jen yu: new zealand 2004 - day 3

new zealand 2004 - day 3

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rees track, glenorchy
november 27, 2004
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We were supposed to start our 3-day Rees-Dart tramp, but because of the closure, we decided to drive to Muddy Creek and hike up the Rees Track for the day. We had to wait for the DOC to open at 8:30 to get track conditions so we could wring our hands over whether the Routeburn would open in time for our planned backpack or not. Then we drove out of Glenorchy to the trailhead. We never made it to the trailhead because Jeremy (and two other groups) were too nervous to ford one of the deeper creeks with the car. So we hoofed it from that point adding another 4K or so on the dirt road (unsealed). There were a lot of stream fords and it was good practice for the next few weeks.

Past Muddy Creek, the flat Rees Valley came into view. We hiked on the banks of the Rees River. Classic glacial valley. Mount Earnslaw sat high above us with fresh snow from the previous storm. Waterfalls were abundant down the steep sides of the valley. The color of the river was that signature glacial flour blue-green. The trail moved closer to the river and crossed back and forth a few times, but remained very flat. Eventually we began our bog-traverse. Basically walking on the water table. The grasses were deceptively high and "dry" looking. One step and your boots would sink to your calves in muddy bubbling water. Slog, slosh, slop, slog. You had 1 second per step before the water would start to penetrate your gaiter and pour into your boots.

We took Stan out for a picture on the Rees when the accident happened. He had been safely travelling in a ziploc in my pack when... his right arm was ripped off. Mortified at the thought of photographing him as an amputee for my nephew's class, we strategically shot pictures with Stan's arm in place. We passed some private farmland and took turns losing and finding the trail. In these sorts of conditions where the trail is poorly wanded, people create their own side trails and it makes for a confusing network of paths in the boggy grasses and mud. Sometimes the mud would hold firm, sometimes you plunged suddenly to your knees. We grew all too familiar with the sucking sound your foot makes when extracting it from deep mud. I was so glad we did not book the Dusky Sound Track (where trampers sometimes have to swim across the trail).

Near 25-mile hut, we followed a trail up the hillslope to the old building to break for snacks and shoot a pic with Stan (holding his arm intact). The sun was strong, but the winds were chilly. My nose was running like crazy and a headcold-like headache was coming on. We headed back to where we started, finding firmer and drier routes across the bog. Our stream crossings were getting quite fast. On the road, there were plenty of columbines in bloom, most past prime. We finished out at about 21 km (13+ miles). We drove into town and grabbed some hot food (fish and chips, roasted tomato soup, and grilled ham and cheese) from Glen Royden's. Then we drove northwest to camp at Lake Sylvan campground. It was empty except for dozens of sandflies (like east coast black flies). They are harder to squish than mosquitoes and not nearly as aggressive, although they do specialize in the kamakaze eye or ear dive, and bite from time to time.

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