One Day a River, the Next Day a Lake

It’s amazing how quickly nature can change your world.  Two weeks ago, Vancouver experienced some serious rain.  Rainfall warnings, wind warnings, ferry cancellations, the works.  And with it came a rock slide.  Some newspapers even called it a “Monstrous” rock slide in the North Shore.  I don’t know what a monstrous rock slide looks like but it was significant enough to have created a permanent lake.  And this lake has now submerged the bridge crossing the former Seymour River (now a yet-to-be-named lake).  The Twin Bridges.  If you follow my blog, I wrote about the Twin Bridges, or rather the trails of the Two Canyon Loop back in September 2013.  The first of the Twin Bridges was built back in 1908 to allow easier access to the other side of the Seymour River.  The second Twin Bridge was built in 1926.  Both were eventually dismantled in 1993 and 2009 respectively.  I don’t know when the current bridge was built, but this bridge that Nicole and I crossed last year, in the rain, that is submersed in the new lake, will most likely be dismantled in the new year.  There is fear of more debris piling up at the bridge and causing more water concerns in the area.  I’ve been looking at the few pictures and videos of the bridge and the area around it and it’s quite…Wow!  The amount of water to fill up the canyon to the top of the bridge is…Wow!  And it’s only because I was in a mad rush to finish all my Christmas knitting and the commen sense of my other friend, Tamara that prevented me from heading out there again with camera in hand.  That and the newspaper article said it was dangerous.  If you’re interested in reading the newspaper article, here is the link.

 

View from the current Twin Bridge

View from the now-submersed Twin Bridge

It’s hard to believe that this view is gone.  That in fact, all these trees are now under water and will eventually die because of rain.  From this photo, I can imagine the rock slide just at the top of the river or just around the bend of the river.  That’s a crazy amount of water to create a lake.

Just a little wet!  But Feeling the Fresh Mountain Air!

The railings are gone, the deck of the bridge is still there.  And very soon, the trees here will be gone.  The Forces of Nature!

It’s a strange feeling to see this photo and know that this bridge is no longer in use.  The blue railings are gone now.  The photo from the newspaper shows the water level right at the bridge level.  Anyone who foolishly crossed that bridge at that time would’ve been sloshing through several inches of water.  I’ve seen a video of what it’s like now, two weeks later and the water level has dropped a little bit, but truly this is a (pointless and dangerous) bridge over a lake now, not a bridge over a river.    And now as I write this, we are experiencing another rainfall warning, with ferry cancellations as well.  I can hear the rain patter against my windows and as much as I love the sound of the rain on the windows, I wonder what nature will do to the world tomorrow.

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Admiralty Point

When a trail becomes a National Park, how can you not go?  Admiralty Point and the 190 acres surrounding it has been designated a National Park.  Had I not stumbled upon the article in the Vancouver Sun, I probably would’ve put off this trail for quite some time.  Since all the hiking/training I’ve been doing over the last year and half I’ve been looking for progressively more difficult trails to hike but I’m given a reminder every so often that the challenge is not always about the difficulty level but about taking the time to enjoy the challenge that’s been handed to you.  Vancouvertrails.com classifies this as an easy trail and I have to agree.  There is very minimal elevation in this hike, only at the beginning of the trail and then the last 600 m from Admiralty Point to Burns Point.  And the only reason the last 600 m felt so difficult was probably more because of the rain than anything else.  That and maybe because I haven’t hiked anything since July.  Been a bit busy with the running.  Running doesn’t require carrying hiking back packs.  And hiking boots are heavier than running shoes.  Hmmmm, that’s a few too many excuses for my huffing and puffing.  Oh well.  At least I had good company.  Nicole joined me for this outing.  It is very nice to have company on a hike.  I think I mentioned that before.  One thing I never mentioned before was the colours of the season.  Most of my hikes have been in the summer, whether it be here in the Lower Mainland or in New Zealand, and the colours are beautiful greens, and blues, gorgeous summer colours  But on this hike, we had deep oranges, reds and burnt yellows and with the rain, mossy greens, fir tree greens and mushroom browns.  Really pretty.  Well worth the time and effort.  I do have to mention a few cautions though.  Dogs.  And not that they are dangerous.  The two that we encountered were on leash.  They’re owners were very pleasant.  It was the previous dog walkers, the ones who bagged their dog pooh and then left the bag on the side of the trail.  Really?  You were only a couple of meters away from a garbage can.  And the other dog owner who didn’t pick up their dog pooh.  Thank goodness for Nicole.  I don’t tend to look down too often, so with my luck I would’ve stepped in it.  It blended in with the muddy trail.  Yuck.  So we could’ve, but we didn’t, but still!  Anyway, I won’t say anything else, except that if you get a chance and you want to visit our newest National Park, take a hike to Admiralty Point.  The view of the water is quite lovely and when you return to the start, head the opposite direction towards Jug Island Beach.  It will make for a most enjoyable day.  Rain or Shine.

Lighthouse Park Revisited

It’s been over a year since I’ve been to this park.  It was one of the very first hikes I did when I first decided to go on my New Zealand adventure.  And what a difference a year makes.  I remember back then the final trail, Beacon Lane Trail, to be a brutal hill before reaching the parking lot.  And now, I had to wonder where it disappeared to.  It hasn’t disappeared of course, but it just amazes me how our mind can make “a mountain out of a molehill”.  Yes, my fitness level has improved a lot in all this time, but I remember it as being a never ending, brutal and cruel way to end a hike back then and this time, it was just a minor hill.  I returned to Lighthouse Park, even though it’s listed as “Easy” with minimal elevation, because I was returning with Nicole.  It is the start of the hiking season for her and we figured it would be a nice way to ease back into hiking.  Both of us sported new footwear, me with a new pair of hikers and Nicole with a lovely pair of trail runners.  My old pair of hikers has been retired and for sentimental reasons, I haven’t actually disposed of them yet.  I’m not sure what I’ll do with my old hikers, but I don’t want to toss them just yet.  I’ll figure it out eventually.  We both were not as prepared for the weather as we would’ve liked.  It was raining off and on all morning but it wasn’t cold.  It was actually kind of muggy.  We did not follow the trail suggestions that were listed on vancouvertrails.com.  Instead, we went the opposite way.  Like I said in my first post about Lighthouse Park, make sure you grab a map before you start in on the trails.  Without the map, you could easily get disoriented.  We chose to head out on the Juniper Loop and head out to Juniper Point.

Juniper Point

Juniper Point

DSC_2134-2DSC_2138-2Afterwards, we headed south along the Seven Sisters Trail towards the Lighthouse Viewpoint.  For the most part the trails were quite nice, even in the rain, the paths were mostly dry but do be careful on the rocks and the roots that are exposed to the rain.  I slipped a few times and actually did land on my butt at least twice.  But it’s all good.  At the Lighthouse viewpoint, you see the lighthouse with Burrard Inlet just behind it.  It’s nice for a picnic stop, if it’s a nice day, but in this dreary weather, we turned around fairly quickly and headed down to the Phyl Munday Nature House and the other buildings in that surrounding area.  Head behind the Phyl Munday House and you’ll actually get closer to the Lighthouse.  If the gate is open, you can head closer to Point Atkinson and get a better view of the lighthouse.  But you’ll never actually get right up to the lighthouse, which is too bad.  Please be respectful of the property as you walk closer to the lighthouse.  They have a very nice garden for you to admire.

This is as close as you can get to the Lighthouse.

This is as close as you can get to the Lighthouse.

Just behind Phyl Munday House.

Just behind Phyl Munday House.

After snapping a few pics, we headed back up the driveway and walked around the buildings.  It was at this point that Nicole saw the “Stop” sign.  So of course, instead of stopping, we had to explore.  Why did they want us to stop?  What was beyond the stop sign?  Well, that would’ve been East Beach.  The tide was out so in addition to the lovely smells of the forest, we had the distinct smells of seaweed and other briny seashells.  After a little log hopping and then rock climbing, we found a different view of the lighthouse.  I’m sure in sunny weather it would’ve been quite an impressive sight.  But this time, I was more drawn to the low hanging cloud and the oil tanker.

All in all, it was a nice easy hike, which is what we both needed today.  There are a lot of other trails in this park worth visiting.  I remember Eagle Point was quite impressive and there was a nice view at the Summit as well.  From what I can remember, Salal Loop was also a nice trail to walk.  We will have to do this again, hopefully on a nicer day and other than the mugginess of the day, it was an enjoyable hike.

Was This View Worth It?

Nothing but cloud!

Nothing but cloud!

You bet your ass it was!  I went up the Grouse Grind in one hour and 44 minutes.  I can still hardly believe it!  I actually thought my new little iPod was malfunctioning for a moment.  I didn’t just shave off a few minutes.  I chopped off an arm and a leg!  Well, maybe just an arm.  But what a difference a year makes.  The last time I hiked up the Grouse Grind was last year on July 13, 2013.  And I did that in two hours and 23 minutes.  I cut of 39 minutes.  Holy Crap that was hard!  It took me about 20 minutes to get to the 1/4 mark and this time around I did find the 1/4 sign.  In fact, I managed to see all the signs.  I had anticipated finishing this Grind in about 2 hours, same as with the BCMC trail last week.  The one difference with this hike was the time crunch.  I had a 4 year old’s birthday party to attend.  But even then I wasn’t actually rushing.  I had timed it just right that even if I finished with the same time as last year, I’d still be able to make it back home in time to shower and get to the party.

