Vis­it­ing Sam Sum­mers

Dis­cover gold and grandeur on this rel­a­tively easy tramp to Sam Sum­mers Hut.

Good - - WONDERFUL WALKS - Words Bethany G. Rogers. Pho­tog­ra­phy James Al­lan

Ashort drive from the hus­tle and bus­tle of Queen­stown is a unique glimpse into the his­tory of the Otago re­gion. Twelve Mile Creek Gorge, 12km from cen­tral Queen­stown, was once the site of fren­zied gold min­ing. Pub­lic gold fos­sick­ing is still per­mit­ted in the area, but most of the min­ers trick­led away as gold find­ings dwin­dled in the 1930s.

The area is now en­joy­ing a new burst of ac­tiv­ity as a pop­u­lar, fam­ily-friendly walk­ing track. Known of­fi­cially as the Mount Crich­ton Loop Track, this three-hour trail be­gins at the edge of the road be­tween Queen­stown and Glenorchy.

Ma­ture manuka trees and the soft green of moun­tain beech shade the track from the worst of the weather mak­ing this a grand day out any time of the year. Ex­pect bright red toad­stools in au­tumn, sparkling frost in win­ter and re­dis­cover ev­ery shade of green in spring and sum­mer.

This is a trail where the sharp-eyed will be re­warded; there’s sub­tle de­tails of the area’s glit­tery past all along the trail. Rusted relics and tell-tale signs of blasted rocks tell a story of the early min­ers’ in­cred­i­ble ef­forts to free gold from the rocks and rivers. About an hour into the walk, there’s an im­pres­sive canyon, 24 me­tres long, one-me­tre wide and 10 high, where gold-bear­ing gravel would have been washed through.

Shortly after this is one of the area’s best pre­served relics and where this track gets its com­mon name­sake; Sam Sum­mers Hut. It was built by Bill Sum­mers and his son Sam around 1930, on the site of a Chi­nese gold miner’s camp. Sam and Bill lived there for 10 years and Sam con­tin­ued to mine the area on and off for 30 years. He main­tained the hut un­til he died in 1997, aged 93. To­day, it’s main­tained by DOC and oc­ca­sion­ally keen campers stay overnight. It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing peek into how min­ers once lived.

Sam cer­tainly en­joyed good views from his hut; it’s close to a stun­ning wa­ter­fall and 12 Mile Creek. Cross the bridge here and fol­low the track up to a ridge with grand views of Lake Dis­pute. From here, you can branch off and head down to the lake and onto Glenorchy road, or stick to the track to get back to the carpark.

The Sam Sum­mers Hut (be­low) is a fas­ci­nat­ing glimpse into a gold miner’s life in an awe-in­spir­ing set­ting.

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