Thursday, March 13, 2014

Old man disease

Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans.

~John Lennon

A Riddle

What do you get when you cross a ten kilometer trail run, followed by 100 meter sprints the next day, followed by consecutive days of hiking 20 miles up and down steep mountains with a heavy pack?

a. A nasty case of bursitis in your knee.
b. A month of completely frustrating rest to no avail. 
c. A really grumpy asshole of a husband who is largely difficult to be stuck traveling with.
d. Intermittent episodes of depression and rage.
e. All of the above.

Not all is well here at at Front Door Adventures as of late, which will explain the long absence of my rhetoric from the interwebs.  It has been exceedingly difficult for me to find inspiration, and furthermore I suspect that my readers, aside from my mother, may find little interest in stories of sitting behind the wheel of my overheating and gutless van seeking out the flattest walks in New Zealand.  

First World Problems

The conversations in my head often sound something like this:

So let's get this right Matt.  You are on a year long vacation, you recently rode your bike in the company of your amazing wife across the United States, you incurred an overuse injury (not the first time in your life), and now you are feeling sorry for yourself and the predicament that you are in?  Hmmm, you really need to sack up and quit being such a fucking baby.  So things aren't turning out like you planned eh?  

Your family wasn't on a flight that disappeared out of the sky this week, foreign tanks are not rolling through the streets of your home as political turmoil and social unrest threaten to spiral into civil violence, you have food in your belly and a few dollars in your bank account.

So you got yourself a sore knee eh mate; get over it and recognize how fortunate you really are!


The cosmos is an interesting place and sometimes I can't wonder who is really running the big show.  Jenny and I are working out in the city park in Palmerston North.  A steady diet of boxing, burpees and pull-ups has helped me keep a grip on my sanity as of late.  It's mid-day and the huge park is empty save Jenny,me and the fellows smoking a lunchtime joint behind the toilets.
My knee is sore and not improving at the rate that I have arbitrarily set in my head; I am in a foul mood.   
Only two people wander through the field of sun-baked brown grass while Jen I trade turns punching the focus mitts.  One is a young Asian man on crutches with his leg amputated high above his knee.  The other, a young Kiwi walking his dog;  the leash wrapped around his forearm absent of a hand.

Get over yourself redhead!

The Family Tour

In 1943 my Grandfather Ross Hoagland embarked New Zealand for a respite from fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific theater.   During his stay, he met my Grandmother, Joan Henderson and wooed her with cigarettes, rides in his Army issued Jeep and a wallet flush of American dollars.    In 1945, after the wars end, Grandma packed two suitcases, boarded a steamship and floated the Pacific to marry and start a new life in America.  In less than a year, my mother was born.

On the other side of the ocean, Grandma's siblings Cicely, Alan, and Una grew large families of their own and have left me with a gaggle of cousins spread across this great country.  As Jen and I head North and call on distant kin, I am reminded of what a brave woman my grandmother was.  To leave family, friends and the familiarity of home required an optimism and intrepid spirt that I like to think runs through my veins today.  

I am forever thankful for her courage.  

Kloshe konaway
Kloshe nanitch


End of the great walking for Jen and me.  The stunning Kepler Track.

Cliff Mass would be proud.   Something wicked this way comes…over a foot of rain in the next 24 hours.   

Halloween is celebrated in the month of February in New Zealand.  Jenny is a rubber ducky.

Milford Sound and Mitre Peak in the background.  

Summer in Dunedin lasts 48 hours and provides really spectacular sunrises.

If wearing hair nets & face masks, screaming children and obese Australian tourists are your type of thing, I highly recommend the tour of the Cadbury Factory in Dunedin.  

Fish n' Chips in the van with the Schonthal Family.  Ben, Paula, Oliver and Henry.

Phocarctos hookeri (male)

Phocarctos hookeri (female)

Where the Wild things Are!

 Megadytes antipodes

Mount Ruapehu, Tongariro National Park.

 World famous Bluff Oysters.

 The best part of the Tauranga is Aunt Barb!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

High Places

The truth is that my career being exposed to heights had rather inglorious beginnings.

When I was six years old, my first grade class took a field trip to Carnation Farms in the rural Snoqualmie Valley of Eastern King County, Washington.  The morning was filled with uneventful childhood bliss of goat petting, hay rides, chicken chasing and likely pestering my mother to buy me sugar treats.  My joyous enterprise however, came to screeching halt shortly after lunch when the class went for a short walk in the Tolt MacDonald Park.  All went well until I approached the banks of the Snoqualmie River.   Hoards of my screaming classmate enthusiastically clamored past across the precariously hung wooden swing bridge to the other side of the river as I stopped dead in my tracks as panic overtook me.  There I stood, paralyzed in fear, sure the bridge would collapse the minute I set foot and deliver me to an icy death in the depths of the raging Snoqualmie River below.

Neither my loving Mother nor my dear teacher Ms. Scrindy could convince me otherwise, and it wasn't until the kind-hearted Roundhill Twins, Jenny & Chrissy, noticed my episode of panic and escorted me by hand across the bridge and was I delivered from this most embarrassing of calamities.

Why or how I would grow up to be a climber of mountains, waterfalls and rock cliffs I do not clearly understand myself.  As we steeply ascended terribly exposed friable schist outcrops of the Cascade Saddle Route in Mount Aspiring National Park, I revisited this question in my head.  Jenny would be perfectly happy with the views from the valley below or walking along beaches of sand near the breaking surf of the ocean, but something draws me upwards, always just a bit little higher, until there is nowhere to go but down.  Maybe the simplicity and singular focus required to get safely up and down from dangerous places quiets the internal noise of living in an overly complicated world.  Maybe the grandiose expanse of being in the mountains reminds me that no matter how we scar this planet with the viral human condition that the world will go marching on without us.  And just maybe I am still trying to outrun the humiliation of an awkward toe-headed and toothless boy standing at the edge of the Snoqualmie River nearly weeing in his pants at the thought of crossing a perfectly safe trestle from one side to the another.

In all honestly, I am not sure what draws me to high places, I just know that I am little happier person when I come back down.

Kloshe konaway
Kloshe nanitch    


 Emerald green water of the Copeland River, Copeland Valley New Zealand.

 Hottub with a view.  Welcome Flats in the Copeland Valley.

 Mount Sefton glowing in the distance and Scott Peak in the foreground.

 Douglas Rock Hut, upper Copeland Valley.

 Navigator Range from the upper Copeland Valley.

 Lyttle Peak over the Copeland River.

Brewster Track, Mount Aspiring National Park. 

Top of Mount Armstrong with Mount Brewster in the Distance. 

 The worlds only alpine parrot, the mischievous Kea is reputed to be the smartest bird in the world.

 Not a bad place to stay the night.  Brewster Hut, Mount Aspiring National Park.

 Jenny fired up about the sunshine in the West Matukituki River Valley, Mount Aspiring National Park.

 The Cascade Saddle Route in Mount Aspiring National Park is one of the most stunning and picturesque "hikes" I have ever been on. 

Dart Glacier, Mount Aspiring National Park.

 Rob Roy Peak from high on French Ridge in Mount Aspiring National Park.

 Decent view of Mount Barff.

 Don't go down there.

 French Ride Hut, Mount Aspiring National Park.