NZ 2017 – Aoraki to Cromwell

Third day. Hearty breakfast with lamb sausage. Rain.

We hiked the Hooker Valley Track, took the steep steps up the overlook to the Tasman Glacier, and skipped out to Kea Point. There, we first heard – then saw with awe – the glaciers groan and quake on the mountain face in front of us, spewing ice falls and cascading hunks down the mountainsides. To be crushed by that force!

Aoraki, tallest of the mountains in the Southern Alps and New Zealand, never showed us his mighty face. They say he only does so to those who are worthy. So last year I was, this one, not.

Heading out and south, we cackled past a dad dressed as Gandalf (his teenage daughter’s idea; we did pass) and dawdled down the valley past Lake Pukaki once more (the last more) . . . I could die of that blue. It kills me.

Pushing late on our drive, we watched the terrain change from glistening ice to tawny desert hills as we passed through the Lindis Valley via NZ 8 on the way to Cromwell.

Drip drip drop little April showers . . .

The rain drops floated on the lake, skimming across the denser liquid from the glacial rock flour that makes the water milky.

Dickey’s new forever-home.

Wet and thorny, both.

Tasman Glacier and the start of Lake Pukaki.

Père et fils.

“You shall not pass!”

We failed to like feijoa even though everyone said we should.


Looking out towards Omarama’s clay cliffs. I want to hike them one day.

Lindis Valley road.

Though no photos exist, we had a dance party in the deserted pedestrian mall in Cromwell as dark fell and blinking neon blazed around us. The song, appropriately, was “How Bizarre”.

Life. How bizarre. Indeed.

NZ 2017 – Akaroa to Aoraki

. . . With two full months of two separate years of photos from New Zealand in the backlog, tonight I made another attack in hacking away at the mass of pictures, willy nilly.

This most recent trip was in April, included a companion, and incorporated way more Tim Tams.

Dickey and I left on 2 April to fly the normal US east coast to west coast to Auckland transit in a haze of airports and upright naps. We landed in the future, having lost a whole Monday, and hopped a plane to Christchurch on 4 April to stay with an old college pal and his wife. With time to kill before meeting them, we dove straight into driving on the left to waste no time and explore the Banks Peninsula southeast of Christchurch. Our plane cabin-cramped legs stretched along the high and beautiful seashore and tiny towns around Akaroa.

From there, we had a lovely night outside Christchurch with Kris and Jess and Bea the cat before heading out the next rainy morning on our way to the inland wilds. First, we hopscotched through tiny towns filling the Jucy van with provisions, then skipped ourselves like rocks around Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki before calling it a night under the heavy shrouds of Aoraki, Mount Cook National Park.

Unlike many of my other travels, I barely wrote a word in journal, which is very unusual. So too many photographs will have to do.

Banks Peninsula and Akaroa

Outside Christchurch with Kris+Jess

On the road, heading inland from Christchurch, NZ 1 to 79 through Geraldine, home of the cutest Police Department ever.

Lake Tekapo and Church of the Good Shepherd

(This apple, he found.)

Lake Pukaki (one of the most mesmerizing, and one of my favorite, places on earth)

The road to Aoraki, hidden behind clouds.

Days 1 and 2 complete.

As I sit and type in the cold midnight darkness of central Pennsylvania, I sure do miss that glacial blue.

Megan+Mike at Hickory Run

Theeeeeese cats are getting married tomorrow!

Last October, we went out to Hickory Run State Park to take their engagement photos, and all we did was cackle, trip, marvel at the explosion of fall colors, and try not to smash our brains on the rocks. It was lovely!

Congrats, you two. I expect a rager. See you in the morning!!

Wild Roses – Part 3

The last leg of the journey was through the Waterton Lakes side of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, where we drove and hiked along Red Rock Canyon, stopped for a drink at the definitively haunted Prince of Wales Hotel, and continued on to Calgary at sunset, running wild through the canola fields. It was over all too soon.

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11:23a: Leaving Glacier, road to Waterton – I do not want to leave. We are leaving. I am not ready for cell phones and day jobs, meetings and life in four walls.


2:21p MST: YCC -> Minneapolis – We leave. The world keeps rotating. I feel as if all will change upon descent? – but I can neither control nor fight it, so will adapt, as usual. Calgary, as we leave, as a most accommodating and simple airport. What will I do when I get home??? 

2:37p – Well, we guzzled wine and put all the remainder of our bourbon and tequila in fresh TSA-friendly toiletry bottles. I am sleepy and introspective, which could or could not be a blessed combination. 

4:40p MST – nearly to Minnie – I peeked toward the sunny window – over my neighbor reading Backpacker (I wanted to borrow it the whole flight, but never worked up the nerve) – to the grid of green and yellow plots below, a chessboard at seeming checkmate: the weight of all the people everywhere sometimes crushes me. It’s not even that I dislike people – I’m a people person! – but there are so many of us, and we do bad things and feed the bears and don’t recycle if it’s not convenient. I feel overwhelmed!

8:59p Central Time – Everything out the window is dusky blue and runs together, blended over the horizon like a watercolor wash in a painting. It took me a minute to realize that the glowing clusters of lights are edged by the deeper blue of one of the Great Lakes. All the people in those twinkling orange cities have lives as deep and wide as mine, and yet, they are unfathomable. Where the water meets the sky over the lake is indistinguishably blended and blue, save for the faraway veins of light without plane, out there in the expanding ether across the lake. I felt – I feel – unmoored, but here’s the other shore, and we’ve crossed the water and reached it quietly while no one noticed. 

