Hut Warden

Hut Warden

Tongariro National Park

October 2010 through January 2011

Growing up one of my major goals was to visit New Zealand. Therefore, when I was accepted as a hut warden for Tongariro National Park, the summer after I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, I jumped on the opportunity. Tongariro was New Zealand’s first national park and was gifted to the government by the Ngati Tuwharetoa iwi (tribe) in 1887. The Ngati Tuwharetoa leaders sought to protect the three volcanos (Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro) at the heart of the park for future generations. The park is home to two multi-day treks. The shorter Tongariro Northern Circuit is considered one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, while the longer Around the Mountain is a less travel trek encircling Mount Ruapehu.

One of the best things about the New Zealand Park system is the availability of huts on tramping trails. These simple structures offer trampers a dry safe place to sleep, with busier huts often needing a dedicated caretaker (i.e. hut warden) to ensure their upkeep. As a hut warden, I was responsible for the safety and comfort of the trampers that stayed with me each night. Many kind-hearted international visitors stayed with me during the five months I volunteered in Tongariro National Park. My normal shit was six days, allowing me ample time to explore the National Park’s many natural wonders. I spent numerous days hiking in remote off trail locations, marveling in everything from tinny grasshoppers to breathtaking vistas.  The days I spent wandering the slopes of Tongariro alone helped build my inner strength and sense of independence. Ketetahi hut will always hold a special place in my heart.