George Sound Track: I had been looking forward to this track for years.  It would be one of the finest trails I've done in my life in an area that is among the most beautiful in the world.


Day One
The big day had finally arrived.  I found it hard to believe that I’m actually going to be going back into the wilds of Fiordlands.  It was raining at 3 a.m. and still raining at 9 a.m.  The conditions could be really ugly on the trail, but luckily it had stopped by the time that I was ready to go.  I met the fearless boat captain, Vern, and went with him to the Middle Arm Fiord of Lake Te Anau.  The snow-covered mountains that dropped steeply to the lakeshore were covered in mist at the tops.  I wasn’t even on the track yet and I was impressed at what I was seeing.  Vern said that many of the trails with high altitude sections were closed due to snow.  So I really didn’t know what awaited me on the track, but I knew that it would be out of this world.

We arrived at the western end of the fiord and it was a fifteen minute walk to Lake Hankinson.  The footing was slippery and many trees were downed.  I kept on wondering what lay ahead for the rest of the track.  Hmmm….  Captain Vern had a small boat stashed on the shore that he used to bring people down to the other end of Lake Hankinson.  We motored across the water and he dropped me off at the hut.  He gave me a few hints about the track and said, “See you here at 2:00 on Thursday.”  I said goodbye and watched him head back.  I looked forward to not seeing humans in the coming days.

George Sound MapI stopped in the hut and did the final preparations for the track.  The trail skirted the edge of a tall riverbank.  Later on, I looked back and saw how badly undercut the riverbank was.  There was less than 30 cm. of ground between myself and a long fall into the river.  It concerned me about what I was doing and the consequences of getting hurt.  A few minutes later, the track came to a three-wire bridge across the river.  I have done many of these bridges before, but for some reason on this one, I felt strangely naked.  I don’t know why, but knew that caution would be in order for the rest of the tramp.  Any injury on this track would be a real big problem, especially if it occurred far away from one of the huts. 

I soon realized what sort of track I had gotten into.  It was going to be tough.  It’s very irregular with large rocks and tree roots strewn all over.  There were a ton of tree falls.  Sometimes I had trouble finding the track after climbing over a tree fall.  The track itself blended in very well with the surrounding forest.  This isn’t a well established track.  There was one tree fall that was 10 meters long after which I completely lost the track.  I had no idea where it went.  I had to jump over one meter gaps in the rocks.  That may not seem like much, but with a loaded pack, it seems wider.  In some areas, I took off my pack as the terrain was rough and it was easier to scout for the track.

At the next three-wire bridge, once again I felt intimidated.  I don’t know why I felt this way, but I did.  It was quite high over large boulders, but I’ve done this before.  The closer the track got to the Lake Thomson hut, the more tree falls that covered the track.  When I mention tree falls, it's not about a few trees, rather dozens of trees lying in large piles.

It took four hours to reach the Thomson Hut.  The track map said that it should take about 2.5 hours.  I’m beginning to get worried about tomorrow.  It’s very unusual that it takes me longer than the suggested time on a track if I keep walking.  What concerns me is what will happen tomorrow.  The map says it is a ten hour walk.  Will it turn into a fifteen hour walk, twenty hours, or even be impassable?  It's best not to worry about the future in general, but this isn’t some abstract concern.  A very early start tomorrow is a must.  Who knows what I’ll be facing?

It was a nice evening in the hut.  It was very quiet, as there was no one else for many, many kilometers. The only noises I heard were the water in the river and the wind blowing in the trees.  One thing that was notable was the water.  In Fiordlands you can drink from the streams in most places.  Not just that, but the water is so, so good.  As darkness falls, I go out to see the brilliant stars above.  Later on, I read by candlelight.  Few things could make me happier than to be there at the Thomson Hut on the George Sound Track.

Day Two
Where the &$*(#& Does The Trail Go?In the morning, I prepared for my hike to George Sound.  It wouldn’t get dark until 10 p.m., so hopefully there was plenty of time to get there.  The track started up a hill covered in ground ferns.  About ten minutes later, I was hopelessly lost after running into a tree fall.  I couldn’t find the trail further up the hill, but to make it worse, I lost the trail downhill.  The downhill track simply petered out after a few meters.  I must have gotten off the main trail by taking an animal trail, but either way, I was lost.  There I was in the middle of Fiordlands, all alone and not knowing where the trail was, but no need to panic.  I decided to walk down the hill through the forest to the Wapiti River and then follow it downstream back to the hut and start over.  This was a bad way to start the day and couldn’t help but wonder what the rest of the day held.

