Friday, March 30, 2012

MSR post holder, perfect for that high mountain meal!

High above Lake Hawea on BrE hill is the perfect spot to have lunch.

dbBrad proud of his MSR Reactor pot holder.

A close up of the MSR Reactor, MSR spoon and dbMSR pot holder!!

MSR and Mt. Aspiring (just to the right of the spoon, background) two things that go great together.

Lake Ohau to East Ahuriru river (Days 128-129m 32k)

The section between Lake Ohau starts at the Glen Mary Ski Club, a little shack vacant in the summer and probably bustling with the sound of kids and ski boots all winter. It was one of my favorite days so far with a selection of tracks (roads, trails, freestyle cross country) and terrains (forest, stream, high alpine, rocky slopes, river valley) that well sumarizes everything I've experienced along the Te Araroa.

TeAraroa Trail, easy walking for about 3 meters then a bit tougher. Apparently DoC hasn't been up this track since the last big storm! All in all though the trails on the South Island have been better marked and maintained than the trails on the North Island.
Running parallel to the lake are some mountain bike tracks and DoC has actually installed a new trail head for FreeHold creek just north of the GMS club but the TeAraroa notes said start here so I did.

A big mossy rock for my mom (sorry, I can't bring this one home) and my little MSR Zoid tent in the background.
After a couple k on 4x4 tracks linking the lake road to the base of the mountains, the trail follows Freehold creek all the way up to where there are 4 waterfalls within .5k of one another as streams all converge to become the creek.
It was snowing last night after leaving Lake Ohau and the lodge, again. Pretty chilly in the morning so I made breakfast in bed!
The forest, mostly beech, and the stream with rounded boulders all spilling water into the next pool, moss everywhere, and the filtered light, reminded me more of the forests in the pacific northwest (home) than anything yet.

So the panoramic feature needs some work on my Olympus camera (so does the battery which is totally lame) but you get the picture none the less (no pun intended). Open tussocks above tree line with rocky peaks, rivers and snowy mountains behind.
I got a late start since I hung out at Ohau Lodge for a bit in the morning but was making good progress until the weather went from sunny to snowing in about 20 minutes. Unsure of the climb ahead I took refuge in the forest for the evening. It only snowed for about half an hour then cleared up making for a very cold night.
dbBrad loves the high alpine, especially along the Te Araroa Trail.
However, the next day going up and over a fairly high saddle with spectacular views and then descending to the Ahuriri river, doing a daunting solo crossing and up a bluff I wouldn't have climbed if poles weren't telling me to, to Birchwood car park, was beautiful.

Graffiti or helpful, dbBrad leaves a little TeAraroa marker at an un-marked and un-obvioius junction.
The Birchwood car park is essentially in the middle of farm land accessed by a dirt road. Next to it is a game park of some sort and full of red deer. All males, all at least 10 points, with one scrawny albino.

dbBrad crossing the Ahuriri River at the end of the East Ahuriri Track, part of the Te Araroa Trail.
Hunting season has just opened for what they call the rut, where the females go into heat and the males start bugling and bashing antlers and doing male things.

Ahuriri River valley along the Te Araroa Trail.

I camped at a small stream right next to this reserve and the deer where quite entertaining. Besides their territorial combat sessions, they have a bugle which sounds like a cross between an elk and a cow. I fell asleep with the notion that a huge trophy deer was outside my tent wondering how his antlers would fair against the nylon fly of my tent!

One of the proud deer wondering if I'm friend or foe.

Otago, Breast Hill track to Hawea/Wanaka

Canyons and mountains, two things you'll see lots of in New Zealand

dbBrad crossing the Ahuriri River, the widest, deepest and fastest river on the Te Araroa (during normal flows)

Ahuriri River valley, high above the river itself.

