Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Te Araroa, first 10 days

Looking east from the lighthouse at Cape Reinga
Though it was a long journey to Cape Reinga, It went smoothly. Groceries, outdoor accessories and transportation are very much like in the states but much simpler. New Zealand has the feel of the late 80's USA to me.

Pavilion at south end of Twilight Beach

Day one I camped at a small hut at the south end of Twilight beach. A perfect little sandy beach between two stone outcroppings sheltering the very human-scale cove.

dbBrad's beach!

A better beach I've never seen. At the end of it was a brand new pavilion and two restrooms and a water catchment system. Its proximity to the outhouses was a bit disconcerting yet it appeared to be for fresh water though all the lines were buried. I had guests, 3 young men from Israel and one from Holland.

Anywhere along 90 million mile beach, NZ

About 2-3 pufferfish along every Kilometer of the beach, these funny fish would wash up and dry in the sand.
Day two I camped at a stream. All along 90 mile beach, back behind the dunes, is either forest or swamp. There are miles of flat shallow flooded land that finds it's way to sea only at intermittent breaks in the sandy dune bluffs where little streams flow clean fresh water and where plastic objects and marine debris pile up from winter storms.
One of the many creeks draining the swamp lands holding water between the beach dunes and the forests further inland.
Day 3 was hiking all day on 90 mile beach. I only did 24 klicks and was sort of bored. The wind was strong and tiring so I bushwhacked over the dunes to the forest where I found a little flat spot under a tree sheltered from wind and sun. I slept great!!

dbBrad camped right in the middle of the Te Araroa trail. Not a lot of other traffic!
Day 4 I hiked 42km and finished off 90 mile beach. Along the way I met a very cute German couple surfing who I played Frisbee with for a while and further down the beach met 4 locals hanging out and fishing.

A fish, fresh out of the water. I think it's a Mackerel

I camped at the ramp where North Ahipara meets the Tasman sea in between micro-dunes only a few blocks from fresh coffee the next morning!

Day 5 I hiked 15 km and camped up on a ridge in Herekino forest.

dbKauri tree
Day 6 hiked 27km, almost half on gravel roads and camped under a roof in Takahue but wished I have stayed across the street at the facilities being fixed up for future Te Araroa hikers, which is owned and operated by Takahue Maori Trust. I was given permission to camp there after the fact, but also received permission from a Poppy Yates for future hikers of the trail. Hopefully this facility, hikers, city slickers, the environment and the Maori culture can all benefit by smart development of the Te Araroa trail.

dbBrad in forest, New Zealand North Island somewhere around Mangamuka
Day 7 I hiked only 10km but through thick jungle. It was steep, slippery and wet from the rain, overgrown and difficult to navigate. Going was slow but at the top of a peak was a clearing the perfect size for a tent or two. At the other end were solar panels supplying power for a cell tower. Nothing but jungle in every direction, no one to talk to, but great cell reception!!

My MSR Zoid 2 tent, a new variation. Setting up the fly took about 5 minutes and was great for 2 hours while I sat out a deluge on a steep slope above a stream prone to flooding. A great opportunity to study the flow of water and the workings of a New Zealand forest.

dbBrad a bit muddy after coming out of the forest.
Day 8 traveled 30km to Mangamuka and then on up into the hills. The roads went forever and I walked on gravel for 39 km before finally getting back to single track.
A Maori owned corner (marae site) in Takahue managed by 'Takahue Mauroe Trust' A wonderful piece of property with facilities that has great potential where Te Araroa hikers, Maurie culture, and the New Zealand environment can all come together.
Day 9 camped in tall grasses after finally getting to the stream portion in Omahuta Forest. I shared the grasses with a healthy batch of millions of sand flies all of which wanted in my tent. Miniature Piranhas, they had teeth and they attacked in mass!! I was glad to get out of there and wading the next 4 hours through a stream and then a river was soothing to my feet recently stripped of their epidermis!

The trail gets quite overgrown in areas like this one making route finding and hiking more challenging.
Day 10 hiked 24km with a fellow I met on the trail. He injured his ankle and as a result we both ended up hanging out at the first aid station which was also the house of a ranger and his wife, a delightful couple who run a campground but invited us into their house for the evening. In the forest surrounding their house we heard a pair of mating Kiwi Birds calling each other. I went out walking to try to see one. The ranger's lived there for 4 years, hears them all the time and has never seen one. Kiwi birds are illusive and nocturnal and apparently seldom seen.

dbBrad infront of a big tree with lots of moss!
Day 11 hiked 22km and arrived at Keri Keri.

