Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hiking stilettos?

And in other (not so new) news... you've gotta be kidding me!

Teva stilettos? Was someone trying to make a statement or some kind, because I can't imagine what that might be. How about "hiking clothes have gone so mainstream that we can sell something that's actually unusable when actually hiking"?

And for the same $330 I could buy a mighty fine pair of hiking boots AND a decent pair of stilettos for city wear.

Read the full story on OK, there's not much more to the story, but there are more photos to giggle at.

Last minute Christmas Shopping

Don't panic if your shopping isn't done yet. Get your outdoorsy friends a cool, fun gift without forking out major bucks on gear.

The best $10 gift your friends and loved ones will get this year! (Way better than socks)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Trail running with a purpose - read about Mal Law's amazing journey

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you will have seen my posts about Mal Law and his incredible "7 in 7" trail running fundraisers for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer NZ.

Well Mal has put together a book documenting his idea for raising money as a tribute to the brother he lost to cancer, his training for a gruelling challenge of running New Zealand's seven Great Walks in seven consecutive days, and the event itself.

If you're unfamiliar with the Great Walks, most of them are normally hiked over 4 or 5 days, so running each one in a day (and doing this seven days in a row while travelling all over the country) is a phenominal accomplishment! My knees ache just thinking about it.

Mal is still running like crazy these days. If you're into trail running, check out his Running Wild website for inspiration! (Or maybe cautionary tales?) You can also put in advance orders for his book One Step Beyond via the website. It's available from March 1, 2013.

It's not available on Amazon yet, but hopefully Penguin will get it there soon!

Hike naked in NZ - it's getting more popular!

According to NZ Wilderness magazine, the back country of New Zealand is attracting quite a few naked hikers these days. Perhaps it's something to do with the largely secluded and unpopulated forests, or maybe Kiwis are just fans of letting it all hang out.

They recently published this article about the trend. I have to say though, I think it's a little unfair to comment on the size of a man's 'pack' in writing.

Nudity is not illegal in New Zealand (as I've noted in earlier posts you can go to clothing optional campgrounds or take it all of at the beach as long as you aren't doing anything inappropriate).  

Personally, I can't get on board with the naked hiking movement. The truth is, I'm far too clumsy for that. I would be completely covered in scratches and bruises in places I really don't want them. Not to mention the bug bites! But if you're off the beaten path and want to experience nature without barriers, then stripping off would certainly get you in touch with a simpler time.

Of course New Zealand isn't alone in the naked hiking world. Germany has had at least one 'clothing optional' trail since 2009.

If you decide that naked hiking is for you, check out the local laws first. Then find a nice, quiet trail and bring plenty of sunscreen!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Jasper National Park - Cavell Meadows/Path of the Glacier

We had been planning to do  the Cavell Meadows trail, a very popular (arrive early if you want a parking spot) 8.3 km trail in Jasper National Park, not far from the town of Jasper. To reach the trailhead you must go up the narrow, winding Mount Edith Cavell Rd, which is a bit of an adventure in itself.

The track is normally open from mid-June to mid-October, but for some reason the top area was still closed when we arrived in mid-July. I guess the thaw came late this year. That was a disappointment, but we still were able to do the first section of the track, and loop back around to our car on something called the Path of the Glacier track.

The trailhead is at a pretty high elevation, so expect the temperatures to be a few degrees cooler than in town. On the bright side, the cooler climate means fewer bugs.

Although we weren't able to hike to the meadows at the top of the climb, we still saw our share of wildflowers on the small section we were able to hike.

We also had a pretty good view of three different glaciers, two hanging glaciers and one that ended in a small lake. The glacier in the photo above is called Angel glacier.

Right around the spot where the track closure began we saw a hoary marmot hanging out on a rock. The marmot was in practically the same spot as one photographed in the hiking guide we had with us, which had me wondering whether he (or she, I couldn't tell) was a professional. You know, paid to sit out on a rock during set hours so the tourists can have an authentic wildlife encounter. Then I wondered if they took shifts, because most of us can't tell one marmot from the next. Anyway, he (or she) seemed completely unperturbed by the people walking around and taking pictures.

The accessible bit of the trail ended at the terminal moraine of a glacier, and despite the mid-summer weather there was still some snow on the ground.

We backtracked down the hill and rejoined the Path of the Glacier track, a tourist-friendly easy walk that takes you right to the shores of a small lake that acts as the glacial terminus. The lake is full of little icebergs.

