The Coolest Coldness – Part One

“On a Mish” #292 The Coolest Coldness – Part One. Upper Eglington Valley. Fiordland National Park. 11.7.2021. Winter is very cool. Both in the literal sense and also from a visual perspective. The way ice or snow can dramatically change a landscape is incredible, but to see it you will have to put on an extra jumper. With our latest clothing technology we can brave the cold wrapped in merino wool and down feathers. A huge change from the thick wool and tweed suits of the past. How those fellas didn’t freeze to death puzzles me. I always marvel at the fact that the Milford Track was first cut during the winter of 1888. Quintin MacKinnon and Ernest Mitchell were tough as nails. As my body has healed I have found more and more mission motivation. Sitting around for over a year means I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, and luckily Fiordland National Park is just down the road from my house in Te Anau

An excellent mission up to Lake Marian had left my body feeling a little bit battered and bruised, but with two consecutive days off work and fine weather in the forecast it was time to go ‘On a Mish’. I guess this does make me a real wilderness addict. So like a cigarette smoker with a sore throat, I was just gonna have to put up with a little pain in order to fulfill my cravings. There was no way I was going to go on a long hike with my camping gear, so I searched the Fiordland map for an easy mish. A wander out on the Upper Eglington Valley seemed the perfect night out, so I gathered my gear (which I had just put away!) and headed up the Milford Road. Along with the clear skies, the forecast mentioned very cold temperatures for the area. Knowing I had the gear for the cold, this didn’t bother me, and as I pulled into the Upper Eglington Valley Campsite I knew I had made the right choice.

The Sun Disappearing Behind the Earl Mountains

I only had a few kilometers to hike to get to what I thought looked like an excellent camping spot. I started the mish by hiking straight into the open beech forest, which was easy ground to hike over. After about 20 minutes walking I saw a small gap in the trees which led to the grassy open flats of the Upper Eglington Valley. It was well into the afternoon and some of the flats were still thick with frost, a sign of the coldness I would have to deal with later. I wandered across the open flats and at one stage my foot dropped into an icy pool of water. Without realising I had walked out onto a boggy area, which had a frozen layer acting like a trap for unsuspecting visitors. Now with a wet foot, I watched every step as I carefully continued further up the valley. The wilderness has a wicked sense of humor. Many times I have gone on a camping mission and found the perfect camping spot… on the other side of a river or lake or bog. This time it was a braid of the Eglington River. The perfect spot was on an island with the river flowing either side, so it was time to get the other boot wet…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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