NZ2020: Day 16, Aoraki/Mt Cook to Christchurch

February 9, 2020

After the beautiful views of the mountains the previous night, we awoke to even clearer skies and a view of Aoraki/Mt Cook from our Chalet window.


Aoraki/Mt Cook from our room


Wider view from the Chalet balcony

We visited the the museum, which had informative displays of Maori culture:


natural history:


Geology of Aoraki Mt Cook


Some of the rocks


A rock from the top of the mountain

and art related to the mountains:






After one last look at these beautiful mountains we began the drive back to Christchurch.


Last look at Mt Sefton and Aoraki/Mt Cook from the parking area.

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Our route to Christchurch.


Clear view back up Hooker Valley

Photo stop:  The Southern Alps rose clear and shining in the cloudless sky above the stunning aqua blue waters of Lake Pukaki.


Lake Pukaki, Southern Alps


Zoom in on Aoraki

I continued to watch the mountains out the bus window:


Southern Alps still in view


View across Lake Tekapo, with the white peak of Aoraki still visible above the mountains on the left.


Golden grasslands and lower mountains as we continued eastward.

After lunch in Geraldine, we continued east, sharing last stories with our guide, as he gave us tips about some locations we might visit during our next two weeks.


Vintage car in Geraldine


Crossing the wide braid plain of the Rakaia River as we approached Christchurch


Once in Christchurch, we rented a car, checked into our motel, found a laundromat and grocery store, and were ready to continue our adventures. Tomorrow we would explore nearby Akaroa Harbour.


Meanwhile, notifications on my cell phone pull me back into news of the day…

Joshua Tree National Park, February 7 to 11, 2022

We flew in an airplane
with a lot of other people,
with masks on, 
south to Palm Springs, 
looking out and down the whole way…
From Palm Springs, we drove west,
tracing the San Andreas Fault,
then north through the Morongo Valley, 
then east to Twenty Nine Palms.
We hiked in Joshua Tree National Park, 
where Cretaceous monzogranite has intruded into Precambrian Gneiss. 
Movement along the plate boundary (San  Andreas Fault System) that defines this topography has shattered the rocks with orthogonal cracks. 
The granite has been rounded and transformed into great piles of boulders by the elements. 
We walked dry canyon mazes while anthropomorphic faces in the rocks watched us. 
Joshua trees posed on the skyline, 
witnesses to the dry open skies, 
and the battering winds, 
of the high Mojave desert.

2/7 – Hidden Valley Loop

An excellent introduction to the plants and rocks.

2/8 – Panorama Loop, Black Rock Canyon

6.7 miles and 1150 feet, a lovely loop through the Precambrian gneiss at the west end of the park.

2/9 – Several short hikes and viewpoints

Keys View:

Looking across the the San Andreas Fault and Coachella Valley, toward snow-covered Mt San Jacinto and Mt San Gorgonio.
Looking farther southeast, to the Salton Sea.
Coachella Valley highlights. It was too windy to stay long at the viewpoint, so instead of hiking here, we visited several other viewpoints and short trails in the park.

Cap Rock:

Oyster Bar:

Hall of Horrors Trail:

Skull Rock Trail:

Cholla and Ocotillo on Pinto Basin Road:

We drove to the lower desert to see my old friends from the Sonoran Desert…

Split Rock Trail:

Sunset views:

2/10 – Willow Hole Trail and The Oasis of Mara

A seven mile round trip hike to Willow Hole in the Wonderland of Rocks…

Oasis of Mara Visitor Center, Twenty Nine Palms

As travelers from the gray wet skies of the north, 
we offered up all of our surface moisture to the desert  air.
It felt good, but also exhausting.

After four days we were desiccated, 
wind blown, tired from hiking, 
filled by immersion in scenery that continues beyond us in scope and time. 
We returned home to the Pacific Northwest, much refreshed.
Note - This is my first post using the "new" block editor - I'm still deciding if I like it. 

February 2022

I knitted a few things this month…


Goose Hollow Shawl, Rose City Yarn Crawl Mystery KAL



Four hats for the guild service project


A flotilla of gnomes, sent to Washington DC, with survival provisions.

I started a baby quilt

The front yard bulbs are blooming despite a late hard freeze.

We went on three local hikes to familiar areas, in addition to one big adventure to Palm Spring National Park in southern California (separate post)….

Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, Portland, Oregon, February 3

An easy 3 mile loop with lots of wildlife sightings.


