Multiple people checked in to make sure I was still alive recently.
Landing in King County, I stepped off the plane only to be smacked in the face (with a gloved hand and sanitizer of course) by the new COVID-19 normal, which I found confusing to navigate having been removed from the situation for the past 3 weeks. I was a 90-year-old trying to use facetime for the first time, with the camera facing the wrong direction. “Why do I look like a KNEE CAP?”What were we allowed to do anymore? I tried calling my friends to hang out, but turns out that isn’t an option anymore. I woke up early before the crowds (social distancing) and went hiking at a popular spot and posted a picture and was scolded by the entire internet assuming I went mid day.
This is the worst time in history to write for a blog called “Get the F*** Outside”.
I suppose I should change it to, “Get the F*** Away from Everyone.”
What an interesting time to be alive.
For instance, I don’t understand why everyone is loading up on toilet paper. Jump in the shower, wash your butt and save your green for more important things like beer.
The foundation for a kingly quarantine experience.
These are desperate times people.
Oh, also load up on zombie movies. So far we’ve watched World War Z, I Am Legend, 28 Days Later, Train to Busan and Contagion. Suggestions are appreciated, especially if this cough doesn’t go away.
New Zealand seems a lifetime ago because of all the COVID-19 conversations and new work protocols. Today I woke up with a bad cough, so I’m staying home from work and writing, between sleeping and dying. Hopefully this shit isn’t transferable over computer screens. Better go by some beer just in case.
You not me.
My fridge is so drunk she’s texting the outlet to unplug her, and re plug her in, so she can experience being turned on again after all these years.
Back to New Zealand stories.
I finished the Richmond Range, and found a hostel in town the last time I wrote. That evening I sequestered a plethora of tourist pamphlets and smeared them over the table at a bar to sift through over a beer and greasy burger.
I looked like bait set for a kidnapper.
The next day I booked a guided canyoneering excursion in Abel Tasman National Park hiking, cliff jumping and repelling down waterfalls.
The following day I ascended the highest via ferrata waterfall climb in the world.
Our guide had climbed some of the gnarliest peaks in the area and she was a bad ass chick. Tall and muscular, with blond hair pulled loosely into a pony tail and intense eyes, she was a female Mic Jagger. She was funny, crass, and didn’t give a shit what others thought. I asked her to recommend the gnarliest hike she could come up with nearby, because the weather proved to be better there than on the Te Araroa. I told her my background, and that I wanted to tackle the most difficult shit they had to offer. She spared me some beta, but because of the recent flooding, suggested that I go to the Dept of Conservation office to run my plans by them. I told her I would.
She ended the conversation convincing me to tell the rangers I’m not just “some tourist”, and to go into detail about my outdoor background so I was taken seriously. Three people had drown last week while trying to ford rivers backpacking, and the DOC offices were nervous.
Once we reached the 1,400ft summit of the falls, we took a helicopter back down to the parking lot, which proved to be even scary then the climb because the pilot was under the false impression that he needed to swerve around through the air like a drunk uber driver. Everyone else thought it was fun.
I almost shit my pants.
I walked into the DOC office as soon as I made it back to Wanaka. I strutted up to the counter in the same manner you do when you order an extreme coffee beverage to show that you have control over at least one thing in your life. Evereything else is a hot mess in your life, your pants are inside out, you don’t know where your kid is, but damn it-“I’ll take a venti, quad shot, half decaf, sugar free, white chocolate mocha with almond milk, 180 degrees, with two pumps of caramel syrup, the real syrup not the fake flavored one, double cupped with a large straw and 2 tablespoons of whipped cream- Not any more than that- I’m watching my height.”
A tall thin woman with short brown hair greeted me behind the desk with forceful eyes, and a smart confidence about her. I told her I was a hardcore hiker; and I was looking for a hairy backpacking quest she could recommend. Soon we were exchanging stories like co-workers filling the time until the next customer to come in.
“I would suggest Mount Aspiring National Park… This loop” she stated pointing at a map on the counter. This was the trail Mic Jagger recommended. The loop where three people had drowned the previous week.
“You’ll have to ford the Makarora River here.” She advised pointed at the small squiggly line on the map where two of the deaths occurred.
The trip would take me over the Makaroa River and up the Wilkin to Kerin Forks hut. I would hike to Top Forks Hut from there, and out to two beautiful alpine Lakes; Lucidious and Castalia. Turning around, I’d head back to Kerin Forks and over the Wilkin River out to the Siberian Hut, up to another high lake and over Gillespie Pass out the Blue Pools Track to the highway where I would hitch back to my car.
Around 60 or so miles.
Early the next morning, I pulled my rental car into a grassy field next to the trail head indicated for the cars of trampers.
