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Old Ghost Road with an 11 week old & 4yo!

85km – 5 days – 4 nights – a 4 year old – and an 11 week old!

We were looking at what would be a good multi-day tramp with our new bubba, and our research led us to decide on The Old Ghost Road. NZ’s longest continuous single track!

 

We needed something that was pretty well graded and maintained because I’d have the baby on the front, so rough terrain wasn’t really an option. The 4 year old also needed to be able to walk it pretty easily. The Old Ghost Road is a walking & cycling trail, so that meant it would be better graded than some for the mountain bikers.

It was also preferable that we don’t need to carry too much gear – given that we wanted to have the option of carrying the 4 year old for safety reasons in case we needed to get out of bad weather quickly, or if there was a dodgy part of trail. The huts en-route have cookers, and all cutlery, pots & crockery supplied! So all we needed extra was pretty much clothing, sleeping bags, safety gear, and nappies.

We also weren’t sure how the baby would do in a hut (We booked the trail when I was around 20 weeks pregnant ) and The Old Ghost Road has ‘summer sleepouts’ which are pretty much mini huts next to the main hut, which would enable us to have a more private space to walk the baby up & down all night if need be, and not risk waking anyone up.

End of February was when we booked for, as the weather is generally pretty settled then, and the baby we were thinking would be 3 months old by then so not too tiny, and I’d hopefully be more recovered from birth! (He ended up a bit overdue so was a little younger though)

 

The plan was to camp at Lyell campground the night before we started walking, so that we could head straight off in the morning, as the trailhead is right at the campground. We paid Hike’n’Bike to relocate our car for us to the Seddonville trail end. With carseats to worry about, it was easier - and cheaper – than getting a shuttle at the end. It also meant we didn’t have to rush on the last day to be in time back for a shuttle.

For the end, we booked a bach in Mokihinui – the bach had a washing machine & tumble dryer too, which would enable us to get all cleaned up before we headed home. Very handy when you end up coming home with about 3-4 loads after a trip!

 

When the extended weather forecast first came out however, I was ready to pull the pin. Rain, rain, and more rain. That wouldn’t be fun for any of us! Luckily as I kept an eye out over the next days, it got better every day, till the day before we left when it was forecast to be almost entirely clear, with the odd light patch of rain on days 2 & 3.

With the forecast getting better we started getting things ready to pack. I tried Bethany’s hiking boots on her – but I couldn’t even squeeze half her foot in – GREAT! I tried her rain pants on, and they came halfway up her shin! I had a feeling she’d grown since the baby was born, but I didn’t think quite that much!

There wasn’t enough time to go shopping before the trip, so the rain pants would have to do, and we took a different pair of leather boots that although they weren’t super waterproof, they would do, as she predominantly wears the hiking sandals anyway.

Lesson: Don’t try the hiking clothes & shoes on only a couple days before the trip because children grow too fast!

 

The day to leave finally came, and as usual, we left about 2 hours after the time we had planned to leave. Took some cooked dinner to eat on the road, as the kids would need breaks, and we headed off.

Got to Lyell around 9.30pm, and hubby set the tent up while I sorted the kids (Who had both fallen asleep but were now awake).

We had an ok night, but Jordan (the 11 week old) really wasn’t a fan of the tent on this night. It was the first night he had done on the tramping mat (rather than the larger car-camping mat) and he was not keen! He wasn’t noisy, but definitely stirred much more than usual, so my sleep wasn’t great.

Lesson: Try have as comfortable of a night before heading out! And get there early if possible!

old ghost road with kids tramping in nz
I'm ready to hit the road!

In the morning, it was great not needing to pile the kids anywhere, and just being able to start walking as soon as the car was packed & breakfast was cooked & eaten. Eggs on toast were just what we needed to get powering! We left the car key in the drop-box to be relocated, and all was sorted to go. 8.55AM. Not too shabby considering we weren’t rushing too much and hadn’t set alarms.

 

The carrier we had chosen for the trip was the stretchy wrap. Being unable to sit upright yet, Jordan was too young to go on the back. We had the choice then of the SSC, the woven wrap, or the stretchy. All are unfortunately cotton, or some blend of cotton, which is not ideal. Someone needs to make a breathable woollen stretchy wrap!

The SSC would take the longest to dry out if it got wet – and given I was going to be having a full-size pack on the back, the back clip would be a pain to undo without taking the back off.

The woven wraps are not as easy to pre-tie, while the stretchy can be pre-tied, and left on all day, with baby just taken in and out. So that was the choice.

