The Hillary Trail: impasse, decision, and reflection

Journey before Destination

Brandon Sanderson – Stormlight Archive Series

Right now, I am reading a book by Brandon Sanderson named Oathbringer. It is a fantastic book in a fantastic series that I adore (future post alert!) In the book, there is the above refrain repeated often in the series,  and it is one that I find myself saying as I write this post. My goal is the destination, but the journey… the training, the discovery, the trials… that is what is important.

Last week, I received a pretty big piece of news in relation to my upcoming Hillary Trail walk.

It was announced that the Te Kawerau ā Maki iwi has placed a Rāhui on the Waitakere Ranges. This… made me need to learn a few things in my new home of New Zealand. An Iwi is the largest social group of Maori in an area. Often translated to a Nation, a confederation, or a tribe, Iwis make up the largest political system in Maoridom. For Americans, think of the Navaho Nation. Iwis work with the government on matters pertaining tot he Maori, but also matters of conservation, the environment, and other areas stipulated in the Treaty of Waitangi.

rāhui is an edict by the iwi that forbids entrance and passage into an area. In this case… the Waitakere Ranges… where the Hillary Trail runs right through.

Why are they doing this you ask? It is because of the Kauri Trees. The Kauri trees are facing a large dieback and possible extinction due to microbes that are killing the root system of the trees. The infection is carried through the soil, and can easily hitch rides on muddy shoes, animals, and water.  Kauri Trees are very old and grow very slowly. They were once logged heavily in the early days of European colonization of the North Island but was stopped starting in the 1920’s. Kauri Dieback started showing up in the mid-2000’s, and despite attempts to slow the spread of the disease, it has exploded in the last few years infecting upwards of 20% of the remaining Kauri Tree population in the Waitakeres… home of the largest remaining stand of Kauri Trees.

A big issue is that people who walk the park are not doing what is necessary to protect the trees. I routinely see people take dogs into the Waitakeres, which is not allowed, and people do not use the cleaning stations, nor the sprays designed to kill the microbes.

The relationship between iwi and the government is a tumultuous one. The Treaty was not honored for a very long time and starting in the 1980’s, there have been attempts to change that. Despite that, the iwis move is not binding in any way. People can come and go through the park regardless of what the iwi does or decide.

Today, however, the Auckland Council is going to vote on what to do about the situation. They are considering 5 options, one of which is the closure of the entire park as per the iwis wishes. The other 4 options will be considered, but it is likely parts of the park will be closed indefinitely. However, while  Waitakere councillor Penny Hulse has stated that a complete park closure is impossible to uphold (the park is 160 square kilometers), people should respect the rāhui.

When I heard the news last week, I was despondent. after missing out on going on the Milford Track earlier in the year, I chose the Hillary because it was something that I could do in my backyard so to speak. It was a challenge I made for myself, and for the last few months, I have strived hard to achieve it. I have pushed myself, I have hyped myself, and I learned to love and enjoy the Waitakere ranges in their beauty of awesomeness. Now, with a month to go before the big walk, I am told that I shouldn’t and that my walking it could further harm the region.

Upset, Angry, shamed that I was angry, crushed at the loss of a goal, all went through my head. On one hand, there is nothing stopping me from walking the Hillary. It is highly doubtful that the Council will close the park, and the iwi has little bearing on laws. I can’t get arrested, they can’t bar the forest from me, or anyone (they even admit this). But… isn’t that what people have done for the last 150 years here in New Zealand? Ignore the Maori and their wishes when it didn’t suit them? English colonials ignored the Treaty, followed then by the NZ Government. The US had done similarly to Native Americans, making treaties and promises only to ignore them when it suited the US prerogative.

No, I can’t do that. Whenever I think about walking the Hillary in defiance of the iwis wishes, I get an empty pit in my stomach and I feel like I am ignoring one of the biggest reasons I am doing the Hillary in the first place: embracing this nation as my new home. And in the end, if I ignore the rules because they don’t suit me, I am not embracing my new home or those around me.

With the vote today, I will look to both the Council and the Iwi on what they want to do. It is likely that a two-pronged approach will happen. I suspect that the high-risk areas: Kauri Cascade, the Montana Heritage Trail, and other areas will be closed off from the public. I also suspect that they will also step up funding to combat the microbe, having found some success in areas, and being able to identify Kauri trees resistant to the microbe. If the iwi is satisfied with the decision and drops the rāhui, then I will go on my walk. If they keep the rāhui in place, then I will cancel my walk… which is a bit devastating. I love the Waitakeres, I want to walk them as much as I can. There is still so much of it I haven’t seen, but I can’t enjoy it if I am also going to help destroy it.

This also makes me worried about the Hunua Ranges, the next closest area of walks for me, which also have Kauri trees, and may be the next to close.

With this development, I tried to look at other great walks to go on during the Christmas/New Year break, and I have found that everything is either too far away, fully booked, or what is available is luxury tramping that is way too expensive. This made me very upset. Again, I have been hiking and training for months for this, and now… so close to the event, the rug gets pulled out from under me.

So… next steps.

If I cannot do the Hillary, I am going to look for a 2-day walk somewhere in the Hunuas or the Coromandel Ranges for me to go walking. I am considering the Pinnacles walk which is either a 1 or 2-day walk or I may do something in the East Hunua Ranges. Both are relatively close to me, so I should be able to find something. I just hope I can find a campground or hut to stay at.

The other thing I have done… is that I have decided to do the Tongariro Northern Circuit at the end of January. This is a great walk that also includes the Tongariro Crossing, something I was planning to do this summer anyhow. This 4-day walk will be just as challenging as the Hillary, so I am glad I was able to find campsites and a hut to stay at. The area is already protected, and it does not have any Kauri trees. So no danger there. It *is* considered sacred, but I will follow the rules of the local iwi there and that is perfectly fine for me.

If the Hillary does pull through, I will be thrilled, but only if the Iwi and the Council agree. Otherwise, I will go further afield.

“If the Journey itself is indeed the most important piece, rather than the destination itself, then I traveled not to avoid duty – but to seek it.”

Brandon Sanderson – Oathbringer Chapter 120

It is a reminder that sometimes the goal is not what you should focus on, and this situation is making me recognise that a bit more. I hope I can do the Hillary, but I am prepared to change the destination, for, in the end, it is not as important as the journey.

The Journey: A Story about Poop

Programming note: I haven’t been on top of posting in the last couple of weeks. I apologise. I will be catching up with that as we go forward. Don’t worry, I ain’t dead yet!

