Monday, August 27, 2012

A small taste of the North.

W2K Trail head.
We are both of the opinion that you can't not see and experience everything.  If we stopped at everything, I would still be in the Auckland area.  The following is from my recollection which is filled with my own internal commentary and does not reflect those who happen to travel with me.

Our first day together was a lot of traveling around.  I left the hostel at just before 6 am to pick-up Skog whose flight was due to arrive at 5:45am.  I was well rested as I got to sleep early in the evening knowing that the next day was going to be a long one.  I made good time down to the airport and as luck would have it, I was greeted by a familiar face once I got to the International Arrival gateway.  I was in the airport for less than a minute and he comes strolling out.  We quickly make it back to the car where, I don’t have to pay any fee as I was parked for less than 10 minutes.  Talk about an auspicious start to what has already been a gnarly adventure.
Can't go here without bumping into someone I know.

We quickly departed Auckland along Hw1 towards Hamilton.  We pulled over for some pie action as the same rest stop that Beth and I were at on Wed and Beth and her parents were at back in July.  I didn’t realize it when I was pulling in, only after I was starting to park.  I also introduced him to L&P here and Ginger Beer a little while later.  I think I created a fiend.  Our first destination was to go to my hometown of Tauranga/Mt Maunganui.  I had to drop off a few things and pick-up some stuff as well.  We stopped by Macpac for a wool t-shirt.  Then we proceeded to walk up Mauao where we bumped into Elaine and Faye.  Just before this, I was commenting how I couldn’t go to there without seeing someone I knew.  This time proved the same.  We also ate Copenhagen Cones with Hokey Pokey Ice Cream for dessert.  For lunch we had grub from the local Fish ‘n Chips.  Much to my surprise and luckily Beth is already gone so she can’t enjoy this carnal creation of fried fistful of awesome, also known as the Moro bar.  We walked around the Mount and I showed him my new digs and the beach.

After all that we loaded up the car and drove down to Taupo via Rotorua.  We were going to make a detour to Hell’s Gate, but it was a paid thermal park and we weren’t down for that.  The trip to Taupo wasn’t very remarkable to me other than I was driving.  I haven’t driven since last April and never before have I driven on the left hand side nor on the right hand side of a vehicle.  It is not that difficult, but some things take some getting used to like the blinkers and the beeping while in reverse.  We got in and made a few calls around for a place to stay.  We ended up staying at Taupo Urban Retreat, a place that Beth and I had stayed at in the past.  I set about the task of finding bikes for the 42nd Traverse.  It ended up being a bust as the one company that is supposed to do the bike hire and the pick-up/drop-off is no longer doing it in the winter as the cold and the trail is too hard on the bikes.  I ride in MN during the winter occasionally and the cold doesn’t affect my ride, the chemicals for the ice does.  I ended up calling another company located out in Ohakune and was pointed to doing some local rides in Taupo as it wouldn’t be cost effective for us to get out on the 42nd as they would have to charge a lot for that service.  She also agreed that the guy was full of BS.  I figured it was just people screwing around on rental bikes and treating them badly.  We ended up taking her recommendation and the recommendation of Sarah from work and doing the W2K trail. 
My faithful steed

So on Saturday morning we wandered over to Avanti in Taupo and rented bikes.  We were entrusted with our 26in steeds for the day.  I made a comment that the owner must hear all the time about the $250 bond.  We also got directions to the start of the trail as I had no idea where I was going.  The start was in the town of Kinlock just west of Taupo.  The trail itself was approximately 14km with an optional 9.6km loop.  We assembled the bikes and donned our gear to set out for what was to be a pretty stellar ride.  We had a little trouble finding the start of the ride as the initial sign was very small.  However, once we got on the trail we quickly left the city behind us and started a sweat inducing series of switchbacks that quickly increased our elevation and heart-rate.  
We got awesome helmets.

