POTTS HUT - DOGS RANGE - MYSTERY LAKE
7-8 May 2016
Mystery Lake is well named. It might be located on Te Araroa but as you head past Lake Clearwater to the Potts River Bridge it is very difficult to see where a large lake could be located within the extensive tussock terraces south of the Dogs Range. The inclusion of some of the historic station huts in the conservation estate has enabled this feature to be visited in a convenient weekend round trip.
Our party of four disembarked and shouldered packs on the far side of the Potts River Bridge. The initial climb from 600m to about 1200m is harder than it looks. The river terrace appears to be even tussock slopes but there are a number of watercourses to be crossed. We took a route that climbs high to reduce the number of these “undulations” and reduces the exposure to matagouri in the river gorge section. Traversing at 1200m enables the worst of this to be avoided and minimizes the winter river crossings. We reached the former station hut a bit after six hours. The hut is a basic uninsulated 10 bunk hut with firebox that we decided not to light due to the lack of available firewood. You can lie in bed at night and watch the stars since the original roof iron has been reused with the previous nail holes now located on the ridges.
A frosty start the next day followed an old four-wheel track (and cycle track) on the 600m climb to Dogs Range (1500m). We decided follow the track and not climb onto the end of theDogs Range and were rewarded when we reached the large tarn that forms the start of Boundary Creek.
This frost rimed tarn provided perfect reflections in both directions. The track zig-zags steeply up the side of the range before reaching the 1546m high point. We traversed along the range through an extensive burnt area that had apparently been caused by lightning strike rather than careless trampers that we had feared. We finally connected with Te Araroa and the steep descent down to Mystery Lake. The water in the lake was refreshing but the slight breeze meant the reflections weren’t quite as spectacular as at the earlier Boundary Creek tarn.
The track down the true left of Potts River seems endless particularly when you can see the car for hours. There has been extensive four-wheel drive use of the route resulting in an extensively rutted track. This would be a character-building learning experience for mountain bikers of my ability.
This trip forms a great shoulder winter trip with minimal stream crossings and some spectacular reflections providing some of the deep snow on previous trips can be avoided.
Trampers were: Angela Grigg, Miriam Preston, Joy Schroeder and Gary Huish. (GH)