One of New Zealand’s nine “Great Walks,” the Routeburn Track is famous for spectacular mountain scenery, alpine grasslands, glacier-fed lakes, rivers, and waterfalls, and southern beech forests teeming with native birds. The Routeburn Track was to be the final hike during my two-week visit to this beautiful country, and I was of course very excited to get started, but I’d botched the planning process. If I was to get this Great Walk done, a creative approach would be necessary…
One of New Zealand’s “Great Walks,” the Kepler Track is a 36-mile loop that takes you 4,000 feet up into the mountains of the Fiordland National Park. Hikers typically complete the track in three or four days, but my goal is to finish it in two — while enjoying the beech forests and alpine grasslands in an area that’s been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To be sure, a two-day circuit of the Kepler is nothing special by ultra-running standards. Winners of the Kepler Challenge trail race complete the 36-mile loop in under 5 hours. In days gone by I might have raced the Kepler Track in 7 or 8 hours, or perhaps I’d have run it for fun over the course of a full day. But over the last year I’ve managed to strain a tendon in my left ankle, and accordingly two back-to-back 18-milers will be plenty. In fact, this will be a good test to see if the ankle is ready for some long-distance hiking goals I’ve got planned for later this spring. Regardless, the Kepler Track should make for a beautiful hike and a memorable experience — provided it doesn’t make the ankle any worse…
Arriving at Christchurch International Airport, I see a young man walking up to the rental car counter in bare feet, and then in town some kids are standing in the school yard or walking home without shoes. To be sure the vast majority of people out on the streets have civilized footwear (or at least flip-flops), but occasional barefooting seems to be a mark of New Zealand’s laid-back culture. And possibly a good omen for my visit, as I’m here for two weeks of hiking in the mountains, some barefoot and some in shoes or sandals depending on conditions.
We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 Long Path Race Series! The Long Path is a 358-mile hiking trail that reaches from New York City to the outskirts of Albany, along the way traversing some of New York’s most beautiful parks and preserves, including the New Jersey Palisades, Harriman State Park, Schunemunk Mountain, the Shawangunks, the Catskills, the Schoharie Valley, and the Helderberg Escarpment. Created and maintained by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, the Long Path is a labor of love for some 250 volunteers.
This Sunday I hiked Kaaterskill High Peak — for the 7th time in the last three years– and this completes the Grid for January, which means I have over the last few years managed to summit all thirty-five High Peaks during the month. With 286 High Peak ascents now under the belt, my journey toward the completion of the Catskill Grid is 68.1% complete, with only 134 peaks left to go.
But 134 is a lot of work, especially with close to half in winter months, when covering ground is so much slower and more difficult. Indeed, whether the Grid can be finished during 2018 is an interesting question. The test will be February — a dismal month for those of us who don’t like winter — and for me, with only 15 February peaks complete, this leaves a daunting 20 to climb. Even worse, all this must take place during the second half of the month, as I’ll be out of town for the first half. In other words, 20 peaks in 14 days, and the trick is, for someone with aging knees and ankles, to make it to March in one piece, so that I can confront another 16 peaks, and then another 19 in April. May, however, is almost done, with only a single peak remaining.
“There’s no rush,” I’ve been counseled by people who are older, wiser, and more experienced. But in any case, we’re getting ahead of ourselves — back to KHP….
A three-day thaw culminated in an afternoon of 60 F temperatures and heavy rain, but then an arctic front moved in overnight, plunging the Hudson Valley back into single digit temperatures.
Random notes from January hikes….