New Zealand – Exploring the Sounds

My hosts’ house is at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound. From this vewpoint we could see 24 kilometers down the sound and past a small island to mountains beyond. Two kilometers along the shore we could see a large Outward Bound school at Anakiwa, where students are taught teamwork, self-confidence and appreciation for the wonders of nature.

Indeed, New Zealanders in general have grown to treasure the natural beauty of their land. Hundreds of trails (tracks) have been constructed or worn through the mountains and forests. Popular ones are constructed to very high standards, including wooded walkways across ecologically sensitive stretches of ground and stairs to climb steep slopes. Interpretive signs are posted at picnic areas and trailheads. Numerous short loop trails have been constructed with interpretive signs along their length.

Before the 1980s, large areas of forest were logged. However, since then logging of old-growth forest has stopped. A healthy lumber industry now uses sustainable commercial tree farms, using fast-growing imported pines.

We took a walk out on the Queen Charlotte Track, contouring on steep slopes above the water. We were surrounded by lush forest–small vine-laden trees and huge tree ferns, punctuated by large trees whose straight trunks shoot above the predominant forest canopy.

The tree ferns were a revelation to me: trunks rise up to 20 feet high or more, covered by the peg-like bases of old fronds. At the top, huge fronds up to six feet long or more fan out in every direction. The silver tree fern, the underside of whose fronds are a silvery color, was important to the Maori and has become a symbol of New Zealand.

To me, the sounds are a restful place: calm water reflecting the sky surrounded by deep green forest. What are some of your restful places?

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About David McCoard

After earning my MS in geology I've done various things including managing the ski touring program at a small lodge in the Sierra. In 2010 I retired from Contra Costa College in California. I've always been fascinated by the mountains and nature and have spent countless days hiking, backpacking, climbing and skiing in the Sierra. The spiritual insights I've learned there have set the course for my life. Now I have time to share them and strike up a conversation.
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