After our time in Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, we had a couple of days to get back to Queenstown. During that time, we explored Lake Tekapo, had a relaxing night in Ohau, and saw a couple of other destinations in Mount Aspiring National Park.
From Wanaka, we drove to Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park. Staying in the national park village gave us good access to the park’s trails and meant we could see the mountains in various light.
For our trip to New Zealand, I flew into Christchurch and met up with my parents, who were there on their own trip. We spent day exploring the Banks Peninsula, including an excellent boat trip from Akaroa. The next day, I flew Queenstown to meet up with Kyle.
On the Milford and Routeburn tracks, hikers can experience four seasons in a day. Though we hiked in New Zealand’s early fall and hoped for mild days, we also knew the passes could receive feet of snow at this time of year.
This made it difficult to strike the right balance. We wanted to pack light enough to be able to move quickly and have energy for side trips, but we also wanted to be comfortable regardless of weather. Fortunately, we’ve acquired a good set of layering gear over the years, which we could draw on to assemble our packs.
For the 2018-2019 academic year, I was on sabbatical. While I was still working, I had a lot more flexibility in when I could travel. New Zealand had been on our to-visit list for a while, but seasons and distance make it hard to visit during a normal year. We took advantage of my flexibility by planning a three-week trip to New Zealand for February and March — late summer / early fall.
Over the years of wanting to visit New Zealand, we had accumulated an extensive list of places we wanted to hike and explore. As we got into planning the details, we narrowed our trip to focus on hiking in the mountains of the South Island. Just that easily filled three weeks.
In planning our 2015 trip to Scotland, we reluctantly cut Islay from our itinerary. Friends had enthusiastically recommended a visit, but we could not make it work with our schedule. We pledged, however, to visit on a future trip, and made it a priority when planning our 2019 visit.
We allocated three days (& three nights) to Islay. This gave us time to explore the island’s beaches and visit several of our favorite distilleries for in depth tours and tastings.
While tempted to return to some of the excellent hikes from our previous trip to Scotland, we instead decided to explore new parts of the Highlands before returning to prior hikes. After researching hikes in Scotland, we settled on four days of hiking the peaks of Torridonian sandstone running through Sutherland, Assynt, and Wester Ross.
In May 2019, we had the opportunity to return to Scotland for a week of hiking and whisky. Starting in Inverness, we spent the first half of the trip hiking in the northwest Highlands. We then drove down the west coast, took a ferry to Islay, and spend three days visiting distilleries, trying whisky and exploring the island.
Over the past few summers, my family has settled into a bit of a rotation between a week hiking in the Northwest and a week at Cold River Camp in the White Mountains. For 2018, we decided on a week of day hikes in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. Despite smokey skies from wildfires, we had a wonderful time.