Hey, are you still alive??

The title gives it away, I’m dead and writing this from beyond the grave; you could even say I’m ‘ghost’-writing. *waits for laughter to die down*

It’s been quite some time since I’ve updated this old thing. So, just a few highlights to catch up my (remaining) readers:

  • I’ve finished my hike in NZ this past January
  • I volunteered for DOC in New Zealand
    • you can click through HERE if volunteering in New Zealand sounds flippin’ amazing
  • My mate Luke and I were featured in Backpacker mag’s gear guide while I was testing gear
  • I got WFR certified with NOLS.
  • I’ve become a Garage Grown Gear ambassador
  • I finally bought a ‘real’ camera, hello α6000, how do you do??

Completing Te Araroa as my first long distance hike is a learning experience I’m grateful for. Having limited thru-hiking experience, I really tossed myself into the deep end on one of the world’s most challenging hikes, there was a rather ‘steep’ learning curve. Now my brain is primed for tackling technical terrain and unpredictable weather in the Northern hemisphere! Having all that time in one’s head, I began the process of self-actualization, something I’d always struggled with, the trail gave me direction. So after finishing the trail the 12th of Jan, I took my remaining time in NZ and decided to give back to DOC for their service, I volunteered as a hut warden.

What does it mean to be a hut warden?? Well, what that means is I got to hang out in a backcountry hut in one of the most picturesque countries, with hiking enthusiasts from all around the world, in the mountains, for a week. Within that week, I would move from hut to hut maintaining the grounds, the toilets, the hut itself, and a bit of trail maintenance when it was needed, a labor of love if you will –the best part of it was hearing people commenting on how clean the drop toilets are. Some other things you’re required to do is give a “hut safety talk,” detailing what the dos and don’ts are, pointing out where fire exits and meeting points are, providing some background about the surrounding area, and check guests for backcountry passes/ tickets, this is how DOC maintains these huts and huts are expensive! DOC provides volunteers with accommodation in the huts, their own cooking utilities, they even reimburse you for the costs of food! Are you asking yourself by now “where in NZ can I do this?” Thankfully DOC has plenty of volunteering ops spanning the North and South Islands. Click through HERE if volunteering sounds like something you’d be interested in.

While on the trail, I was testing a set of hiking poles for Backpacker magazine, they were stupidly light. My hiking mate at the time, Luke, had a proper camera and we decided to snap a silly shot from our climb. I received some correspondence regarding a chance to be featured in the magazine, I didn’t really think anything of it and threw in a submission, I find out a few weeks later Luke’s photo got printed along with other submissions, that was fun.

Ya mad, ya bastard..
Ya mad, ya bastard..

Having backpacked in some tough terrain, I figured that having some practical medical skills would be handy to have. Taking a NOLS class was something I’ve always wanted to do and it timed up perfectly when I arrived back in the U.S, so I signed up for a Wilderness First Responder class. It was a 10-day intensive course consisting mostly of lecture and scenarios, I love doing scenarios. I was particularly good at reinacting head trauma patients; unconscious upon the first encounter, then showing signs of a deteriorating A+O×X, disoriented, combative, ataxic, that shit was great. It even got me a new nickname, “Headtrauma.” Meeting more people who’re into the outdoors, I felt right at home. I made some new friends, some connections, and even managed to score a job in Steamboat, Colorado this summer working with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. This summer should be interesting.

she’ll be right, mate!

If you know me, I’m fairly involved with Instagram, my partner Rad always gives me shit about it. I managed to catch the attention of an outdoor startup company that markets up-and-coming cottage industries that make handmade outdoor gear and are U.S based. Having GGG’s support makes getting out that much more accessible, thanks Lloyd! Now that I’ve started all this, it’s time I started documenting it, so I went and got an α6000, “hide yo kids, hide yo wives.”

Until next time kiddos!

You’re in NZ again??

I’m hiking Te Araroa (again?). Just the south island this time around and are back with ambition. With my pack at a whopping 38L, I’ve cut my teeth from my hike in the north island a few years back. It’s fun, it’s hard, the views can be subpar or they can be grand, but really it’s the atmosphere that keeps me walking. 

It was hard trying to condition my body into hiking shape within a matter of 3 days on the Queen Charlotte Track before taking on the Richmond Alpine Track (RAT), and Waiau Pass; some of the hardest sections of the south. The RAT was some of the best tramping NZ has to offer in terms of technicality, distance, difficulty and best of all hut systems. Mountain ridges, steep scree sidlings, rock scrambling up 900m of elevation, it’s everything I could ask for in a tramp. 

