Hiking and Jetboating in Queenstown

It was with mixed emotions that the Wanaka Crew began to disperse Thursday morning, with all of us checked out of our gorgeous temporary home on Friday.  What an incredible journey blogging has been for all of us!  Who knew that when we all published our first posts, for me back  in June of 2012, we would meet and make such great friends.  The benefits to blogging are many and without a doubt, the best part is the worldwide connections that are made.

This image nipped from Alys’ FB page: Boomdee, Alys, Danella (daughter of Pauline), Pauline, Steve (partner of Joanna), me, Joanna (daughter of Pauline), and Mike (Alys’ husband).

After one last lunch with Pauline, Danella, Boomdee, and Siddy, with this view as the backdrop, I was dropped at my Queenstown Hotel.  It was time to start my solo adventure.

Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of the world, and with just one and a half days to spend there, I had many choices.  Ultimately, I decided to hike Queenstown Hill and, on the advice of Danella, to take a jet boat ride on Lake Wakatipu.

After walking by this gorgeous tree, I began my morning with the now customary Flat White.  I was thrilled to see this Giant Sequoia since I’ve not seen them in California yet.

They Call it a “Hill”

Queenstown Hill is a popular hike for locals and visitors alike despite the moderate to difficult rating.  While only 3k from the trail head and back, it was another 3k on foot to get to the trailhead.  It’s 500m to the summit, straight up hill all the way.  Click on each image in the gallery to get an idea of the steep climb, both on the street and the trail.

Soon enough I entered a magical area of stacked rocks.  I was capitavated and spent a good 15 minutes in peace and quiet, and then added my own rock.  The photography is poor as it was quite dark and I just didn’t capture the stacks well.

I knew that I was near the summit when I arrived at the Basket of Dreams.  Sculptor Caroline Robinson created this piece in 2000 for the Queenstown Millenium project which has  transformed the existing walk into a heritage and art trail.  The ‘Basket’ is near the top of the hill and “is built to lie inside of, eat your sandwich, and imagine. It provides a meeting place, a resting place, a dreaming spaceIts a place to be with others and with the magic of the Wakatipu landscape”.

I began what I thought were the final steps (the basket is right in the middle of this next image).  It is so tiny as seen here.  Then I turned around and saw that I had several more steps to go (see the second image).  Can you see the people on the summit?

Finally! I arrived on the summit and the view is indescribable, at least for me.  I mean, how many more times can a person say “incredible, gorgeous, stunning”?

I sat in complete contentment for a long while.  A woman came up and asked if she could take my photo as I looked so quiet and peaceful.  What a thoughtful gesture as I would not have been able to manage a selfie.

It was difficult to leave this place.  Thankfully, a celebratory beverage and a jetboat ride awaited me.  I enjoyed my Monteith’s Black as I looked back up to the summit.  Can you see it, peaking through the trees?

And then I looked towards the lake.

It was a specatacular day for a jetboat ride!

What a thrill, and even though 60 minutes, not long enough!  My time in New Zealand came to an end all too quickly, despite being there almost 2 weeks.   What a remarkable country!

Now though, it was almost time to get on that plane, and fly to Melbourne.

Come and Hike Mt Iron With Me

A hike in the hills was on my list of things to do while in New Zealand and on the second morning in Wanaka I set out for the Mt Iron Track.  Located on the edge of Mount Aspiring National Park, the track is a 4.5k / 2.8m walk with a total ascent of 166m /  546.86 ft and has a maximum elevation of 546m / 1,747.64 ft.  Those numbers may not seem impressive but the elevation of Wanaka is only 277 m / 90o ft.  Including the walk to the trail head and back, I logged 16k / 9.9 miles that morning.

This image, taken from a moving car the next day, shows the silhouette of Mt Iron.

Walking in a slight drizzle, I reached the trail head around 9am.  I took the obligatory “beginning of the hike” image (thinking of Karen, the Unassuming Hiker), and set off in the mist.  The women I hike with would have loved the well maintained toilets just around that curve in the first image.

