Thursday, October 30, 2014

Travels with Charlie...

“I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found.” 
― John Steinbeck..Travels with Charley

14 October..evening Sunrise hut
 Here at Sunrise hut once again waiting as gales blow over. A difference is I am here with my youngest son Charlie. We are on a week long trip into the Ruahine to get into and return from Maropea Forks. I think Charlie is more excited by the fact he gets an extra week off school rather than the prospect of the crossing the windy saddle and then onto Maropea Forks. I think these mountains have as much to teach him in a week as does school. We shall see. First things first though and crossing the exposed saddle is our next endeavour after climbing up here. A few years ago Charlie and I had a very scary experience crossing back from Top Maropea to here. By the time we got to within a few hundred metres of here the winds were severe gales and we had to crawl on hands and knees, and I was finally able to get us into the lee side of the gales into the tupare and safety by dragging Charlie behind me. He was very brave and I was very relieved. I sense now a few years later that experience is playing a bit on his mind as the wind blows over. The wind is meant to drop a bit overnight, but I have played that waiting game many times in the past. In the meantime I get ready to prepare our evening meal of venison tenderloin and broccoli. And just enjoy being with with my son..

Charlie on the sunny but very windy tops.

A'int that the truth!

 Charlie returning to Sunrise hut after checking out conditions on the open saddle

 15 October Top Maropea morning tea....
  The winds did indeed die down a bit over night and we left not long after sunrise. By the time we reached the highest reaches just before Camel Back spur we started getting hit by a few gusty gales which unnerved Charlie a bit. I talked to him about how he was feeling and he said his tummy hurt. Then I got him down through the spur into the forest and down to here. We sat on the bench in the hut and I snuggled Charlie close to me and told him we could do one of two things, stay here and rest a bit then head down to the river and either camp or head all the way to the hut, or simply stay here. He went outside for a bit then came in to tell me he wanted to go on to Maropea Forks. I felt good about talking it through with him and letting him come to his decision. Then I felt bad for my older son Taylor. I would have just ignored his fear and been impatient with him. I owe him an apology and a hug....
  It is only early morning, the day is beautiful and we have all day to climb down to the river then down it to the Forks. We are in no hurry at all...

 The main Ruahine range

Charlie on the Maropea river. Out of the wind and in the sun. Makes a big difference.

 Crossing and recrossing the river down to Maropea Forks.

The old tawhairauriki flood log. A place, on a good day, I always stop and have a bite to eat and just a lovely spot. A perfect table and bench....and not a bad spot for tried boy to have a wee nap.

15 October, late afternoon at Maropea Forks...
How does one explain the art of river walking to anyone, much less my own 11 year old son? On a day walk with a small pack, or no pack, it is easy. Just get wet and have fun. On a longer walk, for many hours with a bigger and heavier pack, and the destination far off, it is a slightly different proposition. The mountain river has many moods, at times slow and easy, the places to cross and walk apparent. In other places she bunches up into white water doing the timeless work of Nature and more care must taken in where and how to cross. My advice to Charlie was to try and empty himself, to Listen to the river and let it guide you. He looked at me a bit funny but I could see him chewing on that and watching me as I went along. We had a beautiful day, the river was in fine condition, and we just took our time. After a few hours I saw Charlie get it. He understood the rhythm. Just get wet and have fun...

Robb at the site of the old Maropea Forks hut

Evening Maropea Forks hut...
Charlie is nestled into his sleeping bag reading an old deer hunting magazine left behind from the old hut. The glow from my small lantern over head and a few candles provide the light. We can hear the river muttering by outside. I look upon these new walls of the new hut at Maropea Forks with mixed feelings. The old hut had great character, a great wood stove in The Corker, and of course, also a place I had so many memories. The gamut of emotions as it were. A quality I would use to describe myself would be loyal. So I find myself not entirely at home here in this new shiny hut. There are no scars here yet. Though setting my pen down and pondering a bit, having a wee sip of Glen Morangie, and looking again at my beautiful son lying in his bunk, I realise it is not about the timber and boards that make this place what it is. It is us, the people I have been here with, including my other beautiful son, and the mountains and river muttering by, and the effort it takes to get here that make this place so special. Those memories are not confined to the location of that old hut. They drift like wispy wood smoke from the fire all around me. Maybe I am home..

The new hut.

Embraced by the icy cold river!