We ascended for probably 40 minutes to an hour and were greeted to an impressive outlook over Lake Taupo and the town of Kinlock.  We would stop from time to time to take photographs and to grab a sip of water.  We only encountered a few people the entire afternoon, a couple walkers, and a family of 3 out biking.  We basically had the run of the trail, but had to be cautious as it is a combined trail meant for walkers and bikers going in either direction.  The day was filled with ups and downs.  Skog had some issues with his legs and walked the bike up a few hills.  We both were getting into the groove and I made the comment about it and was quickly dumped from my bike as it slides out from underneath me.  I felt fine, but evidently I bruised my knee as it pained me on Sunday morning.  As our time with the rentals was nearing, we decided to turn back after doing the Kinlock entry and the Headland Loop.  If we would have gone to the other side it would have been another 15k and we wouldn’t have been able to return the bikes on time.  I was fine with turning around and so was Skog.  The great thing about turning back here was that it was all down-hill and we got to bomb the descent.  I was pumping over the bumps and pedaling on the flats.  I was feeling much more confident that when I went to the Redwoods with Tim.  I’m looking at getting my own Mtb over here so I can continue riding the variety of terrain.
Our hovel for a couple nights.
Saturday Night was our 2nd night at Taupo Urban Retreat and we were in for a treat.  The All Blacks were playing Australia in rugby and there was some local Navy boys cheering on the AB.  They were decked out with sombreros and fake mustaches.  It was quite the sight.  I had a brief conversation with Beth and she talked about her recent driving experience at the Great Barrier Reef.  This just means that I have to spend some more money and get SCUBA certified before leaving the Mount.  There is a place that does certifications and I’ll be able to drive while on my biking trip.
Can you see Taupo behind me?
Sunday was packed with 2 hikes and a fair bit of driving.  We started in Taupo and headed east on Hw5 and turned off shortly after Hw1 and did the Mt Tauhara hike that starts, much like many other hikes I have been on, on a farmer’s property.  We walked through his pasture to a white fence post in the middle of nowhere and kept following them until we reached a couple of water tanks.  It was here that we entered the tree line and the “real” trek started.  We almost had the trail to ourselves, but a young couple pulled up right after us.  We walked through a dense forest to the 1,088 m summit where we were going to be provided with magnificent views of Lake Taupo and the city of Taupo.  However, the cloud cover or fog blocked all of our views and kept barraging us with a windchill that forced our time at the top to be cut short.  As it was, we explored the ridge line for about an hour.  As we were exiting the woods to start our walk through the pasture, we encountered several other trekkers and they were keen to ask about the track and the visibility.  I quickly relayed the following information.  It was about 2.5km to the summit and it took us under an hour each to get there and back.  The visibility at the top wasn’t allowing us the magnificent views we were expecting.  However, the walk itself is very pleasant.
Robo is this the path down?

After that we jumped in the car and drove north along Hw1 as we were headed to Te Aroha, which coincidentally is not all that far from where I am living except for the Kaimai Mountain Range between us.  We ate at a really good place called Ron’s Roast and then made our intentions known about staying at the local YHA ran by Dannie and Helen Young.  The hostel is interesting as they don't have any staff on site.  You are greeted with a sign saying claimed rooms will have a sign on them.  So we made up the beds that we choose to sleep in that night.  I thought it was common practice to make the bed you wished to use for the evening as they are typically unmade in the dorms.  If the bed is already made, then either take the towel on it or place an article (book,etc) on the bed.  Evidently coming into a room and seeing 2 out of 4 beds made up means that they are all free and that you can pick one of the made up beds.  Yes this happened to Skog.  Evidently while we were out seeing the Wairere Waterfall another person decided to “claim” a bed that we had already claimed by making it up.  There was a brief discussion and Skog was the bigger man and took the double bed instead of the bunk below me.  Interestingly enough the guy had stayed there the week before and would be in my mind be classified as a nutter.  He was getting his classical music fix and I told him I played the classical on my violin for many years and he quickly retorted that he didn't like the strings.  Um, so what kind of classical does he listen to?  I don't know but the stuff on the record player happened to be mainly piano.  We got into a debate if a piano was a stringed instrument and I said no.
These times are not indicative of our times

