviously underestimated the hut’s facilities. In typical, obstinate fashion, Ian continued with the photo shoot regardless, as I sat there looking ridiculous next to Rusty, who spent the whole time with a stupid grin on his face.

God I hate that dog

The shameless product placement exercise over with, Ian took out his map and began ruffling his brow. He looked left down the track we had just walked in on. Then right, up the track that traversed around the other side of the lake. Then back at his map. With a nod of his head, he confidently folded it up and we set off to the right, to continue on around the lake, which is about where things went from bad to worse.

The 4×4 track continued, and started well enough, but it became evident that it was beginning to take us away from where we had parked. As the path continued off perpendicular to the truck, Ian decided that instead of just turning around and heading back the way we came, using the easy to follow, well defined path, he’d just straight line it through what was clearly marked on the map as marshland. ‘Can’t be that bad’, announced a still confident Ian, evidently rhetorically as he set off before Rusty or I could object.

The view further around the lake with Mt. Taylor in the background (and some lovely reflective work in the foreground)

After twenty minutes of wading through belly-deep water, I felt it was probably as bad as I had expected, seeing as it was a marsh, located next to a lake, in a depression in the landscape. Undeterred, most likely out of stubbornness, Ian pushed on, occasionally getting his walking poles stuck or stumbling forward into the brown, cold water. ‘I’m fine…’, informed Ian. Neither of us looked up, or frankly cared at this point, as we fought our own battles negotiating the reeds as we inched closer to the truck.

Emerging from the marshland muddy, out of breath and with a renewed dislike towards Ian and everything he stands for, we were ushered into the truck and driven back to Christchurch in silence. It could have been such a nice day.

Taking a moment to contemplate how much I hate Ian right about now

Approximate Track Stats

Distance: 7km

Height Gain: 20m

Time: 2.5hrs (walking)

The Edge – Craigieburn

Snow. I don’t know what it is, what it looks like, or what its relevance to our day is, but Ian seemed very excited about the prospect of seeing it. On our drive towards Craigieburn ski field that’s all he went on about. Snow this and snowboarding that. As I vacantly stared out of the rear window of the truck, my view obscured by his mountain bike slung over the tailgate, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he’d accidentally brought his bike instead of his snowboard. It was going to be an interesting day.

As you may have already worked out, the team were back in Craigieburn. Ian manning the circular thing at the front of the truck, still banging on about snow, and Rusty stretched out on the back seats, once again insisting on using up every available bit of space. And me, wedged into my corner, getting by, one day at a time.

As we turned onto the Craigieburn Ski Field access track, I was mindful that another car was following close behind, with what appeared to be another fellow canine in it. We came to a stop, Ian released us from the confines of the truck and Rusty and I were introduced to Zeus, and his human companion, Scott. Zeus is an affectionate black Labrador Collie cross. Seeing as I was half Collie, and Rusty was half Labrador, we had plenty to talk about. Zeus had been living with Scott for several weeks, and had a lot of experience running in the hills, so was full of enthusiasm for today’s adventure. As for Scott, as far as I could tell, he and Ian were friends, and he definitely didn’t share Zeus’ eagerness for heading up a ski field access track.

Introductions out of the way, the five of us headed off and up. Rusty, Zeus and I led the charge, with Ian and Scott bringing up the rear on their rotating machines.  The rocky access track is cut into the side of the tree covered slope, and gradually ambles its way up to the ski field over several kilometres. Although initially starting quite dull, small glimpses of the mountains ahead kept morale up as we endlessly climbed towards the sky. We remained within the cold shaded confines of the canopy for the majority of the ascent, until finally breaking through the tree line and into the warmth of the morning sun.

Six kilometres and 450 metres climbed, we eventually arrived at the base of the ski field, and Ian’s face turned from excitement to disappointment, as it quickly became apparent that there was none of this mythical snow that I’d heard so much about. An imposing grey scree field extended above us, dotted with small patches of trees or rocks stubbornly clinging to the mountain side. Ian futilely encouraged the group to look harder for any patches of white. Up at the peaks, out of reach, there appeared to be something, but the observation was slightly undermined by the fact that we canines only see in black and white, so not entirely sure how well suited we were for the job. In any case, it was time for lunch.

As the humans tucked into some horrible looking processed food, we canines dined on some Bitchin Beer Treats – available at all good stores – and soon we were fuelled up for the descent… which is where things got interesting.

The trail we embarked on is called The Edge, and for good reason. Although sections on the 3.5km track are reasonable, winding through the moss covered, skinny trees on a solid, well-formed path, there are also sections consisting of large drops, large exposures, a large number of tight corners, lots of large rocks and a complete lack of large margin for error. At times the track reduces to, at best, a thin crease across an otherwise steep and bare scree slope. The four of us looked on unconvinced as Ian disappeared down the track, waving us on and shouting something about ‘it’s fine… whoa! Just mind that rock…’ as he cycled across an entire mountain side covered in rocks. The canine group bounded on after Ian, as Scott set about picking his way down the track.

Several crashes later, things hadn’t got much better for Scott. Zeus had sprinted off ahead to catch Ian, displaying an interesting version of loyalty. Rusty was between me and Zeus, bouncing along the trail in the uncoordinated way that he does. I remained towards the back, constantly running between Rusty and Scott, in a futile attempt to keep the pack together, in spite of its obvious disintegration.

Eventually, after about 15 minutes of every canine for himself, we arrived at a junction where we could either continue to Helicopter Hill, or descend back down to the car. As Scott composed himself, Rusty, Zeus, and I discussed our route options. We turned to get Ian’s input, to find he had already set off, whooping and hollering with joy, down the track. The three of us rolled our eyes, Scott sighed, and we were off again.


In contrast to The Edge, the return trail to the car park was 1km of downward facing awesomeness. With a lack of scary, rocky, exposed sections, and at an angle that was perfect for allowing you to go at whatever speed was comfortable, we chased after an elated Ian. The brown, earthy track curled its way down the mountain side, and too soon it had spat us out onto the ski field access track we had scaled earlier that morning.

A short trot back to the car park provided us with a final chance to stretch our legs and cool down after our sprint session. By now the sun had climbed over the height of the surrounding trees, and we bathed in sunlight as the humans drank some horrible tasting, golden liquid from glass bottles. Scott was starting to smile again. Ian was attempting some sort of half-arsed apology for riding ahead, while at the same time excitedly talking about how great the final trail was; his gestures and facial expressions becoming more exaggerated the more liquid he drank, as the disappointment of not seeing any snow faded into obscurity. Aware that Rusty and I were going to have to listen to this all the way back to Christchurch, we busied ourselves exploring out of ear shot, while Zeus curled up next to Scott and zoned out.

Bidding our farewells, we drove back to Christchurch. As predicted, Ian continued to ramble on, as I fought for seating space with a ‘pretending to be asleep’ Rusty. It was going to be a long drive.

Approximate Track Stats

Distance: 11km

Height Gain: 450m

Time: 1.5hrs (cycling), 2.5hrs (walking)

Comments: There are plenty of streams and water sources along the route

The route is an excellent introduction to going out on an adventure and is just as good walked as it is biked

Note that the Edge is a shared use track with mountain bikers and walkers

The scree slopes will be snow covered during the winter months

Map courtesy of