23 October, 1998
Friday, October 23, 1998
Hi! Today was a FUN day of exploring! I met Elissa Elliott and her team at the Windsor Hotel and we were off to the mountains...Arthur's Pass National Park. Let me introduce her team...remember, they will be going to the Dry Valleys. Two of the men are from Bozeman, Montana...John, who is a veteran Antarctic traveler, (he's mentioned in Sara Wheeler's book entitled "Terra Incognita--Travels in Antarctica" on pages 73-77), and Ed, who has also been to the Dry Valleys before. Chris, who recently moved from Bozeman to Reno, Nevada is the third member of the team, and finally Nina, is a graduate student from Bozeman.
The two hour drive to Arthur's Pass National Park was gorgeous! We had the snow-capped mountains in sight the whole way. The road wound around through hilly areas, then once in awhile it would change to a flat open stretch with lakes and ranches (called stations here in New Zealand). Soon the clouds gave way to rain...SNOW...then rain again. All along the way the fields were dotted with sheep, cows, and occasionally horses. It was really a beautiful drive.
Near the actual Arthur's Pass, we stopped at the Bealey Hotel & Lodge for lunch. The lodge was built with views in mind...huge windows where you could look out at the mountains, glaciers, and braided river below. Let me explain what a braided river is. The riverbed is wide and shallow, and the water flows in many smaller streams that look as if they are braided together. This is very typical of rivers that are fed by glaciers, and very common in Alaska (I remember them from my trip to Denali National Park).
After lunch we drove down the road a bit, found a trailhead and went on an awesome hike. It was rather muddy along the trail, and tiny rivers of water were flowing down as we hiked up. We started in a lush forest...with moss everywhere on the ground and on the trees. If you stepped off the trail to avoid puddles, your feet were greeted by soft, spongy ground. It was a welcome break from the slippery roots and puddles on the trail!
As we approached the tree line (where the forest ends and the vegetation changes to shrubs), we could start to see views of the river below us and the mountains in the distance. Soon we were walking a ridge trail. About 2 hours into the hike we decided to turn around. It had gotten windy and colder, AND it was spitting rain...the combination made for poor hiking conditions. At this point though, we had reached a level where we had a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains, valleys, glaciers, and rivers...FANTASTIC! It had been worth the effort!
The hike down was slippery, but went by quickly and in about an hour we were back at the car changing out of our muddy, wet shoes. Elissa and I headed back toward Christchurch, but stopped along the way to take photos and check out a few places. One of these was a lodge called Grasmere Lodge...an old high country station (ranch) built back in 1858. Set in the valley surrounded by 7,000 ft. peaks, it offered quite a setting for what they call a small luxury hotel. At Grasmere, we talked with one of the owners, who explained that the animals out int he field were red deer. They were raising them so that they could harvest the "velvet" from their antlers and have it ground up into a powder. They sell this to Asian markets to be used in medicines (vitamins).
We arrived back in Christchurch at about 7:00 PM, and after dropping Elissa off at the Windsor, I headed to the Commodore Hotel, where I'm staying. A great day! :)
Please be sure to check out the photos I'm starting to send to my slide show. I will only be able to include a couple of pictures each day in my journal, but the rest of my photos will appear in the slide show. Keep writing me and have a great day!
Talk to you tomorrow!
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