Te Aroha local art
The home of Hobbiton, Matamata.
The Wairere Falls walk could be described as an ankle breaker as there are plenty of spots where one could easily roll their ankle.  The rocks are slick from all the moisture and the rocks are not always positioned in a flat step like fashion.  However, much of the walk has been well planned and executed.  There are log stairs and processed wood bridges and steps.  There are also natural material switchbacks.  All of these lead to a couple spectacular views.  The first is the lower viewing point of the falls where you can see the entire waterfall from a short distance off.  The second view is at the summit and its right next to the falls.  You can see the water running over the edge and can feel the water sprinkles.  The views up here are stunning as you can see a good way out in the distance.  One of the nearest cities, Matamata, is the home of Hobbiton.  We stopped at their I-Site to ask for directions and we ended up with pictures of Gollum and a Hobbiton sign.  Also a lot of the shops had signs in the LOTR font.  I wonder how much tourism has increased because of the films and how much the new Hobbit Trilogy will impact that number as well.  Despite my nerdiness, it wasn’t a factor in the decision to move here.  It was all the outdoor activities one can do.  As Skog and I drive around the North Island, we are constantly shown signs about a reserve this way or a park over here.  Talking to the hostel owner in Te Aroha, who has been here for over 30 years, he hasn’t done a lot of things in his own backyard of the Kaimai.  
Fuel for Wairere Falls, Lamb Roast

This brings up a conversation I had with Skog about not experiencing all that MN has to offer.  I would like to do the Superior Trail, Boundary Waters Canoe Trip, bike the Iron Range, to visiting Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.  I wonder if I could get a job promoting MN Tourism and enticing other local residents to enjoy what our great state has to offer instead of vacationing elsewhere.  I know that I do love traveling and experiencing foreign things, but I have a great backyard that I haven’t fully experienced myself yet I keep running away every chance I get.  Maybe I should create a list of things to do locally before I collect another stamp in my passport. 
The 2 falls of Wairere Falls.

Dannie and I had some good conversations as he is a Canadian living in New Zealand for the last 30+ years.  His side gig is running the hostel with his Kiwi wife.  We had a good chuckle about insulation and double paned glass and the lack of both here.  We also talked about the many tracks to do in the Kaimai and about my upcoming cycling adventure.  One of the cool things about Te Aroha is that they have a Rail Trail going through the town.  If you have never experienced one of these, they are a fairly easy ride over crushed rock and are fairly straight with little drastic elevation change. I've done the Glacial Drumlin Trail in WI several times.  He also recommended that we drive an alternative way back to Auckland that had us go through the Hunua Ranges Regional Park around the Firth of Thames.  I believe I found a road that will get me to the Coromandel Peninsula without having to get on the major highways.

We are back at the Skyway Lodge not to be confused with the Skyway Lounge.  We have an early morning flight over to Australia where we'll be looking to go out to the Blue Mountains for some fun and a gorging at Nishiki.  If this is like the all-they-will-serve-us we had in Hakuba Japan last year, we'll be impacting their bottom line for the night.  Well its time to grab some dinner and think about catching some sleep as we have to leave for the airport at 3:45am.  Small price to pay for an international flight I guess.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Evening under the stars

My place under the stars

In order to get prepared for my bike adventure, I thought it would be a great idea to go out and do some solo camping after I dropped Beth off for her trip to Australia.  Which it sounds like she is having a blast.  She is trying not to get eaten by crocs and diving with the fishes.  It all started at the Auckland airport.  I got behind the of the Nissan Wingroad and tried to find Highway 1.  My intentions were to drive a couple hours North until I started to get tired and then do some wild camping.
Just about to my camping spot for the evening

Those were my intentions.  I did not find Highway 1, instead I ended up on Highway 20 for a bit and it ended.  Then I drove on some residential streets for a bit before I pulled up GPS on my phone.  Thanks 2 Degrees for bumping up your data plan to 600mb until Jan 31st.  I might hit that limit in 2 weeks.  I should state that we are using the $19 data plan by 2 Degrees and for the most part is suits us just fine.  I just happen to use a bit more data than the typical kiwi.  Why because I have a smart phone and like to think I'm important.  Anyway, I find out that I'm not too far from Highway 20 which meets up with Highway 1 90km North of Auckland.  I think to myself "What would Jack Burton Do?" and say what the hell.  Its supposed to be an adventure.