There is something taboo about talking about your bowel movements. Pooping is one of those supremely private acts that, unless you’re a parent with young children, is something you try to do as secretly as possible.

For me, my shyness about my bowel movements meant that I avoided pooping in public restrooms or anywhere other than the 1-2 designated “safe places” for me to poop.

So, to talk about your bowel movements, well… it is like confessing a dark secret, and you never know how people will react. With surprise? Disgust? Morbid curiosity about how others poop? Am I pooping wrong, do I poop in strange ways?

So today, I am going to talk about Poop. If you are squeamish or don’t want to read, feel free to move on. But this will be some rather personal stuff, so be kind, and wipe appropriately.

 

*deep breath, * let’s jump in (metaphorically)

 

So, there is a thing called the “Bristol Stool Scale” which was developed in 1997 to categorise bowel movements. This handy scale, made into a chart (that’s illustrated!) helps you understand what is a good stool, and what is a bad stool. I will be using this to help explain my stools without going into the gory details. It is also interesting that this scale is only 20 years old as if categorising poop wasn’t really thought of until the mid-90’s.

 

Also, it illustrated all the different types of poop. I mean… 7 categories? Really? I never thought of a poop scale being that differentiated, but… apparently, it is.

 

Pre-surgery, my bowel movements were… pun intended… very shitty. My Stool would sit on 6-7 on the Bristol scale for the last few years. This, of course, led to a very miserable experience. Prior to surgery, I couldn’t remember a time when my stool was anywhere near regular for more than a one-off. In many respects, I figured that it was my new normal. I would have a bowel movement once or twice a day, it would be explosive, and then I would move on. This had led to some unhappy bum health as well. Being a gay man, I feel we are more… attuned… to that area of the body, and it never felt right or in “good shape.” However, that is a conversation for another post.

Now, this is likely based a lot on the food I was eating. I ate a lot of take out, I would eat a lot of carbs, I would also eat a lot of processed foods and junk food. Even during my weight loss periods, my stool had been all over the place, with 5-7 on the Bristol scale being my normal and everything else deviating from that.

Then the surgery happened.

To say my Bowel movements changed would be an understatement. I mean, who knew that sewing your stomach together would lead to shitting in a completely different way.

Immediately post surgery, my stool was next to non-existent. Mostly due to my diet, I would go to the bathroom rarely, going 1-2 a week rather than a day. As I moved into Pureed Foods, and later, soft foods. The stool reflected my diet: still, on the 5-6 scale, less 7’s which was always good. When I got into solid foods, for a long while, my stool sat comfortably on the 5 scale, with each week getting more “regular” as it were.

Then, I started exercising, and from there, my food consumption had to go up. With more food, more variation, I figured my bowel would return to its old ways. However, it seemed the change again. With the absence of Fast Food, Junk Food, and high carb counts, my stool then went into mostly Type 4…. And a lot of it… and the frequency changed. I went from 1-2 a day pre Surgery to 2-3 times a week post-surgery, and now, I basically poop whenever I eat too much.

So… that seems to be good… I think?

The other thing is that along with the changes on the Bristol scale, other things have changed when it comes to my stool. i.e. color and smell.

So… color. That is one of those things you also never talk about. Of course, your poop is *supposed* to be brown, but that hadn’t been the reality for me for a long time. The Mayo clinic gives a good rundown of what the different poop colors mean.

 

I like to use this site, (and its big image) because not only do they use the poop emoji, in a semi-serious way but the information is the same. My Pre-Surgery poop color would range from very light Brown to green, to yellow. With Brown/Yellow being more of the norm than the exception.  Again, this was my “normal” and having never really thought about my stool color, I never really talked about it with doctors.

Post surgery though, the Yellow and green has gone away (except once but I think that is fine given the information). I get only brown to dark brown poops now when I go to the bathroom. It looks weird to me now.

And lastly, the smell. Now, this is interesting. When searching for more info about “smelly poops” you find a lot of not so definitive answers of what that means. The closest I came was the US National Library of Medicine, which gives some rather high-level answers to the smelly question. In short, the smell of my poop got worse post-surgery. According to the site, that could be due to two main things: diet change (check), and Malabsorption. Since a theme of Bariatric surgery is a period of malabsorption in the body, this makes sense. But daaaaamn, it is not pleasant. After 10 months living the post-surgery life, I have come to expect a smellier poop.

Because Surgery changes everything, this process has been incredibly interesting to me. You are so used to how your body functions, and then you do something like bariatric surgery, and what you knew was out the window.

In stepping back, it is apparent how unhealthy I was being, and my poop was reflecting that. I was eating shit, and therefore my bowel health was shit. Now that I am eating better, I am shitting better (but overall smellier).

Now… onto the next topic… sex.

 

But let’s not mix the two topics.

Breaking down the Election

So today was the first major election since President Donald Trump became President. In the states of Virginia and New Jersey, they held races for Governor. Virginia also held their races for the House of Delegates, the lower house in Virginia. Other places in the country had a variety of local races. From New York City to New Hampshire, Georgia, Utah, and Washington.

In short, the Democrats had a great night. Winning the Governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, and winning every major election coast to coast with the exception of UT-3 where they had a special election to replace Republican Jason Chaffetz, which was an expected GOP hold anyhow.  The Democrats also have flipped seats in Georgia, Washington, Virginia (more on that in a moment), New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania. this is a pretty big election for the Democrats… even if it wasn’t nationwide.

This election is always interesting because a lot of pundits will use these results to begin predicting the 2018 midterm elections, where the US House of Representatives and 1/3 of the US Senate will be up for re-election. In many ways, they are correct to do this, as previous elections have seen these results help guide the mood going into 2018.

So in the spirit of reading the political tea leaves. I have done a little research into the Virginia House of Delegates Races to see if we can see some trends in the results.

Now I will fully admit here, I am not a statistician. I am “ok” with numbers… as long as there isn’t too much crazy stuff in it. However, I think these numbers speak well to the mood of Virginia, and potentially, the mood of the Country. So… let’s dig in.

Below is a table of the Contested Virginia Delegate Seats, and comparing the 2013 election with tonight’s election. I looked at the Margin of Victory in both races, the difference (swing) between the two, as well as the Turnout Percentage.

VA Election

I want to point out a few things in the numbers.

1) Firstly, the Republicans enjoyed a 66-34 Split in the House coming into this election. This was done in part because of the GOP Redistricting the state in 2011 embedding their advantage for the rest of the decade. IWhile several seats are uncalled at the moment, there is a real chance that the House will be split 50/50.

