Booths Cottage, Nelson Lakes National Park20230128 Booths Cottage

Saturday 28 January 2023

Late January, the height of summer, a three-day long weekend (Nelson Anniversary) … sounds like a perfect recipe for a tramping trip above the bushline … yes? But no - a nasty incoming weather system put paid to that idea. Saturday being the best of the three days, a last-minute expedition was instead mounted to head somewhere dry for the day. 

16km from St Arnaud is the Howard Valley Road, and 7km down said road brings you to the Louis Creek Goldfields picnic area where we started and finished our anti-clockwise loop.

We headed back down the road a short ways, past the historic hall, then hung a left onto the 4WD Porika Track. A few high clearance cars passed us (heading to the gold fossicking areas) and eleven noisy trail bikes (boys-weekend to the West Coast via the roads least travelled). 

After a gentle but steady climb, near the summit we did a short detour to a lookout under the power pylons, then headed down the other side. Shortly afterward, instead of continuing on down to Lake Rotoroa, we veered to the left onto a forest track and popped out in the clearing at Booths Cottage, in perfect timing for lunch.

Booths Cottage was built in 1933 during the depression, and while you can’t stay there, it was restored some years ago and is in pretty good nick. It’s a long rectangular building of three rooms made largely from beech slab cladding and beech pole framing, with a corrugated iron roof. Adding to the charm inside are artefacts such as rudimentary furniture, and old boots, cooking equipment and a suitcase.

After lunch we headed back toward the cars, passing old gold mining tailings, across a wee creek, and then ‘Oh my goodness, what is that, can it be … bagpipes?’  At the old residence by the Miners Memorial, there was indeed a piper! His wife came and chatted to us about the family and their history in the area, and then it was the last leg back to the cars.

Instead of walking down Monument Road like we usually do, we hung a left onto the Louis Creek Mountainbike Track. It was definitely a much nicer and more scenic option. Back at the cars after a day with dry bodies and feet, we congratulated ourselves on a great option for a last minute tramp.

And then on Sunday, right on cue, the heavens opened and it rained cats-and-dogs. Thank goodness we weren’t up on the Luna Tops!

The remnants of the Luna Tops trip were: Esther (leader), Eric, Maria, Rob, Sue and Di (scribe).