This sculpture, erected in 2012, commemorates the world’s first recorded sheep dog trial, held in 1867.

The hike is a loop trail and the first 45 minutes of hiking are a solid, uphill climb.  Finding myself a bit out of breath, I marveled at the number of people who ran by me as they used the trail as a work out.

Yes, this was the trail in places.

At times the mist would clear, but much of the time the view was shrouded in mist and fog.

I crossed over the stile and saw some hikers coming back down the trail.  Can you see them?

I reached the summit and immediately saw the survey and summit markers.

Clearly the view was obscured but I enjoyed reading the signage and learning the history.

The loop offered different scenery on the way down and I enjoyed viewing the plants and trees.

During the descent, the view became more visible.  I took these images about halfway down.

Soon enough, I was back at the parking lot and started the walk back into town.

My 10 mile morning earned me a well deserved flat white at a nice little cafe.

On to the next New Zealand adventure!

 

4 Wheelin’ it to Barney’s Wall

Typically when my friend Karen organizes a hike, it is the walking in the woods and the view at the end that provides the memories.

Barney’s Wall provided that, for sure, but getting there was the adventure!  We all piled into my truck and hit the road for the trailhead.  And what a road it was!

What was initially a lovely ride through the trees,

turned into a challenge for my 4 Wheel Drive skills.

We made sure our seatbelts were locked in place and the windows up.

I took my time and drove carefully … until we saw these huge puddles.

I mean, what fun is a puddle if you can’t make a big splash?

What a fun mess!

After a bit of searching (see Karen’s post for the story) we found the trailhead.

And what a beautiful trail it was!

We’d not gone far when we learned that it was the 1st Day of Rifle Season.  You’d think that the sound of gunfire in the distance would have cued us in, but it was not until we saw hunters coming towards us that we realized the significance of the day.

We perservered and it was not long until we received our reward.

The drop off was severe and soon enough we were scrambling around on the ledge.

As always, we were thrilled with the view, and with the comraderie and friendship.

Sometimes the hike is long. Sometimes not so much.  No matter the length of the walk, the memories will last a lifetime.

Hiking Buffalo Mountain

Thank goodness for friends who encourage you to add fun to the calendar, and Karen, from The Unassuming Hiker makes sure that we do.

A couple years ago, Karen started a hiking club for women of all ages and hiking abilities, and while the group often ventures out during the week, Karen makes sure to plan a weekend hike several times yearly for those not retired.   In addition, she schedules the date for those hikes several weeks in advance so that we make sure to set aside the time.

“Buffalo Mountain is one of the most significant natural areas in Virginia.  The combination of high-elevation (3,971 feet), wind-exposed openings at the summit, and magnesium rich soils make it unlike any place else in the Commonwealth”.

Karen suggested that we arrive early knowing that it would not be long before the trail became crowded.  The image below is the parking area that morning.  By the time we left a few hours later, the place was packed with cars jockeying for position in what few parking spaces were available.

It was a gorgeous fall day and the hike to the summit, while up hill the entire way, was only a mile.   What an incredible view!

The 4 of us have hiked together before and the comraderie, the combination of silence and talk, and the excitement of being outdoors is a great fit.

Being on top of a mountain is exhilarating and I scrambled around the rocks like a child, at one point losing my lens cap over the ledge.

Beth sent me these images and I’m sharing them because they reveal the feeling of being on top of the world.

The shale and rock were beautiful and while this image doesn’t show it well, the flecks of color glittered in the sunshine.

Climate change has affected the color of the leaves this year, but the beauty remains.

All in all, a wonderful day on Buffalo Mountain.

Please visit Karen’s blog post about our day and read about the kind folks we met along the way.

A”maze”ing Channels

We knew that we’d have a great hike and incredible views when we visited The Channels Natural Area Preserve, and we even knew that there would be some interesting sandstone formations to explore.  What we didn’t know was just how very cool those formations would be.  We simply could not help ourselves and kept exclaiming out loud with every turn.  As Karen said, the place brought out the inner child in all of us.

