Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ruahine Huritau (Birthday)

26 July, 2010
Purity hut, Hikurangi range

I sit on the sun drenched porch of Purity hut, which sits high on the open tussock of the Hikurangi range, the highest of the five sub ranges which make up the Ruahine. Looking out to the west I watch puffy clouds drift over the volcano's, Ruapehu, Ngaruhoe, and Tongariro - The Rim of Fire. The snow glistens in the sun upon their flanks like shimmering satin. To my north the high tops of the Hikurangi loom above, majestic with the cloak of snow draped upon her shoulders. To the south lie the Whanhuia's and the Pourangaki valley, all places I know well.

Yet this is the first time I have placed my feet here at the southern end of the Hikurangi and Purity hut. So it is special to be here in a new portion of the Ruahine, on my own to celebrate with the mountains my 50th birthday.

The Rim of Fire.

On days like this there a few places more sublime to wander than a high Ruahine ridge.

26 July afternoon.
I was sitting in the sun up above the hut in the golden tussock when from behind me and out of nowhere, a kahu (hawk) just swooped directly past my head! It was so close I could feel the wind rush by me, and hear the rustle of the air upon it's feathers. Exhilarating. Now it soars just above me in graceful arch's and circles with the air currents. I can only think of the words I read at Pohangina Pete's place a few mere days ago when he wrote a post on the Kahu and one of his commenter's made reference to a book (This House of Sky, by Ivan Doig), in which he describes a hawk or eagle soaring exactly like that as "Correcting, Correcting". At the time I read it I did not think too much about it, but now I understand perfectly. I get it. Correcting, Correcting!

Emerging out of the forest to the open tops. The golden tussock can be seen just peeking up over the trees, and the hut lies amongst it.

Purity hut, looking north the Hikurangi. The hut lies on the southern tip of the same range.

26 July Early evening
The clouds have moved in, the wind picked up, and it has begun to sleet. I am indeed cloud hidden. The temperature has quickly dropped to 2 degrees celsius when the sun left. But I still sit outside on the porch, dressed warmly, and with map and compass I am enjoying looking around while I still can. I don't have to go anywhere, nor do anything, except just be here.

The Hikurangi tops just above and behind the hut.

The cloud moves in over the Rangitikei plains. My world is about to be truly cloud hidden.

27 July - morning
Looking out the snow flecked window contemplating what these places really mean to me, to us.
The simplicity of being in the mountains, or any wilderness we choose, on my own. The choices to do this or that, yet also making decisions that are crucial to my well being and having the skills and knowledge to get along in living simply. Perhaps it is only here that I have ever really experienced true and complete freedom. Maybe that is what Wild Places truly offer us. Why do we try so hard to destroy it?

A good place for a lie down after such heavy contemplation.

27 July evening,
The rain and snow finally eased in the afternoon, so I went for a climb in the mist and cloud up towards Mangaweka. The wind was still pretty fierce, and I could see nothing at all except directly around me, but it was good to stretch the legs and be out amongst it. After an hour or so as I started to get into the deep snow which I was not really equipped for I turned back. As soon as I got back to the hut it began to pour once again a mixed slurry of sleet, snow, and rain. Time for a cup of tea and throw another log on the fire.

The hut appearing out of the mist just in the centre. Not too hard to lose the way in conditions like this.

27 July late evening
My thoughts on turning 50.
As much as I would like to be one of those who might write 'I don't feel 50", as I sit here alone in a candle lit hut with only myself the honest and truthful answer to that is I guess I do. I don't have anything else to compare it to and it seems this is really the only moment that matters, this one right now.
I can't run up spurs and ridges like I used to, but then again I don't have to, or even want to. I would miss too much along the way. My journey is a different one than it was back then, or maybe it is the same one just that I am in a different place. In any matter what is the point of comparing what was to what is. As long as I never write "This is it, this is me", and I have stopped asking questions, seeking, learning, and growing into the man I will become. I am okay with that.

Purity hut at dawn.

A dawn walk down into the silent snow stilled forest awaits.

