Milford Trek, New Zealand - Hiking to Clinton Hut and Beyond
Our trek started with a short bus ride to Te Anau Downs, where we picked up a boat to carry us to the start of the trek. Cloudy skies did little to belay our fears of the "severe" weather forecast. Severe by Fiordland standards was not something I was hoping to experience as rain on the Milford Trek is measured in meters not inches per month.
When the boat stopped at Glade Wharf, we were required to wash the bottoms of our boots before entering the trail. They were quite serious about protecting the environment from invasive species, in this case a pesky form of algae known as "rock snot." Upon entering the trail we were overwhelmed with the intensity of the lush, green, monochromatic forest. Very wet trees enveloped in lichen reached up from a moss-plastered carpet that covers the rocks, the ground and many of the trees. Multitudes of chest-high ferns flanked us on all sides, with just as many puddles covering the trail. It was easy to understand why this area is affectionately known as “God Zone.”
The first day's hike was nothing more than a warm up. The trail was well maintained and an easy walk. However, as we progressed the ominous warnings we received early materialized as the trail disappeared under water. Fortunately it was only a few inches deep and we quickly made it to Clinton Hut in an hour; much quicker than the trail signs predicted. This was the pattern on all of the Fiordland treks, as the time estimates were very generous. The huts were impressive, solidly built structures with plenty of bunks for 144 tired trekkers. There were separate sleeping and eating/living areas with a wood burning stove to warm chilled bodies and dry soaked gear.
We hoped we would get an opportunity to contribute to our other project, One Dress, One Woman, One World on this trip, but the poor weather gave us few photo opportunities even though we carried my wife's wedding dress with us in our backpack.
When we woke there wasn’t any rain, so we quickly got ready and hit the trail at 8:00 am, just after daylight.
The story continues...