Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ode to Parks Peak Ridge

The recent journey along Parks Peak ridge is still fresh in my mind. I can still hear the wind rustled beech leaves, the crunch of my boots through the deep snow, I can picture easily in my mind the stunning beauty of the forest, the occasional far off view of the main range across the valley as it emerges from the cloud through the swirling storm (such as in above photo), the smell of wood smoke still seems to waft in the air. I want to go back.

A comment left on my last post by Tom S. really made me realize how fortunate I am to have this mountain range, the Ruahine, as my backyard. Tom has traveled this area many times, indeed his name appears still in the hut books, though he now lives in England. It is good to connect with those who understand, yet may be far away. So Tom, this one is for you, an ode to Parks Peak ridge and the Makaroro valley. It is there waiting for you, and in the meantime I am honoured to keep you connected. Kia ora brother!

Above are all photos from various trips along the ridge, from my first in 2000 till now. The ridge has changed little, I have changed greatly. The first photo is from a solo trip in winter in which it took me nearly 7 hours to get to the old orange hut, plugging steps, getting huge slabs of snow dropped on me from the trees, arriving at the hut tired and freezing. Never has a hut, even that old one, ever looked so good. The second is Taylor and I on the ridge perhaps a few hours from the hut. I recall the day before we walked to it in sleet and snow, then this day summery and fine. He was 8. Not many 8 year old children have been to Parks Peak. I need to reconnect with my oldest son out here, though now 15 the thought of 3-4 days in the mountains with his old man not the most pleasant of thoughts for him I suppose.

The third shot is Parks Peak ridge in the distance, or part of it as it actually carries on for 20 kilometres or so to meet Gold Crown ridge. This was taken from across Makaroro valley and the main range at the top of Totara spur. I love this one, as it contrasts the greenness of the lower ridge with the golden tussock tops at a higher elevation, as well as showing the mountain tarn in front. This whole area of the main range is dotted with these tarns, ranging in size from a bathtub to small lakes. Great for thirsty trampers to replenish empty water bottles from, or on a fine day just sit by and relax, boil up the billy and appreciate the moment being in such places.

Next we have a shot from my recent trip of the snow covered beeches on the track just outside the hut. Notice the branches drooping over, covered with snow ready to dump on taller unsuspecting trampers. Those beeches also serve to protect from howling gales and allow travel along the ridge in pretty much any weather.

Last in this series is John with map and compass just down from the hut looking across at the main range. This was from a summer trip a few years ago, and the first time John had been in this area for over thirty years and some of his first tramps. The connections to this place are deep.

Part II : Memories of the old Parks Peak hut.

3 June, 2000 4:50pm

It is raining and cold outside, it began to sleet as we trudged along and up this seemingly endless ridge. Here for the first time with Nigel, and our Irish friend Jeremy down from Auckland on his first ever New Zealand tramp. It took us 5 hours 30 minutes after crossing the river, and it is a very good haul to this hut which we were all glad to see appear out of the mist. Jeremy has spent two hours with a very wet and meagre supply of wood and a very temperamental Corker stove and to his credit we are now in a warm hut. We have marinated steak, garlic, mushrooms and blanched tomatoes for tea, and Nigel has carried in a steamed pudding and fresh cream and extra gas to steam it. Yum! I hope Jeremy was able to get beyond the hard labour and enjoy this marvelous ridge, certainly unique from any I have traversed thus far in these ranges. Nigel and I are starting to get a few under our belts now, and I feel this place and beyond calling strongly to me. A great day, turning into a great evening, these mountains just amaze me.

