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Monday, January 14, 2013

Goodbye for Now Dunedin

Waikouaiti Beach, out where Alex's friend Johnny's family lives, 1/2 hour north of Dunedin.


Well, I'm down to the last day of my 2013 New Zealand trip and have that bittersweet feeling of a good trip ending. It's been a great stay: I got in a good backpack in the first days, the conference and the work that followed were quite productive, I spent time with New Zealand friends, and I got in several surfs and bike rides. Really, I couldn't ask for much more ... well, the tide could be low right now so that I could get out for one last surf :).

The down side of being away for two weeks is the time away from Jen and the kids -- I'm a family man -- but it's also good to have some time to reflect. What new insights have I gained over these past two weeks? Well, I've been feeling that it's one thing to be blessed and enjoy life, and quite another to be generous and to help others. I'd like to do more of the latter.

Anyway, leaving Dunedin again, my thought is that I have unfinished business here. I think I'll be back, and I'd love to return for a longer stretch before too many years go by.

Later, from Auckland: Just boarding the flight for the States. Being away from the family for two weeks sucks, but leaving St. Claire (pict below), where I stayed, and surfing sucks too. I almost wish I didn't have this brief reminder of how much I love it.

Alex and I, St. Claire, April 2011. This is one of my favorite places on earth.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Dunedin in January 2013

St. Clair beach.
It's been nearly a week now that I've been in Dunedin. The year we spent here seems long ago, but in fact it's been only 18 months since we left. And several of my haunts remain unchanged, right down to the employees of my favorite coffee shop, sport shop, and at the Uni.

Highcliff Road looking toward Sandfly Bay.
There are few towns that I've found in which I think I could live happily. I like a place where I can imagine that I'm the keeper of a secret. Most of Montana is that way and so is the Dunedin area. But I'm also getting to be set in my ways, so that the work I do (research and teaching) feels like about the only thing I'm suited for. This narrows the list of possible places to Bozeman, Missoula, and Dunedin. And maybe a place like Santa Cruz, California; the Pacific Ocean is like a wilderness on the edge of town.
Otago Harbor from Highcliff Road.
It's been a busy week. The conference went Monday-Wednesday from dawn to dusk each day. Since then I've moved out to St. Claire. I can see the ocean from my room and have surfed several times since I've moved in. The conditions have been excellent -- though that's now changing -- and my body is sore from my efforts to glut myself on surfing and cycling while I'm here.


I also borrowed a road bike and have been able to do a few of my favorite rides. The most remarkable thing about riding in Dunedin is the spectacular scenery. The above shots were taken from Highcliff Road, which I rode yesterday.

St Claire beach from the Esplanade.
And finally, it's nice to get some sun. It's easy to adjust to summer, though I was bummed to miss the big powder day at Snowbowl yesterday.
Alex skiing pow yesterday at Snowbowl. If only you could be in two places at once.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Kepler Track, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

When my friend and collaborator Colin Fox throws a conference in Dunedin (NZ) in January, I know I've got to make it down. I write from Dunedin now, which along with Missoula is my favorite town on earth, and the conference begins in about an hour, so I'd better be brief.

I flew in a few days early this trip so that I could do the Kepler Track, which is one of New Zealand's so-called Great Walks (link), and one of the ones we didn't do when we were here a couple of years ago. My buddy Al Parker from Montana State U., who is also here for the conference, was to arrive in Dunedin on the same flight, but missed two connections along the way, so I was on my own.

The drive from Dunedin to Te Anau is about 300 km, which isn't much by American standards, but the New Zealand roads are narrow and winding, and with a 24 hour flight under me and driving on the left thrown in, I couldn't relax, so I was exhausted by the time I reached Te Anau. 

The next morning, still on Mountain Time, I was up at 5am and on the track at 6.30am. My plan was to do the route in 2 days, 30 km each day. I opted to go counter clockwise, so headed off for Luxmore Hut first. It was a cool day and the walking easy with quite a bit of elevation gain to the hut, which I reached around 10.15am and brewed myself some tea.
Mt. Luxmore Hut
From the hut, the next landmark is Mt. Luxmore itself, about an hour up the trail.

View from Mt. Luxmore
The track (trail) from Mt. Luxmore on to Iris Burn hut is about 10km above tree line, skirting steep peaks, and following ridge tops, with great views in all directions. It's probably the highlight of the trip.
Kepler track along the ridge.
I reached Iris Burn hut around 4pm, spent. It was a good day with some clouds up high, but good views nonetheless. I slept well, despite being in a room with 20+ other trampers (hikers), and got another early start the next day. Given that it was an equal distance both ways back to my car, that the weather was going to be perfect, and that I so enjoyed the track up high, I opted to go back the way I'd come in. The other direction was a long valley walk, primarily through trees. I was glad I did, as the scenery high up was even better than the day before. I was back to the car around 2.30pm and made my way slowly to Dunedin, where I arrived at about 9pm.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Another year gone

I've got a few minutes here in the Seattle Airport, with free Wi-Fi, so I thought I'd collect my thoughts on the past year and share a few, though clear thought is hard with all of the chatting travelers and CNN blaring.

With the end of the year (Dec. 5), I turned 39, so 2013 will be my 40th year on the planet. Wow! One thing that marks this year is a deeper realization of the passage of time: a lot has passed and it's going by faster every year.

This motivates me to try to do as much as I can with the kids, as much as they'll allow, really. And I know that my mind and body will only become less resilient as the years go by, so I've got to use them while I've got them. Indeed, a sense of urgency marks my way of being on many fronts, for better or for worse.

2012 had some significant challenges, but it was also rich with travel, friendship, family, time in the mountains, on the rivers, and in the wilderness. I feel very blessed.

Looking ahead, I see more of the same on all fronts. Life is relentless, but also rewarding. I love it and also feel beaten down by it at times. My goal is to live my life to the fullest. Here's to doing so in 2013.