I had actually planned on hiking this yesterday but I think I semi-injured myself, or maybe injured is too strong of a word.  I semi-made-myself-too-sore after my run and kickboxing class on friday so I ended up taking a couple of ibuprofens with a sleep aid and, well, I slept really well.  So well that I slept in on Saturday so there was no point in going, plus my legs were still sore so I decided to wait and see how I felt this morning.  And I woke up feeling good.  So off I went!  And I am so glad I went.  One hour and 44 minutes!  I don’t like to brag, but I never ever thought I’d get a time that was less that two hours!  Even with the new and improved sections on the Grind, it was still hard.  After hitting the 1/2 mark, I had to stop and snack on a granola bar.  Even my jaws were tired.  But I couldn’t head back down.  But while I sat there slowly chewing on the most difficult granola bar ever, I heard someone say that the longest part was done, that the next two sections were the shortest, but also the hardest.  Shortest?  I liked that!  Hardest?  But it’s short.  I could live with short and hard.  He wasn’t kidding.  It definitely was hard.  And I actually have to agree, it was short.  Short and hard.  Thankfully I had my trusty iPod and my playlist and funny enough as I was struggling towards the 3/4 mark, Jakob Dylan’s Everybody’s Hurting started to play.  Very fitting!  And amazingly perfect timing since this was probably the most difficulty section of the Grind.  I still have to agree with last years assessment.  I prefer the BCMC trail.  And given a choice, I will stick with the BCMC trail, even though I only cut off 25 minutes from my BCMC time compared to 39 minutes for the Grind.  I actually don’t quite understand how that could be. I found the Grind much more difficult and yet there is more time cut off with this hike than from last week’s hike.  Oh well.  Perhaps when I do the BCMC again, I can cut off a little bit more time.  Either way, I’m very pleased with both times for both hikes.  But as I said, I prefer the BCMC and it is for the exact same reasons as last year.  The Grouse Grind is all stairs, whether it be man-made stairs or roots and rock stairs, it is still stairs.  It is less natural than the BCMC.  And the Grouse Grind really has too many people on it.  So it’s not as enjoyable, especially if you encounter people pushing passed you.  The least you could do was say excuse you!  And Passing is on the LEFT hand side!  It was only one person but even so, How Rude!  But there was lots of other people who were quite inspiring.  There were the dads with with kids on their back and then there was Grandpa who was making his way up passed everyone, including the rude girl.  You Go Grandpa!  And Grandpa was polite too!  If Grandpa could do it, then so could I and perhaps he had some more influence than I thought since I didn’t just shave a few minutes from my previous time…

I chopped off an arm and a leg worths of time!  I don’t know if I’ll be walking or hobbling tomorrow, but it was so worth it!

My trusty hiking shoes got me up the Grind!

My trusty hiking shoes got me up the Grind!

A New Hiking Season!

The summer hiking season has started!  Hurray!  My first hike since returning from New Zealand, took me up Grouse Mountain via the BCMC trail.  I think this was a good hike to start the season with.  It hasn’t changed much at all since last year.  It was still mosquito free which was a relief.  However due to the time of year, it was a little muddier, the rocks and roots were a little more slippery, but luckily, there was no snow on the trail.  I only saw one patch of snow and that was very near the top of the trail and it was just off to the side of the gravel road at the top.  I was so looking forward to this day.  I knew I would be going on a hike, I just wasn’t sure which one since I didn’t know if I’d have company or not.  I didn’t have company this time.  So I chose the BCMC.

If you are planning on hiking the BCMC trail, please remember to stay focussed.  About 3 quarters of the way up the trail, a lady in front of me fell down a few steps and onto her back.  I don’t know quite what happened, since I was focussed on the roots in front of me, but I heard her cry out along with her friends.  When I looked up, she was on her back and her friends were supporting her.  Her friends waved me on when I offered to call for help.  In this day and age, everyone has a cell phone so my offer was unnecessary.  But they thanked me and I kept on going.

It is still just as difficult as I remember.  I still had the heart pounding and the pulse racing and the sweat dripping.  I was probably not a sight to behold.  The hike certainly made me think I was unhealthy and out of shape.  And yet, it actually didn’t feel as bad after I was done.  Even better was when I reached the top and saw that my time was 2 hours and 2 minutes.  I was super pleased, since the last time I went up this trail, it took me 2 hours and 25 minutes.  However while headed up this trail, my iPod nano that travelled with me throughout the last year on all my hikes and all the way to New Zealand with me, died on the the trail.  First the music stopped playing, but the stop watch function was still working so I wasn’t too worried.  And when I got to the top, it was still working but by that time I got back to the car, it was dead.  And not because it had no batteries.  It was not functioning.  Buttons weren’t working and when I plugged it into my computer it was not recognized by iTunes.  Oh, my trusty little iPod.  You were so helpful during all that training and you were a great little companion throughout my travels in New Zealand.  Now I have to send you to recycle heaven.

Sorry, back to the trail.  Like I said, it hasn’t changed.  Unlike the Grouse Grind, where new steps were put in and sections of the trails were improved, there was no such improvement for the BCMC trail other than a few downed trees that were cut up so that the paths were free.  There was one sign that I noticed, but I don’t know if it’s new or not.  I just don’t remember it.  But it had me stumped for a minute.  The choice was to go left for the Pipeline or right for the Sun view.  I chose left, only because I remember following a pipe to the top.  But next time, I might try out the Sun view.

When I got to within two minutes of the top, I saw about half a dozen men headed down the trail.  Fire Rescue.  Oh dear.  I guess the lady couldn’t continue up.  I do hope she is alright.  When I reached the top, I got a high five from a complete stranger.  I forgot how friendly hiker’s were.  I am so going to enjoy this season.

I Long for Doom!

February 16 and 17, 2014

The most amazing day in the North Island was my Tongariro Alpine Crossing.  And my next most amazing day was supposed to be the very next day when I returned to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing to hike up Mt. Ngauruhoe.  However I did not take into consideration how sore my entire body would be nor could I have anticipated spraining my other hand, when I slipped heading down to the Emerald Lakes.  I was certainly tired after The Crossing and that afternoon after I had showered and sat on the comfy couch in the Adventure Motel and Lodge, I could start to feel myself nodding off.  And when I finally moved to get up, my hips screamed at me “Good for you” but now you will feel the aches and pains!  My shoulder was not as forgiving either, perhaps my “Gregory” was adjusted incorrectly or maybe it had something to do with the way I was carrying my fancy camera around that entire day.  I don’t know, but I was in no condition to climb Mt. Ngauruhoe.  But even then, when I went to bed that night I was in denial.  “Gregory” was still packed for a proper hike.  I decided I would see how I felt the next day and then decide.  I had already calculated the time and I knew I didn’t need to get up as early as the others.  30 minutes to get to the start.  2 1/2 hours to get to the start of the Mt. Doom climb.  3 to 3 1/2 hours to get up and down Mt. Doom.  2 hours to get back to the point of origin and another 30 minutes back to the lodge for a total of 9 hours.  Easy-peasy!  But when I woke up, it was not to be.  And I think in the back of my head I already knew it wasn’t going to happen.  Common sense prevailed upon me.  Probably when I looked at the mountain in full profile the morning of The Crossing.  That and my entire body said, if you want to do it, you should’ve booked another day or so to semi-recover from the Tongariro Alpine Crossing first, before attempting a volcano.

So instead, I went to the next best thing, Mt. Ruapehu, the site for Mordor, and I climbed this volcano instead.

When I left the lodge and headed back to Whakapapa Village, the sky was blue and crystal clear.  As soon as I turned the corner, there she was, beckoning me to come hither.  “It’s a beautiful day.  You still have time to climb me and get back to the lodge at a safe hour.”  All I could do was stop the car and stare and take photos of her beauty.DSC_7216And then I continued on to Mt. Ruapehu.  I had already told Lorraine I was headed to Mt. Ruapehu.  It was true, I still had time to turn around and get to the start of the Crossing.  I could still do it.  I knew I could already get the first portion done no problem.  The daunting task would be to get up Mt. Ngauruhoe.  But every time I moved, my hips said no.  And that was enough for me to keep going on to Mordor.  But there was no avoiding Mt. Ngauruhoe.  The entire drive had her within my sights.  Which technically is bad, since she was off to my left the moment I turned up SH 48.  Focus on the road Aunty!  It’s not as straight as you would like it to be!  Even as I got closer and closer to the village, I was still thinking that I had time to return and do the climb.  I was still thinking that as I drove passed the village and up Bruce Road towards Mt. Ruapehu.  Even as I stood at the counter to pay for my chairlift ticket, I hesitated, because I still had time to climb Mt. Ngauruhoe.  Grrrr!  I paid for the ticket.  I got on the chairlift and thank goodness, I lost sight of her.  Instead I was able to focus on the fact that the only thing keeping me from falling out of the chairlift was a metal bar.  Hmmm.  What did I get myself into?  It might’ve been safer to climb Mt. Ngauruhoe.  But there was no turning back now.  Not unless I jumped off.  And that would be the dumbest thing I could ever do.  If I broke a bone, then for sure I’d never be able to climb Mt. Ngauruhoe that day.  So after getting to the top, the guy who helped me off said that the next one was just up there.  I looked at him and said, “Next one what?”  I thought I was already at the top.  However after taking a closer look around, I realized that there was nothing here.  There was another chairlift.  So I headed off and hopped onto the next set of chairlifts, pulling down the safety bar as quickly as possible and sat back and admired the view as I continued to the top.  It’s a good thing I didn’t look around too much at this point, which is a good thing.  Because she was just off to the left, a little bit behind me.  If I saw her, who knows what I might’ve done.  But as it is, I didn’t see her and made it to the top, 2020 metres above sea level.  Wow!  And there was a cafe!  The Knoll Ridge Cafe, the highest cafe probably in the world, or at least in the southern hemisphere.  Did I stop for a coffee?  Heck no!  I had a volcano to climb.  Granted it wouldn’t have been as difficult as climbing Mt. Ngauruhoe, but still, here I was.  There was the top.  It was time to go.

So up here, you have two choices:  Hike the Skyline which is about a 2 hour return trip, or Hike down the mountain.  There was no way I was going to hike down, when I just got up and the brain was telling me that by the time I was done this down hill hike, not only would my hips scream at me, but my knees would too.  So, my only other choice, continue going up.  But first, a potty stop.