Wildlife mural on the mausoleum


Blue heron mural


Blue heron

Coyote Wall, Washington, February 18th

5 mile loop, with friends, on a sunny day with only a light breeze.


Coyote Wall


Lunch view to Mt Hood


Lunch view to the eastern gorge

The early flowers:

Catherine Creek, Washington, February 25

A week later, a cold snap had frozen most of the grass widows at nearby Catherine Creek. We walked a few miles, exploring some side trails we hadn’t tried before.


Fields of grass widows – some shriveled in the cold. Hoping many of these will bloom when it warms up!


The arch


The road

Dozens of robins bobbed and hopped in the surrounding meadows and bushes.

We visited our favorite fairy ponds, which were frozen,


And found a few blooming grass widows nearby.


grass widows


bitterroot foliage


Snow dusted eastern view

Meanwhile…The days have been galloping by. I have created a few things to justify the time, of which there is never enough. Elsewhere in the world all is upheaval, war and death. A power grab, unexplainable access to power; the code of civility is a construct…if we don’t all buy in then it cannot exist.



NZ2020: Day 15, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

February 8, 2020

After the beautiful evening views at Lake Ohau, clouds were hiding Aoraki/Mt Cook this morning. The wind was up, and Lake Ohau was a steel gray. We drove back around Ben Ohau and its landslip-streaked mountain face. Slight rain was in the forecast, but we pressed on to Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park.


Lake Ohau in the morning

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Our driving route to Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

The road follows the shores of Lake Pukaki, up the Hooker Valley toward Aoraki/Mt Cook. We will hike the Sealy Tarns/ Mueller Hut Track, and stay the night at the Mt Cook Chalets.


A rainbow in Hooker Valley, as we approach Aoraki/Mt Cook Village


Trail map showing our location in orange.

Sealy Tarns Track / Mueller Hut Route

This trail is famous for having about 2000 stair steps up to the tarns. It is one of the hardest I have done, but somehow I keep my legs going up. I count steps in sets, counting up to one fewer number each time (20-19-18-17…), with planned breathing/rest stops between sets. There should be 210 steps per set, 10 sets in all…some of the steps are almost ladders. There are clouds blocking some of our views and spitting rain; cold wind, then warming sun.


Trail stairs


Looking down at the Kea Point Lookout on Lake Mueller (circled in blue). Beyond Lake Mueller is a huge moraine, then Hooker Lake.


Kea Point Lookout on Lake Mueller.


Looking toward the camp on Mt Sefton, circled in orange.


Zooming in on a tent at the foot of the glacier on Mt Sefton.


Looking back down Hooker Valley to where we started the hike.

When we arrive at the tarns, I feel surprisingly strong. We eat lunch at the picnic tables, take some pictures of glaciers, then decide to go higher.


Sealy Tarns


Glacier on Mt Sefton




wildfire dust?





The Mueller Route, going up beyond the tarns.

Above the tarns the track is rougher, a bit cliffy. I miss the stair steps here! We continue up the rocky, “choose your own adventure”, anastomosing trails, until I decide I can go up no more. We take in the view, eat a snack, then go down.


From our high point we had a good view of Hooker Lake, the terminus of Hooker Glacier, and Aoraki/Mt Cook, still in the clouds.


Closer look at Hooker Lake, and the Hooker Valley Trail


Ice bergs in Hooker Lake.


Looking south down the Hooker valley from our high point.

We saw a few flowers and some interesting flora along the trail.

We returned back down the 2000 murderous steps, knees and legs a little wobbly. On the way down, we stopped often to admire the views of the glaciers, lakes, moraines, and the unveiling summit plateau of Aoraki/Mt Cook.


Down the steps…


Another view of the terminus of Hooker Glacier


Close up of Hooker Glacier


The peak of Aoraki/Mt Cook, coming out of the clouds!


Closer views…


The curved southern edge


Northern slopes


So beautiful!


Aoraki/Mt Cook, completely unveiled by the time we reached the bottom of the trail!


and Mt Sefton, too!

We make our way back to the bus, and check into our room at the Mt Cook Chalets, having hiked about 6.5 miles and 2800 feet. But we are not done with the mountain yet! After dinner in the cafe, we relax in the lounge, where we can see the triple triangle face of Aoraki/Mt Cook glowing bright white, then pink with alpenglow, in the pinky blue cloud streaked sky. Phenomenal!


