NZ 2020: Day 3, Christchurch to Punakaiki

January 27, 2020

Our guide picked us up in the morning in Christchurch to begin a two week guided hiking tour of the South Island of New Zealand.  The agenda for the first day was to cross the Southern Alps at Arthur’s Pass, and to arrive in Punakaiki on the West Coast by the end of the day.

Image 3-22-20 at 11.10 PMThe South Island is about 500 miles long, and 150ish miles wide, with steep mountains along the west coast. The mountains create a rain shadow for the eastern part of the island. We were on our way to experience the rain forests and wetter climate of the west coast.

Castle Hill

Our first hiking stop was Castle Hill. We walked up the hill and through the maze of giant, weirdly eroded limestone boulders and knobs that standout in the landscape.



We learned early on that most of the wildflowers we would see are non-native, and considered weeds. (“If it’s pretty it’s a pest!”) The national effort to remove alien wildlife, both plants and animals, was an ongoing theme during our trip.


Wandering among the limestone boulders.



View back to the car park.

Hike #2 of 2020, 2.2 miles, 150 feet.

Arthur’s Pass National Park

We could see we were headed for clouds and rain as we continued west toward the mountains.


We stopped to look at the Waimakariri River, one of the largest of many broad, braided glacial outwash rivers that cross the eastern plains of the South Island.


Waimakariri River



We made a quick stop to view Devil’s Punchbowl Falls, 131 meters high.

Rain began as we drove through Arthur’s Pass.


One of many road preservation structures and roadworks we would see in this geologically active country.


Rata tree blooms – these are native!


Quintessential New Zealand green pastures with sheep and cows.

We reached the west coast near Kumara, then headed north to Punakaiki, admiring the beautiful beaches and lush green, misty slopes along the way. It had been a lovely first day of our tour.


Driving north along the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand.


West coast sun, clouds and beaches!

Trip note: Our tour was with the New Zealand company Active Adventures. I have only good things to say about our experience with them. Amazingly, because of some last minute changes, we were the only two people on the first five days of our tour. We had been expecting up to twelve people, and instead we had a private tour, with an entire small bus and guide to ourselves. This is the first time we have taken this type of tour, and we were not sure what to expect, but we soon became good friends with our guide. We appreciated being able to simply enjoy the adventure without worrying about  the logistics of meals and lodging, or the left-sided driving.  As the trip went on, there were challenges from the weather, and we were very glad that our local, experienced guides could nimbly create alternative itineraries – more about that later.

Tomorrow we would explore the landscape around Punakaiki.

Yellow bells at Tom McCall Point, knitting progress, and neighborhood sights

Tom McCall Point, March 18, 2020


Tom McCall Point, seen from near the trailhead.

We got to see the mid-March wildflower suite. Yellow Bells were sprinkled through the meadows at every elevation. I have never seen so many anywhere!


Yellow bells on the lower plateau, Mt Adams beyond.


More yellow bells, midway to the top.


Yellow bells and an early balsam root near the summit.


Compact early blooms of the purple Columbia desert parsley line my favorite trail segment that I call Parsley Alley.


Columbia desert parsley


There is a new geology sign at the summit!


Gold stars were sprinkled in some of the sunny spots.

More flowers along the trail:


Looking eastward toward Rowena as we return to the trailhead.

Hike # 33, 4.3 miles, 1300 feet.   We had no trouble keeping our distance from the few other hikers on the trail, and so far, we are still encouraged to get outside as long as we can keep our distance.

Knitting progress:

I finished the Geology Shawl.


Geology shawl, pattern by Very Busy Monkey, Malabrigo Mechita, Ninfas colorway.


I have been knitting the sleeves on my Meris sweater, put away since before our New Zealand trip.


I cast on 390 stitches for the Which Came First shawl, using the Malabrigo Mechita Piedras that my daughter picked out.

Noticed while walking in my neighborhood:

New blooms:






A camelia left in a hedge

New growth:



Tree trunk

A secret message, and interesting sidewalk cracks and patches:



Cherry blossoms and snow in Portland, and a White River snow hike, March 2020

Cherry blossoms, Portland waterfront, March 11, 2020

We took our annual walk along the waterfront just as the cherry trees were beginning to bloom.


View from the Burnside Bridge.


Refections of clouds and trees in downtown buildings on this beautiful day:


White River microspike hike, March 12, 2020

On a blue sky day we walked up White River toward Mt Hood. The snow was packed and not deep, so we could wear our micro spikes instead of snow shoes. We walked past our usual stopping point, up the snow covered moraine, to a closer viewpoint of Mt Hood.


Walking along White River toward Mt Hood.


View from our lunch stop – near where the Timberline Trail crosses the river under the snow.


We walked to a high point on the moraine between the ridges.


Closer view of Mt Hood.


Zooming in on the peak – the black speck is a mountain climber.


Dormant lupine and penstemon on the moraine.


Wind patterns.

Screen Shot 2020-03-13 at 11.08.45 AM

Hike #32, 5.2 miles, 1000 feet.

Snow in Pdx, March 14, 2020

We had a few inches of snow that did not last long – but added a layer of white to the star magnolia blooms.


I am posting from caronavirus social isolation. We are still allowed to go out walking and hiking as long as we keep our distance. Wishing all who read this patience and good health! There will be a lot of knitting going forward!