On the way down through the forest, I ran across a track and started following it back up the hill.  There weren't any problems following it and shortly, an orange trail marker appeared, so it must be the main track.  It seemed pretty certain that I had gotten sidetracked onto an animal trail.  Sometimes when you are walking you see a little hint the trail goes in a certain direction and don’t notice a bigger hint that the trail goes a different way.  Such is the way it goes.  The trail continued up a long hill surrounded by ferns.  The trail was wet and slippery, but all around it was green.  The trail then went up a very steep section where the tree roots form a series of tall steps.  Muddy barely begins to describe it.

I got to a section where the trail levels out and once again, completely lost the trail.  I’m standing next to an orange trail marker, but don’t know where to go.  There are some indications that the track goes up a near vertical hill and no indications that it follows the gentle downhill across a flat area, besides I had to go down a two meter rock face, so I set off to follow the trail upwards.  I go up the hill and start searching for the trail.  I do a series of searches and all of them lead to a vertical rock wall.  I’m completely stumped.  Repeating the search pattern over again still resulted in finding nothing.  During one search, on the way down the hill, I reached a steep drop off and grabbed onto a tree and slid down the trunk back to where I started.  When you’ve eliminated all possibilities except for one, however unlikely it appears, that is the one to try.  I climbed down the rock face and find the trail on the flat area.  Once down there, the trail was very clear, but when I returned to the top of the rock face to get my pack, I looked down on the trail and simply couldn’t see it.  It’s gonna be a long day.

Deadwood LagoonThe path led through a long section where mud alternated with sections of the trail that were completely submerged.  I noticed that there were very few sandflies (a biting gnat) today.  Sometimes sandflies can be so thick as to make a track quite miserable, but that was not today.  Periodically, the trail was above water, but this was in a minority.  I approached Deadwood Lagoon through the forests.  It’s described on the map as “very boggy".  This is certainly an understatement.  The ground was quite soft, muddy, wet, and yes, very boggy.  The trail crosses a deep pool of water of indeterminate depth, which seemed best to avoid.  I try to go through some brush towards the Rugged Burn (a burn is a stream).  I couldn’t see the burn, but could hear it and looked forward to a drink of delicious water.  With my pack on, I get stuck in the brush.  I push and push and push, but I’m still stuck.  With one last big push, I’m in the clearing next to the burn.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Good heavens was it beautiful!

A moment ago I was in a deep, boggy forest and in the next moment surrounded by snowcapped peaks and brilliant blue skies.  High, rugged mountains were on all sides. Fiordlands is amazing.  I gave out a Homer Simpson “Whew-Hoo!”  Looking up at the mountains to the west, the peaks were steep and forbidding.  I took them in and thought, “I don’t know where, but somewhere out there is Henry Pass and I’m going over it.  I can’t wait.”  However, first things had to come first.  The burn had a rocky bank where I sat down and smiled.  I looked around and found it hard to believe that I was there.  I had a bite to eat and drank from the stream under clear blue skies.  The George Sound Track is even better than I imagined.

The trail started the climb to Henry Pass and it was indistinguishable from a stream.  The track was the path of least resistance for the water flowing down the mountain sides, so the trail had turned into a waterway.  After a tough climb through lush, mossy forests, I turned back and saw a wonderful sight.  I could see mountains near and far and looked down onto the valley and lagoon that a few hours ago, I had sat near and drank some of that fine Fiordlands water.

At The Top Of Henry PassI began the final climb above tree line to get over the pass.  The winds were overpowering, at least 70 km/h.  I was really getting hammered and had to brace myself by leaning into the gusts or else I would have been blown over.  The trail markings were pretty sparse and sometimes I wasn’t sure where I was going, so I just followed my instincts.  There was a pond at the top of the pass that had whitecaps in it.  The winds were all funneled by the surrounding mountains into Henry Pass.  I took a look from the top of the pass.  I looked backwards to see where I had come from and I looked forward to see where I was going.  I can’t forget those sights as it felt as if I could see forever.