Lounge with a view…


Mt Sefton, Aoraki/Mt Cook


Aoraki/Mt Cook


Tomorrow we are going back to Christchurch – our last guided tour day. The next two weeks in New Zealand will be on our own – with many more adventures that I am excited to be reliving with these blog posts!

January 2022 in Portland

The first couple of weeks were very cold, followed by many days of rain dripping down the windows, yarn loops sliding by on the needles, and just a few sun breaks. A tsunami from Tonga, the Omicron surge just beginning to decline, a trip to Joshua Tree cancelled…another pandemic month in Portland.


1/9/2022 Wildwood Trail to Pittock Mansion in Portland – A rare sunny day – everyone out on the trails – we continued our section hike of the Wildwood Trail, completing about 3 more miles as we hiked up and back to Pittock Mansion from the arboretum, crossing the new Barbara Walker Bridge for the first time.


Up until last year, hikers had to scurry across the very busy Burnside Street.


 Barbara Walker Bridge.


Urban trail graffiti

We reached the 1914 Pittock Mansion, and walked around to the viewing areas…


Pittock Mansion


Views from the property to the Cascade Mountains…


Mt Hood


Portland and Mt Hood


Mt St Helens


Mt Rainier beyond Mt St Helens

Returning back over the Barbara Walker Crossing…


1/12/2022 Eagles and snow near Lyle, WA – Our annual trip to see the eagles at the Balfour/Klickitat Preserve:


Calm Columbia River looking east from the Hood River Bridge.


Snowy ground near Coyote Wall.

We walked to the eagle viewing area near the mouth of the Klickitat River:


Osage oranges along the trail


Frozen lakeshore, eagle flying above the island


Eagle and ducks


Looking up Klickitat Canyon – white eagle heads in the trees


Bald Eagle


Bald eagle


We saw more than twenty today.


Looking south to Tom McCall Point.

Next we walked some of the trails at nearby Catherine Creek.


Snowy slopes at Catherine Creek


Frozen Fairy Ponds


The arch


Mt Hood and the orchards of Mosier


Eastern Gorge


Grass widow foliage, but no blooms.


The waterfall.

1/18/2022 Swans at Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge, WA – We walked the 2.5 mile Oaks to Wetland Trail.


Swans in the distance, from the railroad bridge




Belted kingfisher


Trumpeter swans

Then we drove the auto tour, looking for more swans.


Plenty of tundra and trumpeter swans in the northern lake…



American coot


Northern harrier next to the road.

1/28/2020 Chehalem Ridge Nature Park, OR – Our first visit to this new park south of Forest Grove. We walked almost six miles on the trails, quiet today with a few views of the distant mountains.

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Chehalem Ridge Nature Park



Mt St Helens and Mt Adams


Farmlands and Coast Range to the west


Mt Rainier and Mt St Helens


On our first sunny day, I went outside for what seemed like the first time in weeks, to see blue sky and low angle winter shadows:

1/16/2022 – Another sunny day, we met friends and walked a long loop on the hilly streets south of downtown Portland.


Mt Hood from SW Portland


Mt Hood and the Tilikum Bridge over the Willamette River

By the end of the month, viburnum and crocus were beginning to bloom…


I did get a lot of knitting done this month, since the outdoors were so inclement. And I am still meeting once or twice weekly with my knitting group over Zoom.


Winding yarn on my new swift.


Rose City Yarn Crawl Mystery Shawl, in progress


New pile of yarn from the guild to make hats for our service project.


I used online tutorials to learn Tunisian crochet.


I finished a languishing WIP – The Ella Improv Cowl, by Cecelia Campochiaro, using marling and sequence knitting techniques.


A Gnoah gnome, (Imagined Landscapes), sent via Intergalactic Gnome Transport to the burgeoning colony in Washington DC.



The volcano in Tonga!


The snow in DC.

Other adventures – January 10th was the 4th anniversary of my pituitary surgery. With constant vigilance and good doctors, all my hormone levels are now within the normal range. I feel healthy and strong and grateful for early diagnosis and the miracles of modern medical science, especially the monthly injections that keep the acromegaly in check.


On to February – pandemic numbers are going down in our neck of the woods – we may actually travel somewhere – stay tuned.