I'm cruising through the rural towns at about 85-90 kph, which is below the 100kph limit, but these roads are twisty and I feel like the car is shaking.  I don't mind driving slower, but some people behind me are pissed as they come speeding past after riding my bumper for minutes.  I see a lot of cool little things here and there and I stop at a reserve for a quick run around.  There are chickens to greet me and a series of 4 water falls, the biggest being about 2 meters.  I was looking for a place to camp even though the sign said no camping.  I opted to continue looking as the entire reserve was a soggy mess.
Beginning of the trail

I continued down the road until I saw a sign for the Mt Auckland Walkway and turned off down a gravel road.  I was going fairly slow and looking at the scenery.  I pulled over to take some photos when a car pulled up next to me.  I was a little taken back by this as it was a pretty deserted place.   How long had this guy been following me?  He asked if I was looking for someone in particular and I said I was looking to take some pictures.  He asked where I was from and I told him.  He also said that there was some good vantage points up the road about 2km by an old barn.  It happens to be the beginning of the walk as well.  It was at this point I saw the side of his car said "Auckland Regional Council".  I ask about camping and I can do it at the beginning of the trail as well.  Cool, I think I'm sorted for the evening.  We part ways and I continue down the road after snapping a few photos.  I should mention that Beth has our camera and I'm shooting with my phone.

I wonder up a steep patch after climbing a set of three steps over the fence.  Since the walkway goes across private land, there are some times a set of stairs to get on to the property so you don't have to worry about keeping the fence in the same state (open/closed) nor have a key if it is locked.  Once I get to the top there is a vault toilet and a run down barn and a head of cattle.  The ground is riddled with crap and puddles of water and the ground is soggy.  I find a small hill behind some bigger brush to set up camp as it is not very wet and hidden from view.  I unroll my bivy bag and put my sleeping bag inside of it.  I then take off my shoes and put my water-proof pants on top of them.  I put my spare clothes in my dry sack for a pillow.  I then slip into my sleeping bag and stare up into the star filled sky.

Let me explain the bivy bag for those asking themselves, what is this guy talking about?  To put it simply, its like a tent, but meant for one person and they come in a lot of different varieties.  Some have frames that keep the water-proof fabric off your face.  Some come with mosquito netting to keep the critters off your face when you don't have the bivy in water-protection mode.  Mine has neither.  It is military surplus and cost about $30.  I can only envision it to be like a body bag.  Its approximately 2m by .5m and zips 90% shut then buttons around your head so you might be able to get some circulation inside.  Why choose a bivy bag?  I wanted something not overly bulky and light as I'll have to drag it around for 6 months and wanted something easy to set up after riding all day. 
Atiu Regional Park Outlook

As I gaze up into the sky, I realized that this wasn't my first time solo camping.  A few years back while helping my friend Mary with her cabin, I camped next to a root beer colored stream for the weekend.  I was eaten alive by mosquitoes and got really hot while putting insulation in the cabin's attic.  This was however, my first time with this new and untried setup.  What did I learn?  I could feel the cold seeping in from the ground.  So use a sleeping pad.  I have multiple pads in the US.  Just not here.  I have to figure out the air circulation as I know that while I slept a large amount of condensation formed on the inside and I would occasionally get a cold wet gore-tex slap to the face.  I will have to figure out a way to rig up some netting as I'm not going to need the body bag look every night.  I also don't want to get eaten by mosquitoes or let in snakes or spiders while in Australia.  So do I forgo the bivy and use a single or even 2 person tent and suck up the weight and set-up time?  Maybe.
Not much to set up.
This night I had some vivid dreams and the one I'll relate, well, it shows how your mind can screw with you.  I feel asleep not really thinking of anything other than how I told Beth earlier in the day that I usually have an internal running monologue.  Its a way for me to keep things interesting when they could be a little dull.  So here I am looking at the sky and running through my monologue.  Shooting stars, bright crescent moon, ah man Crescent Moon Bakery pizza sounds awesome right now.  I hope that cow that is eating right now doesn't get any closer.  I would hate to explain to someone why I had to crawl back to the car with a broken leg.  I doze off.  I awake to hear hushed voices saying there he is, grab him.  I roll to my back and try to sit up.  I'm being pinned to the ground.  I can't breathe.  They are starting to hit me.  I wake up realizing its a dream and that my bivy bag is over my face and its cold and wet and making it hard to breathe.  I open the bivy sack and take some deep breaths.  I fall back to sleep in a couple minutes.
Atiu Regional Park
I wake up in the morning with birds chirping and the sun just starting to peak over the horizon.  I sit up and eat my yogurt.  I'm packed up in under 5 minutes and drop my gear at the car.  I'm looking to do the walkway today and it should take 3 hours return.  I get about 30 minutes into it and I come to a fence and a nasty looking trail of standing water and lots of mud on the other side of it.  I turn around as I don't really fancy cleaning all my gear before heading over to Australia.  If they are anything like New Zealand, they want your gear to be scrubbed before entering the country.  Instead I opted to drive to the nearest town with gas, about 40km.  On the way, I saw signs for Atiu Regional Park.  I opted to give it a spin.  The park is actually a working sheep farm which accounts for about 40% of the parks size.  I decided to take the long loop around the entire premise which should take 3 hours.  I finished in 2.  I got to see a lot of fog and food.  I mean sheep and baby lambs.  I wonder if they smelled that I was wearing wool?  They kept running away from me even though I didn't have a fork.