2020 m above Sea Level!

2020 m above Sea Level!

When I was all set, I followed the guy in front of me.  He was already a few metres ahead of me, which was fine.  I like my solitude on my hikes, especially after all those people on The Crossing.  And it definitely was solitude.  I lost sight of him quite quickly, not on purpose.  It just happened.  I’m guessing he didn’t do The Crossing the other day.  And there was no one behind me.  Basically it was just the two of us headed towards the Skyline Ridge.  And when I couldn’t see him anymore, it was just me.  Blissful!  Until the clouds started to roll in.  I was probably halfway up when I started to see the first tendrils of cloud.  And as I kept on going, so did the clouds.  At one point, I had to stop and re-assess.  Do I continue going up, in the hopes that the clouds go away?  Or do I turn back?  If the clouds are moving in now, by the time I get to the top, there may be nothing for me to see except pea soup.  If I turn back now, I could still see some of the markers to help me get back down.

I kept going up.  I always heard from people that the weather changes quickly here, so I was hoping that it would change by the time I got to the top.  Well it changed alright.  The clouds got thicker.  It didn’t hinder me going up, but there was no view.  I could not see Mt. Ngauruhoe.  I could not see the Tongariro National Park.  But I was stubborn.  The weather would change.  The clouds would go away.  I would sit up at the top and eat my lunch.  I would wait it out.  I said on Facebook that I would wait 15 minutes.  I ended up waiting and hour and 20 minutes for the clouds to disappear.  While I waited several more people came up and then went back down, because there was nothing to see.  But still I waited.  Stubbornness is good and bad sometimes.  As I waited for the clouds to clear, it actually started head over the ridge and along the track.  So really, I couldn’t go back down even if I wanted to.  Well, I wasn’t truly stuck.  If I was super slow and careful and made lots of stops, I would’ve been able to get back down, I think.  But I didn’t want to try it.  I wanted to see her.  I wanted to see my volcano.  I longed to see Mt. Doom.  And so I waited.  And while I waited, I discovered that I had done something to my hand.  Seriously?  Another sprain?  And this time on the other hand?  Right around the base of my thumb, near the wrist.  And I came to realize it was probably when I tried to break my falls on The Crossing.  Well, on the bright side, at least it’s not broken.  Though it hurts like heck right now.  I guess that’s another reason not to climb Mt. Ngauruhoe.

Soon the clouds cleared enough for me to be able to get back down the track, but not enough for me to see Mt. Ngauruhoe.  I could see the Blue Lake.  I could see the lower part of Mt. Ngauruhoe, but not her completely.  And as I looked out across the way, I could see a break in the clouds.  If I waited long enough and if the winds prevailed, eventually the top of the cone would be in the clear.  And then I would have my perfect view of her.  And so I waited.  And several times I was going to just give up and head back down.  I was getting cold and even though I had my layers on, I was beginning to give up hope.  But as more people came up, I decided to wait some more.  And then, there she was, in her complete beauty with the Blue Lake sparkling below encompassed by the tussock green of the Tongariro National Park.  It couldn’t get any better than this.  Bliss!  Serenity.

It was just me on Mordor, staring out at Mt. Doom.  There was no one else about.  Not even the Great Eye!

And now I could head back down.  The mountain was clear of clouds and I was content to leave.  And a flat white beckoned.  Heading back down, even in the clear was kind of nerve racking.  Again it was scree/scoria and it was another reminder of what I would’ve encountered on Mt. Ngauruhoe, another re-affirmation that I made the right choice.  However it the nerves added to the fun and enjoyment of the hike but I am accepting the decision that I made.  At the cafe, the view was quite impressive.  You could not see Mt. Ngauruhoe, but you could see down the mountain and even see the parking lot.  It is a great place for a coffee, a great stop after hiking to the Skyline Ridge.  And if I was a skier, a great place to have coffee before heading back down the mountain.IMG_2360 IMG_2365After basking on the patio and soaking up more sunshine, I returned to the chairlift and as it swung me out of the building, there on my right hand side was Mt. Doom.  She was no longer beckoning me, not really.  She was keeping me company, letting me know it was okay that I didn’t climb her.  One thing I have to mention is the silence on the chairlift.  You’ll here the whir of the chairlift as you go up and down, but other than that there is no sound.  And there is no one else around.  I guess it’s more popular during the winter.  But for me, as I sat there admiring my volcano, it was the perfect time and place for me to sing along with my iPod.  Johnny Cash’s Hurt, Royal Wood’s Glory, Ed Sheeran’s I See Fire, all the good stuff.  I was so content I was swinging my feet.  On hindsight, probably not a good idea but it was like a big gigantic moving swing.  Now I don’t usually look a details like this, but while I was admiring the views around me and singing contentedly, I took a closer look at the cable holding up the chairlifts.  It’s amazing how that one little lip keeps a person from falling to disaster below.  And as I was admiring this mechanical feat, the wind picked up.  And every time there was a “pleasant” gust, the chairlift would slow and sometimes it even felt like stopped.  But I made it back to the parking lot safe and sound.  And I had Mt. Ngauruhoe keeping me company for most of the trip down.

Content with my choice? I am.

The next day, I said goodbye to Tongariro National Park at 8:45 am.  I was off on my next adventure.  A jet boat ride to the Bridge to Nowhere!  I signed up with Whanganui River Adventures.  I was off to Pipiriki in the Whanganui National Park.  I had to be there by 10:30 the latest.  When I was talking to Lorraine the other night, she said it would take me just over an hour to get there.  She said the road was good, just windy.  I was thinking, no problem.  I had already driven Arthur’s Pass, the section between Fox Glacier and Franz Josef and the road through Waipoua, nothing could be worse than Waipoua or even Mangamuka Gorge.  I was wrong.  Nothing could be worse than the road from Raetihi to Pipiriki.  Yes, the road was paved.  Yes, the road was windy.  But the road was also narrow in many sections.  The road consisted of many 25 and 15 km curves and the road had several sections where it was so narrow, you could only drive one car through and the section that made it the most “exciting”, the washout.  Ai Yah!  And to add to the excitement, the locals drive this road, actually all their roads at 100 km or more.  Why even have speed limits?  It certainly explains all the signs about slowing down and taking breaks and not drinking and driving, lots of cautionary signs for drivers along the highways.  Ai Yah!

Since I am able to tell you this story, clearly I made it alive but still, it was nerve racking at times.  I’m sure the scenery was impressive, but to keep my knuckles from turning any whiter, I had to keep an eye on the road.  That and I could grip the steering wheel any tighter since I hurt my hand.  The only good thing was that I was the only one going in that direction.  All others were coming from the opposite direction.  I was the last to arrive but not a worry.  I was still on time.  There was a total of 7 of us including the guide, Thomas.  He used to work for DOC and then he came to work for Whanganui River Adventures.  The first thing that we did, after meeting everyone, get our life jackets.  Very important if in a boat, in a river.  Then we hoped into the van and drove less than 5 minutes to the water and then hopped out and walked down the jet boat.  There were two canoes attached the back of the jet boat, which I didn’t give too much thought to.  I just thought it was like a life raft or something, just in case the jet boat sank.  But now that I think about it later, that doesn’t make any sense at all.  But at the time, I didn’t question it.  We all took our seats and Thomas went through all the safety stuff on the boat before heading out.  It was so awesome.  We were going to fast and the river was so calm.  Again it was like glass until the boat broke through the water.  It was just an awesome experience.  Every so often Thomas would stop the boat and then explain stuff like how high the water level used to be back in 1904 and then how high it got in the last flood.  He explained that people used to use this river like a highway to get from one place to another and how they would go about getting up the river when the water was low.  Even back in the 1900s the there was tourism on this particular river.  We were in the jet boat for just under an hour.  It was just too cool.  Eventually we got to the Mangapurua Landing where our hike would start.  It would be a 2.7 km hike to the Bridge to Nowhere.  Thomas dropped us off and then said he would meet us along the trail before taking off with the boat.  Hmmmm.  Should that worry us?  No.  It never even crossed my mind that that should be a concern.  I’m pretty sure that out of the six of us, I was the youngest.  So if these elderly people were not concerned, then neither was I.  Of course these elderly people did not really listen to what Thomas said and so they were hovering about at the start of the trail wondering whether Thomas was going to join us straight away.  I pointed out that he said he would meet us further up and so we all headed off.