2) The Swing within the state is remarkable, with almost every seat seeing a swing to the Democrats. In seats where the Republican was safe, the swing seemed to be lower, but time and time again, there was a surprising swing towards the Democrats. The Average Swing was towards the Democrats by 13.1%. If this is duplicated in 2018, the House would flip to the Democrats with room to spare. Also, this is in line with the latest polls giving the Democrats an 11 point lead over Republicans in the House elections next year. Virginia proves that the gap is real, especially since Virginia is a battleground state. These should be scary numbers for any Republican running next year, regardless of where.

3) Turnout was up across the state. While looking at 2013, the turnout was up by 18.7% statewide, with some districts having over 30% increased voter turnout over 2013.

4) There is something weird in Delegate Seat 3. Not only did it buck the trend and the Republican gained in his margin of Victory, but turnout was down in this seat, which was the only seat to see turnout was lower.  I am a bit dubious about this, and I want to ask some questions as to what has happened.

What is interesting here was that the Democrats had a 13% swing, yet they still only got 50 Seats in the House of Delegates. This is the power of Gerrymandering. To overcome this, there needed to be a larger than expected Voter turnout. This is crucial to understand why it is so hard to overcome a gerrymandered district. in 2011, the GOP set up the current map so that they would have a built-in advantage to keep on winning. It looks like voter sentiment has turned against them, and now the Democrats look poised to turn the tables in 2021 (Unless the Supreme Court interferes… which another post for another time).

So what does this mean for 2018? While you cannot make a direct correlation between the results tonight and what will happen a year from now, it is important to see the state of the game moving forward: The Republicans are vulnerable. Several of these seats were won in surprising fashion. For example, in Delegate seat 13, Arch Conservative Bob Marshall lost his seat to Danica Roem, a Transgender woman who ented the race after Marshall tried, and failed to pass an Anti-Trans Bathroom bill. Roem becomes the first openly Trans lawmaker in the country, which… coming from a fairly conservative area of the state, is pretty epic. These races indicate that the Democrats are more enthusiastic about voting, are coming out more in the vote, and more importantly, winning and creating the momentum going into 2018.

Also hidden in the election results, two more GOP House Reps have announced they are retiring. This only adds to the list of other vacating GOP House members going into 2018, and generally, you don’t retire when your team is winning. I suspect that there will be more retirements between now and the end of the year.

The reaction from the Republicans has been all over the map. Donald Trump and Breitbart have both stated that the Virginia GOP candidate for Governor Ed Gillespie, a Republican moderate, did not align himself with Trump and therefore lost the race. Breitbart was quick to label Gillespie as a “Swamp Thing” and quickly blamed him and his lack of support for Trump to be the reason he lost. However, they have glossed over the massive losses in the Virginia Delegate races. Gillespie should not have depressed the GOP bote that much, and further, many Delegates lost by greater swings than Gillespie. This should be sending warning signals to the GOP in general.

In other races across the country, the same story played out: Higher turnout than 2013 and surprising victories by Democrats. In Georgia, two special elections for state seats flipped to the Democrats, both of which were fairly surprising. Pundits are wondering what this will mean for the Special election for Alabama Senate slated for December 12. While I think that Republican Roy Moore is still the Favorite for the election, it does give the Democrats some hopes of flipping Attorney General’s Jeff Sessions old seat over the Democrats during a crucial election year.

What this will do to the Tax Reform Bill currently in the House is up for debate, but as the Republican Majority heads into an election year, they may not be seeing so much of a Wave against them, but rather a Tsunami, and right now, Donald Trump looks to be an Anchor around their feet, dooming far more than they expect.

The Hillary Trail: Week 7 – Heading South

Hello again! After my last big test, I have taken the last two weeks off to recuperate as well as reassess my plans for the Hillary Trail. The good news is that I have decided to continue forward with my plans and I am super excited about the next phase of my training.

The two day test for me was a lot of fun, but it highlighted a couple of things that I have been concerned about: my general fitness. Overall, my walking and hiking is doing great, but the big unknown for me is what to do when I am carrying an extra 15kgs on my back when I am hiking. My knee acted up when I pushed myself pretty hard. That first day, I did almost 19kms, and I suspect that was the reason why I ended up with a sore knee: I decided the first time with a full pack, I was walking 30ish kms. Not a good idea.

So, for this next phase of my training, I am going to switch it up a little bit I think.

The start date for the Hillary is 8 weeks from today. (Oh god…) So, I am going to start planning this phase and make sure that by January 2nd, I am ready and able to do the entire trek.

This weekend, I plan on going South to the Hunua Ranges. This is an area south of Auckland, about the same distance for me as the Waitakere Ranges. Before I started training for the Hillary, I did the Massey Track/Cossey Gorge Track which was a lot of fun. This time, however, I will be heading slightly south of there, and I will be doing two tracks.

While not as intense as the tracks in the Waitakeres, I think this is a good start after two weeks off, and to get a fairly good feel for my knee. I suspect that I will be fine with the walk, but I don’t want to overextend myself the first time I go out after a break. There are some steep spots, which is good, and apparently, there is a slip in the road at one point, so I will need to scramble over some loose rock. That actually sounds a bit exciting. The walk should be about 10kms, but it may come out to be a bit more. It also looks like I will be crossing a stream a few times, so that sounds a bit exciting!

For this walk, I will be taking my day pack, but I may bring some stuff to give it some weight. I am doing this mostly for conditioning as I build up for the Hillary.

Beyond this weekend, I am looking at a couple of milestone events leading up to the Hillary that I want to accomplish so that I feel the most comfortable heading into the 6 day tramp.

Camping weekend number 2

The first thing I want to do is another overnight camping trip on my own. With Labour Day weekend going well, despite the knee. I want to give it another go in terms of making sure I can carry a pack for two days without hurting myself in some way. I am targeting the weekend of December 2nd to do this. And I am considering doing a camp in the Hunua Ranges. Not that I don’t love to Waitakeres, I just want to make sure I do not exhaust all the cool places before I do the Hillary. I am looking at the East Hunua Ranges, and I hope to nail down the route in the next week or two.

Tongariro Crossing

The weekend before Christmas, I am looking to do the Tongariro Crossing. A friend and his Fiance will be in the country over that time and asked me if I wanted to do it with them, and upon thinking about it, I think it would be a fantastic time. It is a 19.5km walk, and it is definitely a challenge. Doing it two days Before Christmas, and a week and a half before the Hillary is a good chance for me to give my legs and fitness a final workout. I will be carrying a day pack, given the distance, but I suspect it will be a good walk regardless. Also, seeing “Mount Doom” is kinda a bucket list item. I will not scale the mountain… this time, but I suspect that I will be making another trip there later in the summer, or maybe next summer. Hopefully, I can nail down this soon, and be able to have a great day with it.