Maropea Forks...Charlie and I had a fine hut day today. Chopping and sawing up ample wood for the hut bins and wood shed, then a "swim" in the river - which really means diving in and staying as long as the cold can be withstood, a few cups of tea and milo, lunch, a wee nap, another swim, and just hanging out and talking. For us to be disconnected from the outside world, from the devices and distractions, brings us a connection here I relish and enjoy as the slowness and timelessness of the day unfolds. I see Charlie in a different light. Through out our conversations today I felt his continued anxiety about having to cross the saddle in a few days time. I realized how much he is like me that way. My first years here learning about the mountains I would worry constantly about rain and rivers flooding, cloudy misty tops, wind and gales. Until I gained a connection and understanding of the mountains, and myself. And it still evolves. So I tried to share that with Charlie. That just as in life, most things we worry the most about never actually happen. That we are well equipped and provisioned, and that there is so much indeed we cannot control here we can only focus on what we can and simply enjoy the moments. It is natural to fear those uncontrollable variables, even harder to comes to terms with them. When we do accept them and understand them there comes a great sense of freedom. I can't write that the Chomper understood what I was trying to get at, but I could sense he was glad that at least I tried...

Whio on the river...

Charlie rests at the point where we leave the creek and climb back up to the hut at Top Maropea. Then climb from there to the open tops and saddle back Sunrise. That orange marker and sign above him is near vertical and so is the next 15 minutes or so as we climb up to the top of the spur leading to the hut. Tough going!

17 October Top Maropea...
We left Maropea Forks early this morning. The clouds looked swollen and a few times we walked in slight drizzle. I love the early morning hours in the mountains. It seems to me that is when the wairua, or soul, of the mountains is most apparent. The emerging ambiance of the day ahead still in the air, the quietness of the morning enhances the colours coming to life. Travel becomes light and easy, an obstacle ahead that may look like trouble is suddenly past and behind. I could have tried to explain all that to Charlie, but best to just experience it and let it unfold. A whio frolicked ahead of us for some time, a pair of fat trout cruised lazily in a pool, and a large shag flew slowly upriver, fresh deer sign was all around, and the river rolled on. It is alive...
Now we are ensconced in the cozy confines of Top Maropea hut. The sun beats down over head, our boots, socks and other wet gear scattered about drying in the warmth of the sun. Charlie and I have gathered, sawed and prepared our evenings fire for it will get chilly higher up here towards the tops. We gaze out upon the valley and the now far off peaks from where we came this morning. Charlie thinks it is pretty cool we have walked so far. It is cool...

Charlie does the dinner dishes at Top Maropea. The fire is lit. All is well. Or so it would seem...

Charlie soaked, wet, and tired back at the car...dry clothes and hot chips not far away!

8 October, morning Sunrise hut...
"When Charlie and I arrived at Top Maropea early yesterday afternoon the day had turned beautiful. Blue skies, a slight nor'west wind, and warm. Charlie kept hinting that perhaps we should climb and cross the saddle while the getting was good. Again, I could sense his nervousness about the wind and our experience with the gales a few years ago. A lesson learned from these mountains with my oldest son has been not to trivialize, not to acknowledge that anxiety. I owe Taylor a big hug and an apology for how I was then. Now, with Charlie, I gently discussed our options. That little inner voice kept whispering to stay here, that the unfolding of an intimate experience between just us was far more likely here than over at Sunrise. And so we stayed at Top Maropea.
During the night I awoke to the sound of a freight train. The wind howling over and shaking the hut in a noisy rattle. I heard Charlie's wee voice from the depths of his down bag shakily ask if the hut was going to blow away. I assured him the hut has been here for over 50 years and seen many a storm, and I myself had seen it much worse. That if we had to stay another day we would be just fine. And then mentally kicked myself for not heading over the saddle the prior afternoon. Then the rain began bouncing off the tin roof. I drifted back into an uneasy sleep.
When I awoke at sunrise, except for a persistent patter on the roof, all was quiet. The wind had died down. I had a coffee and packed my gear. Then woke up Charlie with a cup of milo and a bar while we packed up and cleaned the hut. Then we climbed up and crossed the exposed saddle in the rain and mist. Actually enjoyable conditions. Less than two hours later we arrived here at Sunrise. And found a group of 14 school girls and instructors whom had stayed last night as part of a school trip. Nice peeps to be sure, but Charlie would have been mortified sharing even the ample confines here in such company. I can only smile now writing this, and content I pay attention to that inner voice. So now, a cup of tea and the final few hours back down to the car and home. I love these mountains, I love this boy. Kia Ora!"