I crested the pass and started down the other side.  Looking to the west, was a long valley that was absolutely, completely green.  I couldn’t yet see George Sound, but I knew that it was ahead of me, somewhere out there.  Going down the west side of the pass was quite steep.  I had to cross a wide open section of rock that was at a 75 degree angle and crossed under a waterfall that flowed across the barren rock and then it was back into the trees.  I still had to be very careful, but at least I was out of the winds.  It was a steep descent down the valley.  I was very consciously careful how I walked as there were a lot of places to get hurt.  Not always overtly dangerous places, rather the footing was wet and slippery and the rocks and tree roots were irregular and covered in moss.  One could have twisted a knee or ankle in 10,000 places.  One of the things I had to do today was to stay completely focused on tramping.  It only takes a moment of inattention and one can get hurt.  However, I also needed to keep a steady pace in order to get to the sound before dark.  I kept going downhill and downhill. 
The trail crossed a large landslide, the top of which was a thousand meters above.  It took me a while to find the track at the other side of the slide as the trail was completely obliterated under untold amounts of rock.  Large trees stuck out of the debris, having been tossed every which way.  I reached another downhill section which had a series of what almost looked like steps cut into the rock, created by Nature especially for me.  They may have looked like steps, but they were slick as could be.  Once again, I had to be careful all along the track due slippery footing.

I walked onto a flat, rocky area and crossed a stream.  I had finally reached Katherine Creek.  I would follow this creek all the way down the valley to the sound.  I finally had an idea how far it was to the end of the track, but I still had to keep moving as it was getting later in the day and I also had no idea what the condition of the track was ahead.  Luckily there weren’t many tree falls since early in the day, but that might change as I got closer to the sound.  I crossed the stream and then had to cross it again, then again.  I must have crossed the stream 8-10 times.  Then I walked for a while without crossing.  I was still on the right side of creek and I should have been on the left bank.  I then began to wonder if it was Katherine Creek nor was I sure where I was anymore.  I started on another descent, it wasn’t quite as steep as the way down Henry Pass, but I had to be cautious.  I crossed the stream once more and was still perplexed where I was.  With the terrible rains in the last weeks, it was possible that new streambeds could have formed.  Now I wasn’t quite sure about much of anything.

Lake KatherineI was walking along and suddenly there was a clearing that allowed me to see through the thick bush.  I had my first view of Lake Katherine.  It was such a deep blue, surrounded by a forest so green, under a light blue sky.  What a beautiful sight it was.  I was so excited to see it and I didn’t know why.  I just knew how I felt.  Perhaps I knew that the sound was getting closer, but it was much more than that.  I couldn’t imagine any place more stunning at that moment.  I descended down to the lake and it only got more beautiful.  There were near vertical, rock walls that led down to the lake.  I gave out another Homer Simpson “Whew-Hoo!”  As I reached the lake, I dipped my feet in.  For some reason, it seemed like the thing to do.

I had a sneaking suspicion that the track would be a bit rugged along the lake, looking at how the mountain walls dropped steeply into the lake.  This suspicion would turn out to be correct.  The track went down into the lake next to the rock walls and I walked through the lake itself.  I guess the symbolic wetting of my feet earlier was proving a bit redundant.

I continued to walk with Katherine Creek to my right.  I knew where I was once I came to the lake.  I quickened my pace.  Not because I was rushed for time, but I was getting more and more excited at the prospect of reaching the sound.  The trail was still rugged, but the descent was relatively gentle.  I came to a steep climb away from the stream, then a steep descent.  The forest had started to change.  It wasn’t quite as dense and seemed to have a lighter shade of green.  That might be because I was approaching sea level, though I wasn’t sure.  It certainly wasn’t the same forest that was near the top of Henry pass.  The trail leveled out and became gentler.  I was becoming more and more excited as time went on.  I picked up the pace a bit just because it felt good to do so.  I wish I could convey the sense of excitement that I felt and actually, still feel as I write this, but I just can’t find the words.  I could feel the approach of my goal.  After a little more walking, I reached a three-wire bridge that crossed Katherine Creek. I knew that George Sound was now close.  I quickened my pace once again.  It didn’t feel like I was walking, I was dancing on air.  I felt that good about it.  I could hear the rushing of the stream and then a few minutes later, out of nowhere it appeared.  Once more, I exclaimed, “Whew-Hoo!  Whew-Hoo!”  I had finally reached the sea.