 

At home, we use cloth nappies full-time from birth, and that’s the same as what we did with Bethany. However Jordan is quite the hungry boy, and a heavy wetter, so the plan was to take disposables for overnight. On the odd occasion he has wet through his cloth nappies overnight, even with changes, and I didn’t want to risk a wet sleeping bag, or unnecessary wet clothing.

Turns out, this was not such a great idea. First night at the campground, and he SOAKED through the disposable… perhaps these are not as great as cloth! He then wet through another 2 nights, but by the next night I’d figured out how to best get the disposable to sit on him so that he didn’t wet right through.

Lesson: Don’t change your nappy rhythm up for hiking / camping. Stick with what works for you. Or if you’re going to change things up, then make sure you’ve practiced it first.

During the day, we used cloth the same as at home, with some Elimination Communication thrown in to reduce the number of nappies we needed.

We use Green Beginnings branded nappies for the day time, and these worked super well with tramping. They have a nylon shell, which you pair with their trifold inner. Because the inner is right up against the skin, rather than in a pocket, there is no need to change the outer unless they’ve done a poo. This meant much less to carry. We took 8 nappy shells, and about 16 inners. 4 disposables for the 4 nights on the track, plus an extra 8 disposables, just in case we ran out of cloth.

Once a nappy was used, if it was just pee, we gave it a rinse, and I used large safety pins, and Bento Ninja stainless steel pegs to clip them on the outside of the pack to dry. (Cheaper stainless steel pegs didn’t seem strong enough to ensure the nappies didn’t get lost on the way) If it was poo, we popped it in a wet bag to wash at the hut. I took a piece of our Solid Castile Soap for washing, but you could also just give it a water wash to save the poo stinking up straight away. At the hut, we hung them up inside our own hut, or outside on the bushes. Out of respect for other hut users (Who may not realise that the nappies were clean, just drying) we didn’t bring the wet ones inside to dry in the main hut.

Our process meant that once a nappy was dry, we could re-use it. It also meant that we weren’t carrying as much weight by letting them dry out – the disposables were pretty heavy in comparison by the end!

Tip: Take a collapsible bucket for washing the poo-ey nappies in at the hut. This bucket also works great for Elimination Communication – for getting baby to pee / poop into, and then empty into the long drop/ toilet.

walking tramping hiking with a preschooler nz
Walking at a steady pace while holding hands.
playing while tramping with a child old ghost road
"I found a wiggly worm!"

We walked at Bethany’s pace most of the time. She did love seeing all the ‘old things’ on the trail (mining relics). We had leisurely stops every couple of kilometres.

She didn’t carry a pack, even though she has for overnight trips before, but we didn’t want to slow her down too much given the distances. She did however have a small bum bag that I sewed up for her, with her own wee bag of nuts, raisins, cranberries & a couple of pieces of dark chocolate inside.

I always pack out our snacks into separate ziplock bags for each person for each day. This way, we can all see how much we’ve got left for the day, and there’s no arguments over who had more than their share. Mine & hubbies packs also always have some form of lollies in them too.

For Bethany I keep a bag of lollies for her, as I don’t quite trust her with them. The chocolate she’s got to teach her that if she eats it all at the start, that’s it for the day, but the lollies I keep to give her when she does look like she’s needing a bit of a boost.

The ziplock bags then get washed & re-used till they’re too far gone.

old ghost road mining relics trip report
"Wow, look at all the old things!"

Lunch on the first day was homemade savoury muffins. They were full of all the veggies that had been in the veggie drawer & the garden the day before we left, so super healthy & nutritious. But also a great way to use up what was left in the fridge before we left. Capsicums, onions, spinach, tomatoes, carrot, mushrooms & cheese.

 

We also broke the walk up by finding all the geocaches along the way. Bethany quite loves this, and it’s quite nice to say ‘the next geocache is 700m away’ rather than that the hut is still 15km away!

 

Jordan was relatively happy sleeping most of the way. He’s still generally only awake for 1-2 hours at a time, so when he woke up, we would stop ASAP, and take him out of the carrier, and out of his nappy. 100% of the time we did this, he would pee straight after waking, so we would hold him out to avoid needing to use the nappy. This is what people used to do back in the day before disposables were an option! If there was poos, they would get buried off trail – as is recommended adults do if need be, but I think he only pooped out of the nappy once. Then he would have a feed, and we would have some cuddles, a break, and sometimes he would have a kick around.

changing nappies while tramping nz eco friendly cloth
A nappy change while on the road.