Robb and Charlie at Maropea Forks

Monday, August 25, 2014

Winter's Foil

Maybe the best journeys are the ones that are worth repeating, and are repeated.
— Rebecca Solnit

15 August Evening...Sunrise hut
 I wrote the quote above down in my little notebook long ago after reading it on a good friends blog. He was also in the Ruahine, on a track he has walked perhaps hundreds of times now and pondering the dichotomies of returning to our favourite wilderness places time and again...

 Does this represent a lack of imagination, a lack of curiosity about other places? Or, does it indicate a love for the place, the gradual building of a relationship with it so, finally, it becomes home?
...Pohangina Pete

This particular track I have walked up now perhaps nearing 100 times. Mostly heading slowly upwards, like today, with heavy pack and the intention of heading much further into the mountains for a number of days. Others on a simple day walk with nothing more than a small pack with a bit of extra gear and the makings for a cup of tea before heading down again. I must admit that at the end of a long trip and returning to the car the lower part of the track can seem monotonous, the zig zags that take the steepness out of the ridge tiring and my thoughts turning to home and a cold beer at the Onga Onga pub. Where as the start of such a trip is always filled with more excitement, even nervousness, and I can measure my progress not against time passing, but by a familiar tawhairauriki grove, a bend in the track, the appearance of the first tupare, or hearing the first gust of wind blow over the high open tops, ears tuned to if the music is gentle enough to allow the saddle to be crossed. Yet even with all those familiar and the emotions they invoke, neither this place nor I are ever the same. There is always something different about both this place and myself. Sometimes very subtle, sometimes not.

Today the difference was quite apparent as I approached the Ruahine and the car park. There was snow all the way down to 400 metres and I parked my car in 3-4 inches of the white stuff. Having had to open and close 3 farm gates on the way in I also knew it was intensely cold. Not a below freezing dry Wisconsin cold like I grew up in, but rather a bone marrow chilling damp below freezing cold of the lush North Island of Aotearoa. I have often seen snow on Sunrise track fairly often in winter high up above 800-900 metres in winter, but never down this low, and never this cold. Even the sheep which roamed the paddocks seem surprised as they huddled together. I shouldered my pack and headed off into the mist...

The snow covered forest seems silent
the frozen coating settles upon the tawhairauriki branches
Bending but not breaking under the strain and weight
Of the unfamiliar burden
Even the crunching of my own footsteps in the snow
Seem muffled and hushed
The only awareness and connection is my own
Measured and laboured steamy breathing
Climbing slowly upwards with heavy pack
Then the forest accepts my presence and folds back around
The piwakawaka gather in noisy fluttering groups
As if excitedly chattering about the snowstorm
Or trying to keep warm
Snow laden branches dump their loads, like sugary sounding waterfalls
Most often upon me as I try and fail to avoid
the low drooping snow covered limbs
The sharp rifle like crack of a beech branch unable
to withstand it’s load
Life and death
Fat chubby kereruru burst from the branches
In explosions of icy white crystals
Their cooing and clumsy whoosh of wing
Die quickly
Muted by the frozen surrounds
The forest seems silent
But is not
It is only Quiet

15 August Evening....It is -8 Celsius outside. In spite of the wood fire being lit inside the hut it is only 2 Celsius outside the small radius of warmth around the stove. The snow continues to fall and the wind howls over. The storm adds a bit of remoteness to my solitude even here at Sunrise. Being the only person in the world to be up here in this storm makes the snowy slog worthwhile. Or maybe I am the only person in the world crazy to enough to have walked up here in this weather. Either perspective is fine with me.

I have my doubts as to being able to get across the saddle in the morning. The winds were supposed to be dying down this afternoon before rising again to gale force in the morning. A window that has never really opened. Plodding through the hip deep drifting snow out to the open tops was difficult enough when I went out for a look. Not being able to stand in the wind and being being pelted with shard like ice and snow crystals made the decision to stay here much easier. One of the positive aspects about repeating a journey many times is that the familiarity with it also means "experience", which hopefully translates to well informed judgement and decision making. I know that saddle very well, have fought a few battles out there so I feel quite calm and at ease with choosing not to fight this one. The glow of the fire and the 16 year old Bushmill's also helps.