Big trophy deer in a reserve at head of Birchwood carpark, beginning of East Ahuriri Track

Snow again, in summer, along the Te Araroa Trail

An orange marker in the landscape, the only thing that lets me know I'm on the right track, maybe! A DoC track for sure, but is it the Te Araroa Trail I desire to be on?

DoC marker along the Te Araroa Trail. How many does it take to be a well marked trail and when are there too many and it becomes visual pollution infringing on the solitude of nature? Does it matter if the landscape isn't native? Questions one asks when deliberating markings on a trail: when is it helpful and when does it becomes graffiti?

Mt. Martha Saddle, amazing terrain and a bulldozer track too!

dbBrad heading over Mt. Martha Saddle on the Te Araroa Trail

The four hunters who fed me venison and goat, of some sort, shared their beer, let me soak my cold hands in their warm water (while I did the dishes) and then fed me bacon and eggs in the morning too. 4 awesome guys I wasn't expecting to find along the Te Araroa Trail who are as much a part of my adventure in NZ as any one of the Te Araroa tracks.

dbRock'n view along Breast Hills Track, NZ

Same track only a few K later with a totally different view!

dbDork on the Te Araroa Trail, Breast Hill track

Beautiful views from BrE Hill Track along the Breast River track of the Te Araroa
I love my MSR Reactor purchased from Wander on Whidbey and the pot holder DoC installed at the top of BrE Hill. Now when is MSR going to give me a job?

Damn Great Hut, built for mice and men!

dbBrad ascending up the Breast Hill Track
Coming up this beautiful valley, with spectacular weather, it's hard to believe it will be frozen and covered with snow for several months this winter.
Tin hut, a NLMIS (nasty little mouse infested shelter) where one can truly ponder the meaning of life.
As I rounded a bend in the early morning I saw a red outhouse up on the hill. A sure sign a hut was near by.

The view from the NLMIS is amazing
One cannot pass a hut and not at least have a look inside. When I opened the door I saw what I really wanted to see after over 100 days of tramping -- a comfy chair.

The chair, perhaps the most famous chair, perhaps the only chair, along the Te Araroa Trail.
Not a stool, not a bench, not a piece of firewood to perch myself on, but a chair, with upholstery and arm rests, and damn comfortable to boot.

The Tin Hut, a very cute NLRIS!
The hut, called the Tin Hut, was a nasty little rodent infested shelter I'm betting they wouldn't use in a third world country, but the chair was awesome and when one sat down, the view through the little 5' tall doorway that was not even 24" wide, was spectacular.

In this photo it looks more like the mouse house that it is!

I stayed for an hour writing in my journal and admiring the view and contemplating what it means to have some time and a place to sit. Rest time, comfort, relaxation and appreciation all take on different meanings on the Te Araroa Trail.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hydro power on a damn small scale!

dbBrad takes a day off and has a damn (pun intended) good time at Lake Ohau Lodge's sustainable resort.

dbBrad demonstrating the Coanda effect (water being drawn up my fingers) as well as showing the amount of water that flows over this ingenuous little intake for a small hydro electric system.
Just a kilometer or so north of the Te Araroa Trail, where it heads south into the mountains leaving Lake Ohau is the Ohau lodge. An amazing place with spectacular views and wonderful food. At breakfast the following morning I had the pleasure of meeting the owners, Louise and Mike. They told me a storm was coming which would deliver up to 16cm of water, about 7 inches. That is a lot of water! Concerned about my trip into the mountains they offered me accommodation for another night despite the fact that the entire facility was booked for a wedding.
330' above the mechanical room is the intake for the hydro electric system.  A small concrete wall directs water over the ingenious grill (top left) and into the 10" steel pipe which has the grating to the old 'storm drain' style intake welded on top for access. 
In talking with Mike further, I found out that the entire lodge is powered by renewable energy--a mini hydro-electric system. My interest was now at a peak. Mike offered me a key for the machine room and showed me the direction to travel up the hill so I could see more. 

dbBrad looking at the new hydro-electric turbine and electric generator in the old diesel generator bunker.
I headed up the hill following a stream to the intake for the mini hydro generator (97 meters vertical rise) which followed a 10" pipe 330' long running from the stream down to the turbine/generator. One of the problems with intakes can be flooding which washes debris, rocks and silt down the stream and can clog the intake stopping the flow of water. Besides reducing water flow and thus power generation debris, low water flow, and dirty silty water can all damage the turbine.

