December 26th
Koitiata Campground(873.4)-Mount Lee Reserve Campground(896.2)
Mileage: 22.3mi/35.9km
Campsite Elevation: 393ft/120m

Elevation chart courtesy of Guthook Hikes Te Araroa App.

I was awake pretty early and energized to hike, but we had agreed on a 7:30am leave time, which became 7:45am. My solo self is pushing hard to do things at my own rhythm, and I’ve been fighting the resistance knowing it’s just pent up remnants of so much time on a group schedule lately. Although both yesterday and today, I would have probably landed in the same places, I had the urge to do it independently my own way and am craving some of that solo time. My challenge for myself thus far on the Te Araroa has been to not flee the more relaxed approach and sometimes larger group setting. I like to challenge myself in new ways on trails, and I’ve done the physical endurance solo thing plenty of times. I know there is something to be said for taking the more relaxed approach and sharing the experience with others, but I think I need some solo time for at least a day to reset. I’ve never spent this much time in group settings in my life! I will say that it is possible to break this pattern if anyone is looking for a more solo TA hike, but it is difficult to do that and camp legally. It seems to be the limited camping options that put people in the same campsites, but if you hike your own schedule, you could probably hike solo. 

As for today, I walked with a great group of five others (Becky, Frits, Ned, Jacob, and Brittney) for the day. It started off with some wooded hiking and then an hour or so on a black sand beach. We’re back on the west coast for the first time since the first week of the hike!

The day went very smoothly, and I was pleasantly surprised that most of the day was on forest roads. I had heard this whole section was road walking, but gravel forest roads are more like wide trails, so it was great!

The sun was pretty intense today, and I used the umbrella most of the day to stay cool. Jacob and Brittney carry a tarp that can be used for shade and it came in handy for our lunch along the road. The woman that lived where we stopped even came out and told us many hikers stop there for a break and that we could refill our water at her house. People are so nice through this section!

Lunch with tents laid out to dry from almost nightly condensation out here.

The road changed to paved as we headed through the town of Bulls. With the heat, we all had our hopes set on something refreshing in town. Most of us landed at McDonalds for a brief break of wifi and milkshakes before hiking out. It was two hours of paved walking on a more remote road to the campground for the night.

Walking through the town of Bulls.

I actually did enjoy today, and didn’t use my headphones as there was plenty of conversation when I was in the mood. I got some extended one on one with each Brittany (along the beach) and Ned (in the evening) that were nice bookends to the day and helped to pass the time. 

We got to camp at 5:45pm, a nice small free park called Mount Lees Reserve. It is open to camping with toilets, water, and picnic tables. A bit later, Suvi, Bill, and Emily arrived, so it is the same 9 camped together as last night. The one drawback is that it also allows vans to park in the small parking area by the camping to sleep overnight. There are six vans parked next to us with lots of socializing, but now that it’s after 10pm, they seem to be turning in for the night. Lots of commotion to and from the bathroom and closing car doors. Ah, nature. This section goes through many small towns, so camping options are somewhat limited, and this seemed to be the one good option for today before walking into the town of Fielding. 

Tomorrow is another day of road walking through a couple towns. Unless something changes overnight, I think I might take the day to hike solo just to get a much needed reset. I’m excited about that possibility!

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