While it was frustrating to be faced with a closed track and a shorter than expected hike, I can understand the need to keep a steep, wet path closed due to the damage that hundreds of pairs of boots per day can inflict in those conditions. Perhaps one day I'll make it back and get to see the meadow.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Jasper National Park - Suphur Skyline Trail

The Sulphur Skyline walk was our first hike in the Rockies. It's located at the northern end of Jasper National Park at the end of Miette Hot Springs Rd, so it's quite far from the town of Jasper. The nearest campground, Pocahontas, was swarming with so many mosquitoes that it was impossible to sit outside at all. Perhaps we just came at a bad time, but I cannot recommend staying there.

One of the nicest things about the walk is that the trailhead is right at the parking lot for the Miette Hot Springs pools, so you can go for a soak after you're done hiking. Just remember to pack your swimming stuff and bring some cash for entry fees. There's also a cafe on site with nice salads, sandwiches, soups and ice cream.

The walk takes you up to a ridgetop and returns the way it came. The total distance is around 9.5 km. It begins with a steady climb up an easy wooded track. Bring your bug spray if you're walking during bug season, as it was pretty thick with mosquitoes on the bottom half.

We were there mid-July, during the peak of wildflower season. This meant we were treated to lots of colourful blooms along the track.

As we approached the treeline there were several big horn sheep hanging around. They are often mistaken for mountain goats, but the only goats in this area are white.

Above the treeline the track becomes steep and loose, covered in scree. It was a tough slog under the hot sun. The summit is worth the slog though, giving you views in every direction.

At the top, the golden-mantled ground squirrels seemed keen to share the hikers' lunches. We relaxed for a while before making our way back down. This was a moderately challenging walk, but no real skills are required. The scree presents the only tricky section. If you're planning a trip to the springs, or will be passing through the area on your way to or from the town of Jasper, it's a worthwhile half day hike.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Welcome to Canada - Bienvenue au Canada

For those who have followed this blog over the past several years, things are about to change! After seven amazing years exploring the stunning New Zealand trails, I have returned to my home country of Canada. From now on, I'll be recounting my adventures in the Great White North rather than the Land of the Long White Cloud.

We began our new life in Canada in style, with a 7 week road trip which included lots of camping and hiking in the Rockies and in Ontario. While we weren't equipped for backpacking, we did lots of day hikes and I will try to upload photos and descriptions over the next little while.

So stay tuned, and thanks for dropping by!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Weird Sleeping Bags

I happened across this link and just had to share - although I wouldn't recommend using any of these sleeping bags for actual camping.

The cocoon is kind of a cool idea, but looks like a real pain to get in and out, and you'd have to sleep curled up in a ball or something. Probably better to stick with a hammock tent!


Friday, February 10, 2012

Spelling counts!

We went for a short tramp last weekend in the Tararuas from Kaitoke to Smith Creek Shelter. I was a little annoyed at the rude grafitti in the shelter, but delighted to see that another tramper had felt the irresistable need to correct the spelling and grammar of the rude grafitti!

It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who gets annoyed by missing apostrophes!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Book Review: Te ARAROA: A walking guide to New Zealand’s long trail

The iconic signpost marking Te Araroa's southern end at Bluff

Long hiking trails capture the imagination of many, but few of us ever manage to make the commitment (physically, mentally and financially) to complete a route like the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail or the Haute Route through the Pyrenees. These trails are the gold standard for long distance hikers, and now New Zealand has finally joined that elite club.

Te Araroa is a route that allows hikers to literally walk the whole of New Zealand, from the lighthouse of Cape Reinga at the northern tip, to the iconic signpost of Bluff in the far south. It’s a 3,000km journey through a huge variety of landscapes and conditions, and clearly not for the faint of heart.

The route has been a long time in the making, but was finally “officially” opened a few weeks ago. To coincide with this, a guide book has been published as a companion to the trail.

Random House was nice enough to send me a copy of the book, so this is actually a two-fold review; first a book review and second a review of the trail itself.

About the Book:

Te Araroa was written by Geoff Chapple, who has played a huge role in the struggle to make the trail a reality. Geoff likely knows more about this trail than anyone else on the planet, so who better to create the guide!

The book is not something you would use while actually hiking Te Araroa – but more likely as inspiration, background and planning material. The maps in the book give you a good idea of the route and topography of each section, but are not detailed enough to use for navigation. The book is also heavy and glossy, and as all through-hikers know, every ounce counts!

