The Alpine Route, Richmond Range, New Zealand, March 11- 19


This will be short because the days were long and flow. It's clearer now than in the midst how walks make stories of themselves, and how bother, disquiet, slog and mank are still for poetry. 

   The Pelorus River is exactly magic, a sparkling emerald flow slightly thicker and slightly clearer than water. Sitting by a deep bed in the river with the morning sun on my back, I think 'nature's first green is gold' like on other wooded mornings. Here, I hear Frost saying less 'nothing gold can stay,' and more 'green IS gold.'

   At Middy Hut we read that there's no water awaiting us at Mt. Richmond hut, and decide against crossing that peak, 6,000 feet of elevation away. It's obvious how living outside is about saying yes, and less apparent how it is about saying many times— no. We decide to instead follow the Pelorus to the Alpine Route, one of the finest sections of New Zealand's Te Aroroa, 'The Long Pathway.' 

   We climb and climb and at the end of days I can only write down separate words— candle lit hut, wood burning stove, hiss of gas, blue mountains like choppy seas, crescent moon glowing, men reading, men stretching, men yawning, stove crackling and snapping.   

 We started walking before the sun, and we could see the day laid out ahead of us. This was a route where my eyes and my body played the slinky game, sighting the distance, being in the distance. Mount Rintoul was what we couldn't see past, it broke the rules.

   The mountain said, whether you thank me or you despise me, I will crumble under your feet, I will fracture beneath your fingertips. I lost all faith in how the surface of the earth is this thin boundary holding firm the difference between rock and air. I felt like weeping not just because if I kept slipping I would just become the scree and go the whole way down the mountain, but also because the way one rock falls and then many fall feels like the start of a cry— the way you go from being the thing that kicked the rock to the tumbling rock itself. 

    We follow ridges and watersheds, spot snow poles in blinding wet fog high up, cross bands of uplifted red mantel rock with pinch holds. Carried along by the trail, I carried Woolf's Orlando:

'Nature, who has played so many queer tricks upon us, making us so unequally of clay and diamonds, of rainbow and granite, and stuffed them into a case, often of the most incongruous... has contrived that the whole assortment shall be lightly stitched together by a single thread.'

I am as incongruous as this place, yet a long trail makes sense of it for me. I feel long trails to be too civilized, and want to be stitched together, want to stitch together, by an even lighter thread, by a more alarming, happenstance path.

    At the end, downhill was a defeat as we became the world we had beheld. We were muscle and hunger, without a piece of loftiness. We ate our last particles of food before reaching St. Arnaud's and then had three meat pies, two milkshakes, chocolate milk, mango juice, two bags of chips, a cheese sandwich, an apple muffin, two pizzas, and honey ice cream. Tomorrow we fly north to Tongariro, volcanoes, desert!