After getting really muddy and my water-proof boots not living up to their name.  I will be returning them once I return to the States (January 22nd as I sorted my issue out with my return ticket no thanks to Vayama.)  I decided to make for Auckland as Skog was set to arrive at 5:45am and I didn't feel like adding hours to my already long day of driving.  That day's tale is for another post though.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The time is nearly upon us to say goodbye...

Really? I get to look forward to this?

The time is nearly upon us to say goodbye New Zealand.  It is hard to believe that we have been living in, depressingly rainy at the moment, Tauranga since April and that our return flight is less than a month away.  Say what?  But, I thought you got a sweet 6 month contract as a data analyst.  Um, shut your sassy mouth.  I'm telling a story here.  Beth is returning as planned early next month and I have yet to change my return flight.  It is on my list of things to do in the next couple days. I did try to get Vayama to exchange my ticket to be used for the gnarly 2013 titanium butt-a-thon.  However, they gave me the line that you have to use the same airlines as your departing flight.  So jet setting around to various countries isn't going to work.  I'll have to buy another ticket for what I already laid out as my itinerary.  You ready for it?  In order not to waste a half a ticket, I'll be coming back to MN, for a brief period (see the very scientific term '*smack* nom nom *groan*': the time it takes me to eat ribs), before coming back down to Kiwi-land to start my journey back to MN. 
Come on New Zealand, make these!
So what is new?  We are moving out of our flash digs here next week.  I'm moving in with 3 strangers, well they are not complete strangers any more as I have met them.  This place is 2 blocks from where we are now and its super flash.  It is right on Pilot Bay, so I'll be able to take the SUP out with ease and still run around/up the Mount.  I may even get to go sailing again if my time frees up.  My rent is considerably cheaper than before and we have a grill.  So maybe I can find a place that sells ribs here and I can smoke my own.  Robert, send me some recipes for some dry rubs.  I'll be moving in to the place this weekend as next week will be very frantic.  Maybe I should smoke an entire lamb.  I think I know where are few are.
Get the grill ready and look out for the cops.
Besides officially moving out of the Atlas next week, its also my birthday.  Turning 33.  For those that want to get me something.  I have a list of things I could use on the 2013 bike adventure.  Leave a comment and I'll let you know what I could use.  Back to the topic at hand, we are also heading up to Auckland where I will see Beth off.  She isn't departing permanently, but she is going across the ditch to visit Australia.  I'll be doing something up in this area for a couple days as I wait for Skog to arrive.  I'm thinking of doing some freedom camping, aka tossing my bivy sack and sleeping bag on the ground some place off the road and seeing how I fare at being alone in the middle of nowhere.  Having never solo camped, I better know how it feels if I'm going to do it for 6 months.  Skog gets in early Friday morning and I'll be picking him up.  Not only is he our first friend to visit, he gets to experience my first time driving in a foreign country and on the wrong side of the car and road.  Lucky him.  We will head back to Tauranga to drop some a couple things I had him bring from the States at the new digs.  I have a feeling I'll be the best flatmate for those 3 weeks as I wont be there, but still paying for the room.  Then we will most likely head towards Taupo, Rotorua, and a couple other places before getting back to Auckland on Monday Night for our 1 week stint in Australia.  With Tongariro acting like a kid off his Ritalin, we may not get to do the 42nd Traverse, but we'll find some other place to explore by mountain bike. 

