11/28 A Little Private Kauri Time

Rangiriri Pies to Hakarimata forest track

27 k

We were the last ones to leave this morning again, but it was quiet and peaceful. Cathy’s egg pies had fresh spinach and beets from her garden, and right now she holds the lead for the best coffee on the trail.

We return to our strict aerobic regimen of “and hike! And climb!” as we march along a levy through farm lands. Its not unpleasant, although it is a bit monotonous. At one point there is a huge magnolia tree that is blooming creamy colored, noggin-sized blossoms.

We arrive at Huntley and have lunch with Parker! From there it’s a short walk through that magical transition when the road fades from pavement, to gravel, to dirt. We enter the Hakarimata forest.

It’s a beautiful forest, and it is dry! Dry! No mud! The roots still weave their twisted hopscotch course, and the angle is still steep, but the absence of mud makes it so much more congenial. Early on the path splits, and I go right. It’s longer, but, Kauris.

Knowing I am the only one of our group that is taking the longer side trail feels akin to playing hooky from school. No one will care that I take a little longer, or that I am technically off-route, but as much as I love our group and love hiking with them, it feels liberating to experience a completely private, unplanned and uncollaborated, secluded moment.

The giant Kauri waiting on this loop is at least as beautiful and regal as I had envisioned. I sit on the bench across from it, and just look at him, considering. What must it be like to be 1000 years old? To be the last of his kind in this forest? To be so unique and protected now when once he was one of a group that was fairly commonplace? Does he wish he had been chopped down too? Or does he embrace his lot and make the best of it, try to share the hard-won wisdom of the years?

I could sit here the rest of the day. But I pull myself away, walk through a stand of young Kauri saplings -the mentees- and eventually arrive back on the trail. I walk quickly, trying to make a game of catching the others, and suddenly I have a strong, clear premonition that we will see the couple from France, Tristan and Jennifer tonight. I pass Parker and Ellie before reaching a treeless grassy swath where Prana and Bro are setting up tents, along with, true story, Tristan and Jennifer. Tristan and Prana are engaged with Tetris-ing our two bigger tents into the widest grassy area. We all agree this is a great place- while the generosity and hospitality of the businesses the past two nights have been appreciated, between the energy and rustling of a dozen and a half people and the erratic unnatural noises of the highways, the sleep hasn’t been the best.

We chat with Tristan and Jennifer as we cook dinner and lounge in the tents. Tristan shares the book he’s reading by Mike Horn, about his Antarctic crossing in winter. It seems pretty intense- he would ski towing his sled until he reached a break in the ice; then he would don a dry suit and tether, plunge in and swim until reaching ice again, pulling his floating sled behind him; then he would climb out, change back to insulated ski gear; and repeat. Swimming across the Anarctic Ocean above god knows what creatures in eternal night wrestling a sled not knowing how long each swim is or how long until the next swim…makes whining about walking in mud seem a bit puny. And the kicker? Apparently they could average 20 k per day forward, and the ice floes could move 23 k per day backward.

A few more hikers arrive and find places to pitch their tents, and with a hot dinner filling our bellies, we turn in.

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