Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mountain Whispers

11 Sept. 2010
Heritage lodge - Ruahine
Robb and Charlie Kloss

I have spent a fair bit of time here over the last year. A trip with John late in 2009 when we had to retreat from the storm ridden Whanahuias and find another way up the valley, then again in December with Gustav when I could no longer move well prior to having my hip replaced, and again with him last month after having it done and we proceeded up valley again. So to be here this evening with Charlie I feel very much at home, the clouds drifting over the distant Whanahuias, the sound of the river muttering far below us, and the dark green spurs running up to the ridges all familiar, all welcoming. Charlie collects wood and runs about, his energy levels still high and this is a fine place for a young boy to be full of energy.

It was a different sort of journey we did today. Sitting here now writing this I realize I was applying my experience accrued over the last 19 years, and more so somewhat wistfully at the expense of my elder son Taylor. Back in his day of being 7 he was pushed hard on young legs to places in here not so many young legs would have ventured, and because I was focused on getting him to some distant place with a heavy pack upon my shoulders I was not as aware of his needs, as patient with him, nor as observant of my own place here as I should have been. And though I know Taylor has many aspects of those trips still swirling inside of him, standing here now I feel a lump in my throat. The mountains were still growing within me back then.

Charlie in the sun in the lower forest

Climbing up towards the tops

Still climbing!

Charlie thought this would be a cool place to camp. It would be!

Climbing dead fall over track

11 Sept. Continued:

My plan with Charlie is to go a bit more tenderly, let him grow into the mountains a bit more slowly than Taylor and I did. Instead of just putting a pack on his back and pointing up a huge hill, or a mountain river and tell him to just start walking, why not let him experience these places on his own terms right now. We both carried packs into Heritage, 45 minutes or so from the car, then dropped off my big pack and putting some extra gear, food and water into his smaller one, off we went. I was just as excited as Charlie, as in all my years and visits to this area, I had never climbed up the track from Heritage to Tunipo, so it was all new for me as well.

So when Charlie wanted to stop and look at some big tree, or climb up storm fallen trees lying on the spur, stomp around in the mud puddles, or just gaze off into the distance, he did. We were in no hurry, I did not have to really worry about the weather, or what is was like up top trying to get across, or how long it was taking us to climb up, or even worrying about a route I had never been on before. When I sensed he had had enough we would stop and have some lunch and a long rest. Then turn around and go back to the hut.

An unforeseen bonus for me was how quickly I found myself in my mountain frame of mind. Carrying a very light pack I felt light of foot and spirit, the forest washing through me and I could just let myself be free. It was a perfect plan!

Up on the ridge

A seldom seen Ruahine Elf!

Same Swan dry, different boy. Taylor (7) and Nigel on the tops during a stormy day back in 2000.

I never fail to be invigorated by a walk in the forest, the energy seems to shimmer and glow, radiating from the tall trees and the moss and lichens. The feel of the ferns brushing on bare skin like satin as we pass through a grove. I saw Charlie stop ahead and literally pet the first moss covered stump pictured above as if it were a living creature, as it is. To see him get that, and respond to it warmed me through. You could stop at such a spot, and spend hours trying to count the different shades of green, the various types of moss and lichen and simply just appreciate the soft loving blanket they provide the forest.

I felt wonderful as Charlie and I walked back down through the forest, light on my feet, without the numbing pain and limp of the past. That never fails to amaze me, and a reminder to never take any moment here for granted. My thoughts drifted to the friend I lost this past week. Tanuvasa Shane Sitivi you always appreciated my love of the mountains, and we often talked of doing a trip together. We never did. Another lump gathers in my throat. I am sorry I never did that for you brother, I should have. So I walk for you now. May the gentle mountain breeze always be upon you.

Charlie did well. And the other great thing we learned is how far he can go and enjoy himself in one day. It opens up a lot of potential mountain exploration this coming summer. Stay Tuned!


baruk said...

*love that picture of charlie in the sun. a reminder, i guess, that this rain shall pass lol.

Dave said...

I don't have any kids, but the rambling approach does strike me as best for kids -- and maybe adults too! No need to be goal-oriented when you're out in the woods.

Anonymous said...

So good to see kids in the mountains. I spend 180 days, 6 plus hours a day, in a boxed classroom trying to give kids what the mountain could, what I'm sure the mountain could, in a week or two.

Great pictures! Things are drying out here, looks wet there!

Kiwi Nomad said...

Really love that little Ruahine Elf!

Gustav said...

I can feel the connections between you, Charlie, and your beloved Ruahines.

I may be wrong here, but I reckon you love the Mistress as much as any man who has ever lived.

Tim Koppenhaver said...

I've stopped entering the woods with a set destination. I'm more like Charlie now in that I like to follow my whims. Don't go as far as I used to but I think I see a whole lot more.

Nice post.

Take care.


kylie said...

it's all good, robb

Ruahines said...

