Our girls have been sharing the fun on our bikes since they could sit up by themselves. As they grew, little laps around the block evolved into longer gravel rides with other families and onwards to gentle zooms around the berms on the local grade 3 trails.
We’d been on a few cycle tours pre-children, and plenty of family overnight tramps, so it wasn’t long before we thought we’d have a crack at family bikepacking.
Already laden with a child each, but without most of the fancy bags, we knew we couldn’t quite manage tenting. So I scoured the map for a bookable hut not too far from the road, with options for exploring further if the kids were into it.
The Snow Farm’s Meadow Hut was just the ticket for a family adventure that began after kindy: a guaranteed bed at the end of a 15 minute down hill ride on an easy track at the edge of the conservation area.
It’s always a pleasure to arrive at a hut with my 3 year old. These wonderful shelters from the storm have so many nooks and crannies to explore, that she forgot that she was tired from a day of pre-school and got stuck into investigating her nights accommodation.
These huts are super popular in winter: there’s not many spots where you can spend the night in a hut that close to the road and without serious alpine skills. But mid-December we had the place to ourselves… Which was just as well, since our girls have lungs and know how to use them.
Despite it being high summer, there was a chilly nor wester funnelling through the rolling tussock terrain. So we lit the fire, huddled up close and enjoyed peering out at the lovely evening light show as we waited for the kids to get tired enough to attempt putting them to sleep.
Full of smiles the next morning after pretty good night, the girls scoffed breakfast whilst mum and dad got ready.
Intently, they listened as we explained our plan for the day: head up into the nearby Pisa Conservation Area, to visit Kirtle Burn Hut for lunch.
View Larger map on www.Topomap.co.nz
Stashing the sleeping stuff and wrapping up against the nor-west, we began our slow pedal up valley.
Having the kids in the ‘shotgun’ seats up front makes it feel really inclusive: It’s easy to chat on the move, you share the same viewpoint and (best of all) travel at the same speed!
The 4WD track up the Kirtle Burn was a bit more challenging than the Snow Farm trails; without the kids we’d have zoomed the downhills enjoying the challenge, and puffed the ascents in one go. But with precious cargo on board, we made sure to take it easy and stop often for snacks and exploring.
A highlight for the girls were the fords; they got to watch Daddy carry the bikes, play stepping stones and then scoff a bit of chocolate on the other side!
At the Kirtle Burn DOC hut the wind had eased, allowing us to enjoy our lunch in the sun.
Whilst the girls demolished their kai, I pulled out the map and looked at all the other bikepacking options on the range. Certainly more than enough for several weekend’s worth of missions! Maybe via Mt Pisa then onwards to Queensbury, or clockwise around the main range to Meg Hut and back to the Cardrona Pub: nothing like a beer to motivate you for the last few kilometers!
But for us, we’d reached the fartherst point of our family adventure. Time to get the girls home before the day’s energy ran out.
Heading back down valley was nice and quick, with parents and kids both enjoying the free-wheeling feeling. Grabbing our overnight kit back at Meadow Hut, we settled into the last uphill grind, focusing on the promise of hot chips (for the kids) and cold beer (for the parents).
Having map-missioned a big adventure to the pub, it was great when we made it to Cardrona Pub afterall. Not via the ‘big-kids’ route, but with daughters aged 3 and 1, mum and dad certainly felt like the direct line was enough to earn us our beer ;0)