John’s Hut

For our third wedding anniversary in October, Andy and I decided to book an off-the-grid getaway. We found the amazing (and dog friendly!) John’s Hut on Airbnb, about an hour up the coast from us. Not far from rural Te Horo, with that special rustic charm without the “glamping” price, we were immediately sold.

We left work early on a Friday and made our way up over the Haywards Hills to Transmission Gully (our newest motorway) and north to Waikanae. Of course, that’s where we had to stop to fill up riggers of beer and grab some smoked meat at Salt and Wood. We got plenty of groceries to last us the weekend too, since we’d really be off the beaten path.

Outside Te Horo, we hit a dirt road that took us into the middle of nowhere. The detailed directions said to look out for “Dirt Farm” on our way, and not long after that landmark, we made it to our destination. Our car managed to cross a shallow stream and just barely make it up the short but steep hill to the hut. One of our lovely hosts, the son-in-law of John himself, welcomed us to our unique weekend getaway. He showed us the composting toilet and accompanying sawdust, outdoor fire, and all the extra touches. It was time to settle in for our first night in the bush, and it was fabulous!

After a leisurely morning spent soaking in the peaceful sounds of the forest (and Vallhunds barking at a dog from a distant neighboring property), we set out for a hike on the owners’ property. They have a massive forestry block, so there was plenty to explore.

The first views were of John’s Hut, down in the valley, as we wound up, up, up.

After a long uphill march, broken up by some soggy gullies where the pups cooled off, we were rewarded with incredible views toward the coast in the distance.

The owners’ property, “The Lodge,” shared this view. No wonder they built up here! Oh yeah, and there were sheep too, so something for everyone, stubby herding dogs included.

After we ran out of view and the day started to really heat up, it was time to turn around and head back down, down, down.

Luckily, there was a stream running just by the hut for the canines to cool off, and a drier path for the humans.

Back at the hut, it was time to enjoy a relaxed afternoon in the sunshine.

It was hard to choose the best spot on the property, since there were so many. Cheers to three years, sunshine and beers.

I think Higgs and Fern loved the hut as much as we did. There was a dog house alongside the hut, but let’s just say these two wouldn’t have dreamt of staying outside like DOGS. They did quickly scarf down the bits of dog food that were left inside it, though.

We can’t bypass the crowning glory of the hut, the dual outdoor baths! Only one of us was interested, while the other three preferred to just hang out – guess who! I had a bath both nights, complete with homemade bath bombs that were thoughtfully provided. Just check out the view looking up from the tub.

The only thing you have to ignore is the rustling in the bush nearby at night – probably rogue possums since we don’t have anything larger here. The Vallhunds were indoors during said nocturnal noises.

Perhaps the weirdest part of the property was thanks to John’s wife, Nana. Apparently her “wee wee seat” must hold a special place in her family’s hearts. Not to judge, but I just hope no one uses it nowadays.

As afternoon turned to evening, it was time to take our yearly anniversary photos before the light disappeared. Champagne and s’mores go a long way toward convincing your husband to pose for multiple photos.

The hut even had a wool blanket that perfectly matched my dress – it was meant to be.

The dogs haven’t quite wrapped their heads around tripods and timed photos.

Ok, I’m sure you’re sick of our faces by now (or you’re family and you have an unusually high Andy/Kelsey threshold). Here’s some artsy champagne and a lovely warm fire instead.

And a rustic, cozy Fern!

The pups absolutely loved the bedroom, since they could sleep by the wood stove and also easily jump from the benches onto our bed.

Solar lanterns turned the hut into a gorgeous beacon in the darkening night. Does it get any more idyllic than this?

The fire kept us toasty warm on the still-cool October nights, and needless to say, it was hard to pack our bags on Sunday and go back to the connected world. Farewell, John’s Hut!

It was such a special spot to spend a weekend, made even more so by the history of the hut. Grandpa John used to bring all the kids and grandkids here, and the guestbook was filled with many stories of youthful adventures dating back to the early 90s, from late night hikes to glow-worm-studded gullies and even an unfortunate possum in the long-drop toilet. As someone who grew up visiting my own Grandpa Evan’s camp in Vermont, I especially appreciated the way that memories indelibly shape a place. Thank you for sharing this little slice of paradise with us, John, and thank you to your family who has done everything to keep your memory alive, passing on your joy for the great outdoors and appreciation of the simple life.

You are a true kindred spirit.

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