Old diesel generator room which easily houses the small hydro-electric system which powers the Ohau Lodge.
This simple intake works on the Coanda principle, a phenomena similar to the Venturi effect. It is ingenious in it's simplicity and fascinating in the amount of water that can be drawn into the small grill. At the top of the intake, the water is over an inch thick and in less that 30" all the water is literally sucked into the intake providing clean water and simultaneously allowing debris to be washed over and down into the creek rather than be piled up against a grill as in the 'storm drain effect' where sticks and plants restrict the flow of water.
One of the more attractive large damns but still very questionable environmentally.
All in all, the system has minimal impact, diverts less than half the stream water (at lowest flow) involved no digger(NZ technical term for excavator) in the stream and just a little bit of concrete for a diverter. The water returns to the stream virtually unchanged (temperature, saturated oxygen content, cleanliness) some 300 feet later and it's mostly an invisible system. Great way to go in my mind since I come from the Pacific Northwest which has hundreds of large damns that are silting up, have literally destroyed Salmon runs, covered millions of acres of habitat and will someday need to be replaced. Although occasionally beautiful in their magnificence, the big dams of the world are environmental blunders.

China's 3 gorges dam with no questions about it's environmental impacts. Just one big ugly mess though it does produce over 3 times the power of Washington State's largest dam, Grand Coulee.

For more on Hydro Electric issues, go to Mr. Greenguy

Friday, March 23, 2012

Lake Ohau Lodge, a most pleasant find.

Lake Ohau staff will greet you with open arms.
When you arrive at Lake Ohau, you will find a tar road which heads north up the south-east side of the lake but you won't see any cars or people. It's enough off the highway that nobody knows about it.

Lake Ohau along the Te Araroa trail
If you drive, or in this case (Te Araroa freestyle-about 1.7k beyond the start of the East Ahuriri track heading south on the Te Araroa Trail) walk up the road, you will get to a lodge by the snow fields ski resort called Lake Ohau Lodge which is in the Ohau Alpine Region of North Otago and you will be in for a very unexpected treat.

Lake Ohau with mountains behind looking northish. On cloudless days one can see Mt. Cook from the deck of the Lake Ohau Lodge.
Though most guests won't see one of the friendly staff standing on a table, they will see the amazing views in every direction and feel the tranquility and a level of relaxation settle over them.
Lake Ohau Lodge as seen from main lodge balcony, looking eastish
Don't expect any budget accommodations, but do look forward to beautiful rooms; friendly people; views from every room in every direction; a lake which I personally can't stop looking at, surrounded by mountains that are golden and inviting in the summer, and frozen steep and scary in the winter; awesome food; a full service restaurant; and a chance to let the worries of life wither away.

Lake Ohau, New Zealand South Island, along the Te Araroa Trail
And even a 'greenie' like me can take comfort in the fact that the buildings are architectural and built to high standards, solid and well insulated. That water is well managed and employees well cared for. The lodge's power is generated by an on site hydroelectric system and, in general, the entire operation is very sustainable. The lodge is operated by a great family in a wonderful setting. The food, is probably all organic too, and delicious.

Lake Ohau Lodge, as sustainable as a lodge and ski resort can be.
All in all, the Lake Ohau Lodge rates as my number one stop in New Zealand since beginning my trip along the Te Araroa trail, over 2000km north at Cape Reinga.