Listen! Snow covered Kaikawaka. The still dawn, the ice and snow seem to reveal the character and soul of the forest. It is why I love early morning walks the best.

In a days time my friend Gustav arrives from Tasmania, to celebrate my birthday with a few friends and family, and then he and I will retreat back to the Ruahine for a few more days. That is the best birthday present I can wish for myself.

Tihei mauri ora!


Anne-Marie said...

Happy birthday, dear Robb. I hope tomorrow [and all the days of your celebration] are ones to treasure for the rest of your life. I'm sorry I can't be there to lift a glass in your honour!

"As long as I never write 'This is it, this me', and I have stopped asking questions, seeking, learning, and growing into the man I will become, I am okay with that." Yes yes YES - I so completely agree with that.

Wilma Ham said...

Oh Robb, everything is beautiful, you, your writing and of course the mountains. On your birthday you gave us a gift with your inspiring written words about nature. Nature so deserves to be seen like you do.
Being in there is being indeed with the soul of things as no outside noise is there to take your attention and love away. Robb, the best years are still to come. Enjoy them as fully as you can and I am sure you will.
Aroha, Wilma

greentangle said...

Happy birthday to you, Robb! I'm a few years past you and just back from a nice hike with a coworker in her 60s--there's lots of good stuff still to come.

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Happy anniversary of your birthday. Reading your latest posting, Bob Dylan's 'shelter from the storm' was running through my mind with flashes of Thoreau's Walden Pond. A strange thing the trigger mechaniosms of our minds.

Beautiful writing and the photos really conveyed the mountain's moods.

Thanks mate. Bob

kylie said...

have a wonderful birthday, enjoy your new lease on life and of course i wish you splendid hiking!

Donald said...

Hi Robb

Great prose and photos. This is a post I know I'm going to read more than once! You've so captured the essence!

It takes me there.

Thanks for sharing



Beth said...

Happy Birthday, Robb! Wishing you many more!

Barbara Martin said...

Happy Birthday, Robb. Being 50 is a good age.

Being older I take things slower, especially uphill. But that leaves time to savour the essence of the area while on the trail. Just as you are doing there in the Ruahines.

Your take on being in nature was wonderful, and lovely photos of the fresh dusting of snow on the plants near the hut.

Have a great time with your friend Gustav, and will wait for your next set of photos upon your return.

Greg Brave said...

Happy Birthday Rob! I wish you to enjoy the nature and the mountains for many many more years.

Tim Koppenhaver said...

Good stuff Robb... especially this:

"I can't run up spurs and ridges like I used to, but then again I don't have to, or even want to. I would miss too much along the way."

Yes, being older slows us down, but with age comes wisdom and we see so much more than when we were young.

Happy 50th Robb.

Take care.


lph said...


Nice piece. A fantastic place to contemplate and observe. Something which you are obviously very good at.

I love your thoughts about turning 50. I went through many of those same thoughts just a few months ago. It is about the moment. Trying to look too far into the future or too far in the past only stifles us.

Living life correctly is a moment by moment process. Our joys and our sadnesses, our successes and our disappointments are all necessary. None should be forgotten.

One of my wife's first gifts to me was The 2002 Little Zen Calendar. On my bulletin board in my office I saved two simple sayings.

From May 29th: "THIS IS IT."

From July 26th" IT IS EVERYWHERE."

Enjoy your days with Gustav!

(and Happy Birthday)!

Ruahines said...

KIa ora to all,
Thank you so much for your lovely thoughts and birthday wishes. They all warm me and bring a smile to my face.
I have just returned from another three days in the Ruahine with Gustav, another winter adventure in which we crossed paths with no one but our selves. Wher as last week I spent my time alone up high in the clouds, this time was spent lower in the forest by the mountain river. The Ruahine in winter is always a moody and sensual environment, and it impacted both of us deeply as always. Stay Tuned!

Tracey Axnick said...

What a wonderful, beautifully written post. Happy (belated) birthday to you. My husband just celebrated his birthday last week as well.