According to several online sources, the sandstone outcroppings were formed 400 million years ago.

Geologists conclude that the Channels were likely formed while the high elevation sandstone cap was under the influence of permafrost and ice wedging during the last ice age.

 The expanding ice fractured the sandstone and water slowly spread and smoothed the breaks over millions of years.

“What is left is a labyrinth of slots and crevices through the rocks. The pathways range from 20 to nearly 40 feet deep and wind their way through damp, moss-covered walls of stone” (https://virginiatrailguide.com/2016/10/23/great-channels).

Aren’t the colors incredible?

Check out the way these tree roots are stretching for moisture,

and the ferns growing amidst the cracks in the rocks.

We laughed and exclaimed and explored and were utterly happy with the experience.

For more information about The Channels, visit the previous two posts.

Haytors Knob Fire Tower

Once a Wildland Firefigher, Always a Wildland Firefigher.

At least that’s how we feel in our hearts, and I’ve written about this in a previous post.

It’s been over 30 years since I worked a fireline, but when I saw this fire tower at the halfway point of our 6 mile hike to The Channels, I felt that old firefighter excitement deep inside.   The tower, built in 1939 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, was registered with the National Historic Lookout Registry in 2014.

According to the Registry, the tower construction materials were carried to the construction site on mules and on men’s backs.

When laying underneath, and looking up through the stairs, it truly seemed that the tower was moving against the clouds and sky.

Per the registry, the tower commands a view of over 60 miles on a clear winter day and fewer than six feet when the fog settles over the mountain.  Research did not reveal the height of the tower, but for some reason 100ft seems about right.  Oh, how I wanted to climb it but between the sign that said “No Climbing”, the lack of time, stairs (and probably the lack of muscle), I didn’t get very far.

The tower was in use from 1939 until the spring of 1970, and was the inspiration for a book called Fire Tower by Jack Kestner.  The late author wrote this adventure story in 1960 after serving as a lookout himself at the Hayters Knob fire tower.  “With this book, Jack honored the men and women of the Virginia Division of Forestry (now the Department of Forestry) who work tirelessly to protect lives and property during fire season”.

The tower itself is in much better shape than the cabin once used by the former lookouts.

As we turned to head back down the mountain, I took one last wistful look behind me.

The heart of a firefighter remains.

********

See the previous post for more about the hike to the top of The Channels.

The next post will reveal images of the sandstone formations that give The Channels it’s name.

The Channels

If you’ve visited  The Unassuming Hiker this week, you have already been introduced to The Channels, a gorgeous, 721 acre natural preserve in Southwest Virginia.  The Channels Natural Area Preserve is part of a 4,836 acre State Forest that was purchased by the Department of Forestry from The Nature Conservancy in March 2008.  The preserve name is derived from the maze-like system of sandstone crevices and boulders that occur near the 4208ft. summit of Middle Knob on Clinch mountain.

With good friends along for the ride, the 2 hour drive to the trailhead was over before we knew it.  The last 30 minutes will offer an excellent ride when next I return on the bike.  Lots of curves and twisties to thrill a bikers heart!

The 3 mile hike to the top was through a lush, green forest that offered plenty of shade on this sunny, breezy day.

Once on the top, we had views that stretched for miles!  We just could not stop exclaiming about how fortunate we were to be there.

I swear, I want to be a hawk (well, except for their diet).  I want to soar!

Even though it is only early September, the color change has begun.

We were 4 very happy women: Fresh air, exercise, incredible views, and lots of places to explore.

Big thanks to Karen for offering weekend hikes for those who can’t make it during the week.

As you might guess, I took a zillion photos.  The next post will show images of the fire tower (which, or course, I wanted to climb), and the one after that will be about the sandstone channels that, when we explored them, brought out the kid in all of us.