February 7, 2020
Today began with an easier hike (than yesterday) near Queenstown, then we drove north to the vicinity of Aoraki/Mt Cook.
Queenstown: After breakfast at a local cafe, we took a last walk through Queenstown and along the Lake Wakatipu waterfront.
Sam Summers’ Hut Hike – 5.4 miles, 800 feet
Then we drove west along the shores of Lake Wakatipu to the Mt Crichton Loop Track trailhead.
I enjoyed the hike, and it was good to stretch our legs on an easier trail, after the challenging hike yesterday, and another challenging hike planned for tomorrow.
Arrowtown: Next, we drove back through Queenstown, and on to Arrowtown, where we stopped for a picnic lunch in the park, and a short wander around the western style gold rush town.
Driving north: For the next few hours, we drove north along Hwys 6 and 8, with several short stops, and lots of interesting scenery along the way.
At Lindis Pass, over 3000 feet in elevation, we walked up to a viewpoint over the dry tussock landscape. The golden rolling hills reminded me of the high deserts of eastern Oregon and California.
We took one last break in Omarama, where I found a few post cards, but no knitting wool.
Lake Ohau: We arrived at Lake Ohau around 5 pm. Once again, I was taken by surprise, by the startlingly turquoise blue of the lake, and the barren mountain slopes streaked with colorful landslips beyond. I was not expecting anything so stunning, as we had just been passing through the dry summer landscape of the Mackenzie Basin. And into my mind came memories of the southwestern US, where I spent a fair amount of time geologizing in my younger days. Here in New Zealand, I was seeing glacial lakes such as those that filled many of the basins of western North America in the ice ages. It was like going back in time, in a way, and I was grateful to see a version of this ‘geologic setting’ in real life. So striking in starkness and color. Another of the amazing experiences I would have on this trip. And there would be more beautiful images later today!
Our lodge room had ‘picture’ windows overlooking Lake Ohau and the near and distant mountains. Standing beyond but higher than all was the stunning Aoraki/Mt Cook, 12,218 feet tall, the highest mountain in New Zealand. From our vantage, it was a giant chunk of glistening white, it’s peak plateau about a mile long, it’s faceted shear white slopes facing us, calling attention to itself, and I felt lucky to see it.
After a dinner in the lodge of pumpkin miso soup, salmon, and chocolate mousse, we returned to our room to see the moon rising and the the mountain glowing in the twilight, then in alpenglow. I seemed to be sitting in a picture postcard.
Later, the rising moon was reflected in the lake, and Aoraki/Mt Cook shone with moon glow.
We also saw Orion in the sky, but have not yet seen the southern cross. This day ended well, and tomorrow we were looking forward to getting closer to Aoraki/Mt Cook.