Regarding Lake Ohau, dbBrad and the Te Araroa trail: My first night was a bit of a luxury, just off the trail where I hike about 25k per day. During the wonder breakfast I enjoyed in the morning I met Louise and Mike, the owners. Wonderful people. They were concerned about me heading into the mountains with a storm approaching. A storm predicted to deliver about 18cm of rain.

Snow again, for the third time this summer along the Te Araroa trail.
Though they had the place booked for a wedding, they found a room for me for the second night, let me hang out for the day, fed me and even invited me into their home for dinner. The storm wasn't as bad as I thought but it did rain like mad last night and upon waking, there was snow on the hills which I would have camped in last night. So much prettier to look at snow from a warm lodge, drinking coffee, than from a cold tent wondering what the heck was I doing here. Thank you so much to Mike, Louise and the Lake Ohau Lodge.

Beautiful deck and tables at Lake Ohau Lodge with the sunrise and fresh snow on the mountains.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Two Thumbs up all the way to Tekapo

Along the Te Araroa (Two Thumbs Track) are some awesome views,
this one with Mt. Cook visible, if you know where to look!
During the last (Days 117-125 dbBrad Te Araroa hiker) 8 days I've hiked approx. 150k of some of the most amazing terrain since I began the Te Araroa trail. Stunning scenery that rivals the Cascades of Western Washington State, my stomping grounds.

This is the type of terrain you'll be hiking through/across on the south island of New Zealand if you hike the Te Araroa trail.
The trail has been non existent. Markers occasionally tell you which direction to travel but how you get there, which rocks you trip over, which type of bush or grass you choose to scar your calves with, and where and when you cross rivers and streams is all up to the hiker.

Richard preparing for the "grass slalom", a Te Araroa freestyle event soon be in the Olympics.

The going is slow, steep, hard and sometimes a bit frustrating, but the scenery is just kick ass.

Richard Wagner along the Te Araroa trail.
In New Zealand, a country of roughly 4 million people, less than 100th the population of the states, there just aren't enough hikers and taxes to make improved trails all along the way.

dbBrad's beloved MSR Zoid II with Richard's Sierra Design tent behind.

Beautiful New Zealand on the South Island along the Te
Araroa Trail

dbBrad and Richard on top of Mount Sunday. Since it was Sunday, you could say we mounted Mt. Sunday Sunday!! Also happens to be Rohan from the movie 'Lord of the Rings'

Richard W and dbBrad crossing the Rangitata

Richard, TA hiker in one of the massive river beds.

dbBrad on the steeps along the Te Araroa Trail.

Richard Wagner's silhouette in the high alpine after a recent summer snow along the Te Araroa trail.

dbBrad and Richard along the Te Araroa Trail, the trail that isn't a trail!

Just another day with wet feet on the Te Araroa Trail.

A DoC marker denoting direction of travel along the Te Araroa Trail.

In March it can snow along the Te Araroa trail in New Zealand when it's summer.

Ludo and Flore enjoy the last light of the day on what will be another chilly night along the Te Araroa Trail.

This is what you walk across when you tramp the Te Araroa Trail.

Ludo and Flore, Te Araroa Trail mid summer and yes, that's snow.

Decending down a snow field in mid summer along the Te Araroa Trail, South Island, New Zealand. Photo by dbBrad of Ludo and Flore. Tramping all seasons, all the time.

Flore along the Te Araroa Trail.

Flore, Ludo and dbBrad along the Te Araroa trail on the South Island of New Zealand.

New Zealand, South Island as viewed from the Te Araroa trail.

"Fludo" crossing a river, part of the Te Araroa Trail.

Tramping the Te Araroa Trail, Fludo.

The beauty in New Zealand along the Te Araroa Trail is endless.

Ludo on the steeps ascending up towards Spur

I suspect that's why they call hiking 'tramping' here in NZ. You are not hiking along a trail, you're tramping across the wilderness. You're stepping on grasses, kicking off ancient lichens, rolling your ankle on loose rocks and stepping in fragile wetlands--generally trampeling the countryside--hence, TRAMPING