Another year of playing the waiting game, getting vaccinated, then staying out of the way. We rode the roller coaster of variants, and stayed healthy. In between, we met up with family and friends, but once again cancelled travel plans as waves of Covid swept the globe. We visited our daughter in Washington DC in May, and then she was able to visit us in the summer and attend a several times postponed wedding. Delta rose, and we cancelled a trip to Iceland. We compensated by taking trips to the Olympic Mountains, Mt Baker, and Mt Adams.  We experienced a heat dome and a couple of atmospheric river events, and, all along I leaned into my usual enrichment distractions – books and yarn. I met with my book group a few times, and my knitting group weekly, mostly on zoom, occasionally outdoors.

The Fiber Arts: Knitting continued to be a main source of both comfort and productivity. I finished 21 projects. By far the most satisfying were the 12 hats and cowl I knit for donation to the guild service project. I also thoroughly enjoyed knitting several gnomes and cats, a witch, an albatross, and a turtle; socks and hats for family members, a small blanket, a sweater, and skirt for me. I explored many new techniques, and have a sense that there will always be something new to learn about knitting.

I also made two quilts, a Dorset button, and a cross stitched bookmark, some pattern weights, and a few other small sewing projects.

Books: Of the 73 books I finished, many were biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, or historical fiction centered around the lives of women. I find so much inspiration in learning about how different individuals found meaning in their lives, helped others, made the best life out of a challenging start, sometimes just survived.

Hikes and Walking: I walked over 700 miles last year, about 340 of the miles on 68 hiking trips, that included over 56000 feet of elevation. Standout hikes were the Ptarmigan Ridge trail at Mt Baker, the Killen Creek trail at Mt Adams, and finally making it to Tunnel and Twister Falls on the Eagle Creek trail in the Columbia River Gorge.  We revisited many favorite trails in the Gorge and Cascade Mountains, and completed 5 more hikes on the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park – we  have less than 4 miles left to finish the entire trail.

Other things that delighted me this year: the Inauguration; neighborhood skiing in February; monitoring Brian’s cross country road trip in March; visiting family in Eugene in May; celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with friends.

Hopes and aspirations for 2022: Besides coming out of the pandemic… besides reading and knitting and hiking.  Perhaps more quilting, sewing, spinning, and learning Tunisian crochet. I still have more blog posts about New Zealand and quilt stories to finish. I want to hike the last few miles of the Wildwood Trail; we hope to go to DC and Italy, possibly to Hawaii, and back to Killen Creek Meadows when the wildflowers are out. But especially, I want to  to reconnect with people, visit family and friends, in real life –  that is my fondest hope for 2022.

Finally, a small tribute to two of the many people who inspire me, and have made my world a better place.


December 2021: knitting, the neighborhood, gnomes for the holiday…

Knitting – I finished up some holiday projects – socks, a hat, two gnomes, and a brioche skirt for me! …

I learned how to make a Dorset Button, as a tree ornament, from a kit by TJFrogg of Skye.


And I finished a cross stitch bookmark kit for my husband, which he purchased in New Zealand, and which represents our hope to return there some day to see Mitre Peak in Milford Sound.


Neighborhood…On my neighborhood walks, I witnessed fall colors giving way to holiday decor…

Tree baubles, disco Santa, and the abominable snowman…

On one block, four or five large installations face off, including two Snoopys:

December has brought lots of rain, and now a deep freeze and snow between Christmas and New Years.


Holidays…We had a quiet Hannukah at home.


Our daughter was home from DC for about 2 weeks. I missed her assistance with the holiday prep elf work last year.

We were so glad to enjoy Christmas dinner with friends, also missed last year. We got to see their tree, and share our time on this one day, all vaccines and pretest precaution protocols in place.

Being able to be with a limited number of family and friends made this so much better than last year. I am grateful we are all healthy!  I wish everyone a triple vaxxxed (or whatever it takes) happy New Year, 2022!

December 2021, Walking adventures

We went on a couple of hikes, and walked among Van Gogh paintings in a digital art experience.

Lyle Loop, 12/2/2021, 5 miles, 1250 feet


Clockwise track

A new loop has been carved out of the Nature Conservancy Lyle Cherry Orchard property. We tried it on a windy (but not tooo windy) day- lovely blue sky and puffy clouds our backdrop. We climbed up the familiar tiers of basalt flows, above the Convict Road,


Looking down on the Convict Road


Windy blue skies above

then headed west, to a new trail carved into the grassy slope.


It curves around the mountain above the town of Lyle.


As the trail circled to the north, Mt Adams appeared on the horizon.



Zooming in

On the northern side of the loop, out of the wind, we walked through lovely oak woodlands, occasionally switching back past views of Lyle, and of Mt Adams again.


