Te Araroa, New Zealand

Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough Sound, northern tip of South Island, New Zealand, January 2016

The Te Araroa followed my successful through hike of the Appalachian Trail about 2.5 years later at the very end of 2015 and was only my second through hike! It was a major benchmark however, in that it marked not only my bold decision to make it a hike in a different country some 6,800 miles (10,944 km) from home in the southern hemisphere, but my departure from complacency. I had untethered my life from a career with the state with a steady income and benefits, a job that once seemed exciting until “corporate politics” made it no longer desireable, nor the idea of spending another 25 years of my life in a cube. Over the past couple years preceding 2015, Geotechnical Design North was dimishing by attrition. First the field technician retired, then the long time Senior Geologist, and then a civil engineer whom I had best affiliated with. The final “straw” occurred in 2015, when the Senior Transportation Engineer who supervised the group retired and handed the reigns temporarily to a pompous young man, 20 years younger than me. It was my queue to make an exit!!!

Near Arthurs Pass, Te Araroa northbound 2015-2016

In 2015, my mom who was in her mid 70’s, had undergone her second hip replacement and was temporarily incapacitated. It was my immediate ticket out of a job that was lackluster despite the great potential it had for rewarding work. It was not an easy decision, but yet I executed it with confidence, that what ever challenges lay ahead would be worth the preservation of my sanity.

I had essentially made an ultimatum to the Chief of Staff in Sacramento, who was on the phone with the now acting supervisor of geotechnical in my work group, that I needed extended leave immediately, or I would be forced to resign. This came at the worse time, when a large geotechnical investigation for the widening of Highway 101 between Santa Barbara and Carpenteria was about to begin, but I knew that my sanity was of tantamount priority. In short, I left complacency behind for the unknown.

I was free virtually the entire month of November, 2015 to make all the necessary arrangements at home for travel to New Zealand. The greatest sacrifice I had made the previous year when I decided to fit my life into a van, was giving my faithful canine companion, Chako, to a friend of a friend. It was difficult at the time, but had freed me from the responsibility of daily care that was physically impossible in the tiny confines of a van and not financially feasible for those long planned departures from home. I would never have considered “tom-sawyering” Chako, had the option to visit him anytime wasn’t on the table. I reconnected on our long walks around San Luis Obispo, where we could rest on a grassy slope, while gazing at the city scape or nearby cattle.

Parking my van in a safe place off the street was the next challenge. I had previously parked it for several months at the local secured storage facility in town for a reasonable $60/month and had a friend check on it while I was hiking the AT. This time, I was granted permission to park it in the back yard of my friend’s parent’s place. It was an undeveloped portion of the large lot, and an area that previously had been breached by an attempted getaway by a thief unaware that there was no way out. They apprehended the thief where I was parking the van. I purchased a cheap cover, and kept my fingers crossed that future thieves decided to stay off the property. There was also the possibility of rodents chewing their way in to my pantry, stocked with non perishable food. My savings on storage fees however, made the risk a bit more palatable.

The greatest challenge of hiking in a foreign country, is doing a bit of leg work ahead on the resupply strategy and anticipating what gear would be needed ahead that would be difficult and/or difficult to attain once out of the country. I selected the Brookes Cascadia