Paths Less Travelled
‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.’
It can be easy to stick to what you know, to keep to the well-walked and well-marked routes through ZEALANDIA. How often do you take the paths less travelled?
There are many lesser-visited spots in the valley, particularly once you start exploring the tracks beyond the Upper Dam. However, you don’t always have to venture far to get off the beaten track.
A few minutes up the Lake Road from the Visitor Centre, just after Birdsong Gully, a narrow unnamed track leads off to the right. This is shown on the ZEALANDIA visitor map as a fine, red line.
This path less travelled is a short scenic loop, referred to by those in the know as ‘Alison’s Track’. It leads quite steeply downhill and can be muddy. There is a wooden handrail at the start to steady your balance.
At the bottom, there is a green bench and a plaque dedicated to Alison Grace Morton. She was a water quality officer for Wellington Regional Council. On 31 August 1995, Alison and two workmates drowned in Lake Wairarapa, when it was hit by a sudden storm. She was only 25 years old and, according to a family friend, preferred to have bare feet. The plaque informs you that Alison loved the outdoors.
This is a beautiful spot for her memorial with an idyllic view between the trees of the Lower Lake. The bench is a lovely place to sit and enjoy the tranquillity. Do listen to the birds and the wind rustling in the trees.
There are three commemorative tōtara here too, planted in memory of Alison and her two colleagues. They bring to mind the Māori whakatauāki (proverb) mourning the death of someone special: Kua hinga te tōtara i te wao nui a Tāne (A tōtara has fallen in the great forest of Tāne).
Continuing on, the track loops back up to Lake Road via well-spaced steps. There is another memorial seat here, for Alison Grace Morton’s granny and namesake, Grace Riddick (1908 – 2001).
It’s only a small diversion, but this path less travelled is well worth taking the time to explore.