The generator wakes us before the sun has a chance to. We head to the Glade House for coffee and to make our trail lunches. We concoct various sandwiches, salads, and wraps, then toss in trail mix, fruit and chocolate. We are so exhausted from lunch making, we have to break for more coffee and our first course of breakfast: cereal, yogurt, fruit and juice. Later, we cram down eggs and bacon.
Today’s walk is a relatively flat 10 mile stroll through absolutely beautiful country. The weather is cool but clear, as we cross the Clinton River, to follow it generally northwest. There are about 25 people on the suspension bridge when the guides point out the “10 persons maximum” sign. We are a most energetic group, but clearly not the hiking club of Mensa. The path is wide, smooth, and as manicured as the 18th green at Pebble Beach. The river varies between so clear you are not sure there is water in it, to surreal deep emerald and aqua pools. The rainbow trout are the biggest I have ever seen. They seem comically disproportionate, like an SUV stretch limosine. It’s possible, but is it necessary? I try to imagine the fight these massive trout could give on a 4 lb line, but they seem far too magestic, clearly above that sort of thing.
The valley is unusually dry, and it is clear we are missing out on some of the spectacular falls and cascades. We are, however, quite content to enjoy the sunshine and breathtaking vistas. The Blue Bush Robins have no fear, and enjoy the insects we stir up by walking. When we stand still, they approach, pick at or shoes, and eventually jump up and smack our shins, as if to say “keep plowing, I’m still hungry.”
At our lunch stop we are entertained by a freshwater eel the size of my leg. He is completely unafraid. It is quite possible he has been previously hand fed, perhaps literally.The entire area seems a bit like the Galapagos. The animals, lacking major predators, are quite casual and confident.
We cool our feet in Prairie Lake, before the final push to Pompolona. After getting our treehouse like room, we head down for scones, jam and cream. The legend of the scones is that they contained a secret ingredient: candle wax. Perhaps not quite as bad as it seems, the first Milford Track guide/cook needed fat for the scones, and candles at that time were made from mutton fat. Problem solved.
After a quick shower, I head to the guest laundry to hand wash our clothes, ring them out in the hand cranked wrangler/strangler, then put them on a line in the drying room. I later point out to Terri that none of the Asian men on the trip are doing their own laundry, let alone their wives delicates. She seems unfazed by my observation.
Terri and I split our beef and mushroom dinners, and somehow force down the creme brulee. The generator is off again at ten. We fall asleep to the sounds, but not sights, of the nocturnal kiwis.