Zone of Proximal Happiness

Dawn was just breaking as my alarm went off. Thick beads of condensation dripped from the fabric above my head and the foot of my tent was covered in frost. I unzipped the fly to watch the sun rise over the mountains and the golden river valley hold the morning mist. Without getting out of my sleeping bag, I mixed cold water with some powdered yogurt in my pot and added muesli – breakfast in bed, I suppose. Within an hour I was ready to go; I packed my warm sleeping bag, shoved my frozen tent into my pack with frozen hands, and pulled on my wet socks and boots. Continue reading

Same Trail, Different Paths

We’ve been in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand and the southernmost point of the North Island, for a few days now and we’ll be here for a few more. I am stalling. In the last two weeks I have passed the actual halfway point (the 1,500 km mark), the temporal halfway point (two-and-a-half months), and now we’re sitting at the bottom of the North Island, the psychological halfway point. I am worried that the moment we set foot on the South Island, the rest of this trek is going to be over before I even realize it. Continue reading

The Fantastic Whanganui

Calling the Te Araroa a “thru hike” is a bit misleading. The TA is really a suggested way of traveling across New Zealand by every mode of transportation but private vehicle. I have so far hiked, hitched, ferried, bused, water taxied, kayaked, and canoed; and I hear there are sections of biking coming up. I spent the last week of the trail canoeing the Whanganui River with 19 other members of my trail tribe. Blazing Paddles, a canoe rental service in Taumarunui, will knock the usual $240 price tag for five days on the river down to $100 a pop if you can get 10 people together. As long as you are aren’t depending on his briefing for all of your water safety knowledge and can laugh off a little casual old man misogyny, it’s well worth the logistics of getting 10 hikers together… or 20, as it turned out! Continue reading

Chapters of the North Island

I have been hiking in New Zealand for two months now and have covered almost 1,400 kilometers of the North Island track by foot, hitching, and various boats. No two days have been the same but the journey has tended to separate itself into chapters as I go, the transitions happening organically every week or two loosely demarcated by pace and travel partners.  Continue reading

An Inch of Travel

A black man, a white man, a sihk guy and a white girl are all sitting at the same long table in a coffee shop. This is not the beginning of a potentially offensive joke; this is a circumstance in which I found myself at a Starbucks in the Phoenix airport. It was two days after the election. I’ll admit, I was reeling. Everyone at that table was engrossed in their various screens and muffins. No one was speaking. I wanted to reach out, for the four of us to have a conversation, to ask what they were thinking and feeling and to tell them what I was thinking and feeling. To commiserate. discuss. To understand. No one spoke and one by one we all left the table. Continue reading

The Shakedown 

“Expectation is the root of all heartache.”

– William Shakespeare

I’ve been on the trail for almost three weeks now and I know I have been only vaguely communicative. Shame on me. Bad blogger. But yo! Did you know that thru-hiking is hard? I apparently didn’t. It’s something that has dawned on me over and over again, a fresh revelation each time, these last 400 kilometers. Continue reading

Te Araroa Eve

I am surprisingly calm. So much so that I should wonder if the magnitude of what I am about to undertake has actually hit me yet, but I believe it has. I have been in Auckland for three days; I have bought food for the first week of the trek, whittled down my belongings, and mailed my extra boots etc. forward a few weeks. Tomorrow I bus and hitch my way up to Cape Reinga to begin the Te Araroa trail. I believe I feel so disturbingly calm right now for a few reasons:  Continue reading

First Anniversary


One year ago today, Sarah and I summited Mt Whitney at dawn, by the light of the super moon, and finished our thru-hike of the John Muir Trail. That hike became an essential link in the chain of events and people that has lead me here to this point, six weeks away from starting the Te Araroa. It also led me to make some new resolutions for my life going forward. Straight from my journal: Continue reading

Out at the Roots

“When we were in Independence I got a sampling of what I’m like out there vs. out here. When you’ve been in the mountains for a while, away from mirrors and pictures and TV and the internet, you have a certain image of yourself. Idealized, maybe, but it stems from how you feel rather than how you feel stemming from how you look. I always come out of the woods to that sinking disappointment that I am not as physically beautiful, strong, thin, etc. as I feel I am. It may be shallow, but it’s real. I’m not looking forward to returning to that constant mental battle.”

I wrote that in my journal this time last year. Sarah and I were staying at a motel in Independence, CA for our last resupply on the John Muir Trail, only a few days away from the summit of Mt. Whitney and the end of our journey. I am frustrated and ashamed to admit that this is not unusual. I feel this way every time I see myself again: after every backpacking course, every climbing trip, every summit and ridge traverse. Continue reading