Lyle, Klickitat River delta



Lyle town sign, in white rocks


Mt Adams again,


now with clouds.

Eventually, our trail intersected the Cherry Orchard Loop, and we descended on the familiar trail.


A lovely day on the sunny side of the mountains.

Tracy Hill, Catherine Creek, WA, 12/8/2021,  5.3 miles, 1200 feet


Our counterclockwise trail map 

Calm and bright; clouds topping the highest hills; some blue sky distant:

DSC01336some of our plant friends in their winter garb:





Ravens and cows:





Columbia River shining:


oak and ponderosa sharing the sky:

Ent on the skyline: 


It’s very birdie in this section, chirping and calling, flashes of blue, rust, white and black between trees, I can’t quite see them; blue jays and woodpeckers?


Up Tracy Hill’s open slopes:



View up Major Canyon, to the east


Seating at the top of Tracy Hill


A well earned rest

and down again:  


halfway down


above the arch


Looking back at the top of Tracy Hill

It felt a bit like walking in a painting. I was interested to compare it with walking in digital paintings the next day…

Beyond VanGogh, Oregon Convention Center, 12/8/2021 – We did actually walk in pictures, as the digital imagery swirled around us, and the paintings painted themselves on the walls. All beautiful and colorful, and an excellent reminder of Van Gogh’s work. I loved seeing:

the flowers that melded together then blew away:

the swirls of starry night whirling:

walls of self portraits:

buildings appearing from simple sketched lines to full color paint strokes:

signatures writing themselves in a patchwork of squares:

dark starry skies dripping down the walls:


However, Beyond Van Gogh was not a wilderness experience. I enjoyed the visual imagery, but would have liked to see it in an Imax setting. Perhaps if we had been stationary, I would have felt more in control regarding Covid precautions, especially now that omicron is spreading. There were too many people wandering around in the hall. I was constantly checking over my shoulder to get away from someone standing tooo close with their mask slipping down. I guess I’m not ready to resume life in the peopled world yet.

For the rest of December it has been raining, and now is cold (for us) and snowing. Not conducive to driving to the trails or hiking.  I’ve mainly been taking neighborhood walks in the brief dry spells. I will be glad to return to walking in the real hills after this Canadian cold front moves on.

12/14/2021 Waiting for the winter solstice…

Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes near Vancouver Lake, WA

I had heard rumors, and we had a day with some sunshine amidst the weeks of rain…



Sandhill cranes and snow geese near Frenchman’s Bar


We found a couple of view points through the berms and fencing around the Columbia Land Trust cornfields where we could see the flocks of birds wintering there. We saw the cloud of white geese stir up, then settle.


Sandhill cranes were grazing near the cornfield, often flying in groups of three…


We were using our zoom lenses, far from the birds, but could hear the honking of the geese, and that special purring trill of the sand hill cranes. And were grateful to see and hear them!


New York Times notice today:

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Image 12-17-21 at 1.01 PM

NZ2020: Day 14, To Lake Ohau

February 7, 2020

Today began with an easier hike (than yesterday) near Queenstown, then we drove north to the vicinity of Aoraki/Mt Cook.

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Driving route to Lake Ohau

Queenstown: After breakfast at a local cafe, we took a last walk through Queenstown and along the Lake Wakatipu waterfront.


Wall art in our breakfast cafe


Quiet morning in Queenstown


Queenstown 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.


Trailhead map – our trail circled in light blue


Dipping schist along the trail


View back to Lake Wakatipu


Juvenile lancewood, or horoeka


Adult lancewood


A bog near our turnaround junction


Small lake


Lake Dispute, Lake Wakatipu


Waterfall on Twelve Mile Creek


Quartz layers in the rocks behind the waterfall


Sam Summers’ Hut


An old gold mining lodging




The history




Meadows and sandstone outcrops on the return hike



Twelve Mile Creek

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.


Western facades in Arrowtown

DSC07124DSC07125DSC07128Driving 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.


Last glimpse of The Remarkables as we leave Arrowtown


Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge


Wine country near Gibbston



We stopped at a fruit stand near Cromwell, with orchards of ripe nectarines (southern summer!), and delicious homemade ice cream.

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.

DSC07143DSC07144DSC07146DSC07147 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!


Lake Ohau, Ben Ohau


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.


Our lodge room


Lake Ohau






The other glaciated mountain at the end of Lake Ohau

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.

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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.