A Sunday stroll in the bush was just what the Dr ordered after a manic week of late nights and learning the ropes in my new position at work. Pa and I decided to tackle Sledge Track, just outside of Palmerston North as it is relatively close to home.
Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt
Hiking time: 30-40 minutes each way to the swing bridge and back
Fitness level: Low to medium. There are a few climbs but they aren't long or steep, they start descending again fairly quickly
Access: Public road, 17km from Palmerston North
Finding Sledge Track
Sledge Track is easy to find as it is popular with walkers, families and mountain bikers. Kahuterawa Valley is found at the end of Kahuterawa Road, just outside of Palmerston North. You'll have to drive down some gravel road to find it. I probably wouldn't recommend trying out your rally driving skills here as there are frequent oncoming cars. Also, small families of ducks occasionally cross the road. We came across one such family, luckily an oncoming biker waved us down so we didn't turn them into Christmas lunch. They were too small for lunch. Plus I don't eat duck.
If you are into mountain biking, you may possibly like one of the many trails winding through the hills. The trails cater to all difficulty levels so I am sure you will find something to suit. Check out more information here if you are interested in the Biking Trails.
From the car park, take the left-hand side of the trail if you are a walker; the right-hand side (over the river) if you are a mountain biker. (If you don't know your left and rights try the handy (pun intended) trick of making an "L" with your hand).
Starting Out Easy
Sledge Track follows alongside the Kahuterawa Stream and starts out as a nice leisurely stroll making it perfect for children and families. Couples walking their pooches and families making the most of the limited sunny spell were taking advantage of the picnic areas and swimming holes that lie beside the stream. At Moss Rock Corner there is a lovely 30-second detour to a swimming hole with boulders and a calm patch of water making it an ideal picnic spot.
I wore sneakers for this walk and left my boots (and jacket) at home as I knew I didn't need them (the jacket I did need though).
If you like waterfalls, and lets face it, who doesn't? You are gonna love this track. Some are just a shy dribble while others are more confident and extroverted, proudly gushing over the rocks. A couple of times the waterfalls get so boastful, they wander over the track. Cheeky buggers! Well, when I say boastful I mean that in the loosest sense of the word. They aren't spectacularly large waterfalls. Not like Niagra or anything. But more than a bathroom tap on full.
Once you hit Argyle Rocks the track steepens a little but it never gets so steep that you have to stop for a photograph of the postcard-worthy landscape. The hills roll over reasonably quickly then you are off on a downhill again.
The track itself is largely dirt, after a few days of rain in places the path turns to mud and can get slippery. Because the trees keep the path in shade most of the time it means that the track doesn't often get a chance to dry out completely.
A Punny Conversation
As we were wandering along the trail we saw a tree that had been to the tree Dr with its limbs cut back. Naturally, a pun conversation ensued:
"They are really cutting edge"
"I saw what you did there"
"I feel like we should leaf these puns alone before they get out of hand"
"You are barking up the wrong tree"
This is why I like walks and road trips with my family. We all have a similar sense of humour and delight in making puns. Much to the groans of everyone else around us.
What's In A Name?
What makes this track unique are the names. Everything is named, from the corners (Moss Rock Corner) to the waterfalls to the bridges to the steps (Claudia's Steps). Sometimes the names are in obvious places. Like on a pole beside the steps or corner that is being named. Other times you have to look a little harder such as the one on the flight of steps hiding under a layer of dust. I bet children would find it a fun game to round a corner in search of another name. Like hide and seek only with signs.
Where to Next?
Earlier this year a new swing bridge was added across the stream to create a loop track. You have several options once you hit the bridge. The first is to turn around and come back again down Sledge Track (the option we chose as it was getting late in the day and the clouds were threatening to overflow).
The second is to carry on over the bridge into Arapuke Park. Once you cross the bridge you can go back to the carpark via Checkpoint Charlie Track and Puprahi, if you are feeling a bit more energised you can go via Arapuke Road and Back Track which is about 7km. Arapuke Park is Mountain Bike territory so you need to be mindful of the bikes careening down the hills. You don't want to get run over by one of them bad boys. I imagine that would hurt.
Or for a third option, if you are feeling extra energised, are a bit fitter and have more time on your hands you can head on up the Toe Toe Loop Track onto Platinum Mines Loop Track and swing past some old mineshafts. I want to head up to the mineshafts over summer. Though, I'm a little worried about the cave wetas that live there if I am being honest.
But wait, there's more! You can even take the fourth option of the Otangane Loop Track. Yet another loop track but for more advanced hikers.
A Wet Trek Back
The clouds that threatened to burst made good on their threat on our way back and we got rather soaked. It didn't put a dampener (see what I did there?) on our spirits as we happily stomped through the growing puddles and mud back to the car. There is something magical about walking in nature in the rain. Listening to the drops landing in the stream and resting on the leaves is soothing and wild.
Sledge Track is a picturesque moderately easy walk to tackle in a morning or afternoon. There are plenty of options if you wanted to extend your walk or challenge yourself. Because there are several different tracks, it means that you aren't walking the same hike over if you decide to go back. You can continue to explore the region each time you go back.
Kahuterawa Valley plays host to sickeningly pretty walks. As you trek amongst the native ferns you get glimpses of the stream, occasionally walking right alongside it. The waters mood swings are frequent and everchanging, it starts off gentle and calm, as you walk further upstream it becomes a little more angry at having to flow over the boulders lying in the way of the water. Much like a hormonal teen its anger comes and goes abruptly though. Its gentleness doesn't last too long, but then neither does its rage.
As always, you should always tell someone where you are going if you are going rogue in nature, carry some water and check the weather conditions before you go. You don't want to be stuck without a jacket like yours truly.
Let me know in the comments what are your favourite trails to hike. Have you ever hiked Sledge Track? What tracks would you recommend?
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- A 12 page PDF from the Palmerston North City Council about Kahuterawa Valley
- More info on the various tracks available to hike in Kahuterawa Valley