His change mat was just an old terry cloth flat, which we took 2 of, but by the end of the trip, we had sacrificed a quick-dry towel as a change mat instead. The quick dry towel dried much faster, and could handle a bit of damp on it. But we did pop a dry bag underneath it on the wet days. On the sunny days, a bed of moss was a perfect changing area! The ‘change mat’ then got tied to the outside of my pack to keep on hand, and to keep it dry. When it rained it got popped inside the bag, near the top.

Lesson: A quick dry towel makes a great change mat. If need be, pop a plastic bag, or dry bag underneath if the ground is wet.

When taking Jordan out to pee while walking, we often didn’t actually need to change the nappy, as it would still be dry! Babies don’t really like peeing in the carrier – so sometimes when they arch their backs in the carrier and seem fussed to get out, it actually means there’s a pee coming!

 

We did try to combine when Bethany needed a break with when Jordan did. Often, he would wake up as we were taking him out of the carrier, but we tried to delay this by telling Bethany we would keep going for another 10 minutes or whatever, and then have a BIG break, otherwise it would only be a short one. If we walked at her pace, she was pretty happy walking for over an hour at a time.

 

A lovely surprise on this walk was the kilometre markers. Every km there was a marker stating how many km we were up to. This was absolutely perfect for walking with a pre-schooler! She got excited every time she spotted one and would run up to it. We would ask her to read them, and then work out together how many more markers there were etc. Eventually we also figured out she understood ‘the next km marker’ much better than the airy fairy ‘5 minutes’. And it motivated her more that she had to get there, as I think she knew 5 minutes would pass regardless of whether or not she walked in that time!

Lesson: Talk about distances in terms of ‘next marker’, ‘in 5 trap boxes time’, ‘2 more corners’ rather than minutes.

markers old ghost road family tramping kids babies toddlers preschoolers
14km down - only 4 more till the first hut!

Bethany is quite used to tramping with us, and being out full days, so that wasn’t too bad, and she was looking forward to seeing the hut, but hubby did still carry her for bits. The first days walk was 18km, and she walked 13km+ of those. When hubby carried her, it was up on the shoulders between the pack and the back of his head.

Tip: If carrying a child like this, 3 year olds legs are still quite short, so it works well to strap them to the pack to still give you free hands for hiking poles, or for balancing. If they’re older their legs hang down better to support themselves. If you loosen any straps that hold the top of the pack close to your neck, it’ll give them a better ‘seat’ to sit in, and distribute the weight better into your hips via the pack.

After walking uphill for most of the day, we got to the Lyell Saddle Hut at 4pm – just over 8 hours. (The signposted time is 4-6 hours)

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Inside Lyell Saddle Hut.

Once at the hut, I couldn’t get over how much Bethany was running around! No one would guess she’d just walked almost ¾ of the way up! And she had already begun making friends with all the people at the hut.

Jordan was also making friends with all the people at the hut – meeting some hut nanas, and melting all their hearts by cooing at them! There was no shortage of people to cuddle him while I cooked dinner & ate too.

We make our own dehydrated food, as then I can make packs the right size for us. I find we need about 250gm per main meal for the whole family. I also took dessert for each night except for the long day, as Bethany loves getting dessert at the hut. (Let’s face it, hiking is half about the food right?) For the long day I just took some hot chocolate as I knew we probably wouldn’t have time to make dessert.

Bethany loved watching all the wekas at the hut, and playing ‘tag’ with them. A goat even made an appearance! She climbed up the steps to where they were building a new helicopter pad & looked out at the view. The hut even had a shower! (BYO boiled water) But we didn’t feel the need to use it – though was good to know in case of poo explosion!

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A goat!! How awesome to watch!
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The shower at the hut - every hut had a 'bathhouse' like this.

Soon it was bedtime, and both kids were asleep around 8.30pm. I have no idea how Bethany even managed to stay awake that long, but I think there was too much excitement at the hut.

At 11pm, who wakes up having an absolute tantrum though – not the baby, but the 4 year old! She’s never really done that before, but I think it was to do with the fact that her brother got the spot in bed next to me, and she wanted it. She pinched him and woke him up during her tantrum, and wow it only lasted about 5 minutes but that definitely felt like the longest 5 mins of my life. She was so loud, and we tried everything to quieten her down! Eventually she settled sleeping on one of my arms with the baby on the other one – ouch not a great sleep for me, but the two of them slept fine the rest of the night. Jordan woke up to feed during the night, but would stir, I’d pop him on the boob, and he would go straight back to sleep without too much of a peep.
(The next morning we found out Bethany had woken up the guy in the tenting spot next to us, but luckily those in the sleepout closest to ours slept through)

The best clothing for sleeping in I found was just a breastfeeding singlet that I could pop open easily, with a nappy inner stuffed in as a breastpad. On the colder nights I put a merino long sleeve overtop, but kept the shirt part rolled up above my boobs to enable easy feeds without getting tangled in clothing.

