5 Tips for Staying Warm During Winter Hikes

 Tips for staying warm during winter hikes. Bundle up properly and have bf’s to hug for warmth! Photo: Ben Matthews

Tips for staying warm during winter hikes. Bundle up properly and have bf’s to hug for warmth! Photo: Ben Matthews

**This post was originally published in November of 2015. It’s one of my most viewed articles so I wanted to update it with new images and information!

Since we’re moving to Australia in less than 2 weeks, I won’t be doing any winter hiking this year. I am very pumped to be moving to the Southern Hemisphere and jumping back into summer, but eventually I will experience a winter again.

Winter can be so beautiful, especially if you get to play in the sunshine and snow combo. But unfortunately, my body doesn’t react well to the cold. I’ve never been been diagnosed by a doctor but I’m pretty sure I have In Raynaud's disease. The disease causes the blood vessels to narrow when you’re cold and the blood can't get to the surface of the skin. Since moving to Seattle from Hawaii, anytime the temperature drops below 55 degrees, my fingers turn white and/or purple. They also go numb and when the blood flow returns, it’s incredibly painful and tingles.

So you see, staying warm while outdoors is incredibly high on my priority list and the inspiration for this post. :)

Here are 5 tips for staying warm during a winter hike!

1.) Layer, Layer, Layer. Your layers should go as follows...

  • Base layer- aka what is next to your skin. Wear a fabric like synthetic or merino wool to help wick sweat away. The last thing you want is to be sweating in a wet cotton t-shirt. I like to wear a lululemon's power Y tank (two thumbs up for the built in bra) and Smartwool’s Women's Merino 150 Base Layer Long Sleeve. The tank is made from Luon fabric, a lightweight material that is wicking and breathable, and the Merino top is a light wool that’s ultra durable and quick drying.

  • Middle Layer - I call this my marshmallow layer. The middle layer is your insulating layer where you retain heat. My winter life changed when I purchased Patagonia's Down Sweater Hoody. My warmth and comfort is worth every penny spent on that jacket.

  • Outer Layer- The last layer should be waterproof and breathable. I wear Marmot’s Minimalist Waterproof Jacket. It’s a lightweight shell made from GORE-TEX and great for wind and rain protection.

2.) Protect Your Feet, Hands & Head- Beanie, gloves, socks. Make sure you have them all and extras. I go the extra step and add hand and feet warmers to my gloves and socks. That may be a little extreme for some, but my poor fingers and toes need the extra love!

3.) Pack a Warm Beverage - In addition to enough water, pack a thermos of tea, hot water or hot chocolate. Ok, or coffee (that's what will be in MY thermos).. but just make sure to stay hydrated.

4.) Remember Nutrition- Eat to keep your energy up! Stay away from cooling foods like citrus fruits and opt for warming foods like nuts and oats. My favorite easy snacks include; Pro Bar, Clif’s Nut Butter Filled Bars , and Bobo bars. Depending on the length of the hike, I’ve also been known to make a vegetarian sandwich with all the fixings - toasted bread, grilled onions, avocado, cheese, tomato, kale, and hummus.

5.) Pack Spare Clothes- Pack an extra set of clothes for the car ride home. Nothing is better than fresh socks, a dry set of clothes and the heater blasting on the car ride home.


Keep Reading - Outdoor Adventures!

10 Inspiring Quotes About The Great Outdoors

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I am a quote queen. They take up pages in my journals, I have a "WORDS" Pintrest board I'm always adding to, and my blog posts tend to begin with one. I'm partial to quotes that praise the magic of nature + the wilderness.  It's a challenge to capture my state of mind when I am absorbed in fresh air, green earth or turquoise sea, but I find the greats like Muir, Thoreau and Abbey have all done it elegantly and repeatedly. Here are a few of my favorite nature quotes to inspire your weekend exploration. 
*This was originally posted in October 2015 and has been updated with new images I've taken from California, Oregon and the Washington. 


"We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity” ― John Muir, Our National Parks

“The Wilderness holds answers to more questions than we have yet learned to ask.”― Nancy Wynne Newhall

“The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only paradise we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need, if only we had the eyes to see.” ― Edward Abbey

“Remember what Bilbo used to say: ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”—J.R.R. Tolkien

"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature–the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter." -Rachel Carson

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru

“Nature contains that spirit and power which we can witness but not weigh, inwardly conceive but not comprehend, love but not limit, imagine, but neither define nor describe.” – T. E. Lawrence

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”- John Muir

"Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair."-Kahlil Gibran

Did I miss your favorite quote? Share it below in the comments!