7 July, 2001 5:45pm

Parks Peak hut
Robb Kloss
Nigel Robson
Taylor Kloss

A long walk for a little boy of 8 years to arrive here. I am so proud of Taylor my eyes well up and my heart bursts thinking about his efforts today. He is wandering outside with Nigel in this beautiful and mysterious high ridge beech forest that surrounds us. After an 8 hour walk he arrived here nearly in tears, and there were a few along the way, as well as a lot of laughs and his incessant chatter to Nigel. Getting into warm dry gear, and some hot soup, cocoa and chocolate he was a new man with new found energy wanting to explore the area a bit. It is a long way, and I thought I may have misjudged things a bit, particularly when it started to snow. I had to give him a few cuddles along the way, but his feet got him here, and he deserves all the credit. Thank you Nigel, your presence in Taylor's life, and mine, is a great gift. The smile on Taylor's face when he saw that orange roof of the hut will stay with me always.

6 Feb. 2003 Parks Peak hut

Robb Kloss
Taylor Kloss
Jacob Burn

Here on a 3 night trip with Taylor and Jake. A long hot walk today, and we ran out of water about an hour before the hut, which of course immediately made the boys very thirsty. I found a bit in the roots of a beech tree and even squeezed a bit from some moss to quench their thirsts. I should have put a damper on their early and frequent attacks on the water bottles, and carrying 4 litres myself, plus each their own thought ample supply. I did not think it would be so unrelentingly hot even high up, not a cloud in the sky and the sun blazing down. Beautiful, but perhaps not the best conditions for that long steep ridge and two 9 year old boys. Yet here we are. How cool to attack that old water tank, despite the heat, still fresh and cold and immediately made everything better. Simple pleasures, a very good lesson. Different dynamics with two boys, rather than just Taylor, or even just myself. Worrying about my own thirst, for instance, is one thing, worrying about the thirsts of two boys under my charge a whole other concept. Still, it has to be good to get them out here, out of their comfort zones and inactivity of life at home in most regards. I can't expect them to understand my reasons for connecting to this place, these ranges, and what I take from here, yet I hope they might at some stage get a small whiff of understanding that might emerge even years later. I must write that in spite of the pull up here, the ever climbing ridge, that this is becoming one of my favourite Ruahine places. It is so unique and beautiful, and the views on a day like today are simply stunning. I am excited to push beyond here in the morning to Upper Makaroro, another new place to be revealed.

"Stormy Walk on Parks Peak Ridge"

The ridge played no gentle songs
to greet me on this day
No blue skies above
to offer a blissful welcome
The forest booming a crescendo
of wind and the kettle drum gales
waiting their turn to accentuate the rhythm
A symphony of wet greens and greyness
dripping slowly her tears upon me
I accepted her terms
and in turn saw beauty revealed
I Listened
tasted her moods
observed and absorbed all around me
and in turn was touched
to my very soul

written at Parks Peak 15 April 2005

Part III : The Smaller World at Parks Peak

Parks Peak hut 15 April 2005


It is the roar, the stags roar in the creek heads. Coming through the mist it sounds lonely and frantic, adding to the remote solitude of this ridge. As I climbed through the melting ice and snow I saw the foot steps, I know at this time of year there might very well be hunters at the hut. Yet this time of year calls to me as well, even if I do not shoot animals anymore. Those roars of mating hungry stags still stir me.

Imagine my surprise to arrive at Parks Peak hut to find it in complete disarray. So much a mess I could not initially determine how many were staying there except by counting the number of sleeping bags. The prospect of a night here was pretty dim indeed. Yet I was too tired and had been in the saddle too long to care. I brewed some chicken soup and coffee, and feeling much better I retired outside to the lovely garden and contemplated my position with a wee dram. I really needed to accept my reality and make the best of it. That included sleeping outside in my bivvy bag. Though a night outside at Parks Peak in April would be very cold indeed. I decided to have another wee dram. Then the hunters arrive, Allister and Peter, whom are very apologetic about the state of the hut, and for three days had shared its humble confines with 3 other hunters who had been choppered in with apparently everything but the proverbial kitchen sink. They had flown out that morning. Allister has in tow the finest 10 point stag head I have seen in the Ruahines, and imagine my surprise when they not only began to clean up the hut, but pack their gear up as well. They were leaving now in the growing dusk, heading down the ridge north to Sentry Box hut then out to their car. Who am I to argue? I helped them shoulder their meat laden loads with a 10 point head on top of Allister's pack and watched them head to the track.
I thought I was dreaming. To go from that to this, was almost too much. How my prospects have changed! I have the solitude I sought . I have a fire in this shitty little Corker and I am warm inside and out. This place is wonderful. Now the night time sky reveals hidden stars and I relish in my wealth. I recall some lines from Wordsworth, a long ago English literature class taken at Ripon college, maybe I did learn something after all.