In the morning, we weren’t too rushed to get out, but didn’t want to be too long. We were up around 7.30, and I made breakfast while Jordan kicked around on one of the beds in the hut. I also made our lunches – what we tend to do is fill a food jar thermos up with boiled water & dehydrated food. This way it’s less bulk & weight to carry than most lunch options, and it’s a hot filling meal in case of a cold day. Each thermos weighs around 300gm, but that ends up worth it if we’re away for 2 nights or more. By the time lunchtime rolls around, the food is fully rehydrated. And it also means that we can have the lunch over multiple stops (Great for fussy toddlers who are starved RIGHT NOW! But then decide they’re full after 2 bites!) We have found our Kmart food jar thermos to be just as good quality as our fancier more expensive ones.

I also decided that we would take a 500mL hot water thermos of boiled water for nappy changes and emergencies (Tea on the road in the cold?). On the sunny days we only half-filled the thermos to save weight, and filled it fully on the bad weather days.

For baby poos on the road, we pour some hot water from the thermos on a cloth wipe, and then wait for a few seconds for it to cool down, then wipe.

Wet wipes are heavy and add a lot of bulk, plus have to be carried out with their water weight too so are not ideal. For less messy poos, I just used regular toilet paper, which we then popped in the wet bag, and dropped off in the nearest toilet. One of the poos I even used a bit of moss on!

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Family photo at the hut before leaving.

Bethany was keen to start walking as soon as she had eaten breakfast. She tried to leave with the first group that headed out! So once we were sorted, I quickly headed out with her & Jordan to make use of that keen-ness, while Menzo stayed back to finish his last bit of packing & sweep the hut out.

We do normally get Bethany to help with sweeping and cleaning in the mornings to teach her hut etiquette, but with this being a longer trip, decided to just roll with it. If she was keen, let’s go!

The second day was also uphill. We were going to be going over the highest point on the whole hike. But Bethany thought it was hilarious that we left before dad (“Daddy can’t catch us! We’re too fast!!”)  so she was a super speedy walker. Other than grabbing the geocaches, we didn’t stop at all till dad caught up, and by that point we had passed 3 markers already!

Jordan slept pretty happily from the moment we left the hut, till the first big break. Most breaks if Jordan was awake were around 30-45 minutes long, by the time we factored in pee, boob, play, nappy, etc. So when he was asleep we tried to keep walking if possible, but we were still taking it pretty leisurely. Hubby did however still carry her a little bit, as we did find that would give her a little boost. He carried her for about 800m at a time, 3 times over the course of the whole day. The remainder of the 12km she walked herself. When carried, she loved just sitting up there listening to the birds. We saw so many piwakawaka & robins on the trip. Plus miromiro, silvereye, tui, and even a kereru!

Snack break tramping nz kids
A snack break with a view.

Didn’t take too much longer than the signposted time, and we were soon on the tops, with absolutely stunning views! There was a shelter just after we popped out of the bushline, so we had lunch there, and a big 1hr break. It was super sunny so the nappies were meanwhile nicely drying tied to the pack.

breastfeeding while tramping hiking
Lunch stop for everyone even the baby - with nappies drying on top of the pack.
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The stunning view towards Rocky Tor from the Tops Shelter

After re-applying some sunscreen, and with the baby about to fall asleep, me, Jordan & Bethany started walking again while hubby stayed behind to pop the thermoses back in & adjust his pack. Overtaking daddy worked so good for getting Bethany to walk keen & fast!

nappies while tramping drying on the bag
Drying the nappies on the back of the pack. And look at that scenery!

The views were amazing over this bit, and there were some exciting bridges, but I definitely made sure to hold her hand very tight!

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Heaven's Door lookout over Murchison
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Finding a geocache en-route.

A signposted time of 3-5 hours on this day, and in about 6.5 hours including breaks, we were at Ghost Lake Hut. Where strangely, there was cell phone reception! We haven’t been to many huts where there is reception!

the tor hut old ghost road family tramping with kids
Arriving at the hut - The Tor - our sleepout for the night.

The great thing about having reception however, was that we were able to get an updated detailed weather forecast. And this would be the last point on the trail with any reception before we dropped down into the valleys.

Forecast was not looking good though. We’d had perfectly sunny days till now, but rain was due to start coming in, and the next 3 days were all due to be raining. With it being especially heavy on the long walking day around lunchtime – eeek!! Some nervousness, but we were prepared.

