Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Back to Reality...

Safe and sound back at my mom's place in Rochester.  I'm heading back to State College this afternoon...and back to my Graduate School reality.  I'm excited, but also a bit sad.  There are certainly people that I'm going to miss a lot.  

This afternoon before I leave, I'm heading over to a local elementary school in Rochester to talk to some third graders about Antarctica.  My sister's friend, Tara, is a teacher and apparently her students have been hearing all about me.  I'm bringing some stickers, patches, and stamped postcards with me to give out as well as a selection of photos and videos.  Hopefully they'll get a kick out of some of my WAIS Divide stories.

It will take me quite a while to organize all my videos and photos, but as soon as they are done, expect to see the full albums on trailjournals, flickr, facebook, youtube, and of course...Here.

Take care everyone and I hope any of you that stumbled across this blog got at least a small taste of what life is like at a field camp in Antarctica!

Boarding the Qantas Flight From Auckland to LA

Monday, February 23, 2009

Stuck in LA qantas flight was late getting to LA, so I missed my
connecting flight. To make up for it, I got a nice room at the Hilton
for free!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Looking Back....While Spending My Last Night in New Zealand....

Tonight I'm back in Christchurch enjoying my last night here. I dropped of Elizabeth at Arthur's Pass on my way back to town and returned the car once I got all of my gear out of it. It's interesting to look back now on my entire time in the southern hemisphere and think of what I wanted to get accomplished...and what I did get accomplished. Overall, I'm pretty darn happy. I had an amazing experience in Antarctica and feel that It was more or less a success. In my 3 weeks of New Zealand time, I was able to complete 4 incredible trails (tracks), and still have time to see a lot of great cities, towns, and natural wonders. I saw Kiwi birds, penguins, pancake limestone formations, caves, glow-worms, live street perfomances....I rode on a ferry to Stewart Island, stayed in some of the coolest hostels and campsites, even slept in a cave one night. I finally got to see the Southern hemisphere stars including the Southern Cross and both Magellenic Clouds. I walked up to, and touched, the snout of the massive Fox Glacier (and then ran like hell away from it when it started making loud noises)...most of all though, I met some incredible people and had a great hiking/road trippin' partner and friend in Elizabeth. This trip has been one that I surely will never forget.

Magical View from Kepler Track

Near Sibera Hut on Wilkin-Young Circuit Track
Ruggedy Beach on Stewart Island Track (Where Cave I slept in Was)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Kepler Track Completed

So yesterday I knocked out another track here in New Zealand: The Kepler Track.

The experience was much different than that of the Stewart Island Track. There was no mud, and over 6 miles of alpine ridge walking. The views reminded me a lot of Fraconia Ridge on the AT or Indian Trail Ridge on the CT. They were stunning. The trail itself is a "Great Walk" which means it was pretty busy with people, and that it was extremely well maintained and graded. I never needed my trekking poles on the entire trail. I'm still hiking with Elizabeth and it's still going great. We had a very similar itinerary for trails we wanted to do, and since I had a car, we decided to hit some of the same ones and split fuel costs. We are planning on knocking out one more track: The Wilkin-Young Circuit before I had back to Christchurch and back to the States. She still has a few weeks here and will probably do a few more long distance tracks before she flies home. As nice as it was to be able to do some solo hiking when I first got here, it is certainly a breath of fresh air to have a hiking partner.

As soon as I get home I will start uploading all of my photos from both Antarctica and from NZ.

Less than a week to go....


