Friday, January 15, 2016

Ruahine Summertime

"High Camp Sunrise"
Awake with the full moon 
I unzip my cocoon to look 
and gaze into the first breath
of today
the hushed silence around me
As if even the mountains quietly watch
the unfolding
The layered spectrum of creations prism
A single star twinkles above
as the prism contracts as a line and expands
Across the horizon
The middle of which glows a brilliant hue
Of fiery red and orange
as if the birth of life and possibility itself
And suddenly there is the glowing orb 
burst forth!
The new day is here...

27 December 2015..Camped on the main Ruahine range above Armstrong saddle...This seems a fitting place to be this evening closing out this year. A year of great change and awakenings in so many ways. Visiting my home in Wisconsin with Charlie, seeing Tara embrace a new role which challenged her, and us, in so many ways, the continued struggles of parenthood, and then being told while away I am no longer wanted in a job I have worked in for over 15 years. Sitting here now with a wee dram and knowing I have addressed that situation I can smile with the sunset. In reality, being 55 and jobless was a frightening and somewhat shattering prospect. A reality I know so many men and women face at this age. Feeling unwanted and useless, questioning what we have done and accomplished. Having our identities and self worth tied up so much in "what we do for a living", and "how much stuff we have". For the most part I have been able to not get caught up in that, but in spite of that the self doubt cannot help but creep in. No wonder the highest growing suicide rate is men in their 50's. Again, sitting here now with the warmth of the day and the mountains, not to mention the Glen Morangie flowing within I recognize part of the gift the Ruahine have given me. It seems apt that this part of them I have spent so much time in, have crossed literally fighting to stay upright, or hurried through the rain, snow, and mist to get to Top Maropea, that tonite all is calm and serene. As if the mountains and I reflect, and celebrate together..





 Top Maropea evening...29 December
The sun has finally passed over the valley to the west and quickly the air chills. The mountains waste no time in their extremes. I return to the hut and dig out a bit of warmer gear. Steam rolls off my breath. I want to be here with the final moments of this day and sunset. It may be awhile till I return. A lot of new challenges lie ahead. So I share this gentle time with the Ruahine. How many times have I watched the sun move over the valley below and far off peaks? The play of light on the distant peaks. The rounded fullness of Orupu, the sharpness of Waikamaka, and shadowy Remutupo. And to the west the bald peak of Puketaramea..the least imposing of all, yet for many reasons my favourite of all. I have learned to relish these moments as if they may my last. The mountains teach well. 
I have gathered much wood though I will leave it for another. I do not feel the need for a fire as I normally would. I feel part of this, connected to it. The fire burns within.

 30 December...camped again on the tops. Spent the day walking down to the Maropea without a pack. Far enough to finally come across the whio! The weather has held amazingly well and today was hot and still once again. I was going to camp on the river but my left hip is playing up and with an outing planned with John for next week I am giving that more importance. So I packed up and headed back to the tops. It is not often in this part of the ranges the wind holds so still and I consider it a bonus to be up here in my tent. I'm pleased to be here in these hills. Pleased that in years past and rushing from place to place that I questioned that. Pleased that the result is a more intimate relationship with certain places as the nuances and beauty reveal themselves. Pleased that it turned out to be that I was right where I should have been all the time...

 5 Jan...mid morning Whanahuia tops of the Ruahine. "We are enjoying a lunch of bagels, salami, cheese and tomato just below the tupare (leatherwood) zone with the forest and steep drop to the river still below us. We are in no hurry and it feels good to sit in the sun and look across to the main range. We arrived on the tops late yesterday intending to camp but the high winds, intermittent rain, and cold made the empty Rangiwahia hut look very attractive. Who would have thought that on a January summer evening we would fire up the wood stove? As the temperature was 1 degree Celsius this we did. A southerly system has blown in and though the morning was still very cold the wind had died and the sky a cloudless deep blue. I left early and made my way up the Whanahuia, the richness and allure of the early morning sunlight on the tussock is always a treat. I waited for John near the high point of Mangahuia and then we ambled along together to here. We fall easily into our patterns and rhythms accrued over two plus decades roaming these hills. To break bread right here in this spot, in this moment, with such a friend has almost a spiritual and cleansing quality to it. I smile at the thought of the 4 days ahead."...