First Trilliums of spring

March 2020

On two hikes last week we saw the first trilliums of spring. I also went on the Rose City Yarn Crawl with knitting friends, and to the Portland Art Museum to see the exhibition in honor of the 40th anniversary of the eruption of Mt St Helens.

Tryon Creek State Park, March 4, 2020

Hike #30 of 2020, 3 miles, 400 feet.


Early trillium blooms scattered on the forest floor.




Trillium buds unfurling

Other early flowers in the forest:


Indian plum


Skunk cabbage


Oregon grape


Salmon berry


Poetry in the park.

Angel’s Rest, March 9, 2020

Hike #31, 5 miles, 1500 feet.


Trillium and oak’s toothwort on the Angel’s Rest trail.


Trillium blooms on the forest floor.

We were treated to the usual stunning views from the top of Angel’s Rest on this sunny, calm day:


West toward Portland.


North to Silver Star Mountain.


East up the Columbia River.



Buttons from Twisted and Close Knit in Portland, and Blizzard in Vancouver.

Portland Art Museum: Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art

This exhibit marking the 40th anniversary of the Mt St Helen’s eruption is multifaceted – videos, photography, and paintings, depicting the mountain before and after the eruption. We did not live in the area at the time, but have hiked around the mountain often in the past ten years. My favorite paintings were these two vibrant depictions of the eruption:

NZ 2020: Christchurch

Days 1 and 2, January 25 – 26, 2020

We arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand, on a summery Saturday morning, having left winter and Friday behind at the International Dateline somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. We spent the next two days wandering around central Christchurch while adjusting to the 21 hour time leap, the left sided traffic, and the northern sun.


Arts Center


Small bookstore


Bridge of Remembrance

Christchurch is rebuilding after two major earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. New buildings are interleaved with earthquake damaged buildings and construction sites.


Back side of the Arts Center.


Artistic fencing around a construction zone.

The Cathedral has a long way to go:


There were plenty of people about enjoying the parks, shopping, dining and museums. We also came across street performances connected to the International Buskers Festival


and Chinese New Year.  


We visited the Canterbury Museum to get an introduction to Maori and natural history:


Maori and Moa




A bit of geology!

One of the curiosities in the museum was an small intact house decorated abundantly with abalone shells (Paua) by an enthusiastic couple:

We walked through Hagley Park a few times to get to our hotel.

New Zealand Gardens in the Hagley Park Arboretum:



Cabbage tree




Tree fern




Other sites in Hagley park:


Peacock Fountain


Rose garden


Herbaceous border




Punting on the Otakaro/Avon River


Sundial in the rose garden



We didn’t have enough time to see everything, but we knew we would be back in Christchurch in two weeks, so maybe we would see more then!



Meanwhile, in Portland…

Back in Portland after our trip to New Zealand, we were greeted by blooming daffodils, hyacinths and wind flowers.

Catherine Creek hike, February  27, 2020

We went to Catherine Creek in the eastern Columbia River Gorge to see what early blooming spring flowers were still on view. We lucked upon a windless, blue sky day, with Mt Hood reflected in the Columbia River. DSC00152Grass widows were waning, desert parsleys, gold stars, yellow bells and buttercups were emerging.

We hiked the lower paved loop, then the upper Bitterroot Trail above the fairy ponds all the way up Sunflower Hill to Atwood Road. We walked down the connector trail to Rowland Wall, for the first time.


Trail connection to Rowland Wall



Going down Rowland Wall.

We still want to try the inside out switchback on the upper Shoestring Trail that we missed last time. I love that there are so many trails to follow in this area, and that each visit during the next couple of months will present a different wildflower suite.

Image 2-27-20 at 9.33 PM

Hike #29, 5.5 miles, 1300 feet.


I knit a small amount while in New Zealand.


Geology shawl, and my current traveling socks.

A month in New Zealand…

Kia ora! I am back from a month in New Zealand! I prescheduled a few posts to publish while traveling, including three long overdue quilt history posts, which were the whole reason I started this blog in the first place. We never know how life will surprise us – the blog turned into something completely different, and the trip to New Zealand brought me more surprises than I could have imagined!

A year ago, when my husband and life partner of 40 years was planning his exit from a more than full time career of work in the medical field, he wanted to go far away for a long time. New Zealand had been unattainable to us because he always had to check in to work, even when on vacation. New Zealand is 21 hours ahead of Oregon. Today there hasn’t happened yet here – almost like time traveling! We booked a tour with an adventure hiking company for the first two weeks, and planned independent travel for the second two weeks, then let it all rest in our internet files until the January 2020 retirement date arrived.

We were on the South Island of New Zealand from January 23rd to February 23rd, and enjoyed every minute! Every day brought new surprises – mountain landscapes, active glaciers, active earthquake faults, metamorphic rocks, fiords, foliage, birds, whales, volcanoes, rainbows, different groceries, different stars, different social norms; all keeping me alert and invigorated with daily doses of novelty to wake up the slumbering brain cells of the gray Oregon winter.

It will take me a long time to fully process and write about it all, as we rejoin life on our side of the world. It was a completely refreshing experience, in a place I could never have imagined, and now will never forget!

Next NZ2020 Post: Christchurch, days 1 and 2