It was a very nice walk.  Shaded and very cool.  The sun was out so it was a relief to be in the shade.  I was kind of expecting Thomas to be walking with us and explaining stuff, but it was actually okay since we got a chance to talk to each other and enjoy the walk at our own pace rather than being rushed by the guide.  In fact we were so engrossed in our conversation that we didn’t even see Thomas sitting in the shade until we were right on him.  By then we had split up with the men behinds a few metres while the women were chatting away in front.  Thomas had us continue along the way while he waited for the men.  Eventually we came upon the lookout for the Bridge.  Thomas pointed the way and said he’d meet us on the Bridge while we all went to admire it from above.  While we were up there, we could see our guide walking across the bridge.  After getting our photos, we all headed back down the little trail and turned towards the bridge.  It was then that we all wondered, Where was the road for this bridge?  We were walking on a trail.  We were not walking on a road.  Thomas said he would have stories to tell us and history but first we should enjoy our lunch.  It was such a sunny day that we all hid in the bushes at the far end of the bridge.  There are picnic tables at the other end, but DOC had cut down enough trees and bushes that it did not provide any shade at all.  Thomas provided hot drinks and cookies for us.  Normally that would be a great thing, hot drinks, but on a day like today, I needed a frosty, not a hot chocolate.  But when it’s free, I’ll take a hot chocolate.  And three cookies while he told us the history of this place.  I’m not gonna go into too much detail.  Basically the area was given to returning World War One Soldiers so that they could restart their lives after the war.  The hope was that they could farm in the area but it was very difficult.  Most people stayed for 2 to 5 years before moving away.  Only three people managed to make a life there for 23 years and then it was the government that told them to leave.  And this was a newly elected government that had no intentions of maintaining the bridge.  Since the bridge was built, there were only two cars that ever drove over it.  And that was at the inauguration.  Two cars drove over the bridge and then went around the corner before turning around and driving back over it.  That is it.  The bridge’s true name is Mangapurua Bridge.  It got it’s current name from a photo in the paper showing grass growing all over the bridge and from the angle, it looked like the bridge took the driver into the mountain side, hence the name Bridge to Nowhere.  Because it looked like it took you nowhere.  I tried to Google the photo, but no such luck.  There are some photos where you can see the grass growing close to the end of the of the bridge, but this photo that Thomas had actually had tall grass growing all across the entire bridge.  It was quite amazing to see.  Anyway after telling us the history of the bridge, we went over the bridge and he fed the eels in the river below.  He had old bread that he threw down into the river and then as you are watching, thinking that nothing was going to happen, there they were.  These black snake like things started moving from behind rocks!  They had to have been huge.  We were so high up and to be able to see anything like that from below, huge!  Thomas said they had to have been around 12 years old.  And he says they are huge because he feeds them every time he is out here taking other tour groups to the bridge.  After awhile it was time to head back to the Landing.  Thomas sent us along while he cleaned up the stuff on the bridge.  So again, we were on our own.  Eventually we made it back to the Landing and it wasn’t long before we could hear the roar of the jet boat coming up the river.  We all hoped in and waited for the men, who were lagging behind again.  While we waited, we could see people in canoes coming down the river.  There actually was a lot of canoe and kayak traffic on this river.  And I could understand why, at least on this day.  It was such smooth surface, and fairly calm.  There were a few small rapid like features on along the river.  Nothing like the Aratiatia rapids, but if you were in a canoe, it would probably disturb me.  Of course I have never been in a canoe so I am no expert but I can imagine.

This time while headed back to the starting point, we had a lot less talk and a little bit more fun.  360 spins!  That was so much fun.  And Thomas was going so fast, it was almost kind of hard to breath at times.  When he told us at the beginning to hold on to our hats, I thought he was just saying it for the sake of saying it.  Thank goodness my hat had a string.  Thank goodness the string was cinched in tightly.  This was a fantastic experience.  When I was down in Queenstown there was a possibility of going on a jet boat on the Shot Over river, but at the time, I had other more important things to deal with such as photography tours and Milford Track one day tours.  I wasn’t really all that interested in 360 spins.  And at that time, I already knew that I would be in a jet boat with this tour.  And I’m so glad that I did this.  Not only did I get to see and learn about the Bridge to Nowhere, I also got a little excitement in the water, a totally different experience from being in the waters of Doubtful Sound.  If you ever make it out this way, you should definitely give it a go.

Once back on dry land, it was time to head onto my next final destination, Wanganui, or Whanganui.  This is a very nice city.  I quite like it.  It’s not too big nor is it too small to be boring.  And they had at least two wool shops, though when I got into town, they were closed.  That is another thing with the shops in small towns/cities.  The shops all close at 5pm.  Unless the town is big on tourism like Queenstown, most shops are closed by 5pm.  And good luck if it’s Sunday.  Being on vacation for so long, you tend to lose track of your days and times.  You’ll know if it’s a weekend if you come across a market and the smaller towns will have orange cones set up far up the road warning people to slow down because there is a market up ahead or you’ll know it’s a Sunday when you arrive in town and EVERYTHING is closed, except the local i-Site.  Sigh.  Well, my last weekend that will meaning anything to me will be this weekend.  I’ll be in Wellington by then and I’ll be there well before the weekend actually starts, that means I’ll be there by Friday.

When I got in to town, I decided to go out to eat and went to a Japanese restaurant.  I was in and out fairly quickly and then back to the hostel.  While there I began to think about climbing Mt. Ngauruhoe again.  It got to the point where I was calculating times again.  Two hours to get back to the start of the Crossing.  2 1/2 hours to get to the start of the climb to Ngauruhoe and 3 hours return and another 2 hours to get back to the parking lot and then 3 1/2 hours drive to New Plymouth, which was the next night’s destination.  Do-able.  Long day but do-able.  Eventually I ended up Face-timing Sister W.  Thank goodness she picked up.  I needed someone else to reassure me that it was okay.  And of course Sister W’s other half did mention that Frodo and Sam never really climbed to the top of Mt. Doom, just to the door which was like halfway up.  And since my sisters are my LOTR gurus, If they were okay with me not climbing Mt. Doom, then I was okay with not climbing Mt. Doom.

Content with my choice?  Truly and Honestly, I am.  My longing for Mt. Ngauruhoe will always remain.  As I end this super long post, I have accepted this feeling as a longing and I will not and cannot call it a regret.

It will be this volcano, Mt. Ngaurahoe, and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, that will bring me back to the North Island, just like it will be Doubtful Sound that will bring me back to the South Island.

I Long for Doom!

I Long for Doom!

Wishing you were all here with me.  Luv, Aunty!

Crossing Love in New Zealand!

February 15, 2015

I have finally fallen in love with the North Island.  And for a completely different reason from the South Island.  The Tongariro Alpine Crossing has been the best thing so far that I have done in the North Island.  The serene Doubtful Sound was what made me love New Zealand and the South Island and the rugged and volcanic Tongariro Alpine Crossing is what has made me love the North Island.  I still love Doubtful Sound the best, but The Crossing is my next best love in New Zealand.  And these two experiences couldn’t be more opposite of each other.  One on water, the other on rugged earth.

Let me try to describe this amazing experience for you.

The day started off at 7:30am.  Earlier if you count the night before when I packed “Gregory”, my hiking backpack with all the required gear.  Then I was up at 6am for breakfast and to prep my lunch and any remaining gear that would be required for the trip.  By 7:20, I was outside and waiting with the other “Crossers” to pack into the van before heading out to the Mangatepopo Parking lot.  It took about 30 minutes because the Mangatepopo is actually an unsealed road.  You’d think that with 400 to 500 people headed for the Crossing each day, NZ or DOC would consider upgrading the road.  There was only one small section in the middle that was sealed and that was because the road was in such bad condition and cars and campers slid off this section.  Ai Yah!  Well, it was just a little bit before 8am when our van arrived at the start of the track.  Ron, our driver and Lorraine’s other half, was telling us about the Crossing and about the park as we drove to our destination.  At the carpark he handed out cards with contact numbers and approximate times to complete each section of the Crossing.  He then told us that there would be three pick up times:  3:30, 4:30 and 5:30pm.  He also said that if we reached Soda Springs and knew we couldn’t go on, we should turn around.  DOC will only come and rescue us if we break an ankle.  So sprains are tough luck.  They will not come to rescue us for sprains.  Good to know.  Then he went on to tell us what to do in case of any volcanic activity.  If we haven’t reached the Blue Lake yet and volcanic stuff starts to happen, turn around!  If we have reached the Blue Lake, then keep on going as quickly as possible.  Very Good to know.  After these cheery words, we all got out of the van and Ron helped us take our photos at the start of the track and then we were set loose.  I probably dawdled for about 10 minutes pulling out gloves, hat, neck warmer, Mini-Aunty, ipod, cellphone and camera, all for the first photo.  And then I was off.

The first section, Mangatepopo to Soda Springs wasn’t too bad.  The first section to the Mangatepopo hut (and second set of toilets) was all dirt path, or lava rocks plus dirt.  I say dirt but it wasn’t really, it was more like old volcanic ash.  Hard to say really.  There are only five sets of toilets on this crossing, one at the Mangatepopo parking lot, one at the Mangatepopo hut, one at Soda Springs, one at the Ketetahi hut and one at the Ketetahi parking lot.  There is about a 3 1/2 hour crossing from Soda Springs to Ketetahi hut.  And there are no trees between these two spots.  And guess what, you will never be alone on this crossing.  When we started out, the clouds were still out so it was kind of an “Oh Dear” thought as I started along, but it didn’t take long for the clouds slowly disperse and then you could see the sunshine and the blue sky.  And in this wonderful morning, I would see the full moon!  Very high in the sky and next to the sun.  I’m sure it was the moon.  It couldn’t have been the sun because I was able to stare at the moon directly and not go blind, that and the sun was behind cloud.  I know it was the sun, because the brighter spot was behind cloud, just next to the moon.  It was really cool to see.  I did my best to get a good photo, but I’ll have to let you decide.

After leaving behind Mangetepopo hut, the path changed to a nicely planked boardwalk.  Careful you don’t get lulled into thinking that this was a piece of cake.  You’re only in the first hour of the crossing.  And this is the lowest part of the Crossing.  We were now crossing over tussock grassland and kind of a marshy/boggy looking landscape.  And as I continued along this boardwalk, that mountain looming ahead looked very cone-like, very Doom-like.  Holy Crow.  That was Mt. Doom.  And it was huge!