The Best Gear for Summer Hiking

I will preface this post by admitting I am not a gear junkie, or a technical expert. I don't shop every season for the newest products, or even know what the latest and greatest performance apparel is.

But I do appreciate quality made products that are built to last, and I like supporting companies that advocate for the environment and actively participate in taking care of it.

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When I'm purchasing new gear, I ask myself a few questions; 

Quality/Functionality - What are the materials? Can I wear or use it for more than one activity? How long will it last? 
Comfort - Can I move and groove without ripping seems?  How well does it fit my body type? Will it still feel good day 3 of a camp or hiking trip? 
Sustainability -  How is the product made? How does it affect global environmental issues? Does the company have a mission that aligns with reducing pollution and using recycled materials? 

Below are 10 items I've tested (and fallen in love with) on the trails from the Pacific Northwest to New Zealand. *Before purchasing straight from the store, look for used gear at second hand shops (like Assent Outdoors in Seattle) or online at REI's used gear website. They select and inspect the gear and clothing before putting it up for sale. This helps keep useful products out of landfills! 


1.) Patagonia Ascensionist Pack 35 LB
I dig this bag because it's light and versatile. On longer hikes when I need to pack more, I can release the compression straps on the sides to manage a larger load. There is a foam back panel that provides structure and it has super soft/padded hipbelts. The top pouch is great for keeping important things within reach and the only qualm I have is that it lacks a seperate section for a hydration bladder.

2.) Sawyer Water Filtration System:
I have the squeeze water filtration and the S1 filter and purifier. You can get over 1500 uses out of the S1 filter and it was designed to remove bacteria, protozoa, chemicals and pesticides while improving the taste and odor of the water.  The purifier uses a proprietary foam membrane in a durable silicone bottle in which molecules stick to the surface of the adsorbent foam. Kinda wild right? 

* Get Involved: Help bring clean water to people that need it by donating a filter–or any amount toward the purchase of one–through one of their many international humanitarian partners.

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3.) Non-Toxic Sunscreen: 
SPF 15 is the minimum rating dermatologists recommend, and it should be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure. The FDA recommends re-application every two hours regardless of the SPF rating. Look for a sunscreen that’s labeled “broad spectrum” which will shield skin from both UVB and UVA rays. And remember that the higher you climb, the more intense the sunlight (and potential to burn) will be. 

4.) Sawyer Picadin Insect Repellent
One thing that can ruin what should be a wonderful outdoor experience is a swarm of relentless biting insects. Mosquitos are particularly pesky in the Northwest as are ticks early in the season. One time, Jared and I backpacked to an alpine lake and the mosquitoes were SO bad that we immediately pitched our tent and stayed there for the rest of the evening. The sun wasn't setting for another 5 hours, but there were droves of them so we cooked dinner in the tent and fell asleep early. 

  • Sawyer’s 20% Picaridin insect repellent is non-greasy, offers all day protection, actually has a pleasant smell (citrus), and is safe for use on adults as well as children. The repellent comes in a spray and lotion form. 
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5.) Topo Women's Tech Pants:
I can't walk out of the house without receiving a compliment on these pants. I wore them hiking all over New Zealand and they've become my trusty travel pants. The tailored fit is ultra stretchy, lightweight and breathable. I use the cinch chord locks at the ankles to crop them below my knee in hotter weather, and they have a durable water repellant finish which is great for someone like me who spills often and loves the water. 

6.) Keen Women's Hiking Boots Targhee 2: 
A trail tested favorite. I've hiked in these boots for the last 5 years and appreciate how easy they are to break in. The boots are super supportive, comfortable and lightweight. They have durable waterproof protection that stands up to wet weather, and the outsoles have great traction. I prefer low cut boots to high cut that wrap around the ankle and have used these for day hikes as well as 4 day backpacking trips. 

7.) Chaco Sandals - Women Z2 Classic Wide Width: 
After miles of hiking, nothing feels better than taking off my boots and switching over to sandals. Gotta let those feet breath! I stole Jared's pair (which he has had for a decade) for the longest time before finally getting my own. The adjustable straps custom-fits to your foot and a toe-loop for additional forefoot control. They are on the heavier side for sandals but they are the most durable I've ever used. 

