trip report: New Zealand – Mueller Hut Route, January 2020

The steep but short hike up to Mueller Hut in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is typically hiked as an in & out day hike with plenty of time to make the long drive back to town for a good meal. Being someone that is more about the views than just camping, I usually prefer just a day hike. However, it pays to take it easy and smell the roses sometimes. Rather breaking the hike up, camping on the top of the world, and under the stars was a worthy experience. From our tent, we could hear the surrounding glaciers crack and had a perfect view of the tallest mountain in New Zealand, Aoraki/Mount Cook. 

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This is the seventh entry of our Australia and New Zealand trip series covering our tramp of to Mueller Hut in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

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trip report: New Zealand – Rees-Dart Track, January 2020

Tramping (aka hiking) and New Zealand are synonymous when we think of traveling to the small island nation. However, there is much more to the hiking scene there than just the Great Walks (DOC). I have met locals that have exclaimed that the Great Walks, while very worth it, aren’t the best scenery that New Zealand has to offer. With our hike of the Rees-Dart track, I completely understand that sentiment. 

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This is the six entry of our Australia and New Zealand trip series covering our tramp of the Rees-Dart Track in Mt. Aspiring National Park. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

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trip video: Jasper National Park – Skyline, August 2019

This is the companion videos to our trip report detailing 2 day and 1 nights hike on the Skyline Trail in Jasper National Park. The highlight of the hike were the high alpine meadows and vistas of the Athabasca River drainage and Maligne River drainage.

You can find the detailed report of our hike linked in the index below.

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trip report: Jasper National Park – Skyline, August 2019

As foreshadowed by our hike the previous day up Bald Hill, we were in for more weather. Sometimes we get nice bluebird days, sometimes we get low clouds and gusting winds over the alpine ridge. It’s all part of the adventure on the Skyline trail.

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This is the eight entry of our Canadian Rockies trip series covering our eighth hike. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

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trip report: Patagonia – getting in & Huemul Circuit return, January 2019

On my first solo extended out of the country trip, I found myself at a pub in Bruge drinking with the a bunch of new friends I didn’t know the day before. A quote that stuck with me from that night was that you travel not to experience everything, but to find all the great things about a place to return to. In the travel atmosphere that is suggestive of the bucket list and country counting attitude, I am all for the counter viewpoint of also returning to a place that once put you in a state of awe. The Huemul Circuit is currently my favorite hike in the world, so a return trip to Patagonia meant I’d head back there.

As I start to write this, I am not sure how this report will go. This is the first time I’m writing up the exact same hike on this page and it didn’t deviate much from my first trip. Secondly, my SD card crapped out during this trip leading me to lose a good portion of my data unbeknown to be until I started going through the pictures post trip. To that end, I’m approaching this write up of the Huemul Circuit as a complement to the my first report with the insight that the trail has gotten much more popular.

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This is part 2 of my Patagonia and Carretera Austral trip report series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below. Read More

trip report: Patagonia – planning & research, January 2019

Two of my favorite hikes in the world at the moment is in Patagonia, the O-Circuit of Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile and the Huemul Circuit of Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina. I would return to either places in a heartbeat, as our two previous week long trips out there during our spring breaks left us wanting for more. But these two hikes are just a small portion of the vast region of Patagonia with plenty that I’d looked forward to exploring in the future. So when I saw a USD$400 roundtrip flight from the United States to São Paulo, Brazil in business class, that future was much closer than I originally thought. Not to take away from what we had experienced in Brazil, but it was no question we’d be heading back to Patagonia.

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This is part 1 of my Patagonia and Carretera Austral trip report series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below. Read More

trip report: Ausangate Circuit, August 2018

Making the decision to quit on a hike is one of the hardest things you may face on the trail. The last time I bailed on a backpacking trip was in the inhospitable landscape underneath the Peruvian mountain of Ausangate. I came down with a cold or sinus infection of some sort making it hard to breath without coughing heavily. The lack of ability for me to breath with the high attitudes that demanded me to breathe harder during the uphills forced me to recognize the fact that I couldn’t complete the circuit at that time.

When it comes to quitting, the biggest opponent was my own ego. Part of that ego preventing me from making the best decision for myself regarding quitting may be the desire to accomplish something for completeness sake. Perhaps the reason for such as desire is rooted in the fear of missing out, in that I know I didn’t miss anything if I complete it. In a sense, that completeness attitude may actually miss the real reason we head into nature, which is to experience nature. For me, hiking is about the means just as much or even greater than the ends. If it truly the experience and enjoyment of nature we are after, then there is no shame in quitting and returning to experience it when we are in a better situation.