"Calm is the fragrant air, and loth to lose
Days grateful warmth, tho moist with
falling dews
Look for the stars, you'll say that there are none
Look up a second time, and, one by one
You mark them twinkling out with silvery light
And wonder
How could they elude the sight"

William Wordsworth

Photos 1 and 2 : The beech forest in summer. The lichens and mosses, or what ever they are, stun the senses.
Photos 3 and 4 : The same mosses and such this past snow storm. In spite of their seeming fragility they know hard times and how to survive.
Photo 5 : Leatherwood and Beech just outside the hut. Leather wood, or Tupare, is a diabolical sub alpine native shrub or tree when in abundance and trying to find a way through, but so beautiful and so resilient.
Photo 6. The contrasting summer garden just outside the hut.


Unknown said...

Dear Robb,

As I came to my computer this morning to check email and blogs I put one of your tapes in, like I have been doing most mornings. As I was reading your adventures and solitudes in these mountain ranges, I realized what was softly playing as I read,

"This must be what paradise is like. So quiet in here. So peaceful in here...."

and that repeated refrain at the end that only Van can do.

It was exactly what I wanted to say about this post. So quiet, so peaceful.

I hope to one day be able to "taste her moods" too.

Marja said...

Hi Robb first of all thanks for your ,as D'arcy already said ,peacefull writing. It makes me dream away to places with crackling snow and "symphonies of wet green and greyness" to name a few delights.
I love how you teach your kids important life skills and a love for nature by taking them up there.
Also thanks for your support. I am completely absorbed to put my own 14 year old son back on track who is drowning in secondary school because of his severe learning disabilities and stubborn nature. I spent hours establishing rapport with teachers, helping in classes, educating the school about dyslexia and how to support these kids, planning together with the principal, setting limits for my son etc. After initially being ignored by some things start rolling now. I have good support from a friend who's got the same issues We call us the ppp :Positive, pitbull parents. Anyway have a great day and I hope to be around soon again

Marja said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Kia Ora Robb

I wandered Parks Peak ridge with you and floated along in tow, Enjoyed the photos, prose and poem.
Not much more to say as I think of going to bed and dream of mountains and my beautiful wife who comes back next week with the boys after a holiday with family in Central Asia.


Anonymous said...

Also the heart-bursting love you express for your 8 year old is beautiful and poignant. As well as the desire to get your 15 year old into the wild with you. Yes, even if he appears to not want to go....later in life he will not forget that time with you and the wild.

I was moved by your dedication to Tom - it brought tears to my eyes. Yes, although he is in England a part of him is still there on that mountain. As you know, when we fall in love with a place on Earth we leave our imprint in the rocks and trees, and when we leave that place we take with us the imprint of the land. It becomes part of us and never leaves. Don't you love that? I do.

Your words: "The ridge has changed little, I have changed greatly." I am glad to hear this as it is not always the case. I have returned to places I love deeply and both the land and I have changed. Myself, for the better - as I like growing and becoming more aware, but often the poor land has been tragically desecrated by humans. I am heartened that that is not the case where you hike. Thank god.

Your writing is beautiful, personal and touching, and your photos are the same....just excellent. Thank you for sharing.

PS And yes, it is the BEST "church" of all. The only one for me. :)

Anonymous said...

