Home on Whidbey is a family blog revolving around Fran, Ed, Brad, Yessi, plus puppy Benton, and our family, travels, friends, neighbors and community. Thanks for reading.


Breast Hill -- Favorite Track so Far!

Brad reports that the Breast Hill Track since Ohau, is his favorite so far and he's loving it.

Wide open views of mountains and canyons

Brad crossing the Ahuriri River

Looking down, down, down from the Breast Hill Track

Wanaka to Manpouri

Yesterday Wanaka, today Glendhu Bay Track, which is entirely walking the edges of Lake Wanaka, a four hour tramp. Then, there's a road connection to Glendhu Bay, another 45 minutes, which puts him onto the Motatapu Alpine Track (3 to 4 days). According to my calculations he will tramp a half day on this track before stopping for the night.

Glendhu Bay

According to the Te Araroa Trail information, the Motatapu Alpine Track is physically challenging terrain only suitable for experienced trampers. I think at this point, Brad qualifies for being an experienced tramper. Nevertheless, I will be happy to hear from him, which will probably be in Arrowtown, at the end of yet another track, called Big Hill Track (4 to 5 hours).


In 9 days he has reservations for a side trip to Doubtful Sound, and it's tight making the connections, so he's traveling fast. The Doubtful Sound trip will include a 24 hour cruise, two bus rides and two small ferry rides, plus dinner, breakfast and bed.

But, before Doubtful Sound, he needs to get from Wanaka to Manapouri.

From Arrowtown to Queenstown is another 5 to 6 hours of tramping on the Wakatipu Track. From Queenstown to Manpouri, another 100+ miles. I'm guessing he will touch down only lightly in Arrowtown or Queenstown given his tight schedule. I'm also guessing he's going to do a little hitching along the way. Perhaps the Te Araroa Trail time calculations are high for Brad, but, nevertheless, he's on a tight schedule.
Doubtful Sound, almost too beautiful for words.


Raining Cats and Dogs at Lake Ohau!

Yesterday Brad got involved in a good conversation with the owner of Lake Ohau Lodge and ended up hanging out all day talking sustainability. Of course, having it rain cats and dogs outside played a role too.

After breakfast, the conversation turned to the design of the lodge owner's home and then hydro power, and then tourism, and then dairy farms, and then water pollution, and then the economy, and then the politics of all of these topics. Brad was continually fed documents and manuals to read and discuss so the conversation continued to grow and expand and to fill Brad's entire day. And it rained. A Dear Mr. Green Guy article was even written. The lodge owner was engaging and engaged, rewarding Brad for the good discussion with a free room and a day's worth of excellent home-cooked food.

Brad examining the lodge's hydro power plant

One more happy New Zealand encounter with wonderful people and generous hospitality!

The miracle is this – the more we share, the more we have.
- Leonard Nimoy, American actor, director and writer


And Speaking of Langley...

I've been struck by how many of the photographs I've seen of small towns in NZ look similar to our town of Langley on Whidbey Island.

Photographs of Whidbey Island

Whidbey Island at Deception Pass
Double Bluff Beach

Photographs of Langley, located on South Whidbey Island

First Street, Langley, WA

The Clyde Theatre

The Dog House Tavern

The Moonraker Book Store

The Langley Marina on Saratoga Passage in the Puget Sound

Alley in Langley at Island Design

Methodist Church

First Street, Langley, Whidbey Island, WA, USA

A chaque oiseau, son nid est beau.
To every bird, its own nest is beautiful.
French Proverb


Wanaka is Brad's next stop, as it turns out. He is due there in 7 days if he can drag himself away from Lake Ohau Lodge. Although he was scheduled to leave yesterday, after dinner, he didn't. It was just too comfortable, cozy, warm, and enjoyable to drag himself away. This morning he was still at Lake Ohau Lodge. Right now? Who knows? He's headed to the mountains, where it's storming, or he's still enjoying the warmth and comfort of Lake Ohau Lodge's hospitality.