16 August, Ruahine early morning. Sunrise hut
How many mornings have I have been here? How many sunrises have I been witness to here? Some with brilliant blue cloudless skies and nary a wisp of wind. The promise of the day ahead lies clear and true. Some cloud obscured, or like today blasted by gales with the view coming and going with the vagaries of the wind, and nothing for it but to either climb back into a warm sleeping bag or put the billy on for a cup of tea. The sun rising out there on the South Pacific Ocean is a constant. My bearing witness to it is not. So the nuances and subtle beauty of each one, no matter if I can see it or not, and my memories of them, bind me deeply to these mountains. I think I will go put on the billy for a cup of tea...

The wind was still relentless, the temperature still below zero, and snow continued to blow and drift. I packed up and decided to at least venture a bit out onto the saddle to see if the conditions improved enough to pass. Top Maropea would have been like a freezer, and with the snow likely all the way down to the Maropea river, walking in ice cold water and then snow for 3-4 hours held somewhat dubious appeal.

The moment I pulled the pin out on Armstrong saddle. Hip deep snow and gale force winds were one factor. The biggest is seeing the colours literally drained from the scene. When life becomes black and white, forward or back, and all the senses are tuned into the importance of what you choose in these next few moments. A glimpse into our very souls...

16 August...Late morning: Brewing a final cup of tea before heading back down. The wind has not abated, the cold is intense, and the feeling emanating from the quiet voice within whispers that this is not the time. Aside from having to walk down with an equally heavy pack I am at peace with that conclusion. The Ruahine will be here for some time yet. Certainly as a younger man I would have felt anger and rage at SOMETHING, perhaps even tried to force my way through for good or bad. Maybe I am just at a more peaceful place myself. Time to go home...

The forest......

Till next time....


Monday, May 5, 2014

Pondering in the Pohangina

23 April..camped on the Ngamoko tops just below the high point at Toka.
I scribble in my notebook by headlamp as the tent gets buffeted by an occasional low reaching gale. Overhead they scream past with the sound of a freight train. Reaching the tops we were headed north along them to Toka Biv but the increasing gales caused us to pull the pin on that, and by luck we stumbled upon this spot below the lip of the main ridge. It is out of the gale, replete with fresh water from the tarn and a nice cushion of tussock to pitch our tent upon. I think we made a pretty wise decision to pull back from Toka Biv.  We will assess the situation in the morning as before crawling into the tent the cloud rolled in and the rain began. Cloud hidden indeed..

Campsite below Toka high point out of the wind...mostly.

Clagged in and drizzling just before we retire inside the tent for the evening...

24 April Leon Kingvig hut on the Pohangina river...

The wind howls over and occasional great gusts reach down here into the relative narrow confines of the valley and whip everything into a momentary frenzy. Even the water ripples and lifts against the flow of the river. Then all settles into the symphony of the wind overhead and the river passing by.

During the night camped up top the wind buffeted the tent and then steady rain began to fall. We emerged into cold drizzle and near white out conditions. With the wind still ripping over the thought of heading further in did not seem too appealing. An early morning coffee would have helped, but in these conditions it would have been far less enjoyable than where I write these words on the hut porch. Had I been on my own, and certainly if I had been with Charlie, I would have packed up and headed back down to the car to return another day. With John however I felt a bit more confident. That can be the crux of getting in trouble or not. Being with John does not make me any better at route finding, or dealing with unpleasant conditions, but it does give more reassurance in numbers. When people wonder about my safety as an often solo tramper, there are times I think I may actually BE safer on my own as I am so much more aware of my limitations.
John and I packed up and headed into the mist and wind and immediately became "lost". It took us 20 minutes and finally getting out the map and heading where we thought the route would be soon found the poled route down the ridge. A few times we had to hunker down and absorb the gales till they subsided a bit and then carried on. Further down the "track" becomes a bit more distinct but it was a great relief to finally get into the tupare corridor and down into the forest and out of the wind.
I arrived at the hut, wet, cold, and tired, to be greeted by John holding a large hot and strong cup of coffee, which I had been thinking of for several hours. To sit on the hut porch and sip that nectar brought a smile rising through my tiredness. Seconds later a pair of whio flew into the pool across from the hut, singing and frolicking as if greeting us and approving of our presence and efforts to arrive here. Suddenly not tired at all we went down to the river to watch them, the soul of these mountain rivers. I took their arrival as a sign.

Whio outside Leon Kingvig hut on the Pohangina river. Photo by Pohangina Pete..

