Very Big Trees (Part Two) – Dean Forest Camp (with Georgie)

“On a Mish” #402 Very Big Trees (Part Two). Dean Forest Camp (with Georgie). Dean Forest Conservation Area. 20.4.2024. For a tiny country, Aotearoa New Zealand had an incredible amount of wealth in the form of natural resources. Unfortunately, in typical human fashion we have taken much more than we have given back (or left alone). One particularly treasured prize was our near endless forests of many different trees. The podocarps like the great Rimu, Kauri, and Totara were located, levelled, and then milled to be transported for export. Nowadays only a few of these very old and very big trees remain, and to see them you must go on a mish…

Not only does my bro Houli share the same first name as me, he also as the same passion for exploring the near endless opportunities found in New Zealand’s wilderness. And because he knew my situation very well, he devised a devious plan which involved a night out in the Dean Forest Reserve, which not only had good vehicle access to an epic campsite, but was also dog friendly. It was time for Georgie to go camping for the first time!

Drizzle followed us into Deans Forest, but luckily the beech canopy prevents the worst of the water getting through. As we began to prepare our camp the sentence “the weather is supposed to clear” was echoed many times. Houli set up a camp tarp in a place he was familiar with, and in no time we had a dry place to hang out.

Before we could get comfortable, we had to get some water for cooking, and it wasn’t a case of turning a tap. A lightly marked route took us from the terrace the forest is on down to the Waiau River, and by the time we got to the water rain had made itself at home in the area. Getting down to the river was the easy part and, on the way, back my hip started to play up and we got a little off route. Thankfully, we eventually got to the road which we followed back to camp, and the dryness found under the trap.

Wandering amongst the Totara Giants

The predicted clearance of remaining rain didn’t happen until well into the night. In fact, at one stage, it got heavier and if it wasn’t for Houli’s trap we would have been in a completely different situation. Under the shelter we prepared some food for ourselves and for Georgie, and I was loving the fact that she was happy hanging out with the boys on a mish.

Early-ish the next day we awoke to much better conditions, and it was finally time to go see some really big trees. The Dean Forest beech trees hide the massive totara well. It is the strange case of ‘you can’t see the trees because of the forest’. However, once you spot the first totara, you realise they are the kings of this forest. ‘Halls Totara’ is the oldest (estimated to be around 1000 years old) and biggest, and the reason the track exists. With a girth of over 8 metres, the tree would take a whole gang of people to hug and could house many hobbits!

We slowly made our way around the track and marvelled at the small handful of remaining totara. It is a shame that only a few of these monsters survived then great cull, however, this does make the Big Totara Track in Dean Forest very special. It might be a bit of a mish to get there (via the road to Lake Hauroko), but when you see the very big trees it makes it well worth the effort.

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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