Hey Bri, if you are reading this: please contact your biker friends in Sydney to see if they have some bikes to loan out and if they can have a couple guys (us) crash with them.  Nah, I'm only serious about the bike part as I have no problem with hostels, unless the guy is sick and has the bottom-less bag of chips.  Ugh memories of my first couple nights in Japan last year.  Skog is already looking up places to eat in Australia that include some pretty awesome looking butchers and buffets.  Beth is likely to meet up with us here in Sydney before we all go to Queenstown.  She has a whirlwind 2 weeks planned with either scuba diving or snorkeling up in the Great Barrier Reef and planes, trains, and walking as her means of transportation. 
Will he be as excited?

In Queenstown, we'll be meeting up with my friend Michelle (former macpac cohort and biking partner) for some snowboarding and extreme (got to say it like the guys from Harold and Kumar) action.  We'll be on the S. Island for the remainder of their time in NZ not counting the departure window.  Doing what?  I can't really say, but meat will be eaten and bones may be broken.  As long as its not me that ends up like Gabe.  (Gabe is one of our tenants back home last recently destroyed his wrist.  I would have said break, but that would is not descriptive enough).  Then its the 3 days of airport action: Beth departs on the 9th, my cousin Mekayla arrives on the 10th, and then Skog leaves on the 11th.  I was supposed to return on the 12th, but I think I'm going to miss my flight for some reason.  I don't know about the international terminal, but the domestic has some pretty tasty tonkotsu ramen.  It will be weird to say goodbye and live here by myself, but I got to make and save some money so I can afford to do a short bike jaunt back to the house I left back in April.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

By the pale moonlight

Last night Tim and I went out for a stroll.  This stroll was along a 11km trail through the Kaimai Mt Range just past Katikati which is up Hwy 2 from where we live by about 30 minutes.  As it was night there are no pictures, but lets just say that the moon was in her full glory and our headlamps were out shined in several spots along the dense trail.  However, once you got into the bush we would have been helpless without them.  Our stroll started at 7pm at the end of a steep road and a gated fence.  Once again, I felt I had to be prepared so I was wearing my Tight bag with a few essentials.  I had my rain gear, extra batteries, knife, implements for fire (no fire would have been possible as we have been getting drenched daily for what seems like weeks), emergency food, about 2 liters of water, and my first aid kit.  Thanks Kyle and Bethany!  Tim on the other hand went in with an extra layer, compass, and fire tools as well.  He was also wearing gaiters, short sleeve wool shirt, and pants.  Me?  I was in shorts and a long sleeve synthetic top.  I was sweating before we even started walking. 

So here we are on a trial I have never been to and he has done several times.  Albeit in the daytime.  He leads and I follow.  The path is well defined, but I ask about how easy it is to loose the trail.  He responds you must be some kind of idiot to loose it.  Those are some words he'll have to eat in about 2.5 hrs.  The beginning of the route is up a gnarly hill that is made worse because of all the rain.  We didn't have pools of water like we would encounter later, but it was slick.  Did I mention I basically have 2 glass ankles and I have had my acl replaced twice?  We didn't put our heads down and just soldier on.  Instead we chatted about a variety of things like the upcoming K2 bike ride, the Taupo Cycle Challenge, 42nd Traverse, climbing, and where I'm looking to live as Beth's departure is quickly approaching. 

We summit the hill in about 25 minutes and then start to weave around the backside in a gully.  Tim makes the comment about not falling to the left in an upcoming section.  He said you'll know it when we get there as there is nothing to the left.  I'm thinking to myself, "Oh great, I don't have the best of night vision and I'm on a flipping ledge that goes to some place far down from here."  The trail could have been a really ankle breaker, but I just kept trying to step down diligently before moving my back foot.  For the most part this strategy worked, until my back foot would slip.  It was shortly after the summit that I started to track how many times, I got water in my boot.  It felt like I was finding all the puddles that went up halfway up my calf.  I'm glad I was in shorts as I hate dragging around wet pants.  We would stop from time to time to gaze into the evening sky and marvel at the light being cast from the moon.  We could read our watches by its light alone and see the shadows casted on the ground from the fence post (this was at the end of the night).  I would gently sip from time to time from the water bladder on my back.  Hey Skog, if you are reading this: Bring my platypus bladder when you come in a couple weeks!  Tim on the other hand would guzzle water at the rivers that we had to cross.  The water did appear to be clear and was very fast moving.  It is really disconcerting to hear what you imagine to be rapids as you navigate in the dark only to find that the echos are being bounced all-a-round to make it sound much worse.  I think the deepest "river" we crossed was maybe ankle high. 

