By Leah Parker

It’s rather fitting that I am here at Mt Arthur Hut writing this, as it is here where our adventure challenge began all those months ago. We’d had the most magical morning enjoying the sunrise over Tasman Bay on the icy rocks above the hut. I stood behind my boys James ( 4 ) and Tom ( 3 ) and as the colours changed in the sky and they watched their first sunrise it gave me goosebumps. They headed back down through the long grass towards the hut for breakfast with the morning rays warming their cheeks as they ran.

Mt Arthur

Reading Nathan Faave’s book (Adventurer at Heart) had motivated to do more with my family in the outdoors, so I knew this was just the beginning. Once we were back home we hatched a plan. We challenged ourselves to get the boys into the outdoors at least once a week for a year. A broad brief really, but lets face it, life with youngsters can be hectic and during the challenge year I would also return to work full time. Planning was key and got the boys involved from the start. We found that if they were on board with the adventure from the planning stage they needed less encouragement during. We also made sure that we all knew the expectations around helping pack and un pack. It really helps take the pressure off and teaches the children about what is needed.

I won’t bore you with the details of 52 adventures but there were a few stand out times. A few months after the challenge began the boys and I set out in Nelson Lakes on a circuit of Lake Rotoiti. 

Travers Valley bridge, Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes National Park

It was drizzling lightly as we headed to Lake Head Hut, with the boys carrying tiny sleeping bags in their tiny packs. A few things got wet, but were easily dried out by the fire that night. Heading up the Travers Valley the next day we enjoyed a great lunch sitting on a giant log staring up at the snowy tops. The track was very quiet allowing a very special time of bonding without distraction, or thoughts of everyday life. 

Morning tea, Travers Valley Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes National Park

We reached Coldwater Hut just as it began to snow. There was very little dry wood but our dismal fire was enough to take the chill off and we were soon snuggled down to sleep. We awake to a winter wonderland with 10cm at lake level. The forecast had been slightly out with snow levels but not to worry: it was a stunning bluebird day. The first part of our final leg was fine but as the track gained elevation towards the road end the snow deepened and conditions were less than favourable: 20-30cm of slushy snow is pretty tough for little legs! 

On top of the difficult conditions underfoot, each time they boys brushed past the snow-laden foliage, they were showered with icy droplets. 

The frustration grew and the boys eyes welled up. They struggled through, but eventually Tom proclaimed “Mum, this is too much adventure”. We will never forget that trip or that comment.

Mt Robert outside Kea Hut Nelson Lakes National Park

Trying new things together was a fun part of the challenge. We went caving, tramping, biking, horse-riding, camping, kayaking and more as we (gently) pushed our comfort zones. 

Boulder Bank Lighthouse, Nelson Harbour
Rawhiti Cave, Dry Creek Valley, Golden Bay

Outings varied from one or two hours to multi-day trips. We had fine weather and we had rubbish weather, enjoyed sun rises and sunsets. To mix it up we did one of our favourite local walks at night by head torch. Some of the best times were a simple outing and picnic on the beach.

Pohara Beach Golden Bay Sunset

Bike trips featured a bit, especially once Tom got his first bigger bike with gears. In part this was thanks to James giving him some of his xmas money from a grandparent to contribute to his little brothers’ bike cause. This generous gesture made us very proud, which we think was due in part to the camaraderie and team spirit our adventures were building. 

Walking the Abel Tasman was another highlight. We had a shaky start with flooding closing the Awaroa inlet crossing, so we returned from Golden Bay to regroup before re-joining the track via water taxi the next day. The remainder of the trip was stunning and dry. I enjoyed watching the boys interact with the tourists and seeing people’s reaction to the youngsters on the trial. The boys soon learnt they had no option but to walk. Carrying gear for three meant there was no option for piggy backs although somehow by the time we reached Marahau I was carrying 3 packs!

Anchorage Bay, Abel Tasman National Park

As we approached our final adventures, we tried our best to do some new things. Local adventure company “Happy Valley” provided a few options including horse riding one weekend and an Argo ride a few weeks later. Not having spent a lot of time around horses, we all found this a little intimidating: when I had to get on the horse to show the boys that it was OK, I must admit to being a little nervous. 

Horse riding, Happy Valley Adventure Park, Cable Bay

Our 52nd challenge was adventures based out of Lochmara Lodge in the Marlborough Sounds.

Mistletoe Bay, Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough Sounds

Our day started early with the drive to Picton to catch the water taxi. First we visited the underwater observatory and explored the touch tanks. Next we (or should I say “I”) hand fed the stingrays. It was terrifying but I put on a brave face in a bid to encourage the boys to give it a go. They didn’t though!

 Next we tried kayaking which went down a treat. This was the first time the boys had kayaked and we have since all got our own. Often you will see us out with the boys’ kayaks tethered to ours. (though in Tom’s case there is often very little paddling going on at the back of the kayak-train). 

After lunch we went on the flying fox, fed the pigs, visited the bees and went for a bush walk. A highlight of the day was visiting the aviary and hand feeding the Kakariki. It was the perfect end to an amazing year.

Hand feeding the Kakariki, Lochmara Lodge, Marlborough Sounds

It was an awesome challenge and a little sad that it came to an end. We still look back fondly on the adventures we shared over that 12 months and all the adventures we have shared since. So give it a go! 

Set yourself a family challenge to get out there: remember, A is for Adventure!

‘A for Adventure’ – Howard Valley historical mining area, Murchison

FMC thanks Leah Parker for contributing her article and photos. This resource is part of FMC’s Outdoor Community campaign, celebrating and encouraging Family Tramping. Check out the other articles on Family Tramping here on Wilderlife. If you’ve got stories, tips or encouragement that you’re willing to share, please get in touch.