Zen is readily at hand

The first clearing on the Flagstaff track from the Ross Creek end is about half an hour up....
The first clearing on the Flagstaff track from the Ross Creek end is about half an hour up. Photos; Clare Fraser
There’s therapy in walking out your woes at the end of a working week, writes Clare Fraser.

As your feet beat a rhythm, your lungs make "breathwork" non-negotiable and after a bit of fuming and ruminating, you notice nature has done her thing. You’ve unfurled. Equilibrium. Peace.

In winter, Flagstaff is particularly good for this outdoor psychodrama, with its gravelled, all-season track. There are other, interesting side routes, but the main Pineapple Track is simple underfoot and lets you put your head down and go for it.

Flagstaff is the hill to the west that dominates the city. It’s slightly lower than Mt Cargill, but steeper.

Bush is broken by patches of wide grassy openings. Up high, there’s tussock and flax, big rocks and big views.

Fernbirds click away, usually heard but not seen. They look a bit like a long-lost cousin to a sparrow with a long tail, so their lack of visibility may seem like no great loss. In fact, old story, they’re classified as "at risk/declining". The Halo Project is doing some intensive trapping in the area, which is only going to help.

The wilderness feel of being high up in the tussocky tops contrasts with a most sparkling view of our city. It’s bird’s-eye but close enough to let your eyes go for a virtual walk. A plaque at the summit guides you around.

After rain you might be looking down on the Taieri oppressed by heavy mist. For the full zen, hang round and watch the mist shrink away under an insistent sun.

Like any good Dunedin outing, you never know who you’ll meet up there. A friend was admirable and even rebellious enough to answer the “How’s it going?” honestly. Recently bereaved, she spoke of the benefits of going for a run, dark music playing while doing some therapeutic crying. Funny how we normally hide this stuff.

At the other extreme, off-leash dogs beam with joyous freedom as they bound ahead of their owners. Delightful to behold, this can also mean being barked at, sniffed in a way usually reserved for the most private of human encounters and even jumped on and pushed by two paws.

Self-preservation can kick in ... and perhaps a week of too much self-restraint: “**** off!”

If the owner chooses to interpret the message as being directed not solely at their dog, so be it.

All this catharsis can be had for a two-hour round trip from Ross Creek to the summit or much shorter from the Bull Ring end.

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