chilling feet

chilling feet

Monday, January 13, 2014

Wading Streams in Glacier Country

(Gordon and Sarah pose for a shot by the Copland Track sign. Little did
we know just how serious the warnings were on how wet we would get!)
Not long ago we ventured out onto our first New Zealand Great Walk. A few days later we were stronger hikers, knew more of what to expect on long outdoor walks, smelled more ripe, and were even closer friends with those who embarked on this venture with us than before we began.

Well since we had given Miriam and Gordon the Routeburn Track experience as a Christmas gift, and it was a gift we all enjoyed more than we thought we was possible, they decided to return the gift with another experience on a different track - the Copland track (said like cope land, not cop land - it's not an area filled with cops roaming around looking for criminals).  We received a super sweet e-mail describing the trek along with a fantastic bonus.  This trek is on the edge of Glacier Country! This means when we were done with the walk, we would then have the amazing experience of visiting some legitimate glaciers. Very cool (pun completely intended in every way shape and form)!
(Just a little bit in and already Miriam is soaked. We decided to take our
boots off in an effort to keep them dry. This bad boy had quite a current
to it! The real challenge was not falling sideways and getting whisked
away. We joked about what we would do if someone got washed away
but it was a pretty real deal.)

First things first though. The Copland track has a sign (as seen above in the first photo with Gordon and Sarah) that warns every hiker venturing onto this walk of a few basic dangers. Just little things one must consider when jumping off into Glacier Country. River crossings, for example, can apparently change dramatically depending on the amount of rain that falls. An unsuspecting hiker crosses a little stream and comes back two days later (or even later that day depending on the weather) to find an uncrossable raging river.  No worries as we checked the weather reports. Oh and landslips... when it rains often times the rocks fall with it, or become loose and then fall later. So we watched carefully. And avalanches, which I see as a super big landslip. All of that is fine and dandy, but this photo of Gordon and Miriam crossing the "stream" was taken about 40 meters into the walk and this is with very little rain in the past couple of days!
(Ready for another amazing hike! Sweet as.)
So just a little bit wet, we started into our seven hour hike. Yep, we are actually starting to become sort of real hikers. Unlike our other Great Walk experience this trail was more raw and uneven, so to speak. There was more slipping, more jumping up and down onto and off of rocks, and even a few minor falls (no worries as our party of hikers know how to fall quasi gracefully). We made it to our hut tired and wondering how this day had taken so much energy from us all. Two ridiculously awesome reliefs awaited us as we finished. The first, Gordon and Miriam had reserved the special "Sierra Room" for us to stay in, which meant the four of us had our own private room (Miriam called this a "glamping" experience - if you're like me you may have had to ask Sarah and she might have said it's taking the word glamorous and camping and putting them together). The second relief was the natural hot springs that we went to sit in and rest our weary bodies (I'll add a photo once we get one from Miriam).
(The hike weaved on and off of this beautiful river. Not sure if it is the silt
in the water or what, but the color was simply breathtaking.)

The next morning we hiked our way back to the beginning and headed the rest of the way into proper Glacier Country. Once there we visited two glaciers (Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier), ate some delicious food, did a few short walks, met some quite interesting people from all over the world at the backpacker's lodge we stayed at, and ate more tasty food. Having the privilege to see a glacier, even from as far as we were, was quite something! Not only are they melting at an alarming rate, but on top of that fact there are not too many left in the world. We cannot wait to head back to see the glaciers again (maybe even going for a tour onto one) when Tim and Gwendolyn arrive in just under a month.
(Sarah and Miriam pose in front of a glacier! If you look carefully you just
might see some of the people who are walking on it.  It's too dangerous to
walk on without paying a guide to take you out. Looks like fun though.)

Our trip ended with a quick escape. As we learned while hiking, Glacier Country is not a tame area and can shift or change at any moment. Haast pass is the only way in from the South of Glacier Country, without a very out of the way trip through Christchurch, and as it happens it is prone to closures - right now it closes every night at 6pm for work. Closures often happen from too much rain which causes rockslides making the roads impassable. As we prepared to leave we heard that an early closure might be taking place, which was bad as Miriam needed to get back for work. We raced the rain, we waited in a town and ate lunch while a rock slip was cleared, and then we got out of dodge just in time (all very safely)!

What a wonderful trip. Our expressed gratitude to Miriam and Gordon for planning the entire adventure from start to finish. Even our brush with getting trapped in Glacier Country was fun because we enjoy spending time with these two so much! As always please enjoy the rest of the pictures we will add below. And go find some adventure near you to would be great if you shared it with us.
(Jumping some water on the trek to keep our feet dry.)
(NZ is just full of view after view. It's amazing.)
(I'm just glad we did not have to cross this river.)
(No matter how tired we got everyone always had a smile on their face.)
(We had a lot of bridges to cross and some of them got pretty interesting - a little bouncy.)

There were a few switchbacks. Sweet.)
(Miriam on one of the many bridges we crossed.)
(I am not so secretly happy as can be at how much Sarah loves hiking. You never know how someone, even yourself, will react to a new activity like this. But two big walks, and many small ones, in and she is loving it. Awesome.)
(Maybe she likes hiking too much!  Careful!)
(Some of the bridges, even though long and secure looking, were "one person" only bridges! Wow. They got to swinging quite a bit as one got to the middle. Sarah and I have a lot of fun making it bounce more. Memories of "Shorty" from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom should warn me off but for some reason they do not.)
(Not only a great view of my Salomon boots but also really neat view of the bridge/river.)
(Find the right footing.)
(A trail like this one is so fun to follow. You never quite know where it's going to take you. Up through woods, down by the river, or out past rockslides where you have to keep walking just in case more come!)
(Did I mention Sarah liked the bridges??)
(At some point it is almost useless keeping your feet dry unless you've got some nice waterproof shoes/boots. We need to all chip in and get Miriam some!)
(Is there a better spot to break for lunch? Nope.)
(Sarah ready to get back going after lunch.)
(Did I mention yet how much I loved this river? I almost decided to jump in for a swim.)
(Trying to get a little artsy with a shot here... I like it.)
(Walking up to a glacier. It's a little cooler around these guys. An easy walk up and there a glacier waits. The signs on the way up show where the glacier was and how long ago. Scary how fast it's melting.)
(Easy water and rocks to hike across for a glacier viewing.)
(We went on a desperate walk looking for glow worms. It was a little too early in the day but the walk was pretty and fun.)
(A view where we should be able to see Mt. Cook. This day, however, as is the usual in Glacier country is a little cloudy and rainy. So we can only see very little.)
(Walking up to see the second glacier in one day. It was not as impressive as our view for the first one but it was still a fantastic and worthwhile experience.)
(Sarah and Miriam pose for glacier two. Franz seems smaller from our vantage point but I'm guessing he's still quite a big guy.)