Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas. He will bring us justice and light!

Said the night wind to the little lamb
Do you see what I see
(Do you see what I see)
Way up in the sky little lamb

Glenorchy, Queenstown

Glenorchy, Dart River

Sunday, December 21, 2014

God walks with us

“God, so it seems, inserted himself in our tiresome and often exhausting journey and became a fellow traveler…. He came to us because he wanted to join us on the road, to listen to our story, and to help us realize that we are not walking in circles but moving towards the house of peace and joy.

This is the great mystery of Christmas that continues to give us comfort and consolation: we are not alone on our journey.  The God of love who gave us life sent his only Son to be with us at all times and in all places, so that we never have to feel lost in our struggles, but can always trust that he walks with us.”  Henri Nouwen

The Milford Track

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Milford Track: Day Three on the trail and Milford Sound

The third (last) day on the trail led us 13.5 miles from Clinton Lodge. Contending with sore muscles from the MacKinnon pass ascent/descent, we still let ourselves be immersed in the dense greens of trees and moss, and the deep blue green waters of streams and waterfalls.  Sunshine followed us for the first time on the hike, creating less drama than we had experienced in the mist.

We reached Sand Fly point on the far side of Milford Sound by mid afternoon. Aptly named, these tiny, tiny flies feasted on unprotected skin. A boat transported us to Mitres Peak Lodge, one of the "best view" lodgings we have enjoyed anywhere.

The Ultimate Hikes' experience includes an excellent boat trip in the Milford Sound. The Sound's geology is fascinating, starting 400 million years ago with tall mountains rising as tectonic plates collided.  They rose, fell, rose again.  Most recently, these volcanic formations were subjected to an ice age which left the sharpness and ruggedness that only glaciers can create.

View from Clinton_Lodge, Ultimate_Hikes

Arthur River


MacKay_Falls, Milford_Track, Ultimate Hikes

Giants_Gate_Falls, Milford Track

Milford_Sound, Mitres_Peak_Lodge

Mires_Peak, Mires_Peak_Lodge, Milford_Sound, Ultimate_Hikes

Milford Sound

Stirling_Falls, Milford_Sound

Stirling_Falls, Milford_Sound

Lady_Bowen_Falls, Milford_Sound, Ultimate_Hikes

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Milford Track. The descent from MacKinnon Pass

Each day on the track, Ultimate Hikes sets out an array of ingredients for lunch. Before descending from MacKinnon Pass, Meg and I enjoyed our sandwiches at a warming hut at the top.  One of the guides kept hot water going, so one had a wide choice of drinks.

Leaving the hut, we were hit by a strong wind that diminished as we dropped into the canyon below. Avalanche danger still existed on the standard descent--we heard one that sounded like a sudden resonating clap of thunder. So, we were required to take the "emergency route," a one mile trail where each step was over/on top of/between rocks and trees, and dropped us one to two feet for each step.  Fortunately, our hiking poles kept us steady, but we were sore by the end of the day.

We stayed at Quintin Lodge, in the heart of Fiordland's mountains. Sutherland Falls, the highest in New Zealand and fifth highest in the world, stunned us with its size and volume.  If you saw Hobbit 1, the movie ends with the giant eagles flying over these falls. The top of the falls and its drop was filmed by helicopter and the eagles digitally inserted.  You can see this scene on You Tube.

Descent from MacKinnon Pass

Falls, Roaring Burn (river)

Sutherland Falls

Sutherland Falls

The Milford Track. Day 2: MacKinnon Pass Ascent

The second day on the Milford Track, although just nine miles, was the most challenging.  Between start and finish, Meg and I would ascend 2400 feet over MakKinnon Pass and then and descend 2800 feet, all in less then six miles. The weather began with a light rain, creating large numbers of water-wonderfalls. The the mist encompassed us as we began upwards on a rocky trail.  We felt that we were following the path of Bilbo and the Dwarves as they traveled to the Misty Mountains.

The New Zealand government commissioned Quintin MacKinnon in 1888 to push through a track so that tourists could travel from Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound. Despite torrential rain, alternating with hot days, he succeeded in October, 1888.

The route is majestic and magical, rated one of the best in the world. The clouds cleared slightly at the top, treating Meg and me to breathtaking, other worldly views.

The descent is another story, and will be taken up in another post.

Meg in rain, after leaving Pamplona Lodge

Ascent to MacKinnon Pass

Hiker in the mist

Where are Bilbo and the Dwarves?

MacKinnon memorial

MacKinnon Pass

MacKinnon Pass

The Milford Track, Day 1

The Milford Track is rated one the world’s “must do” hikes. Meg and I were fortunate to have the opportunity to enjoy it last week.  The track travels 33.5 miles and takes three days of actual hiking, with one day to get there and half a day to return to Queenstown from Milford Sound.

We hiked the first two days in mist and light rain, which intensified the mystique of the multi green-hued rain forest and the river beside it.  Waterfalls abounded above us.  There was scarcely a time on the trail when we did not see waterfalls.

The hike was expertly led by four guides from Ultimate Hikes, which holds the concession to lead this track.  Meg and I went with them two years ago on the Routeburn Track.  We strongly recommend this company!

Starting the Milford Track

Meg enjoys a rainforest creature

This is the "feel" of the Milford Track in the mist

Clinton River

Clinton river

Once in a while, you need to duck

Milford Track, rainforest mood

Clinton River