Routeburn Trek, New Zealand - Hiking From the Divide to Lake MacKenzie
This time when we woke up for our trek there were no threats of severe weather. Instead it was just the opposite, we had sunny skies and cool, comfortable temperatures. We took the hour long bus ride to the trail head at the Divide and immediately started hiking along the Routeburn Trek. Instantly, the differences between the Milford Trek and the Routeburn Trek became obvious. As hard as it might be to believe given the incredible green foilage shown in the two following photos, Milford was far more lush and greener than Routeburn. The well-groomed trails were replaced with far more rugged terrain. In areas, the Routeburn trek was blown out of the rock with dynamite.
Despite the trails being well maintained in general, there were areas where nature tried to reclaim the trail dropping trees in our path. None required much more than a simple scramble to circumnavigate.
Shortly down the trail we were met with a decision. Should we detour for a summit view? We decided against it as we had no photos yet for our One Dress, One Woman, One World project and we were told the scenery at the DOC Hut was pretty awesome. So we pushed on and then almost immediately were rewarded with the most picturesque view of Earland Falls you could ever imagine. The falls dropped 174 meters / 577’ and a strong, bright rainbow hovered just above head height. We wondered were these the views we missed on Milford due to bad weather? I worried Jennifer wouldn’t want to stop so early in the day’s hike, but when I looked at her, she asked, “Where’s the dress?” We didn’t dally on the past though as we both knew this was going to be a spectacular wedding dress shot. Jennifer quickly pulled her now well-practiced quick change act, swapping her trekking attire for her gown. Not knowing how long the rainbow would last, I hurriedly set up my camera. A cold glacial spray wasn’t very comfortable for Jennifer not to mention being horrible for the dress, but we worked quickly. To date, the photograph is still one of my all-time favorites.
With our dress business out of the way, we enjoyed the scenery and snacked before we begrudgingly pushed down the trail. The rest of the day was a denouement from the falls, but still breathtaking. The trail continued to challenge far more than Milford, with the steep, rocky path wearing on our already tired legs. This was especially true after peaking for the day and starting our descent.
Finally, we saw the hut in the distance. It had what looked like soft, fluffy lounge chairs and a great view. Of course, this was not our independent hut, but the hut for the guided walkers. Our hut was just a minute farther. It was great by any standards, that is other than the ridiculously lavish, guided huts. From our hut, through the breaks in the canopy, you could see alpine views, but my focus was drawn to the small waterfalls bordering the trail just before the hut.
The hut master could have been a clone of comedian Stephen Wright. His monotone dry voice was complimented with a deadpan sense of humor. He went on about safety, interjecting many jokes along and unfortunately for our sake included his Elvis impersonation. Talk about taking advantage of a captive audience. I can’t say we were too upset when Elvis left the building.
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