The plan was: the next day is a short one (3-4hrs signposted) we would leave as early as possible, both to practice leaving early on the long day, but also to get to the next hut with enough time to dry everything out above the fireplace. We had a tarp-type lightweight shelter to put over us at lunchtime or during any stops, but if we left early enough, we could hopefully have lunch at the hut. And given that Bethany had done so well when it was the 3 of us walking, hubby would help get the 3 of us out the door, and then get himself sorted & catch up to us to save time in the morning.

The rain started quite heavily overnight. Every time I woke up, (well, Jordan woke me up), I could hear it belting down. But by morning it wasn’t too bad. Relatively light, just very clouded in, and constant.

We woke up with alarms at 6.45am.

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The kids playing together upon waking up in the hut.

After breakfast & coffee (Did I mention there were coffee plungers in every hut?!), I quickly finished packing the bag, and popped Jordan into a nappy with an extra thick booster added. I didn’t want to have to stop as often for changes, and in the wet weather it wasn’t worth unnecessarily pulling him out of his warm spot in the carrier to catch every pee.

We raincoated up. By this point I’d figured that the best breastfeeding-friendly tramping clothes was wearing only my sports bra under the carrier. The carrier then makes it look half like a t shirt anyway, and it enables the baby to be right up against my skin. Skin-to-skin is the best way to regulate baby’s temperature anyway. (Though baby wasn’t naked, he was wearing a single merino long sleeve bodysuit, and merino footed pants, with merino socks. But the single merino layer between our chests seemed perfect for regulating his temperature right in both hot & cold).

I then popped my raincoat over the both of us. I’d purposely brought a raincoat a size up so that I could zip a baby up inside. He had his merino hat on, and ideally I would have had a waterproof bonnet for over the top, but we ended up making do with a fruit bag tied round like a do-rag. I just kept an eye that it stayed high enough off his eyes and rest of his face.

Bethany was wearing merino & polyprop underneath the rain layers… or so I thought.

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The change in weather in the morning.

hour awake in the morning, and then sleeping around 2 hours in the carrier if not woken up, and then after another 1 hour awake was sleeping another 1-2 hours in the carrier, followed by a more awake afternoon / evening period. So, we tried to keep getting ready to under an hour so that he would just be ready to sleep when we started walking.

Sure enough, after about 5 minutes walking, he was out to it.

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Not bothered at all by this rain!

Me and Bethany held hands walking down the steep hill. We sang songs, talked about the markers, talked about how many more we had to go past, talked about what we were seeing, talked about whether we would be at the hut before daddy, and just acted silly together. We managed to make it halfway up to the skyline ridge by the time hubby caught up to us. Bethany then ran for a bit so that daddy wouldn’t catch her!

The rain wasn’t too heavy, and it wasn’t cold, but it was consistent rain, and a bit windy once we got up on the ridge. We didn’t want to hang out there too long with 2 little children, so Bethany got carried over most of it. She loved the steps though! But boy they were steep – we took those very slowly with a baby on the front!

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Down the skyline steps.

Once we were down, it wasn’t windy anymore, but it was still raining. Bethany was starting to get a little grizzly, so we gave her some lollies & decided we would stop soon, but keep going till Jordan woke up.

We were a little over halfway for the day when a group coming the other way stopped to talk to us, and that’s when Jordan woke up too, so we set up shelter there.

The shelter took about 2 mins to set up, and underneath we were perfectly dry. With warm weather, hubby gave Jordan some skin-to-merino because that seemed like a better idea to keep an eye on his temperature than leaving him on a mat, while I sorted Bethany out. Jordan had been completely dry underneath my raincoat, bar a little bit of sweat off me. Bethany on the other hand it turns out had not listened when we were getting ready in the morning, and taken her polyprops off, so underneath her raincoat only had a merino t-shirt. She was quite soaked through on the tummy & her pants, so we changed all her clothes under the shelter. The shoes were still wet, but there’s nothing like a dry pair of socks. Fully dry, she was super happy again. We had a big break there to re-gain some energy, rest the feet, eat some snacks, change the nappy, and all that. Jordan cooed at us all, and Bethany had fun cooing back at him!

stoney creek drone fly shelter nz with kids safety
The Stoney Creek Drone Fly shelter to the rescue! A very necessary item when tramping with kids.

Once Jordan was almost ready for a sleep again, we started walking. With hubby once again staying behind to pack down the shelter meanwhile.

Wow what a difference the dry break & clothes made for Bethany’s energy! She was off!

