As I sit and write this in the cozy lounge of the YHA in Queenstown, there is a storm brewing outside and I’m thankful to be inside on a day like today. Additionally, at least three people have asked me if I’m OK because they can see the tears in my eyes. I am fine. These are tears of joy. After more than 20 years, I’ve been in touch with Steve’s family and know that they know how special he was to me. I hope they know I’d never have enjoyed this experience if he had not first planted the seed to come here in my mind.
Waking up on day two of the Milford Track, we were treated to both a continental breakfast and a cooked meal. Anyone who loses weight on a trek with Ultimate Hikes is definitely not paying close enough attention to the gourmet offerings in the lodges. After breakfast we made our lunches and packed our bags. Today we had a short 10 mile walk to the next lodge and our guides got us all going around 8:30.
Now, the rest of New Zealand is measured in kilometers, but for some reason, perhaps the historical nature of the track, Milford is marked off in miles. After spending five months in New Zealand readjusting my distance measuring skills to kilometers, I actually had a difficult time shifting my brain back to a miles mentality. But, like any tramper, I soldiered on to Pompolona Lodge. The day was dreary and we encountered some misty rain but nothing that required rain gear so we were treated to beautiful waterfalls and cool hiking temperatures.
Day three dawned and today we were going to go over Mackinnon Pass, the highest point on the track. When I’m tramping, I like to get an early start. Being on the trail by 6:00AM is not unusual for me. Being out in nature, listening to the birds, experiencing the sun rise and hearing a new day dawn while I’m walking along a track is very satisfying for me. I think our guides knew that because they were camped out at the entrance to the track and Hayley even said she was pleasantly surprised I was still there.
The climb was much easier than I anticipated. What we call switchbacks in the US, the Kiwis call zig-zags. Our briefing the night before let us know there were 11 zig-zags, with number 2 being broken up into 2A through 2F. For some reason, I particularly enjoyed knowing how far I was along the track. It really made the climb much less of an effort.
While it was another cloudy, dreary, rainy day, getting to the top was still a spectacular achievement. The views, while shrouded in clouds and mist, were still amazing. In my minds eye, I could see Steve, sitting beside the monument to Quintin Mackinnon, eating beef jerky (his favorite trail snack) and enjoying the view.
There will be one more post on my Milford Track adventure. The exciting final day, where we almost didn’t make it! Spoiler alert – I’m writing this after the fact so everyone made it out alive.
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