I went back for a look today, first time in a while. All was good walking from Puffer Saddle down to Smith Creek Shelter except for one small but awkward slip. I spent several minutes trying to eyeball a way across and nearly convinced myself to turn around and go home, but then saw I could just back-track 50 metres, wade into Smith Creek below it, and re-join the main track on the other side.
A few minutes further on there was a sign across the track warning of slip damage and pointing to an alternate track, which zig-zagged up the steep hillside. I followed thinking it was just going up to go over whatever was ahead, but eventually decided it was taking me back towards Puffer Saddle instead of where I actually wanted to go. So I back-tracked, checked out the sign again, and it turned out the same thing was written on both sides and it was really meant for people coming from the Tauherenikau direction. Apparently I'd already been through the bad bit, and must have completely missed wherever that alternate track comes back in, and either looked straight through a sign at the other end or it wasn't there.
I see DOC's website notes the presence of the diversion: http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/wellington-kapiti/places/tararua-forest-park/things-to-do/tracks/smith-creek-tauherenikau-river/
I don't understand why they're diverting it, though. As a wet weather track, maybe? But I'm sure there wasn't anything overly dodgy except for that one small slip with an easy diversion into the creek and back out a short way further on.
To add to it, what I walked of the alternate track seemed comparatively really bad: Steep sidling with large dropoffs and not a lot to hold on to. Returning backwards involved having to carefully shuffle down a slope without going too far and off a short bluff.
This post has been edited by the author on 7 October 2017 at 19:56.
That diversion has been in place for at least 10 years. 95% of the time the original track is quite passable by competant trampers and about 20 minutes quicker than the diversion. You would of noticed the lack of ground trail on the diversion which will tell you how much its used. Sounds like the slip you found was the bit that can be tricky. Ive dropped into the stream there once aswell
Summertime everyone everyone just follows the creek altough the downstream exit can be hard to find not that it matters. If you miss it you know 10 minutes later when you hit the Turenekau and refind the track.
You're correct! I checked my notes from a visit in 2010 and I wrote down that the diversion was well marked... also made no reference to it being difficult to follow in any way.
Now it seems a sign at one end has gone (or I'm blind - also plausible) and the ground trail's worn out much more.
Anyone know which of the Masterton or Wellington office handles Puffer Saddle and Smith Creek, and is there likely to be any value in reporting it?
I noticed Marchant Ridge is looking fairly wasted in several places with tree-fall around the 800m elevation, too. (Possibly higher but I only went up to 900m.) Sort of like the wind and the rain conspired to figure out how they could kick people while they're down when they're trudging off the Southern Crossing. Actually from memory Marchant Ridge is often like that.
This post has been edited by the author on 8 October 2017 at 16:00.
For a major Tararua Route (The Southern Crossing) some sections of track from the puffer turn off to Dobsons is appalling compared to other popular access areas in the park. I think I've lost count of the times I've slipped on my arse on those clay pans...