Another hot, humid day and the thought of a damp shady forest lures my friend and I to Pine Valley in Mount Richmond Forest Park. Located between Nelson and Marlborough, the forest park is the second largest in New Zealand.
Leaving from Blenheim, you follow state highway 6 and turn left onto Northbank Road after the Wairau River Bridge. From there, it is another 25km to the turn-off for the carpark.
Turn-off to Pine Valley Carpark
The track follows the Pine Valley stream and is about a seventy-minute walk one way at a relaxed pace and is a good example of a lowland-podocarp-beech forest.Today the plan is to take our time and stroll to the base of the ridge leading up to Mount Fishtail, which stands at 1641 metres.
Arriving at Pine Valley carpark, we follow the track and wind our way above the stream through a small patch of sweet-smelling pine forest and scattered natives. This part of the track provides some good opportunities for taking photos of Mount Fishtail.
At the carpark
After twenty minutes, we cross a swingbridge to a large open grassy area surrounded by beech forest known as Mill Flat. It is a designated Department of Conservation Campsite, categorized as basic. You can take a 4WD there if you can ford the creek at the carpark.
Swingbridge going over to Mill Flat
From Mill flat, we enter a cool, shaded forest. The track is wide and littered with many years of decomposed leaves, making it soft underfoot. Mahoe, coprosma, lancewood, rimu, supplejack and other broadleaves intermingle with mixed beech forest.
Track leaving Mill Flat
After another twenty minutes of walking, we arrive at a small clearing where Pine Valley hut used to be. Regrettably, it burnt down in 2014. Entering a gap into the forest, the track continues alongside the stream. Here and there, sunlight filters through the trees, highlighting the black sooty covered beech trunks.
As we get closer to the ridge leading up to Mt Fishtail, the track narrows and a few rocky watercourses cross our path needing extra care after the previous weeks rain. Nothing too hard, but slippery underfoot.
Deeper into the forest
Finally, we arrive at the stream crossing, which leads over to the ridge and the five-hour ascent to Mt Fishtails summit. Stopping for our lunch, we nestle against some rocks looking at the first two steep zig-zags of the track leading up the ridge.
Mt Fishtail (foreground) from Wairau River. Acess from Pine Valley via the centre ridgeline.
The last time I snaked my way down Mt Fishtail, it felt like shattered shards of glass in my kneecaps. It was long and relentless. For now, I am pretty content to relax by the stream under the overhanging canopy before wandering back along the track.