24 April evening.. In the late afternoon  John and I were sitting down by the river as the wind continued overhead in waves of relentless gales, enjoying the fact we were here, safe and warm, and congratulating ourselves on having the hut to ourselves as no sane person would be out in conditions such as this. Suddenly I saw some movement across the river and high up on the steep track from the forest. Out popped Pohangina Pete who had traveled in through the inclement conditions to join us! He knows this area pretty intimately and judged, correctly, that he could make his away across the tops. What a pleasant and very cool development indeed. I am about to prepare a dinner of Moroccan couscous, with pistachio's, cashews, toasted sesame seeds, and green beans. More than enough for the three of us and a pleasure to cook for such fine mates. The wind continues to whip overhead. Inside this hut it is warm and peaceful. I am once again reminded of Emerson...

“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Interesting that evening when Pete appeared the whio returned to greet him as well. They appeared again in the morning as well for an extended visit.

The Pohangina river just above the hut...

Leon Kingvig hut. Pohangina valley.
25 April...mid morning...I have a sense of unease that has come over me. A feeling related to a few things. John and I yesterday discussing the possibility of climbing to and crossing Sawtooth ridge here in the Ruahine this coming summer. We tried many years ago and ended up spending two days hut bound at Howlett's hut as the weather did not permit a crossing and we finally pulled the pin. It is the one major route we have not done in these ranges. With that came my own personal realization of the changes needed within myself to do that, to both mentally and physically have my ducks in a row. And from there I have come head on with the reality of how much I really do love being in these places, or are the words scribbled from my pen mere bullshit? Am I willing to pay the price to make the changes I need to keep traveling here? As I wrote yesterday, had I been on my own in that wind, mist and cloud in the morning I would have doubted myself in unfamiliar terrain, and probably would have turned back. Perhaps that would have been the smartest decision anyway. Yet as I gaze across the river to the start of the track back up and across the Ngamoko the thought of climbing up there into a gale does not fill me with the same sense of challenge I might have felt 10 years ago. It fills me instead with this unease.

I also understand as I grow older the difference between saying we love someone, or some place, and the reality required in actually doing that. Nothing with any of that is static and secure. It is often confronting, painful, and difficult. Sometimes it seems easier to just walk away. So I know the hard work that lies ahead.

The light of the early morning tawhairaunui forest.

26 April...below the Ngamoko tops of the Ruahine
We had spent yesterday close to the hut, going down to the river to greet the visiting whio a few times, and between the gales of wind blasting down from above to fill the billy from the river for another cup of tea or soup. Then early in the evening the rain began in earnest, and between the wind blasting on the tops, and the possibility of not even getting across the river looming with the incessant pounding on the tin roof, we began making nervous contingency plans. A few more moments of doubt...
I woke up before dawn to silence. No rain, and the constant roar of wind gone. Only the muttering song of the river could be heard. Stepping out on the porch I saw stars flickering up in the sky!
I left long before John and Pete who remain at the hut tidying up and no doubt enjoying a few brews before getting underway. Not only because I am far slower but also that I love being on my own in the dripping quiet but not silent forest in the early morning light on such a day as this...sitting here in the depths of the Ngamoko surrounded by blue sky and the myriads of green and shimmering gold I find myself feeling reassured and hopeful. That is love as well.

“Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.” - John Muir

John climbing up to the Ngamoko with Pete cruising up behind.

John just below Toka, with the ridge down to Leon Kinvig behind. Photo by Pohangina Pete...

Surly and bruised grey clouds roil and roll above
pushed on by blistering gales
fluorescent on the edges of the setting sun
glinting of yellow and reds
that lead to the dark heart of the matter
the measure of my own time
in a timeless place
what must I do for one more day?


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Autumn Thoughts

27 March 2014..Top Maropea
I think back a few months ago, waiting over at Sunrise with Tara for the gales to subside and allow us to dash across the exposed tops to here and beyond. The gales never did, and we had to head home thwarted. It happens.

My experience today one of blissful blue skies, sunshine, and the slightest gentle breeze from the south. A crossing to relish, to move slowly and deliberately, to enjoy each moment in the knowledge of what it can be like up there on a bad day slightly unsure, even afraid. I wonder if how much I appreciate being here is also in direct proportion to the number of times, like with Tara, when I have not been here, or have been up there fighting fierce winds, rather than the pleasant stroll I experienced today.  Perhaps that also can apply to people in our lives as well. I have another handful of cashews while I ponder...