Ooops This part below was the beginning of my comment and it got cut off somehow. :)

*I have been reading more of your site today and am just moved to tears by so many things. I finally saw where to comment here as well. So today I leave a comment.
Your passionate connection to Earth is so POWERFUL and comes through in your words and photos. Dramatically so. I relate to it so much that I feel like I am reading about me, just in a different place on Earth.

Gustav said...

Kia Ora My Fine Friend to the North East,

A couple of days ago we had a bit of a snowstorm come through. It reminded me of our winter travels in the Ruahines.

Your Parks Peak winter photos also remind me of our native home in Wisconsin. Do you remember how the snow framed Abes head on Bascom Hill?

I am relishing each of your posts brother. You are becoming quite an artist.

Your words, poetry and pictures are intertwined to create a mood, a rugged verse that brings the visitor in, and keeps them there in the bosom of the Ruahine mistress.

I remember urging you to become a writer almost a decade ago. I still have many letters of yours and the tapes that you have made on your walks. This is all rich material and a testament to your early passions as a writer, philosopher, and Naturalist.

Isn't it funny that only 6 months ago you considered giving up on your blog? I was the only one who posted a comment on some of those early blogs.

You became a bit melancholy and went into the Ruahines to perhaps brood a bit. When you returned your arms were filled with the harvest of the mountains and your blog flourished.

Your blog is a reflection of you as a man. The only thing that is missing is your music. Perhaps one day you will share with your readers your must listen list? Or songs that reflect the beauty of nature and the Ruahines? Or perhaps even the music itself?

I love that you included actual journal entries in the hut log. Another point of interest for your visitors could be a posting on hut logs and what they mean to you.

The hut logs to me are rich in the pathos of prior visitors, and informative as to different weather conditions during the year. They also are a form of time travel, a way of visiting the past.

Anonymous said...

I find both your blog and comments poetic.I don't know how to describe this, but how does someone make the practical and spiritual so beautifully combined.You do it so well.I can't believe that at one stage you thought about giving up on your blog. You are an inspiration, and weave many aspects into your stories which also include your family.Please continue to write what these aspects mean to you because it is welcomed, respected,and a lovely place to rest, observe, and ponder. Thank you Rob.

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Another super high altitude post with fantastic photos!!! WOOT!!! You experience a freedom others only DREAM about and it's second nature to you. Perhaps your first. :D

Blessings, JJ

Ruahines said...

Tena koe D'Arcy,
That is perhaps the one Van song the plays in my head when I am out there in the Ruahines. I will have some more Van on the way to you soon!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Marja,
Cheers for taking the time to stop by. My thoughts and support are always with you. I recall my teen age years with a lot of angst to be honest and I try to be cognizant of that with my own 15 year old. I so admire your tenacity and love for your son and I know it will pay off for you both.
Kia kaha Marja. You have a lot of people out here who are with you.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Bob,
Cheers! Hope your dreams were filled with the sound of mountain streams, lovely forests, and snow capped peaks with your family waiting for you there. Have a great day.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Robin,
Cheers, and Haere mai - Welcome. I have been relishing the story of your journey and discoveries as well and your sense of appreciation and aroha - love- I find so inspiring. I am so happy to exchange thoughts with you.
I wonder at times if I have been lucky enough to have caught my time in the Ruahines before a great period of transition. I search for a voice to protect them, but wonder if people like Tom and myself are experiencing the last readily accessible path to solitude there. I hope not, but it certainly makes me relish each second I am there. I have never been quite able to explain or even identify the connection I feel for these ranges, the Ruahine, just that from my first journey there part of me was finally home.
Cheers Robin, and have a lovely day.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Gustav,
I used to so love walking up Bascomb Hill during a snow storm, even more at night when it was lit up and deserted of busy students. We were very fortunate to recieve the gifts that Madison bestowed upon us, most particularly our friendship.
This whole process has turned out much different that I had originally imagined. Which was simply a place for my family and friends back home, the people closest to me. I wanted a way to keep in touch and share with them this place that has filled my soul. When that did not happen I did question my purpose and wonder if I should just not continue with my old note books. So yes, brother, kia ora for your persistence. What has developed has been meeting and sharing with a small and very cool community of people, each with their own amazing places and thoughts, each which inspires me in their own way, each very unique and special. Using technology in a positive way to connect with people all around the world. And your path intersects witn many of those others. How cool is that?
I too love the hut books, particularly the ones in the more remote huts, going back many years. There are indeed nuggets of richness and profundity in many of them. You have given me food for thought. Kia ora Gustav, we shall talk soon.