Boxing Day Adventure

This is not set in stone, but since I will be spending the Christmas holiday in the Coromandel Penisula, I am considering doing a Boxing Day Tramp somewhere in the area. I have done some walking in the region before, but I may do something a little more challenging for Boxing Day. This is the one I am least sure about. Given that the Tongariro will only be 2-3 days before, I may be worn out. However, given that I need to do 6 straight days of walking, I need to see if I can handle big walks over a short amount of time. I need to give some thought to this before I make a decision. Luckily, it is well within my holiday period so I can decide a bit closer to the time.

And that is it. For the next 8 weeks, I look to do a lot of walking, and I am really excited about it. On Thursday, I plan to book my campsites for the Hillary and make my decision on the Hunua Ranges Camping trip. Until then, I will let you know how it goes!

 

The Hillary Trail – Week 6: Achievement Unlocked: Camping

Friday Night

I think I packed and repacked 3 times over the night. I was excited, but I was nervous. I decided to have pizza and sort of carb-load. This turned out to not work out as much as I had hoped because I didn’t eat enough pizza. I still had some chicken sushi I had yet to eat as well. My pre-eating wasn’t going well.

(note: In Australia and New Zealand, they *also* have Chicken and Beef sushi. No, the meat is not raw, but cooked. Generally, you can get Chicken.Beef Teriyaki or Crispy Chicken, its strange to me as I had never heard of non-seafood sushi before moving here, but I dislike seafood, so it is the only sushi I eat.)

I ended up going to bed at 11pm, a little later than I typically do for a walk.

Saturday

Starting off

Starting in the Garage. Gotta start somewhere. 

I woke up excited and nervous around 5:30. From there, I waited until 7:30 to leave home. From there, I headed to Huia. The ride was pretty nice, and starting right off by the ocean, I knew I would off for a big day.

 

I arrived at the car park at around 8:10 am, and the first thing I noticed was how many people were already there. Generally, when I get to a place, I am the first one here. Not today. I soon realised that a lot of people had the same idea as I had, and wanted to spend Labour Day weekend tramping.

I am actually excited to see people on the trail.

Fletcher Track  – So starting off on the Karamatura Loop walk. I see a sign for the Fletcher Track. And it is going pretty much going up. I take a look, and start off. Of course, the Track walk is well maintained. The Fletcher track. is. not. I head up the trail, and it is definitely a challenge. I am taking to it pretty voraciously, right up to where I needed to climb about 3-4 meters to continue.

I utter a phrase that I found myself saying often over the course of the next two days.

“Seriously?”

I look at it for a few moments and decide to give it a go. A few minutes, and some crafty sidestepping later, I was at the top. This is officially tramping, I feel super excited and if anything, I did some fucking climbing.

So, I immediately turn the wrong way.

The good thing was that it wasn’t the “wrong way” it just led to a lookout.

Fletcher Lookout

Lookout from Fletcher Trail

From there, I turned around and made my way to the next track.

Donald McClean track – Officially apart of the Hillary Trail, this was like night and day with the Fletcher. it was well drained, wide, and it was a nice walk. I got to point where I could climb Mt. Donald McClean Walk to the top, but in looking at my time, I figured I could save it for a future Saturday walk. I am very glad I made that decision.

Puriri Ridge Track – From Donald McClean, I took the Puriri Ridge Track. This was my first encounter with mud. Up to this point, there is a no rain, but a little wind. Having rained earlier in the week. I expected mud. But up to this point, the trail had been pretty good, or at worst, easily avoidable mud.

Also, I have decided that after this tramp, there need to be more words for “mud.” Like “snow for the Inuit, I feel that New Zealand need to have 5, 6, 45 words for mud. More on that later.

Puriri Ridge seeing the Omanawunui Track

On the Puriri Ridge Track, behind me, the next challenge. 

Anyhow, the Puriri had some majestic views, it was a good decent through the bush. It didn’t realise it until after I got home and looked at my elevation changes how much I initially climbed. I hit an open patch and I was able to see the Tasman Sea and the opening of Manakau Habour. Of course, I knew I was going to walk that ridge, hens the face.

 

Anyhow, this was a good walk, and it led back to the road a few kms. Now… I was ready for the big walk of the day.

Omanawanui Track – This is one of those tracks that people talk about on the tramping sites. It starts along the road (at least for the Hillary) and you start heading up the ridge. There are two big peaks in this walk, and they can be pretty daunting. By this point, I met another tramper, Emma. She was doing the Hillary so we were going to end up at the same campground. It was cool to know someone on the trail, but also know to look for them at the end. It was actually a bit of comfort.

The ascent was significant, but every time I stopped, I saw awesome-ness… Seriously.

Omamawanui Trail 1

Omanawanui Track – Before the First Peak

I made it to the first peak, and it was stunning to see. The only downside was that there was a large group of trampers who had stopped for lunch. And while I did not begrudge them (it was a fantastic spot), I moved on quickly. That, and the wind was picking up, so I moved on. There was a second peak a bit further on, so I decided to try and snap a pic there.

The descent from the first peak to the second peak was surprisingly hard. At one point, there was a chain bolted to the rock, and you had to use that to lift/lower yourself to the next level. When I saw that, I did my now trademark, “Seriously…”

Finally, the second peak was mine. I sat down at the seat at the top, drank some water, and took an amazing pic.

Omamawanui Trail 2

Omanawanui Trail – Second Peak

From the second peak, I descended quickly to the Whatipu car park area. That was when I encountered my first Black Sand in a while. While I only had sand on a tiny part this time, I have to remind myself that future sections of the Hillary will have more sand.

After taking a brief break, I then headed off towards my campsite.

 

Gibbons Track – The Gibbons track is one of those tracks that are amazing after the first third. The ascent was pretty challenging, but it was dry. I did a steady climb, but I started to notice my right knee was starting to give me trouble. With a tinge here and there as I was climbing, I wasn’t sure what was going on. The trail was steep, and surprising a lot of people were on it. I had to stop several times to let people pass. I actually enjoyed it. I wished everyone well, and it was great to see so many people and so many types of people enjoying rural New Zealand. Throughout this experience, I have mostly been a solo hiker, but today, I got to meet a lot of people and it was really nice to see. I also found Emma a time or two as we were travelling. I was really excited because she was an experienced tramper, and I am such a noob, so I felt that I could be in the ballpark of decent tramping speed.

