Mt Arthur Tablelands
Feb 28 - March 2, 2007
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Gridiron shelter Window at Gridiron Mushroom at Gridiron Salisbury Hut Salisbury interior Mt Arthur sunset Track to Tablelands Bishop's Cave clearing Limestone grotto

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Mt Arthur Tablelands

The Tablelands comprise a remakable scenic and natural history region within Kahurangi National Park. On the east is Mt Arthur and a range of flanking peaks, a twisted massif of karst limestone. On the west is Mt Peel, whose gentle slope leads to a commanding view of mountains and valleys in all directions. Between are the Tablelands, a high elevation plateau perched above the dramatic valleys of the Lesley and Karamea rivers. In the late 19th century, pioneering settlers and prospectors attempted to exploit this region as pastureland and for alluvial gold deposits. Neither enterprise yielded rewards sufficient to support lasting settlement. However, for more than 100 years the scenery, plant and birdlife, and geological features have attracted recreational visitors and occasional scientists. It remains a relatively accessible and favourite destination for today's trampers, botanisers, and cavers.

Alice and I enjoyed a 3-day wander through this area, basing ourselves for two nights at Salisbury Lodge (technically a standard public hut, but a bit nicer that average). A steep access road leads to a carpark at 900m, making the hike down the Flora Stream and then up to the 1,300m hut relatively easy, despite misty rain. Once there, on our second day we ranged across the Tablelands to Balloon Hut and Mt Peel in weather which was somewhat overcast, but nonetheless afforded fine views. We particularly enjoyed seeing a number of rare subalpine plant species in the herbfields and scree of Mt Peel. On our third day we returned to the carpark by a different route, ascending a rough track steeply over Gordon's Pyramid to the base of Mt Arthur, and then following the ridge down through open subalpine tussock and shrubfields, then beautiful native beech forest -- both classic New Zealand wilderness attractions.