February 14th, 2015 - Queenstown, New Zealand - Day 181

Valentines day in New Zealand and we don't have anything special planned.  Stacie and I have never been big V-Day fans, so this year would be no different, but we were hoping for a great day.  I woke up typically early at 4:40 and had the house to myself for a while.  Stacie got up around 6:00.  We did our normal morning thing and by 11:00 we figured we should make a plan for the day.  We decided to try the hike we were shooting for yesterday again and this time the kids were coming along with us.  We did a little more research this time and figured out we had stopped well short of the trailhead yesterday and just needed to keep going up the road a ways.  This time we found the trailhead with ease and set off at a brisk pace to see how quickly we could complete the loop.  The sign at the trailhead said the trail should take us between 2 and 4 hours, however, the trail we were on the day before was supposed to take 45 minutes and we did it in 15, so we were a little skeptical of the estimates.  

The trail was incredible and I was like a kid in a candy store with my camera.  I could have taken a thousand pictures on this hike and slowed us down to a crawl, but we all wanted some exercise so we hustled along and I did some speed shooting.  

The girls on the first of many bridge crossings

Trail winds through old growth forrest along a crystal clear spring fed creek.  The area is an old mining claim and our initial destination was the cabin of Sam Summers, who owned the claim.  

The perfect trail

Dad slowing everyone down for another picture

Getting close to the cabin

The walk up to the cabin took about 45 minutes, including a side detour down a tunnel sluice which was used to dump the tailings back into the creek.  Walking through the tunnel was dark and cold, but very cool.

Peter at the end of the tunnel

At the exit of the tunnel the kids wanted to follow a tiny trail down to the creek, so of course we did just that, and I am so glad we did.  At the bottom we found a little oasis. 

Our little oasis

After 15 minutes in our little spot, we decided to keep moving.  We arrived at the hut about 5 minutes later.  It is still used as a campers hut today.

Sam Summers Cabin

We looked around for a short time and then set off for the rest of the trail.  Just after the cabin the trail crossed another bridge and provided a perfect view of a perfect waterfall.

After the waterfall was the steepest and longest climb of the trail and by the end of it, we were all feeling it.  I kept lagging behind taking pictures wherever I could.  

Beautiful Iron in rock

Green lichen everywhere

When we were nearly done with the trail we noticed these red mushrooms hiding back in the pines.  They were so bright and cute you just expected a Smurf to come around from behind one at any moment.  We looked them up once we got home and found out they are  Amanita muscaria or Santa's Shroom.  They are considered poisionus, but are mostly used as a hallucinogenic.  

The hike was just incredible and we considered it to be our first real New Zealand adventure.  On our way back into town we stopped at the Saturday market, which was mostly arts and crafts.  

The rest of the day was mellow and we wrapped up with another half game of Pictionary.  It really was the perfect day.