                                           Approaching Armstrong saddle just beyond Sunrise hut.

                                      Time to lie in the sun and enjoy. Even the flies were feeling lazy.

                                         Top Maropea just before sunset......

Late afternoon....I was last here in September of last year. John and I came through from Sunrise and stopped for a cup of tea before heading down to the valley and Maropea Forks for a few days, and on the way back Pohangina Pete met us along the way and joined us for a night here at Top Maropea. It was a fine evening, one of real contentment and camaraderie in the company of two men I hold in great esteem. It feels like if I close my eyes and listen deeply there is Pete's quiet chuckle and John's more cynically tinged laughter rolling by on the breeze. It's a nice thought anyway. There are a lot of such echoes for me here.

Evening...settled into the cozy confines of the hut for my 42nd evening. The fire is blazing away nicely as I had plenty of time to gather and saw up my wood supply. The warmth here is mostly illusion for as soon as I let the fire die down and climb into my sleeping bag this hut will turn into an ice box. I accept that. Right now with the glow of the candles, the crackling of the fire, a few wee drams, and dinner to prepare, I am as warm as I need to be....

I will never tire of seeing the sunset painted upon the far off ridges, peaks, and valley. Each one unique and new, some vivid and alive, some shrouded or hidden in mist and cloud. On a still quiet evening like this I can sit here quietly and observe the changes. The minutiae in each subtle moment.

                             "When you are old and gray and full of sleep, and nodding by the fire, take down this book and slowly read, and dream of the soft look your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep."....W.B. Yeats

Early morning light on the the tawhairauriki. Steeply down the ridge to the stream, then river.

28 March late morning....Camped at the confluence of the stream and Maropea river on an open river flat where the sun beams down. I was going to head further down river but arriving here just felt right and soon the tent was up. I am going to explore up the west branch of the river where I have not been before. There is  a grove of beech across the stream where I once camped with Taylor and Nigel. Taylor was only 8 years old and the next day we headed down to Maropea Forks for a few days. The campsite was an old culler or hunters camp. The old dilapidated stone fireplace is still there with a few old blackened billies hanging from it, and the remnants of an old tarp still half buried covered with rocks. There are echoes here as well.

``28 March...late afternoon camped on the Maropea river.
"I had a nice long nap in my tent to escape the blazing afternoon sun. Then I had a strong cup of sweet tea before wandering down to the river and bathing in the icy river. I feel fresh, clean, and alive. As if the cold clear water not only washed away the dirt, sweat, and grime I have accumulated through the toils of getting here, but has also cleansed me inside as well. The unnecessary burdens in my very soul that have been washed away by the mountain river and carried down to the sea where they will be absorbed into it all. Baptized in the wild waters of the Ruahine..

The Maropea. A bit too far up I suspect to see any whio, but a very spectacular stretch of river I had not seen before.

Evening...inside my tent writing by headlamp. Once the sun disappeared over the valley it got cold very quickly. It is cozy in here, at least right now. I am using Charlie's small down bag more as a blanket than a bag, as my big but 15 year old MacPac fell apart at the seams after the last tramp. It is a little bit like trying to snuggle my large frame under a tea towel. Oh well...time for a new sleeping bag.

It was a lovely walk up the river. It is very tight and suddenly on bends opens into large flats with sheer cliffs and side streams heading up into easier forest. If I was still hunting deer it would be country where I would be hanging out a lot.

I'm feeling much lighter than a few short days past. At least of spirit. A busy period of work and stress over and behind me. And instead of deadlines, administration systems, emails, and phone calls, all I have had to focus upon is when it is day or night, tea or coffee, cashews or macadamia nuts, and the entire simplicity of just being here. And the ease of putting away my pen, turning off my light, snuggling somehow into my tiny nest and listen to the sound of the river outside lull me to sleep.

How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!  ~John Muir

I melt into the decaying softness of the old tawhairaunui
What ancient flood and moody day brought her here?
Sitting upon the mosses which claim her I ponder this
as a wisp of breeze blows through
Like the forest around me I simply sway with it's passing
then settle into the old log once again
The river slides past
joyful murmurs today over the greywacke
mountains once far away
like the tawhairaunui
also on the way to sea
I came here to shed burdens
now trivial
for all around me is a dance to join
the old log, the greywacke, the river, and me....