 

When I got up to the top of the Gibbons trail, I was treated to a spectacular view.

Gibbons Track 2

The trail then evened out and walking was good. Finally, I hit the last track of the day.

Muir Track – At this point, I was almost to the campground. I am feeling my right knee, and it is not doing the best. I have never hurt my knee before, but generally, I know that things are not going perfectly. While I was walking on a level surface, or ascending, I was fine. It was Descending that was the issue. And my campground, Pararaha Valley campground was definitely down.

So, I descended.

Muir Track

Muir Track Descent

The good thing about the Muir Trail is that there are a lot of steps. Normally, I hate steps but today, they were the perfect thing. I could put weight on my leg, it would just hurt if I put weight as I was stepping down with my other leg. Steps made this process easier.

 

The downside of the Muir track is that it is steep, and the step down was a bit rough. At one point another Chain bolted tot he rock appeared, and I had a little harder time traversing it. But I managed. In the back of my mind, I am worried about tomorrow morning, as I am walking up this very same trail. but that is for tomorrow.

With my final steps, I make it to the campground. Emma was there, smiling, and welcomed me. She was very positive the entire trip, and I was really happy to see her.

Pararaha Campground

campground

My tent! I put it up myself!

The campground was pretty amazing. Nestled in the valley next to a stream, it was pretty epic. I set up camp and my tent, and I felt that I was very successful. Next, after setting set up. I made dinner in a small shelter (at 5pm, but I don’t care), and met the other people coming in. It was kinda crazy how many people showed up. The campsite can hold 40, and there were like 25 people there easily. I saw a family with two kids there, they were like 8-10 years old. There were duos and trios and singles as well. It was a nice group of people and talking about my

Aaron dinner.jpg

Making Dinner

training, and their experiences… it was an amazing time to get to know them. I was worried about the social aspect of camping, especially because I figured I would be kinda introverted. But it was a positive experience… and I also crashed early so there was that.

 

Now, onto the stats of the day.

Overall, I walked 18.91 Kilometers on the trail. I did the walk in 7:27:22 which means I did an average of 2.5km per hour for the day. I did four peaks during the day, though my first one was the biggest by far. I actually thought that the ridge peaks were taller, but I was surprisingly wrong. I did get down to just around sea level at Whatipu, which was expected, but the second ascent from the Gibbons Track was surprising for me.

Day 1 Map

My Day 1 Hike on the Map

 

Day 1 Walk

Day 1 Elevation Map

 

 

Sunday

Pararaha Campground – Waking up at 5:30, I felt good. The place I put the tent was really good… with the exception of it being on a slight angle, so I moved around a bit during the night. Otherwise, the wind stayed down and I got a good nights rest. Also, Emma gave me some nurophen (aka Tylenol) and some tape for my leg. Also, my leg felt almost perfect! I got changed, ate, and packed my stuff, and I was off by 7:15. This was a good move on my part because the weather began to set it. While I was packing, the rain started, so I was lucky that I was able to pack up before the rain set in. I also wanted to make sure I didn’t try my knee in wet weather.

Muir Track – Going up was much better than going down. The ascent was quick, and my knee was in good spirits. I think it had to do with being kept warm all night in the sleeping bag and not moving it too much. The Chain section was pretty easy on the way up, so I was happy with that. With lots of motivation, I met back where the Gibbons and Muir meet, and then went in the third direction.

Walker Ridge Track – Mud gets a new name on the Walker Ridge Track. While I had

Walker Ridge Track

This was the best of the mud situation on the Walker Ridge Trail

avoided mud for most of this hike, my luck ran out here. Walker Ridge was a mess. Going up, going down. It was slop from top to bottom. And worse, the rain had started coming regularly. While under the bush, the rain wasn’t too bad, it created a mist that hung over the trail. It was some serious Cursed Hallow/Blair Witch/Horror Movie vibes going on. But rather than being scared, it was crazy peaceful. I was chuffed that I did not have a better camera to capture the mist better. Next time… next time.

 

Anyhow, the ascent was decent, while windy and rainy over the exposed parts. The Descent was tough, my knee was starting to act up, and I knew this would take a while. It was this moment when my husband’s words of “pacing myself” popped into my head. So, I slowed down and took the descent conservatively. This slowed me down a lot, but overall, I think it was the right answer. The rain was making everything wet, from the ground to rocks, and one wrong slip could mean something worse. So, I took my time and came up finally to a big fork in the forest. I am nearing the end.

Karamatura Track – I thought Walker was a challenge. No. Karamatura is a bigger challenge. It was pretty much a pure descent off the mountain. That big mountain I walked yesterday? Yeah… that was the one I was now walking down from. Of course, I didn’t realise this until afterwards, so this descent just kept going… and going… and going. The mud was insane, and the decent so steep I slowed down to below 2kph. Again, I wanted to make sure I didn’t fuck anything up for the future, so I was ok with that. Slow and steady wins the race.

I didn’t get my phone out because I wanted to focus on the decent, but even in my state, I absolutely loved what was around me. The trees, the rain creating a mood (which was mostly good), and I could hear the stream getting closer and closer. Finally, I crossed the stream, and I knew I was nearing the end.

Karamatura Loop walk – This is the final leg. I only had to do half of the walk, since it is a loop, but since the ground was fairly even, I made excellent time. My knee was sore, but not hitting me with pain. I quickly made way back, and finally, with a steady rain on me… I made it back to my car.

Huia Lodge Car Park –

Overall, my second day was shorter than my first day. I basically took a more direct route from the campground to my car. Today, I did 9.84km in 4:37:10 which equates to 2.13kph, which while slower than yesterday, is considered good given my knee, the sharp descent throughout the day, and the less than great weather. Let’s look at the maps/stats:

 

Day 2 Map

Day 2 Map

 

 

 

Day 2 Walk

Day Two Elevation Map

 

 

Closing thoughts

Overall, I did 28.75km over 12:02:32. That is an average of 2.31kph, or about 1.42 miles an hour. When saying it in miles doesn’t sound so impressive though, but in saying that, the trampers I met over the two days all said I was doing really great, and gave me a lot of confidence. I think I did well, and I think if my knee didn’t act up, I would be at a solid 2.5kph, and I will be happy with that overall.