The book begins with a bit of background on hiking and trails in New Zealand, before outlining the long history of the creation of a national trail. It also provides general advice about tramping in New Zealand, about how long a through-hike is likely to take (120-160 days), and about the best times to plan a long section or through-hike.

There is also a good summary of the trail’s shortcomings, such as sections which are not quite complete and where a detour is necessary, as well as trailheads on the opposite banks of large rivers where crossing directly is not advised.

The rest of the book takes readers through the route region by region and section by section. This is especially useful for section hikers or even day hikers as each section includes notes on distance, difficulty, campsites and/or huts, and start and end points. Directions to the nearest road end or town are often included. Each seciton also refers to map numbers. These are maps available to download from the Te Araroa Trust (TAT) website. It would have been helpful to also include Land Information New Zealand topographic map numbers, as many Kiwis already have these and could use them instead of downloading and printing the TAT maps.

Each section includes a 3D map showing the route as well as any roads it crosses or approaches. Lots of colour photos help readers to get a look at the terrain and scenery in different parts of the country. Descriptions of the route give readers an idea of where they need to go, what to look out for, and what the terrain will be like. Historical and cultural information rounds things out and gives readers more context about the trail and New Zealand in general.

As with any guide book, it can never be accurate for long. Trails change, accommodation providers come and go, and information is only reliable for a short time. But the book acknowledges this and encourages readers to check the TAT website for updates before setting out.

Overall, Geoff Chapple’s book is an excellent first resource for anyone planning to walk New Zealand’s long trail, Te Araroa. If you’re a dedicated through-hiker, it will get you inspired and starting to plan your timing and logistics. If you’re a section hiker or tourist, it will help you to find walks that suit your skills and the kinds of landscapes you’re hoping to experience. And for anyone who has walked the trail, it’s a great, colourful souvenir.

While widely available in New Zealand, the book does not appear to be stocked by or Barnes & Noble according to their websites (although Chapple’s 2003 book also titled Te Araroa is available, so don’t be confused.) To purchase from outside NZ, ask your local retailer or buy online (there will be international shipping charges) from or

About the Trail:

Like so many outdoors enthusiasts in New Zealand, I have been waiting and hoping that Te Araroa would one day be a reality. Seeing the the trail officially opened made my heart sing. But Te Araroa is unique among long trails in many ways – and while some will love these differences, others may be disappointed. Let me be clear that I have not walked Te Araroa (except a few short sections) so don’t rely on my review as a planning tool.

The first potential issue people will point out is that the trial is not completely in wilderness. It passes through towns and cities as it goes. This makes resupplying and using a “bounce box” easier, as you don’t have to leave the trail to find supermarkets, outdoors suppliers, post offices or whatever else you need. But this does mean that it’s less of a total escape from civilization than something like the Appalachian Trail. I personally feel there’s too much roadside walking included in the route, especially on the North Island. But this may decrease as more connecting trails are completed over time.

Also, it’s not a hike all of the way through. The official route includes a paddling section along the Wanganui River. This may not appeal to everyone, and adds the complication of renting a canoe and arranging for it to be dropped off and picked up. Some through-hikers, however, might enjoy the variety this provides. Others may deviate from the planned route and find a way to cover the distance on foot.

Accommodation options are a bit spotty along the full route. In many cases, New Zealand’s excellent back country hut system provides plenty of shelter. In some areas, however, there are no huts and it will be necessary to pitch a tent or tarp. Then of course there are the towns and cities, where you may need to find private accommodation for the night. If the trail gains enough popularity, I suspect locals will start offering cheap places to pitch a tent, or bunkhouses on their farms or something. Huts are quite plentiful along the South Island portion of the trail, so through-hikers may be able to stop carrying a tent (but always carry some emergency shelter) after completing the North Island.

The trail mostly follows marked tracks so moderately skilled and fit trampers should be able to complete the trail. There are a few sections labelled as “routes” meaning that there may not be markings along the way and map and compass navigation skills are likely needed.

Te Araroa is an amazing accomplishment and mostly due to the efforts of tireless volunteers who believed they could make it happen. New Zealand has some of the most diverse, beautiful and breath taking wilderness in the world, and to be able to see the entire country on foot is a privilege many of us would love to experience. While I don’t see a 3000km through-hike in my future, I do hope to chip away at it bit by bit as time allows.

For detailed information about Te Araroa, including maps, trail notes, advice and much more, visit