Eventually the boardwalk stops and very soon we end up back on volcanic ash/dirt path again and it gets a bit rocker now.  In about an hour and half from the start of the Crossing you’ll end up at Soda Springs, or rather the third set of toilets.  After walking passed the lineups, you’ll come to a marker that points you to Soda Springs which is about 5 minutes from there.  Here’s your chance to rest if you need to because the next section is hell.  I guess that’s why it’s referred to as the Devil’s Staircase.  This was like the Grouse Grind in a volcanic world.  Here is also where you will see your first signs that say, if you cannot continue upwards, turn back.  I actually saw a few people turn back.  Well, better to admit your limitations sooner rather than suffer later trying to get yourself to the other end.DSC_6987What’s makes it harder though, is people don’t or can’t move out of the way to let you pass.  And what I find is that when you have the energy to go fast, but you’re stuck behind people who won’t or can’t move out of the way, it just sucks the energy out of you.  The one thing about the crossing, is that a good portion of the crossing only allows 1 to 2 people on the path.  Many parts there is only room for one person, which really sucks if you’re stuck behind a slow person.  And when there’s enough room for two, then you get stuck behind the people who are using walking poles, as in a pole in each hand.  You might as well be hogging the path to yourself.  If you know there is someone huffing and puffing behind you, just stop and let us pass!  Anyway, on the Devil’s staircase, I eventually lost sight of Mt. Doom but that’s alright.  It was in the clear as I walked across the Mangatepopo Saddle.  I will get a chance to see what it is like, climbing wise.  Wrong.  The clouds returned.  By the time we reached the edge of the South crater, Mt. Doom was engulfed in cloud.  Hmmm.  Well, we still had a ways to go before hitting the track for Mt. Doom.  And there were more stairs to go, so by the time I trudge up these stairs, perhaps the clouds will clear a little.  That would be a ‘No’.  By the time I hit the start of the path for Mt. Doom, it was thick cloud.  But from what I could see, it was enough for little warning bells to start to tinkle in my head, or maybe it was my iPod.  We’ll see how I feel after I complete the Crossing.  I’m not going to count out Mt. Doom just yet.

Okay, next section, South Crater.  There is a reprieve here where you could stop and refuel before heading onto the next set of stairs/steps that takes you to the Red Crater.

Wow!  The descriptions of the names are basic but certainly fit the bill.  The Red Crater is definitely red and the South Crater is in the south part of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.  I wonder if the Emerald Lakes and the Blue Lake fits the description as well.  You betcha!  But again I am jumping ahead of myself.  Once you reach the Red Crater, there is another little plateau to rest before again, trudging upwards.  As soon as you reach another peak, you could look down to see admire the handwork that you did to get up there, or you could turn around and face forward and see why you have come up.

 

Just before you reach the Red Crater, you could also veer off and climb Mt. Tongariro.

DSC_7042or not!

Where's Mt. Tongariro?

Where’s Mt. Tongariro?

After I finished admiring Mt. Tongariro in the clouds and the amazing Red Crater, it was time to move onwards and upwards.  Emerald Lakes was the next stop and nearby Blue Lake.  It didn’t take very long to get to the Lakes from the Red Crater.  Yes it was still uphill, but what slowed everyone down was the slippery slope down to the lakes.  You are walking down scoria/scree.  It’s like walking on several feet of loose, dry sand.  There is no friction so there is a lot of slipping.  Ron did warn us about this section.  He said to put our heel down first.  It works for a while but you still slip.  I slipped three times.  And it’s scary when you slip.  Remember, you are not alone.  There is always someone behind you or in front of you.  They will not stop your fall.  You will only take them down with you.  And this is the same stuff that I would be climbing up and down on when I climb Mt. Doom.  Hmmm.  And Mt. Doom is steeper.  Hmmm.

After admiring the Emerald Lakes, it was time to get a close up of Blue Lake.  There was another flattish walk.  Remember to turn around and admire the view.  This one is the most amazing of all.  You see the Red Crater from behind and then you see the crazy slide that you walked down to get to the Emerald Lakes and you also see the train of people following the same track.  It’s amazing in a good and sad way.  Good as in you’ve accomplished a lot, but sad because you will never have the peace and tranquility of a regular hike.  But I guess this isn’t really a regular hike.

When you get to Blue Lake, please don’t eat or drink here.  It’s considered sacred to the Maori.  I guess that would explain why everyone was eating at Red Crater or Emerald Lakes.

Now that we have reached Blue Lake, it was time for the downhill section, through the Volcanic Hazard area.  Hurray.  Good to see that there are signs up warning us about the track.  I hope it works.  Or we are all doomed, since the suspected origin of the recent volcanic activity is in the vicinity of this final section of the track.  It’s amazing how high up we are though.  You can see in the distance Lake Taupo!  And then over to the right, you can see the billowing steam clouds.  Hmmmm.  From the suspected origin…of the recent volcanic activity.  It was also disturbing to see that the tracks are still being fixed up from the previous volcanic activity.  The picture of the damage done to the last hut from the volcanic activity doesn’t really mean much until you are there.  And you see the craters left behind by rocks that were spewed out.  And the billowing steam clouds and the one section of the track that was damaged and ultimately closed.

From Blue Lake to the final hut, there is no shade whatsoever.  Make sure you bring a hat.  In fact, all the essential gear that is listed on the DOC website and on all the information sheets about The Crossing, are necessary.  I used every piece of clothing that it had listed.  Everything except the waterproof pants and the first aid kit.  Thank goodness for that.  The changes in temperature vary throughout the day and throughout the section you are climbing.  Remember that you are at much higher elevations so it gets colder as you go higher.  And the windchill factor, take that into consideration as well.  The only thing you can’t really prepare for is if there is volcanic activity.

The final section of the track took us through a lovely forested area.  The shade and the breeze, the beautiful green trees!  It was such a dramatic change considering the Mars-like environment that we walked on for the last 5 hours.  It was a very welcome change.  Until we saw the signs again.  And this one seemed more urgent than the previous signs.

Shame they didn't describe the noise I'm supposed to run from!

Shame they didn’t describe the noise I’m supposed to run from!

Seven hundred metres sure took a long time to get through.

DSC_7213

And then just around the corner was the parking lot.  The forest was so dense, you couldn’t see it until you turned the corner and then you are surrounded by people who have also finished the track and are now just waiting for a ride back.

Amazing!  This was the best day-walk I have ever been on!  I so love the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.  It only took me 6 hours and 48 minutes to complete!  19.4 km of track.  Two active volcanoes.  Three Emerald Lakes.  One Blue Lake.  Two Craters.  Scree, Scoria, Boardwalks, Lava rocks.  Hazard signs galore!  And a dense forest with a serious Lahar concern!  How can you not love this?

DSC_7215IMG_2353

For those few observant readers, you may notice that there is a time difference between starting at the Mangatepopo parking lot, 6hrs 20 to complete versus the Ketetahi parking lot, 8hrs 30 to complete.  The majority of the “Crossers” start at the Mangatepopo end because if you start at the Ketetahi end, you will be headed uphill for a very long time.  Just to the hut it would take you 3hrs.  And you still have to go up to the Blue Lake.  Where as the Mangatepopo end is a little bit kinder.  Hence the two hour difference.  And here’s a useless bit of information for you.  The New Zealand Army used to get their recruits to do the crossing starting at the Ketetahi end and they would have to have all there gear on with their full packs.  Yikes!  Love it!

I wish you all could’ve done the Tongariro Alpine Crossing with me! Luv Aunty!

Paradise, Piano man and Photography

January 21, 2014

Today was my photography tour with Paradise Pictures.  Laurence Belcher, owner and operator of this new business venture picked me up in Queenstown at my hotel and we headed out to Glenorchy.  Along the way, he was talking about things that we would be covering and he was scoping out what I knew and what I didn’t know about photography.  I was happy to say that I could still remember some of the stuff that I had learned from the classes that me and Irene took back in June.  Our first stop was the lookout to see out towards Mt. Earnslaw and Mt. Alfred.  Mt. Alfred, we could see, but there was a bit of cloud cover so we really couldn’t see too much of Mt. Earnslaw.  But that was alright.  The first practice shots were on the rule of thirds.  And getting the horizon line straight.  I have to work on getting my horizon line straight.  He also had me set my camera on Manual rather than on what I usually have it set to which is Aperture Priority.  Laurence works with a Nikon camera just like I do so it was nice to be able to have someone else be familiar with my camera or something similar.  HIs camera is a bit fancier than mine.  Anyway after taking a few shots, we were on our way to ‘Little Paradise’, another stop along Lake Wakatipu where he showed me how to get some great shots working with depth of field.  Thank goodness I was covered in sunscreen and tons of bug spray – 30% DEET.  The sandflies are a crazy nuisance here, especially by the water.  After some more practice we were off to Glenorchy.  There we stopped for morning tea and then we continued on our way to where there used to be a rail stop by the water.  After working on more depth of field and composition, we headed up to the Rees Valley where we made a lot more stops, including Paradise and I even got to see the spot where Beorn’s house was built!  Hurray!  More Hobbit stuff, even though the Fellowship was over.  We worked on composition and just kept looking for lovely places to stop to take photos.  I truly enjoyed my time with Laurence.  Next to knitting, photography is another favourite hobby.  And I’m going to have to work on it as much as I do with knitting.  I now shoot my photos in RAW and JPEG.  Wow does that ever take up a lot of memory!  But the colours as compared to the JPEG photos are so much richer!  And now I am going to have process the RAW photos in something other than iPhoto.  Laurence has suggested Adobe’s Lightroom.  When I get a decent internet connection, I’ll have to download the trial copy onto my computer and give it a try.  Until then I’ll still be posting the JPEGs, again when I get decent internet connections.  Anyway I had a great day with Laurence.  I learned lots, had lots of hands on practice and received lots of advice.  He answered all my questions that I threw at him and sent me notes after the tour was over.  He even suggested places for me to visit along the way such at St. Bathans and Naseby.  Sadly I didn’t have the chance to make stops at these locations.  But they will be added to my next trip to New Zealand.  Thanks Laurence!  The next time I’m in Queenstown I will look you up and book another tour with you.  And I’m still in Manual mode!