I was beginning with the most dangerous part of the hike, the fording of the Makarora; a glacier fed river with a loud mouth which split into two forks I would maneuver through.
With a strong urgency to succeed, (and get it over with), I sped walked down to the riverbed through thick weeds which rubbed their dew all over my legs. Rude. The once murderous water seemed somewhat shallow from a dry person’s perspective standing on the bank. The two branches of the waterway appeared as an uneven forked tongue that could throw me back and swallow me if it desired. Walking up to the first fork, I noted the distance to be about 20 feet across; the next was over 100.
I took a breath and submerged my foot into the moving water. The lung full wasn’t expansive enough to handle the shock. My chest rose and I gasped as the heat from my foot evaporated into the water and flowed down stream, like pathetic dandelion seeds in the wind. How could the water be this cold and still flowing? I was a cartoon character that stepped in wet cement the moment it hardened, but somehow the liquid kept moving and the only thing keeping me frozen was my own ability to remind myself to move. I slipped my other shoe inside the water. 100 invisible knives stabbed my foot. The invisible ones are the worst.
No one will ever believe you.
Shoving my body forward I cut through the rushing stream, pulling my lower legs through molasses I had just taken out of the freezer. The ground dipped under my feet allowing the water to climb up my thighs.
Keep moving, keeping moving.
I wailed as I yanked my bottom half from the grasp of the current and pulled myself on to the rocky bank to signify the finish line for the first crossing. “Owe! Owe! Owe!” I yelled in my normal deep voice which sounded more like male farmer getting nipped by his horse than anything coming out of a girl’s mouth. Lowering my arms I held my legs and walked awkwardly in an attempt to pump blood through them and dissipate the ice cream headaches I didn’t know my extremities were capable of experiencing.
This is why the others drown, one slip under the water and your muscles would cramp up leaving you paralyzed. What a horrific way to go.
I pondered this as I starred at the next fork of the river, spanning the distance in front of me. Still, it didn’t appear too deep, but if my legs buckled, that would be a problem.
Pushing the thoughts of death aside, as one does before they journey into the unknown, usualIy doing something stupid and having their significant other hold their beer- I stepped into the freezing water of the second fork. This time the cold lost its grip on my consciousness, as adrenaline filled my veins like a party drug. I kept my eyes focused on the bedrock of the stream, heaving my heavy frozen sausage legs meticulously forward leaning into the angry current; a solid 3 foot tall liquid wall being shoved into my lower half attempting to clothes line me. The water rose, clenching it’s jaws on my thighs. Keep moving. My trekking poles were bring swept out from the riverbed I feverishly forced them into. Keep moving.The butt of my pack was on the verge of submersion. My feet vanished, clouded by the glacial silt carried downstream. Struggling to balance, I blindly tapped my ogre feet along the bottom for rocks with no dexterity. My magical bunion couldn’t even help me. This was bad.
My eyes jetted ahead assessing how much further I had to go.
I was only half-way.
TURN AROUND. I thought.
No river is worth your life. The entire debate team of my brain had already turned around 2 feet prior so I skipped the “what if” argument as it was useless and pivoted, pulling my body back the way I had come.
On the bank, I peered down at my numb legs to make sure they still existed. They looked dead.
My legs hate me.
Good thing I only have one brain and its in my head, I have a feeling a mutiny would occur otherwise.
I was disappointed, but knew there was a jet boat available which ran up the waterway for people wanting to avoid crossing the Makaroa on foot. This would shave down the total mileage for the journey, but I was proud that I turned around when I did, avoiding poking the bear enough to wake her. Experience can lead to disaster due to a grown complacency we achieve. “Well, I’ve made it THIS far, so I must be doing something right.”
Nope. No one is immune to disaster.
My Dad says, “Always brag about turning around.” It’s harder than continuing forward.
I agree with this advice, unless you are bragging to the jet boat service by the river you just attempted to walk through.
“You did WHAT?!!!” The man behind the counter bellowed, shocked by my efforts.
“I tried to cross the river?” I said with less confidence, as if my memory had failed me.
“The river is in flood! What were you thinking?!” His eyes burned, searching my face for an answer that would not suffice.
In my defense, I had done everything an outsider could do- I spoke with the DOC office who suggested this river crossing, I had the experience and education for swift water, and I knew when to turn around. Plus I had never seen the river in flood, as far as I was concerned this was what the river looked like low. Perhaps I had talked myself up too much to my fake co-worker at the DOC office and she took me for a super hero. It probably didn’t help that I was wearing my underwear outside my pants.
Still, if I had slipped and went under, his anger was not without reason.
“I had to pull the bodies out of there last week.” The man stated glancing off handing me a receipt for the boat ride.
“I’m sorry, that must have been awful.” I said guilty of causing him the grief of relieving it.
“Well, I’m glad you survived.”