Ruahines said...

Tena koe Pam,
I am happy to share with you, and to enjoy your thoughts as well. As I wrote to Gustav above, my original intention with this blog was family and friends back in the states and simply a way to connect with them. Which turned out to be a much harder prospect than I thought. People seem to have very strong feelings either for or against blogging. What is cool is the totally different connections I am making with people such as yourself and using the technology in a very positive way. Kia ora Pam, have a wonderful day.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora JJ,
I think you and Jeff are pretty high up there on the Scale of Freedom as well! I guess even if we have other responsibilities in our lives, jobs, family, ect., we can still find time each day to just enjoy the outdoors, thus freedom. I just spent a few minutes in our backyard at lunch enjoying the songs of the Tui birds whom we have living in our trees - a moment of freedom and didn't cost me a penny!
Kia ora JJ, hope you enjoy a beautiful Upper Michigan late summer day.

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Robb, we were supposed to drive to the UP last weekend but Jeff inhaled some cedar sawdust and has been fighting off a chest cough. Hopefully he will feel well enough for us to travel soon. :D

I love William Wordsworth too! You have a similar atmosphere and vision in your voice. Your prose touches the soul. :D

Blessings! JJ

Beth said...

Hi Robb, what a beautiful post. I'm touched by your love for the mountains and especially your love for your son. In a world where so many kids are aimless and drifting, you're showing your boy something that is solid and unchanging that he can return to over and over again, in thoughts as well as actuality. We all need to be doing that for young people, who are even more susceptible to the apparent chaos of life than we are - not to mention all the other lessons that come along with being out in wild nature. I loved the Wordsworth quote too -- what a great ending to this heartfelt post.

Sugar Jones said...

It takes me a while to really get through all of your posts... there's always something I missed or something that caught my heart and I had to comment before reading any further. So this is my first-sweep comment: I love that you got those boys out into that awesome nature! It's just so easy to breeze through your kid's childhood. To just put food on the table and tuck them in to bed and pay for their braces and to think that is enough. You are showing them the passion of a love of nature and how much you love them. Caught my heart... thanks...

Anonymous said...

Hi Robb,

I'm finally taking a wee bit of quiet time while on a short family vacation ... enough time - and quiet - to catch up a bit on your always inspiring blog.

Like another commenter, robin easton, my attention was also drawn to your note "The ridge has changed little, I have changed greatly." In reviewing the words and images associated with the ridge over the years, I don't perceive great changes (in you), but rather a progressive unfolding. I'm reminded of Oriah Mountain Dreamer's ideas about unfolding. In The Prelude to her book The Dance, she asks:

What if becoming who and what we truly are happens not through striving and trying but by recognizing and receiving the people and places and practises that offer us the warmth of encouragement we need to unfold?

I see your trips to the mountains, and your blogging about your insights and experiences, as a practice of unfolding.

The exchange between you and gustav, recounting his support for your continued blogging practice, and the other examples shown in this comment stream - and elsewhere on your blog - offer a channel for mutual inspiration. It's inspiring to read the exchanges of warm encouragement among the community you've created here.

I also wanted to share a short excerpt (from a much longer excerpt) by Oriah I wrote about in comparing Oriah and Martin Buber:

All I can do is bring all of who I am to that writing, and then that allows the opportunity for something else to come in, when someone else, who is a receptive beholder, uses that work … and that’s not me, it’s something that’s larger than me that comes through this.

