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Saturday, April 8th, 2006

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After meeting up with Luci at Auckland International we boarded the plane for LAX and then on to Denver where we met up with our friends Amy and Eric. It was a bit of a shock being back in the states after being out for almost a year. But Amy and Eric are gracious host and, having worked in the Antarctic, could understand where we were coming from.

While we spent a few days at their house getting re-adjusted we got our contracts for next season on the Ice and shopped for lift tickets for our approaching trip to Summit County. The Spelmanís once again courteously opened their condo in Silverthorne to us. We bought a couple of 4-day passes to Copper on the Boulder Craigís List for well under cost. It was vacation week so the mountain was packed with kids. The conditions were good, though. We had two days of snow and two days of sun. I even got Luci to go off-piste and into the trees.

After another week at Amy and Ericís, we flew back to Boston and took the Downeaster train up to Dover to my parents. We had a huge stack of mail from our year-long absence and spent the better part of two days reading it all. We had only a couple of days at my parents before going up to Conway to take a Wilderness First Responder with SOLO. What a LONG week! I have taken a WFR before but it was about 12 years ago when I worked for the AMC at Pinkham Notch. Coincidently, the instructor was my boss when I worked there, Bill Otten. Another guy I worked for at the AMC is the cook at SOLO. Having taken the course before, it got a bit redundant after a while. Good to get the practice though.

Now we are back at my parents. I have spent the past couple of days getting my little laptop back in order, and trying to slim down our pile of stuff in my parents attic. This weekend we are headed up to my brother Isaacís house to see our new nephew, Eben. I also signed up to take the Maine Motorcycle Safety Course, finally. I am hoping I can get the motorcycle endorsement on my international drivers license.

Back up a Bit

Friday, April 7th, 2006

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OK. I guess I need to catch up a little. We have been super-busy and I have been having all sorts of computer problems. I finally broke down and bought a junker Sony Vaio PictureBook C1VN (my notebook of choice). I tore them both apart and made one super-computer. After a week of tuning, Iím up and running.

So, backing up to when Luci and I left Matteo. Luci went up to the North Island to do Yoga, get massages, and relax on the beach while my brother Jesse and I took off in his rickety Mitsubishi Chariot to the Nelson Lakes and the Kahurangi. When I met up with him back in Christchurch he had a seriously ailing clutch. He was seriously stressing. We decided to call the guy we bought it from only a week before. He runs a backpacker hostel and sells cars on the side. We were hoping that he could point us in the direction of a good (cheap) mechanic. Instead of offering us a good mechanic he offered to have it fixed for us: no charge. I love NZ! With the car fixed we headed out of town to Arthurís Pass. About an hour out of town, the car started pulling to the left. Upon inspection it became obvious that the mechanic had forgotten to tighten the bolt on the ball joint when he was putting it all back together. We managed to tighten it down in a storm of sandflies (NZís premier biting insect) but it left us with an uneasy feeling.

Jesse and I were planning on doing a bit of hut to hut hiking. When I was traveling with Matteo I scoped out a couple of places. The first place we were planning on hiking was a circuit that would take us over Traver’s Saddle. We were traveling with a friend who wasnít much of a hiker and decided to stay behind on the lake shore in the town of St. Arnaud. We arranged to meet up with him two days later. Over the next two days and a half we cranked out the most intense hike I have ever done. The terrain was not that steep and we were able to average 26 miles a day. It was sunrise to sunset hiking. Not much time to smell the roses but we didnít want to miss our meeting time with our friend. We were incredibly sore when we finally met up with Ryan but nothing a couple of days of rest couldnít fix.

Our next stop was in Takaka. A fellow Antarctican was playing his guitar at a local restaurant, the Mussel Inn. Another good friend of mine and Luciís was having a birthday party at his parents in nearby Motueka. The plan was to go to the show in Takaka and hike the Salisbury Track to our friend Bodieís. There is a campsite near the Mussel Inn and it was swamped with Antarcticans. We decided to stay at a campsite on the other side of town near a local climbing spot. It was a pretty unorganized affair called Hang Dog. Super cheap and very relaxing and relatively Antarctican free. Donít get me wrong, I love my co-workers but enough is enough.

The show was fun and after a day on the beach flying my kite (and watching Jesse break my kite) we had Ryan drop us off at the trail head of the Salisbury Track in the Kahurangi. We spent the night there in a small shelter and set out the next day. Once again, this was a track with rather small elevation gain so we were able to make time. There are some very nice huts on this track but our second night we stayed at the most interesting shelter I have ever stayed in. It was made out of a limestone overhang. It was one of four similar shelters. The third night we stayed at a higher elevation on the flanks of Mt. Arthur with the idea of climbing it the next day. In the morning the weather wasnít great so we decided to just hike down and meet our friends. Of course, the weather was better when we got to the trailhead and I insisted on walking all the way to Bodieís.

I had been inspecting my topo map and saw that there was a direct route down a creek that lead directly to our friendís house. The only thing is that there was no trail down it. I went for it anyway and had a wild ride. At one point the stream just disappeared. There is a tremendous network of caves under Mt. Arthur and in places rivers and streams just slip underground. After about a quarter mile I found myself at the top of a 30-foot waterfall with no obvious way down. Lucky for me I had been following a pair of goats who also got cliffed-out and slipped by me to run back up stream. I followed them up an incline and over a little ridge which successfully by-passed the would-be waterfall.

I eventually made it the bottom of Whiskey Creek where it meets up with a river that literally resurges out of Mt Arthur from its network of caves. But, not with out injury. No only did I slice a nice slab out of my hand but I learned about the New Zealand stinging nettles the hard way. I grabbed one to stabilize myself on the steep stream-bed on my descent. I could decide which one hurt most. In the end the nettles won out. When I finally arrive on foot at my friend Bodieís house, his family was happy to see me. When Jesse arrived after being picked up by friends at the trailhead he told Bodie and his parents that I was arriving on foot via Whisky Creek. I think his mother almost fainted. Apparently the last guy that tried the hike down Whiskey Creek didnít make it. They pulled his body out a couple of months before.

Bodieís party was a great success. It was the last hurrah for before heading back to the States. Jesse sold his car to Ryan and we were on a plane back to the States.