We started the second part of our trip, two self-guided Great Walks, by heading to Te Anau. There, we saw glowworm caves before starting the Routeburn Track the next day. We did the Routeburn Track as a three-day, two-night hike, staying at Lake Mackenzie Hut and Routeburn Falls Hut.
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 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.
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.
After a rainy couple of days, we were fortunate to wake up to a beautiful clear morning at Refuge de La Croix du Bonhomme. We took advantage of that with side trips to Tête Nord des Fours and Lacs Jovet on our way to Les Contamines. From there, we returned to our origin in Les Houches via Refuge de Miage and Col du Tricot to complete our Tour du Mont Blanc.
From Rifugio Bonatti, we followed a variant of the TMB over Mont de la Saxe and then down into Courmayeur. We hiked back up out of Courmayeur on a stormy morning, reaching Rifugio Elisabetta under broken clouds. Clouds and rain obscured the views for our hike from Elisabetta to Croix du Bonhomme.