Off Yonder – Adventure Travel Stories - Seeing the world for what it is

Adams 4 Bivy, King Ravine & Rime Ice
Gray Knob Cabin, White Mountains, New Hampshire, United States

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No burnt bottoms! That is, for my second round of baking muffins up at Gray Knob cabin. It was a simple fix, really. I just moved the baking rack one notch higher.

It was an amazing long stint up at the cabin – nine days! My fresh veggies nearly lasted the whole time, and I saved the best for last, a nice piece of butternut squash. I baked it up in my stove-top oven and shared it with “Ben Here” – an Appalachian Trail (AT) through hiker who spent the previous blustery night in a small cave up on the ridge just below Adams 4.

Ben came into Grey Knob cabin at around 8am. I don’t usually get folks arriving at that time and after asking him how he’s doing, he admitted he’d had a rough night. AT hikers usually adopt trail nick-names of some sort. Either they’re given to them or they come up with them on their own. ‘Ben’ may well be his real first name, but it developed as he signed the shelter log books simply with the date and “Ben Here.”

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Mt. Washington Traverse
Gray Knob Cabin, White Mountains, New Hampshire, United States

My second week was a short one… only five days as that’s how the sub schedule worked out. It really was too short. It looks like my next stint will be upwards to 7 or 8 days on the mountain. Perfect.

I hiked back up with 40 pounds of gear under clear blue skies and a light rustling of leaves from the gentle breeze stirring the mountain air. In my pack was the rest of my personal equipment, mostly winter clothing as I prepare for the temperatures to drop. But about ten pounds of it was fresh vegetables and fruits to sustain me. I’ve never been a big fan of the freeze dried backpacking meals, and they’re crazy expensive. I think I fed myself for the week spending about Twenty Dollars.

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Mountain Life
Gray Knob Cabin, White Mountains, New Hampshire, United States

The tranquility of the mountains cannot be matched. After my first week of living in the White Mountains of New Hampshire at Gray Knob Cabin, I’ve totally fallen in love with the simple life away from the hustle and bustle of more populated areas of the world. To get off the power grid and only have to worry about how not to burn the bottoms of my blueberry muffins puts things all into perspective. On clear days I make my way up to the rocky peaks above me and on stormy days I bundle up in my rain gear and go for walks in the driving rain and under the flashes of lightning and the cracks of thunder that echo off the surrounding slopes.

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Plumbago Outback Expedition
Plumbago Station, Australia

It wasn’t as hot as we had hoped it would be. The temperature didn’t exceed 40°C which is strange for this part of the world this time of year. But that’s not all: it also rained. It rained on us while camping in the desert where the average rainfall is a scant 230mm a year. Go figure.

My friend Carl, who was heading the trip, invited me to join the five-day backpacking trip in the semi-arid Australian Outback as a wilderness guide. The trip is organized by a private school near Melbourne for their Year 11 (11th Grade) class. It is the last installment and the most rigorous of their Outdoor Education program. In previous years these students have visited mountain, marine and forest environments and now they must face the most famous, and harsh of Australian environments – the desert.

We drove over 1000 km north from Melbourne past the town of Broken Hill to cross the border into South Australia and onto Plumbago Station. From here the kids, nearly sixty of them, split into two groups to walk the loop trail in opposite directions.

I was assigned to the clockwise group and once we had picked our navigators for the half-day trek to our first camp we were off. The red dirt, of the Australian Outback, soon coated our boots and legs. (Over the week that red dirt would lodge itself in various unexpected places on our bodies and in our packs).

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The Mighty Muddy Dusky
Dusky Track, Fiordlands NP, Te Anau, New Zealand

Ah, the Dusky.

That, with a wistful look off into the infinite, seems to be a common reaction among those who have experienced the Dusky Track buried deep in Fiordland National Park on New Zealand’s South Island.

The floatplane touched down with only a gentle whoosh on the glassy, silky smooth surface of Supper Cove. Steep, massive tree-covered slopes surrounding our little landing cove looked like they had been jettisoned from the seabed into the sky. The tide was out and the sandy estuary of the Seaforth River glowed golden touched with green where sea vegetation was starting to take hold. The gentle flow of the river braided across the sandy surface, finally ending its journey from the staggering peaks above.

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Hills and Huts
Routeburn Track, Mount Aspiring NP, New Zealand

The Routeburn Track on the South Island of New Zealand is designated as one of the “Great Walks” in New Zealand. That means beautiful terrain, awe-inspiring views and luxury (by camping and trekking standards) style accommodation. It also means it’s guaranteed to be expensive and crowded. Ah well. It’s ultimately worthwhile sharing earth’s beauty. And it’s certainly tolerable the way the New Zealand Department of Conservation manages the number of people that come up.

The Buckly Transport shuttle picked Derek and me up right outside our hostel the same morning we called and took us from Queenstown directly to the trailhead. Not 20 meters in we crossed a span bridge over some of the clearest water I’ve ever seen. Further up the stream, pools of sunlit water glowed bright blue against the pure white of bubbly, churning water flowing into them. The stark dark shadows of trees spilled in creating a frame with the sparkling rocks around the whole scene. This was a good start.

Once in the woods the wide, well-established trail made for easy walking and allowed us to gawk at the surrounding beauty rather than where we placed our feet. An endless carpet of ferns and small lush shrubs covered the forest floor, split only by the meandering white rocky path. Criss-cross patterns of sunlight and shadows floated down from the canopy above.

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Castle Rock
McMurdo Station, Ross Island, Antarctica

Stepping off of the ski-equipped LC-130 Hercules aircraft at Williams Field on the Antarctic coast after the three hour flight from the Pole, the first thing I noticed was how the warmer snow felt under my feet. It was nearly 40 degrees below zero (conveniently that is where the Fahrenheit and Centigrade scales are equal) when I boarded the plane at the pole. I didn’t think much of how the snow felt under my feet, or what it sounded like. The squeaking crunching sound had been there all season. But when I set foot on the warmer costal snow, where it was right about freezing, the snow felt very different – soft and creamy.

Four of my polie co-workers and I, plus a dozen scientists from the pole were on our way back to the land of green. Our first stop was a night in McMurdo. Not long after us, people leaving the pole will be able to fly straight through without an overnight layover in McMurdo. Instead of getting a ride to the base like we did, they would simply get off of the smaller ski-equipped LC-130 and be shuttled from the softer snow ‘skiway’ to the harder ice runway where the huge wheeled C-17 Globemaster III will whisk them straight to Christchurch, New Zealand.

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Europe: Tour, Symphony, Ski, Reunion
Gratz, Austria

040103-europe-091-chrisWe had great week in Austria, taking day trips to Ljubljana and Bratislava, and then bringing in the new year in Graz, with Alastair. The three of us then headed to Western Austria to ski!

Chris and I took the train into Germany to hunt down our long lost classmates from 20 years ago!

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Volcano High
Mt. St. Helens, Washington, United States

After 4,000 feet of vertical gain, cresting over the crater rim of Mount St. Helens was way beyond my greatest expectations. This trip was all very spontaneous. I had finished a great trip up Mount Whitney (from the west side, the only way to go) and was driving to Seattle when I intercepted some friends […]

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Whitney from the West
High Sierra, California, United States

There may be two routes to approach hiking up Mount Whitney, but as far as I’m concerned, there‚Äôs really only one way to go. Come from the west, my boy. The highest peak in the lower 48 has been developed into a very straight forward hike up to the 14,496 foot summit. I say hike, […]

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