 The Oroua river...

 John in the morning waiting for the sun to hit from the east over the valley. It was bloody cold!


 Then in the afternoon on the river we were doing this!

 Our campsite....

6 Jan.. Camped on the Oroua river. "Last evening just before dark John and I went and sat by the river to enjoy a wee dram and hoping to see or at least hear the whio. We had gone upstream to the gorge for a swim but had seen no sign. Dusk and dawn are the best times, so even if fighting off a few sand flies, the Bushmills, the river, and the company made our "effort" well worthwhile. The hut sits in front of the Oroua river and on the true left of a side creek which meets the river there. We sat at this confluence watching and quietly chatting when suddenly around the corner of the side stream into the main river came cruising a whio! I adore the sight of these ancient indigenous birds. The shrill whistle of this one indicating he was a male and in fine condition. It fills me with delight to just observe their beauty, elegance, and unerring connection to the rivers and streams of these mountains. They are the heart and soul of the Ruahine. He swam down stream a bit, then flew back to right in front of us and climbed up on a log. He kept gazing up the creek which I hoped meant he had a female and brood of chicks as this is the season. In any case he didn't seem to find us to be a threat and after hanging out for a bit flew off back up the creek. A great way to end the day...I slept by the river in my tent and at 5:00 am was awoke again by the male and then heard the female as well. I couldn't see any chicks as it was far too dark and they didn't stay long. It felt like a winters morning and when I went up to the hut for coffee the temperature on my barometer was -2 Celsius! Summertime eh...yet mid morning when the sun finally was over head it grew hot. So we packed up and headed down river. In no hurry to be anywhere we found the best pools to swim in, the best spots to boil up the billy, and searching for the best place to pitch up a camp. We chose here, a place where the river grows quiet with a pool on one end and a cozy river flat along the other. With enough old driftwood for a fire. And just like that the day has passed and the sun has now setover the valley. The evening chill returns and we are back sitting by the river with another wee dram. Waiting once again for the whio...

 7 Jan....Whanahuia tops. "I left the river late this morning on my own. Took my time and stopped frequently on the relentless climb to both rest and simply enjoy the quiet ambiance and essence of the living breathing forest. I can judge my gains not just through my steady steps and sweat but by leaving the stately tall Tawhairauriki below and moving up into the Kaikawaka and gnarled hearty Tawhairaunui and finally into the Tupare and tussock. The story of the forest. I made way up and along the tops to a sheltered basin by a tarn and boiled up the billy and waited for John. Though the wind was up my protected spot allowed me to enjoy the Suns warmth and in time a little white speck appeared in the distance making its way along the tops. It was an enjoyable moment to just watch my friend on his way to join me...

 8 Jan. 2016. "Our final night up on the Whanahuia. I have been fortunate enough to have spent 9 nights in these mountains over the last few weeks. Roaming last week on my own was fine, but this week with John felt very special, very satisfying. Like the culmination of our 20 years in these hills. We have practiced Whakawhanaungatanga, or the Maori concept of coming together and working to a common cause, (as I understand it in this moment), and not even consciously have practiced it but rather emerged into it through our experiences and friendship here in the mountains. Another Gift from the Ruahine. And so we watch the final sunset on the Whanahuia, perhaps the finest of all the Ruahine ranges to do so as we gaze to the west...

The final morning arrives
the last mountain
only to be climbed down
to the car
to the shingle then concrete highway
where we become 
something perhaps a bit less
than what I feel here
But for these days up here
we have lived
amongst the the tupare and golden tussock
with the cloud, wind, and sun
We have lived in the forest
high up with the gnarled and fantastic
and their more stately cousins far below
We have listened to the difference
the Ruahine breeze plays through them
And we have lived by the mountain river
sparkling in the sunlight like jewels
followed her twisting turning bends
heard her songs and been embraced fully within
her deep clear cold pools
And we have lived with whio
and their unerring grace
united if briefly
 as brothers...