The trip didn’t come without its fair share of challenges. I was accustomed to traveling through the developing world on a dime; sleeping on couches, eating unknown food at street stalls, and sitting next to chickens over long rides on public buses. Squirrel…well Squirrel went on a cruise through the Caribbean once. Needless to say, New Zealand by van offers adventure and excitement for everyone, regardless of their travel resume.
Gear. It’s intimidating. It’s complicated. It’s personal. It’s expensive. I’ve had a lot of people ask me about gear and getting started. People think that you need to have everything and anything in order to be successful in the backcountry. That’s definitely false. Don’t go running to REI and spend thousands of dollars just yet.
I never thought I’d be that person who had more than one sleeping bag, a backpack for any occasion, and 2 snowboard setups. But alas, it happened and hey, I’m pretty happy about it. However epically awesome “gear mountain” may become, there comes a time where plastic bins just don’t cut it anymore. That time for me was when I was packing for an impromptu backpacking trip and couldn’t find my headlamp. So what did I do? Waited six months until the weather got crappy and got to work fitting out some unfinished space in my basement to show off all my gear by building a DIY gear room. In the end I had one bitching backcountry closet that didn’t break the bank.
Despite the challenges, reaching the base of Jones Mountain while being enveloped by the weather at Ptarmigan Lake made that extra mis-mile of hiking worth it. Sitting next to a roaring fire with some of your closest friends, laughing so hard it hurts kept the cold at bay. Watching my severely socially challenged dog chase a young pup around the fire erased whatever she was thinking by sitting next to a stream and refusing to move in 34 degree weather. The morning sun after 2 days of nothing but cold and clouds felt like a gift sent from the heavens. Being in the mountains is a beautiful balance. Beckoning you in for more, but just as often reminding you that you are a mere mortal; humbling you to the fullest.
I inched closer to the fire, the chill of night started to seep through my damp clothes. Rain gear was strewn about, for about 8 miles the skies opened up on us. Drenched to the core is never a fun way to start off 32 miles, but we endured. Looking up I could see the shadows of the fire dancing against the trees, beyond that the first stars were starting to twinkle. Despite the picturesque scene something just didn’t quite feel right.