She did still need to be carried one more time before the hut, but she also knew we were almost there, and she was keen to go play with the other ladies at the hut who she’d definitely adopted as family by this point! Then she told us that one of the other ladies had said she could have one of her gummy worms if she walked the whole way to the hut. (Ah, so that’s where that energy came from haha!!)

tramping as a family nz in the rain
Carrying the 4 year old for a bit of a break and to cover some ground.

The baby slept peacefully most of the way, but did get grizzly a few times half-waking up. We also changed his hat – we were glad we’d taken multiple as that was the only item of his clothing that got a little wet.

About 1km before the hut, we got overtaken by two of the ladies also heading towards the hut – I’d sat down to have a break & wait for hubby who was taking photos now that it had cleared up a bit. And what did Bethany do – but race off wanting to walk with the ladies! They said it was ok though, so off she went, while I waited for hubby with Jordan.

Signposted time was 3-4 hours, and it ended up taking us 5.5 hours, with us arriving at the hut just before 2pm.

We then had a late lunch at the hut along with everyone else. Got the fire going to dry everything out, and had a restful afternoon chatting and hanging out. We took a few wonders around, Bethany played cards with the ladies, and Jordan got a bit restless, so we took him to the sleepout for a bit. He decided it would only be catnapping for 15 mins max the rest of the afternoon, but that didn’t stop him from still cooing at everyone between!

Bethany by this point was giving goodnight cuddles before bed to everyone in the hut – it was super adorable! We did hope to have her asleep in bed earlier than we did, but she somehow had an insane amount of energy.

kids sleeping in a hut nz backcountry ultralight kids sleeping bag
Eventually she was out to the world in the top bunk.

6.30am alarms woke us up. Jordan had already been up and half dreamily staring at me, so I’d been half awake for a wee bit too. I then quickly got dressed, packed out the bag and by that point Bethany woke up too, so we started getting her ready too. It was still a bit damp, but not raining. We still put the wet weather gear on, with me checking that Bethany did put ALL her layers on underneath.

I then got breakfast ready with Bethany while hubby looked after Jordan who was happily kicking around on the mattress while hubby packed his things up.

Not too shabbily, we were on the road by 8am. With hubby once again staying behind to finish packing his own things up, do the dishes, and clean up after.

We had warned Bethany that it would be a long day, and I think that may possible be why she had a pretty slow start to the morning. There was definitely a bit of tantruming going on, and she sulked for no apparent reason while walking very slowly. But we came across the first swingbridge, and “ME FIRST I WANT TO GO OVER IT!!!!!” and she was off. Then there were a few geocaches which also made her want to run up ahead and find them.

By this point it was beginning to look like the forecast may have been wrong! The skies were fully opening up & clearing – it was set to be a good day for sure!

We got to partway up The Boneyard when we had our first bigger break. A nappy change for Jordan, and layers off for me & Bethany. We then spotted hubby coming across the valley, and he was soon caught up to us. And what beautiful skies above!

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A cuddle with baby brother while having a break.

We’d now been overtaken by everyone by this point though, and knew we needed to keep going if we wanted to make it to the hut in time – so we encouraged Bethany that if she walked fast, we would make it to Goat Creek in time to have lunch with everyone else – given that’s where everyone else was stopping for lunch too. That motivation got her over Solemn Saddle.

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Helping lift Bethany over a puddle to make the journey more fun for her.
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The big boulders in The Boneyard.

We were making decent pace – when Bethany was walking by herself, we were averaging around 2km per hour, including breaks. When we were carrying her, we could walk at a pace of 10 – 15 minutes per km, so she did get carried a few times when it was looking like we needed to pick up some pace.

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Another snack break at The Hanging Judge.

In total it was a 25km day, signposted as 6-8.5hrs - so leaving at 8am, we expected we would be at the hut by 7.30pm or so. Which was fine given we had plenty of hearty snacks to drag dinner out, the weather looked good, and it would be light till almost 9 anyway. Bethany would be tired, but at least we could get her straight into bed we thought. Jordan on the other hand wouldn’t mind, as the carrier, cuddled up to mummy is his happy place anyway.

Once we got to Goat Creek Hut, there was a river crossing just before on the side trail. It was shallow enough for Bethany to cross, but she didn’t want wet feet, so we carried her over.

It was 1.30pm when we arrived at the hut – and we had in fact missed everyone. But we had arrived before 2pm which had been my aim, so that was great. We had our hot lunch inside, and rested for a bit on the beds.

arriving at goat creek hut with kids nz hiking
Arriving at Goat Creek Hut.

We were about ready to go, when out of nowhere a massive downpour hit. That’s what I get for confidently re-applying sunscreen!