Thanks for bringing all of who you are up to and down from the mountains, and to this blog ... and through doing so, giving the rest of us implicit permission to be more of who we are!


Ruahines said...

Kia ora JJ,
Me and Wordsworth eh! A very flattering comparison which I humbly accept. I have been reaquainting myself with a bit Wordsworth and also Walt Whitman as of late. Both men of nature, independence, even revolutionaries in a way, not to mention their beautiful prose and poetry. I am going to take Whitman along with me on my solo Ruahine journey next week.
I hope Jeff feels better, and you get back out amongst that beautiful Upper Michigan nature asap. Have a lovely day JJ.

Ruahines said...

Tena koe Beth,
So good to read from you. Cheers for your observations. I hope what you write holds true, especially for my older boy Taylor. At 15 we are starting to clash a bit, but hopefully some of these things will hold him in good stead through the teen age madness. He has drifted away a bit from the mountains, but he has that base which is certainly something I have done right. And yes, ol' Wordsworth had a way with words. Cheers Beth.
Ka kite ano,

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Sugar,
I think one of the cool things about blogging is being able to return to favourite places and read and view at our leisure. I often find it is the second or third time I read something and really have it hit home. Your last post on the 101 reasons hit me that way. Cheers Sugar.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Joe,
So pleased to see you stop by. Always glad to read your insightful comments. Finding and reading your blog was certainly one of the inspirations for starting my own, and using technology to create and communicate with communities of other people around the world is very cool.
I appreciate your words about unfolding myself, and perhaps that is a more proper view than writing I simply have changed greatly. The Ruahines certainly have provided a place to do that, and the background of my life, knowing people such as yourself and Gustav, certainly helped provide a frame work to one day address various things in my life that may have prevented me unfolding, or continuing to do so.
Kia ora for sharing your thoughts and links to further investigate, which I soon will. Always a pleasure Joe.

Anonymous said...

many thanks rob, another great post, love the photos, in fact i may have to stop tuning in as the pull home is heightened everytime i catch up on one of ur adventures haha will be waiting with baited breath for the next installment
cheers tom

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Tom,
Cheers brother. Next journey this weekend, a couple of nights around the Whanahuias trying out some new gear. These New Zealand mountains take a toll, and my last trip my pack strap ripped off, causing some major repairs and innovation. Bought a new pack, but like staying at the new Parks Peak hut I feel a bit guilty. The old one lasted 11 years and a fair few trips I must say. Stay Tuned Tom. Cheers.

Paterika Hengreaves said...

Kia Ora Robb

This blog is magnificent. The pictures and poems are awesome. Such harmony you have created with the mixture of prose, poetry and pictures has provided this reading moment one of par excellence. Your presentation of the beautifully written Ode to Parks Peak Ridge at the beginning has the most appealling lyrical and majestic voice as you successfully projected your own feelings, state of mind on things that deeply consume your interest. And I must say that I'm equally aroused by the imagery. The fusion of your creative artistry in your true life accounts across the mountainous landscape around your home provides compelling reading. I'm sure the gods and Tane are please this day...your deep admiration of the natural environment in all its concrete jungles can compare. Thank you for very much for sharing your written thoughts.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Paterika,
You are magnificent and I am humbled by your words. Thank you for taking the time to visit and read. Yes, there are no places out here I can compare with what I see in there. Cheers Paterika, I always look forward to visiting you and reading from you. Have a lovely day.

Lynda Lehmann said...

Robb, you have so much material on this blog, both text and images that take my breath away.

I wish I could live in a place that beautiful and hike all the time in the great open spaces and climb the mountains, etc.

Keep hiking and climbing and writing! You might consider doing a book that will bring the majesty of your environment to people's homes and pique on their reverence for the natural world.

I hope to get back here soon to read and see more....