We Made It!

Hardest thing I’ve ever done (voluntarily!), and the most rewarding. Here’s just a few photos from our adventures on the Milford Track, South Island, New Zealand.

Our group had a total of 15 people, only 6 of us from the US, all good and true friends. Here we are on Day 1, after a 2.5 hour bus ride, an hour long boat ride and a short mile hike to the first lodge: Matt, Becket, Jim, me, Kelly and Meg. After the photo we went on a 2 hour hike with a great guide to learn about the flora and fauna. It was fascinating (and our only walk without backpacks, what a joy!)

We walked 10 miles the next day, Day 2. They call it the “Easy Day.” We called it stunningly beautiful, and not always such easy walking, up and down hills, over some very tricky rocky areas.

Day 3: When they call it the hard day, you’d better believe them. Follow this valley back as far as your eye can see, and you still won’t be able to see where we started on Day 2. On Day 3 we only went 9 miles, but 5 of them were up up up, the last 2 miles up were, well, ridiculous. And then we were on top of the world, with perfect weather and a rare 360 degree view of mountain peaks all around us. One of our guides had been up 6 times this season and had never been able to see the views, it always being clouded over. The 4 miles down were tough–steep downhill on rocky, difficult terrain.

Day 4 is called the “Long Day” and I’m not sure 13 miles has ever seemed so long. The track was easy in some spots, but rocky and difficult in others. Most of us felt like our feet had been beaten by baseball bats by the time we made it to the end. But oh oh oh the forest is lovely; primeval ferns and lichens and fern trees and moss and flute-like bird song and it seemed impossible that a dinosaur wouldn’t be behind the next tree munching on vegetation. And the waterfalls? One after the other, one more beautiful than the next.

On Day 5 you wake up in Milford Sound, soak in the views, feel overwhelmed with gratitude at how lucky you are to be in such a gorgeous place with such wonderful people. Then a boat ride around the sound and a 4.5 hour bus ride back to Queenstown. Then hamburgers as big as your head from Fergberger’s, a couple of glasses of wine and then…. bed! Oh boy.  Here’s Milford Sound, from the window of our hotel room, no kidding:

More later –right now bed is calling. But I can’t end without thanks to all at Ultimate Hikes, including our guides Megan, Amy and Masako for doing such an amazing job creating this experience, and being so good to the land while doing it. And to a truly amazing bunch of friends–Matt, Kelly, Meg, Becket, and especially Jim, who made all the difference in the world. I love you all.

MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Lambs are doing well, although Truffle’s twins are being hand fed by my wonderful sitters (yeah Danielle and Mike!). As I suspected, Truffle’s udder is not working well, but she is giving some milk, and with all the great care they are getting they’re doing great. Willie is good, sounds like he is in love with his two new Cavalier visitors. Sounds like it is cold there though, 15 F, a far cry from spring here!


  1. Liz says

    A huge congratulations on the epic and injury-free hike! Thanks for the gorgeous photos. Awesome. (Ever wonder why it isn’t awe-ful, or awe-most, why do such magnificent things get labeled with only ‘some’ ‘awe,’ gotta love language… )

  2. Alexandra says

    Congratulations on completing the hike! The pictures are absolutely stunning; looks like the views were well worth the effort!

  3. Debra says

    Congratulations! Did you discover that going down a rough trail can be just as hard as going up a steep one? I used to love that springy, float-in-air feeling the first few steps after shedding my pack. Did you take enough chocolate?

  4. Laura says

    I thought you had been preparing for a 13 mile TOTAL hike! I thought that was impressive. This is beyond impressive. Looks like it was worth it though! Just curious – how much does a typical pack weigh? I weigh 100 lbs so I think the pack would be my downfall.

  5. trisha says

    Have a half hour before we leave for the airport to Christchurch (and then the little town of Akaroa for R & R). To Laura, the packs needed to contain your clothes and toiletries for 5 days, assuming weather from very cold and raining to hot and sunny. My pack only weighed about 13 pounds. I have a bad back and spent an embarrassing amount of money on a light weight raincoat & warm jacket. The lodges all have drying rooms, so you only needed one set of clothes for the day and one set for the evening. We’d get to the lodge, take off our sweaty clothes (was hot the first 2 days, not expected!), wash them in the sink and put them in the dryer. We’d wear our 2nd set of clothes for dinner,then pick up our already dried clothes before bedtime. Worked great. I should say though that Jim carried the water most days and he even carried my Kindle so I could read at night. What a guy. I still took a bunch of first aid stuff i didn’t need (the guides have it) so could’ve probably gotten away with 9 or 10 pounds. A good pack makes a huge difference – we learned to put it on probably and all the weight is carried on your hips. So Laura — I’ll bet you could do it!

    To Debra: Everyone said that downhill was harder, since it was so steep and rocky, and it is hard on your knees. But uphill was still harder for me because my lungs are so bad . My asthma kicked in at one point and before my inhaler could start working I became so low on oxygen that my vision became blurry and deciding where to put my feet on the rocky trail became almost impossible. Since we were just starting to climb up something like 2,200 feet, that was a low moment. Thankfully the drugs kicked in, but it still was a tough grind for me. But wow was it worth it!

  6. Ellen Pepin says

    Congratulations on completing your beautiful hike. The pictures are gorgeous! After hiking in many states, I can appreciate your journey. Thirteen miles in one day is a lot anywhere, but in rocky mountains, that’s a real accomplishment. You will remember this trip for the rest of your life.

  7. Jennifer says

    Congrats Trisha, the great views are well earned! Fantastic pictures too, spectacular views remind me of my trip to Milford Sound years ago. Glad to hear the lambs & Willie are doing well while you’re on your fabulous trip.

  8. em says

    Wow!!!That is truly a hike to be congratulated upon! What an accomplishment! What an experience! Not to mention that, after so many miles, it must have been the burger/wine/bedtime trifecta of a lifetime. Good for you!

  9. says

    You’re very lucky if you saw both the view from McKinnon Pass AND the waterfalls, usually you would get one or the other. Paradise on earth that valley.

  10. Cindy McFadden says

    Be sure to check out the Hector’s dolphin tours while in Akaroa. The only place in the world to swim with these rare little guys. Then take the coastal train from Christchurch up to Kaikoura and see the magnificent and acrobatic dusky dolphins. Fabulous!

  11. Pike says

    Congratulations! What an accomplishment this is!! And being rewarded with those wonderful views must have been the icing on the cake. Beautiful, beautiful pictures.

  12. says

    OOOHH. Hey if you’re on the South Island and you want the rush of a lifetime, go to Motueka and pilot your own stunt plane! I kid you not, it’s soooooo thrilling! http://www.uflyextreme.co.nz/
    Enjoy “the land of green ‘neath a sky of blue in southern seas where cares are few, where dreams are golden and hearts are true in the beautiful land of the fern”!!!!

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