Around here, the trails are in what is officially a ‘production’ forest, where trees grow until they are big enough to sell to somebody. Depending how you look at it, you could argue about that definition all day, and we frequently do.
Pine trees on the volcanic plateau grow pretty fast. A plot that gets mowed down can be a sort of forest within half a decade. It is a constant source of amazement how soon a cut-over bomb site can turn into a shadowy glade.
The real forest vibe doesn’t kick in until a lot later. After twenty odd years, there is an understory of mostly native plants, with grasses and ferns along the sides of the trails. Some patches in Whakarewarewa Forest are a lot older than that, and can have an almost cathedral-like feeling.
One such block was the patch of Douglas Fir that featured a trail called Pondy New. It abuts a very steep pine block which had the triple decker of Frankn’Furter, RiffRaff and Rocky Horror - three mad, steep trails that dropped into a deep canyon.
Pondy New was a mellow grade 3 trail that connected a long flow trail above it to another one below. It was the sort of trail anybody could have fun on, and it got a lot of traffic.
This summer that all got the chop.
Taking out hundreds of big trees from steep country necessitates making a mess. An aspect of this process that amazes me is how the forest teams try to leave small native trees and tree ferns in the forest are left standing if they can. Even so, the scene after logging is hard to connect with what was familiar terrain before.
As soon as public access was allowed, I went up for a scout to where Pondy New used to be.
Got there, and was very sad for about a minute. Then I was in oxygen debt for about five, while I laboured up a skid site, to see if I could figure out where the trail had been.
Mood lifted a little, because where once was a dark and bosky wood, now there was a whole new view of the region. Cool.
Lifted a little more when I saw that the Trails Trust crew had already started a link trail, which will transport riders from where they enter the carnage to where it stops. I got quite excited when I hoofed it up to an overview of where the new link trail will go. It will be fun.
When I got far enough to look down into the Rocky Horror canyon I was really stoked - just to see the rugged rock faces that removing the trees has exposed.
In a week or so the link will be rideable. Can’t wait. In a lot longer the trees will be back, and who knows what will end up being in there.
Something pretty good, probably.