For me, I enjoy the “type 2.5” kinda fun -is that even a thing?? The type where you hate what you’re doing, while doing it, but recall fond memories from your activity, like going over Waiau Pass with snow still covering majority of the track and doing it in sandals…yeah. –in my defense, my trail runners are bald as f*k from being eaten up on the trail and road walking, where my sandals (read: camp shoes) are the only pieces of footwear with decent tread left, thank you Dan and fam at Bedrock Sandals.

Side note, I’ve managed to do my first 40+km walk in a day, a personal best! It was from Blue Lake hut in Nelson Lakes, over the snowy Waiau Pass, and down the valley into Lewis Pass Reserve for Anne Hut (~43km).

Since the RAT and Waiau Pass, I was on the hunt for more alpine views, so the next target on my radar was the notorious Cascade Saddle, in Mt. Aspiring NP. Since T.A goes pass Glenorchy, I figured, why not get my alpine fix AND skip the clusterf*ckery of Queenstown, I can always go back and do the Mototapu track right?

So, at the moment I’m based in Glenorchy and headed to the Greenstone/Caples tomorrow and spend NYE in a hut (again). Te Anau, prepare ye for the hiker hunger.

Trail prep and a few hangups

Hello, hello! It’s time for an update! It’s now September and that means fall is coming, it also means that I leave for New Zealand (again) in November. Two years ago, while I was living in NZ a few mates and I decided to trek the length of the north island. I’m coming back to complete the south island portion of Te Araroa, as well as incorporating other trails while hiking the main vein; ambitious as it is, I’m keen to do it. Food on my person is probably the concerning factor here, as there are spans of days where you can’t resupply; that also means longer days. We’ll see how we go.

The thing with thru hiking is that we hikers create a significant amount of rubbish. From throwing away old beaten trail clothes and shoes to food packaging, our lifestyle plays into the whole, “throwaway culture” we would like to reduce.  Like most people, I’m concerned about reducing my carbon footprint, yet here we are… I just find it hard to reconcile hiking and creating (what I think is) a heap of rubbish. If someone can help me think through this or even suggest a way to reducing one’s own carbon footprint your input is greatly appreciated!

cash us ou’side, how bou’ daah.

So remember when Tommo and I went to Yosemite over Memorial Day weekend and made asses of ourselves? It gets better, we went trail running too; but nowhere around other tourists. C’mon, we’re not like those trail runners… /s

That weekend consisted of us cowboying it out in line to get a camp spot at the notorious Camp 4 site. Yeah, camping in line to get a tent spot.. let that sink in. But two free nights, i’ll take it; and probably do it again.
Our first day consisted of a 37.8km (23.5 mi) hike consisting portions of the JMT, Nevada Falls, Illilouette Falls, Glacier Point, and Four Mile trail. Barefoot bouldering, cowboy camping, making trips to the shop, drinking beers and eating burnt baked beans for dinner, a perfect weekend away.

Music by: SBTRKT

Giant Spider Island has been pretty sweet.

Since arriving in Australia in February (wet season) it’s been quite the adventure: from working and living in the Northern Territory for nearly half of of the year, Helpx-ing with Stephen Rose and working with his nursery, to Mullo and giving me my first job in Katherine, staying at a naturist compound in Adelaide River (thank you Rick and Keith!), working at Nitmiluk and working with some of the most incredible Jawoyn people, to going vagabond down the west coast. I’m currently in Broome, our next stop is Perth.

Kerikeri to Ngunguru

    Today was a short day considering we had left Kerikeri relatively late in the morning. Rather an uneventful day, we made our way to the Waitangi Forest track and cruised on through, taking only the length of a full day. The track itself takes about 4 hours to complete for the average walking speed, but we’ve managed to arrive into Paihia sooner than expected. Getting to the Waitangi Holiday park was a mere walk across the bridge from the renowned Treaty Grounds where the treaty was signed on February 6, 1840. Taking a slow evening, we ate our dinner (fish and chips) as the setting sun illuminated the islands before us. Seeing that golden radiance reminded me of the countless times I’ve watched the sunset on ocean beach back in SF.

    The start of the next trail required us to catch a ferry to cross the inlet to Waikare in the morning. We had an early start, around 5 am, to walk the Opua coastal track to the wharf. When you’re walking along the coast and you watch the sun rise before you; as simple as it is, you appreciate all the small things that make that moment special. The morning hues, the warmth of the sun, the smell of the water, the sand crunching under the weight of the moment, it all remains with you even when it becomes a memory. Reaching the wharf, we settle ourselves on the dock and I grab a quick breakfast of coffee and a mince pie, a staple breakfast whenever we reach a town. As the morning drew on, more and more T.A hikers arrived some familiar, some new. The ferry we were waiting for wasn’t the typical ferry per se, rather a basic means of transport. When it came to boarding, there ended up being 16 people with their gear and a dog (our dog) all packed neatly into an inflatable fishing boat.