4 kids getting dropped off for school in Takahue.

Yesterday was day 12 and I ran errands and ordered a new camera and walked around some but trying to let blisters and achy knee rest.

dbBrad on a stick near Mangamuka

dbBrad in front of an off grid cell tower power station.

Day 13 is today and I'm off to pick up my new camera and hike to Pai Hai. I'm supposed to be there to meet two women thru hikers who started a day behind me and have caught up. We will Kayak tomorrow across a bay to resume hiking of the Te Araroa trail.

dbBrad under a log that used to be a very, very big tree.
dbBrad, Te Araroa Trail, 2011

dbBrad, stumped!

Mom, I love you

I wasn't home for Thanksgiving, but I did hand carve a giant card which thanks to blogspot doesn't need a stamp. The road pictured which I was walking along for 25km, was a fresh fix, had thousands of truckloads of gravel and road base, and was already washing out at every culvert.

FrEdLey residence, a place designed and built especially for my mom Fran and Ed.

New Zealand has water problems, whose potential solutions remind me of Fran and the years of pond work and restoration projects we've done together, of which FrEdLey, her home, is one of the best.

dbHorses where db is short for double not dbBrad
These horses aren't mules, Fran's favorite, but they warmed my heart with their cute if not brief friendship I shared with them as I walked past and they too made me think of Mom!! Mom, thanks for all the love and support while growing up, and thank you for the extra 20 years worth too!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

First day of the TeAraroa Trail

Te Araroa, the long Pathway home. This is an understatement!!  Its an amazingly long journey just to get there! Just getting to New Zealand from Seattle was a 38 hour adventure if you don't count loosing a day from crossing the international date line. But Auckland is still much further from Cape Reigna than I thought.
Cape Reinga and the Light House where Mauri spirits journey to after death.

At 8:30am I loaded a bus in Auckland that arrived in Paihai just after lunch. The drivers changed but the bus went on to arrive at Kaitai at just before 4:00pm, almost 8 hours on a bus.

Paihai pernounced 'Pie Here' at the 'bay of isles' NZ

 From there I walked across town to find a small local bus that would take me up to Pukenui, another hour's ride on bumpy twisty roads.

Jack, Quinn and dbBrad in  Norfork Pine, the most perfectly growing trees and wonderful for climbing.
On this little empty bus I met Jack, a young man with a skate board and we talked about education, New Zealand History and Soh Cah Toa (the rules of sin, cosine and tangent).  As it turns out, he was getting picked up by his mother who invited me to stay with them about 15 minutes further up the road @ Waihop and their house where I was fed, entertained and given my own place to sleep and shower in a small dwelling unit which was attached to the back of their barn.
Jack, Quinn and Ella

The family consisted of Parents Jane and Darren and 4 awesome kids, Jack, Quinn, Ella and Tai. Tai is only 2 years old, but Quinn and Jack and Ella and I climbed up a Norfok pine, perhaps the most perfect trees I've ever seen. Ella at 7 stayed on the bottom branches while the three of us climbed some 80-100 feet to the top of the tree.

The Rippingales cottage on the back of theri barn where I statyed.

Tomorrow is now today, Saturday and as soon as I finish this posting I depart for the far north. There are no buses here so I will have to hitch hike the remaining 45 km to the cape where I will finally begin my trek, almost a full week after departing Seattle. The first stretch of this five-month hike is the 90 mile beach. It's actually only about 50 miles and is said to be a very special place for the Maori as their ancestors from all over Pacific travel to this place after death.

90 mile beach which aftter walking for three days straight feels like 900 mile beach!
The weather is in the mid 60's, with scattered clouds. Sunset is at 8:11. Quite the contrast from Whidbey Island with temps in the low 40's and sunset at 4:30. NZ is 21 hours ahead of PST here on Whidbey.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

dbBrad Departs for New Zealand

After much contemplation of what to do in life, I've decided to hit the restart button. I've been contemplating what to do with my business, with the ideas in my head, with my frustration in life, and how to apply my talent for design to help others, make a difference in the world, and find happiness on a daily basis.

So I did it, I made a plan, and I'm off for what I hope will be a life changing adventure. I write now from New Zealand, from a different hemisphere and a strange computer almost a full day ahead of those reading this back in the states. It was a long flight to get here, over 35 hours between boarding at Sea-Tac and clearing customs in Auckland New Zealand--but now I'm here with 25lbs of gear, 5 months of time, and none of the distractions or stress of what will come to be my 'former life'.