I took off my soggy boots and walked into the water.  I stood and looked at everything.  The skies were clear as my mind.  Nothing mattered except being there.  I gazed at the hills across the water.  I looked at the hills to the left and then to right.  I looked up to the perfectly clear, perfectly blue sky.  I could not believe I was finally here, at George Sound.

At George SoundFor years I had looked forward to this moment and finally it had arrived.  I tramped the Dusky Track two years ago and thought it to be the finest trail that I’ve ever done.  Shortly after that, I learned about the George Sound Track.  It was something that I had to experience.  Over time, the idea of tramping this track took on a life of its own.  I daydreamed of the day I would be there.  It was something that had to be done.  There was something about the track that was drawing me even though I could find little information on it.  Even with only a brief description, I had a clear vision of it in my mind.  That was enough for me to say that no matter, I was going to make it there.  To this day, I don’t understand why it was so important for me, but it was.  All of these memories came back upon reaching the waters of George Sound.

A minute later, I was startled by something in the water just off to my side.  It was a seal playing with a fish it had caught.  It would throw the fish across the surface of the water and fetch it.  The seal would disappear under the water and then pop up somewhere else.  It would then throw the fish and go fetch and so on.  The seal seemed to be having a good time as I was having a good time watching it play.  You know, whether I was there or not, that seal would have been playing with the fish.  Nature exists on its own.  It doesn’t need us to validate it.  I’m privileged that I could have been there to witness that seal.

I’d like to tell you I spent hours standing there in the gentle embrace of the fiord, absorbing all that the Universe has to offer, but the water was very cold and I was getting eaten alive by the sandflies.  So I put my boots back on and went into the hut.

It was quite late as it had taken thirteen hours to do the tramp.  Later I went out and stood at the water’s edge and watched the sun set over the fiord and skies darken into the night.  I settled into the hut, but it was pretty gritty.  I’ve been in a number of huts, and this was one of the scuzzier ones, but who cares.  It’s a roof over my head.  Nothing fancy in the slightest.  The only people who reach here are hard-core trampers or hunters who fly in to the fiord.  Given this clientele, I have to say that I was surprised at the books that were in the hut.  It’s highly unlikely that trampers carted them in.  The hunters must have brought them in.  What was surprising about them?  They were pulp romance books!  I guess the hunters come here, when no one is looking, and read romance novels to get in touch with their feelings and explore their feminine sides.  Yep, burly hunters.

The rest of the night was spent relaxing and writing my journal by candlelight.  When the spirit moved, I climbed into my sleeping bag and fell asleep.  What a perfect place to be.

Day Three
I made the difficult decision to only spend one night at George Sound.  I really wanted to spend more time there, but it might not be a good idea.  Yesterday, there was only a single place on the whole track near the eastern side of the pass where I could safely set up a tent and even that seemed pretty exposed.  I’ve been in Fiordlands when it rained for three solid days and nights.  The rains can be heavy and unpredictable.  If I was in the Katherine Creek crossings area and it started to rain, the creek could flood in a matter of minutes and I could get stranded in the middle.  I wouldn’t have been able to go forward or backwards as all the rains would funnel down the valley into that one stream.  Perhaps Lake Katherine would flood and I would be stuck for days.  How could I hope to cross that steep rock face near the top of the pass when the small waterfall would turn into a raging torrent in a thunderstorm?  I was supposed to meet the boat on a given date and if I didn’t show up for it, a helicopter would come looking for me.  I guess I had to err on the side of caution, given that I was by myself (and few people would do a track like this alone) and had no way to communicate with the outside world.  I didn’t want to make this decision, but I couldn’t see any other way given the circumstances.  The weather in the morning was absolutely perfect and given the variability of Fiordlands conditions, it might be very different tomorrow or even in one hour.