After I was returned back to Queenstown, I did something that I had said I wouldn’t do.  I went to Fergburger for a burger.  I had heard about this place and how people line up forever for a burger and the first night we had arrived, Wayne had driven us down the road and we could see massive amounts of people lined up for a burger.  Julie had suggested an alternative:  Devil Burger and I had decided I would give it a try instead.  I never did get a Devil Burger.  But at 430pm, not exactly dinner hour, I stopped by the restaurant and noticed that there were not a lot of people there and so I decided to try it out.  For $12 NZD I got the Fergburger with cheddar.  A Fergburger consists of NZ Beef, lettuce, tomato, red onion, aioli and tomato relish.  The bun was toasted and it was huge!  It was two meals in one!  After scarfing the burger down, I had to go for a walk.IMG_2252 IMG_2254

So I walked the Queenstown Hill Walkway.  This was a good workout.  The information board said it would take between 1.5 to 2.5 hours return trip.  I don’t know how long it took me.  I had a lot of photo stops.  It is pretty steep going but well worth it once you get to the top.  Make sure you bring sunscreen and a warm hoody.  The first bit is sunny with shade, but then you get to a junction.  You can choose to take the Loop track or go straight to the Summit.  If you choose the Summit, you need the sunscreen.  There is no shade from there on.  If you take the Loop track you are entering Mirkwood territory!  It is literally like walking into Mirkwood.  It is dark and cool and there is no letting in the sunlight.  Look up and try to see sunshine.  You really have to climb up the trees to see sunshine.  The trees are creepy and you are surrounded by poisonous mushrooms.  I kid you not!  I was just waiting for me to start hallucinating and lose the path like in the movie.  Luckily I didn’t hallucinate and there really is only one path.  But still it was spooky dark.  I loved it!  Again, there is no escaping the Fellowship.  I see it everywhere now!  Anyway I reached the top and saw the Basket of Dreams.  But more importantly I saw everything!  I saw Queenstown.  I saw the Remarkables!  I saw Lake Wakatipu!  I saw Everything!  The view was spectacular.  And I was higher up than when I took the Skyline Gondola.  After tearing my gaze away from the Remarkables, I looked and saw that there was another path that led further up.  The information board did indicate that there was another path that would lead up to 907 m high.  So I walked that as well.  Make sure you do it!  It is worth every effort to get up there!  Honestly!  I dont’ know how long I was up there, but when the wind picked up, it was time for me to head back down.  As I was going up, and down, I was passed by many joggers.  JOGGERS!  Running up the hill!  Good for them!  I’m happy just walking it.

Once I returned to Queenstown, I hung around the wharf and waited for Mathais the Piano man.  I remember seeing a photo of him on Pinterest and I thought it would be interesting to see him and listen to him play.  I had seen him for 5 minutes the first night in Queenstown but I didn’t stick around very long because it was blustery and I didn’t have a jacket but this night, I was prepared.  And I’m glad I stayed and waited.  His music is lovely.  He has several CDs out but I didn’t buy any, but maybe I’ll get them online when I return home.  I also put to use my new skills with my camera from that morning’s lessons.  The sun was setting just in front and it was just a lovely way to end the night, a lovely way to spend my last day in Queenstown.

January 22, 2014

This morning I went to pick up my car.  OMG!  I am going to be driving in New Zealand.  On the Left hand side!  Ben and Sue had given me tips on driving a few days ago.  Ben said that there would be two things that I would have issues with:

  1. I would start drifting more to the left because coming from a place where we drive on the right-hand side, our eyes aren’t used to seeing the dividing line on the left-hand side.
  2. I would eventually stop looking in the rearview mirror because I am used to looking up to the right but the mirror won’t be there so I’ll eventually not look at all and then after awhile, when I do look up, I’ll be surprised to see 20 cars behind me waiting to pass me.

Well, so far, I have only had 3 cars waiting to pass me.  I have noticed drifting but I catch it fairly quickly and I do notice that I look in the right hand side view mirror quite often.  I have managed to stay in the left hand side pretty easily.  My first destination with my car:  Arrowtown.  Ben and Sue had taken me there to checkout The Old Smithy for Lord of the Rings/Hobbit jewellery but then we left right afterwards.  Which was not a problem since I knew that on this day, it would be pretty free for me since the drive to Te Anau would be quick.  So off to Arrowtown for lots of retail therapy.  Back to The Old Smithy and then up and down the street to check out the other shops.  It’s like walking back through time.  It could’ve been a set for Little House on the Prairie.  All I needed was for Laura Ingalls and Michael Landon to step out of a shop!

After a small lunch, I decided to try out Patagonia’s ice cream.  Wow!  That was good.  I had the Dark Chocolate Macadamia ice cream.  Divine!  After my indulgence, it was time to leave for Te Anau.  And what timing.  My outing in Arrowtown was perfect sunny weather and as I was leaving, the rain appeared, and the wind and more rain.  I was actually beginning to think that there may be problems with my kayaking trip to Doubtful Sound.  But I would deal with that when the time came.  My first issue was to get to the hotel.  After telling the GPS to take me to the Distinction Luxmore Hotel, it took me to some unknown location in Te Anau.IMG_2275Good thing I have a good memory and actually knew how to get to Te Anau’s Town Centre, which was where the hotel was located.  I made it to the hotel in one piece.  Then I had to go pick up a sleeping bag for the trip and then pick up food supplies for the trip.  After stopping for dinner at the Olive Tree cafe, my day had come to an end.  It was time for an early night because tomorrow would be an early morning start!

Update:  I have now tried kiwi fruit and Patagonia’s Ice cream

Sorry!  No photos for this post or the previous post.  Not yet!  Stay tuned!

Thinking of you all, Luv Aunty!

The Fellowship has ended, But the Adventure Continues!

Sorry for the delay.  I’ve been having internet issues!  But I am still here!

January 19, 2014

The Fellowship has disbanded.  On the beginning of our last day, we had already split up, not officially, but it was an optional activity day.  Four of us decided to go on the Milford Sound Coach and Cruise while the others returned to Queenstown.  It was a rainy, terrible day to start.  But I knew it would make for fantastic waterfalls, but then I began to wonder about how my poor camera would hold up in this rain.  So my little point and shoot waterproof camera came out every so often as well.  The road from Te Anau to Milford was quite spectacular.  As we drove along, we could see all these temporary waterfalls that appeared because of the rain.  We were surrounded, and we hadn’t even gotten onto the cruise yet.  Along the drive, we stopped off at Mirror Lakes, where on a calm day, you can see a beautiful mirror reflection of the mountains in the lake.  Quite lovely, if it wasn’t raining.  But even with the rain (at the time, it was just getting started) you could see the mirror reflection but not as fantastic as in the postcards.  As we continued down the road, we stopped again at The Chasm.  Now that was fantastic with the rushing river going through the gorge.  We made our way passed some more temporary waterfalls (cascades) and got to the Homer Tunnel where we waited for our turn to head through the tunnel.  It is a one lane tunnel.  While we waited, we had some Keas, New Zealand’s parrot, visiting our bus.

After passing the tunnel, we made it to the port with just over 5 minutes to spare.  We cruised away on the Milford Mariner.  It was a very smooth ride, even with the rain.  However, with the rain came mist and it was super low mist.  The boat hugged the coast line so on one side you could see the cascades and we even saw fur seals but on the other side, it was like staring through a marshmallow.  Thick, white mist.  We could not see the other side.   And unfortunately, we could not see the top of Mitre Peak, which everyone goes to Milford Sound to see.  What a shame.  But not to worry.  There are reasons why postcards were created.  The boat took us all the way out to where the Abel Tasman Sea was entering the fiord.  Oh, by the way, did you know that Milford Sound is actually a Fiord and not a Sound?  A Fiord is carved out by a glacier and then has the ocean backfilling it whereas a Sound is carved out due to a river.  In fact there are 14 Sounds in Fiordland National Park that are mis-named.  They are all Fiords, not Sounds.  But Milford Sound rolls off the tongue a lot smoother than Milford Fiord so I guess no one is really taking issue with it.  And all the Sounds are located in Fiordland National Park!  So the issue is taken care of with the correct name of the park.  So as we reached the Abel Tasman Sea, the smooth ride became a rolling ride.  I have been very lucky this entire trip with motion sickness.  I have been taking motion sickness pills, pretty much from the start of the tour.  The left-hand driving and the motion of the coach has not been kind to me but with the pills, all is miraculously well.  The only time that didn’t work out so much for me was on the Helicopter tour.  But at least I wasn’t the only one feeling queasy on the helicopter.  As I said, I was on the motion sickness pills and very thankful for it during the rolling up and down.  Unfortunately, not everyone did so well during this part.  There was a passenger on the boat who literally turned green.  I always just thought it was a silly expression, until I saw her turn green.  Oh dear.  The crew suggested she sit outside in the middle of the boat, suggesting that the fresh air would make her feel better.  Perhaps it would but it was also cold outside with the rain and the boat isn’t that large.  Being in the middle would’ve made very little difference on whether you felt the rolling or not.  Well, as we turned away from the sea, the weather started to clear up a little.  But we still hugged the coast to get back to the start.  By the time we were back on the coach, the rain had stopped and the sun and blue sky had come out.

What timing!  We arrived back into Queenstown just after 8pm where we met up with the remainder of the group at the top of the Skyline Gondola for dinner.  Yum!  It was a a buffet dinner and the selection was delicious.  And with the sun just setting and the sky being clear, it was an amazing view of the Remarkables.  What a way to end the day and to end our Fellowship.  After dinner, Julie said some lovely things to each member and we got a very nice memento from her, a photo postcard.  We had a Sam and Frodo (Katelyn and Larissa) pair, a Merry and Pippin pair (Anthea and Jessica) and a Sam and Rosie pair (David and Annie).  I was the Bilbo of the group, going off on my adventure after the tour.  I am going to miss them.  It was a fun group and I am so glad that I chose to go with Red Carpet Tours.  I have met some lovely people and I am glad I can call them friends.  My Gandalfs, yes plural:  Julie who met me at the Airport and was our leader throughout the tour, Deanna, our Wellington Gandalf who I hope to meet up with again before I leave for home, and Sue and Ben from Queenstown who took me to the Routeburn track and then took me to Arrowtown!  I am so glad to have met them on this trip.   If my sisters ever decide to go to New Zealand, I will certainly come back with them and even if they don’t come back, I know that I will return.  But now that the tour is over, the rest of my adventure begins.  I will still be in Queenstown for another few days.  I can’t wait to make more new friends on the remainder of my trip.  I’m off to do a Milford Track Guided Day walk next.