As usual, both sets of my amazing parents not only are supporting my decision to shut down dbBrad for almost a year (5 months in New Zealand and then I return to begin the PCT at the end of April which will take another 5 months) and go hiking, but have pitched in and made huge sacrifices to help make it happen.

Only two weeks ago did I decide to take this trip and it's been quite a scramble to pack up all my stuff and make the arrangements to be gone for a year. Though I've taken great steps to minimize the items in my life, there are still piles of stuff remaining, from skis to pieces of BAPOW (Bad ass pieces of wood) to piles of steel to be removed in my absence. And by who you may ask?

By my amazing parents, the ones pictured herein who have been working like mad for the last two weeks to help make this happen and who all came to see me off at the airport.

So this posting is dedicated to mom and dad (Fran and Barry) and Susan and Ed, end even to Greg--for the amazing support I received in not only preparing for this trip, but during my entire life. I am truly blessed to have such an amazing set of parents and mentors in my life and I thank each and every one of you for the help and support I've never been without. But especially I want to thank Fran Abel, the best mom in the world.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sasquatch, BigFoot and ThruHikers PCT 2011

In over 30 years of hiking in the northwest, I have never seen any of the above. There is no mythical monster of the northwest forests, no run-a-muck mutated human that reached back in genetic history for some neanderthal sized feet and certainly no one hikes 2800 miles first light to dark, day in and day out for 5 months in a row.

Sasquatch, compliments of Google Image Search
So this summer 2011 I hiked south on the Pacific Coast Trail. I saw a family here an odd ball hiker there, and a few who had minimal packs going quite a ways, maybe 150 miles or so, but no TTH'rs (TrueThruHikers) doing the mythical adventure from Mexico to Canada. Five months with a sub 20lb pack, eating sticks and leaves. Two weeks into my trip I was convinced that thru hikers belonged in the same category as Sasquatch and Big foot.

A family of 4 who just did a 12 mile day on the PCT.
Then one wet evening just prior to dusk, tromping through thick brush wondering if I'd ever dry out and see the sun again, I hear a noise---and from around a corner came Annie. This is where it all changed for me.

Annie looked so wet I felt dry by comparison and we took 15 minutes to chat, gnaw on some real Jerky from Roslyn, and discuss philosophies. As it turns out, she started in Mexico, had almost no gear she wasn't wearing, and was hiking all the way to Canada. A TrueThruHiker!

No Double Cheese Burgers on the PCT, but a nice shot of BigFoot.
And then she told me her story and I listened. She told me about hiking the Appalachian Trail two years ago, about throwing all her stuff in a dumpster and pledging to never hike again. With a smile as wide as a river she looked at me and told me she hated hiking. A perfect statement for a mythical entity.

Annie didn't give me the Flu, but changed my perception of light weight hiking forever!
I asked her, what then was she doing here hiking. Again she stated "I hate hiking, but I love the people." The random acts of kindness, the story's, the determination.

It's kind of like seeing a trillium in a Northwest Forest. You can hike for years and never see one, if you're not looking. But as soon as you know what they are, you'll see them everywhere.

Not Annie, BigFoot or a Sasquatch, but definately a TrueThruHiker!
It's also a bit like catching the flu, because it's contageous. I've retooled my camping gear attracted to the notion of being able to do 25 miles in a day or 175 miles in a week with a lighter backpack. And so delighted with the idea of simple trail life, I'm leaving for NewZealand Monday Nov. 12th, 2011 to hike the Te Araroa trail, coming back in April 2012 in time to start the PCT.

Such is how TTH's was for me, like a Trillium bloom in the woods and the Flu. After I saw my first, Annie, they seemed to be everywhere and it's definitely contagious!

Mythical thru hikers in early morning light moving so fast I almost missed them!
Always remembering her statement about loving the people I started paying more attention to the hikers than the scenery. I had already taken 2000 pictures of mountains and rivers that all look the same on a flat screen, but the people really started to catch my eye and so I began photographing them.

Not True Thru hikers but Sassy and BlisterBetty had great spirit and are hiking the PCT in 20 years, WA only!

I would say hello, ask for their trail name and if I could take a picture and they would look at me like what for, but pose for the shot anyhow. After talking and seeing that I was keeping a journal of the thru hikers, they became more interested, wondering who was in front of them, who I'd seen, who they were with and how far ahead were they.

dbBrad on the PCT 2011
It's taken me quite a while to sort thru all the pictures of my trip, let alone get all the Thru Hikers in one file, labeled and ready to post, but here they are in order of how I saw them.