So we decided to wait out the worst of it – it didn’t look like it could continue this bad for too long.

hut book goat creek hut tramping nz intentions kids
Checking out the hut book at Goat Creek Hut.

Once we were all wet weather geared up again, and the rain had settled, but was still going, we decided we would power along to the next hut – Mokihinui Forks Hut – which was just over 8km away. We could have another break there, and then it was only another 3km to Specimen Point Hut where our beds awaited us. And the trail was pretty flat from here on.

Bethany then got carried almost 4 of the 8km to Mokihinui Forks both due to the rain, and to gain some ground. We did have a boob break on the way, but the rain was light enough to not need to worry about the tarp shelter.

baby carrier tramping happy baby nz west coast hiking long distances
Cooing at mama from the carrier in the drizzle.

It was 5pm once we arrived at Mokihinui Forks. I decided we should whip out this hot chocolate – after all, this type of situation was why we carried a thermos of boiled water every day! It would give us all a bit of an energy boost for the last little bit of trail. And while we were out of the weather, we decided to rest for a bit too so that we could walk the next bit with no breaks hopefully.

That was seriously the best and most deserved hot chocolate I’ve had in my whole life.

Hot Chocolate tramping nz kids keeping warm in the cold
Enjoying the well deserved hot chocolate at Mokohinui Forks Hut.

Jordan had a happy kick around on the mattresses, and almost learnt to roll over! Bethany was happy playing with the pack of cards that was at the hut.

When 6pm rolled around, we decided we should head off – it was raining a little worse again, but we’d managed so far keeping Jordan fully dry under my raincoat, and Bethany wasn’t really too wet, and was pretty happy after that hot chocolate, and keen to meet up with everyone else at the hut. Had we had cookers, we probably would have just stayed at that hut, but we did need to cook dinner, and knew the others would be worried if we didn’t show up!

We’d been walking for about half an hour when one of the guys from the group also doing the route showed up – turns out they had been getting worried! We were happy and warm enough, slowly making our way, but Bethany didn’t turn down the offer of getting carried the last wee bit to the hut, and I was quite happy to have the tramping pack carried too. So we quickly raced the last wee bit to get to the hut faster, arriving a few minutes before 7pm. 11 hours total including breaks.

The fire was already cranking, and the kettle was already on – thanks guys!

It was a bit sad that this was going to be our last night on the track with this awesome group of people we’d gotten to know!

hut interior specimen point hut nz old ghost road
Inside the Specimen Point Hut- warm & dry.

We managed to dry everything that had gotten wet – which surprisingly wasn’t much – and have a good feed.

In total Bethany walked around 16-17km on that day, so we thought she would be shattered – but no! 10.30pm she still hadn’t fallen asleep despite us trying everything! “Have you not walked long enough today?” I asked. “NOPE” she giggled!

The view though – looking over the river from the deck – I just couldn’t get over how stunning it was!!

The last day we didn’t plan on rushing too much – the last forecast we had had showed some light drizzle, but we didn’t want to be too late out either, so we still set alarms and got me & the kids ready so hubby could stay back to tidy again.

breakfast with kids at the hut nz backcountry
Breakfast at the hut.

We also decided we would stop for pizza at the Rough & Tumble, as all this talk of good pizza at the huts had really got my mouth watering. (No idea why I always crave pizza after tramping!)

And we told Bethany, which was a great idea, as the pizza was a fantastic motivator to keep walking.

It was 8.28am as we left.

No rain, but damp. Jordan fell asleep as I was getting my boots on (Which one of the ladies kindly tied for me while I rocked him to sleep) and Bethany powered on!

Some stunning scenery with massive drop offs, and lots of bridges. I was glad she still tramps holding my hand 90% of the time, and boy was I holding on to that hand tightly! Though most of the drop offs were fenced which helped calm the mum nerves. But wow those cliffs and rock overhangs.

We’d done a couple of k’s when the rain did start, but luckily had our wet weather gear on already. Just needed to zip it up.

We’d been walking just over 4km (which had taken us 1.5 hours) when we came across some guys on motorbikes off to do maintenance & check traps. They said that the weather wasn’t due to get any better – eek!

Hubby caught up with us not long after, and I was keen to keep walking then to get out of the weather quickly while Jordan was still asleep. So he picked Bethany up to carry her giving her a break, but allowing us to keep moving. We kept switching between her walking & being carried, till Jordan woke up at pretty much exactly the halfway point.