I think the wisdom and balance (and perspective) one gains with age is WELL worth the trade-off one has to make re: the small physical changes that come.... don't you? I know life just seems to get deeper and sweeter with each passing year and I notice and appreciate things much more now than I did 20 (and even 10) years ago.

It's a wonderful thing.

Here's to the BEAUTY and MAGIC of aging well!

Marja said...

rā whānau or happy birthday actually
a very belated happy birthday. Oh my 50 years old I am only in my 40's lol One more year to go.
What a great place to be reaching such a milestone. I love the mountains covered in snow.
In Holland when you turn 50 they say you've seen abraham. Which means you have reached the same wisdom as abraham had. You certainly have reached that Robb and that shows out of your contemplations. I wish you many more wonderful years and will toost on you. Arohanui Marja

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Tracey and Marja,
Thank you both. Tracey, hope your hubby had a great celebration, and yes, I do appreciate it much more now than I did way back yonder.
Marja, that is a wonderful analogy. I had a few too many on my bday and think I may have indeed seen Abraham! Kia kaha my friend.

Minnesota said...

My god, I can just hear the trout growing to enormous sizes in that landscape.

Lynda Lehmann said...

Happy 50th, Robb, and many more to you! (I was 60 in May, and for me, that was a big one. I'm still fighting the feelings of being "past" certain capabilities and parts of my life.)

Thank you for the breathtaking photos of the snow-covered vegetation and mountains; this is a post that truly carried me away so that I felt I entered your world and shared your solitude and reflective mood.

Can it be that these still moments in the "empty" wild places are the fullest that we live?

I am so happy that you were able to trek into the hills for your birthday!

KB said...

Happy Birthday Robb! So few people seem to understand the pull of the wild like you do. I feel it too, and I would spend my 50th bday the same way.

I don't know where some of us get this yen for the wilderness. For me, it certainly wasn't from my parents or any other person. It seemed to come from my core and be indomitable. I'm so happy that you're back in your mountains since that's where you want to be!

Funny, physically I feel older than 50 (although I'm a few years shy of it) but mentally I still feel younger, looking for new challenges and inspirations in life. Your paragraph about turning 50 made me think about the same thing for myself.

Enjoy your adventures!

vegetablej said...

Happy late Birthday, Robb:

Lovely to see you up and about the mountains again and with frosty photos so we can share your birthday with you, even if we happen to be sweating in summer heat in Nova Scotia.

Fifty's nothing kiddo. How do you have the nerve to say you're slowing down when you're way up a mountain hiking at dawn, or before, with a camera just so you can capture the beautiful light? I know many younger folks who couldn't or wouldn't do that!

By way of a birthday present, let me tell you that your writing and photography are getting tastier all the time...another thing that improves with age and experience.

I hope this will be your best year ever!


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Lynda,
Thank you for the birhday wishes, and happy belated 6oth to you. I am sure you had a beautiful one filled with your amazing perspective of Nature.
I am sure my finest moments are spent alone in the mountains. I donot mean that in a sad way at all, as those moments make me a better person out here as a father, husband, friend, ect.
It was incredible to get into the mountains for my birthday. It has been an icredible journey. Kia kaha my friend.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora KB,
If we can be as good as we can in the moment we are in, then it does matter how old we are.
I am not sure either where the hunger inside me for the wild came from, as like you my parents were not big outdoors people. I think it was always just in there waiting to bloom.
Thanks for the good tidings KB, and more so thank you for your presence here and continued inspiration at your place. You Rock! Kia kaha!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora VJ,
So good to read from you! I check in at your place from time to time and think of you often.
When I am in the mountains sleep becomes very secondary and there are very few days I am not up well before sunrise so as to be able to enjoy each second of precious day light. That hour just before and as sunrise hits is the most spiritual of all for me.
Thanks for the visit and the lovely compliment which I accept with all humility. I saw your new post and will be around for a more thorough visit soon. Hope all is well my friend - off to cook a stir fry for the boys. Kia kaha.