Morning At The SoundI stood at the edge of the water and looked out over the fiord.  Some of the fiords that I’ve seen have towering rock walls a thousand meters tall, but George Sound is different, at least on this part.  This fiord is more like hills that slope down towards the water.  It might not be on a postcard back in Te Anau, but it’s still really something to see.  I turned to pick up my pack and start the trail, but I stopped and went back to standing at the edge of the waters.  I wanted to look at George Sound a while longer.  I turned around and started to walk up the trail, but again I stopped and went back to standing by the water.  Eventually I knew that I had to say goodbye, but it wasn’t easy.  Not easy in the slightest.  I forced myself to start back towards Henry Pass.

I knew that today would be different.  I would still have to be very attentive as I walked, but I would at least know the conditions on the trail and know where the delays were.  If the weather held, I think I could be a lot more confident and relaxed about my tramp.  As enjoyable as yesterday was, it was somewhat stressful because of the uncertainty of what might lay ahead.

I started walking up the valley and crossed the three-wire bridge.  I go up a rise and descend towards Lake Katherine.  I’ve noticed that the lake’s water level has dropped about 25 cm. as I didn’t get quite as wet when walking along the rock faces.  I sat on the lakeshore.  I looked over the water and imagined.  What did I imagine?  I don’t know, I just…I was just happy to be on the lakeshore.  I got to the section where it crossed Katherine Creek ten times.  I looked up towards Henry Pass and the weather started to look threatening.  It wasn’t a good sign.  I did not want to be crossing the pass in a storm, so I had to keep moving on.  I quickened my pace, just a bit.  I reached the landslide and started to cross it.  I climbed over large, jagged boulders and looked up the mountainside.  The slip was funnel-shaped.  Narrow at the top of the mountain and wide at the bottom.  It had a very well defined shape.  I was standing among the chaos of the rocks, some of them as large as a house, yet a few feet away past the slip, the forest grew comfortably as if nothing had happened.  The extremely heavy rainfall (and this is an area that gets eight meters of rain a year) of the last weeks had loosened up the mountainside.  A small slide starts and before you know it, it has turned into a large one.  I can’t imagine what it must have been like to see a mountainside fall down, but fall it did.

I started the climb up towards Henry Pass and was relieved that blue skies had returned.  The higher up the track went, the steeper it became.  It had really turned into a steep climb.  I can’t believe that I made it down this yesterday.  There was a steep rock face that was taller than I.  Two tree roots formed a “V” up the rock face.  I tried to climb up the roots, but that proved too difficult.  It was no trouble with this yesterday, but there was the force of gravity to help me downwards.  I tried to go through the bush but with a backpack, that proved even more difficult than trying to climb up it.  I figured the best thing to do might be the simplest.  Take off my pack and heave it up to the top of the rocks and climb up the “V” unencumbered.  It seemed to work.  It was nice that there was no wind as I approached the pass.  However, that wouldn’t last for long.

As soon as I cleared the tree line, winds of 70-80 km/h hit me full force.  Once again, I had to brace myself to avoid getting blown over.  I crossed the steep rock face with the waterfall and still couldn’t believe how tough the winds were.  I passed by the ponds, yep, they still had whitecaps on them.  I’ve been at the top of a mountain pass getting hammered by the winds on the Dusky Track, however at that time I was in a terrible downpour, so today…no problem.  Winds or not, I couldn’t believe the view.  I turned around to look back towards the sound.  That valley was green as far as the eye could see.  I turned around again and looked down towards the Deadwood Lagoon and again, it was green as could be.  I don’t care about Mt. Everest, as far as I was concerned, I was on top of the world.

I descended from the pass into the trees and out of the wind.  Below the pass was a very steep descent.  Good heavens was that steep, I can’t believe that I made it up this yesterday.  There were a series of steps, between and 1 meter tall.  They consisted of tree roots that held in rocks that formed the steps.  Each of the steps was flooded with water.  I would put my foot down on the step into a puddle of water.  Since it was full to the top, it overflowed and drained down the next step.  That step would overflow and would flow down to the next step and then the next.  Every time I went down another level, I would flood that step and watch how I started a small waterfall.