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8.) Marmot Dreamweaver Jacket: 
I wish summer automatically meant solid 80-degree temperatures no matter where I am and what time of day. But summer storms are real, and wind tends to visit us on the summit of a mountain. I throw this jacket on over my fleece or puffy for extra warmth. It's waterproof, breathable, seam-sealed and incorporates stretch shell material. 

9.) Eno Double Nested Hammock: 
This hammock tucks into a integrated stuff sack, making it super easy to toss into your backpack for a day hike. It's lightweight (weighing just over a pound) and can sleep 2 people - great for that afternoon nap to rest your mind and muscles.  

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10.) Hydroflask Water Bottle:
The build quality is better than most water-bottles (I can attest with the number of times I've dropped it) and the insulated double-wall keeps your water ice cold, or coffee piping hot. It's not that lightweight, and the wide mouth version doesn't fit in cupholders, but I will sacrifice for gulps of cold water after a hot hike day. 

Lodged Out: An Outdoorsy Unplugged Retreat for Creatives

My pre-arthritic fingers needed a rest from the continuous typing, scrolling, and tapping. 
My mind desired clarity not tethered to a timeline and born out of a lack of distraction.  
My spirit craved the type of energy that occurs effortlessly from an authentic connection, refreshingly honest conversations, and pure untouched landscapes.

 Founder Bobbilee at Tall Timber - Photo by Retreat Photographer  Alycia Lovell Photography

Founder Bobbilee at Tall Timber - Photo by Retreat Photographer Alycia Lovell Photography

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Three days at Lodged Out provided all that and then some. 

I had been keeping an eye on the tech-free camp since my friend Haley attended their inaugural camp in Idaho. (She did a great feature about it on She Explores. You can read it here. ) It encapsulated so much of what I love and live for - connection and community, creativity, the outdoors, and the chance to really unplug. 

When I found out there was going to be a winter camp just over the pass from Seattle, all arrows were pointing to 'sign up'.  The decision was one of the best I've made for myself in the past six months. Now that I've been home and had time to process the experience, I can see that my participation was an important investment for both my personal wellbeing and professional growth. 


About Lodged Out

Lodged Out exists to bring like-minded people to the mountains for experiential learning so they can rid themselves of distraction and immerse themselves into an experience with inspiring people - because when you disconnect, you reconnect.
— Founder Bobbilee
 Founder Bobbilee at Tall Timber - Photo by Retreat Photographer  Alycia Lovell Photography

Founder Bobbilee at Tall Timber - Photo by Retreat Photographer Alycia Lovell Photography

Lodged Out - Tall Timber Style

It's hard to imagine a more picturesque place than Tall Timber Ranch for a retreat. We had the entire grounds to ourselves and bunked in cute A-frame and bunk-house style cabins. Situated about 30 miles Northwest of Leavenworth, Tall Timber borders the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area and is surrounded by alpine meadows and snow-capped mountains. The area became our playground every morning as we strapped on Nordic skis or snowshoes and tromped (or glided) around the camp.

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Nothing to do, Nowhere to go, No one to be
— Lodged Out Speaker, Tatiana Simonian

One morning we went searching for a waterfall, the next morning a group of us sat by a glacier river and talked about everything and nothing. The first 3-4 hours of the day were free to spend however we liked. And we liked to spend that time together. Distraction free. Cell phone free. Any type of screen free. My guess is that the lack of distraction led to a more immediate connection with one another. There was a presence in conversations - eye contact, intuitive body language, thoughtful questions - all of the signs that point to active listening. There was a distinct sense that not only did we all want to be there psychically, but we wanted to be there for each other emotionally. 

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Lodged Out - Workshops + Speakers


I was particularly excited for the outdoor stewardship workshop with Katie Boué and creative writing workshop with Erin Rose Belair. 

I spend a lot of time recreating and promoting an outdoor lifestyle, so I was eager to learn about how to be a better advocate for the outdoors. If you're interested in learning how to do that, give Katie a follow. She's a fantastic resource. 

I also spend a lot of time writing, both personal journaling and for client work. With anything you do often, it's easy to slip into a pattern or habitual way of doing it. My writing had started to sound all the same to me. I was hoping the workshop would rattle some dormant creativity in me and it did! Erin taught us about lyrical essays and gave us a framework for creating our own. I've shared the essay I came up with at the bottom of this post if you're interested in reading.  

