Ruahine Forest Park, Hawke’s Bay - February 2021
Ruahine Forest Park boasts a number of dog-box style bivouacs – all built by the former New Zealand Forest Service during the deer-culling era. However, Tarn Bivouac can perhaps lay claim to being the most spectacularly situated of all those in the Ruahine Range. Perched on Black Ridge, the diminutive shelter overlooks the Tukituki Valley, with fine views eastwards and – after a short hike to the ridge crest – a stunning vista of the imposing Sawtooth Ridge.
Built in the 1960s, the two-person bivouac gets about 20-30 visitors a year, and needed some serious attention. The old tie-down cables had caused significant damage to the roof, the window leaked, it needed fresh paint inside and out, and the toilet pit was full. In February 2021, a team funded by the BCT completed some excellent work on site.
Thanks to Chris Crosse at East Kaweka Helicopters, what would otherwise have been a hot and sweaty half-day walk up from Mill Road was a simple three-minute ride for the team of four: David Middleditch (group lead), Pablo Martinez, Lisa Fraser and Megan Dimozantos (BCT).
Warm sun and gentle breezes meant the team could really get stuck in.
The first job was cutting back the encroaching tussock to provide access and allow better air circulation, and removing timber skirting from the front and sides of the bivvy. The old tie-down cables had been concreted into the ground, so Dave and Pablo dug new dead-man timbers in behind the concrete stumps, ready to secure new cables. Lisa scrubbed the bivvy inside and out with sugar soap in preparation for painting, and primed the bare wood.
Day 2 saw the roof and lead-head nails carefully removed to reveal a dry and sound roof frame, which only needed a few additional purlins. However, when Megan removed the old window, it fell apart, revealing wet timbers that needed to dry overnight. That meant she had time to dig a new toilet pit!
By day’s end the new tie-down cables were in place and Dave and Pablo had half completed the roof. Lisa finished painting a couple of coats inside the bivvy.
Perfect weather on Day 3 enabled the team to finish the roof, install the window, and get a coat of paint on the cladding. Megan built a great deck for the thunder box, which also got a new seat plus new paint. Finishing touches included new hinges for the door, and some joist straps underneath.
Tarn Bivvy was now in 'as-good-as-new' condition, or maybe slightly improved, ready for the next guest – who actually arrived just before the team finished!
Back Country Trust projects like this provide volunteers with not only an opportunity to maintain the hut network they so value, but also a chance to to gain valuable new skills.