But, look at Wanaka, it looks a lot like Langley on Whidbey Island, WA, USA, Brad's home town. He will love it!


Wanaka, South Island, NZ
(One old pickup with a dog beast hanging out the side. Where are the cars?)

NZ Department of Conservation Gifts


I stopped beside the winding track
And from my shoulders let slip the pack
I sat amid the silent trees
And felt the coolness of the breeze

And as I sat I mused and thought
Upon the hands this track had wrought
The hands that cut and cleared the way
To make it easy, lest we should stray

So long ago now it all seems
Since saw did cut and axe did gleam
And forests echoed to their sound
When early feet did tread the ground

So when you tramp on down the tracks
Think on those that bent their backs
To show the way through forest green
So we may walk ’neath towering leaves.

Contributed by Mike Deavin of Foxton to Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. For 30 years tramping in the bush was enjoyed by Mike Deavin, as a Department of Conservation guide, an honorary ranger and a hut warden.

Brad Chats!

How great is technology! I chatted twice with Brad yesterday -- serendipity for a mom with a traveling son. The first chat was when he was at Twizel and then, later, when he was at Lake Ohau Lodge. At Twizel he had shopped for supplies and was ready to head into the mountains again. He hitched a ride to Lake Ohau from Twizel, having decided in his Te Araroa Trail freestyle manner, to tramp all trails but to hitch most roads.

When we last chatted he was sipping a beer at this beautiful lodge (below) overlooking Lake Ohau, visiting with other guests and staff, blogging, chatting, e-mailing and in Brad's usual style, completely absorbed in multitasking. At the time of our last communication he'd decided to stay for dinner at the lodge with NZ folks he'd met and then head into the mountains for the night.
Lake Ohau Lodge. - Lake Ohau

He will be beginning the East Ahuriri Track, the last track in the Conterbury section of the Te Araroa Trail. This track is a 1 - 2 day tramp, climbing 800 m from Lake Ohau to the Ahuiri River, over the Ohau Range. It goes through both the Ruataniwha and Ahuriri Conservation Parks.

The next e-mail/chat option is in about 7 days, according to Brad's calculations. Once he leaves the East Ahuriri Track he will be in the Otago Section of the Te Araroa Trail, with the first track being the Breast Hill Track, 3 - 4 days, but there's only a car park at the end of this track. No development or opportunity for resupply. Gladstone Reserve Track is next, only 1.5 - 2 hours, with full amenities at a small town on the south end of Lake Hawea. I'm assuming that's where we hear from Brad again, although that's less than 7 days according to the estimates on the Te Araroa Trail site. The town of Lake Hawea has a population of only 300 people so perhaps he's not expecting to find computer power available to trampers.

Happy Tramping Brad!



Brad is, right now, according to my calculations, tramping the South Canterbury Section of the Te Araroa Trail and is on the Two Thumbs Track, a two to three day high country trail with a challenging traverse through the Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park.

Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park

Following the Two Thumbs Track is the Tekapo-Twizel Track, a 3 to 4 hour tramp. When he left Methven, he expected to be at Lake Tekapo in about eight days -- that's tomorrow. Twizel is just south of Lake Tekapo and I'm assuming he will find a computer in one of these two areas along with a huge dinner with lots of meat.

Lake Tekapo

From the Tekapo-Twizel Track, Brad will head west to Lake Ohau on the Lake Ohau Track, a tramp of only about 8 to 9 hours. An examination of Lake Ohau amenities exposes yet another spectacular place in New Zealand, and because its off the main road, visitors often miss the lake entirely, giving the lake a more untouched and remote feel than many others.

Lake Ohau


St Patrick's Day

T' is a great day t' be green!

Auckland, NZ, is reported to be the first city in the world to go green for St. Patrick's Day, and, of course, St. Patrick's Day was yesterday for our tramper, Brad, and all the wonderful kiwis who have welcomed him to their beautiful country.

