New Zealand: The Routeburn Track

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…

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New Zealand: The Routeburn Track

New Zealand: The Kepler Track

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…

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New Zealand: The Kepler Track