Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Snow storm at Maropea Forks

I have been thinking a lot about Maropea Forks as of late. My interaction with the helicopter there this past summer still seems to echo in my mind. Is it forever changed, or is it me who has changed? I suspect the latter.

Yet I cannot help but wonder if I write this from the same point of view which Edward Abbey wrote "Desert Solitaire", which though a rough and beautiful celebration of the south east Utah canyon lands, is also written from a eulogistic point of view, acknowledement of a place forever changed, or being changed, by the encroachment of modernization and man. Does the helicopter represent the same to me? And as Abbey wrote after his book came out. " Finally, a word of caution : Do not jump into your automobile next June and rush out to the canyon country hoping to see some of that which I have attempted to evoke in these pages. In the first place you cannot see ANYTHING from a car; you've got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbrush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you'll see something, maybe. Probably not. In the second place most of what I write about is already gone or going under fast. This is not a travel guide but an elegy. A memorial. You're holding a tombstone in your hands. A bloody rock. Don't drop it on your foot - throw it at something big and glassy. What do you have to lose?" - Edward Abbey. Perhaps the helicopter was my car.

I hope not. I have made 14 trips to Maropea Forks before that unpleasant encounter, and so perhaps can make another 14 until it happens again. For it is a beautiful and special place, and a Ruahine spot that holds so many memories for me and thus I will not hesitate to return there and take my chances. One special trip was in the winter of 2004 with Gustav. Winter brings even a greater sense of remoteness to the Ruahine ranges. On my annual winter trips to the forks I have never seen a soul, except maybe my own reflected in the glistening pools on the river. I don't often see Gustav so to travel with him, for the second time, to Maropea Forks was a relished opportunity. We stayed there for three days. It was brutally cold, the three hour walk down a freezing Maropea river a staunch enough barrier for all but the most hearty trampers, and we had the wonderful hut Corker wood stove going just quietly soon after our arrival. On the second day I took a solo walk up the east branch of the Maropea a few hours. I saw three deer and a Whio - which was the highlight of my walk - and after a few hours stopped for a cup of tea. While enjoying my brew along the river I noticed the wind had begun to pick up and the sky overhead started to darken. I had a few hours to walk back down river, which held no problems, and thought of a warm hut to return to was a good one. By the time I turned the last bend of the river to the hut, the snow had begun to fall very gently. As Gustav and I sat on the porch the snow began to fall as if back in our native Wisconsin, big and fluffy flakes, like bolls of cotton piling up on the ground. Then the sky grew very dark and wind came swirling down from the tops, so much so we could not tell which direction it came from. The snow swirled in the wind,one side of the valley still showing the sun, the other pitch black. We just stared in awe, until it became too much and too cold to remain outside and retreated into the warmth of the hut and the Corker stove. It was a very magical moment, and I could see by the wild and enlivened look in Gustav's eyes it had been for him as well. The snow beat down heavily on the tin roof, the wind lashed the forest. We relished the moment at Maropea Forks.

"The Corker"
The Corker waits
and Stone Cold
Long Periods
of Nothingness
Until weary travelers
bring it to Life
Warmth and Sanctuary
This is the Soul of the Corker
written 27 August 2004 Maropea Forks


vegetablej said...

It's so beautiful there. At least sometimes there's peace. Surely the hunters are going to be infrequent; after all they have to pay for a helicopter. You should be able to take your share of the place as often as your time and feet allow.:)

Very nice pictures that take me back to the Nova Scotia of my childhood. The soft flakes falling on the evergreens, on my grandparents land, no cars or noise around at all. And the inky black and whites and greys of snowy days in the woods. Sigh.

Gustav said...

Kia ora my fine friend

Those magic snow flecked moments are deep inside me.

The joyful thought of getting snowed in and being unable to return to the modern world still sends a shiver of delight up my spine.

I must say the story of the helicopter does not diminish this memory but rather enhances it. For man is continually reducing mile after mile of this planet's beauty every second. And hence the memory becomes even more sacred.

The helicopter onlsaught has only begun and as the world adds another 1,000,000 people each day there will be more time deprived people hungry to see remnants of a time gone by through the lense of a helicopter window.

Thank you brother for this blog and more importantly opening my spirit to the magic of the Ruahine Mistress.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora VegetableJ,
Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad the photos remind you of home. To get that northern hemispere feel snow fall here was pretty cool. And yes, you are right, my feet, and soul, have as much right to be there as anyone I guess. My enquiries to DOC, Department of Conservation, indicate a booking system is being put into place, eventually, for fly ins. At least that would enable trampers, and even walk in hunters, to possibly avoid those rude encounters, at least I hope. Maropea Forks, and the Ruahine ranges are indeed beautiful, and it will take more than a helicopter to drive me away. Have a great day, look forward to trying more of your recipes!

What can I say. Thank you as well for our times there - both in winter! Our, my, first trip there one to learn and experience the highs and lows, who can forget the beautiful sunny day at Maropea Forks after a cold, damp night on the river? And our second trip learning more but also applying knowledge, that is growth. The snow storm was a magic moment.

vegetablej said...


I wanted to drop by again and tell you how much I liked and appreciated your comment on my last post. It really touched me that you took the time to tell me about your understanding of the way it feels to be a person who has adopted another country as home but still loves the place of his birth. Well, you talked about missing your family, mostly, and that's a big part of it, isn't it?

You know the feeling to me is the same one I remember when as a young child I was sent to my grandmother's house for a week. It wasn't that close to where we lived, and though it was okay and I had lots of new things to do, I remember sitting in the upstairs window each night and willing and wishing my parents to come and get me. It was a sick feeling of being out of place, like I was a ghost, or existed in another century, out of time. A player in my own life. My family called it merely "homesickness".

Unfortunately, I think that feeling will never leave me now. I don't quite understand it yet, but maybe someday I will.

Thanks again for your warmth and sensitivity. I think you are a fine person. :)

Ruahines said...

Kia ora VJ,
I think I understand the feeling you are getting it, though sometimes trying to define it is like talking to people under water, it doesn't come out right.
There are so many things I miss about America. In spite of its many issues and continuing problems - mainly racism and mass consumerism amongst others - there are beautiful places and people there I miss very much. One of my earlier posts was on my home state of Wisconsin and my last visit there which might give you an idea. I find myself closing up about America as I have been away so long now in some ways I am between two worlds. And so often I hear comments about America which are so superficial, judgemental, and regionalized, it gets weary even trying to comment, so I don't.
The biggest part I miss, as you say, are my family and friends left behind, some relationships which have flourished and flowered, others wilting or wilted on the vine. Sometimes it is the latter I most miss. Other things have become important to me here, being a father and a husband, the daily trials and tribulations of raising a family, and of course the Ruahines. So it is what it is, sometimes I think it is easier for males to up and leave than females - and I mean nothing sexist in writing that, just an observation. But as I sit here next to my 14 year old son doing his homework - wow its good to even write that! - and having just checked my 5 year old sleeping peacefully I wouldn't change a thing. I just have to live with that melancholic shadow nearby.
Ka kite,