Sunday, January 29, 2012

At Long Last

Winter finally appears to be coming to Michigan.

It's been a strange season so far.  Temperatures in the 40's instead of 20's, rain instead of snow and sadness instead of happiness for one member of our family.

Until today.

When I woke up this morning, the snow was coming down.  Toby eagerly went outside to enjoy it.

That was about 5 hours ago.

He went from the yard to the dog park to the back deck.

And he'll probably be there until I call him inside. 

If I can find him under all that snow, that is.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Routeburn Track

We somehow made it to the shuttle on time despite Andy's best efforts to cause a disaster only a couple of hours into our vacation.

We stopped along the way to get a view of where we'd be hiking the next few days.

And then we were dropped at the trailhead.

The Routeburn Track is 32 kilometers long and we decided to tackle the distance in 3 days.  Our first day was about 9 K long and began through the woods and along a river.  Many a swing bridge was encountered.

After an hour, we found a lovely clearing in which to enjoy our afternoon snack.

We then continued the climb upwards to the Routeburn Falls Shelter, our first experience with a New Zealand Great Walks Hut.

The huts were amazing.  Running water, flushing toilets, stoves, seating - it almost felt like we were cheating.

The next morning we had an 11 K hike ahead of us through the alpine area of the track. 

A few K in, we decided to do the spur trail up Conical Hill.  This was a steep, rocky and difficult climb but worth it for the views.

And then there was Andy.  Andy who had this conversation with his doctor before leaving:

A: So you think I'll be okay to hike?
Doc: You should be fine.  Just wear the brace and make sure the trails are solid.  No rock scrambles or anything.

As Andy struggled down the hill he remarked, "My doctor would hate me right now."

Somehow he made it down and we continued our hike.  As we rounded the bend in the mountain, we could see our finish line for the day below.

As we closed in on the hut, the trail wound it's way through the forest.

When we reached the hut, Andy was tired so he took a nap in "God's Chair."

Meanwhile, I watched the trail rangers compete in the Highland Games.

As we had hiked to the hut, a ranger passed us and filled us in on the games.  The Routeburn track actually crosses through two different National Parks.  On the 3rd day after Christmas, the rangers from each park meet at Mackenzie Hut and compete in various events like shot put, hammer toss and golf.  It was entertaining to view after a day of hiking.

The next morning brought our first bout of clouds and mist as we descended the 12 K to the end of the trail.

We had one night of rest before we would begin our next Great Walk and decided to relax in our favorite way.

Friday, January 20, 2012

On the Road to Recovery

Andy had his ACL surgery yesterday. 

They shaved his knee and made him initial the correct one.

And then the surgeon came in and initialed the correct knee.

And then the nurse came in and made him state the correct knee.

Basically it was confirmed about 700 times that the left knee was the one to operate on.  Apparently it only takes one doctor somewhere to operate on the wrong appendage to put a few additional protocols in place.

Soon enough I got him home and comfortable.  And then the dogs decided to help make him more comfortable too.

Although "Dog Hugs" weren't formally laid out in his recovery packet, I think we'll allow the additional therapy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Zealand - A Sprint for the Start

Getting to New Zealand from Michigan is not easy.

It is long.

Ambien is necessary.

Planes with personal TV screens and free movies to choose from is also necessary.

Here's a quick breakdown of our journey:

Step 1: Drive 3 hours to Chicago.
Step 2: 3 and a half hour flight to LA - 6 hour layover
Step 3: 14 hour flight to Brisbane, Australia - 12 hour layover
Step 4: 3 hour flight to Christchuch, NZ - 8 hour layover
Step 5: 1 hour flight to Queenstown, NZ - 6 hours until shuttle departure
Step 6: 2 hour shuttle ride
Step 7: Begin hike!

My jet lag just came back from typing that. 

I should note that our Brisbane layover on Christmas Day was awesome.  We left the airport and went to the "beach" - it's on a river but I'll call it a beach anyways - had some beers and relaxed.  I'd show you pictures because I brought my camera - I just forgot to put a memory card in it.  Whoops. 

For our midnight to 8 am layover in Christchurch, we hauled out our sleep pads and bags and slept on the floor of the airport.  Because we're classy like that.