I liked this weekend. Knee and weather on the second day aside, I had a fantastic time. The people I met on the trail and campground were really awesome and so nice. At the campground, I met people tramping from all over the world, and to see so many people just enjoy the scenery was awesome. Throughout the trail, I saw Kiwis (the people) and tourist seeing the area, and again, it made my heart sing. New Zealand is an amazing place, and I am so lucky to get see it.

I consider this an achievement unlocked. I am going to take a few days to rest my knee and reassess on what I want, and then… make the final decision on the Hillary and planning the nights out. I may take next weekend off, but I am considering some other tramps in the Waitakeres, as well as the Hunua Ranges as Spring (hopefully), dries out.

I feel like I met the challenge, and I am looking forward to the next time I head out.

 

The Hillary Trail: Week 6 – The Test

This is a big week for me. After 5 weeks of walking in the bush, this weekend I will be taking my first overnight camping trip in the Waitakere Ranges.

I am really excited, and I am a little nervous.

Firstly, let’s talk about the route I am taking.

Saturday

Sunday

This should be about 16kms on the first day, and 7 km on the second day. I figured I would want to do the hardest part first, and then allow myself all day to get back on Sunday… though realistically, I want to be finished by midday because…

A Weather map of New Zealand for Sunday

Sunday Midday Weather – getting out before the weather settles in.

The weather looks to be cloudy on Saturday, possible rain overnight, and then a variable morning until the rain starts to come in during the afternoon.

From Sunday afternoon, the weather further deteriorates and I hope to find myself back home either napping or playing Shadow of War, South Park, or Desinty 2.

 

During the week, I have tested out my tent, my sleeping bag, and other equipment ahead of this weekend, so I feel that I competently can handle the trip.

The big question, of course, is food.  I have been the most nervous about my food intake, and my energy levels during my single day tramps, so I am doubly worried about an overnight trip. I have some freeze dried food that I bought this week, and today I will be buying some water, some trail mix, and (at the behest of my Husband) something for breakfast. But I worry it will not be enough, or that I am underestimating my energy. The other big thing is that this will be the first time I travel with a full pack, which will add 10-12 kilos to my weight, making things a bit harder. So, I am trying to figure out what my body needs, what I should bring, and what I should avoid.

This weekend, I am not planning on bringing my camera. With a mixture of the weather and the fact that my full body camera is bulky and heavy, I feel it is best to leave it behind. It sucks though because I really want to take pictures other than my phone. If this weekend is successful, I think the next thing I get will be a small camera to take photos. I may have my Olympus Tough somewhere… and if I can find it, I may charge it up and see what happens. But otherwise, I think I will be without a decent camera for this trip.

The other “concern” I have is what to do with myself after I get to the campground. I have a full day of hiking, then I will spend (hopefully) about a half hour setting up, and then of course dinner.

Then….

What does one do when they camp by themselves?

On on hand, there are other people scheduled to be at that campground so I won’t be “alone,” but conversely I am not likely to spend the whole night with them either. Now, typical me would be like “My iPad”, but I find it a bit hysterical to bring such a piece of tech on a hike like this. That, and the weather may cause issues. The same thought goes for books in that situation. Do I just sit there and gaze out until dark and go to sleep?  Do I explore? What do I do? I am still trying to figure that out.

I really like the idea of doing this on my own. It is a big test for me. I have set myself to do this Hillary, without any camping experience, or hiking experience. For me, this weekend is “proof of concept” that I can do this. ANd if I am successful (and I enjoy it), then on my next paycheck. I will book the Hillary.

It’s a big moment.

With that, I will let everyone know how it goes, and I hope it is a good experience for me.

Wish me luck, and see you on the other side.

 

 

What do we do? #MeToo and what men need to do

Over the last week, there has been a lot of talk about Harvey Weinstein, and from a larger perspective, sexual harassment and its pervasiveness in our society. I feel like this is a part of the cycle we in the western world live in. The power dynamic in society is always on display, and despite our attempts at change, we have only changed the methods of how we engage in that toxic power dynamic.

I feel that the voices that have come out over the last week in terms of sexual harassment, from celebrities to everyday women using the hashtag #metoo, are vitally important for us to begin talking about what we need to do as men to 1) stop this behaviour in ourselves, and 2) call out this behaviour when we see it.

To begin with, with this post, I will group people rather generally, “Men,” or “Women,” and other terms are meant to talk about the general aspects of these groups, but I also want to point out that we are not slaves to our gender, that we are not defined by our gender or group, and most importantly, not everyone in their gender or group think or act in the same way. So please do not mean to take this post as equating to everyone in a particular group. These are only my perspectives and the things I have noted and seen in my personal life.

My experience with sexual harassment personally started as a younger gay man coming out first in the rural Midwest, and then the American East Coast and onwards. From there, I have experienced the effects of sexual harassment that have been done to women. I have had friends and loved ones sexually harassed, and even then I know that my knowledge of these events are very limited, as I saw to my consternation with the #MeToo protest throughout social media. (And my consternation that I was surprised that so many friends have experienced this)

In the face of widespread experiences of this nature, one must take a step back and ask “What can I do?”  How can I help break this cycle of abuse, outrage, cosmetic change, and repeat? I don’t want my niece, or my nephew, or my friends or family to have to experience this abuse, but at the same time, I am just a single person, in an out of the way country in the world. I am a gay man whose interactions with women are decidedly non-sexual, so what I can do in the face of such an overwhelming problem that has pervaded our culture since we *had* culture.

The first thing to do is the acknowledge that this is a problem. Yes, we have a problem with how we, as the male gender, treat women and at times, each other. This is not a new issue, and on a larger level, it is an issue that we only selectively condemn when it suits the parties involved. The fact that Harvey Weinstein is being destroyed publicly while Donald Trump became President is proof enough that this type of abuse is weaponised or ignored depending on who is the perpetrator.

Second, we need to call out those who exhibit this behaviour. Just as speaking out against pejoratives towards someone’s ethnicity, or calling out other things we find not in the keeping of a good and pleasant society. We, as men, need to be strong allies for women, as well as each other, in confronting this toxic behaviour. This is something that, as a culture, we say is important, but in practice, leaves much to be desired.

So it is the time that we put up, or shut up.

In my small world, I look at how gay men treat each other. In the Bear community, there has been a lot of discussion about sexual harassment, and it generally comes from older men towards younger men (again, not always though). Today, there was an article in USA Today about our behaviour in gay bars. This behaviour is seen as pretty normal, however, it typifies the male experience: if you like it, you react to it. Over the years, the calls from younger men or men who freshly come out, are confronted with how pervasive and acceptable it is to grope someone you like and are often told to quiet down if they push back or are uncomfortable. This mentality is seemingly baked into the gay male experience, and it is one that we need to honestly examine within ourselves and change.