Snorkeling On The TrailThe forest was as beautiful as any I’ve ever seen before.  All was green and covered in moss.  Fiordlands gets an overwhelming amount of rain each year.  The lush forests around were ample proof of that fact.  I wish I could emphasize how much everything is covered in moss.  While sometimes the mosses made things slippery to the feet, they were pleasing to the eyes.  Everywhere around me was something living, something wet, and something green.  The track descended towards the lagoon.  I walked down one of the sections of the track that resembled a stream.  It was strewn with bleached deadwood that looked like ancient dinosaur bones that the Earth was giving up.  It was kind of neat to think of them like that.

While it is a pretty futile gesture in these parts, yesterday I made efforts to keep dry and tried to go around the boggy and muddy areas.  That didn't happen on this day.  This time, I didn’t care in the slightest.  I went straight through everything (and I mean everything).  That “deep pool of water of indeterminate depth,” straight through it.  Ankle deep in the muck, calf deep in the morass, knee deep in the mud, thigh deep in the slop.  Nothing stopped me.  I just kept going and was having the time of my life.  I surged through the boggy areas and arrived at Deadwood Lagoon. I spent some time sitting by Garnock Burn enjoying the views and the taste of the water.

As I mentioned, I was in the mood to slog through it all and there were sections of the trail where a full km. was underwater.  It didn’t bother me in the slightest.  After getting to a dryer section of the trail, I took off my pack and sat down.  The last two days had been absolutely perfect and pleasant weather for tramping.  The forest surrounded me with grand trees of an unknown age covered in moss from the roots to the very tops where their branches reached to the sky of blue.  Oh what a sight it was!  I sat and looked around and then closed my eyes.  I don’t have any idea how long it was, but I enjoyed every moment.  After a while, I realized that I was at the area where I had completely lost the trail only to find it by climbing down the rock face.  It seemed so obvious where the trail was now that I don’t know how I could have missed it yesterday.  However, I think a lot of things are like that in life once you figure it out.  It only made me appreciate the forest glade even more.  I guess it was good that I appreciated it because then I heard something that was even worse than stormy weather.  There were voices on the trail.

I couldn’t believe it.  This trail is hardly used and it had been many weeks since someone had been on it.  Everyone who knew of the trail said that it would be six days of solitude, but there were a few guys coming down the trail.  I started to get a sick feeling.  I chatted with them for a few minutes and told them what lay ahead and where they could camp as it was getting too late to reach the sound and they were already tired.  They told me that there were a few guys at the hut spending the night there. My solitude had been ruined.  One of the reasons I chose this track was because of its isolation and now that aspect was gone.  I continued to walk onward but for the next hour or two, it wasn't really enjoyable.  This shouldn’t ruin things for me, but that’s not how I felt about it at the time.

About a half hour before arriving at the Thomson hut, I started to get over not being alone and started to appreciate the forest again.  It was soft and green, ancient and fresh, lofty yet down to earth.  I sauntered towards the hut, taking my time.  At the hut, there were the guys who were too tired to go on for the day.  Two of the guys had just finished the Dusky Track the previous day.  I was strong enough to do these two tracks without a break, but I was in absolutely top condition. I asked him, “What were you thinking?”  He said, “I don’t know.” 

I still wanted to be alone as much as possible, so I sat by the waterfall until night fell.  It had taken more than 14 hours to reach the hut today.  It took longer as I could take my time knowing what the trail held.  It was nice that I could sit on a rock today and just sit.

Day Four
Surrounding MountainsTwo of the guys were too tired to go on and were going to spend the day at the hut.  My solitude was more important than spending time at the Thomson hut, so I headed off early for Lake Hankinson.  I don’t have any idea what time I left or how long it took me to reach the lake, nor did it matter in the slightest.  I was so relaxed about the day..without a care in the world.  The trail was just as rugged as before, but I knew what to expect and it was only a half days walk if I walked straight through.  When I felt like sitting down and thinking, I sat down and thought.  When I felt like sitting, I just sat.  What could be better than that?

The trail overlooked a meadow that had several gentle, meandering streams running through it.  Something in one of the them caught my eye.  I walked (ok, slipped is more like it) down the steep hill to the meadow and up to the stream.  It was an eel about a meter long swimming down the stream that had caught my eye.  It was so gentle as it sinuously swam.  I could watch it go downstream as it was going no faster than a slow walking pace.  It was hard to believe how graceful it was and I followed it until the stream joined a pond.