After our workshops, it was whiskey and dinner time followed by speakers and fireside chats. Being the grandma that I am, I rarely made it past 10pm. I would feel a high from the day that would carry me to the edge of the night before crashing from emotional exhaustion. But it was the good kind of emotional exhaustion. The kind that emanates from giving people your full attention, talking and listening for hours, and trying new things. 

 Photo by Retreat Photographer  Alycia Lovell Photography

Photo by Retreat Photographer Alycia Lovell Photography

Bye Bye, Tall Timber

When the time came to leave, I experienced a range of emotions. I was creativity inspired, ready to start new projects and dive into work. I was somber about leaving new friends.  I was anxious to  depart the quiet of the mountains and enter back into the chaos of the city, the chaos of everyday technology. And I was motivated to be a better outdoor activist, a better ally to WOC, a smarter entrepreneur, a more vulnerable and present friend, daughter, sister and wife. All of this as a result of taking 3 days to unplug with 35 or so creative strangers in the woods. 

Follow Lodged Out to get updates on their retreats. 
Instagram @lodgedout

Untitled Lyrical Essay -

I’m thinking about cooking dinner with Jared
Do-si-do’ing around each other in our tiny kitchen,
working separately on the same recipe
trying not to choke on the smoke rising from the cast iron
this hundred-year-old home needs a fan

vegetables sizzling, oil crackling
the occasional ‘oh shit’
vibrates off the mint green walls we didn’t paint
The music floats in from the record player in the living room

we pause and reach for each other
one hand held and one hand resting
on a back
or a hip
we start to move, small steps
creating small circles as we spin around
our favorite room in this hundred-year-old home

I wonder how much longer we’ll live here?

live simply
simply live
city living sometimes feels like anything but
I daydream about a new place to plant intentional roots
but where?

We’ll take certain things with us
the Belgian linen sheets that shelter our bodies at night
furniture that’s been passed on from parents
the record player, boxes of well-loved books
and the cast iron that’s heard our laughter, our curses
and watched us dance circles in our tiny kitchen

I’ve heard the phrase
”you can always go back”
but whoever actually does?

You live in the past, or you live in the present.

Travel: New Zealand - 3 Weeks on the South Island

From the moment we landed in New Zealand,  I knew that we were in one the most beautiful countries on Earth. Sure, I had spent hours eyeballing internet imagery and knew it was going to be exquisite.  But nothing compares to experiencing it first hand.  The country is the definition of utopia, elaborate with diverse landscapes and climates, brimming with friendly locals, travelers and happy farm animals. As opposed to a lot of the yearlong travelers we met, Jared and I had three weeks to experience the country's vast scenery. With that timeline, we stuck to venturing around the South Island. 

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 If you are reading this and are planning your own trip to NZ (whether it's booked or a bucket list) this would be my one piece of advice: go for as long as possible.

To maximize on our time, we adhered to a 2 night minimum stay so we aren't continuously packing, unpacking, checking in and checking out of AirBNB's.  Below is our three week itenerary and a few helpful tips about traveling through the country.  Reach out or leave a comment if you have any questions or additional advice for readers. 


1. Abel Tasman National Park (3 days, 2 nights): 

  • Location: Top of the South Island
  • Distance: 37 miles / 60 km (in full)
  • Size: 55,672 acres and New Zealand's smallest national park
  • Campsite Price: $15 pp, must be booked in advance
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For at least 500 years Maori lived along the Abel Tasman coast, gathering food from the sea, estuaries and forests, and growing kumera on suitable sites. Most occupation was seasonal but some sites in Awaroa estuary were permanent. The Ngati Tumatakokiri people were resident when, on 18 December 1642, the Dutch seafarer Abel Tasman anchored his two ships near Wainui in Mohua (Golden Bay), the first European to visit Aotearoa - New Zealand.
— DOC Abel Tasman
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Beginning in Abel Tasman was 100% intentional.  We needed to experience the opposite season than the one we were in. We enthusiastically traded in short, dreary winter days for the heat wave of summer. Exposing our skin to the sun was marvelous and I was surprised at how the act of wearing a bathing suit could be a source of so much joy.  