As the night progressed our conversations started to dwindle.  I kept thinking to myself, could I do this all night long after mountain biking, and kayaking?  And then do those again?  Why am I thinking of this?  Adventure racing is the reason.  Macpac is sponsoring the airing of a race series here and I have been watching it.  Granted I knew about it before hand, but watching it makes me want to do it.  I'm even tried to talk some of my friends in getting a team together for an event before I head back.  We get to about the quarter way mark and it says you still got 3 hours left.  Huh?  We've been at it for an hour and we are only a quarter of the way done.  I didn't think we were moving terribly slow.  We picked up the pace and shot back into the woods after Tim had a little snack.  We are moving with more urgency as we want to finish the 3 hour portion well under that speculative DOC approximation.  We have gotten into a rhythm and only taking the occasional stumble or tumble on the track.  My shorts are now covered in mud and my bum is a bit wet.  Tim and I joke that we should have kept a running total of the number of times we fell and the person with the highest tally at the end would have to do something humiliating.  I fired back that I was counting the number of times my boots got wet, but I stopped caring after 6. 

We have been on the trail now for 2.5 hours when I hear Tim utter something from up around the bend.  I quickly get up to him only to see what appears to be the wreckage of a landslide.  There are broken trees, mounds of freshly turned soil, and what sounds to be a raging river underneath. 

Mom you might want to stop reading now. 

We decided to climb up the debris to find where the trail was/is.  Tim scampered up the mound and I was following about 3 meters behind.  I knew I was on a precarious stump when it fell out from under my foot.  Did I mention the river and it being a lot of debris?  I quickly grabbed whatever stump and branch I could find as I didn't know how far it was to the bottom.  Lets just say my feet didn't hit anything solid and I had to us my upper body strength to pull myself up.  The branch I used wasn't all that stable as Tim was quick to point out as he must have heard my squeal and turned around.  I got to solid ground and had to take a breather.  I stayed put about 5 meters from where the trail ended.  Tim went scouting for the trail on the other side of the river.  This went on for shorter than I was imagining as I kept looking at my watch.  I kept thinking its going to be another 2.5 hours back to the trail head and that doesn't take into account how nasty that hill is going to be on the way down instead of up.  I was going to give Tim 20 minutes to find the trail before saying we are turning around.  After about 10 he yelled back that he had found it about 50 meters from where I was at. 

After some scurrying we were back on the trail and talking about how it would have sucked to have to turn around.  I guess I should mention that Tim was concerned at the beginning of the night about the river we would have to cross at the end of the trail.  With all the rain we have been getting and knowing that the highway just down the road had flooded and traffic couldn't get through just last week.  I was a bit concerned as well.  That would mean, turning around and scurrying over the debris field and doing basically the entire trail in reverse.  As the river is probably in the last 1-2 km of the trail.  We were talking up how regardless the size of the river we are going to cross it and get this evening over as we were both getting hungry.  I wasn't at the hangry stage, but hunger was definitely starting to creep in.  After our little find the trail excitement, we were moving at a quicker pace, I would bet it was the adrenaline.  We quickly passed over a pathetic sized river, but it had an awesome waterfall that made it sound really impressive even though it wasn't.  We started to round a bend that Tim knew as familiar as there as a length of barb wire fence that signaled that the river was close.  We could hear it in the distance and turned the corner expecting to see a raging river.  Once again, it was nothing.  We joked about linking arms and wading in hip to hip for the river crossing as the water was blazing fast and waist deep.  In reality you could have taken a short leap and crossed the banks or step into the below ankle water and take 2 careful steps.  You are still on wet rocks.

The last few minutes fly by and we talk about having weekly runs on Monday nights and then climbing on Thursday and some other activities on the weekends.  I guess I know how I'll survive without Beth.  I'm going to miss her and it wont be easy, but I always seem to find a partner in crime.   I have a long list of them, but the ones that come to mind are Otis, Dale, and Skog.  Anytime I wanted to do something that was a little odd, Beth would always point me in their direction.

As I got into work this morning, I told Lynda that I was up in her neck of the woods last night.  She said "Really?  What for?"  I replied that my mate and I did the Linderman Track last night by head torch.  She made the comment that there are words for people like you.  I quickly responded "Nutters" and she just nodded her head in agreement.