I continued on, however slowly, toward the hut at Lake Hankinson.  The trail followed Lake Thomson and I could look down on its blue waters.  That is a color I do not tire of seeing.  The temperature was absolutely perfect, the breezes gentle, the skies blue, the waters crystal clear, and the forest oh so green.  I know that I’ve said that many times, but it’s just so true.  I didn’t really wander aimlessly as I was following the trail, but it sure did feel like that.  It just felt good to be on the track that day.  When I arrived at the hut I dropped off my pack and sat by the gentle rapids of the river.  I closed my eyes and let my mind wander wherever it felt like wandering.  I didn’t do a whole lot for the rest of the day.  I just relaxed and walked a bit, but mostly I relaxed.

Day Five
There wasn’t anything on tap today, except for relaxing.  If I felt like walking, I would walk.  If I felt like sitting, I would, well, you know what I did.  I spent a fair amount of time sitting by the water.  The skies were a bit overcast and there was a gentle breeze.  The breeze was nice as it kept the sandflies down.  When the breeze stopped, it was best to take a walk or go back to the hut as the sandflies would come out.  I walked up the track a ways towards the Thomson hut, but walking wasn’t the real focus of the day.

There were some old hunting magazines from 1953 in the hut.  I paged through them and noticed how things have changed over the years.  One advertisement described a hunter in the forest, how he “stalked the mighty beast that could tear me limb from limb” and told of the heroic battle the hunter was engaged in.  It describes how the hunter finally got a clean shot with his Ruger .44 and “drilled the beast straight through the chest.”  The ad had a picture of the “beast” spread-eagled and hanging from a tree.  The hunter had killed a mountain gorilla.  It’s probably not the sort of ad you would see today.

Hankinson Hut At NightCome nightfall I brought out my candles and wrote some letters and read a book.  I really like this part of the night.  It's peaceful and the candles give off a pleasant light.  The only sound was the gentle ripples in the water and the only light was from candlelight and the stars above.  It’s pretty simple.  I can’t begin to tell you how comfortable I was after crawling into my sleeping bag.  I lay there, listening to the perfect silence of one of the most amazing places in the world and slowly drifted to sleep.

Day Six
Today was the day the boat would come to pick me up.  I probably should have arranged to stay a few more days to sit and relax.  As time goes on, I learn a lot more about how I like to travel.  I do allow for a fair amount of time to wander and do nothing, but even more time to do nothing is even better.  However, that is hindsight and I’ll have to wait for the future to put it into place.  I spent the day sitting along the water and enjoying the scenery and the feeling I got from being there.  I drank plenty of that delicious Fiordlands water that day, just because it tasted so good.

The skies were overcast and I thought it might rain today.  It had rained some last night, but it didn’t rain at all during the daytime.  That was pretty surprising for this area, though it had stormed a great deal just before I arrived.  I think of rain to be a part of the environment, but considering the terrain that had to be crossed, it could have been unpleasant (or even impossible) if it had thunderstormed a lot.  In some ways I like to experience an area in all its moods, but sometimes it’s good to have those moods tempered somewhat.

Eventually Vern came to pick me up.  As we were about to leave, I filled up my bottles with water, just so I could I could have some of the stream water after I had left.  It may be hard to believe that water can taste that good and one might think I’m overcome with nostalgia.  That may well be the case, but at the time I was there, I thought the same thing and drank the water simply because it was so good.  If you were to ask me at this moment, what would you like to drink?  I would have to say a glassful of water from the streams of Fiordlands.

Lake Te Anau SlipWe motored across the lake.  It was a strange feeling to hear an artificial sound after six days of nature.  I looked up at the mist-covered peaks that surrounded Lake Hankinson.  A large slip led from the top of the mountains down into the waters.  The weather must have been something terrible in the last weeks.  We got to the trail that led to Lake Te Anau and his boat that would lead back to the rest of the world.

The clouds played among the peaks that surrounded Lake Te Anau.  I looked around and knew that I would miss this area terribly.  As we crossed the lake, I stood looking back at the mountains.  At the time, I knew the George Sound Track would be one of the highlights of my trip.  I didn’t know it would be one of the highlights of my whole life.
If you've enjoyed reading about this track, I've hiked it another time as well as several other tracks that might be of interest to you. They're all good stories, I think you'll like them.