Of course I was disappointed that I couldn’t compete the Ausangate Circuit. What helped was looking back at the experience we did have of climbing the grassy pass around Ausangate before navigating ourselves off the Ausangate Circuit to find our way to the Rainbow mountains off trail and realizing how great that was. It wasn’t the experience I was expecting, but it was amazing nonetheless. Secondly, I knew that I’d return someday and finish the hike for a brand new experience of the Ausangate Circuit. That day came two years later when I found a business class fare sale back to Peru.

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trip report: John Muir Trail, August 2018 – part 6, Onion Valley Trailhead to Whitney Portal

For many, Mt. Whitney is an emotional, spiritual, and personal final closing point of the three week long walking through the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the John Muir Trail (JMT). It is the tallest point in the continental 48 states and a symbol of one’s achievement through the struggles against nature and oneself. At least that’s the perception I have regarding others on the trail.

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I wish I have a grand conclusion to these trip reports about my JMT finish for you, but I just don’t. I’m sorry if I’m making it sound anti-climatic. Don’t get me wrong, I was glad to have reached it and I enjoyed the views from the top of Whitney upon the surrounding peaks and the desolate valley of granite below, but I wouldn’t say it was anything different than just another day of hiking.

Perhaps I was emotionally fulfilled already now that I’ve once again returned to my familiar hiking position of following Meg’s butt on the trail; perhaps it was that I would to continue to do so in Peru immediately after this; perhaps it was because my experience of the physical challenges on the JMT was relatively mild for me; perhaps it was because I took zeros back in society to recharge; perhaps I didn’t think the view from Mt Whitney was the best I’d seen ever or even my favorite on the JMT; perhaps it was because I didn’t finish at the same time as Chris, Cindy, Diana, Bob, Jack, John, Alex, Steel, Mallory, Jean, and other new friends I met along the way; perhaps it was the a-hole who tried to rush us off the of the summit of Whitney just so he can have the summit to himself to camp at; perhaps it was my annoyance at the a-hole for an hour after leaving the summit; or perhaps it was the seemingly never ending and pointless switchbacks before our finish at Whitney Portal.

All of these statements were true, but really the key, I believe, was simply that the day I hiked Mt. Whitney and finished the JMT was just as typical as any other day on the trails I’ve hiked around the world. The experiences I had on this last day was what I expected and continue to look forward to in the future on my never ending thru-hike. But that’s not a negative, because I am a hiker and I am fulfilled by hiking. Regardless if it was the final day I spent on my JMT hike, I was happy doing something I like and will always continue to do…

and then write insanely long “magazine style” trip reports of it. Hope you don’t mind the load time. 🙂

This is part 6 of my JMT trip report series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

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trip report: John Muir Trail, July 2018 – part 5, Muir Trail Ranch to Kearsarge Pass/Onion Valley Trailhead

A key aspect I’ve highlighted (part 3) about hiking alone on the John Muir Trail (JMT), or traveling alone in general, is that you are not really alone. You end up meeting new friends at places you camp or major stopping points like Red’s Meadow, Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR), and Muir Trail Ranch (MTR). You may end up hiking with them or see them multiple times over the course of your hike, forming trail families (tramilies). When traveling, you end up at hostels where everyone shares your attitude of explore the city or town so it’s easy to make new friends and explore together.

While that social component is very much present on the JMT, there is still plenty of solitude you will experience at part of your hike. This solitude for many of us gives us the opportunity to reflect and gain that aspect of self awareness that we may not have the chance or time to do in our busy and noise everyday lives. Nothing like the sound of your feet crunching the trail mixed in with nature’s soundtrack of rushing water and singing birds to allow you to get lost in your own mind. It can also literally get you lost on the trail when you are so in the zone that you miss trail markers, which may have happened in an early part of this trip. Solitude is a huge part why I hike and I’d say a beneficial quality of hiking. With the uncertainty of my career during this later portion of my graduate studentship, solitude and reflection was something I looked forward to. This is also why I don’t typically listen to audiobooks, podcasts, and music when I go out for a hike and I’d recommend that everyone start off hiking without those either.

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Who needs meditation when the granite walls of the JMT can provide all the solitude you’ll need.

However, feeling lonely is also common as a solo hiker with so many more days on the JMT and other thru-hikes than a typical backpacking trip. Even though I looked forward to the solitude of are part of this hike, I also reached that point of loneliness. For me, this is part of the reason I can never see myself doing any of the long distance thru-hikes such as the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), Continental Divide Trail (CDT), and Appalachian Trail (AT). Of course, the point that we feel lonely and the aspect of how each of us deal with it is different. Commonly, this is where the audiobooks, music, and podcasts are a welcome distraction.

My solution these past 7 years is, of course, Meg. This was the first hiking-centric or backpacking trip I had taken in a long time without her due to circumstances out of our control. That unpleasant loneliness served as a reminder of what is truly important in my life. And within that, I learned the axiom to help guide me through this uncertain point in my life.

This is part 5 of my JMT trip report series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

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