 

January 20, 2014

It was another early start for me and I was headed back to Te Anau for the Milford Track.  I was joined by three other travellers, who also happened to be staying in the same hotel as me.  So the four of us would be spending the day together.  We were picked up at the hotel by a taxi and driven over to the Real Journeys office.  There we were all loaded onto the their special coach and driven out to Te Anau.  Out off all the people on the coach, only four of us were walking the Milford Track.  All the others were headed out to Milford Sound for the Scenic cruise.  The four of us met up with Richard, our guide for the day and we hopped onto a smaller bus along with Heath and his group of 15 others, who were also walking the Milford Track.  Heath drove us to Te Anau Downs where we hopped off and boarded a boat that took us across Lake Te Anau to reach the start of the Milford Track.  There were other people on the boat as well, others who would be walking the full track, so they were loaded up with lots of gear.  While we were on board, Richard had to bow out of being our guide since he had a medical issue so we had Will, who was originally scheduled to work on the boat.  Will was a very friendly and knowledgeable guide.  It was a wonderful walk.  We probably walked for about 4 hours, approximately 11 km.  Two hours in and two hours out.  It was nice also because it was just the four of us.  I was going to compare the Routeburn track with the Milford Track, my two taste tests of these tracks, but there really is no comparison.  They are two different tracks.  And I enjoyed both.  Would I ever consider walking the full track?  I don’t know yet.  I am leaning towards no, since I saw all the gear these other hikers were carrying.  I like walking.  I like hiking.  I love the scenery here.  But I don’t like the idea of carrying all that stuff with me while I’m on the hike.  Anyway while we were walking, Will was pointing out little Alpine flowers and he took us off the Milford Track and we went a round about way to Glade House.  Along the way we stopped off at a river and there we refilled our water bottle with fresh mountain water.  Delicious!  We had lunch at Glade House and then we returned to the Milford Track and walked some more of it before turning around and heading back.  Along the way, we stopped to check out an 800 year old Beech tree.  Wow!  There are a lot of Beech trees in New Zealand and Will told us how to identify the Red Beech, the Silver Beech and the Mountain Beech.  He was also doing his bird calls which were really good.  Sometimes you couldn’t tell if it was the bird or if it was Will.  It was 4:30pm when we returned to the boat.  We made it back to Te Anau by 6pm, just in time to see our Queenstown bus take off without us.  Hmmmm.  Not so good.  And it didn’t help that the driver did not have a working cell phone on him.  Or it could’ve been working and he just wasn’t picking up.  In New Zealand, you cannot use your cell phone while you drive, just like BC.  So the people in the Te Anau office could not reach the driver.  So our only option?  Hop back onto our older bus, and chase down the Queenstown bus.  But the other problem was the Queenstown bus was newer and faster than our older bus.  But Heath and Richard were good about it.  Heath was driving.  Richard had a cellphone.  Probably within 30 minutes, the Queenstown bus had pulled over.  I’m not sure how they reached him.  I have a feeling someone in a smaller car was chasing the Queenstown bus and managed to get him to pick up his cell phone or signalled him to pull over because it wasn’t just the Queenstown bus, but another regular car and a guy who escorted us onto the bus.  What service!  What an adventure!  I never thought I’d be in a bus chasing after another bus.

Anyway, wish you were all here with me on my adventure! Luv, Aunty

Get Off the Road! And Into a Theatre!

On Day 8 we were joined by Red Carpet Tour’s Wellington guide, Deanna.  Both Deanna and Julie took care of us today and the first thing we did was head out to Stone Street Studios where the movies were filmed.  There wasn’t much to see since we couldn’t actually get into the Studios.  But we did climb the fence to take a peek.  In the distance we could see the outdoor green screen where they filmed several of the scenes of the movies.  It was a quick stop and then we were headed off to WETA Cave to participate in the WETA Workshops tour and then to watch the Behind the Scenes DVD promo.  During the tour of the workshop, we got to see how they designed things such as weapons for District 9 and the process that they go through before finally getting to the completed stage.  We saw props that were made but were never used for the films but they were built so that directors and producers could see what the finished product would be and if they liked it, approved it, if not, then it was a start over.  It was amazing to see all the weapons that were created for all the different movies that WETA was involved in:  The Narnia movies, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, Avatar, District 9, and television shows as well.  Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any photos whatsoever.  We also got to see and in some cases touch the products that WETA came up with such as chain mail.  We were able to touch and feel how heavy real chain mail was and then the evolution of chain mail through the years of movie making.  Then we moved on to prosthetics.  The feel of the material that they use to make fake noses, thicker hands and arms for dwarves…it was weird to feel it.  Creepy, in a way.  WETA has their own sword maker.  He makes the swords in the traditional method with an anvil.  Sadly it was still Christmas holidays for these people so it was a fairly empty workshop, except for one sculptor.  We got to see what he was making from when he comes up the idea and then makes it out of clay and then turns it into a full size sculpture.  It was pretty neat.  The tour took about 45 minutes.  It was quite impressive.  Richard Taylor, the co-founder of WETA did an amazing job.  After the tour, it was time for us to check out WETA’s promo DVD.  Again, no filming or photos allowed.  It was a very well done DVD.  Then it was time to spend some money.  There were so many goodies to choose from.  So many things I wanted and knew I could never justify buying and there was always the problem with carrying the goods home with me.  (Biggest Sigh Ever)  I really would’ve like to bring home a Thorin statue but he wasn’t within my budget or in my luggage weight class.  Oh well.  At least in the WETA Caves, we were allowed to take photos.  So I went crazy with the photos.

After getting our fill of Hobbit and LOTR goodies, we were off to the Roxy Theatre, co-owned by Richard Taylor.  This is a beautifully refurbished theatre and Red Carpet Tours had their own Premier party held at the Roxy for the Premier of Desolation of Smaug.  I saw the pictures and really wished I could’ve been there.  However my costume making skills are dismal so I would’ve stuck out like a sore thumb.  But it sure looked fun and it helped that six of the actors who played the dwarves were also at the party.  Well, at the theatre today, there was no premier party nor were there any actors, but we did have second breakfast before heading off out our next stop.

Mt. Victoria was the location for several important scenes in The Fellowship of the Rings.  Mushrooms, Get off the Road and one of the extended scenes where Frodo and Sam are smoking a pipe and Frodo is sitting in a tree was filmed here.  From just the short walk that we did, I’m glad I’ll be returning to Wellington later on in February.  This would been a great place to go for a walk.  The paths were easy to follow, but keep in mind that it is also used by mountain bikers and on this day, we had to get off the road several times.  So once again, we got into our roles and took our shots and then Craig took us to the top of Mt. Victoria where we could take some impressive photos from the top.

Then we were off again.  Our fellowship split up this time.  Some of us were off to see Desolation of Smaug at the Embassy Theatre and some decided to pass since they had already seen it.  I was the only one in the entire fellowship that had not seen the movie yet.  And while I was there, I splurged on a bottle of L&P.  Let me just say this about the movie:  Oh My God!  That was great!  I have always believed that movies based on books should follow books.  And I still believe it, but I think in Peter Jackson’s case, he has done a fantastic job with his creative licensing.  I won’t say anything else about this movie except that once is not enough.  I will definitely try to see it again before I leave New Zealand.  And if it’s still playing in Vancouver, I may have to see it a third time.  Anyway after the movie, we all met up at Strawberry Fare, an eatery that was popular with past Fellowships.  The desserts were fantastic.  I had one called Devil’s Dream Cake.  There was dark chocolate, white chocolate, raspberries and more chocolate, drizzled with raspberry sauce and mango and passion fruit sauce.  It was so delicious and sadly I had to stop after eating half of it.  It was so rich.  And I was actually beginning to get a sugar headache, if that’s even possible.  Oh so delicious!

Thus concludes our fun on the North Island.   Now we head off to the South Island for Day 9.

We got to sleep in today on Day 9.  But really, how does one sleep in, when they have to pack for a flight!  Arghhh.  I had to pay for an extra bag.  And I’m only on Day 9.  This’ll teach me to buy books.  We headed out at 930am for the Wellington Airport.  And again, I have to say:  Oh My God!  What an airport!  I wish our airport had eye candy like this.  I’d be so happy to work there if I had these things hanging over my head day in and day out!  The flight time was only 25 minutes.  Barely even noticeable.  Just one bump.  And I didn’t have a seat mate so it was great.  But what made it even better was the view.  I don’t normally like to look out the window when I’m in the plane.  But this time, I couldn’t look away.  It was so beautiful.  And if you look down in the middle, you’ll see the Inter Islander Ferry navigating the islands!

When we found our bus, we had our first bit of disappointment.  Even though it was absolutely beautiful in Nelson, it was very windy up in the mountains so our helicopter ride had to be postponed.  We would try again tomorrow.  I hope the weather turns out good.  I really want to fly in the helicopter.  So instead we had a nice leisurely lunch and then went to check into our hotel.  The Trailways Hotel in Nelson is very nice.  It is located right by the river in the centre of town.  And it has unlimited free wi-fi.  Ah Bliss!  Anyway after checking in, I was off to find…The Centre of New Zealand.  That’s right!  The Centre of New Zealand is in Nelson.  And it was up a hill.  A fairly steep hill.  But it was good exercise.  And the view from the top was amazing.  After spending about 10 minutes up there I started my way back down.  And then decided to hike some of the other trails in the vicinity.  I made an effort to go to some Japanese gardens which was 45 minutes one way but as I headed out, the wind picked up and actually blew my hat off.  So I decided to head back.  Then I decided to head down to Maitai valley.  That wasn’t too bad.  Since it was a valley, and I had started up on top the the hill, it was all down hill.  But then as I continued down the steep hills, I began to think about how difficult it would be to traipse back up those hills.  Luckily for me, by the time I got to the bottom, there was another way to get back to where I had started.  So, I saw the Centre of New Zealand.  Now I was off to find the Cathedral.  It wasn’t that far off.  But along the way I found the Queen’s Garden with a really pretty gate.  So I veered off and went for a little stroll through the Queen’s Garden.  There were several pretty bridges and a fountain as well as a small Chinese garden.  After my detour, I finally made it to the Cathedral.  It was quarter to 5 and the bells were ringing.  I stood there for 5 minutes listening to the bells ring and I was wondering why it was ringing at such an odd time and why it was ringing for so long and then as I walked around to the other side of the cathedral, I saw the sign indicating there was a service at 5pm, which would probably explain why the bells were ringing for so long.  I didn’t go in.  I really didn’t want to spend my evening at a church service.  I’m sure it would’ve been beautiful inside, but it would’ve been rude to go in and start taking pictures while someone was speaking.