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Surviving the Mud on Stewart Island

Well I have survived the Northwest Circuit on Stewart Island.  The track is about 125km long (~77 miles) and doesn't seem like it should be too difficult or take too long.  It turned out to be a hiking experience like I've never had before.  I spent days trudging through knee deep mud and avoiding swarms of sandflies.  Despite this though, the track was absolutely amazing.  You'd wind along rooty muddy trail, only to dump out on a 4 km remote beach in the middle of nowhere with rock walls and caves all around.  I saw several yellow-eyed penguins and 3 kiwi birds.  I camped most nights but did stay in a couple of the huts too (which are really nice).  I hiked the entire trail with fellow WAISer Elizabeth and she turned out to be a perfect hiking partner.  She has also an avid thru-hiker.  She's thru-hiked the AT, PCT, CT, Arizona Trail, and several other smaller trails.  We both hiked under the same type of mentality.....get up early, hike most of the day, and camp late.  We kept a steady pace every day, and managed to finish on the 6th day.  While this doesn't seem like it would equate to very long days....I compare hiking on Stewart Island to hiking in southern Maine.  Kilometers go by as slow as miles and we spent over 10 hours each day hiking.  The guide book actually recommends 10 days to do the trail.

It rained every day, but never for too long, so we never felt like we were getting soaked on.  I would definitely recommend this trail to anyone looking for a truly remote experience, but it must be known that there's simply no way possible to avoid getting ridiculously muddy.  We tried everyday to hop over and avoid...but there always came a point where we slipped in and simply said, "screw it" and trudged right through for the rest of the day.

I'll try to get some photos up once I get back to Invercargill tonight and add more details to the blog and trailjournals site.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Made it to Invercargill yesterday and I'm very much enjoying it here. I drove through Queenstown with the intent on getting a hostel room there....but I did not like the vibe there. The city was teeming with countless tourists dressed in golf pants and safari hats. They were all reading maps, bumping into each other, and fighting over who gets in the queue first for a latte'. It was not a good scene. The main street was littered with outlet stores and shops for people with a lot more money than me. Even the hostels had a weird vibe. I drove by a couple and instead of seeing the usual young backpacker sitting out front next to their backpack....I saw people in polo shirts sipping fancy beers and chuckling about how unsophisticated the hostels are. To make matters worse, the traffic was terrible...especially for someone still learning to drive on the left side. I got a very uneasy feeling there and immediately dropped my plans and headed south to Invercargill. For those of you that have seen the movie "Into the Wild", I compare my feeling in the feeling that Chris had when he first arrived in San Diego after being in Mexico. Too many people....too fast.

I popped into a hostel here and it is exactly what I was looking for. I think I made the right decision coming down here a day early. The weather is cooler here too. Tomorrow I head out to Stewart Island for a 7+ day tramp along the Northwest Circuit track with some fellow USAP ice folks. I can't wait.
Crazy Suspension Bridge over the Dart River

The Dart Glacier (again)

Starting a NZ Trailjournals

Just a quick note that I'm going to start a 2009 trailjournals site that will include all of my New Zealand tramps (hikes). It will be a while before my journal entries get up there...but I am writing in a journal every night (both on the trails and in the towns).

Here's the site where it will be:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New Zealand Tramping....

Things are going great here in New Zealand. I spent 3 days in Christchurch on my return just sucking up the warm weather and having a few drinks with fellow ice folks. It was a great time to be in ChC as the Buskers festival was also going on. This meant a ton of street vendors and street performers. At one point, I witnessed a guy on a unicycle..on a slack-line, while juggling flaming torches. It was pretty amazing.

I got kind of sick of city life quickly though and headed south a few days ago until I made my way to the small town of Wanaka. From here, I drove up to the start of the Cascade Saddle track and begin a mini 3 day tramp. For those of you confused....Tramp = hike and Track = trail. Also I found out that people call liquor "piss"...which is a bit weird. Someone will say, "hey, lets go buy a bottle of piss" or "I drank way too much piss last night". anyhoo

I learned very quickly that a "moderately difficult tramp" (According to the guide book) is a lot different than in the states. The track took me 4200 feet straight up an extreme rocky/rooty boulder scrambly trail. It was very similar to the hike up Mt. Katahdin. The views though, make even the views in Colorado seem tame. There are no words to even remotely describe the things that I saw the past few days. I will upload more pictures when I can...but I only have 5 more minutes of time on this pc for tonight. There's so much more to I'll write again soon,


View from part way up the 4200 ft climb from Mt. Aspiring Hut
The Dart Glacier