Kia ora baruk,

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Dave,
Well it certainly was the right philosophy this trip. It was good to learn though that I can get Charlie going for 5 hours or so, which puts a lot of places within reach. I have learned over the years to put in a tough day or two to get to a real deep and wild spot, then spend a few days there being able to be exactly as you write.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora LC,
We are currently in the grips of a huge storm, the wind is howling and it is pouring heavily into our already saturated rivers. Not a good weekend to be in the mountains, unless settled in at a hut with the fire blazing and a cup of something in hand. I guess that would teach a kid something as well. Kia kaha brother.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Kiwi,
Indeed. I just happened to have the camera at the ready. Hope you are staying warm and dry.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Gustav,
She has got a hold on you too brother!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Tim,
As I wrote above, I usually have to have a destination in mind, unless on a true day walk, which does involve a goal, i.e. a hut or campsite, and thus a plan to get there, rivers to cross, open tops to get over, in other words be aware of the time it takes to get there. And with Charlie in tow I have to be cognizant of what is happening around me with the weather, route, progress, ect.
I guess I am better at enjoying my own journey, while also being reponsible for Charlie, in that I know now just how far we can both go without ruining it for either of us. Not so sure I had that frame of mind with my older boy. I also know a lot of the routes much more intimately now. So I guess experience, age, and a new hip, has put some natural time barriers in place for me as well. Happy walking Tim.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Kylie,
It is mostly. Wouldn't mind seeing the sun though :)!

Marja said...

Hi Robb Charlie looks so adorable Love the elf What a wonderful experience for father and son. I always like to walk like charlie does. Have a look around everywhere to take it all in. The forest looks great I always enjoy the ferns and ferntrees in the nz bush We took our kids from a young age in the bush and they loved it. Now as teenagers they don't go with us anymore though but it might all come back later. Take care

pohanginapete said...

The Tunupo track's beautiful indeed, Robb — an excellent choice. I love the feeling of moving on up through the different zones: those massive beeches; the ancient, gnarly kaikawaka; the impenetrable tupare (the track must save a nightmare's worth of leatherwood bashing); on into the snowgrass... Reminds me of how long it's been since I walked it. I think I could do with some time alone in the Ruahine right now.

[That storm was a cracker all right. It drove rain up under the doors in my verandah — I had to put towels down to prevent flooding. Then lost the power all afternoon; just got it back a short time ago].

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Marja,
I always hope that somewhere within Taylor lies the mountain. God knows he saw enough of them as a wee lad. We are struggling a bit, or continuing to, but every once in awhile I see him in there. That is why I want to cherish the time with Charlie.
You have been in my thoughts a lot lately, along with the all the people of Christchurch, and thanks for posting your updates as it is good to know you are okay. I love the fact the kids are now able to name the richter after shocks. Kia kaha my lovely friend.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pete,
I am amazed the number of times I walked by that track, either coming in or going out, over the years and this is the first time I have been on it. Perfect for young legs as the steep bits come in sections rather than so relentlessly steep as other routes. And as you write, so cool to move upwards through the various zones so that even a youngster like Charlie can see the progress! It was just a real excellent day.
I hope you do get out soon. I know it has been a tough month for you, and you have been in my thoughts as well. Nothing like some time in the mountains on your own to gain a bit perspective. I am planning a trip very soon myself. Would love to do a "tour" of the Pohangina valley and tops with you one day.
Tara and I send our thoughts and will get in touch for a dinner soon. I have some nice venison set aside. Kia kaha Pete.

Patry Francis said...

I really get a sense of that "mountain frame of mind"
which is "light of foot and spirit" when I come here. Thanks for that, Robb. How fortunate your sons are to have you as their guide.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Patry,
Always pleased to see you stop by and come for a walk. Though not doing much walking now as we are in the grips of a storm now going on for a week! All of Aotearoa will be pleased to hear the wind die down and see the sun shine for awhile. Hope you are well Patry. Kia kaha.

lph said...


I am finally getting a moment in my life to comment on your post. I find it very cool the amount of time you are able to spend with your son(s) in the backcountry.

As my youngest daughter gets older I am looking forward to taking her on some adventures with me. My oldest, although she enjoys the cabin and likes camping, she isn't really too interested in heading off into the wilds.

I am hopeful that as she becomes a college student that she will want to head into canoe country with her old man.

Charlie looks like a natural. He looks at home, at peace, and exactly like his old man.

Take care my friend...and enjoy your coming summer.


Robin Easton said...

Dear Wild Brother, this is so moving. I wanted to be there. And I know I am in spirit, but I would so love to walk these trails barefoot. It is so lovely there. It looks like temperate rainforest. Is it?

My dear brother, your words and thoughts are as beautiful, wild, and meandering as the mountains themselves. Charlie's joy at being with you in this wild free area is palpable.

I am deeply moved by your insights into Taylor and yourself 10 years ago, when he was 7. That reflects your own growth, AND your ability for deep reflection and growth. I know at times you feel the pangs, but also be gentle with yourself and remember that we are ALL growing. We cannot be perfect, or known before we have experienced life. At least you got Taylor out there. That is more than most parents even contemplate.

My Dad was the same and over the years he too mellowed. But his heart like yours was in the right place in that you both wanted to share what you loved most with your children.