I know that as a gay man, I have been pressured into sex by men. I have been in situations where I have had sex to get out of a bad /dangerous situation. I have had situations where I had to be insistent on saying “No” to other men. I have had online dates turn into awkward moments where I had to decide whether to push back and cause a potential incident or let it go in order to stay “safe.” I have been shamed for pushing back and been called a prude. I have been told that I am too thinned skinned by friends and I have been told that “This is what you should expect” as living life as a gay man.

And in conversations over the past few days, I know that I am not alone in this feeling, not only from Gay men but by far from more women.

I will admit. In a gay bar, I tend to be more affectionate. I reach out, and though I almost always do it with permission or with friends whom I am comfortable with. However, I can recall moments when I have reached out to someone I do not know before I seek permission. I have also been in situations where I have been attracted to someone and be turned down, and I have always respected that, but I can identify where the impulse to react harshly or ignoring the refusal can come from. There is a sort of “code” in the gay world in certain situations where actions and advances can be made and rebuffed without blowback, but that code often is blurry and is used all the time, everywhere, rather than in specific situations.

But also, Sexual Harassment happens in different mediums. By far the worst sexual harassment I have faced has been online, while the physical barriers are removed, but the words, the actions, and sometimes, the stalking… comes into play heavily. I will fully admit that I have had a number of stalkers in my life that I have had to forcefully cut off because they would not relent. Even as a mid-30’s gay man, I often have to deal with overzealous men who will not take No for an answer, online or otherwise. This is by far a more common experience for me and one that has increased over time.  I currently have two “stalkers” who keep popping up in my online life and will not take no for an answer. This is my reality, and sadly, I know this is a reality of far more women and men than it should be, and worse, this is almost he expected action many women come to expect, which is sad and depressing.

So, what do we do?

It starts with me. Firstly, regardless of gender, I will treat every person with respect and respect their personal space and their bodies. They may be attractive, but that does not invite engagement from me, and while I am good with this, I am not perfect, so reminding myself of this is important, because I am *never* entitled to engage someone else sexually who isn’t interested.

Second, I will call out the behaviour when I see it applied to me or when I see it in general. This doesn’t mean I go into full-on warrior mode, but pointing out that that behaviour isn’t acceptable, and not shying away from that is important. Too often silence = complicity, and we shouldn’t be silent when we see it happen, to ourselves, or to others. This is why we see so many women post #metoo in social media because our silence allows this toxicity to fester.

Third, I am going to talk about this with my male friends. Right now, the conversation often boils down to women saying “You do this to us” and men going “but not *us*, other men do this.” This argument is used all the time to stop conversations from happening at a larger scale. Sure, individuals will say they are the exception, or that they do not sexually harass, but in reality, we are seeing that there is a significant group of men who *do* sexually harass, and worse, most of us silently let it happen, and we need to talk about this. This is bigger than individual responsibility, this is on everyone. And more importantly, we need to have this conversation with ourselves. We men need to start being more responsible for each other, and having these tough conversations helps that.

And finally, I will be there for those who need it. From women who have been raped, sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, to the gay men who have been pressured into sex, or uncomfortable, we need to make sure that we don’t silence them because it makes things uncomfortable for us. Fear and silence allow this cycle to continue. Similar to abuse, or intolerance, or bigotry, being silent means that the behaviour will continue, we also need to stand with those who make these claims, especially when they are confirmed in happening. As we have seen in the media, when someone comes forward with allegations, there is an immediate push to discredit the person. Depending on the situation, this often works, and the man walks away from the incident. In so many other areas of law and justice, we take the accusers word and we seek the truth. It seems with sexual harassment, we try and destroy the accuser to see if they can withstand the scrutiny before we pay heed to their words. We need to change the culture of destroying the accuser because they spoke up. This is another reason for the silence within our culture.

In other words, I need to be an ally for women who need my support, and I need to be an advocate for gay men who have experienced this toxicity. I need to be a good example of what is appropriate, and be accountable for my actions, and speak up when I see that behaviour in others.

Look. I know this will not change overnight. I know this will not change in a year. However, it is important that we begin changing and teaching our younger generations what we have failed to learn. We need to push so that when my Niece and Nephew are old enough, they look at our rampant sexual assault culture and marvel at how backwards we were or how boorish we come off as, and how they are lucky we have begun to move from that place. It will not be easy, and this will always be a struggle, but it is one we must always strive to make.

The Hillary Trail: Week 5 – Planning

It is crazy to think that I am now planning my 5th consecutive weekend Tramping in the Waitakere Ranges. I have been really happy with my progress so far, and I am starting to look ahead to the next big phase of my Tramping training.

For Week 5, I am actually going to do a fairly easy walk ahead of Labour Day weekend next weekend. I will do the Fairy Falls/Old Coach Road track once again, and I will be doing it either 2 or loops, depending on my mood on the day. I am doing this for several reasons.

  • I want to walk with some friends, and trying to get them to do a 15km walk is much harder than a 5.5km walk.
  • I can do several loops, meaning I can go further, even if my fellow walkers want to do only one loop.
  • I want to save up some energy ahead of the Labour day weekend.

It seems that planning for this week is pretty easy, so let’s talk about next weekend; Labour Day weekend.

So, last week, I settled on a campground to stay at. I will stay at the Pararaha Valley Campground. The Question is of course, what is the trail there and back going to be?

For this weekend, I see it as my first big test for the Hillary. While I have proven that I can walk 15+kms in a day and that I can do it with a small pack on, I need to test myself with a larger pack, and a multi-day walk. This is where I am most worried. I can walk just fine on my own with a day pack, but can I walk with my tent, my sleeping bad, and everything else? And will I be able to trudge home afterwards?

Well, I am going to find out!

Labour Day weekend, I think I will focus on the Southern Portion of the Waitakere Ranges, a place I have yet to go on my walks.

Currently, this is my tentative plan for the walk:

Saturday

By my estimates, this will make for about 9 hours of walking, which is what I will need to be prepared for on the Hillary. It sits at around 16kms, but I suspect it will be longer because everything I have done has been longer than I thought it would be. This also covers the second day of the Hillary. It is not exact, but many of the trails line up with the Hillary, and again. I see this as a great opportunity to learn the area and to test myself. Also, I am planning some stopping times, so I see this as a true full day walk.

Sunday

Sunday is a much shorter day, with only about 7-8kms for the walk. There are some challenging bits to this walk, however, and I suspect it will be slower going than I initially think.