    The boat ride through the Waikare Inlet was a quick (and much appreciated) boat ride to the start of the Russell Forest Track. From here it was 18km on foot through the bush and through some of the best river walking on the trail, up through the Papakauri Stream. Many of us kept getting lost through this portion because trail markers weren’t clearly obvious. It was here where we met (and would meet again), G.O.D initials for Gareth Owston-Doyle, a Kiwi walking the trail for charity, notably Fostering Kids NZ; he’s a funny one because he hates walking. He’s got a givealittle page setup, so feel free to donate and support his cause. The stream walk tapered off and the trail continued onto a walkway that intersected with the road; out of the bush and onto the road, this situation would become very familiar to us later on. It was getting late in the day as we exited the bush and we needed to find a spot for camp. Fortunately, we spotted our potential sleeping spot in Oakura Bay, a small, sheltered bay 45mins east of Whangarei and 3 hours north of Auckland, a beautiful spot that’s off the beaten path.

    At this point, a few of us stopped by the local dairy to grab dinner, comprising of fish and chips and kumara (sweet potato) wedges while the others scouted a place to sleep. We were super blessed when we came across a camper trailer set up in front of someone’s house. We looked around for the owners, but they weren’t home. One of our teammates called them asking if we could stay and they said yes! They also mentioned that there’s a hot shower that we could use, it’s really surprising how welcoming and hospitable Kiwis up north really are. That night all six of us: Kem, Domi, Liz, Sophie, Gareth, myself, and Molly, our group dog, fitted ourselves comfortably within this one camper van. We all fell asleep rather quickly from the sound of waves crashing a few meters away from our trailer. Today was a really long day for us, we started at the Waitangi camping grounds and ended up a few kms off trail; for newbies into through hiking, we totalled 31km, we did alright. The next morning, we left a koha (donation) in their mailbox as a thank you for their hospitality.

    Awaking to the sound of waves crashing and the warm embrace of the sun set the tone for the day, a good one; a phrase I’ve become very fond of. We make our way back to the trail to begin the Morepork-Onekainga track, a section en route to the Whangarei heads, but not before stopping by the dairy to grab some snacks for breakfast. The track itself was nothing glorious. The track was laden with gorse and other undesirable vegetation, private land, and patches of pine plantations until we reached the Whananaki estuary, the coastal walk was a welcomed change of environment. The foot bridge was an appreciated change of pace, allowing yourself to slow down, taking in the air, the sun, and reflections off the water below. The rest of the day felt like we were walking in a dream, I hadn’t realized that  we reached another connecting portion that brought us to the township of Matapouri. We called it quits here for the day. We went to the nearest dairy for a break of fish and chips. I had asked the girl at the counter where we would be able to stay, and she recommended that we stay with a host right across the road. The guy owning the property loves hosting travelers, as he already had a family from Australia and one other T.A hiker aside from us.

    In morning we awoke to an overcast and cloudy sky. Checking the forecast, rain was imminent so we quickly had our breakfast and made out way onward. Probably half an hour into the walk, the rain caught up with us as we passed through the Matapouri Bush Track and into the town of Ngunguru. En route my phone had gotten soaked inside my rain jacket without my knowledge, everything in it was gone. All the pictures, the notes, the music I had listened to since I left the states, all gone. Oddly enough I wasn’t too upset about it, the only thing I wished survived were the pictures I took the day before. Speaking metaphorically, a part of me died that day, but I was content with that, it was a shedding of my old self. It was rather early in the day when we decided to wait out the storm. As we entered the town we saw a sign on the side of the road for accommodation geared towards backpackers, Mila’s Caravan and Backpackers. We kept that place in mind as we made our way to the dairy for some solace from the rain (and a pie). Mila’s was a sweet set up as she had a caravan that could sleep four people comfortably, a fully functioning bbq grill, and her large garage served as our drying room. Rain continued throughout the rest of the day but it failed to dampen our spirits to take advantage of the grill to cook our meals. It’s the small luxuries y’know?


Over the next few days, there will be stories posted from life on the trail. Sadly to say, I won’t be able to complete the South Island on my current visa, money’s run out and I’ve used up my working holiday for NZ. So the plan now is to work in Oz and make some dinero, come back next season and complete the Southern portion lighter, better gear, smarter, and wiser.