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This is a hill and back run (not hilly just 1 long hill). Start at the carpark and head along the track a few hundred metres till you cross a small bridge. Immediately after this turn right on the Main Ridge Track (also one end of the water race track). From here every right hand option is your friend (avoid the left options today, they are undulating nice easy tracks for your recovery tomorrow).
Keep on the main ridge track up to a small lookout diversion you'll see on your left near the top of the first climb (its worth the look). After this small diversion back on the track you will be lulled into a false sense of security on a fun downhill that is short lived and meets the junction to Collins Drive West (ignore this for the moment) and keep on the Main Ridge Track to Hihi and Paton Stream Dam, which is of course up, up and up. If in doubt head up.
After the next climb you'll see the Paton Stream Dam track junction on your right (again that's for later) right now you're focussed on burning the quads so keep going up. You'll find this section gets into super pretty bush (moss, small streams unless its the peak of summer) and nice cover overhead. Follow this all the way to Hihi which has a short antenna station on it - admire the views, take a selfie of your bright red sweaty face and if you've been puffing like a steam train reflect on the fact you just climbed from 30m above sea level to 730m. In about 5km.
Head on down back where you came from - now the fun begins. On your way down take the Paton Stream Dam turn off and you'll find the remnants of an old Kauri slip dam (see pics). This is a cool spot where you feel like the only person on earth among big old kauri square cut beams strewn across the stream valley (see pic). Follow your steps back to the main track turn left and head on down to the junction you passed earlier today with the track to the Collins Drive West entrance. Flick your headtorch on and check out this 600m tunnel shaft that was blasted and pick axed in vain in the hope of a quartz reef full of gold. Nice work fellas, you made a cool diversion for this run, bummer about the lack of gold tho.
Head through the tunnel and at the other end take the track down to water race track and turn left to head back towards the carpark. Form here any of the tracks will eventually take you near the river which you can follow back to the carpark. If you turn right it just adds a km or two (the Battery Hills recreational area map is a handy way to explore round here - there's a few more shafts and tunnels about and some great swimming holes on the Puketui river to soak those legs in)
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Features of interest
Paton Stream Dam is an old trip dam and quite a spectacular spot worth the short 1.5km return diversion. Large old pieces of the original dam are strewn across the valley
Collins Drive is a 600m long mine shaft right through the hillside, a few glowworms and cave wetas if you look closely - head torch is a must here as it is as black as the inside of a cow in the middle of this tunnel and strategically placed outcrops of sharp rock exist in just the right spot to split your head on if you forget your torch (from personal experience)
This track is the early part of the Surf2Firth Marathon that runs from Hikuai School to Thames every year - its a grueling beauty of an event
Make Up of Run
Technical Single Track: 30%
Moderate Single Track: 50%
Easy Single Track: 20%
Starts at the end of Puketui Valley Rd by the small carpark. Head to Hikuai (gas station on the main road SH25) then take Morrisions Rd to connect onto Puketui Valley Rd
No public transport. Parking for 6-7 cars at the trail head or if full in the campground or back on the road by the bridge you crossed to get here. Never had any safety issues here.
A few hundred metres from the start you cross a small bridge. The track is immediately right after the bridge (Main Ridge Track to Hihi and also one end of Water Race Track). Don't miss this turn off and then stay on every right hand option for the next 1km or so. There are a couple of left hand options that are way too flat for what you signed on for.
Thermal leggings, Short-sleeved thermal top, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival blanket, Cellphone, Map.
Some at a tap in the campground - otherwise a few small streams near the tops but these may dry up in summer so bring what you need. You can rely on Paton Stream Dam stream usually if you need to.
Slippery bits on the Coromandel clay that sticks through here and there but generally fine after the first part of the climb where the track is a little more worn
I have recommended a EPIRB and extra gear as very few people walk this track above the first lookout and Collins Drive - so don't rely on someone else coming across you - if you do get in trouble you'll need to sort your own rescue.
Post run indulgence
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