The annual trip is not so much about the destination (and we have had some mighty trips over the 33 years - even with the help of a helicopter) but more about the camaraderie with a multi day tramp (hike) thrown in.
The 2013 trip was planned to be one of these events. Lake Minchin at the head of the Poulter River was to be the destination. However on the day, the weather was to have a say, plus one member's recent knee op put some doubt on whether he would make the distance, particularly in light of the atrocious weather forecast.
Now these fully grown lads sometimes have difficulty making decisions. Packs in the 4WD and off to Darfield for coffee, one hour out of town. Coffees in hand, the discussion commenced - "What are the alternatives?". "We got the 4WD to Lochinvar Hut behind Mt White Station many moons ago. We can base ourselves there". A quick call to Mt White Station ended that proposition. They were mustering and using the hut, plus didn't want the 4WD disturbing the stock. A few other possibilities were aired.
"What about the field station at the junction of the Harper and Avoca rivers behind Lake Coleridge" I asked. "Worth a try" was the answer and we headed around Lake Lyndon to Glenthorne Station who now control the area and run the old field station - now called "the Retreat'.
We were in luck and booked the place for a several nights. The 4WD had no trouble with the track and riverbed and we were soon parking 3 metres from the front door!
I have a secret passion for this quintessential area of High Country Canterbury. My Dad took me up here in 'Old Austin' (see '353' post) way back in ~1958 when I was 10 years old to visit my big brother who was working up here on a fencing contract for the NZFS.
Me outside the Fitzwilliam hut in 1958
The same hut in 2013 - the mice are still there!
The Fitzwilliam hut is only a few hundred metres from "The Retreat". The hut is where we stayed in 1958, and I have visited it several times since on my solo trips, including the Trans South Island venture a few years ago. Immediately behind the hut is a small creek which is the outlet of Lake Lillian, a beautiful tranquil tiny mountain lake only a few hectares in size. The walk up the creek takes ~20 minutes and opens up another world.
Lake Lillian the afternoon we arrived
Lake Lillian 24 hours later after a day's hiking in the area
Here endeth the story - a very long winded epistle to tell you about one of my favourite places in the hills. A place with good memories of many visits. And I am confident there will be be more visits to come. Go check it out for yourself. There is much to explore in the area.
Out of interest, I mentioned Triangle Hut in one of my previous posts on graffiti - it is only ~1 hours hike from Lake Lillian.