I know firsthand that those trips with Taylor still went into his soul, and will be drawn upon down the road. Sometimes we have to reject something to feel what it's like to be without it. Once we know the "without" we usually, sooner or later, bring the good things back into our lives. And his time with you, although not like with Charlie, will have been some of the best times of his life.

Your photos and spirit here reflect so much of you: Your love affair with this place, your love of Little Snow Turtle :) Your precious heart-wrenching love of Taylor. Your love of your lost friend. Your own deep inner growth, and beautifully genuine heart.

You are amazing.
Aroha my Wild Brother.

Tracey Axnick said...

Great post and wonderful photos. You're clearly a great father... spending REAL time with your boys.... helping them to appreciate the beauty that surrounds them and to treasure it. More dads should be like that.
I'm sorry to hear about your friend who passed away.
I've just arrived home from a weekend family reunion in NC... saw several aunts, uncles, cousins, etc... many of whom I'd not seen in 20+ years. Amazing how quickly the years go by and it did make me stop and think about time and how precious (and non-renewable!) it is. And how important it is to treasure every moment with our kids.... because we never know how much time we have left to teach them what we feel to be important.

Well, anyway, that's my red-wine fueled philosophy for the evening. :)

Here's a toast from across the sea to you, Tara, and your boys. Continue to live LIFE and enjoy the beautiful LAND that God blessed us with!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora LPH,
As long as kids are able to unplug somehow, somewhere, it does not matter how "deep" we dive into nature. I can find it in my own unruly back yard at times. Hope the Birkie training is coming on!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Wild Sister,
Thank you as always. Thank you for SEEING me, my message, my thoughts. I wish I could be as good out here as I am in there, but I am not. So that is where I have to be.
It is more or less temperate rain forest, particularly down lower, but as I wrote in the post, the week before it had been covered in snow down to the hut, 600 metres or so. Down south there are true rain forests in the Fiordland area, a place I have not been yet.
I spoke with my mom today Robin, and she is going to get your book for me, as I don't have a credit card to order it, and she will send it to me. I am planning a solo trip, or perhaps with Taylor, in about two weeks time when this busy period ends. I shall look forward to bringing you with me. Ti hei mauri ora!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Tracey,
I love your red wine fueled passionate words! Kia ora, and drop by anytime glass in hand my friend. I accept your toast with a smile and raise one right back to ya! Kia kaha!

Stella said...

Charlie's got a lot of his father in him :)

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Stella,
Lots of his mumma too. That's the part that keeps me on my toes!

Bill Gerlach said...

Hi Robb,

Your blog was recommended to me by Wild Sister after reading a post of mine reflecting on a recent trip through the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

This post hits home in a big way. We have three kids and I've been struggling with getting our oldest (7, a boy) out on something more than a two-hour trek in our local woods (Rhode Island). I question his stamina and wear-with-all (he is apt to complain) -- even when he begs to join his dad in the mountains. But what you feel in your spirit is what I feel in my spirit -- and what I want my kids to feel in theirs.

Hearing your thoughts on your approach with Charlie vs. Taylor resonates. I suppose I should not worry as much about what COULD happen and just get out there and let WHATEVER happen.

I'm so glad to have found your blog. It makes me want to visit that neck of the woods even more. Be well!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Bill.
Haere Mai - Welcome! Any one directed here by Robin is most certainly welcome.
I have just returned from 4 solitary days in the mountains, so I am still getting used to being back in the world after seeing no one at all. The only semblance of human company I had was a copy of Robin's book! So I will look forward to perusing your place in due course.
I am still learning about kids and the mountains, or tramping. The tramp I just did involves a long steep climb to meet a ridge then ambles up and down in semi exposed terrain for 6 hours or so. I did that with my older son when he was 8, a couple of times! I can only admire his pluck looking back at getting there, and we were talking about it last night so I know it is still in there for him. But it was too far too soon, too focused on the mission rather than enjoying the moments spent out there. We are fortunate to have a beautiful system of huts and tracks in our mountains from the days of deer culling. Deer were introduced and with no natural predators ran rampant and caused huge problems with erosion and browsing. The forests were dying. So men were sent into to live in the mountains and eradicate these huge herds. What is left are the tracks and huts used in such rugged terrain, and a boon to people whom like to travel there. My point is for us here a hut can be a destination, it is just paying attention to the time and conditions in getting there. 6 hours is probably too much for a 7 year old, but with my youngest I know a couple hours or so is not, be it a hut or a campsite we are staying at we can take our time and enjoy. And have lots of yummy treats as inducement helps a bit as well. One thing I did with Charlie, my youngest, was to buy a decent little hunters pack which fits him snug and proper. It cost a bit more, but it makes a difference in terms of comfort and his knowing it is a "real" pack. Plus when we get to place we are staying we can go for a further walk with me wearing his pack and him with none to just roam and enjoy. Stick with it Bill, it is vital we get our children out there to roam and reconnect. Soon enough you see the complaining and whining replaced with questions and observations, and with every experience they grow far more than we do. Kia kaha (Remain Strong).