It is obviously the most extensive walk I have done yet, but I feel that despite the ambition, I am close enough to services if I need help or if there is an issue. I am really excited about the walk, but also a bit nervous. Hopefully, this technophile will be fine living off the grid for two days.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We will do this weekend first with friends, and then on to the big weekend! Hope to see some friends out there!

 

 

 

The Hillary Trail: Week: Week 4 – The WanderingExPat trail

Hello again! Sorry for the late entry. I had a busy weekend.

So, bright and early, I set off once again for the Falls Road parking lot in the Cascade Kauri region of the Waitakere Ranges. For my first “Choose your own adventure” walk, I decided to do a mix of trails I have previously done, with a couple of new trails as well. I figured this would be a good time to start being a little more adventurous, as well as getting some confidence with my decision making.

I started on the Auckland City Walk which is a nice easy start. One of the things with starting a trail you have already done is that you get to look up more often. Right now, I will admit that I have an issue of being too focused on the goals of walking, and not enjoy the walking itself. This time, knowing the trail a bit more, and being a bit more comfortable, I was able to take in the scenery much more than before. Which was quite awesome.

walk3From there, I then decided to head off to the Anderson Track. The Anderson track was new to me, and soon, I found it to be a bit similar to some of the other tracks int he immediate area.

After crossing a small stream, the climb went pretty uphill. There was a lot of mud covered steps along the path, and while I generally despise stairs like these, I manage to get past them quickly without too much grumbling.

From there, I kept up with the walking and soon came to my first decision point. In my planning, I was considering going down a long tunnel. On the map, it said it was open, but I couldn;t find any information on the tunnel, or how good/stable it was. My original goal was to go to the East side of the tunnel, but on the day, I decided to take the trail to the west end of the tunnel, and skip it all together. I am glad I did because as I came upon the tunnel, I found it to be closed.

The Tram line was pretty awesome honestly, and one of my favorite trails so far. Maybe it was the scene of walking down overgrown tracks. Maybe it was the setting, an overcast day, but thick with humidity, but I loved the feel, the smell, and the ambience.

Walk main 2

Soon, I came upon the Waitakere Dam, and from there, met up with the Fence Line Track, which I had done previously. This portion I have done before, but the last time it was raining pretty consistently. This time, however, I was able to enjoy better the area. And it is quite gorgeous. Taking the walk by the lake is really nice, and the trail is nice and clear. This was where I thought I had escaped the mud that has plagued me for the last three weeks.

I was wrong.

The Long Road track is a muddy one. It is really muddy. I am not sure if it is because it is used a lot, or if it is just muddly all the time, but it is just a muddy mess. There were points where I just had to suck it up and get dirty… which… fair enough. Both times I have walked this trail it has been equally muddly, so I am not sure if I should go on it again until there is a significant dry spell (and for Auckland… well… we will see about that.)

Walk Main

Taking the long Road past where I turned off last time, I walked to the edges of the park and to the Whatitiri Track back to my car. At first, I thought this would be a kinda easy track. It sits just on the edge of the forest and it is buttressed against a golf course. Sounds really easy. But surprisingly, the forays into the forest were spectacular.  I ended up crossing a couple of streams and had a great time of it overall. I truly loved the day.

walk2My timing for the walk exceeded my expectations. Firstly, doing a longer stretch this time than week one’s trek was a good decision, and I felt stronger and healthier throughout the process. I *did* eat more the night before, and I felt that the extra food helped me out greatly in the walk. I did not feel tired or run out of energy, and I was really happy about that. The first week, I did 10-11kms (my app didn’t work for me so I cannot give a direct comparison sadly, but this walk, I ended up doing 16kms in just under 4 hours. This was a great result for me. While not as high or as long as last weeks hikes, this one was a much better one for me to scale and conquer, and it gives me more confidence heading into the next couple of weeks.

Also, looking at the elevation differences, I did not have as huge of an elevation change as the previous week, but having almost 475 meters (1550-ish feet) in elevation gain is a good effort for the weekend.

 

Walk1

I did like how the climb was one “big” climb other than several different climbs, but I suspect that I will get better with time in that regard. I will admit though, that descent didn’t feel as sharp as the graph says it does, and there were no steps on the way down… lol.

Overall, this was a great walk, and one that I would put as an early favorite. With the Long Track and the muddiness aside, I really enjoy this walk, and I hope to do it again sometime later in the summer. I may also try and do another similar walk by cutting out as much of the Long Road as possible… we will have to see on that.

Next week, I will go back to familar territory, but also a lot of planning for my big walk for Labour day weekend. Stay tuned.

The Hillary Trail: Week 4 – Planning

So this week, I am tossing up a break in the training. After 3 weeks of building up my endurance and my walking, I was thinking perhaps a week off, especially heading into the period ahead of my weekend away.

Then I started looking at new routes to take.

Right now I am looking at both my weekly walks, as well as my Labour Day weekend overnighter. The more I look, the more I think I should walk this weekend. And this morning, I decided, fuck it, I am walking this weekend.

After looking through routes taken by other people, I have decided to try and make my own route. This will be interesting because I am only a month into the whole tramping thing, and I have been following other people’s routes. So, this will be interesting to try. For my first “Choose your own adventure” route, I will go back to some familiar territory but also set off to some new tracks.

So, here is what I am looking to do (I will need to give it a name at some point):

In week one, I did the Montant Heritage trail, which starts in the same place but creates a smaller loop in the area. This time, I am planning to go a bit wider, and further, and see how I go. The good part of this is once I am on the Long Road Track, I can decide to cut things short by taking the Upper Kauri Track, which I have taken before. This will be important if I feel my energy depleted by that part of the walk.

Going back to the same area will be good. it will remind me to look up more, and see the sites. And, because I am planning to skip the first part of the Fence Line Track (which is a lot of stairs), I think I will find it a little more enjoyable. That being said, I *think* the Anderson Trail is actually quite challenging so we will see.

Also, there are some Tunnels! I think that will be quite fun, though I am trying to figure out what the name of the big tunnel is… I will admit, that the maps are not super clear on this.

In other news. My city walking shoes are giving me problems again. Since getting these shoes a few months ago, it seems that I cannot break them in, getting blisters on my heels almost every time I walk in them. I am at a loss to how to fix the situation outside wearing hiking socks all the time or buying new shoes… which I am loathed to do.

 

I am hoping to decide on my two-day walk here in the next couple of days, I have an area, I just need to finalise the route. Take care and talk to you on Saturday!