Auckland Tower

Although not first, plenty of other places around the World turn green for St. Patrick's Day. Thanks Ireland for a fun-filled holiday.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Next Stop Lake Tekapo

A quick e-mail message from Brad. He's in Methven, having hiked the last two days with Ludo and Flore. He's now on his way to Lake Tekapo. He expects it will be an eight day trip.

Lake Tekapo

He's with another thru hiker for a couple of days so they can have the safety of one another when crossing the Waikato River at Rangiriri. It doesn't look like an easy cross, especially if it rains. Glad he's not alone for this one.

Waikato River at Rangiriri

Did you know?

  • New Zealand's $5 bill has the face of New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary on it -- the first man to reach the peak of Mt. Everest.
  • New Zealand's media is one of the most liberal in the world.
  • There are 9 sheep to every human in New Zealand (it was once 20 to 1).
  • In 1893 it became legal for all male and female citizens of NZ to vote, making it the first major nation to have universal suffrage.
  • In 1642 Dutch sailor Abel Tasman became the first European to discover NZ.
  • No part of NZ is more than 128 km from the sea.
  • NZ has more Scottish pipe bands per head of population than Scotland.
  • For every 7,500 people, NZ has a bookshop, giving it more bookshops per head of population than any other country.
  • NZ has two anthems: God Save the Queen and God Defend New Zealand.
  • Religions: None 40%, Anglican 17%, Roman Catholic 14%, Presbyterian 11%.
  • NZ's landscape consists of vast mountain chains, steaming volcanoes, extensive coastlines, deep fiords and lush rainforests, making it spectacularly varied and beautiful.
  • NZ is a safe country with no shots for entering the country required or recommended by the World Health Organization.
  • NZ is the first country to greet the dawn of each new day.
  • Tipping is not expected in NZ and employed people don't depend of tips for their incomes.
  • Ethnicity in NZ is: European, 80%; Maori, 14%, Asian, 7% and Pacific Islander, 6%.
  • Lord of the Rings was filmed entirely in New Zealand.
  • The velcro-strip was invented by a New Zealander.
  • Languages: English, Maori, NZ Sign Language.
  • New Zealand's Head of State is Queen Elizabeth.



Te Araroa serendipity! Happy reunion! Happy tramping!

When I last heard from Brad at 2:00 yesterday, he was leaving Arthur's Pass for Metheven. He expected to get there in two to three days. But, sometime after that e-mail, he caught up with Ludo and Flore. In reading their blog (nzfromnorthtosouth) this morning, I noticed a new sentence was added to the Day 106 to 111 posting, which said "On our rest day we find Brad who cached us up. It's nice to see him again."

Finding them might have changed his plans a bit. Perhaps he decided to finish out their rest day with them so they could all tramp together to Metheven.

Te Araro Trail, South Island, NZ
photo by Brad Hankins

"Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience."
Ralph Waldo Emerson


"Show Time"

Whenever it's "weathering" here I wonder about the weather Brad is experiencing in New Zealand. The last batch of pictures from St Arnaud to Arthur's Pass, posted early this morning, showed a nice amount of sun, with snow in the mountains.

Here, in the Pacific NW, according to Cliff Mass it's "show time" with the Pacific Coast having sustained 50+ mph winds and 25 foot waves. Inland, not so severe, but I can assure you the wind is howling and the rain is horizontal, with temperatures in the high 30's. Yesterday's projections were downscaled a bit, but there's no way one could say it is not storming outside.

I'll be surprised if we keep our electricity throughout the day.

Windstorm on Whidbey - View from Langley to Sandy Point
Whidbey Island
Photo Sue Frause


Spring Ahead

At midnight last night we set our clocks ahead an hour for Daylight Saving.

In 1895, George Vernon Hudson, a New Zealand entomologist, who wanted more leisure time after work to collect insects, proposed the modern idea of daylight savings time.

Cold and Wild

Brad's been tramping for seven days now with no contact with home, as was expected. In reading other Te Araroa blogs, I see that it is snowing at the higher elevations, so depending on exactly where Brad is right now, he might be experiencing not only difficult trail conditions but cold. I will be looking forward to an e-mail.