Somehow, we finally arrived in Queenstown, got some grub, stored our suitcases and went to the lake:

That's not us in the above photo, just 2 random tourists who decided to sit down and get all up in my picture.

As we sat on the beach waiting for our 3 pm shuttle to depart, Andy perused our documents.  Then this happened:

Andy: Uh, we should probably head to the shuttle stop.
Me: Why?  We've got like 2 hours right?
Andy:  I guess I kind of remembered wrong.  It leaves at one.
Me: You mean now?
Andy: Yeah.

And with that, we began our relaxing vacation with a less than relaxing sprint for the shuttle.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

You'll Never Believe What Washed Ashore

Andy and I had a first in our hiking history at our campsite yesterday.

The day started out fairly normally.  The night before we had read that our intended campsite, Mutton's Cove, was closed because of the flooding and landslides that hit that area of New Zealand in the previous weeks.  We were bummed because it was supposed to be one of the most remote and beautiful beaches, but we figured we'd find somewhere else to hike.

We decided to go on a guided kayak trip that morning.  When we mentioned our situation to the owner of kayak rental, he told us he thought the campsite had just opened and would check into things while we were out on the water kayaking.

So off we went kayaking, which was pretty amazing.  I was nervous at first but calmed down as we paddled around and hung out with the birds, jellyfish and seals.

After we disembarked from the kayaks, the owner told us our campsite was open, but the water taxi to it left in 15 minutes.  He had called the boat operator for us and he'd wait an extra 5 minutes for us - so we flew to the car, threw some things in our hiking bags, raced to the boat launch and boarded the water taxi just in time.  We then began to trek to our remote beach campsite and set up our tent.

 And then this washed ashore:

And then we thought we it was a mirage and we were hallucinating, but truly, a Bernese Mountain Dog named Cash had come ashore.  His owner, Ken from Wellington, had brought his kids and the dogs out boating, and they had randomly chose to stop at our beach.  Ken had put Cash on the dingy and put a life jacket on him, but Cash doesn't swim.  So he was surprised when Cash suddenly jumped out of the dingy.  One of the kids had to get him and bring him to shore, luckily his life jacket kept him afloat.

Ken informed us that Berners aren't too common in the North Island or the Northern part of the South Island where we were camping.  We couldn't believe the luck that our remote campsite opened for use, that we barely made the boat to bring us here, that Ken - one of the few Berner owners on the island - chose this beach to stop at and that Cash oddly decided to jump in the water.

So we gave Cash some pets, Ken gave us some beers and we enjoyed the random events of the day that led a Bernese Mountain Dog to our campsite.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Zealand Log Crawl 2012

Yesterday I went on my first Log Crawl.

It was kind of like a Bar Crawl, only New Zealand beach style.

We arrived in Westport and promptly made our way to West Coast Brewing Co. There we engaged in a beer “tasting.” This consisted of the brewing assistant giving us some glasses and pretty much leaving the taps open for our choosing for the next two hours. We chatted with some locals and travelers and enjoyed our brew.

When we left, we took a “rigger,” which is basically an empty 2 liter pop bottle filled with beer to go.

Westport is a beach town, so we made our way to the beach with our rigger in tow. We decided we wanted to walk the beach, but we didn’t want the rigger of beer to get warm in the car, so it came with us.

From that point on, we stopped at each comfortable log along our walk, sat down and sipped some beer and then moved on to the next cozy looking log. When our rigger was half way gone, we turned around and headed back.

Thus two litters of beer and two miles of beach led to my first unofficial log crawl.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Kiwi State of Mind

Greetings from New Zealand!
We have to pay for the internet here – so I’m just posting quickly to say by some crazy miracle Andy’s knee has been no problem for him hiking. He’s actually still faster than me on the trail half the time, which kind of makes me want to break his other ACL.

He did develop some blisters on our final day coming off of one of the trails. He was angry at his hiking shoes for betraying him after five years and hundreds of miles. So he threw them away less than a minute after getting off the trail.

And now just a few pictures/highlights from our adventure thus far:
Lunch spot on our first day in New Zealand:

A rainbow over Te Anau:

Andy discovering New Zealand:

Kepler Trail complete:

New Year’s Day Picnic:

Crossing my fingers that our good luck and sunny days continue.