Horseshoe Canyon

“These are Sinister and supernatural figures, gods from the underworld perhaps, who hover in space, or dance, or stand solidly planted on two feet carrying weapons- a club or sword. Most are faceless but some stare back at you with large, hollow, quiet eyes. Demonic shapes, they might have meant protection and benevolence to their creators and a threat to strangers: Beware, traveler. You are approaching the land of the horned gods….”

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

4 miles WNW of the top of Twin Corral Box Canyon, and a little less than a mile down-canyon of the top of Horseshoe Canyon is a northward facing point; bubbly, bulbous globs of Navajo Sandstone with foot-wide washes, prickly dead or alive pinyons or junipers, dry old soil crust, and the Wingate cliffs dropping in from all sides, far enough that a thrown stone might not be heard for 3 seconds.… Read more

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New Zealand Day 73-79: Bluff, Dunedin, and Auckland

Day 73: We hitched out with a Maori family in the morning, the mom telling us about her daughter’s wedding and how she supports Donald Trump. She brought us back to Invercargill, where we indulged yet again at the lovely Bombay Palace before hitching north towards Dunedin, an Air BnB set up for us for the next 2 nights while we waited to fly back to Auckland. We got a few short rides, including one in a 70’s muscle car, and ended up at an intersection where we did some music theory stuff, and laughed a whole bunch while waiting for a lift.… Read more

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New Zealand Day 67-72: Franz Josef Glacier and Stewart Island

Day 67: No possum problems last night. We packed up, walked back into town and straight to the visitor’s center, where we looked at some trail maps and came to a consensus on where we wanted to hike- to the base of the glacier, a hike we could do in half a day walking from town, and end up in a better place to hitch. We stopped at the gas station for some snacks and I was sorely disappointed when there were no vegetarian pies, I had come to be quite addicted to them. We followed the track out of town, off the shoulder of the road.… Read more

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New Zealand Day 64-66: St Arnaud to Franz Josef

Day 64-65: When we woke up at the campground, we packed up and walked out to the little cafe back in town, drank coffee and ate a cooked breakfast, hanging out for a while, enjoying the quaint atmosphere with outdoor seating under the trees. St. Arnaud is not really a full town, but a collection of buildings necessary for the support of the park, it’s visitors, the park employees, the handful of wealthy vacation-home owners, and the locals whose families have lived here for generations. There is a lodge across the street from the cafe next to the fire house, another smaller one up the road next to a motel and a very small school building, and another really swanky one farther down the highway.… Read more

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New Zealand Day 60-63: St Arnaud

Day 60: We got some coffee so I could wake up in the morning, then walked to the I-site in Nelson for wifi and to finalize our route through the South Island, and there were a shitload of people passing through on their way to Abel Tasman National Park and its gold sand beaches. The weather was supposed to turn foul over the next couple days, but the radar showed that some of the inner mountain ranges might stay dry, so we set our sights on St Arnaud, a place I had researched thoroughly while back in the states while trying to map out some off trail traverses on the South Island, though our goal would not be quite as ambitious.… Read more

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New Zealand Day 57-59: Hitching South

Day 57: When we woke up, there were already a lot of people hiking and jogging on the nice, wide, flat rail-to-trail. We walked into town, talking about growing up and our perspectives on money and social status, stopping for some breakfast, then hitching out with some Maori folks- two dudes and a girl probably in their late 20’s, one dude with tattoos on his face, talking about all the places their friends have tagged with graffiti, making apparent gang references and day drinking in the car. They told us that we absolutely can’t pass up Raglan, but we did. They dropped us off near Hamilton, where we got some drinks and snacks at the gas station before hitching across the street in the shade of a mini-mall sign.… Read more

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New Zealand Day 52-56: Whangarei and Poor Knights Islands

Day 52: We hitched back to Whangarei in the morning, booked a room at the same hostel/former jail I had stayed at with Nuthatch and Magnus- the Cell Block. We got a room in the back building this time, requiring a climb up a steep metal ladder, walking through a bunkroom and past 3 or 4 other dormitories to get into what used to be a building for correctional officers/police for 5 days while we got our open water diving certifications. Our room was called “the barn”, because of its independent top and bottom halves of the door, and had a queen sized bed, wide windows opened by hand cranks, and was right next to the kitchen.… Read more

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New Zealand Day 45-51: Paihia, Waitangi, and Urupukapuka Island

Day 45: We hitched out to Whangarei with a couple young farmhands, one kiwi teen and a twenty something dude from Denmark, talking about the hard work of raising cattle and the amazing feats of well trained working dogs. They dropped us off at the Pak n’ Save, where we established another ritual- taking our shoes off to walk around the grocery store. I had seen a few barefoot shoppers since I got to New Zealand, attributing the pattern to the proximity of nearly the entire country’s population to one beach or another, but after seeing a shoeless man at the Four Square in Waipu and trying to explain this phenomenon to Xena, I realized that the proportion of barefoot shoppers is just high enough to constitute a socially acceptable behavior, and we concluded that we ought to exercise our social freedoms by following suit.… Read more

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New Zealand Day 40-44: Auckland to Waipu

Day 40: Her plane was late to arrive. I sat by the wall with my guitar, playing quietly to myself, sipping a cup of coffee, checking my watch constantly, and watching a large maori family perform a haka for someone’s return from abroad, but time was moving at a glacial pace… When I finally saw her she was wearing the same black hiker dress she wore when I first met her at the Chinese buffet in Virginia, and this time had mismatched socks in a pair of pink new balances. Her pack was small and had a curled up hula hoop tied to the webbing on the side.… Read more

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New Zealand Day 34-39: Whanganui River

Day 34: New Years Day 2017. Wake up to a light drizzle around 7:45. I moved my stuff under the tarp outside the kitchen and a group of 18 thruhikers was getting all their shit packed into dry bags and plastic barrels and the kayak shuttle van and trailer was getting ready to roll. I made breakfast and that whole trip left while I was eating, but there were still some people waiting here to head out on the 9th, including Choop, who was excited to see my boat. I blew up the boat, put my pack into the trash bags, and Choop, one of the nondescript American dudes, and another chick helped me bring my stuff down to the river by the bridge right outside the Holiday Park.… Read more

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