Dog Tails With Oshy // Cuckoo Creek Trail (NZ)

Join Oshy the dog (a diehard fan of Bitchin’ Beer Dog Treats) to explore one of the many trails that the Craigieburn area has to offer. This one via the Cuckoo Creek Trail is full of odd names and a slight chance of getting lost, as well as plenty of incredible New Zealand views. 


Highlights

  • Reliably epic, New Zealand scenery
  • A loop track that can be walked or cycled
  • Immerse yourself in native, alpine forest

The Hunt

I bounded over fallen branches and spindly, green vegetation. The tall, skinny trees passed me as a blur, as I ran deeper and deeper into the forest. The scent I had detected was becoming clearer and more pungent as I homed in on the source. Finally, after all these hunting trips, I was able to prove to Rusty that the ‘Hunt’ in ‘Huntaway’ was completely justified.

Dog Tails With Oshy // Cuckoo Creek Trail (NZ) Ian Middleton, woods, forest, trees

Rotten branches exploded under paw as I landed in a clearing to come face to face with… nothing. I looked around the empty clearing confused. I was convinced that this was where the scent was coming from.

It was around that time that I realised I had no idea which direction I had arrived from. Everything looked the same. ‘Not to worry, I’ll just follow my nose’, I smirked to myself. I always seem to come up with the best lines when no one is around to hear them.

I raised my nose into the air, attempting to detect the scents of either Ian or Rusty. Nothing. It started to dawn on me that I might be lost…

The Trail

Several hours earlier, Ian, Rusty and I had arrived at the Mt. Cheeseman ski field access road, located in Craigieburn, one and a half hours’ drive from Christchurch. It was another fresh day, with blue skies, no wind, and a radiant sun hanging high above us. Ideal hunting conditions.

Parking at Texas Flat – which is a bit of an odd name I know – we wound along and up the Cheeseman access track – which also is a bit of an odd name, I know – and then turned off onto the newly signposted Cuckoo Creek trail – I’ve heard worse – and returned via the Dracophyllum Flat track – it’s a native New Zealand plant, before you ask.

The access track was typical of most access tracks, a winding rocky road that gradually made its way skywards. The view over the surrounding Craigieburn mountains improved with every step until an hour later, we arrived at a signpost indicating the start of the Cuckoo Creek trail.

The trail abruptly dropped away from the road, and we were immediately immersed in browns and greens, as the squidgy, earthy trail disappeared into the woodland. White, crystallised frost lined the fallen trees and branches where the morning sun hadn’t taken effect yet. Rusty and I darted around, exploring this hunting territory full of new scents and sounds.

After thirty minutes and 2km of this, we arrived at the Dracophyllum Flat track.

“What, is that it?” I asked, at yet another doomed hunting expedition.

We turned right and headed back towards the direction of Texas Flat. A little disappointed by my failed hunting endeavour, I was close to giving up but then I detected a faint scent emanating from somewhere through the trees. I sprang to attention and sprinted off to track it down.

The Happy Ending

Now, standing in the clearing, it became evident that I may have been a little too ambitious with the exploring and I found myself in a bit of a predicament. Unable to hear or smell where Ian and Rusty were, I frantically looked around, attempting to recognise something that would lead me back to where I came from. As my nose was failing me, I stood still and held my breath, flexing my ears to detect any Ian or Rusty related sounds.

“Ooooooossssssssssssssshhhhyyyyyyyyy…”

I thought I heard something in the distance, coming from somewhere behind me.

“God damn it. Where are you? Katrina is going to kill me”.

That was definitely Ian. There was only one person I knew who lived in such fear of his partner’s wrath. Suddenly I was able to detect the unmistakable smell of terror, as Ian’s sweat glands went into overdrive. Acting as a homing beacon, I chased the scent down to finally be reunited with a relieved Ian and a nonchalant Rusty.

In an awkward silence, we walked the remainder of the Dracophyllum Flat track back to Texas Flat where we first began. Ian can be such a worrier sometimes.

Essential Gear

  • Usual walking stuff
  • Mountain Bike (during the warmer months Cuckoo Creek is an excellent bike trail)
  • Food / Water (human and canine). Try the aforementioned Bitchin’ Beer Dog Treats for your pooch.
  • Camera

How To Get There

From Christchurch, head towards the west coast via Route 73. The Cheeseman Ski Field access road is on the left, just after Castle Hill Village See the map below for details of the route.

Activities

  • Walking
  • Mountain Biking

Skill Level

Beginner — Intermediate

Distance Covered / Elevation Gain

8.5km / 270m

 


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