Here we set up the tarp shelter between the trees, and decided to change Bethany into dry clothes, as her pants had gotten quite wet on account of the rain pants being too short, and somehow her tops were pretty damp too. Jordan was still fully dry though and happy. Just in need of a feed. We’d been walking for just over 2.5 hours by this point. So she ate her lunch sitting on dads raincoat with her feet wrapped in a quick dry towel to keep them warm. We decided to have a slightly longer break, just because the rain was a bit colder today, and we didn’t want to have to keep stopping, or risk getting Jordan wet. Plus, other than her merino onesie, that was the last of Bethany’s dry clothes that we’d just changed her into.

We were almost finished with our lunch, when BAM the rain really hit. Like massive torrential downpour hit. Ok. We were waiting this one out – at least for now.

 

Once the lunch was finished, it was decision time – what’s the best option? The rain is super heavy – but obviously not due to get much better. We’re still just over 8km away from the road end. But there is a Lodge there which will be warm and it’s relatively flat. But if we go out, we will likely get drenched quickly… hmm… we also don’t want Bethany to get too cold. And if we start walking, stopping again may not be the best idea, because if she’s gotten wet, the stop will be too cold. Jordan will be fine if he’s wrapped up in my raincoat – and the wrap was still 99% dry – but he will probably need to get taken out again for another feed or nappy change if we don’t walk fast enough. But, if we waited till he was almost asleep, I could get another 2 hour sleep out of him. If Bethany started walking, she could keep going for up to about 3 hours before needing a break if it was mixed with being carried. At 8km, we were probably about 2.5 hours away with no stops. Hubby can carry Bethany for about 1-2km at a time if the track isn’t too bad, but could probably do more if need be.

So we decided that as soon as the rain subsided for a bit, me & the kids would be off while hubby packed up the shelter. Once he caught up to us, he carried Bethany, and we powered through. We did the next 5km or so in under an hour, and then the rain subsided some more. So we took a more relaxed approach for the next wee bit and had a couple of breaks. We weren’t far iif it did start raining again. Jordan was still dry, and comfortable up against my skin. I’d swapped his hat out, and he was warm. Bethany was slightly damp, but she was getting so excited that we were getting close to pizza. The sun even came out for a wee bit!

About 400m short of the end, she had a massive tantrum – I CAN’T DO IT!! We gave a few words of encouragement, and then very soon we could smell the fire coming from the Rough & Tumble Lodge. “Can you smell it?” I asked. “Yes mummy! That’s pizza! Keep smelling it otherwise the smell will go away!!”

And then she ran once she spotted the end! There was even someone there to give her a massive cheer when we came out. She was stoked! And Jordan woke up just as we finished walking.

Signposted time was 4-6 hours, and we powered through in 5.5 including our almost 1hr long break under the shelter!

Once inside at the Rough & Tumble we got her changed into dry clothes – and Jordan was no longer in the carrier which was a bit damp so we swapped him in to some thicker wool. Perfect timing, as just after we got changed, the rain came down again.

old ghost road with kids baby toddler preschooler tramping in nz
We did it!

Bethany had her pizza, a hot chocolate, and had a play with the people who we’d been en-route with. So proud of herself.

And after we’d all eaten, relaxed, we were off to our bach for the night.

 

I definitely wouldn’t have done this walk with the kids this young with less experience. But we were well equipped to handle the crazy weather. Knew what to do to keep warm, and Bethany had enough tramping experience under her belt too to know how things work. Because 4 year old tantrums can be intense!

Because we’d also tramped long distances with Bethany as a baby, it meant we had some idea of how things would go over 5 days with Jordan, how to keep him happy & how to keep him warm.

Next time however I definitely won’t be taking disposables for overnight. It seemed like a good option based on how glorified they are for absorbency, but we found them more of a hassle. Not to mention the fact you can’t ‘dry them out’ so have to carry the wet weight out. Hopefully soon we will be able to lift Jordan up for pees at night too, reducing night time nappy need, however he’s a better sleeper than his sister (doesn’t take much!) so it’s currently not worth the lost sleep. We’ve found Minimi nappies with the XL hemp inserts to last even him all night overnight now.

With our daytime nappies I ended up with only 2 inners spare – due to the amount of rain we had come through, which stopped anything drying too much the last 3 days. Because the shells dry faster, most remained clean, and we kept cycling throughthe same 4 shells.

In a way, Bethany was actually more work on the trail than Jordan. He just slept and boobed, and got fussy sometimes, but was generally not too worried about where he was getting boob or who was holding him and would happily sleep when carried. Bethany on the other hand threw the odd tantrum (4 year olds have big feelings!) and acted like her ears were painted on sometimes (like any other child). But the return was a lot greater too. She keeps talking about things she saw, and the joy on her face throughout was priceless! She’s already asking when we can go back again!

 

 

 

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