So off I went again, this time, down the street looking for a place to eat.  There wasn’t a lot of choices.  Most of the shops and eateries were closed.  It was a Sunday.  And as I neared the hotel, I saw a Burger King.  I walked in and then walked back out.  I couldn’t do it.  I then headed to the closest grocery store, Countdown and wandered the aisles.  I walked out with two bottles of water and juice.  I guess I would be eating at the hotel restaurant.  I ended up having Nelson Scallops and a salad.  Very tasty.  Sorry no picture.  And just before I finish this post, take a look at my view from my room.  Isn’t it lovely?DSC_2112

Wish you could all be here, Aunty

Rangitoto Island

The other day I talked about climbing my first volcano, Rangitoto Island, but later that night I realized that I had already climbed my first volcano.  Mount Victoria in Devonport was an old volcano and if I had made the effort to figure out how to get to the top of North Head, I could say by now that I had climbed two volcanoes on my first day in New Zealand.  Alas, I can only say I climbed one, though it was a small, extinct volcano.

However, on Day 3, after a 20 minute bus ride to Devonport and then another 30 minute ferry ride (check out the tourist magazines for a 10% discount on one adult fare), I landed on Rangitoto Island to start my trek to the summit of this dormant volcano.  According to Julie, the last time it erupted was 600 years ago.  According to all the information boards, it is considered to be the youngest volcano in New Zealand.  It is also recognized as a pest-free island.  Rangitoto has a neighbouring island, Motutapu that is connected by the Motutapu Island Causeway.  So, both islands are actually pest-free.  And the government really means to keep it that way.  As I made my way towards the summit, I could see pest traps laid out along the side of the path.  Inside was an egg and some other item for consumption.  I’m gonna guess poison.  But that would only be a guess.  Anyway, it was a different world on this island.  When you first approach the island from the water, looking up at the summit you see lots of greenery, but as soon as you get onto the path, you are surrounded by lava rock and then as you make your way up along the path, you realize that it’s not a dirt path, it is crushed lava rock.  Pretty neat to see, because it was all black.  There was some vegetation around, but mostly you see the black rock.  It is a bit of trudge at first on the path, not that it was difficult, but you are walking in a line behind all the other people that were on the ferry with you.  Some of them may have joined up with the volcanic explorer tour, a guided road-train trip with commentary, but a good majority of the people are hiking to the summit.  But eventually these people who are all shapes and sizes either moved on ahead, branched off to different tracks or stopped at the information boards that were set up along the way.  Once that happens, it was easy to move on passed these obstacles and proceed to my goal, the summit which was 259 m above sea level.  Not much height considering some of the hikes I’ve done back home, but since I had just arrived in the country and basically come out from ‘hiking hibernation’ , 259 m is not that bad.  I took the most direct route, which according to the information boards, would take one hour to reach.  I don’t know how long it would’ve taken me to reach the summit because I veered off to explore the lava caves.  That was so cool.  Make sure you bring a flashlight with you.  The first set of caves I encountered were too small to actually fit a person, but it was still neat to see.  While I was looking about, an older couple started talking to me from above.  I suggested they skip these ones since you couldn’t actually walk through them, but then they told me about the caves further ahead where you could walk through them.  So off I went.  Wow, that was neat.  And thank goodness I brought a flashlight.  So after walking through these caves, I headed back to the main track.  By this time, the track was in a really nice forested area, no more black rock, but lush green forest.  But it wasn’t so much the forest that got my attention but the sound of the birds and the insects.  It was so loud.  Once at the top, there is a Crater summit track which I decided to do as well.  These were all well formed tracks, definitely well worn.  Their marker system could be better, but really there was no way that a person could get lost.  After walking around the summit, it was time to head back to the wharf.  It probably would’ve taken me about thirty minutes, if I had stuck with the main route, but on my way down, I veered off again and headed to the Kidney Fern walk.  According to the map, the walk would’ve taken me passed the Prison Barracks Remnants, however the forest was so thick and dense that I didn’t even see it.  The map labelled these tracks to be moderate grade.  I would have to agree.  It was a nice hike/walk, a very good half day affair.  It was good to get my hiking boots back on and actually go out and about.  In total, I hiked for two and a half hours.  I got off the ferry just before 10am and was back to the wharf by 12:30pm, just in time to catch the 12:45 ferry back to Devonport.  I could’ve stayed on the ferry and kept on going to Auckland, but since I knew I would have future days in Auckland, I decided to take it easy and hang out in Devonport.

In the village, it was time to find a place to eat.  I went to the Stone Oven Bakery and Cafe.  A salad and mini vegetarian frittata set me back $10 NZD.  That’s not too bad.  And they had free internet too.  Nice.  It was a busy cafe.  The service was good and the people friendly.  The seating was comfortable and it was clean.  It’s a place I would definitely go back to, if I ever return to Devonport.  After lunch it was time to do a little retail therapy.  On day 1 when I had walked into Devonport, I noticed a NZ Postal outlet.  I knew exactly what I wanted.  Hobbit stamps!  My sisters and I are huge fans, hence my trip, but my sisters are even bigger fans than me, so of course I was instructed to bring back the stamps!  Once again, the service was good and the people super helpful, not something I expected in a postal outlet.  After my retail therapy had been fulfilled for the day, it was time to head back to Takapuna and get cleaned up.  I was going to meet the rest of my tour group for dinner that night at the hotel.  So back to the bus stop and back to the hotel.  One other thing that I can check off my list of things to see/eat/do:  I have now eaten pavlova.  Tasty, and seriously sugary sweet.  Thank goodness I hiked Rangitoto Island that morning.

I’ll try to get pictures for the next post or I’ll update the post with pics.  I’ll let you know.  Right now I’m running out of MB to use.  And there’s so much I want to show you!

Lots of luv to all, Aunty

Crystal Falls

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This will be my last post about hiking trails for 2013.  Winter is upon us and as I’ve said before, I am a fair weather hiker.  But in the last few hikes, I have discovered that I also enjoy hiking in not-so-fair weather.  Crystal Falls in Coquitlam, I think can be categorized as fair but cold weather hiking.  This hike actually took place on the last weekend of November.  Once again Nicole and I made sure we were layered up like crazy.  Hat? Check!  Gloves?  Check!  Multiple layers?  Check!  Hiking bag? Check!  Dairy free Hot Chocolate?  Double Check!  And off we went into the ‘burbs!  It was a brisk morning!  The sun was out but the temperatures were low.  We found the start of the trail quite easily.  The directions given on vancouvertrails.com were very helpful.  And thanks to Google Maps, we are there in no time.  The trail was quite muddy in certain spots, but it was still enjoyable.  It was a relatively flat trail heading in to the falls, until we got lost.  Yes, as with all our hiking ‘expeditions’, we got lost.  And this time we were very lost.   Looking back on it now, we both knew that the trail was not familiar and it should’ve been even more obvious when we veered away from the river, but silly us, as we were both thinking this, we both did not say anything to each other until we started heading up a hill and then reached a dead end.  Yup.  A dead end.  Honestly, how does a trail have a dead end?  Other than the fact that there were enough people getting lost on the exact same trail, there is no other reason for a ‘dead-end’ trail (unless you’re a psycho murderer but since the dead end was behind someone’s house, I’d say that’s not likely).  Anyway, dead end was reached and now it was time to turn back.  As we headed back down the hill, we came upon a couple who were also headed the towards the dead end.  We ended up following them back down the trail and then as they turned off down a path, we followed them.  And again we were thinking to ourselves that this did not look familiar.  And in my head, I was also thinking that it was the normal looking people who turn out to be psycho murderers, but since they were within earshot, it didn’t seem wise to voice my concerns aloud.  We followed them for a bit and then left them in the dust as we continued along the trail, still thinking that it wasn’t familiar.  The only good thing was, we had found the river and we were just following it in the opposite direction of the falls.  It wasn’t until we came upon the old abandoned pickup truck that we could say that we were back on the original trail.  We took a little detour here to explore the ruins before heading back on to the trail.

I would say that this as an enjoyable hike.  Even with us getting lost, we still managed to complete the hike in 2 hours.  This was classified as an easy hike with a 2 hour completion time.  I would have to agree that this was an easy hike.  And had we not gotten lost, we probably would’ve finished this in an hour and a half.  Oh well, we got to enjoy nature for an extra 30 minutes.  The next day as we were reviewing our weekend hike, Nicole mentioned that her mother had gotten lost on the exact same trail many years ago.  So the lesson learned here?  Pay attention to your surroundings.  We still don’t know where we went astray.  If you hike on an unmarked trail, perhaps bring your own marking tape and tape off some trees or invest in a GPS tracker.  And talk to your hiking partner (if you have one).  The moment something doesn’t seem familiar, stop and reassess.  However, keep in mind that being lost doesn’t necessarily have a to a be a bad thing.  We did get to see a little bit more of the area.  Just don’t panic.  And if you are hiking alone, make sure you have a cell phone with you that works.  And always end your hike with hot chocolate!