I think Brad is now on the Harper Pass Track, a 4 to 6 day tramp. Mail that was missed at Wellington has been forwarded to Brad at Arthur's Pass, on the Harper Pass Track.

Arthur’s Pass, through the Southern Alps between
the headwaters of the Ōtira and Bealey rivers


Trying to catch trail friends...

Brad left St Arnaud in the early afternoon, two days ago. Ludo and Flore were in Murchison yesterday. Approximately a 50 mile gap remains between them. Murchison is on a yellow trail headed west to a coastal trail, rather than the primary "red" trail on Google Maps, which heads down the middle of the island. So many options I sometimes get completely lost trying to follow Brad's route. Since he's trying to catch Ludo and Flore I'm assuming they've plotted the course, and he'll be headed to Murchison too. Or, perhaps they took a detour and will be headed back to the "Red" trail. Whatever, I hope Brad can catch them in the next few days, even though I seem to have lost the orange marker.

"Community on a stick!"

Along the way, many days ago, at the top of Mt. Rintoul (1731 m), the highest point on the Richmond Alpine Track, a note was waiting for Brad from Ludo, Flore, Phillipe and Madeleine, with the message "dbBrad was NOT here". Brad loved the unlikeliness of seeing his name, on a stick, left by friends, on the top of such a remote mountain, and named it "Community on a stick!".

This group of trampers, although frequently not actually together, are tramping together in a beautiful heart-felt way.

NZ South Island's fall cold - USA Whidbey Island's spring cold

I just read Ludo and Flore's newest bog posting and they spoke of a lot of cold and even some snow, along with freezing feet and icy cold huts. Brad's still a few days behind them so I worry that his slim supplies will not offer enough warmth for the quickly approaching winter in New Zealand, especially up in the mountains where he's tramping right now.

But look what we woke up to on this March 6 spring day here at home. Whidbey Island sporting Rhododendron blossoms and budded cherry trees is covered with snow this morning. The unpredictable NW weather hits once again.

Snow covered cherry blossoms
photo by Marie Lincoln

My wheelbarrow left outside last night, with no idea snow was coming, ready for another day of mulch moving.

Sir Benton Cowboy delighted with the white stuff, bowing with a play invitation


Heading into wilderness

Yesterday Brad left St. Arnaud, located on Nelson Lake, at about 1:30. I'm thinking he spent the night at Lakehead Hut, only 2-3 hours out. I think, given his late start this is a pretty realistic estimate. The next hut (John Tait Hut) would have been another five hours according to the Te Araroa Trail literature. Although, with his new headlamp, purchased for after dark tramping, perhaps this was his hut for the night.

The trail literature promises wilderness ahead so I don't expect to hear from Brad for 10+ days. He was carrying 6 days of food and had another 6-day stash of food waiting for him along the way.

Nelson Lake


All along the Te Araroa Trail, Brad has been talking about sandflies. According to one reference, sandflies are one of the only pests in NZ -- no snakes, leaches, or dangerous spiders. Also, sandflies come complete with weaknesses, like they go away at night, they are slow and they don't bother a moving person. So, as long as you never stop, or hike only at night, no problem. However the bites can be annoying and they itch. Definitely a bothersome pest. Nevertheless, when I think of the mosquito buzzing in the bedroom at night, I'm thinking the fact that sandflies go away at night is quite an advantage over our pesky mosquitoes here in the NW. The endless buzzing of mosquitoes at night, right in one's ear, certainly is annoying and a real sleep interrupter.

Sandflies really aren't this big. This one is a model above a cafe. I'm wondering if this is good advertising, hum...

,Giant sandfly


Logistics swirling around money

Brad has arrived at St. Arnaud. I received a quick e-mail and we chatted for a brief period, before he ran off to catch a bus to Nelson. Small town cash machines don't take VISA, making getting cash difficult. Banks take VISA, but there are only banks in larger towns. Traveling hiccups.
St Arnaud, NZ