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Continental Divide Trail 2011 close to 3000 miles through new mexico, colorado, wyoming and montana. May 1 start date.


NEW ZEALAND | Monday, 3 March 2008 | Views [1585] | Comments [2]

I am learning that plans change and circumstances are often out of my control, especially when I'm dealing with nature and weather. I had been reading about Tongariro for several months and had my backpacking trip all planned out; I knew which hut I'd be in every night and of course in my imagination the weather was always nice. I arrived in Tongariro NP on the morning of Feb 21 and everything was going as planned. I made it to the visitor's center, where I was going to get my map and store extra luggage and ask questions before setting off to my first hut. Instead, I was told that I needed to take a shuttle to a different trailhead and hike the Tongariro Crossing that day because the weather would be bad if I waited another day. That left me with 15 minutes to pack my bag, fill water, buy a map. But I made it and by 10.30 I was walking. It was a bit upsetting to be getting such a late start for the most beautiful day of my 7-day tramp but if I had waited I wouldn't have seen anything in the clouds. The Tongariro Crossing is the "best day hike in the country" and thousands of people walk it every year, but few actually go backpacking in the park, as with most places. Although I didn't like getting a late start, it was nice to be the last one on the track because all the peppy day-hikers were already past me. The Crossing passes Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom), which is a semi-active conical and tall volcanoe. It then leads you up to Mt. Tongariro and the Red Crater with steam vents and emerald blue lakes and thermal vents. I decided to summit both Mt. Doom and Tongariro, adding an extra 4 hours to my day but it was worth it. I realized after the rush in the morning that my camera was out of batteries so I only managed to get a couple pictures that first day, unfortunately, but I drew some pictures if you're ever interested in seeing them. =) The Crossing is truly stunning and being on top of Red Crater with Mt. Doom in the background and the sun's evening glow all alone was enchanting. I had another 2 hours to walk before I reached my first hut. It was down through a desert with oddly-shaped volcanic rocks. I swore an orc was going to come out and get me. I felt like I was in Mordor, and I was.

So, to enlighten you on the New Zealand hut system: basically every national park is set up with backcountry huts. Camping is allowed near the huts but not too many people choose this option, because why not stay in a hut if there's one there? There are about 8 Great Walks that are popular and often require reservations and the huts are more expensive (up to 40 dollars a night) while the rest of the walks have huts that generally cost $10 a night. I bought an Annual Hut Pass, however, that allows me to stay in any non-Great Walks hut for free. I figure I'll be staying in about 40 huts so that works out to be about $2 a night. Not too bad considering most huts have mattresses, running water, a wood stove, toilet, and yes, even a can-crusher. I must say that I prefer the more wilderness experience we get back in the states with tenting and having to worry about bears, but there is no other place in the world with this hiker hut system and I am enjoying every minute of it. Since I am traveling alone, I have a sense of security knowing that if I get wet there is always a hut waiting for me to dry off and usually other people there as well. New Zealand also really doesn't have any animals (except the possum, from Australia) so I don't have to worry about bears or bison.

I spent 6 nights in the huts combining the Tongariro Northen Circuit (one of the Great Walks) and the Round the Mountain tramp, around the active Volcano Mt. Ruapehu. The first three nights I had plenty of company and made friends from Germany, Singapore, and New Zealand. The last three nights I had huts to myself and read through Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. One of the days I decided to Summit Ruapehu because I had been tempted for days and it was beautiful out. Not a cloud in the sky. But it turned out to be a sad story. It took me nearly 3 hours to get up the southern side and no joke--about 15 minutes from the summit, clouds come in from nowhere. I waited a while to see if it would pass but I had hardly any visibility and it began to rain so I had to abort and descend to warmth of my next hut. It was a sad experience but I am learning to respect the Mountain and Weather.

When I returned to civilization on Feb 27 I stayed in a campground but hung out in the posh Chateau with a hot chocolate and free movies.

I have been wwoofing for a lovely lady in New Plymouth the last few days and will head to North Egmont for a 4-night tramp around and up Mt. Taranaki tomorrow. Then its off to Wellington and down to the South Island finally. My goal is to stop at 5 national parks and tramp my way down to Stewart Island.

Ruapehu and me

Ruapehu and me

Tags: Adventures



Hey there Emily!! I met you on Oct 24th 2007 when I came to Saskatoon for a concert, and I stayed with Bev and Wayne for 2 days. Bev today, Sunday, March 2, gave me this website about your trip in New Zealand! It is very interesting, and I love your pictures!! I but you are having alot of fun there!! My 2 friends and I will be in Yellowstone National park in the 2nd week of August, and we will be there for about 4 days. I can't wait to get there, and I haven't been there since I was a kid!! Beverly will give you my cell phone number, and you can call me anytime when I'm there as I'll have my cell phone with me all the time. We leave for Billings, Montana on August 8th, and we'll be in Yellowstone park starting August 11th.
Take care Emily, and enjoy everything you see there in New Zealand!!


  Gregory Aaston Mar 3, 2008 12:54 PM


Hi Emily,

WELCOME HOME! We will miss your blog but the trade-off is worth it.

We are looking forward to your return and the many stories you will have to tell. See you next weekend!

Bev and Jack

  Jack and Bev May 20, 2008 1:38 AM

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