We took a 2 hour water taxi ride which dropped us off at Totaranui, a popular beach for locals.  On the way in we saw seals, sting rays and got a historical background of the park from our driver.  Once we were dropped off, we started towards our first camping spot at Onetahuti Bay. Out agenda was simple; soak in the sunshine and get some water therapy. In between that we cooked, read and made conversation with other campers. Two in particular, a couple from Wellington were on a tour promoting a waste-free life. Read about how they inspired my post about reducing waste while traveling here.

The second night we camped at Te Pukatea, a section of the trail accessible only by boat or hiking. There were only 7 campsites, and we found ourselves alone much of the time. We enjoyed the quiet and reveled in our distance from technology. For some, having no cell phone service is a cause for a breakdown, but we love it. Jared actually kept his phone off the entire three weeks! 

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Tips: 

  • Make sure to sunscreen your entire body. I forgot to cover my feet and my poor feet burned, which then caused them to swell and created nasty blisters. 
  • On the day you hike out, stop at Hooked On Marahau to refuel before hitting the road. I don't typically eat meet but holy hell that burger was divine. 
 But seriously, a burger and beer after hiking is so necessary. The Hooked Cafe is conveniently located right outside the park.

But seriously, a burger and beer after hiking is so necessary. The Hooked Cafe is conveniently located right outside the park.


 2. Punakaiki / Paparoa National Park (3 days, 3 nights):

  • Location: West Coast 
  • Established: 1987
  • Size: 10,6181 acres
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From Abel Tasman we drove south west towards Punakaiki.  Jared had found a sweet off the grid cabin and we splurged by booking 3 nights. We  didn't have any plans, which was probably a good thing since a cyclone rolled in and we couldn't leave our cabin! We were safe, but stuck in the cabin for over a day. We did manage to take a quick trip to the popular Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. A short, paved loop trail  takes you through incredible Limestone landscapes.  It was one of the most "touristy" things we did, but it was fascinating to read about the rocks 30 million year old history and how they were formed.  

* We found the cabin on Canopy Glamping. Our off the grid-hut was built by a local builder and artist, and consisted of two small timber huts, adjoined by a covered outdoor kitchen and living area. Everything from the furniture and decor, to the materials used to build the hut were intentional.  

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3. Wanaka (4 nights) 

Wanaka was one of two towns we stayed in and we fell in love with it instantly. Any location that combines easy access to the outdoors, healthy creative food options, and a friendly community immediately has me daydreaming about a move.  Wanaka gets bonus points for being surrounded by water. Everyday, we followed the same simple pattern of coffee + breakfast, a hike followed by lunch and another coffee, downtime (reading/nap), a walk around town, and dinner. I love staying in a place long enough to develop a little routine. Below is a list of hikes we did and cafes/restaurants we ate at. 

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Hikes in Wanaka: 

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  • Roy's Peak - 10 miles roundtrip; 4-5 hours
    The proximity of this hike from town makes it an accessible trail for travelers. From the lake level, a steep gradient begins and doesn't let up till you finish at the top. There is a 4,000 feet elevation gain in the (almost) 5 mile climb. The views are spectacular and urge you along the way as you pass farmland, tussock and on a clear day, Mt. Aspiring. 
  • Rob Roy Glacier - 6.2 miles roundtrip; 2-4 hours
    This trail can be summed up in one word: diverse. Along the short 3.2 mile walk to the glacier, you pass through a gorge, beech forest, and an alpine valley. The drive to the trailhead felt longer than the hike itself, but the valley floor is gorgeous and home to adorable roaming cattle and sheep. 
  • Isthmus Peak - 10 miles roundtrip; 4-5 hours
    This peak tops at around 4,543 feet and is similar in  length and elevation to Roy's Peak. The track overlooks Lake Wanaka and Lake Hāwea, with views of the Southern Alps and the town. It's a long steady climb that's well maintained and not as crowded as Roy's. The best part (in my opinion) was walking through the fields of alpine tussock. 
 Moody clouds rolling in as we climb to the top of Isthmus Peak.

Moody clouds rolling in as we climb to the top of Isthmus Peak.

 Feeling wind and freedom at the top of Isthmus Peak.

Feeling wind and freedom at the top of Isthmus Peak.