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That was the end of this trip, my babies. In present life, summer is blipping out and in like static, alternating in days of buzzing heat and nights of evocative fall air and woodsmoke smells.

I miss roadtripping, and I am ever thankful for silly and lame, though everlastingly joyful memories, like this gif, from Lake Josephine at Glacier, which I could watch all day. If I think hard enough, I can still feel the liquid coolness and rising gooseflesh of being in the lake.

I love you all and hope always that you get to experience many of the things you wish to, like I get to do.

Be well.

Wild Roses – Part 2

We pick up the roses on their way to America, Montana, and Glacier National Park.

If you’re bored of wildflowers – WHATEVER, sorry/not sorry – you try not to photograph them when their faces are as lovely, varied, and knowable as people.

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Outskirts of Calgary, heading to Montana – This morning, I awoke just before 10a after a horrendously emotional night-coaster of revisiting the airport, finally (and accidentally) being reunited with our bags, and eating Denny’s in an overwhelmed stupor at midnight in our hotel beds. But when I awoke, gravelly and exhausted, but smiling, I had “Vacation – all I ever wanted” in my head. It finally feels like a trip! We are on our way to Glacier National Park, to America! – on July 4th, Insurrection Day. I feel like we’ve been stuck drowning in some kind of shit vortex, stirred maniacally by American Airlines. Is it even ironic that Canada and West Jet have been our empathetic supporters through this when our own patriotic airline blew raspberries and flipped us off so hard?

9:07p: Glacier National Park – So far, we have seen mountain goats, a hoary marmot, a baby duck that we saved by chasing it off the road, and a big black bear. 

11:52p: KOA St. Mary’s – Today was a good one, strange at parts. The Going-to-the-Sun Road was astoundingly spectacular. 

(Favorite, accidental, and most indicative selfie ever)


9:04a: Many Glacier Campground line, Glacier NP – The wait to reserve a campsite is long and intense. We’ve been sitting for an hour in the car and are now first in the queue. I am always impatient to be hiking. Jess scrolls through her phone and old photos, Erica reads, and I intermittently journal or get up and walk around the car, but at least we get to listen to the rangers’ chatter. Bear talk; wildflower information; data about the campers who let their boyfriends sleep in past 9a on a beautiful day; where the moose roam. A group of CDT thru-hikers came through with ultralight looking packs and the long, lean gaits of people who walk for months, making me jealous. I want to be them, transient, living for the views between strong, scalding morning coffee and a final sip of whiskey at night. I feel lonely. I feel at home. I feel awed. I don’t know how to sustain what I want.

UPDATE: The Grinnell Glacier Trail was a rainbow plethora of peaks, flowers, and varied waters from cobalt to aqua. I peeked under an ice shelf that closed the trail and let its icy water drip down my neck. We swam in Lake Josephine, frigid, but warmer than Moraine Lake (I didn’t go numb or gasp for breath).


10:07a: Many Glacier Campground, Site 80 – Sleeping in till 9a was a delicious luxury. I only awoke then because the intense sun streaming into the tent began to make us restless, and we roiled our arms and legs, ruffling our sleeping bags in trying to cool off, boiling lobsters. It is a two-pot of coffee morning. And the weather is perfect. The mosquitoes of the north are fat and powerful, like linebackers, andvthey barrel through our walls of hair or fabric straight to the neck and thigh. DEET (which I hate and makes me cough) is our only defense. Today we plan to do the Iceberg Lake Trail, and we will stay here again tonight. I’m so glad we don’t have to break camp. Now it’s 10:51a, and we all sit around the picnic table, eating smashed-egg “omelette” from the same camp pot, one of us using a plastic fork, one the spoon-end of a spork, and me, the small, melted spatula (10 years old?) with which I cooked our breakfast. We will hang with the giant chipmunks (the lesser squirrel) until the last dregs of coffee are drank. Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to do with It?” is on repeat in my head.

Time? – on its way to dark. So 10p? – Many Glacier Campground – The light is fading gold to white-blue, but it is still bright enough to write by, even at such a late hour. Today we did ten miles on the Iceberg Lake hike. It had even more exuberant wildflowers than yesterday, sloping up to rock faces painted rouge with a deep, purpled rust color. It was hot (record heat here – nearly 90), and just off the first snowy stretch of trail, a dark mama moose and caramel baby lay in the snowpack to cool off. They paid us no mind, and it was mesmerizing to watch the little one’s ears flop and flicker, batting flies. Once we reached Iceberg Lake, it was . . . breathtaking. Literally. When they said that ice remains well into the summer, I imagined a few leftover chunks in the shade of the concave mountains. In actuality, the sheer cliffs striped with snow overlooked an expanse of teal, watery ice that stretched as far as the shore where everyone stood with mouths agape. We put our feet in, and I kept going as far as my knees, but after maybe two minutes in the water, it was too intensely painful to remain. I walked out, crippled by the cold, my feet and legs bright red and burning. It was incredible. We drank tequila spiked with lime and sat with our boots off for almost two hours at the edge of the lake, a cool, refreshing breeze blowing off the ice and dulling the searing, pine-scented air. Now the straight evergreens around us are silhouetted in the crystal-blue dusk. The nearly-full moon popped out from the giant ridge behind us to sneakily duck back behind its higher edges again. Tomorrow is our last full day, and I am not ready to come home. This life – of hiking every day, sleeping under stars, awaking to the warmth of the sun above you – is what. I. want. How to sustain??

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Be well, my loves. Part 3 soon.