True Thru hikers (Only those going the entire way) of the PCT, 2011.


Drop Dead quotes "see the beauty you want to see"

CaddyShack quotes "I don't give a fuck, I'm just hiking"

Ninja and RoadRunner waiting for Rock-n-Roll at Snoqualmie Pass

MIJ stands for Made In Japan!

Annie wonderful Annie quotes "I hate hiking", but with a huge smile!

Mr Fox, RockLocks and Garfunkel, soaking wet with big smiles!

Gangster Rap foreground and Hon Solo

Zim and Goodness, two very positive thinkers.

Sea Horse (had a plastic one on her backpack) and Chilly Dog (had an encounter with a hot dog early on in the trip)

Boots (wearing boots when everyone else has shoes) and dbBrad smoking on the PCT!

Bubbles (self explanatory)

Pepe (started with a sombrero) and Bubbles

Marmot (only vertebrae that actually hibernates, lowering body temperature to within 4 degrees of den temperature, but still no one can tell me what the fat little buggers eat) and Rue, an inspirational couple.

Stag (how he roles) and 12oz. (shotgunning beers at kickoff party)

Free range Amilia. Never even slowed down to pose for a picture, truly full of determination.

Burning Calves from Germany (self explanatory)

Jerry and Cheryl from Redmond WA (Cheryl is 67 years old)

Diversity (demographic implications of the PCT), Rocky and Dr. Cronies (after the underwear?!) after hiking 33miles on a very wet day.

Hike-a-holic and Diversity

Dr. Cronies, Diversity and Rocky just 11 hours after arriving wet and hungry, depart in the early AM for yet another day.

Silent Joe didn't say much. A programmer from CA in a life/career transition.

KillRoy left little drawings along the trail. I have an origional in my sketchbook!!

Chilly Willy was always cold.

I didn't get their names, but they came in after dark and were the first ones out in the AM.

Didn't catch the name.

Quake and Holden

Unload - definitively not afraid of the camera! (Had too much stuff to begin the trip with thus he had to 'unload')

Hot rod, Battler, Flash and Broken record. I only know the story of Flash who never wandered far for a pee and Broken record who apparently repeated himself often.

Happy Whale, though I think his name should have been Rock Star!

Crasher, another inspirational hiker like Annie, was very knowledgeable about thru hiking and gear. She told me of this trail called the Te Araroa in New Zealand. I looked it up when I got back and now in less than a week, I'm off to hike the entire Te Araroa across both islands of New Zealand returning in time to do the PCT from Mexico to Canada. Thanks Annie and Crasher--dbBrad

No name available

No name available

Webster (has wet feet) and Master Bates, a rough last name to have!

Anthony and Dustin taking an early AM break in the sun which had been hiding behind rain clouds for about 3 days previous. You can tell portions of the trail see few hikers by how likely some one is to plunk down in the middle of it for half an hour and grab a bite! I love it.

Fly Bye aka. Chris DeSantis, retired from a Honda dealer in CA at 30 and is hiking for the next few years. Chris, see you on the Te Araroa--dbBrad.

7-11. The seventh of 11 kids who's parents were recently deceased, caries the 11 roses from the Funeral all the way across the United States

Tickette (got a tick early on) and Radio (said he had a face for radio!)

These two came in about 8pm one night during my dads visit. I never new what they looked like until I saw this picture--a great looking couple!

No name but very knowledgeable, kind and gentle.

Podd? and Gnarr?

No name, but just picked up these new boots two days previous.

Gnarly (kinda self explanatory)

Wandering Dot, probably named after her pupils!

Mike, a friendly chatty engineer we had to peel ourselves away from I think he was relating to my dad, also and engineer, after being surrounded by idealistic youth for the last 2400 miles!

Dan-a-sour? and Been There?

Story Time?

Triangles? When asked what he was thinking about on the trail one day, he said triangles. Those explaining it though this was odd but I insisted that if you're navigating, what else would you think about?

Honey Bee had a flower on her pack. The dog was Skeatter but because the woman on the right was Tails (hair braids), the dog was going by Heads (also always up front), hence heads and tales!

Topsey Turvey

Yardsale from Mexico, really from Mexico and Half Step, about 5'2"tall and mother of Ramblin'Rose.

Half man, Half Biscuit (apparently eats quite a lot)

Ramblin' Rose after the Greatful Dead song and Soft Walker (tried to traverse the desert barefoot)

Noodles Romanoff and Rock Fish, the last two thru hikers I saw going into Goat Rocks.