Where to Eat & Drink in Wanaka:

  • Ritual Espresso Cafe: Anything off the breakfast menu + delicious baked goods + coffee
  • The Big Fig: "slow food served fast" - Modern Middle Eastern eatery right on the lake and open all day. Finish off your meal with one of their carrot cakes.
  • Francesca's Kitchen: Arrive early or book reservations in advance. Authentic, affordable Italian cuisines and an extensive New Zealand wine list. 
  • Kika: One of our top meals while in New Zealand. The trendy spot is tapas-style dishes that are inventive and seasonal. We were close to returning for another dinner but opted to try something new. Jared and I shared the Roasted cauliflower, whipped tahini, pine nut furikake and dates, the Roasted carrots, harissa, yoghurt, rye granola, and the Lamb shoulder, preserved lemon, rosemary, chilli.  I would order it all again in a hearbeat.

4. Mt Cook National Park, (2 days, 1 night) 

  • Location: Central part of the South Island 
  • Established: 1953
  • Size: 174,772 acres 
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Staying overnight at the bright red Mueller Hut was one of the highlights of the trip. You know how some trips (or more specifically hikes) are about the journey? Well this one wasn't. This hike was definitely about the destination. It is only 3.2 miles but has a total elevation gain of 3,280 feet. I hadn't looked into it until I searched online and saw the estimated climb time of 4 hours. That long of a trek for that short of mileage usually means one thing- UP. The first bit is stairs, stairs, and more stairs. We passed a guy coming down who said "this was the stairway to heaven, now it's a stairway to hell." With my mental and physical energy focused on the uphill, I couldn't be bothered to think about tomorrow when we too, would be headed back down.  

We finished in 2.5 hours and I hastily bundled up on the deck of the hut, ate my sandwich and fell asleep in the sun. The remaining hours of the day passed slowly. We chatted with day hikers, explored the surrounding area and made a little home in the bunkhouse we shared with the other overnight hikers. 

Our hut warden for the night was Neville, a local kiwi who had been volunteering at Mueller for the last 10 years. He pointed out the mountain ranges in view, gave us a history of who climbed it when (shout out to Freda Du Faur, first female to climb Mt. Cook), and what stars we would see as the day shifted into night. 

Within 12 hours, we experienced the the most spectacular sunset and sunrise. At almost 6,000 feet up, we had a 360-degree panorama encompassing glaciers, ice cliffs, and some of New Zealand’s highest peaks.

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5. Kepler Track (3 days, 2 nights) :

Location: Fiordland National Park
Distance: 37 miles / 60 km
Hiking Time: 3-4 days 

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The Kepler Track is one of nine great walks in New Zealand. Great walks are New Zealand's premium tracks and are accessible from major towns that are well serviced by local operators and accommodation and transport providers. They are well formed/maintained and easy to follow. (Abel Tasman is also a great walk!) 

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By the time we began the Kepler Track, we had hiked 6 days in a row. My body felt simultaneously strong and drained. I knew it would be a great hike but I was also craving stillness and a soft bed. We had originally planned to do the hike in 4 days but ended up finishing in 3 because that soft bed was calling both our names. Not to mention we were both getting eaten alive by mosquitos and we had hit a hiking breaking point. 



We started the hike in mid afternoon but walked a relatively flat and shaded 9 miles to our first camp spot at Broad Bay. We began the second day early, knowing that we had 15 miles to go with the most elevation gain of the trek. We stopped at the Luxmore Hut for a quick snack, bathroom break, and to layer on more clothes. Now that we were at the ridge line, the temperatures were much cooler and the wind was whipping. Raindrops felt intermittently as we  walking along the spine of the mountains. It was the highlight of the hike, looking down at the lakes and seeing other mountains jut out from the water.

At around mile 10 we began the descent and with every achy step we got closer to our home for the night, the Iris Burns Hut . Sleep came really easy that night. On day 3 we began the trail early, moving quickly through the beech forest and finally back to the car park.  We were able to book an extra night at our AirBNB and were enjoying and a shower and Netflix by sundown. 

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6. Te Anau (3 nights)

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Our AirBNB was situated out of town on a lovely farm and we didn't venture to town that often. Multiple people told us to go to Doubtful Sound vs Milford (because Doubtful was the less busy/chaotic spot) so we did book a full day tour though Go Orange cruise.  Despite Seattle-like weather, cruising through the fjords was gorgeous and it was a nice break from being on our feet. We did drive up to Milford Sound just to take in the scenery and stopped to do a quick hike to  Lake Marian . The rest of our time was spent on the farm or near Lake Te Anau. It was the perfect way to spend our last few days in New Zealand. 

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