A snowman for Charlie
Taylor looking down into the headwaters of the Waipawa river and valley.
The dip in the middle is Waipawa saddle with the Three Johns and the rising bulk of Te Atuaoparapara to the right. The backyard at Sunrise hut.
Sunrise hut - just after sunrise
Taylor is still fast asleep and I am pottering about the hut enjoying the after glow of seeing such a beautiful sight and relishing a cup of hot coffee. We had this whole place to ourselves of which I am very glad. I doubt Taylor would have been as talkative and animated as he was had we had company. Not many 16 year old boys would I suspect.
It is cold, a bit over cast, and the wind has picked up. Not enough to prevent us crossing the saddle in my estimation, which is based on having done it over 30 times now. So soon I will rouse the sleeping teen. It will be the hardest part of my day I think.
My hip is still hurting which concerns me, but feels better than yesterday and certainly won't stop me from getting over to Top Maropea. How can I not look out upon these mountains and not want to be amongst them, to not smile?
I greatly enjoyed last evening with Taylor. No computers, no television, no phones, no distractions at all. At times I looked at him and could almost see him morphing into the little boy I used to know. He is still in there and I have to remember that. The way he talked and chattered incessantly last night was exactly what he was like at age 8. I was slightly stunned and just trying to take in and savour each second.
Yet I also have to remember that he is now a young man, the way he took my heavy pack and strolled up the mountain, telling me about a girl he really likes, and asking questions about our family history. I guess as in all things it is about finding the balance between my love and longing for that little boy and the recognition and help I can give him to become a man.
The sunrise at Sunrise hut.
Taylor just above Armstrong saddle and heading up to Camel Back ridge.
Taylor with Te Atuaoparapara in background
Taylor climbing a snow filled gut to reach the ridge.
Taylor on Camel Back ridge, the name he bestowed upon it when he was 8. Looking up the lovely Maropea valley and continuing main range in background. Top Maropea lies below the second big slip on the opposite face of the spur.
Snow covered forest on the way down to the hut. It may be spring but the mountains don't know that quite yet!
Taylor at Top Maropea. Recently repainted and the formerly diabolical tracks re cut. Always a fine view.
Top Maropea - late afternoon
We arrived here late in the morning. It got a bit windy on the crossing but nothing that we couldn't handle. Taylor cruised ahead of me, and though my hip was still sore I managed okay and carried my bigger pack to soothe my wounded pride. I loved watching Taylor move lightly over the crossing, wondering if his earlier tramping experiences were emerging. From the ages of 8 to 12 I would bet he did as much, if not more, tramping in these ranges than any kid of that age group. Not just peripheral outings either but rather real deep multi day mountain trips. I wonder at times if I actually pushed him too hard, too fast. Lessons learned. Again I had these strong images of him ahead of me, the little boy in the checkered knee length swan dry climbing down or up and chattering away to Nigel as we made our way deeper into the mountains. Does he remember those times?
After lunch Taylor wanted to explore the forest along the creek far below the hut. As I have never done so myself and we had plenty of time I agreed. We climbed down through the steep forest but were cut off by steep sheer bluffs dropping to the creek. So we retraced our steps and headed down the track to the creek. The track is in fine shape though covered with large beech branches snapped off either by the weight of snow or wind, take your pick. The drop down to the creek is still sheer, but now that the track is cut much more manageable. So we hung out by the creek, lounging around, each in our own thoughts. It is good to see Taylor not in a hurry to DO anything other than enjoy the moment. When the sun popped out for a bit I found a warm spot and fell asleep for a bit, just listening to the sound of clear cold running water and letting my thoughts run with the melody.
Now it is late afternoon, we have spent some time gathering our firewood and filling the bins. For the first time in my over 30 visits here wood is not a problem both due to the recent track maintenance and the storm. Tonite we shall be warm in the often refrigerator like confines of Top Maropea - at least till the fire goes out!
Taylor at the head of the track which drops straight down to the creek.
Waterfall on the creek. This is not a good place to fall, but one where you almost have to stop and take in the scene.
Taylor at the water fall.
Time for an ice cold drink of mountain water.
And a wee little nap by the creek.
Top Maropea -Evening
The sun I watched rise this morning in the east is now setting over the Maropea valley from the west. Like a painting that changes each time I view it I watch the blue and purple hues play amazing light on the far off peaks, the shadows cascading into the valley below. All places I know well, have been many times. This is my favourite place in all of the Ruahine. This is home. I have history here. Charlie's placenta which I carried up and buried here in the Maori custom of Whenua. The wonderful people I have shared this place with. And today one of the most special, to know my son sits inside the hut right now as I write this makes my heart soar, makes these words lump in my throat before I can write them. I am here. And you know what? Taylor does indeed remember!
Inside the fire is roaring and fills the hut with warmth, and enough wood smoke to put that pleasant mountain aroma on our gear which will wisp around us for days, a gentle reminder of her presence in my life. Little breaths of wind reach down from the gusty stream above and whisper gently in my ear. I am still here yet miss this place already.
The view from the "back yard" at Top Maropea.
Top Maropea at night. The pile of rocks in the foreground is where Charlie's placenta is buried and a small cairn has begun to grow. I hope he does choose to connect himself to these mountains, to this place.
Taylor, warm, safe and cozy in front of an excellent fire.
Taylor and Robb.
We have a new addition to our family. "T" is a little boy not quite 5 years old. He has seen and been through a lot of things in life no little child should have to endure. So he is with us now, for how long we are not sure, but long enough for all of us to have to shove over a little bit and make room for one more.